Poetry | ‘Fate of the Forgotten’ by Chandana. D (15) | School Student Writing

There goes the isolated fisherman
In his desolate wooden boat,
Trying his best to be restrained from
All the misery that poverty connotes.

The sun has set,
The incessant time goes.
Lost in the sea of the forgotten,
The abandoned fisherman rows.

Maybe if it was not him,
That hope had parted so badly within,
He would have probably been laughing,
With his beloved kin.

Maybe if it was not his cup of resistance,
That had been fed to the brim,
Then it might not be today that he had to face
The question of his existence.

Is it his mistake that he is a misfit?
And to have no special light to emit,
At least he tries to counterpart,
Always trying to find a fresh start.

His mother did nothing but accuse
That her son’s fit to do nothing, but misuse,
But what sin is it to be born disabled,
It’s just like a leg being separated from a table.

The world had rejected him
And averted his presence,
As if that was not enough,
It said that tending him had no sense.

He had always been the jetsam of the ship,
Nothing but a dead fish, a dead nomad.
No one to lead, but hundred and one to preach the quip
“To gain something, loose something my lad.”

Now the poor fisherman can take no more!
If only he had been allowed to bloom,
Like an eagle, he would soar,
And considered his life beyond a boon.

The word is the only one to be blamed,
For the poor man’s hunger and pain
And finally, it made him close his eyes
Never to be opened again.

Chandana. D is a 15 year old, who aspires to highlight the momentous, but often self-effacing and unnoticed segments of life through poetry. She is currently studying in grade 10 at Viswasanti High School, Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh.

Short Fiction | ‘The Canvas’ by Ramyani Bhattacharya (19) | Student Writing

I.

The train was scheduled for 8 in the evening so I had enough time to spend with the city which had been my home for the last six months. My bags were already packed and gathered in the middle of the room. Having informed Shankar that I was going out, I made my way towards the ghat[1].

Sitting on the steps of Dashashwamedh ghat[2] with a lemon tea in hand, I realised that Benares had always had a certain charm. I beheld the Ganga in front of me, the sun glistening on its surface and the rhythmic waves dancing. I sipped on the tea and stared into space, fixing my eye on a boat standing at the shore of the other side of the holy river.

I sighed.

I wished I could see her one last time before I left the city. I didn’t know why I had a feeling that I would never return to Benares again, that some unknown divine conspiracy would prevent me from coming here. I was constantly tormented by the lingering loss that gnawed at my heart.

I closed my eyes and there she was–a clean white saree[3] draped across her chest–heaving up and down–her hands poised and her head tilted to the left. She stood there, sophisticated, in the middle of my consciousness, mocking my cognitive abilities to hold her in place, her eyes, glowing, calling me. 

“Dada[4].” A soft voice brought me back to reality. I looked around to see Shankar sitting beside me. “I knew you would be here.” 

I smiled. Shankar was my cousin brother. He had a string of shops in Benares and lived there with his wife and a 6-year-old son. 

“So you will not sell it?” He lit a cigarette. 

“No,” I replied, not looking at him.

“It’s a lot of money, Dada.” 

“Doesn’t matter.” 

I saw him looking away, knowing it was futile to even try to persuade me. 

I sighed again, heavily, which didn’t release the stress I thought it would. 

When we came home, it was around 6:30 p.m. and I knew my time here had ended. The railway station, Mughal Sarai, was particularly crowded when we reached there. I didn’t have much luggage, only a suitcase with my clothes and necessities, and a bag to carry the Canvas and other essentials. 

I sat down on a nearby bench to wait for the train to arrive. Shankar had come to see me off but I wanted desperately to be alone for a while; to drown in my own misery. To be honest, I didn’t want to go. My head felt heavy. 

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a soft sound of footsteps emerged from the chaos and lingered in my ears. I looked around, frantically searching for the source. She appeared from the faceless crowd, her eyes smiling at me. I jumped up, ecstatic and out of my senses. I ran into the crowd, but she seemed far. I ignored the faint voices of someone calling me. I fixed my eyes on her. 

But after a while, I couldn’t see her anymore. Hazy figures of people walked across me. She had vanished just as easily she had appeared in my mind. Someone pushed me from behind and I fell down, unable to hold my balance. I realised I couldn’t see properly. Confusion and frustration clouded my senses as I heard the signal of the train. I glanced at my watch. It was 8:25.

I got up fast and ran ahead. The last bogie of the train I was supposed to be in whizzed past me. I stared at the departing train, benumbed.

II.

I sat up, dazed and gulped down a bottle of water on the side table. Breathing heavily, I switched on the lights. For a moment, I stood still, allowing my eyes to adjust to the light and my nerves to calm themselves. I was sweating profusely.

She was here. 

She was right here, standing beside my bed, peering at my face. Or was it a dream again? Why did she seem so real? 

I had first seen her in Kolkata, in my home as I slept. She appeared in my subconscious, smiling with her eyes. She was in Benares, standing in front of the Kashi Vishwanath Temple or that was what it seemed like. I couldn’t sleep for the next four days. 

She occupied every empty space in my mind. Her profound presence was driving me to the brink of insanity. On the fifth day, I took the train and reached Benares, resolved to find her. 

I didn’t tell anyone about her, because simply no one would believe how real she was and because she was sacred, just like the river Ganga. 

I didn’t dream of her for the first month of my stay in Benares. I had gotten frustrated and decided that I needed a physical manifestation, evidence of her existence or else I would go crazy. In a frenzied burst of emotions, I drew her from my memory. I was shocked at how well I still remembered her. 

When I completed it, she appeared in front of me again, colourful on the canvas. She was beautiful. 

When Shankar saw the painting, he at once remarked that it would bring a lot of money since I was a painter. 

“Not for sale,” I told him. 

Presently, I removed the veil from the painting on the easel in my room and looked at her. 

 Where are you?

III.

The next morning, Shankar asked me what I planned to do next. 

“Would it be inconvenient for you if I stay a few more weeks?” I asked bluntly. He looked lost for a few seconds.

 “No, of course not, Dada. What are you saying? You can stay here for as many weeks as you please. It would be a pleasure,” said Shankar. 

“We are usually three people only. Another person, that, too a family member would only enhance our days,” Sulekha, Shankar’s wife smiled at me. But I knew they were uncomfortable, rather frustrated at my weird behaviour. 

I followed a simple routine: I went out at precisely noon after having lunch; I roamed the area around the ghat and returned at 7 in the evening; I spent some time with my brother’s family and went to my room at 10. 

After two weeks of incessant search, I had little hope left of finding her. Nevertheless, I couldn’t deny the faint streak of optimism alive in heart, beating irregularly. The sense of stark hopelessness is too scary for me. 

Slowly, I had irked my brother to the point that one night he expressed his concerns. “Dada, you are obsessed?” It seemed like a statement more than a question so I chose not to answer. 

“You have an exhibition in a month! What are you going to show everyone? If you want to paint here, I can provide you with anything you want, but this cannot go on. Are you listening?” 

I looked at him. He was visibly annoyed. 

“I don’t feel like painting.” 

“You don’t feel? Cancel your exhibition. You would lose a lot of money, but you don’t care!” He left the room. 

Was I obsessed? 

It might be because my mind was not my own anymore. It tried to tell me something which I was not capable of understanding. Something was haunting me, tearing me apart and I didn’t know what.

That night, I couldn’t sleep. I was losing my mind. Extreme pain shot through every nerve. I could feel myself going down a quagmire, the sand pulling me in, the reality merging with illusion. I couldn’t recognise what was real anymore. I saw her often for mere seconds before she vanished into thin air every time. I couldn’t get out of bed for two days. The room was spinning. 

IV.

On the third day, I went out for a short walk to the ghat. The doctor had examined me the day before and said that I had had a nervous breakdown. 

The cool breeze that hit the crook of my neck soothed me. The Ganga appeared calm and serene. I lit a cigarette. 

Suddenly, I saw her standing in front of the Vishwanath Temple. The cigarette fell from my hand. 

My nerves panicked as I felt I would lose her again. I stood there, unable to move a single muscle. She turned around, her serene eyes calling me. I gulped down a lump at the back of my dry throat. 

She started walking down the ghat. I followed her. She turned down a narrow alley. I was careful not to be too close. She seemed too real. For a moment, I was euphoric realising she was real, that she had a physical existence. My bliss knew no bounds. A different kind of pain emerged in my mind and body. I knew nothing except her.

We walked through several narrow alleyways. She could surely sense me lingering behind her. 

I felt we had a relationship. We had a silent communion, a secret from everyone’s prying eyes. We had something sacred. 

Presently, we reached a cul-de-sac. She turned around. 

It was almost 6 in the evening. The sun was glistening at the horizon, sending streaks of red light around. She shimmered under the stream of the coruscating light.

 I loved her. I loved her more than anything else in this world. She was everywhere, in every atom. She was in me, she was me. 

She smiled divinely, her whole body sparkling. Her eyes moistened. She said something, silently. I could feel her. 

All of a sudden, she started walking towards me. I was frozen to the ground. I looked at her face. The white saree was draped across her chest. Her hands were poised and her head tilted towards the left. Her suave manner touched my heart. 

Slowly she came in front of me and didn’t stop. She came forward and passed through me. I was numb. 

Slowly, I turned around. She had vanished.

 V.

“Call me when you reach Kolkata,” Shankar called out. I nodded and waved at him. 

The train departed from the Mughal Sarai railway station. It had been a week since my encounter with her. Two nights later, I had found a photograph which had fallen from my diary.

It was a twenty-year-old picture from when I was just ten years old. I was smiling, an innocent smile of pure happiness. Standing beside me was Tara, my childhood friend, who had died ten years ago when our life was just about to begin.

My hands were shaking when I looked into her eyes. Her smile was divine, bearing a striking resemblance to the one I had witnessed just two days ago. 

I had decided that I would return to Kolkata and start painting again. 

The voice of a hawker brought me back to reality. The breeze hit my face. The trees, houses and the people seemed to be running in the opposite direction. 

I smiled. 

I opened the bag that carried my Canvas and other essentials for painting. I took out the painting and looked at it. I wasn’t surprised when I found the Canvas empty. 

Glossary
1 A broad flight of stairs leading down to a river.
2 The main ghat of religious importance in Benares on the Ganga river.
3 Traditional clothing for Indian women.
4 Brother

Ramyani Bhattacharya is a 19-year-old student at South Point High School, Kolkata. Being an introvert, writing is her escape. She has her own blog at WordPress.com which receives a good response. She is an avid reader and has more than one favourite writer. Nevertheless, Paulo Coelho and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are closest to her heart. 

Short Fiction | ‘There is Sand in My Eye’ by Bhavyakirti Singh (18) | Student Writing

I live in a small city.

Not geographically, of course. My universe is not all that the light touches but just about what my eyes meet. You could say that it would not be much of a task for me to easily disappear in a somewhat upper-middle-class crowd. 

Having a comfortable life isn’t something that I’m ungrateful for, but I cannot help but wonder what changes the adventures of discomfort would bring about in me. Would I still be the way that I understand myself to be? Would I like the same things? This unending list of questions runs parallel with the scientific ‘nature v. nurture’ debate, for which I cannot and must not present my arguments, for it is only ridicule that will come my way if I choose to speak without knowing all the intricacies of this deeply philosophical debate. 

Realistically, ridicule would follow regardless. I could know the most about something, yet not everything; not enough to answer any fool who forces me into silence through repeated renditions of ‘why’ or ‘why not’. It is almost as if the title of Hannah Montana’s 2006 track ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ has finally started making sense to me. While being a self-proclaimed libertarian and intellectual, I must confess that my political ideology–as I understand a facet of it to mean ‘recognising imperfections’–sometimes really tires my mind. I feel like my contemporaries understand it to mean that we all have a positive imperative to criticise, for what imperfections will we embrace or accept if there aren’t any? Of course, anything perfect is divine, and therefore, we must refuse to believe in it.

This takes me back to a moment when I thought about a girl who studied in my school a couple of years ago. I had been scrolling through Instagram, a staple habit utilising one hand while the other reached out into and scooped dry granola from a dirt filmed bag. Repetition is good and I believe that it is healthy to stick to a carefully constructed, sustainable routine that incorporates all the bare essentials of survival while encouraging oneself to cultivate Mill’s greater pleasures. 

I believe that I am a somewhat observant person, tending to recollect irrelevant statements made by people in the past while staring blankly at a test or the gravel on the road during my walk back home. You might think that this revelation about my personality is unnecessary, but, in fact, you will soon discover that it is increasingly essential to the thought I had about that girl. 

Now, with partial concentration on social media, I came across a little “artsy feed” op-ed that she had written and posted. The long and the short of the matter was that she was (and according to my estimate, still is) an active dissenter of the current political establishment and strongly believed that Mussolini’s Fascism had been reborn in the East. To avoid any confusion, by using the term ‘active’, I refer to the green dot that appears under her profile picture in the “Direct Message” tab.

As my concentration wavered to pick up a rice crisp that had escaped my palm-boat, I remember her forbidding us, the rest of her classmates, from making our ninth-grade political science projects on the previous ruling government. They were highly incompetent and shied away from being answerable to the public that had put them there. Each drop of water makes the ocean what it is. Dissatisfied drops dry up oceans into ornamental lakes that rain somewhere else.

You’ll be surprised to know it goes deeper than that. Both her parents and her elder sister have been under the employment of some or the other government department for a couple of decades now. I had always assumed that their stance would be apolitical and the same would trickle down to the progeny, as it did for the elder sibling, but I have now discovered that teenage angst and environment aren’t as correlated. As a waning teen in the midst of angst recovery myself, I must say that even I, frequently, am not able to tackle this emotion. WikiHow suggests journaling, but somehow, unfortunately, with a twist of fate and a dash of bad-luck for having been born into a family with a lack of polyglots, there are too few words for what I feel and too many that I’ll never need. I will probably spend the rest of my life wondering which language would possess the spot-on terms and phrases for what I mean to say.

This girl, to me, now seems like she just never grew out of the phase where all of us Wattpad-intoxicated early pubescent individuals refused to believe that our lives were anything less than a tragic novella bound in leather with golden embossments brushed near the title, carrying a disclaimer of “soon to be a major motion picture” on the bottom right hand corner. The quintessential in that novel would be the arch-nemesis, a girl who hides her insecurities by drawing out others’. Why this secondary character is an important mention here is because there is a great possibility that it may be I, for having spitefully revealed her identity to all my readers without her having impacted me personally. I can soon expect a “BYE SISTER” James Charles equivalent Instagram caption accompanied by a make-up free face close up. This one, though, let me assure you, will be sprinkled with a lot more legal jargon. I should be prepared for the eventuality and expect terms akin to ‘defamation’ and ‘invading right to privacy’ to waft into the internet in a matter of days.

Funnily enough, I also know someone who supports everything that the government does because opposers and dissenters are too irritating with all their angsty Instagram posts.

“They’re just…not cool, bro.”

***

I am also acquainted with a pair of twins whom I currently keep in my company. The boy takes pride in having been born a few minutes prior. Any conversation propelled by this proposition is always an entertaining feature for me on account of my silent assessments of the worth of such fruitless debates. Oft, my mind even begs to be freed of vapid conversational fetters like these that hold me back from my ultimate intellectual release. 

You might wonder then, why I choose to roam with such fellows. As a youngling, I was afraid of jigsaw puzzles. With the advancement of my physical and mental capabilities, alongside the boom of technology, I grew afraid of arcade computer games instead. Then, these morphed into physics problems, ‘think better, think smarter’ workshops and internet dress illusions. The crushing reality of the fact that I was incapable of doing certain things and feeling like I had been rendered utterly helpless hit me hard. I blamed Hannah Montana, for I have always been told that you are what (content) you consume and she had poisoned my ability to know it all. One extraordinary morning, as I opened my eyes to a family WhatsApp group notification, I found my antidote. To this date, I remain deeply grateful for that TEDx video even though I had to miss an important morning lecture for the same. But what is a missed course lecture in context to the grand scheme of life that was envisaged for me? Absolutely nothing, of course. 

My antidote, as I had found, was perseverance and challenging oneself and pushing one’s boundaries. You might find some comedic relief in this due to its sheer triteness, but there is a two-pronged answer as to why this was so novel to me. One, I have always gotten almost everything with little to no effort. You could say that the universe is greatly imbalanced in my favour. Two, you have absolutely no idea how much I have needed to push my boundaries to maintain healthy companionship with the twins. It wasn’t only a push there, it was a complete uprooting. My boundaries–made of a soft, elastic yet unconquerable material were being replaced with Styrofoam that the Wicked Wolf could eradicate by breathing near it. It was worse than straws. I was unprotected in a world where individuals exhaled stupidity.

The boy is a giggly fellow, smiling at everything and loving everyone. Do not, I repeat, do not take this to mean that he has a sunny disposition towards life, for his dark moments of ego and slime may be much worse than yours. He, a music connoisseur, is of the sort that would look down upon you for having Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish in your library. When I told him that I have put my musical education on hold, the distaste emitting from his aura was a bitterness I can still taste in my mouth. A proud addict, it seems.

I had visited their apartment one summer break when both their parents were away. The house had a minimalist glow, in sharp contrast with the personalities of the children that had grown up there. The entrance hallway contained a befitting and classic canvas piece imported from abroad. The upper half of the painting moulded into the wall with colour sprayed only along one corner at the bottom. I guess it isn’t modern art if the canvas has more colour than blank space. I silently laughed at the thought of an alternate universe where the trend started due to a poor artist with an unusually large canvas, or a clumsy one who had gotten up for a tea break and spilt the last lot of her uniquely blended colours. 

The girl invited me into her room and I was pleasantly surprised by her hospitality. She had placed some snacks and wine on a tray on a wooden breakfast table, a meal elaborately laid out for me. We settled in and got to talking as I made myself comfortable in her quarters. 

My gaze wandered to a picture on her bedside, a photograph of her from many years ago. I never understood people who possessed frames of themselves. That being said, I don’t mean to say that I am unable to comprehend the human attachment to photographs, just not to those of oneself. Having noticed a slight trail in my speaking, she proceeded to tell me about the time she inspected all the flowers in the community park as her mother merrily clicked away in the enchanting delight of an infant’s company. 

“My God, we were such curious children.”

I told her curiosity dies with age and ultimately killed the cat. The girl countered my argument by asserting that her inner curiosity is not dead. When she saw a meme on the internet about a photoshopped nail driven into a car’s wheel, she googled what it would actually look like. She is now the proud owner of knowledge of what a nail piercing into a rubber wheel looks like. She now has the skills to identify it anywhere, except for when it is placed at the tangential point where the wheel meets the road. Over there, it cannot be seen by the naked eye. 

See, sure, real-life and people teach you things, but the internet teaches you so much more. The difference is a great deal. I could admit that her vast knowledge of topics like these was infectious. Only in her company did I get to learn so much. A new dialect even, if not a language. Were you aware that a loud ‘kee-yusmi’ emitting from the oral aperture of a human female loosely translates to a polite ‘excuse me’?

It is almost as good as scrolling through a list of beautiful untranslatable words in a foreign language. It is true–the meaning of a word is not restricted to the way it is used in a sentence. Even with my surprising lack of linguistic understanding and expertise, I can tell that a word contains the emotion of every single person who has ever used it. Keeping in mind relevant social distinctions and society specific experiences, if a word has been used by individuals belonging to only one society or ethnic group, no one outside of it can even begin to understand it without feeling an influence of the originators. The specific experiences that a society had to endure just to give certain meaning and emotion to a word will always shadow it, wherever it may go and whoever may use it. 

An outsider’s usage creates a grey area but not without impacting both sides. The outsider increasingly becomes a part of the community; the word gradually loses the mystical emotion behind it and eventually gets reduced to a Dictionary.com definition–a fancy term to replace bland ones on school essays. Universalised words though, like the ones that make up most of my vocabulary: no value. No wonder we’re asked to use them properly. 

As the evening came to a close, the boy came to drop me downstairs to ensure I got into the cab safely. As a parting comment, I gestured to the sky and told him that they had a very bright streetlight. He giggled at my foolishness and told me it was the moon. I asked him how he knew if he’d never flown up there. 

In conclusion, therefore, it is important for us to have a single, long and continuous chain of thought so as not to appear unsure of ourselves.

Bhavyakirti Singh, 18, is an incoming third-year student, reading law at National Law University, Jodhpur. She is greatly interested in writing poetry, satirical fiction and social commentary, often with the help of a pompous narrator based loosely on herself. She also writes literature reviews and academic pieces. In her free time, she likes to read William Carlos Williams, Jane Austen and Sylvia Plath.

Poetry | ‘Clueless Nights’ by Ashaani Taneja (15) | School Student Writing

I sat on the muddy brown boulders,
to watch the sun go down,
to see the beautiful night,
I felt the calmness as my hair swayed with wind,
and my wings, which were collapsed earlier,
rose and flapped in the wind,
cutting the current with its black feathers,
which came out of my wings,
blew towards the setting sun.
Through the cracks in the gold glazed sky,
I saw the rest of the angels,
swooshing through the air,
as if all they were trying was,
to convey their freedom to the captured.
I roamed the streets at nights,
every night with hidden wings,
acknowledging the most mundane things,
for who knew where I was to next,
I snuck into nightclubs,
and followed couples on their romantic walks,
wondering, did I not deserve the memories of love?
Sometimes strangers crossed paths with the moon,
reflecting black wings of their own in the shadows,
leaving traces of the fallen and so did I,
or at least I thought that I did.
Incidentally, when I crossed paths with the moon,
my wings started flapping,
and shone white under the natural moonlight,
I bolted up in the sky, almost reached the cracks,
and looked down to wonder,
What was I doing all these clueless nights?

Ashaani Taneja is a 15 year old writer. She published her book, ‘Bad Blood Frenemies’ for which she won The Most Promising Author award at the Dehradun Literature Festival. A poem from her collection, ‘Breath’ has been published online in the Indian Periodical.