Short Stories & Poems


By Mani Mahesh Garg:

As I pass by…


He tries to assault me
and get hold of my curves,
Which has nurtured him as a child
And between which
He entered this world,
As I pass by…

I see the lust in his eyes
that tear apart my clothes
I feel the intensity in his gaze
that pierces my body
with million sharp needles
in a moment,
As I pass by…

He thinks it is virility
to pass lewd remarks,
to talk about me as a product,
and to fondle with my arcs and bends
in his lecherous talks and laughs
with a bunch of crooks,
As I pass by…

I am much more than just fragrant flesh
walking in long and short clothes
I am not a commodity
or, a menu at a restaurant
that he scans me in a moment
to choose something for himself,
As I pass by…

Today I smirk at the thought
And I feel pity,
for his sisters and daughters,
who tie him weak threads
And who sit in his lap
ignorant of the vulture inside…

Why this attempt to cut my wings
and silence my every thought
by confining me to four walls
like a tied animal,
to be used over and over
at will,
As they pass by…

Photo Credit



By Nazreen Fazal:

It didn’t hurt
When you bombed my courtyard
Charring the peepal tree
Leaving a blackened swing
On a wounded stub.
It didn’t hurt
When you scattered the roads
With severed heads and dismembered limbs
Colouring the streets red
Pumping the air with fear.
Then you decided
To hurt me, you’ll have to chain my thoughts
So you said I shouldn’t read
My eyes were for the home
And not for the ‘western dogs’ words
My mind was to stay confined,
Inside the four walls of ignorance
Too thick for resistance to penetrate
And make me think otherwise.
And then it hurt.
When you finally made me the unread,
Wilting midst the living dead.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]This is dedicated to Malala Yousufzai and thousands of other brave girls like her who put us to shame for our callousness as they tread fearlessly against atrocities. [/box]


By Purba Roy:

Brishti– that’s what people call me by, but Ma always says, “Your name should have been something else–something that relates to music”. She believes that from childhood itself I’m very musical, I find music in everything! I smile at the fact. Is it really true? Or is it the fact that I find every bit of “me” in music?

The wind-chime, just near my bed, swinging with the mild breeze, reminds me of something–when I was very small, I remember, my Grandpa used to play a musical instrument quite often; a very similar tune to that of the wind-chime was brought about. Later on, I learnt that it was “jaltaranga”–I loved that sound coming out of the collision of strings!

There are some tunes which attract me to fall for them. Minati Masi, our maid servant, every day when she comes, we spend a couple of time talking care freely. The reason why I like talking to her is still unknown to me. I don’t know whether it is “her” whom I like or it is those two pairs of bangles in her hand! Whenever she moves her hands, those four pieces of ornaments create a magical tune which gives me goose-bumps. She once told me that it is the only gift she got from her husband. He has left her quite a long time back but has also left behind a deep essence of “his now faded love” for her, within this gift. I wonder if I wouldn’t have known about this little tinge of love that was still there between this woman & “once-used-to-be-the-most-special-person” of her life, would that tune have given me the same goose-bumps? Minati Masi tells me that she still loves her man. I tell my mind, “I love my man too”! So what if I haven’t been gifted a pair of bangles ever? So what if my man is still is in my imagination? Do these really matter? I believe “No”! Only the feeling matters–the feeling which fills your life with all the colours of happiness.

Well talking about colours, they play an important role in my life–specially the colour black. Ma says that earth colour suits me the best but I say; “only black suits me!” Oh..!! Can you see it’s raining? I love the moments when it rains. I can feel every drop of it–it redefines Me!!

Balcony is the place for me when it rains (do spare me with the location of it, I’m very bad with directions), raindrops touching, kissing my face makes me feel shiver through my spine, compels me to go weak on my knees over again, leaves me with these words–

“Cause every time it rains,
I fall to pieces…
So many memories,
The rain releases!!”

Truly it does! Rain washes away the dusts from the memories & makes them resuscitated. I love rain so much. Thank God, it doesn’t have any colour. This is the only thing which will always remain the same for me, even if I would have been able to see. At my age of 5 months, the Doctor said, “No light perception, in our medical term NLP–almost Incurable”!

coming home

By Pragya Lal:


Where is home?

Home is the land of yellow and black taxis.

Home is where the rickshaw wallas go by metre.

Home is the memory of cycling downhill in early winter mornings.

Home is throwing a tantrum as a child and leaving with your sibling in tow hoping to return and find jalebis waiting for you. (to recreate the infamous dhara oil ad)

Home is the artificial sandy beach of my polluted city.

Home is the flashing image of making sand castles on that beach with this boy.

Home is a father with a moustache and an electronics engineer for a mother who gave up everything to raise you.

Home is the thrill of defying parental authority.

Home is failing to defy the said authority.

Home is Nanaji’s Sherlock Holmes stories.

Home is where the awkward silences are filled by the distant and faint blabber of a television.

Home is where you devour prawns and sinful chocolate overload brownies.

Home is where the aunty jis of ONGC colony discuss the latest gossip brewing in the society while simultaneously having a discussion on how to make low fat halwa.

Home is singing the theme song of your favourite show every night at 11 pm with your brother.

Home is the racing heartbeats before an open house.

Home is where you make life decisions when stuck in a traffic jam.

Home is where you can whisper your secrets to the sea and smile gleefully when it rains in response to your queries.

Home is where you want the laughter and conversations to never end.

Home is making up ludicrous stories to escape paying extra charges for excess baggage at the airport. (Emotional or otherwise)

Home is where sweat trickles down your forehead as you exit the airport only to be surrounded by familiar faces and as your car passes the Parle G factory and the smell of these biscuits wafts in, it stirs in you something deep and inexplicable.

Home is waking up with a sudden jerk at 4 in the morning to scribble something down lest you lose the thought forever.

Is home the city I was born in? Or the city of my origins? Or the cities I was schooled in? Or the city I am living in currently?

Is it a city? A happy place? A state of mind?

Where is home?


By Tanaya Singh:

When I flew out back then, it was midnight.
I remember it like yesterday,
But days have passed and seasons changed.

By now,
That cage would be rusty and drained,
in the blood and hatred of a father’s heart…
and tears drenching a mother’s path.
A few bars would have worn out,
after seeing the passion in flaming saffron, and serenity of the waving green.
Seeing the avid glint in those eyes,
of that kid running after a loose end kite.

By now,
weeds would have outgrown its height,
as the cage waits for me there, hanging on a creaky nail.
By now,
the tiny water cup would have become dry and pale,
as the cage waits for me there,
hanging on a creaky nail.
By now, I am sure
the cage is old and tired and alone and weak,
so I can fly on without the creeps of its shadow
engraved deep in my soul.

I won’t fly that way ever”, it’s a known belief.
it’s not my will, nor my way,
it’s the will of this wind,
which is in the same direction again.
I know the cage waits for me there; hanging on that creaky nail.
Its door ajar,
for me to fly in and again be slaved.
So before I get back to the same place,
I bow my head in remembrance of my first flight as a free bird,
lest someone saves me on my way,
I salute to the zeal and the gripping energy of that August day,
and I sing to the memory of a million dreams
that soared with my flight,
when I flew out on an August midnight.


By Smriti Mahale:

Mr and Mrs Vardhan saw those eyes near the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital that day. They were the same shade of sapphire blue. But then, the spark in them had disappeared. What they could see now were only the wisps of tear drops, like the skies after a heavy down pour. They looked tired, they looked helpless, they looked unhappy.

Mr and Mrs Vardhan had come for their routine health check up. At the age of 86 and 81, where else would you find an elderly couple on a Saturday morning? It had been their routine for years now. Every 3rd Saturday of the month, they would come to the hospital and spend a day with the doctors and nurses. Fortunately, they were in the pink of their health except for meagre signs of old age! The couple had a son and a daughter; both of them in some wretched corner of the globe, with their respective families. Twenty years ago, on their anniversary, Mr and Mrs Vardhan were got the most beautiful gift by their children: the papers of a life- time bond with the Old Age Home!

From then on, they had a new family. The inmates of Ashraya Old Age Home were all beings of a cruel world. The fingers they held firmly when their children were about to fall, had ruthlessly signed on papers that freed them from their responsibilities. Love and kindness that had been showered now were returned through money orders and online transfers. A seedling planted with the hope of support in times of fragility now bore thorns. Homes that were built with bricks of sacrifices and love were shattered with the swords of selfishness. Life had to go on somehow. The members of Ashraya had succeeded in giving a purpose to the rest of their living. They ate together, they spoke about happier times together, they cried at the unfairness together, they lived together. In the mornings, after a healthy breakfast they indulged themselves in activities they liked. Activities they had sacrificed for their children. While Mr. Rao shovelled for his new jasmine garden, Mrs. Wadeyar baked cookies for the festive season. While some weaved, some solved crosswords in the newspapers; others simply sat and watched innumerable television shows. They were happy, in the world they had to live in now to survive. What they missed were the eyes where they once upon a time had seen the whole world, the smile that lighted up their lives in the hardest of times, the love that was shared. They silently cried to Him for some answers.

Ravi and Richa were the children from the house that was homed right in front of Ashraya Old Age Home. The mansion was secluded in layers of Gulmohar and Mango trees. With the serenity of a crystal pond beside, where ivory swans swam, the mansion was a reflection of the Edens and the fortunes Ravi and Richa were brought up in. Ravi was 15 years of age and his younger sister was 10. The children often visited the old age home. They came as a splash of happiness on a gloomy day to the old couples. The entire day was spent in showing unbiased loved to the two kids. They played games, they ate ice creams, they sang, they cracked jokes, they laughed, they smiled at the innocence of the kids, and they had no regrets for a day. The children reminded them of their own children, their happier times with them; they reminded them of their grand children with whom they could be sharing the same moments, if only…

The children were more than happy to spend their time in the Old Age Home. Both of them had lost their grandparents and had found a way to replace their existence in Ashraya. Richa’s blue eyes glowed like sapphires when with them. Ravi was delighted when his sister was happy. They had learnt from their parents that love was not underlined with the ties of blood or relations. It was something that held the world together, firmly, like the dawn holds to the sun with the promise of a new morning, the river to the sea with the faith of a successful journey. The more you gave, the more you would receive, maybe not from the same person, but from a heart that danced freely in the glory of the true human spirit. With the same thoughts, they had continued for a few years. Just as the rule of the world goes, the happy family was shredded on one Sunday morning when the car they were travelling in was hit by a truck. Richa was the lone survivor to endure more merciless acts of the cruel world.

More mercies followed. Relatives unfairly lay hands on the property that legally belonged to Richa. From the abode of heaven she was thrown into an orphanage of the city. Her journeys to the Old Age home stopped. She disappeared from their lives like the morning mist from a mountain. The couples had cried again, this time for a different reason though. They had once again lost someone they had loved. Life still had to move on like before.

Richa had grown up in the orphanage with the dreams and aspirations of any woman of this world. She had forced herself to forget the life she had once led, and had grown accustomed to her new world. After the age of 18, she had moved out to a world of independence. Her intelligence had earned her a job and a life. She had fallen in love, married and lived a normal life. The financial deficiency of her husband was nothing to her. They could afford a simple meal of rice and curry thrice a day. That was more than enough for her until that dreadful 3rd Saturday of the month.

Her husband was run over by a truck from the way back from work. While he was battling with death for a life, Richa was battling with people she knew for money to pay for the hospital bills. Hard times became harder with refusals from all ends. She simply sat on the iron bench of Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, with those sad sapphire eyes, with the floods of hopelessness emerging from them.

Mr and Mrs Vardhan had seen her then. They had recognized her. The old couple had immediately sold the only property they were the owners of, for her. They were left with nothing now, except for the gratitude of Richa and her husband who now come to the Old Age Home every Sundays with their 6 month old son.

Richa now quietly sings in her son’s ears:

“It’s my blood that flows in your veins,
It is the same blood that someday will give us pain.
Let this blood be replaced with love,
Love that will bond us together forever!!”

street kids

By Swathi Anantha:

It was a hot and humid morning on the bustling streets of Bengaluru. I was hiding behind my cousin on the bike so the dust wouldn’t stick to my lips and irritate my eyes. We came to the last intersection before my workplace (the one with the grazing goats and the overflowing tiffin centre). As we were halted by the red light we spoke of mundane topics and the tentative plans for the day until I caught a glimpse of a scene that would haunt me forever.

An emaciated man crossed the street. I was desensitized to these scenes by then but what made me follow him without blinking was a baby girl who he was carrying on his back. She looked like the poster tattered-clothes-wearing Indian child suffering from malnutrition and everything else that comes will the condition of poverty. I have seen many women with their children on the streets before, but this father-daughter combination brought about a series of desperate questions.

For starters, has she tasted the milk from a mother’s bosom? Has she been immunized? Does she have appropriate care and clothing? Will she go to school? Does she have other relatives with whom she can stay so she doesn’t have to be her father’s baggage on these sweltering summer days? How about when she hits puberty? Her father cannot biologically understand the changes she will be facing and she will be confused and scared. I wanted to take this baby girl home. I wanted to feed her, clothe her, and love her. This sounds crazy and many pragmatists laugh. They ask deridingly, “Fine you take this one girl home but what about the others?” “Will you start an orphanage?” “Where will you get the money as you are unemployed and not living in your own home?” As I was letting my pragmatism get the best of me, my eyes welled up and I wanted to jump off the bike and grab the child but the light had turned green and we were already passing the crossroads. Why did I take so long to think about this? As much as we speak for and admire ideals, why do we take so long to commit and contribute to creating a society abundant with compassion through individual actions?

Every time I pass by this intersection I feel pangs of guilt and pain, hoping to see this girl again so I can speak with the father and help them find a sustainable form of life but I was disappointed each time. Being a hero is not waiting for the right moment to shine, it is taking every opportunity you get to do good and making the most of it. It is about the present. It is about action. That day on which I left the interaction without speaking to the father will always be a reminder of how I was not the hero. I did not take my chance to make a difference. Yes, I will feel guilty but we have chances to make up for this everyday through small gestures.

I have dedicated my life to making sure that no girl is on the street bereft of love and care. I want to see all girls given the opportunity to go to school, dream big, and walk with pride and security. Is this possible in my lifetime? Perhaps not, but I will NOT be paralyzed by pragmatism or disillusioned by doubt ever again. Yes, understanding the concept of poverty and analyzing the determinants is important and the World Bank and UN are much needed institutions but without the emotional intelligence and without the individual connection with a face and human soul, ultimately, we are all hypocrites. Good thoughts need to become good actions and only then can ideals become a reality.


By Sonakshi Khandelwal:

Buddhe Baba!’’, I cried, running to him as fast my bruised legs would permit, panting and laughing simultaneously, “BUDDHE BABAAA!” He sat on the back seat of the auto, his legs stretched towards the fatta or the wooden flank opposite it, smoking a beedi carelessly, sparing none of his attention to me.

I flung myself into the auto beside him, wiped the sweat of my forehead and carefully untied the handkerchief potli in my hand. I fumbled through the assortment of feathers, smooth pebbles, pencil-shaving-flowers, ball pens, and churan, and eventually managed to unearth the dead lizard.

See Buddhe Baba! It’s so pretty!” I waved it under his nose to make him listen. “I stole it from Ashmeet’s pocket, ha! Tomorrow I shall scare Miss Fonseka with it. Today she told me I should get my hair-cut because it is messy. But it’s not messy. You should see it when I comb it and then-”

He had not heard a word. Hurt, I stopped and looked at him silently.

His eyes were devoid of the usual vitality of his manner. They contained a pain so evident, so brutal and so singular, it was petrifying. I’d never seen emotion as naked as this.

Uhm- is-is anything wrong, Buddhe Ba-”

He broke down into breathless sobs that ultimately turned into tears.

It was ghostly, unreal and impossible. I sat there helplessly, feeling cheated. Buddhe Baba couldn’t possibly be sad. He couldn’t possibly be crying. It was incomprehensible. It made no sense. I simply played with the lizard, not caring to comfort him, afraid of discovering his reasons, trying to escape the situation, wanting to run away, aghast.

For a long time he cried and I played, and there was noise and ugliness in the atmosphere, noise and ugliness that emanated from us.

Then he spoke. “Little one, I have nothing left in my life now. There’s no-”, he started crying like someone who has never cried before, loudly and crazily.

“STOP!’’, I cried, cold fear stabbed my heart, making it beat faster with every passing second.

Stop! I don’t want to hear it! You’re lying. You’re not sad, you’re- you’re- you are-” I looked around helplessly, trying to find a phrase raw enough to make him understand, “You’re SUPPOSED to be happy! HAPPY!” I screamed.

I ran out and took a rickshaw back home, while he continued to cry. I could hear the terrifying sounds of his cries in my head all day long.

His real name was a mystery, and one that he very mischievously maintained. “You little donkeys will run away to another auto if you come to know what a goon I really am”, he used to say, gifting harmless spanks to anyone who pestered him further. His carefully concealed background was a great source of excitement and gossip for our after-school chat sessions. Some said he was responsible for the scandalous murder of the twin babies the previous year, some said he had married three times, some said he had stolen his father’s buffaloes, and the overtly beaten ones were convinced he was a cannibal. He treated such gossip with haughty amusement and often tempted us with oblique hints, but never more than that.

And thus, all his associates, the fellow auto-wallahs, beedi-sellers, the kids he ferried as well as their mothers, even his wife, children and nephew, knew him as “Buddhe Baba”.

He was a spirited old man, with outstanding orange-dyed hair growing in horizontal little spirals at the sides of his bald head, a beedi in his mouth, an artificial leg that he wore with a heartbreaking regal pride and eyes that seemed devoid of the lazy, contented happiness he always boasted of.

While taking us to school and back home, he would talk about his wife, his sons and their worthlessness, how he had once been the handsomest, gutsiest, cleverest person in his locality, how once his mother’s friends had believed he was Sri Krishna’s incarnation, how he had once been Bachchan saab’s chauffeur, how his father had been the richest farmer before bad times fell, and how he was approached for Kaala Kesh Tel’s first television ad when he was in “Bambai”.

He always started with his stereotypical “Jhooth nai kehta, lekin zindagi ke maze toh maine hi liye hai…Jab main…” and when he started, we hurriedly ceased our Dumb Charades or Chinese Whispers and struck up an attentive silence, hanging on his words. All of us realized he was used to exaggerating, but since it spiced up his stories, we forgave him silently and loved him no lesser for it; after all, you could hardly blame a man for loving himself too much.

And it was not just his eccentric charm that enamoured him to us. While other auto-wallahs sang or cleaned their nose or listened to the radio while driving, he ensured that the 40 minutes we spent with him were the most enjoyable ones of our day.

He would take us off to local fairs, without caring to inform us or our parents, and pay for our rides and candies and then heartily claim the blame when angry shouted at him and asked him to mend his ways. He would bring us “budhiya-ke-baal” that his wife made. He would play Antakshri with us making vague attempts to dance, and always choosing songs that talked of “jawani”. He would challenge us to dance in the auto, and give prizes to the person who did not fall even once. He would get us “churan” and “paachak” on our birthdays. And if it was raining, he would not spare a fellow who said they didn’t want to bathe. He would scare us by bringing dead rats and if someone started crying, he would mutter apologies, feeling foolish and embarrassed, and ultimately end up almost crying himself. He would tell us ingenious ways to trick teachers. He would celebrate all festivals weeks in advance with us, in as childish a manner as possible.

I had always been hugely fond of him. I did everything I could to make him happy, and to impress him. In school, in the auto, and at home, I’d always be striving to play tricks and be naughty, because one thing that he understood and appreciated and respected was mischief. I was excessively proud of the fact that I was his favorite. He always insisted that I sit on the uncomfortable little plank attached to the front seat, with him. While the hilarious stories were open to all, it was to me and only me, that he would impart words of wisdom. He would tell me how I should always live on impulse, how I must resist becoming money hungry like everyone else, how I must never give up on anything I set my heart for, and how important it is to value oneself above all others, and how I must always ask him for advice when I have a problem, how I must always rise above the petty and be happy. He would often say “No one knows life better than me, little one”. I relished his philosophies and treated them like one would treat words of the Lord, living my life as he had lived his, on the same premises.

He was the only happy person I knew; he had around him the aura of having survived life unbeaten. He had lived through an almost fatal accident that had given him his handicap, he had lived through a terrible decline in fortunes, he had lived through the death of his son, he had lived through poverty and drudgery, he had lived through the crash of dreams and ambitions, he had survived it all with an equanimous happiness that was reassuring. He was my beautiful solace from a family plagued with violence, tensions and penury. He was my belief in the goodness of God, in the justice of Life. He was my hope of a blissful life. He was my antidote against seemingly fatal horrors like disease and poverty and death. He was everything I wanted everyone to be: happy. He was a way of life worth emulating.


I heard the terrifying sounds of his cries all day long. My parents were startled at first, but when I told them I was crying because Buddhe Baba had cried, they laughed. It angered me to no extent; the very thought that they found my pain funny, something to be dismissed with a laugh, shook me with a savage fury only a child can exercise.

I went to sleep early, and dreamt of a ghost who told me to die because death is life. It was a vivid, disturbing dream, and I remember crying in the middle of it, and I remember that my weeping sounded like Buddhe Baba’s, and I remember that made me cry even more.

The next day I woke up, feeling strangely relieved, convinced that whatever happened the day before was nothing but a dream. I waited for the auto, ready for school.

Your Papa will drop you. Buddhe Baba won’t come today.” My mother told me, trying to push almonds into my mouth.

My blood chilled at the words. Was he angry with me for not listening to him the day before? Did he hate me now? Will he never come to our home now? My mind was whirling with questions and my heart was ready with the most pessimistic answers.

Wh-why?” I managed to mutter.

He went to God today.”

Who told you? Why are you saying so?

It came in the papers, beta”

“I don’t believe you. He will come. I will wait.”

You are mad. You will get late for school! He was old; he had to die anyway if he hadn’t killed himself. What makes you so sad?

He didn’t kill himself. Nobody does that. Mummy, but you’re lying! I don’t believe you, I don’t, I will wait.”

You foolish kid, here, see this.”

And she shoved the morning paper in my hand, barely caring to hide her frustration.

The first page was strewn with gruesome pictures of Buddhe Baba, his three sons and his wife, all lying dead, foaming at the mouth. I closed my eyes in reflex, my whole being shuddered, and my mind could only say “He can’t die” again and again, again and again, forbidding me to feel any emotion whatsoever, trying to convince me with its lies.

There was also a picture of a note, found in his hand.

“We have no money. We have nothing to eat. The leg has worn off. The little one is sick again. The eldest one is a drunkard. The wife’s a fool. We have no money. I cannot fight anymore. We have nothing. We want to die, all of us, because we have nothing to live for now. We have no love, no money, no courage. We want to die.

There was more to these lines, but it made no sense to me, it was too dark and complex to be unravelled by a young brain.

The last line of the note caught my attention.

Happiness is no more than a lie, a pretense. Life is a battle we are destined to lose, and so I give up before it tortures me into defeat.”

I stood up, clutching the paper to my chest, trying to sink in the implications. After a long moment of confusion, I broke down into breathless sobs that ultimately graduated into tears, and I wouldn’t stop. I didn’t really understand what he was trying to say. All I knew was the bare reality: he had given up, he had never been happy, nobody ever was. I’d lost my defenses against the world, and I’d lost my ideals and my idol, and it was more than just the rough first contact with death, it was more than the loss of my faith in God : I had lost my belief in one thing that’s worth living for: Happiness.

And I wept more and more, like one who has not cried before, loudly, crazily, unstoppably, while my mind continued to tell me, “He can’t die, he can’t” over and over again.


By Shruti Sonal:

This poem is dedicated to the women in Afghanistan, whose survival itself is a battle everyday, who hide many a secrets behind their veil, whose heart suffers and endures and dares to dream.

In the dusty streets of a war-torn nation,
Where all you see is devastation
There walks a beautiful maiden
Her steps are so small and eyes so laden…

No one can figure out what she thinks,
Behind her veil, she quietly blinks
She is lost in her own hometown,
Not knowing where to go, there appears a frown.

The narrow lanes where as a child she played,
Were no longer there, she felt betrayed
The naughty giggles, the joyous laughter had gone
War had brought with it, a dark dawn…

Kneeling down beside the rubble
All that was real, burst like a bubble
Every corner of the street screamed of terror
The earth beneath her shook, with a slight tremor.

In the pool of dried blood, there lay scattered
A hand that had been lent, when it mattered
Children surrounded her, mourning the loss
Shockingly, to them it was just another hurdle to cross…

Her land of dreams and hope
Was dying, trying to cling on to the rope
It broke her heart, it pricked her soul
This never ending war was creating a Black Hole.

She got up and began the journey back home
A place of injustice, a violent father’s dome
For what else could a woman do
She must forgive and endure the pain too…

You’ll see that maiden walking alone
In the faces of women that once shone
Now, surrounded by gunshots and fear
With a heart that has a lot to bear.


By Sanjukta Krishnagopal:

Every once in a rainy day, quite literally a rainy day, I find myself droning to a syrupy sweet memory that strides right past my prosencephalon (memory chamber of the brain) and rounds its force in my medulla oblongata (sleep centre). It’s a memory I cannot recollect very vividly, but it’s as lucid as the words in this unworthy attempt of a recollection. It’s a lullaby for my thoughts, picked exclusively and explicitly for me, and of course, by me. It’s stronger than the strongest force, yet weaker than the weakest force. It encompasses a vacuum in my brain, a vacuum that gives rise to everything else that makes even a tad bit of sense, and sense, my friend, is an intermittent visitor. This resonant thought is the silhouette of my entire life crunched in a minute shell that reverberates with the alternating constructive and destructive interference of my thought-waves.

It’s akin to a battery that charges me up for the monotony of this joke of a world. I glide, I fly, and I cascade past your dreams, and hopes, and ambitions. Everything you are, were, or will be, or at any point of time hope to be, I can feel it all, be it all, with my army that ripples past your conscience. I ask for it, and I get it; it’s my reign, my command and YOUR wish. I’m the nocturnal daydreamer in this psychedelic odyssey. All I need to do is lay my head on the settee and my mind sits with me on that very settee. It’s a place I can’t be afraid of, because it echoes my passion; concentrating its sweetness, making it more enticing than Aphrodite herself.

I dance, I write, I sing, I love, I laugh, I chortle, I soar, I dive, I chuckle, I giggle, I sneer, I mock. It’s this little dose of hallucinogens I like to take before I am forced to wake to the struggle of simulating all that, in this reality, I like to call dream. So I let this force in my head overpower me, drug me and then enlighten me. And I let this memory call upon its army to sweep the synapse clean, so as to speak. And I remain chained behind in the remnants of what I can only speculate. Each battle is noble enough to clean up behind it though, that much credit I duly grant it. It leaves behind no miscellanies that might misguide me into déjà vu. Every thought, every melody is phagocytic, giving me the benefit of novelty every time I delve into the realms of those war scenes again. How I write this, without guidance from the fragments of my imagination, I myself fail to comprehend. But I write this nevertheless, and write I do, with an avant-garde vengeance.

Every once in a while I croon to the bittersweet melody that the all-powerful forces thrust upon my innocuous brain, and I have this gut feeling, that all the connoisseurs of a contented slumber wouldn’t dare beg to differ. I wake to a reality I perceive as a dream, and I sleep to a dream that reveals my reality. Or vice-versa? Either way I’m a connoisseur of wonder and amazement, a connoisseur of those satiating forty winks. May the force be with you!


By Shradha S:

Here in the streets, a whiff of fresh air is a rarity. It’s always the smell of dead animals and rotting people. It makes me go back to the memory of that afternoon when you and I sat near those yellow meadows we grew up in. How mother used to tie those lovely yellow ribbons on your lovelier curls. How I used to love running my fingers through them.

Where I study, here in town, people are from a lot of places. We have no common ground, apart from being students of dusty old History. The professors and readers are important men of no business. The place has no story or breeze; as if you are caught in that moment of a lifetime, where an impending doom is slowly making its way up the stairs, while innocent joy is leaving quietly through your backdoor. I try to read in the afternoons but fall asleep after a chapter, and dream without fail, of the yellow sunflower fields in the country, and you in your yellow dress.

I miss the warm sunshine on our faces. A time when father used to be home during the spring with apples and strawberries in baskets and carts, and Bruno attacking them both with his puppy woofs. I wonder why life has to be so grey and people so dark, when everything around us is so simple and sweet. Like the blush you had on your face the first time you were kissed.

When I first met him, and walked by his side, I thought my life was in a bloom once again. That long past winter was gone finally and life was embracing the sweet spring. I thought that the war which took you my little one, father, mother and Bruno, could be finally forgiven and forgotten.

Destiny is too cruel to smile upon my fair Fate. Who I loved and cherished once again in the yellow summers was lost in the winter, next. He was taken away by another war which thought itself better than its former self. And once again I was left to the miseries of the living ones. Further tortured by the task of documenting that which stabbed my heart once, twice, thrice and many times. Typing copies of the same heart wrenching story of love and loss, which was merely a state archive for the ones who rule. A silly matter of typos and tears.

Years have gone. I still keep the memory of our yellow afternoons alive in my old heart. When walking by the same old street with the ancient smell of flesh and blood, nobody bothers the old woman who lives alone down the street, in her yellow rooms. Some day, when fate takes pity and death plays ally; we shall be reunited, in those yellow meadows of ours, sister. Singing our songs.

“Fare thee well, my own true love. Oh don’t you see that lonesome dove, sitting on an ivy tree, she’s weeping for her own true love, just as I shall weep for mine.”


By Jyoti Singh:

Guilt-stricken, ripped and raped
My frame mapped when I was naive
insulted, demeaned and un-draped
Spare me please, I don’t feel brave.

Show me my face, o mirror dear!
look at me, my image. Do you dare?
Do not lower your eyes in fear.
Show me the passion to live…that flair.

Promise me,
you will rise never to lie again.
you will toil to smile again.


[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]About the author: Jyoti is a student of literature. She writes about issues related to women’s struggle for survival in Indian society. To read her other posts, click here.[/box]

Body image

By Nazreen Fazal:

Shopping with girlfriends or at the hairdressers’,
Flipping through magazines as I get my hair done
Page after page of glossy perfection
Sensuous curves and caramel skin so soft,
Image after image
Mocking me, calling me names
One places me in the ‘before’ selling distant dreams of a beautiful ‘after’
Dreams contained in big bottles and labelled lotions,
My skin needs lightening, body some tightening or,
they reveal, I face a future so bleak-
Men’s rejection, collapsing careers and eventual dejection

I can’t look at the mirror no more
That image is not me
It’s an ugly monster I’ve created
Done with this Frankenstein
Time to change
Throw out all Chips and chocolates,
The cheese in my spaghetti, sugar in my tea
Push out carbs too-out you go potatoes
My body is in my hands and I am its sculptor
Carving those curves, perfecting that pout

I feel good – I must be beautiful now!
A glance at the magazines- a broken heart
The images look thinner,
Eyes brighter, lips fuller
Skin flawless with that ever present glow
My shame burns me
Why can’t I be like them?
I sit at the table
Boiled vegetables on my plate
Stuff myself and then run to the toilet
A finger down my throat
Out comes it all
Some calories down the drain!
An evolving competition
Me and those calculating calories till death do us apart

Tiredness treads in now
But that’s a good sign!
I must be on my way
Hopes high I head to my ally
‘Mirror Mirror on the wall- who’s the thinnest of them all?’
no lies, hidden truths no more
Deep breath, eyes open and I see
A whale
A big ugly whale
Frustration. Anger.
If perfection eludes me,
I must step up my game.
Pit stop and I pick up some pills
Now guaranteed a fine future ahead
I take them- 1,2,3 at a time
Day after day, week after week,

My body now starved, some pills popped,
I feel different. My body’s not mine,
Instead a dying corpse
A sculptor’s worst nightmare
His masterpiece shattering in his hands.

In my race to perfection, I’d forgotten
That perfection, didn’t exist
Not in this world.
I wasn’t the lie, it was the image
Starved models make up caked,
Living lies,
Photo-shoots then photoshopped
Altered curves and concealed spots
Plastic smiles then painted on
Creating a fantasy; destroying million others
And mine.

So I take a step back and let my body speak for itself
It tells me to stop, this torture unbearable,
And look within
While my body starved, my soul did too
In the pursuit of perfection, I’d lost not one but two
The trails were testing and it took me some time
But I turned to the one who is perfect and he sorted it out
Cracks mended and tears stitched
I’ve prayed and the answer was lucid
To look beyond the body and go for the soul
This I shall polish and let shine for the world
The Creator created me this way and so it shall remain
I’m beautiful and so are you.

[box bg=”#fdf78c” color=”#000″]Disclaimer: The poem is about a teenage girl and her problems with body image. Not the story of the author, just what she sees around and reads more and more about (Alarmingly). Eating disorders now plague teenage girls, rendering them weak and with low self esteem. There needs to be a collective effort to ensure that girls feel positive about their bodies and are not constantly starving themselves towards unrealistic goals.[/box]


By Nisha Kutty:

The crooked cans sing a crooked song,
As you pass along these withered willows
You can hear them clank – through these roads rather long.

She basks in the glory of her idiocy,
She basks in the beauty of the dark
She speaks of a world long forgotten –
She lives through whirls of snarl.

This great abeyance then,
Shall lead to no everlasting hills.
Oh, onlooker! do you see their marbled facades of blue smoke?
Rueful and vexed – his tender skin you see
But, do you never wonder – What else it might be?

Aurora pinned me to this world of desolation –
where be her light?
But, you forget –
My soul is a bride here – dressed so beautifully in white.


By Shruti:

I was nurtured in the womb of God,
I was born in the lap of the Himalayas
Heaven and Earth celebrated my birth,
Creation chose to name me- Yamuna.

In my childhood, I was chirpy and free
I was happy, as happy could be.
The mighty hills, the narrow valleys
They lifted me up, proved to be my allies.

Civilisation around me grew,
I was witnessing a world totally new.
From a child, I turned into a woman so pure,
People termed me Divine, some were so sure.

I was in Taj the power of love,
Towards me flew the pigeon and the dove.
Never the one to tire and stop,
I entered the plains, leaving the hills atop.

The large industries made my head reel,
No one seemed to care how I would feel.
Bags and trucks of waste they dumped,
For their greed, more and more water they pumped.

I grew weaker, strength I had no more
The filth slowly penetrated my heart’s core.
While I struggled to breathe fresh air,
The ministers sat comfortable in their chair.

It seems like another lifetime, when I was considered Divine
Today, I’m struggling for life, but known as the “Lifeline”.
That was my story, you patient child
I hope you’ll come to me and not be blind.
Till then, all I have are memories and dreams,
Help me, don’t let me break at the seams
Help me, don’t let me break at the seams

acid attacks

By Nazreen Fazal:

I want to know
Your thoughts that day,
When you picked up that vial
From the chemistry lab
Turned right around and flung it on my face
What were you thinking,
When you saw the liquid blind my eyes then
Slowly drip down my cheeks
Down my neck and through my shirt
Burning its way through.
What did you think
When you saw burning trails of flesh where once
Were cheeks which could blush
Cheeks which turned away your advances
What made you think you could,
With this burning liquid
Alter my face
Mess it so bad
That I now have this grotesque mask
Of burnt flesh, melting, parting and meeting at different spots
Blotches- black, brown, blue, grey-
Of pain numbing my insides
What do you think now
That you see me in this bed
Writhing in pain, wishing to die
Tell me. I want to know.


By Disha Khemchandani:

Treading softly on the shaky path,
Holding on to a bag of hope,
Undeterred, she looks around
With expectant eyes.

Carrying a tray of sufficient dreams,
Passing it around,
Looking at the indifferent and tired faces
A blank look crosses her face.

She does catch the eye of an onlooker,
Tiny splashes of enthusiasm come on her resilient face,
The onlooker gives her a curious look,
But it is just a look.

Counting her blessings,
She sits after a hard day of work,
Eyes wandering everywhere,
As the announcement rings through the compartment,
She treads softly on the still path.


By Nazreen Fazal:

They see curry on my plate
And begin their sad monologue
About how Indian I am
Wisecracks about my limited career options
And remarks on my ‘pre-destined married life’
Gaffs at ‘The Great Indian Nod’
Reflecting their inability to distinguish our yes from a no
Throw in a few Bollywood songs
And they are done for the day
Signing off with a Namaste
I don’t say a thing
And sometimes laugh along
Yes, my accent is thick
And my ‘Ts’ sound like machine guns
On a roll
But that’s why it’s called an accent, silly!
I love me some curry with some red chilli
But on other days I’d rather kick back
With some chinese on the go.
No, we don’t dance when we are happy
Nor do we run around trees
When there’s joy, we
Laugh and smile amidst hugs and kisses
We sing, badly, in the shower
And dance when getting rid of pesky roaches
You see, it’s very tough
To explain what it’s like
To be Indian
To be an Indian Woman
To be an Indian Muslim Woman
My experiences are mine
and mine alone
So don’t put me in a box,
along with your expensive pashmina shawls and ivory figurines,
And label me ‘Exotic’.
For I will break free and let you know that
I am you.
Maybe a little browner.


By Hiren Mukherjee:

I was the sentinel of the sky,

Looking at the sky adorned with
Clouds, stars, nebulas,
I used to sing for myself.

I was twenty or something then.
One day, clouds on which stars used to ride, were
Crushed to minute grains, the azure star
Was snatched by the hand of a stranger.

Truer than the sky became my dread,
Callused words became more virtuous than love.

Now at my forties,
I look at the injured rose in my hand,
I try to recall,
I will always be the scribe of your melody,
Within me, there is euphoria of an azure star.


By Shruti Shreya:

I open my eyes in pain. There’s a face looming over me. It is a nice man here who smiles at me. He is different. He looks pale, almost white in color. He is not from my village. It looks like he lived in a place where there was no sun. I would want to go to that place one day and see if my color changes, or maybe if I washed my face really hard with this little water in this container on the small table beside my bed.

He is talking to me now, making movements with his hands. He is asking me if I understand him, his language. I nod my head to tell him that I do. I have been to school and have learnt this language, his language, called English. He asks me how I am feeling. I point towards the little red itchy spots and make a face. I want to tell him how much they itch and hurt. He tells me I have something called Measles. It is a disease. He informs me that many children of my village have it.

I am now sitting on my bed and can see some familiar faces lying in the little beds here. They seem to be feeling the same pain as me. Next to my bed is a boy I recognize from my class when we had them. His name is Ahmad. I look at his bony body, then at mine and then at the pale man’s body. I wonder why his body is different than ours. We have a lot of bones but he doesn’t. I look at the white scary thing standing by itself, lonely lonely, in the corner. I was once told by my teacher that our bodies look like that under our skin. That we are made of something called bones. I believe my teacher. We all have bones. I can see it in everyone’s body here. But why are all the pale people here without bones? Have they come from another planet? Or are they like plants, but talking and moving like us?

While I am thinking all this, I feel someone tugging at my shirt. It is Ahmad. He remembers me. I smile at him. He doesn’t smile back. Just gives me a strange look. Of confusion. He doesn’t understand what is happening or know where we are. I look around and try to read the writing on the pale man’s white clothes. It says “Doctors Without Borders”. I explain to Ahmad that these pale people are doctors, that they are here in our village to help us.

Suddenly two of these doctors come to my bed with a torch and many types of equipment to examine me. They are talking amongst themselves and I catch a word: “Malnutritioned”. I wonder what that means. They now want to insert some tubes in me. They tell me not to be scared and that it will feed me. I look at Ahmad in confusion and wonder why I cannot eat like how I did when we were able to find food. But that was when my mother was alive. Before she was all bloody in the chest. My uncle Khalid had told me that she was hit with a bullet. It is a round metal thing they put in guns to kill people. I still have pieces of it from my mother’s body wrapped in a cloth around my neck. I hold on to it tightly and think about my father who died of hunger some days back. There was no food and water here in my village Mayando, something that one these pale people with a stick like thing in his hand called “drought”. I remember the word because it killed half my village.

A nice pale lady, who is also a doctor comes to me and holds my hand. She wants to know who I am.

“My name is Kahlifa and I am six years old. I used to go to school but now I don’t after it was blown up by some bad men with guns and bombs.” I tell her I think I live in this place that you pale people call Somalia.


By Tanaya Singh:

It was 7:00 am,
A time when the utopian world is new,
bathed, combed, perfumed and dressed up for the day.
At a time when night’s smoke is far of the chimney,
and the beginning awaits its start,
I moved out in search of freshness that “ought” to be there…somewhere.

At the speed of a hundred jolts per second,

I crossed a traffic signal, took a left…
and instantly became a midget between two looming trucks,
probably trying to say good morning with a gush of smoke and dust.
While an innocent white chiffon tried to scarf my hair…
and protect my face,
I looked up with furrowed brows and squinted eyes.

It was 7:00 am, and there sat the sun,
visible in pieces behind the blocks of an unfinished tower
ignored, slit, and polluted…in the days weakest glow,

it was at that hour of the morning,
when all noise blurred, all colours faded…
and I found myself in my hometown.
With a slight lift of the neck, I could see the sun
“unblocked and unsliced”….from wherever I wished.
It was in that second of a new morning, when I realised; the search won’t be over,
till the bars were removed, the dust vacuumed and the smoke released,
by one’s own self, not from the outside…but from within.


By Aishwarya Sharma:

Blood dripping from the rafters
Body parts lying around
Sicken me to the core…

Our great ‘leaders’
Have pimped themselves out
Raped again and again
All they can do is shout…

Perhaps they have forgotten that day
The 13th of December
When they were the targets
Meant to be killed and dismembered…

The response back then was pretty swift
The army was marched out
But only a short while passed
And the toughness died out…

Give peace a chance, so said the world
Why don’t you guys give it a try
And lapdogs that they are
They fell over themselves, trying to pacify…

Bombay, the business capital
Soon to be denoted a terrorist haven
The Jihadis have nicknamed the city
‘Our’ personal pathway to heaven…

Shootouts took place, blasts occurred
Nobody gave a damn
Then there was that grand spectacle
The 3 day orgy of terror
The people were shaken up
Suffered from terrifying fits
But our dear ‘leaders’,
Nothing ruffles them, the spineless gits.

They said it is nothing
While bullets were whizzing around
The fearless commandos faced it all
And then laid down on the ground.

We failed the martyrs,
Yes you and I,
We have harboured and protected those
Who deserved to die.

It is all our fault
We chose them to lead
And for that, all we got was
A hundred petty wounds all left to bleed.

Let alone catching the terrorists
We cannot even punish the ones we have caught
A gentleman by the name of Ajmal kasab
Will testify to that thought…

He killed many innocents
And we watched in outrage
The vulture needed to be put down
Yet he laughs at us, from a gilded cage….

It all needs to stop now
We have all had enough
We need better leaders,
The ones made of sterner stuff.

Make an example of one
Strike the fear of god in them
So that they think at least a thousand times
Before causing bloody mayhem.

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