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.


Few Nights Unloved

EDITOR: Smriti Sharma

It has been raining since morning, without a pause. And I am thankful. I have been standing in the rain for quite sometime now. I had hoped to wash last night out of my hair. But it is still perfumed with his scent.

I look down at my wrists. The glass handcuffs he bought me are not losing their colours either.

I remember the first time he had forced himself on me. I was scared. I remember telling my mother about that night. I was inconsolable. I remember her saying, “I am sorry I didn’t explain everything to you properly. But he is your husband.” I was shattered.

I don’t remember what she said after that. But if the shiver that had run down my spine was any indication, my tears had probably frozen on my cheeks.

I have always loved him, my husband. And I have always loved the nights I have laid in his arms. We were not naked bodies, but bare souls. Until one night, when I refused because I was exhausted.

Was my denial not loud enough for him to hear ? Or did he turn deaf with the urgency to be inside me?

I had never realised that I was transferring the ownership of my body to him when we exchanged our vows. I do not have enough wounds or bruises to show the world. But I have one on my sanity, one on my dignity and one on my heart that has known nothing but to love the man I shared my body and mind with.

And today, with every step I take, terror oozes out from the bruises on my thighs.

With his fragrance lingering in the air, I’ll stand here in the rain for a few more hours, hoping to fall sick. Perhaps he won’t ‘make love’ to me for a few nights.


How Eric Became A Superhero

EDITOR: Smriti Sharma

Eric grew up believing in miracles. In fairies, wizards, angels, and
ninjas. For him, superheroes existed in real somewhere, and he knew
one day he would meet them all. He lived in his own world, where all
the bad guys were whacked by the good ones, where problems were solved with superpowers, where superheroes were worshipped, envied and even hated. Eric turned fifteen in January but he still didn’t stop believing that it was Santa who brought him gifts, he didn’t stop
believing that spider bites could make anyone Spiderman, he didn’t
stop believing that every toilet leads to a chamber of secrets. And he didn’t stop being a worry to his parents.

“Why don’t you go out and play baseball with your friends” his mother would say.
“They don’t want to befriend me, they think I am strange” he would reply.
“You aren’t strange” his mother would say, although not being completely sure about it.
“It’s okay mom, I don’t want to be with them, superheroes stay alone and they work alone.”

He was a menace for the teachers. One day on being asked what would
you do if the world ended today, he replied, “Simple, I will save it.”

Indeed simple and selfless. How many of us would dare to save the world instead of enjoying the last few hours with loved ones or doing something we love.

“I don’t know Mr. Ian your son has been causing us trouble since he
joined. This is not what people of his age do. I mean look around,
they are thinking of baseball, making friends choosing a career path,
going out, making girlfriends. Your son isn’t interested in any of
these activities instead he is busy thinking what would he do if he
gets invisible. The other day he wrote Batman instead of his own name
in the library register.” A teacher complained to Eric’s father.

“I never want to be invisible,” Eric shouted from behind, “that’s
the lamest superpower. I will face my enemy instead of hiding from
him.”
“Shut up. Eric ” his father said embarrassingly.

“What’s wrong with you?” his daddy asked him on their way to home.
“Nothing dad, she was exaggerating.”
“She wasn’t. Everyone has the same complaint. Mr. Parker was saying
that the other day, you told him that you are a time traveler,” his
dad said while his eyes still fixed on the road.
“What if I really am, who knows?”
“We know, you aren’t. Why don’t you live like normal kids and do the
normal stuff?”
“Because I don’t want to live in mediocrity and selfishness believing
I don’t have any superpowers while I have one.” Eric was losing his
patience.

And so was his dad.

“Oh! God bless this boy, that’s all fiction, it doesn’t exist in
reality. It’s all imaginary, fairy dust.”
“So is God.”
“God is real.”
“We have made God real. And if he is real why not time travelers? Why
not wizards? Why not superheroes? Why not hidden schools? Dad, the
truth is that we believe in God, and we expect him to do wonders because we have faith in him, we think he is the superhero, and we want to be like him, we love his persona, his powers, and his principles,” the boy said.

His father knew he can’t debate any longer. His son’s belief was far
stronger than any rational idea. But he still tried.

“But then, we don’t follow his principles every time. At times we have to vary and form our own principles and act according to the circumstances,” his dad said looking at him straight in his eyes.
“I am sorry, dad, you aren’t a good follower then.”

Involved in their discussion, they reached home in a jiffy.

“What happened?” his mother asked looking at the glum look on his
father’s face.
“He wrote Batman in the library register instead of his own name,” his
dad said, “you surely aren’t Batman.”
“Anyone can be a Batman, dad.  And that includes Rosy as well.”

Rosy their housemaid stood stunned, finding herself in the discussion
she knew nothing about.

“But sweety haven’t we given you a beautiful name?” his mother said.
“You can also call me Batman, I won’t mind.”
“NO! ” his father yelled, “We surely can’t call you that in public”.
“You can call me Bruce Wayne, in public.”

His parents gave up expecting a miracle although they never believed
in miracles.

But his parents were not the only one who wanted to shake his belief.
There was the ‘society’ and its staunch conformity.

Eric had a crush on his classmate for a long time, but this hulk admirer couldn’t gather enough courage to talk to the girl. The truth was he was considered childish in the school and no girl wanted to date him. ‘Tiny Lilliputian’ is what he was called.

He got into a mess one day, trying to ask the girl out in front of
Rudy, the big bad wolf of the school.
“Oi Lilliputian, go watch Spiderman,” Rudy said coming in between Eric
and the girl.
“I am talking to Amy, you should go do some work and stop…”

Before he could finish he was hit in the face by Rudy. Right on the nose. He squatted on the ground holding his nose. It was bleeding. Eric was skinny for his age. He got up in a rage and pushed Rudy on the chest which bagged him another punch, in the eyes this time. He fell on the ground, too bruised to get up. After getting tired of laughing at him and calling him ‘a loser’, Rudy and his friends left. So did the girl. And Eric was left lying there, in the rain, in pain. He got up by himself and found a tiny bump near his eyes which he knew would grow bigger.

He started walking home trying to console himself that what happened
to him happens with every superhero.

Which superhero doesn’t get beaten by bullies? The most they can do is
hit someone in their eye, they will never find their superpower.

Eric grew sadder thinking about the girl. He knew he would have been a
better friend than Rudy.

But superheroes never get girls. Batman, Clark, none had any girlfriends.

What was more painful than a swollen eye was the fact that society was not ready to accept him. He had got no friends and his parents weren’t talking to him, girls laughed at him. For the first time, Eric felt alone. He felt powerless.

What if whatever they were saying was correct and there were no
superheroes and no superpowers, and no wizards and no miracles.

His energy vanished. He couldn’t imagine a world without superpowers and a world without miracles. He didn’t approve living in mediocrity and selfishness. Tears trickled down his cheek along with rainwater.

“If this is what living on Earth is like, then I should kill myself and go to heaven. Maybe there I would find superheroes,” Eric thought to himself and decided he would die. Instead of going home he started walking towards the highway.

He thought that he would jump before a big truck.

He was standing on the highway and found a truck drawing near. When it was some 50 meters away, he got in that lane and stood firmly on the truck’s way. He knew it was impossible to stop the truck. The truck driver honked in vain. Eric didn’t think much before deciding to die, maybe his mind had gone numb after the punch he received. The truck was barely 10 meters away, last few seconds of his life, he closed his eyes tightly and waited to get hit and die. But suddenly he felt someone has picked him up. It happened so briskly though, that he couldn’t figure out what happened. When he opened his eyes he found himself alive standing in a different lane and the truck had gone without hitting him. He looked around, and there was no one. How is this possible. He was sure that he was standing before the truck. Eric couldn’t believe what he experienced and concluded that he must have been standing in the wrong lane, owing to his swollen eye.

He tried again; this time more carefully, jumped before the truck at the exact moment. He felt his death. His whole life flashed before his eyes, his parents his beliefs, and the struggle to show the world what he sees. And it happened again, someone picked him up and dropped him at a different lane, but with such a speed that Eric could see nothing.

Eric couldn’t believe what’s happening. He looked around but this time he wasn’t alone and someone was standing behind him. And Eric was elated seeing him.

“Is it really you?”
“Yeah, it’s really Me.”

Eric’s swollen eye widened with excitement. He was standing before a person he had seen a lot, he had heard a lot and admired a lot. It was he who saved Eric getting hit by a truck. He was standing before a superhero. He was standing before The Flash!

“Umm, well, er… ” Eric couldn’t find words to describe his excitement.
“Hi”, Flash said noticing Eric’s nervousness, “What were you doing?”
“I was trying to kill myself, “Eric said,” I thought there are no miracles, no superheroes in the world.”
Flash chuckled. “Who told you this?”, Flash asked.
“Everyone says that there’s aren’t any miracles.”

Flash came closer to him and got on his knees.

“Look, son, look around, everything is a miracle. Society is always going to doubt your belief, your capabilities. Because they themselves are mediocre because they have convinced themselves that there are no superpowers.}You know I was the slowest kid back in my childhood, but I alway believe that I could travel faster than light. It’s the faith that makes you whatever you are.”

“They called you hypothetical, imaginary,” Eric said glumly.
“What’s hypothetical? I am hypothetical for them. A computer was
hypothetical for their parents,  a car was hypothetical for their
grandparents, electricity was hypothetical for their
great-grandparents.”

Eric was really elated knowing whatever he believed was true.
“So, do I have a superpower?”, Eric asked. “Which one?”
“Of course you have a superpower, we all are born with it. But it always remains dormant. The best way to lose your Power is by believing that you don’t have any. Kid, you need to discover that, you need to find it out yourself, just keep believing,” Flash said.

Eric’s face lit up, but suddenly happiness dried. Flash noticed that.
“Are you thinking about that cute blonde?”
”I didn’t know, you can read minds as well,” Eric said, surprised.
“No. Your eyes reveal a lot, especially the swollen one,” Flash winked.
”I would have been a good friend,” Eric said sadly.
“She wouldn’t. Why don’t you wait for someone of your type? Some superhero. Someone really beautiful like Starfire, she can literally light up your life. Or some other superhero. And then you both can work together and save the planet, also she won’t ever be your
weakness like it happens with most of the superheroes.”

Eric chuckled.
“Can I hug you?” Eric asked him.
“You have to catch me first,” Flash smiled. “Just kidding, come on.”

Eric hugged him. Tightly.

“Will you come again?”
”Sure. We can even work together if you don’t mind,” Flash said.

Eric nodded.
“Just remember son, it’s not life that gives us a purpose, it’s we who give a purpose to life. Never give up on your beliefs and your dreams,” Flash said.

Eric half smiled and nodded, and with a gush of wind Flash disappeared.

Eric soon discovered his superpower. Have you discovered yours yet?


The Reunion That Never Happened

The Editing Startup
“Guys we’ll have a reunion this time pakka!” beeped the message in everybody’s phone.
Truth be told, nobody was interested in any reunion. Everybody had moved on with their lives and now had no place for someone who they don’t connect with anymore.
“Yeah sure, count me in” beeped a response.
“Count me in also” came another.
“Sorry guys can’t make it, I’m travelling abroad” came another.
Few days later, the guy who proposed to have a reunion himself backed out and said “Sorry guys can’t make it”.
Well, then what? Nothing. Nobody replied nor cared.
That’s what is the reality. Emotional attachment to an institution or the people whom we befriend there doesn’t last long enough for a lifetime in most cases, especially post college.
Exceptions are always there though, but it takes effort to become an exception.
Most of us don’t choose to be those exceptions, we choose to “go with the flow”. But those who really dare to be exceptions, go on to become extremely patient human beings.

Treasure in the Cellar

EDITOR: Aaratrika Chatterjee

Sometime around 30 years from now.

“What’s this!?” he exclaimed, excited to find something he thought no one had seen before. A thing because there was no word to define it, perhaps.

This was the first time he had journeyed into the cellar, with an intent to find lost treasures. Among the plethora of things and boxes, most of which were indiscernible, his eyes settled on a weird looking thing and remained fixed on it.

It was about an inch in size, grey in colour and dusty. He picked it up in his hand, carefully scrutinizing its boundaries. It was rectangular in shape, somewhat curved at its sides. It had a few numbers written on at random places and a shiny translucent rectangular surface on the top. On one of the smaller edge was written a word – NO – which completely looked out of place.

Among other things in the cellar, he found a pair of rectangular looking boxes having cylindrical protrusions out of them, some wires, and few old books, perhaps classics. Khaled Hosseini, Jeffrey Archer, Amish, JK Rowling, George R.R. Martin were some of the names he could read.

But that’s not what caught his attention. Books were something he had heard of and also studied from when he was small. The object which he held was. It was a total mystery to him. He had never seen something like that before.

What was it? Was it something that the Aliens forgot or left as their memento if they had visited covertly? Or was this some kind of detonator? No, that wasn’t possible. The thought troubled him. He suddenly felt uneasy. The thought was ridiculous, of course, but once we think of something, it is hard to convince the mind to think otherwise.

He was troubled and busy thinking possible conjectures for the existence of this object when suddenly, he heard a mild screeching of the tires. He immediately ran out of the cellar, shut the door, which remained locked on other days. He buried that thing deep into his pocket and ran up the stairs and calmly marched into his room.

After few seconds, he heard a crackling sound of the door opening and he took a deep breath, overwhelmed to find out about the object he had found.

His parents had come home. It was evening by then.
He sat in his room, reading a book he had picked up while running upstairs from the cellar. A book by Jeffrey Archer. It was enough to make him forget about the object in his pocket until dinnertime.

He came to the dining table with that object in his pajama pockets, the outlines of which were clearly visible. Mother saw it. However, she didn’t enquire about it until dinner was over. After dinner, she stopped him on his way to his room and asked about the thing in his pocket. He had totally forgotten about this and upon hearing this question, he was gobsmacked. His mother demanded to see the thing.

Left with no choice, he took it out of his pocket and handed over to his mom. He saw no change in his mother’s expression apart from the mild relaxation of her brows, which was contrary to what he had expected. Confused, he asked with a little trepidation in his voice,
“Mom, what’s this? Is this some kind of remote control?”
She replied with a mild surprise in her tone,” What remote?”
He continued fearfully,” Like a detonator or something?”
Upon hearing this, his mom burst into peals of laughter. Confused and embarrassed, he asked curiously,” What’s this then?”
She finally replied, ”It’s a NOKIA MOBILE PHONE!”


Negative Optimism

EDITOR: Aaratrika Chatterjee

Once upon a time, there lived a sad boy. He was always unhappy, depressed, sour; it was not so because he didn’t try. He tried as hard as his age permitted. He even outdid them by a huge margin. But Alas! None of his endeavours ever turned out to be fruitful. Time passed, and he started getting more and more depressed. His mood started affecting others near him. At the end, he was left alone without a single friend or a dime of hope.

In such a dire time, he looked for peace in slumber, the eternal sleep. He decided to leave the realm of the living and fade out into the world of the dead. With such a motive in his mind, he went to visit his only friend one last time. “How have you been?” Asked our sad boy with a fake excitement in his voice. “As healthy as a bull and as happy as a dancing peacock.” Replied his friend. The sad boy hauled himself down on the bed, failing to keep his façade of happiness before his friend.

“What is wrong with you, my friend? Is some malady eating you away which I have not noticed yet?” Asked the sincere friend. He comforted the sorrowful boy who let out his long suppressed anguish. “Not a single day passes without something wrong happening to me. I have broken three phones by accident in the last three months. I have failed to score well in the last ten tests. My hair is falling; my mind is failing me. I do not like any food that goes down my throat. None of the beverages satisfy my thirst. I am always in need of one thing or other; but cannot have it no matter how much I try. My life is of no use to me or anyone else, my friend. I am going to end it for good now. For myself and for others.”

Such was the sorrow of the sad boy that he bawled like a baby. Tears pooled and fell down his eyes and the bass of his sobs tore up his friend’s mind. “Come with me, for I’ll let you see the value of your life and the worth you carry. And no. You shan’t speak a word while we travel to calm your mind.” Said his friend who was true and kind, and led his friend to a land far away, which turned out to be the land of his first night.

They came across a beggar as they entered the land of broken busts. He was old, sagging and quivered like a sapling in storm. The sad boy looked aghast for the old beggar’s ribs were on his skin and his eyes were sunken. His friend led him farther. A family of four greeted them from the side of the road. A sheet covered with holes was all they had for a roof. Three pots and a bundle was all they had. The father held a crying baby while the other two flinched in sleep. His friend led him further and they saw a homeless boy studying under a streetlight. His home was bereft of any such illumination and the light of his ambition didn’t let such a tiny inconvenience eclipse him.

As they progressed further into that land of poverty and pain, they witnessed horrible situations and people entwined within chains made of elder thorns. Their fate was as likely to change as the course of sun and yet they fought on and on without giving a second thought. The sad boy was transformed after the visit. “I grieve about things that are not in my control. I bemoan things, which do not matter in my life at all. All I see is what I cannot have. But till this day, I have failed to notice and admire what I do.” The friend smiled, for his friend had found the true path at last and he bid him good luck for the brilliant journey he would embark on.

Such is the story with us. We worry ourselves about what we do not possess. But we fail to admire what we do have, and a million others do not. Whenever in trouble, look around you at the people who have less than you, and are still happy with their lives. This is the formula of Negative Optimism.


The Dream

EDITOR: Smriti Sharma

“Appa!”
“Huh?”
“Appaaaaaaa!!”
“Haan? Yenna?”
“Appa, wake me up at 4. Seriya?”
“Seri. Thoongu”

Seri means “yes” and Seriya means “okay?”. Rest can be deciphered, no doubt.

Well, this was just another night before the “Big Day”.
Big Exam Day to be precise.
‘An extra special day’ is what it could also be called since it was my last exam before vacations started!

I had income tax final the next day with just one day gap between my previous exam and this one.

All I did the entire day was PGBP, House Property, Deductions under section 80C, 80D, 80 G(the important ones) and flipped through sections 80A, B, E, F ,H, I, J, Q etc.

PGBP(Profits and Gains from Business and Profession) was tiring and time consuming but extremely important but I still had loads to revise and one day gap was, well, not sufficient.

So, coming back, I asked my father to wake me up at 4 since I needed my brain to take rest and retain everything I had learnt only to vomit all that in my paper the next day(I kept my phone alarm also ready just in case).

I slept and then what felt like a few minutes, my phone alarm started ringing and I woke up with a start! It was four according to the clock and I got up, washed myself and started doing agricultural income.

Somewhere I felt like someone was banging my head with a hundred hammers and after some time, my eyes started playing hide and seek with my book.

I felt like I dozed off and then woke up with a start again.

The same process repeated for at least four times till I finally got the urge to shake that drowsiness off to sit up straight, determined to finish agricultural income at any cost before I left for the exam hall.

Well, agricultural income… Page one… This that… Page four… This that… Page ten… This that… This that … This that… Hmm…

“Maa, have this chocolate na, it’s yum.”
“Ramya, you know I hate chocolates.”
“But Maa this one is awesome! Try once no?”
“No, Ramya.”
“Maa, please na.”
“Ramya!”

Hmm…Chocolates are yum.
“Ramya!”

Hmm … Agricultural income gives you Chocolates? Hmm…
“Ramyaaaa!!”
“Huh?”
“Ramya, wake up its four!!”
“God! Just four?”

So I dreamt the whole night away just to get up on time finally.

Well, this “thing” is called “False Awakening”.

Theoretically, a False Awakening is a vivid and convincing dream about waking up from sleep, while the dreamer in reality continues to sleep.

After a false awakening, the subject often dreams that they are performing daily morning rituals such as cooking, cleaning and eating (and in my case, preparing for tax exam).

False awakenings, namely those in which one dreams that one has awoken from a sleep that featured dreams, takes on aspects of a double dream or a dream within a dream.

So, all said and done, my tax paper went well (quite a relief!).

Ohh! And I forgot to mention, Agricultural income and PGBP never came in my paper.