Poetry | ‘Abortion’ & 2 other poems | By Anindita Sarkar

While Anindita Sarkar’s bold pieces on abortion, bullying of a unique boy, and surviving health ordeals spoke of grit under the surface, in the core and kernel. The choice of her themes – riveting with knife-edged impact. 

Abortion 

A noxious odour filled the infirmary

 Dull walls with murals

Harping on alchemy. 

Exotic beasts in white apparels, 

Roamed about in similar fashion. 

Bevy of varied-aged women, 

Hand in hand, huddled together. 

One after another, 

They entered into the curtained space, 

Cut off from the mainland, 

A place of no unwanted intrusion and calmness. 

Forks, knives, blades decked out, 

Ready to perform an act, 

Women were doused to sleep 

To carry out the unabsolvable task. 

One had premature limbs, 

The other’s heart wasn’t formed, 

One had even developed genitals, 

Another was barely two centimetres long! 

Petals of the rarest beauty, 

Crushed to death. 

The women gave each other a blank stare, 

One was not solvent, 

The other was a young widow, 

One was regularly abused by her husband, 

Another was already encumbered

 with four children. 

A new visitor plodded in, 

This time a ten-year-old, 

 to murder her unborn.


The Bully

Dark-green, Purplish, or with a Black hue

Effeminate boys at my school

Were catcalled Avocadoes.

“There goes the pear-shaped fruit” 

Masculine boys nudged 

Each other with a bravado. 

“How did you master

 a dual identity?”

They curiously examined 

His limbs and elbows, 

As if he was of 

An idiosyncratic breed. 

Furrowed brows and 

Protruding eyes

Guzzled his edible pulp

Beneath his armadillo. 

They struck his bottom and 

Called him a Pillow-biter

As they chiseled through 

His succulent buttery flesh 

To satiate their perched tongues 

With a flavour. 

Peeled off from his rind, 

By the swashbuckling criminals

Tears wobbled down his eyes

As he left with that 

Unswerving sweet smile, 

Never to return.


Only I recovered 

It seemed like a battle I could never win. 

My body was punctured, fettered to the bed, 

The walls were painted in chartreuse green. 

I thrived on that bleached fluid 

From the drip embroidered on my vein. 

I fed my soul on the veridescent terrain 

Clearly discernible through the indigo-bordered casement. 

A monitor palimpsest-ing my pulse,

While the garish ray of the winter sun

Implanted innumerable kisses on my face of pallid complexion. 

Nurses in lavender tunics like Seraphs of Beriah 

Smoothly kept tiptoeing 

In the room anointed with a mordant fragrance. 

A lilac curtain splatted the long room into two, 

My roommate lied in her imperturbable stupor 

gaping at the silk-white frescoed ceiling.

We acknowledged the silence from dawn to dark

united by exchanging telepathic waves. 

We frittered the day listening to the mowing of cows

And nights doused to sleep the lullaby of nightjars. 

Slowly my body began to ameliorate

I conquered death and owe her revivification. 

As I was wheeled back home, 

On an olive wheelchair, memories sweet-bitter lingered, 

While she recoiled to her desolation like a wilted fuchsia flower.

Anindita Sarkar is an UGC Junior Research Fellow pursuing her MPhil from Jadavpur University, India. She is from Kolkata, West Bengal. A neophyte in creative writing, she has graduated from Scottish Church College and completed her Masters degree from the University of Calcutta in English Literature. She has also served as a Lecturer in GNIHM College, Kolkata.

Poetry | ‘Articulate’ & 2 other poems | By Mihir Chitre

Mihir Chitre, whom we are publishing for the second time this issue, is as evocative as always; the years have only refined his poetry.

Articulate

How often have you won an argument

and lost a person? Think of your fury

when she says, “You just don’t get it,”

when you’re sure, after making a cogent argument,

that it’s her who doesn’t.

However, very often, it’s language that doesn’t.

In Mandarin, there is no tense.

You have only context to establish if you “love her”

or “loved her”, or if you were innocent or still are.

The more articulate you are, the less creatively you crawl

through the web of understanding.

In Archi, a verb can occur in over a million and a half forms,

but, I’m sure, there’s a woman up the Caucasus mountains,

who doesn’t know what to “do” when the cloud foaming a peak,

resembles her dead daughter. I can use “schadenfreude

in practically any sentence about Twitter, but

would it truly contain the pain of being a victim of it?

A syllable can have up to nine different meanings

in Cantonese that vary with the tone you say it in. Yet,

there are people in Hong Kong who lose their voice

when in the mood for love. Language is a city

in the civilization of communication. Being sophisticated

is not the same as being the best, and being the best

is not necessarily being the superset of all else.

There are things you can do every day in Tosh

or Alleppey or in the forest of Mahur that you never can

in Bombay. We often say more than we need to.

“Help,” we could simply say, and let the listener decide

if it’s “May I help you?” or “I need help.”

Imagine the agency of that choice –

helpless today, helpful tomorrow.

A “yes” is barely a yes when it comes

from someone you have power over. However,

a stooge of language would take it no differently

than the answer to “Would you like a million dollars?”

Someone once told me that if a person can speak,

without blinking an eye, on any subject, for more

than fifteen minutes, he knows nothing about it.

The ripple of understanding is concentric with,

but larger than, the ripple of language. Poetry

may be a linguistic high jump, but I’m not sure

the best poets communicate any “better” than a child,

finding his home. The fact that no feeling can ever be

perfectly articulated is both a limitation and the lustre

of co-existence.


Journeys

We’re an abstraction of the journeys

we make. Getting down at Amsterdam Centraal.

The first glimpse of Europe, after waiting for it

since you began waiting. It’s not the event itself

but the idea that is brilliant. The loaf of imagination

dipped in the tea of what you see.

Life, for most part, is guesswork. The thrill

of something living up to your expectation, at last.

The Ukrainian woman across the canal. Her projectile beauty,

masked in red. What you felt smoking sativa and drinking

at Brouwerij’t IJ while forgetting a world, is impossible

to tell with exactitude. Memory coupled with knowledge

is an asymptote to the original moment. What we have

is an abstraction, which moves as we move.

And yet we have stories to tell and some of them,

we believe, to be true. The truth is every story is fiction

to some degree. And the truth is that there is no truth

we will ever lay our hands on. I can tell you more

about Amsterdam and how I visited a city that thinks like me,

about the windmill that rotated periods of time and shuffled

the arcs of understanding. The bridges I crossed, the women

I passed, about cold beer, hot wine and the fishing line

at Volendam cutting into itself like greed. The cheese

and the wooden shoes at Marken and the hot chocolate

that fought alone, with great valour, against the cold, but

journeys can only be recounted, not relived. The old woman

smiling on the train, the number of her teeth intact,

the freckles on her cheek, summarising a continent.

All lost in the swarm of observations like the value of things.


Law

What’s the point where law parts ways

with justice? Your evening ritual in Amsterdam

can get you a life sentence in Singapore.

A Saturday well-spent in London

is felony in Saudi Arabia. In many countries,

a failed suicide attempt is punished

with a life worse than death. In many countries,

aiding a man, willing to terminate his suffering,

is abetment of murder. Most societies don’t agree

on an idea of wrong. Where law resigns,

the constitution is your conscience.

What is justice, after all, if not the balance

of an uplifted mind?

If you introspect without the inebriation

of culture, you’ll probably lament

for the man who was sentenced to 30 years

in a Turkish prison for an attempt to smuggle away

a kilogram of heroin, or a man who spent

half his life in the courtroom for sleeping

with a powerful man’s wife or a man

who was in exile for writing a book

that questioned a religion.

The purpose of law is to protect innocence,

but, often, it devises the end of it.

There are men who commit murder

after being incriminated for one.

In this world, sometimes, crime

follows punishment. Our sense of justice

is loaded with prejudice and weakens

in the cyclone of generalisations.

Every rule smothers its exception.

Mihir Chitre is the author of two books of poetry – Hyphenated (Sahitya Akaademi, 2014) and School of Age (Dhauli Books, 2019). His poems have featured in over 25 magazines including Nether, Indian Literature, Himal Southasian, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Cerebration, Vayavya etc. His work has also featured in anthologies such as Poetrywala’s 40 Under 40; Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing (Volume 4); Sahitya Akademi’s Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians. Chitre wonders what’s right about what’s left. Of late, he’s been particularly interested in the totalitarianism exhibited by some who call themselves liberals. His book: School of Age can be found here.

Poetry | ‘Temple’ & ‘Dystopian’ | By Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih

Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih’s poems might well be the gliding end to this bouquet of with poems like Dystopian and Temple, where he takes you to a philosophical quest and leaves you there – right at the cliff.

Temple

Deep inside a pine forest,

we sought the mountain.

Between Sohpet Bneng, our holy mountain,

the afternoon rays filtering through the trees,

and the rufescent pine floor,

we had our temple.

I worshipped you again and again.

I made myself humble before you again and again.

I surprised you again and again.

Birds called from everywhere.

Their variety astonished me;

their calls filled me with sadness.

Trees were laid low everywhere.

How long have they got before they go?

And how long have we got, Nameri?

Like them,

people like us, 

always live on borrowed time.

Everything else was silent.

We spoke in hushed tones.

You inspired me into a range of emotions.

When I bowed down before you—veneration.

When I cleaned your feet—fulfillment.

When I held you in my arms—enchantment.

When our bodies touched,

I expected the tremors of the flesh.

How would I know you would fill me with stillness?

Happiness stunned me.

I felt drugged and drowsy.

I closed my eyes, and I saw 

all were dreams; all were visions.

Not once did I tremble with desires.

Such a one as you, I have never come across.

We spoke of the dangers facing us,

our bleak and hopeless world.

I thought of Trump and Bolsonaro

and all the enemies of the earth.

We spoke of Corona and your leaving.

And you wondered why I bent my head

and would not show you my eyes.

All through the evening,

only the noodles you cooked for me;

only the hand that reached for mine;

only the fear you were losing

and the love igniting in your eyes;

bolstered my confidence,

as I faced the world,

increasingly dystopian.


Dystopian

We groan under the weight of Corona 

the disruptions it has brought 

the fear it has instilled in every heart 

the cruelties surging from that fear: 

villages driving people coming home 

into the jungles

cities forbidding people to leave

people with no place to stay 

with no money and no food 

people walking for hundreds of desperate miles

people driven to suicide. 

The selfishness and the greed 

lurk in every shop 

in every street. 

The lockdown is a cure worse than the sickness. 

The fear is worse than the plague.

We may all be free from Corona’s fatal touch 

for 41 days 

but how will those without the means

be free from hunger, disease, starvation

for 41 days? 

The fear of getting sick is making people die.

Thieves and murderers will stalk the nights.

The cure is worse than the sickness.

Oh, I hate it, that is true, Nameri

and the worst thing it has done to me 

is to take you away from me.

And I don’t even know 

when you will return 

or in what frame of mind.

The nights are pitiless

they stare at me

I stare at them

and neither of us will ever know relief 

until you set us free again.

The silence it has brought 

into the streets 

the silence it has brought 

into the engines of commerce: 

I love the clear skies I can now see 

even in the dirtiest of cities.

Change is possible

we may yet save the earth 

Corona has shown us that.

And it’s not even as monstrous 

as some things I have known. 

If you are a poet in love with easeful death 

you would also embrace it if it comes.

Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih (Meghalaya, India) writes poems, drama and fiction in Khasi and English. His latest works include The Yearning of Seeds (HarperCollins), Time’s Barter: Haiku and Senryu (HarperCollins) and Around the Hearth: Khasi Legends (Penguin).

Poetry | ‘Next time I’m on a train’ | By Sanjukta Ghoshal

There are a few who rhyme as well as Sanjukta Ghoshal, as she not only rhythms it, but has well-timed meaning with each of those lines. A difficult feat made to look as easy as her girl-next-door bio note – a clever deception I tell ya! 

Next time I’m on a train

Next time I’m on a train and I get a window seat,


I’ll not try to fit the engine’s sound into rhythmic beats.


Next time I’m on a train and the winds ruffle my hair,


I’ll not try to tell the balmy country breeze from the dirty city air.


Next time I’m on a train I’ll not think of munching snacks,


I won’t scramble for the leftovers with hands inside my bag.


Next time I’m on a train, I will not follow the tracks with my eyes,


And see them meet, and then separate, like a game of cats and mice.


For next time I’m on a train, I’ll always be reminded why


It ran over more than a dozen men, who did not wish to die.


Next time I’m on a train, I’m sure I’ll be able to hear


their muffled screams as the wheels pressed their lungs all loud and clear.


Next time I’m on a train, I’ll remember to say my prayers and be thankful,


that I don’t have to walk five hundred miles to reach home for food.


Next time I’m on a train, I’m sure to get panic attacks


what if the train derails with the wheels slipping from blood on the tracks?


Next time I’m on a train and I fall asleep dreaming of barbecued kebabs on a plate,


I’ll have a nightmare about those rotis roasting under the sun on the track.


Next time I’m on a train I’ll be thankful I’m on it and not under,


For I was lucky enough to be not born as a poor migrant worker.


Next time I’m on a train, I’ll remember that movie that had,


Something about death making more cents than life. (That’s sad!)


Who should we blame? The driver, for he failed to stop in time-


or the train, for it didn’t listen to its master and did not toe the line?


or the workers, why had they to fall asleep on the tracks?


Couldn’t the poor bastards just sleep on the roads, on mats?


Yes, it’s convenient to blame the poor and these were dead poor; these were the poor dead who took the blame;

Their kin wouldn’t have money to sue you for defamation, because they were never in any hall of fame!

Sanjukta Ghoshal is born, brought-up and living in Kolkata, India. Her profession is engineering, the last place where you’d expect to find poetry, but then, there’s poetry inside everyone and we only need something to trigger it. Her trigger was the universal episode – heartbreak. She’s been writing on and off since school, and more frequently now since there’s this collective compulsion to keep mum and toe the line in all fields of life, but a rebel needs to speak. While she likes to get lost in abstract poetry that paints a picture of another world, she find herself writing more about things that you can relate to yourself, or your best friend, or that seemingly innocent girl-next-door.  

Poetry | ‘Portrait of a bastard’ & ‘On the way back’ | By Ajmal Khan

Ajmal Khan’s title ‘Portrait of a bastard’ made me sit up straight, where layers of racism from being Asian – the accent of a Dravidian governed more than religious divide, and yet the overlaps with ethnicity brought out an unpeeling of facades for the unison of humanity –same pain, displacement, ideas of home – made for an informed read.

Portrait of a bastard

Your collarbone protrudes like a Somalian Child
and the arm muscles anemic
but the Lungi, from the Malabar Coast. 

Texture of your skin is the mixture of Pulaya and Chandala
converted to Islam
sweat with a scent from Dubai, Abudabi or Muscat.

How can you speak English this well?
You guys rebelled against them
and boycotted their language.

How did you get this resilient yet deep eyes
and rage? Somewhat similar to Palestinians or Kashmiris —
You weren’t occupied.  

Your chin remotely resembles
a clever North Indian Bania man
that disappears like a mirage.

They murmur, you are a bastard
in the confluence between the Arabian Coast
and the Malabar before Portuguese and Dutch mastered maritime. 

***


On the way back 

Staring at stars, cosmos and beyond
We went to colleges and universities like curious children
following constellations.
Some of us – the only one of our kind
The rest had something similar – their surnames, parent’s jobs
Or the names of the cities they hailed from
The kind of dress they wore, the way they spoke English
The brands of cigarettes they smoked and the scent of their sweat. 

Some dropped out
Few missing
Others came home as dead bodies like Shambuka
Those survived were picked up and
the remaining-untouchables in the job market
On the way back to the village
The road is long with the heavy burden
of degree certificates. 

***

Ajmal Khan’s poems have appeared in the Muse India, The Bangalore Review, The Sunflower Collective, and Firstpost among others. His poems also appeared in anthologies such as GOSSAMER: An anthology of contemporary world poetry by Kindle Magazine and recently in the ‘100 poems are not enough’ by Walking Bookfairs and Macmillan.

Short Fiction | ‘A Long Journey Home’ by Teevranshu Vashishtha | Student Writing

Raman and Prakash were sitting on the side of NH30 brooding over the setting sun. They had left Lucknow with a meagre ₹1000 each. The last full meal they had had was three days ago when they were leaving the city. They had been surviving on biscuits and water since. Raman was a native of the village of Umarpur in Amroha. He had been working in a construction site in Lucknow for the past few months alongside his cousin from his village, Prakash. On the morning of March 25, the two came to know of the nationwide lockdown due to the spread of the novel COVID-19. They both hurried to the bus station hoping to catch a bus home, but all transport services were already suspended. So, they both decided to embark on their journey home on foot. They were anxious to reach their homes for it had been 6 months since Raman last saw his 1-year-old daughter, Neha and Prakash his 3 years old son, Raju. Raman and Prakash had been walking for the past 12 hours, without any food. That night, they fell asleep on the roadside, the tormenting hunger lulling them. The journey was a laborious one and they still had a long way to go but were adamant and went arduously forward. The next morning, their prayers were answered for they found an open eatery. They had a hearty meal and bought some takeaways for the journey before carrying on. That night they reached a small settlement after a long and exhausting journey and took shelter under a tree on the roadside.

On that ominous night of the 28th, Prakash suddenly felt an acute pain in his chest. Raman was awakened from his slumber by the painful cries of his brother. Prakash had a known history of hypertension and Raman feared that it was a stroke. They were on the highway near the city of Bareilly that night. They couldn’t call for an ambulance because they had both sold their mobile phones before the journey in exchange for some extra cash to send home. The nearest settlement was 2 kilometres away. “I’m going to go get help Prakash,” said Raman, frightened yet sturdy. Raman rushed to the nearest house in sight and upon reaching there, rapped on the door of the house like a madman. A sexagenarian man answered the door. “Sahabji, my brother is in danger, he has had a stroke. Can you please help us Sahabji!” The man who answered the door with a stoic look on his face was Suresh. Suresh Sharma was a retired cardiologist from one of the most prominent hospitals in Delhi. Mr Sharma spent his childhood in the city of Bareilly and after the completion of his service, had decided to spend the rest of his days in his native city and bought a quaint little house on its periphery where he lived with his wife Radha and their cute little beagle, Mojo.

Fate had brought Raman to Suresh’s house for he was to be their saviour. 

“Who are you? Where do you come from?” asked Suresh with a vigilant look.   

“I am a construction worker in Lucknow. I am travelling with my brother towards our home in Amroha,” replied Raman with a broken voice.

Suresh took a moment and thought about whether he was telling the truth. He had heard stories of robbers who played out the same scenarios to rob people. Suresh took a good look at the man standing at his door and convinced himself of the veracity of the man.

“Where is your brother? What happened to him? What is his condition?” asked Suresh with the air of urgency you find in a doctor. 

“He is down the road 2 kilometres from here. He was fine when we went to sleep tonight but suddenly in the middle of the night he complained of having chest pains.”

Mr Sharma thought for an instant and then went inside his house. He returned with the keys of his car.

“I am a heart surgeon, let’s go and bring your brother back here.”

In an instant, both Raman and Suresh were on the road fleeing towards Prakash. It had been 20 minutes since Raman was gone and Prakash was unconscious when they reached him. When Prakash woke up the next morning in the house of Suresh, he saw his brother by his side with his sleep-deprived eyes full of tears of joy.

“Where are we Raman?” asked Prakash.

“We are in the house of this Sahabji who has saved your life,” said Prakash pointing towards Suresh. 

Suresh had indeed saved his life, for the stroke that Prakash had was a life-threatening one and needed the care of a brilliant doctor.

“You are going to be perfectly fine my friend,” said Suresh to his patient. “For how many days have you two been walking?” asked the doctor with a curious look at Raman.       

“We have been walking for 3 days straight, Sahabji,” came the doleful reply. Raman told Suresh all about their heart-wrenching journey of the past few days. Suresh’s heart commiserated with the two of them. 

“We are finally here,” said Raman full of mirth after stepping out of the car. They were parked near the Banyan tree underneath which the two brothers had spent their childhood playing. Their toilsome journey was finally at its end. Who would have thought that only 3 days ago, one of them was in a life and death situation?  “I hope you both are happy now,” said Mr Sharma coming out of the driver’s seat of the ambulance. Only 4 hours ago they were in a hospital in Bareilly, lamenting their misfortunes. The sagacious doctor had pulled a rabbit out of the hat to make their dream of reaching home come true.

The doctor had sworn to personally make sure that the two brothers reached their destination. He had planned a meticulous plan to carry out his intentions. 

“There are no adequate facilities here. I need to take him to Meerut for better treatment,” said the doctor intensely to his acquaintance.

“But he is perfectly fine Mr. Sharma,” said a doctor in his early thirties. 

“No, he is not. He is my patient and I want to make sure he gets the best treatment.”

“You stopped seeing patients a long time ago, Mr. Sharma. Why the sudden zeal for this one?” asked Dr Aggarwal with a cunning smile. “From the looks of him and the man he is with, he doesn’t strike me as the type of a person who can afford your treatment, Dr Sharma.”

This was factually true–Suresh was renowned to be one of the best and costliest heart surgeons in the country.

“He is my old childhood friend,” replied Suresh with a voice full of affection.

“Very well Dr Sharma, but you are going to have to acquire a written letter of transit from the DM.”

Suresh had forgotten that this document was almost impossible to obtain in such times of crisis.

“Yes, I have it with me, Vinod,” said Suresh with a little fear in his heart.

“Ok then, I will provide you with the referral certificate in 10 minutes.”

When Suresh reached the room of his patient, he told Raman all about his plan. Raman fell to the feet of the Doctor crying and weeping, saying that he was an angel of God sent to their aid.

“Yes, Radha I’m going to take him personally to the hospital in Meerut,” said Suresh lying to his wife on the phone.

“All the commuting in the country is at a full stop. How do you propose to take him there?” questioned the anxious Mrs Sharma on the other side.

“I have all the required documents for the journey. I am going to leave with him early in the morning,” he replied.

“I know there is no point in convincing you to not do this but please think about it again. The deadly virus is spreading at an alarming rate. Think about that too.”

“I know all about that Radha but they both need me too. I am fully prepared, don’t you worry, take care of yourself, I’ve got to go now!”

“Just be careful and be safe, goodbye!” replied the anxious wife.

The doctor ended the call and went to prepare for the journey. At the dawn of the first day of April, an ambulance was seen on the roads of Bareilly speeding towards Rampur.

“I am taking this man to a hospital in Meerut officer,” said a man dressed in a white dress sitting at the driver’s seat of the ambulance to the police officer at the checkpoint for leaving Rampur.

“For what reasons?” asked the officer.

“To be admitted there, he is going to have surgery there.”

“Where is this doctor Suresh Sharma whose name is written here?” asked the police officer looking carefully at the referring certificate signed by Dr Vinod.

“Here I am,” came a voice from the back of the vehicle. A man dressed in a doctor’s robe stepped out from the back of the vehicle.

“Hello, officer my name is Suresh Sharma, I am the doctor of this patient,” replied the man with an air of haughtiness.

“Hello, Doctor I am SI Sandeep Pal, the officer in charge of this checkpoint. So, you are taking this patient of yours for surgery in Meerut?”

“Indeed, I am, Officer.”

“What kind of surgery is he going to have?”

“He is going to have coronary artery bypass surgery.”

The reply was made so astutely that it put even Suresh in a dilemma whether the man portraying him was a doctor in real life or had he lied to him in the first place. Suresh had decided not to take any risks and took matters in his own hands, he became the driver of the ambulance so as not to leave anything to fate. He had made Raman an acquaintance in his plan and made him portray himself as the doctor and even taught him a few scientific notions related to cardiology to be used in a state of emergency so no questions would be raised to his veracity as a doctor and no objections at the presence of another person being in the ambulance apart from the patient as it was opposed to the law.

“Doctor, do have you the requisite papers for the transit of this patient to the hospital in Meerut?”

“I have them with me, Officer. Would you like to see them?” came the confident reply.

“No, I believe you, you are good to go, Doctor,” replied the officer after a moment of deliberation.

“Ok then, Driver let’s go,” said Raman suppressing a big smile on his face.   

Suresh said a little prayer under his breath and after closing the door of the ambulance, drove the vehicle towards its destination.

“Phew! that was a close one, you did a good job back there, ‘Doctor’,” said the ‘Driver’ with a cunning smile.

“Thank you, Sahabji,” replied the man wiping the few drops of sweat from his temple. Fortunately, it was the only time they were questioned throughout the journey.  

 It was at 10 in the morning when the ambulance reached the village of the two brothers. The plan of the doctor had worked miraculously, the brothers were finally at the end of their journey.

“You are going to have to take good care of Prakash for the coming days, Raman,” said the doctor to the man who was standing under the tree crying of joy. Raman took Prakash’s stretcher out of the ambulance and brought it under the shade of the tree and woke him up.

“Do you know where we are now Prakash?” 

“Am I hallucinating or are we really under the old banyan tree?”

“You tell me, Prakash.”

“It is the old banyan tree Raman. Are we home Raman?”

“Yes, yes, we are finally home, Prakash.”

“But how did this happen? When did you do this?” asked Prakash with a bewildered look.

“I didn’t do this, it was Sahabji who brought us both here,” said Raman pointing towards the doctor. He told his brother the full story of how the doctor had carried out a dangerous plan and brought them home.

“You must be God! You must be the almighty Sahabji!” said Prakash with his eyes full of tears.

“No, I am just a man who carried out the will of God,” said Suresh holding the hands of his patient. The doctor then helped Raman in taking all their luggage towards their home.

“Baba!” came a sound from Raman’s little cottage. It was Neha who upon seeing her father return home, let out a cry of joy. Raman took his little angel in his arms and held her tightly.

“I am here my child,” said Raman as tears rolled down his cheeks.

The wait was finally over, they were finally at the end of a harrowing journey. The doctor helped Raman in taking Prakash to his home. Raju was happy that his father was home with him. The doctor gave all the requisite medicine to Prakash’s family and informed Raman that Prakash would be fine in a week or two. The doctor then took his leave and went towards the ambulance. Just when he was about to leave, he heard someone calling his name.  

“Doctor Uncle! Doctor Uncle!” It was the sound of little Neha and Raju who had come to give the stranger a gift. It was a little clay statue of Goddess Lakshmi, the God of good luck. They wanted to give it to the man who had brought good luck to their family. Suresh accepted their pious little gift and went on. When Suresh said his last goodbye and left for his home, a few tears rolled down the cheeks of the man who was known to be emotionless.

Teevranshu Vashishtha is an 18-year-old student. He is a graduate of St. John’s Senior Secondary School, Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. He is a dilettante writer who mostly pens short fiction and poems. His favourite writer is Ernest Hemingway.

Poetry | ‘Hope’, ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ by Deekshita Rajesh Athreya | School Student Writing

Hope

A shadow of darkness fills my gaze,
As the nightly air patrols around
The once lovely countryside all in a haze,
So deathly a silence, my heartbeats resound.

The moon appears to heal my wounded soul,
Emerging as a ray of hope through a gaping hole,
Sending a subtle hint straight into my heart,
If darkness comes, light is not far apart.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

A fruitless day spent idling on the couch,
was made endearing by a cuckoo’s call on the porch.
A single note that rang out, pure and clear,
Enchantingly beckoning its near and dear.

Come on comrades! Let us rejoice,
Sans pollution, nature has regained her poise,
For, the heartless humans are still behind bars,
Just this once, we can truly see the stars.

A single voice with so much hope,
Of expressing it, no music has scope,
All the guilt the humans are stalling,
Has been brought forth by the Cuckoo’s calling.

Deekshita Rajesh Athreya is a 15 year old student at Udgam School For Children, Ahmedabad. She has a passion for the English language and enjoys reading. Her favourite authors are J.K. Rowling and Rick Riordan. She loves Robert Frost’s poetry.

Poetry | ‘Glass Grows’ & Other Poems by U. Sai Sruti | School Student Writing

Glass Grows

we live in a glass world
glass dolls and glass minds
growing out of glass jungles
glass bodies cracking and green
this glass shatters in this glowing stream
of green blood and green hearts
bleeding blackening grease
green governments eyeing the glass green
and piercing glass into these bodies
that spew their spleen of earth-shattering green
glass breaking, burning, brewing
glass minds that grow glass ideas
and pierce shards into these green goats
glass ministers take glass decisions
as the glass pushes through the
cracking earth sprouting out
of these concrete jungles
into the glass tongues of these
glass people silencing these glass voices
you are glass, and I am glass too
living in a world that is growing glass roots

lies my mother told me

mama said she saw the purple flowers decorating my back
she also saw pomegranate blood dripping from my thighs
she says that daddy loves me a lot
but mama why does it hurt so much
when he runs his hands along the whip
and paints my back with flowers
mama is wrong
this cannot be love
mama lied to me
and i only realized that when
i saw mama’s back littered with wild petunias

How to Get a New Heart

the thud of my footsteps
reverberates with the sound 
of my heart leaping 
out of my body
and falling onto the middle of
the road
I watch as it
vibrates with so much intensity
and finally comes to a stop
there is a cavity
in my chest now
where my heart once was
I look at it in desperation
waiting for it to
show me something
give me a sign
I try to pick it up
and put it back
where it’s supposed to be
“you are not supposed to be here,
go back inside”
and suddenly
a car runs over my heart
as I watch in horror
my poor crushed heart
now has blood leaking
from every cut
blood splattered on the streets
how do you feel safe
when the ones protecting you
are the ones inflicting this pain
tell me
teach me
how do I feel alive again
how do I feel alive again
how do I feel alive again
ink marks on my fingertips spread
as I keep writing
painting these pages
with my heartbreak and sorrow
one day I will scream these poems
and you will listen
someday, I will find
a new heart
waiting to beat
full of life
I will feel alive again
or so I tell myself

When the Reality Sets In

when the reality sets in
his buoyant veneer cracks
as the truth 
slowly crawls its way to him through his façade
cracking it little by little
as he clutches his little sister’s lifeless body in his hands
the soulless body (he is not used to saying corpse, please don’t say it)
staring into his being with beguiling chasms (please wake up, I love you so much it hurts)
his mother stands there and screams
as the reality is slowly hammering itself
into his brain (I am so sorry I couldn’t protect you, please forgive me)
screams lacerate his throat
he spills honey words into her ear
waiting for his love to manifest itself
in the form of a miracle
miracle
he wants a miracle to bring long-gone sister back home
as he shakes violently
hugging her close to his chest (can’t you see that I’m hurting? please come back)
the universe gyrated the day Esteban’s sister
put herself to sleep
fifteen years later, eidolons haunt Esteban as he sits on the kitchen stool. “Eat up Julia, we don’t want to be late for school now, do we?” he says, turning his head towards the empty kitchen stool next to him.

An Ode to My Past Self

this is an ode to my younger self
and to my present self
and to my future self
sunshine and candies sound marvellous
but that is not what
it will be like
every
second
every
minute
every
day
tick, tick, tick
you see, time will not stop for you
and there will be days
where your voice will slither
and hide in a hidden curve
of a hidden place
in your intestine
where it will stay there
till what feels like eternity
trapped
and sometimes not
and your tongue will swallow
all the venom coated lies you tell yourself
that sometimes drip of honey
honey
liquorice
sugar
sweet
salty
lies
lies that will break your home
lies that will break you
lies that will forever remain lies
truth will stare you down
it will make you queasy
jittery uncomfortable
your neck will itch and your insides will twist
twist into a knot
the kind that takes patience to undo
and that day your mouth will run dry
your fingers cold
your body will be on fire
fire
fire
you will think of sacrificing yourself
and succumbing to the
honey
liquorice
sugar
sweet
salty
fatal
lies
but that day
stare your fears down
stare the doubt down until
you burn holes in its head and it stumbles
backing away from
the truth looming over you
find that voice
and tell yourself that you will be alright
that you will do this again
and again
and again
and again
till the truth seeps through the crevasses of your mind
and stays there
maybe it will never stay
but tell yourself
that you will fight this fight
every
second
every
minute
every 
day
till you feel alright again

Dark Girl’s Magic

Some days I wake up
Brush my teeth with anxiety
And braid my hair with pain
There are days I chafe at my dark skin
As insults burn holes in my heart as I walk in
The school corridors
A sense of alienation hammering into me
I carry anguish on my shoulders
I feel like my soul is being crushed by boulders
Boulders of my thoughts and your words
Standing in front of the mirror I scratch my skin
As the sin of me being dark-skinned weighs me down
You pointed at me and laughed
As I stood there staring at the ground
Waiting for the earth to split open and swallow me whole

Aunty tells me that I am pretty for a dark-skinned girl
That I have nice hair and that almost compensates for the colour of my skin
No, I don’t want your almost compliments
I suddenly forget how to breathe as it slowly dawns on me
That dark is an atrocity
I am almost convinced that the universe
Is making me pay for all my sins
My world gyrated the day I told myself
I can never be enough, not in this skin

One day I thought I finally found
A solution to my
problem
White semi-liquid substance encapsulated in a bottle
My hopes and dreams died
As I frantically slapped it on my face
And rubbed it in until my skin was sore
I screamed
I screamed in rage
As I looked at the bottled in duplicity

You see melanin is only pretty
When it comes in tiny amounts
That day the oceans collided
and my cries were futile
But thank the Gods it didn’t work
My skin is not a painting open to your criticisms
I am not a doll sitting by the window waiting
to be admired by strangers
you see, I was taught that dark skin didn’t deserve to be loved
that I could never love myself
I blame the unrealistic beauty standards set
For young girls and boys
The perfect hourglass figure
The toned muscles
The plump lips
The doe-eyes
And the fair skin
And of course, just the right amount of curves
Stop this

We are going to claim our identities back
We are going to truly find peace in ourselves
So to all those who scratch their skin
And try to bleach it
I say don’t
Stand up for yourself and don’t you drown in dismay
For dark is magic
Dark is beautiful
Dark is elegant
Dark is powerful
Dark is the pupil which sees the world
Stars etched into the crevasses of your mind
And embedded in your arteries
You are made of stardust
My love, you were born from a magnificent supernova
Your skin is as wonderful as the limitless dark depth of the universe
Gold spills from your mouth
There is so much more to you than just your skin
And don’t you cry, o’ moonchild
You have magic running through your veins
Feeling beautiful is loving your thoughts
your mind and your soul
listen not to those
who tell you that you aren’t enough
for you are a child of the dark cosmos
you are more than enough

U. Sai Sruti is a student in her final year of high school at Tagore International School, New Delhi, India. Her writing has been recognised at several forums, most notably Katha Utsav, a national event where she was awarded the grand prize. Rudy Francisco, Nikita Gill and Porsha Olayiwola are her favourite poets.

Poetry | ‘Dauntless Dreams’ by Subhanjali Saraswati (18) | Student Writing

Paranoia glared through the windows,
She started melting under the heat
Inch by inch,
She lost pounds, sterlings, dollars.
The counties were long gone,
It was now time for the countries.
Perhaps,
Gone were the days the ice melted.
It was frozen still today,
The roads, the ravages, the restless pace.
Crossed by a bullet would have been easier
Simpler even.
Wrath ran through the veins,
Just as throats stopped croaking,
The stomachs synced to a stop.
Pouring thoughts dried up,
Even the moments demanded to be unfelt.
Grains had at last churned death.

The drains were pouring,
Flesh, bones, blood seemed united.
Borne or Born,
Pinned onto a single thought.
Plagued minds ruled the worlds.
Twists, turns, all were straights.

Perfect lines. Dotted I’s.
Traces of laced life.
Dashed through the vigilance.
Worn nails varnished in the pages of history.
Bane? Liquor drove the healthy.
Myriad magic, the sane.
Trash cans lifted to tables,
Torn paper traced into perfect circles.
Lives un-longed for, deaths de-glorified.
Demands dressed in dreams,
Doused in amnesia,
Arousals arrested in anarchy.

Drought was scarce,
Sanguine floods crashed humanity.
Fierce Fire forested in few farms.
Passive lives ran out of machines.
Mannerisms murdered,
Streaked past Survival.

Uncouth vehemence vandalised
Deep sweet darkness.

No light, no right,
Not a penchant of twilight.
Midnight hues were well past.
Paranoia ruled Paris tonight.
Her dust opened doors.
Damsels had departed distress,
Doom was thus ‘daughter-ed’.
Dimensionless depth swept clean,
Directions diverged into allegiance,
All to the beats of her breath.

Subhanjali Saraswati is an 18-year-old first year undergraduate student at University of Hyderabad. She is studying Political Science. Her favourite poet is John Donne.

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.