Time of Cold

EDITOR: Aesha Kallattuvalapil

Dead leaves now cover the place,
Where their shadows once fell,
A grim ceremony marked,
By echoes of an unseen knell.

A temporal shroud of grayness,
Thrown over balding heads,
A metallic coldness of doorknobs,
Clear vision which steadily fades.

Air like a hundred needles,
A reptile huddled up beneath some momentary warmth,
Dead trees burn in happy homes,
Stories woven around the red-brick hearth.

All disperse as night falls fast,
A web of frosts glistens on trees,
Black rocks wait for the morning light,
However weak, the sun at last.


A Tear Drop Is All I Need

EDITOR: Smriti Sharma

Real men don’t cry. I have seen my father cry, so this is obviously a false narrative. I, on the other hand, cannot shed a tear. Not that I don’t purposely, it’s just that I can’t. This does not make me more of a man, more masculine as compared to my other friends, this makes me weak. Absolutely and utterly weak.

I have had enough reasons to cry. I have seen deaths of many people whom I and my family loved. My grandmother died almost two decades ago. I was as tiny as one could be, but I remember the day as vividly as one could. Everyone cried that day but me, because I couldn’t understand a thing.

It isn’t that I was born without tears.

A decade later when my grandfather passed away, I cried. A few days later, I again had a break down of sorts in the school when a classmate asked me why I had been absent for so many days.

That was the last time I cried in agony.

I was still in school when I cried again. My father was not happy with my barely positive report card and refused to sign on it. I cried myself to sleep because I had to submit the report card the next day.

That was the last time I cried in fear.

I have seen failure up close. In the last half a decade, my life has changed in unprecedented ways. That day, I was at the top of my education-career. The next day, I was at the bottom. Even lower the next day, and more low the day after. Before I understood what was happening, I was so underneath that it was impossible to rise again.

That one day, I wanted to cry.
I could not.

***

I love nights; they give me the freedom to be myself, or what I want myself to be. Unlike many, my present haunts me more than my past. Thus I use the liberties of nights to travel back and forth in time, to keep away from the realities of the present.

But many a night, I feel vulnerable. I try a lot to get some millilitres of water out of my eyes, but I fail. Crying helps ease the distress, but when you can’t cry, there are not many options left.

Dhoni’s defining moment was when he decided to jump onto that train. My defining moment would be when I chose not to jump.

Standing in my dinning room, I looked through the balcony’s door and I saw bright sunlight. At that moment I felt that I was standing in a dark cave, and the door was a tunnel with light on the other side. I was tempted to take the tunnel and follow the light. Something stopped me.

Life is not a film, but do I wish it were. Things change for good with relative ease in films. It is difficult otherwise. I don’t know if my moment will be as defining as it was for him, or if it is really what defines me. I like to believe it does, perhaps that’s what matters.

I need many things, but there is only one thing I yearn for. Someday, I want to cry. I want to bawl like the baby I once was.


World of Sleepless Nights

EDITOR: Shruti Bhatia

On sleepless nights,
I dream of skies
So lit and eternally bright
Filled with stars and natural light.

But when I reach out and open my eyes,
I only find the glimmering street lights.
The stars are gone which were bright
Overwhelmed by the artificial light

The dream once lied in skies
As there goes the natural light.

On sleepless nights
I dream of,
A lap which was forever there to lie,
It’s only there now, for a device so sly.

A hand was there to hold me steady
Now its rough and no longer ready.

The eyes which were for only me to see
Are now clutched on a screen to make prestige.

On sleepless nights,
I dream,
A world with no more ties
Devices not so sly,

Of hands to hold and a lap to sleep
Fingers to play and eyes to see

I dream with open eyes
As they say dreams with open eyes
Come true, that’s why I dream
Only on sleepless nights.


The Checklist

EDITOR: Shruti Bhatia

Based on a true and unfortunate story.

From the very moment I turned eighteen, I ardently avoided weddings. Not because I despised the fanfare or the ever-present smell of jalebis and jasmine, but because of the inevitable turn every conversation seemed to take: my own wedding. I am now twenty one and the fear is stronger than ever. Every time the family gathers, my bridey-sense tingles. The wind shifts, the ground rumbles and I know that it is time for nervous chuckles and subject changers.

Let me assure you that I am not against the institution of marriage. But I am vehemently against the idea and practice of forcing someone into marriage. All conscious and subconscious efforts to do so included. In my defence, I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. Growing up, I could only watch as one by one my siblings and cousins defected to the other side. I speak not of those who genuinely chose to get married, but of those whose right to choose was limited to the pool of select candidates courtesy of matrimonial sites. Being an individual of marriageable age in today’s world is like being in the Hunger Games: with each passing year your chances of being picked increases exponentially. And there is no escape.

The early man began cohabitating to procreate. Procreation was necessary to populate the planet. There was strength in number. More people meant more labour and more resources. It was once crucial for man’s survival. Fortunately, we have come a long way since then. We no longer need to procreate. Companionship is no longer a necessity for humankind to survive. It’s a want, and a negotiable one at that. Marriage is not and should not be a social sine qua non, but a choice. It is neither a right nor a duty. It is not an entry in a checklist that needs to be ticked off.

It is interesting to note how the items in the above-mentioned checklist vary with age. At eighteen it is marriage, at twenty five it is parenthood and at sixty, grandparenthood (exact numbers may differ). Marriage should be about two willing parties who mutually decide to spend their lives together. The decision to start a family should be made based on natural love and affection and not ticking biological clocks. They are not tasks that need to be completed in order to graduate to the next level.

As I write this, I come to terms with the fact that THE CHECKLIST is very real and inexhaustible. A shocking majority are bound by it in one way or another. And as I heave a sigh of relief for having survived yet another conversation with an expectant wedding guest, I realize that it will not be my last.


Living

EDITOR: Aditya Prakash Singh

There’s nothing old, and nothing new
Things are on, but you’ve no clue
About the good and the bad
And the right and the wrong
Everything is so similar to you.

When you look back
Things are so different
But the past seems familiar
You realize you’ve left it
Behind you, long ago.

When you look ahead
There is nothing but the blinding light
You just don’t know what awaits ahead
You only have the choice, to keep walking
On a road that never seems to end.

You wish to halt, you wish to breathe
You want to live this moment
You want to feel free
But your feet don’t rest
They only keep pacing ahead.

With the tired mind
A numb body, a sweated shirt and torn shoes
All you wish for is a dead end
As how much ever tempting it may seem
You can’t quit on your life
Forced to keep moving against your wish
You do.

Emptiness- all around and inside
Lost hopes, lost spirits,
Lost faith, lost love
There’s nothing left with you
All you keep praying now
Is never to see the next dawn
At this point now
So weak, so coward you are
That you can’t take your own life.

What life will you take away from self?
The real you was killed way back behind
Now only a stone hearted, frozen blooded
Human walks mechanically around
and people say you are ‘Living’.


Enigmatic Flavor of Death

EDITOR: Aditi Sharma

The intensity of losing someone for me has always ceased at the thought of separation, break up or divorce. The person would be away from us but the knowledge of them breathing and living healthy is far more a better scenario to visualize than their presence being wiped out by death. Letting death take away the most influential, important and loved one from our life can absurdly pave a different path for the transformations that we were never ready for.

I want you alive even if we had to stay apart,
I want you breathing even if we could never trust again,
Never will I be able to erase your imprints,
For you taught me to live.

We have always perceived death with pessimism. No matter what, we are lost without our loved ones. The memories that were meant to be cherished will carry an ache of loss. As time passes, we learn to cope up with their absence. Sometimes we keep thoughts of them locked deep inside us, we stop talking about them, we stop going to their favorite places, we avoid their favorite dishes and we try hard to not to get associated with the stuff that has anything to do with them at all. The harder we try to keep away those painful shared moments, the tougher it becomes to live without them. I have learnt about such people too who deal with their loved ones’ death in braver ways. Acknowledging every aspect associated with the deceased and going through everything they left behind even when it hurts – this is the most beautiful way of response I have ever come across.

I look at all those places we had marked our existence together,
Yearning to recreate each moment we held close,
Seeking to enjoy the roughness and smoothness of your voice,
Willing to savor the silence,
For a desire to replace this hollowness with sparkle of color urges me.

The random responses I received when asked to say something about death were “escape from all hardships, last phase of life cycle which can occur naturally or unexpectedly, end of journey, most cruel incident that can take place, it’s crazy, nothing is permanent, ferocious end, something mysterious, end of hopes, freedom to soul, the reaper of souls and many more.” There have been few such instances too where I was told that they aren’t bothered by death, that they don’t want to think about it and wouldn’t care if death comes by.

Two of my favorite responses are ‘starting of an infinite life’ and ‘beginning of new experience’. Death has always been perceived as ending but rarely acknowledged as a beginning because nothing can ever prepare you for that experience. It may grab your joy and crush it unexpectedly, or give you hints here and there and break in slowly. Sometimes I wish that we should have been taught and trained for such dreading experiences, so that the whole process of waking up and breathing in their absence would not be this tough.

Death trapped two of my loved ones when I was too young to experience the feeling of being lost. I was sad, I knew I could never meet them again, I realized that there will be inevitable changes but nothing too strong to be transformational. I saw them being wrapped in a white piece of cloth, their feet cold and their face peaceful yet disturbed. I heard muffled sobs, hysterical cries and agitating talks, I saw faces painted with tears of anger, despair and pain. I still remember my tears rolled over late, shocked to grasp the truth. When everyone left I was enclosed in bottled up ache with remains of their burnt memories.

As I grew up, I started noticing lives turning upside down with someone’s death. There will be new beginning due to the abrupt ending. But it takes time. Time never fades that traumatic pain away but it teaches us to deal with it in different ways. The one who decides to relish those memories and embrace the blurring lines differentiating the end and the start will soon blossom in the warmth of death.

To not so beloved death,
Your existence brings out fear in me,
I wonder whom you would capture next,
I hear a constant warning buzzing around,
Reminding me to stop mourning over the past,
For you may stop by to bestow a twist,
Despair and ache of lost will follow your path,
The thought of you crumble my soul.

I wither in anguish,
Battling with changes,
Flaunting dried up tears and burning eyes,
Longing to be loved,
For the struggle with enigma of death will cease the end.

The heart repulses with thoughts of adapting to beginnings,
The stubborn mind rejecting failure offered by death,
I teach my body to wake up without dreading,
For life and death is a battle where none will win.


Under the midnight sky

EDITOR: Aditi Sharma

I long for the night time. I’ve become this nocturnal creature. I have fallen in love with the stillness and silence of the night. At this time, nothing moves ever so slightly in this bustling place. My mind wanders through millions of places. I explore. I search for the meaning of my life. I think about the people whom I care about. I stare at the sky as I think about all the memories I’ve made. I laugh. I cry. I’m filled with emotion. I’m vulnerable to myself and the one beside.

I guess, the clock slows down at night. Maybe, it is tired. I love the midnight strolls. I do not even need the earphones on. One of my favorite songs is already playing in my head. Pitch perfect. I dance and prance around in the empty streets. There is usually a spot for souls like me. It is our safe haven. I go to the terrace. There are millions of lights far away. The music of the crickets and a random car whoosh past once in a while; I’m left in my own world otherwise under the heavenly midnight sky. I imagine about being all the different versions of me I have always wanted to be.

If I have good company, it is even better. With my experiences I can say, people are always more emotional and vulnerable at night and it shows in the tone of their speech and the topics of the conversation. So light and yet so deep.

I have a group of friends whom I travel with. We always prefer the nights to drive to the places. Usually, I’m the one beside the driver to keep him or her awake and keep a conversation alive. We share a lot of things then. Even my friends, whom I know for a long period of time, come up sharing a lot of surprising events and experiences from their lives. I think any person can be more beautiful in the night because of the way they open up just like the beautiful nocturnal flowers.

It does not depend on the place either, be it in a country or in a city – everything is more beautiful and breathtaking during night. The beaches are beautiful under the moon and the stars. Even the ocean speaks a lot more under the dark sky than it does under the bright sun.

Obviously, it is wiser than a lot of us. For it has seen emotional, vulnerable and the other beautiful sides of a lot of people. I think, it wishes that it is forsaken from the dreadful deed of taking such beautiful souls within it away from their loved ones or, at least, that is what I understood from what it said.

I love the fact that you need not pretend to be anyone else in the night. You can just be yourself, your purest form. Under the moon, the murmurs are softer but are heard. Your heart is in command in the night because your brain is tired from the long day it has had. The heart longs for such quiet times where you can actually listen to its thoughts of thud-thudding. I think “sleep over it” means taking your time out and listening to what your heart murmurs aloud in the silence of the night.

When the lights are turned off, the mind becomes a combination of melancholy and merriment. It can sway in any direction – it can dive deep into the blues or just float being ever so light in the happiness of the night. It is a feeling that one should experience. Once experienced, you will long for such nights over and over again.

I do not know how people like to dance and party to loud music late at night. Well, this is party to me. Me, myself, moon and the stars. Maybe, you can try it out once and thank me later.