A Time for Life

This is not a story. Not a happy one, not a sad one. Just words, inconsequential.

A fragile day. Drop by drop, melting into an expanse of nothingness. I cannot move, not today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. I have tried, straining every muscle, to the point of agony, but I can’t. I am stuck.

The window is open today. It is a graceful piece of woodwork, rough at the edges, reminding of the survived winters. I live, if that is what you can call my existence, in one of those ornate, vintage homes that have adorned many a tale. It is now ensconced in the lap of snowy mountains and fir trees.

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I don’t really want to say this, but I might just burst open if I don’t. I don’t know how this reached you, and I never will. I am trapped inside my own useless body, cold and warm.

A chilly wind swirls around the room. I can see it, filling the crevices with an icy blue, gliding tenderly on my pale skin. From the way I rest, I can feel a solitary bird crooning a cracked verse. The song mingles with the breeze, creating music out of thin air.

I go back in time, to the days when running around these valleys was everything I ever wanted. The misty cliffs and frosty trees beckoned with their rustle. Small shops and cafés dotted the entire town, waiting for ignorant tourists to serve their hilly specialties to. The sun would beam amidst the cold, and iridescent crystals of dust would float lazily, and you could breathe in the slow, musty warmth.

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And people, yes, the people. You met someone new almost every day. They would be awed by your home, your town. And inside, I would be proud, really proud. That was a long time ago, long before my body gave up on me. I know nothing of the outside world except the four feet of a window now.

It’s my birthday today. They have stopped celebrating it now. They know there’s no hope. I know there’s no hope. I wish there’s a place beyond where life isn’t so unfair. I am tired of waiting, of making them wait. I am just a hollow shell, neurons firing inside, to no end, no purpose.

I happen to have a grandchild. He whispers a wish every year, though he has no way of knowing I can hear him. I have never felt his tender face in my hands, never ran it through his beautiful curls. Do you know what’s worse than not seeing your lineage at all? Gazing at your blood every single day and realizing you could have played a part, a part which he will forever be deprived of now.

“Happy Birthday, Grandma”, he mumbles in a hushed tone.

I can feel the turmoil inside my head, and the tears outside, but it is so common now that it fails to be acknowledged as a distinct emotion. He then circles slowly around the bed, as if gaping at a lost artifact, ignoring the salt altogether.

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“Dear, where are you?” His mother. My daughter-in-law.

“Coming, mom.”

“I have told you a hundred times not to disturb her. Now, get back here!”

“Bye, Grandma.”

Bye. Away from the vegetable. Bye.

Living in the hills, I always enjoyed my solitude. But loneliness and solitude are two different things. Loneliness hurts, it sticks like indelible ink. You feel an empty space previously filled by your fantasies and dreams. It doesn’t matter if the entire world reaches out to you, that dark niche repels them, stubborn in its essence.

I overhear the argument today. It is usually muffled for my benefit. Today, all control is lost. It’s about me, as most of them are. But today is different. It has the tone of finality, of an explosion. My blood is running cold in my veins, although the numbness is nothing new.

Hours pass.

Night. 3 am.

The stars float in the sky, pointed strokes of white on a dark canvas. The wind howls its own rueful tune. It’s the perfect night, serene and occasional.

My little grandchild tiptoes into the room. His eyes are swollen with sadness and tears. I can smell the ache wafting through the room.

“Grandma, please, sorry…” he stammers. It takes him visible effort to walk. It was more of a mixture of hesitation, fear, and regret. “They can’t do this. They will break if they haven’t already. Sorry for today, Grandma. I can’t see any more suffering, not theirs, not yours.”

And gently is the deed done.

I talk of this from my wooden box. I am happy now. I hope they are, too.

I was never dead, but I was never alive either.

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A Blazing Echo

Waking from the deep throes of his imagination, he looked up from the page. A slight buzz emanated from his brain, the residual whirring of a machine after it has been switched off. The pen dangled nervously between his fingers, a drop of ink slowly finding its way down and staining his starched, white kurta. He had heard it, that deep rumble of senseless souls.

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The day had come. He had known it would happen eventually, but he could not stop his heart from bursting into anxious colours. He was human, after all.

He turned around from his desk and looked longingly at his shelves and yellowed walls. It was a small abode, quaint in its minimalism. It had its own story, a deep meaning to his life. Here is where he had picked up his pen for the first time, rhyming words and stringing fiery pieces. They were bound to agitate, he intended them to.

He could still hear it, getting louder, angrier.

Books and newspapers were strewn around the floor for want of space. He smiled, a wistful feeling flooding him. That home was a treasure chest to him, and what it held was beyond anything money or power could ever achieve.

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Closer. He could hear a hollow sound now and then, the hiss of bullets.

It is strange how certain things dawn upon one in a single moment. He remembered that day, not the exact words of that blasphemous proclamation, but his own blood ringing in his ears, thumping loud and clear. That day, that moment, he had decided. His pen shall finally bleed, through the withered pages and the innards of these enslavers.

For ages, he had burned in the shadows, a meek figure questioning his own sanity, writing away,

letter after letter,

word after word,

verse after verse.

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That had meant nothing to him then, all those years of struggle. That moment defined a purpose for him, and then, what flowed through the flawed tip was pure gold.

The Underground started resonating almost instantly. The power of words was unimaginable. Youths rallied to the cause, fighters started quoting the fierce realism, and circulation never stopped. A daily was released, openly seditious in nature.

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But, all they could see was the tip of the iceberg. There was a fire brewing. They could sense the slow, dangerous warmth. Headquarters were reduced to ashes, people were shot, blatantly and unapologetically.

These lives, with fire in their hearts and murder on their minds, weren’t afraid to die anymore, no, they were willing to.

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And he went on, free and emboldened.

Soon, the Underground sea was huge, threatening to force this unrest out as a tsunami.

That’s when they caught on. And they were here. To get him.

He knew what his words had done, and he was proud of it; peaceful for the first time in his life. He knew what this meant. He had stabbed into the heart of it, splattered blood. He had shaken them from the inside. All with the ink that slithered into vicious grooves and burnt their supremacist egos.

The doors burst open with a loud thud. They were screaming, but he never heard them, because he had submitted to himself. He allowed himself to be cuffed and was dragged along. Once outside, he nodded ever so slightly in the general direction of the sky.

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He coughed and brought his hands closer to his mouth. The pill killed him almost instantly. He fell in a calm motion and was kicked and beaten blue in his final moments, as if they wanted to deprive him of his final comfort. They couldn’t.

This might be a delusion, but the slight hint of a satisfied smile never left his face.

Hours later, when his house had been searched and documents and writings had been towed away, a boy climbed down from the terrace opposite his home. He had seen it. He quietly slipped into the empty home with a small hammer.

Dust particles sparkled and twinkled in the orange sunlight. The home echoed of ache and loneliness.

A section of the wall was softer than the others, but they hadn’t noticed that. He hit the section a couple of times and it gave away. Inside was his treasure. A thick pile of sheets was wrapped in a red cloth, preventing it from decay. He picked it up. On his way out, he saw a solitary sheet of paper flying about.

On it, in an ornate calligraphic hand, were the words – Inquilab Zindabad.

Some legacies never die.

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This is a work of fiction, but it is meant to acknowledge every fighter who decided to let his veins fill with ink and embraced the darkness.

While popular culture connotes the final phrase to radicals like Bhagat Singh, the real face behind it gets lost between the lines. History books barely mention him, even when he was the inspiration for an entire school of ideology.

Maulana Hasrat Mohani (real name: Syed Fazl-ul-Hasan) was a freedom fighter and a poet, although that is not mutually exclusive. A lot of his work centres around romance, but he was the first person to claim complete independence instead of Dominion Status.

It is time to remember the forgotten pages and burnt souls.

Inquilab Zindabad – Long Live the Revolution.

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(I do not own the pictures used in this post.)

Romantic Tragedies

This is a tribute to my love for second-hand books and quaint streets, which can be attributed to this beautiful stretch in Calcutta called College Street. One just cannot get enough of that magical fantasy. Do read on to experience the sweet memories yourself.

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No ancient perfume, no dusty bloom,
Only dandy lights and a sprayed room,
No dreams, hopes and lives,
Only paper people with their paper smiles,
No wild calls and raucous bargains,
Only glossy covers and printed grains.
Oh, the worldliness of things!
Where stories recede and money begins.

(There’s a place you might want to go)

Words find their time here in this rainbow street,
Where one smells love like the lost cause it is,
A sea of legacies, old and new,
A gift, a tale, a letter anew,
Where the message of threaded art
Finds a lost soul to part,
Where bitter almonds and vanilla crystals,
Etched in a forgotten tree,
Burst forth into tiny dewdrops,
Sizzling, sparkling, free.

O dear things of a tell-tale smile,
These pages hold not letters and strokes,
Neither do they carry the whiff of your hoax,
They carry a thousand pictures,
And a million shattered pieces,
Pieces of pathos, pieces that scar,
Pieces that burn with your eternally beating heart,
Charring and fusing,
Till no death can do them part.

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A Lonely Whisper

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Listen to my lullaby,
Far away into the night,
Floating in the sweet chill,
Caught by the frost of time.
Wandering its way through dark lanes,
Turning souls in its wake,
A gypsy of ink and blood,
Burning with a marvelous ache.

It spills and rushes
Into crevices and craters
Filling smoky bubbles with vicious ink,
Pulsating auburn at the brink,
Diffusing lazily into the air
A whiff of my pain,
Searching the skies,
For a parched, thirsty rain.

I wrote this for you,
For loved memories and sour lies,
For lost times and heavy sighs,
I wrote this for me,
For sliced veins and edged feet,
For lonely times and melting heat.

This sparkling pool of salty tears,
Turns into strings and words,
Madness the key to this closed door,
Behind which lies the store,
Of purple scars and blue bruises,
Picked deep by scalding knives,
Torn apart by sharp tongues,
Made
Of a withered lullaby.

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Evanescence

Today, I swallowed the tear of time. It swirled inside, mingling with the atoms, reacting, transforming. It took me to a lost place, not entirely lost, but faded. I could see the soft, yellow lamps. I could hear the chirp of birds, incessant, sharp and warm.

I travel through time again.

A usual monotony for some, but a kaleidoscope of sorts for me. The slow rattle of the engine turns into a noisy affair, as the train rolls through grasslands, farms and forests. The images flash past at a nerve-wracking speed. I can feel the wind kissing my face, seeping into the pores of my body, washing away the elusive faculties of conscience.

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I love the way the terrain changes its face as the train storms past. Fields of yellow flowers adorn the land at one point, barren rocks at another. One realizes that diversity is not just in people or cultures, but is ground and sprinkled into the very element of nature, waiting to be unraveled by a wandering soul.

I notice a few kids push a ragged rubber tyre with a stick, fluttering little white flags in the air, an unadulterated joy shining on their faces. It makes me wonder if we are moving too fast, or if we are moving in the wrong direction. Maybe we are just forgetting the simple joys the present offers.

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One night, just one night, sleep under a luscious blanket of stars and you will know what it feels like to peep beyond the realm of imagination, to feel infinity. The mirage of progress seems to mask our dreams, but the freedom of the heart always finds and fills its corners with a sweet, syrupy muse.

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People are incessantly talking. Chatter, meaningless, trivial. Silence has lost all meaning in a world that cannot stop and listen. It is saddening that quiet has been a regarded as a sign of weakness and shyness by so many. One does not seem to realize that blatant speech entails the scope of being utterly frivolous, whereas silence has the power to shape the words, the idea, a potent amalgam of the mind and heart, achieved through solitude and meditation.

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The sun sets in a flurry of red and orange, slowly receding into oblivion, as a curtain of black falls over the bubble of speed. The air is ornamented with a sweet chill now, spiraling down the spine as it touches me tenderly. Outside, it’s dark. Pitch dark. Occasionally, a scarlet fire breaks the monotony with its tongues lapping up the blank, feeding on the cold of travelers and farmers. I am intoxicated by the beauty of this inky sea, drowning and surfacing again, slow and lazy.

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The whispers of fantasy give way to a blurry reality as I realize it is time to get down and go home. I walk out with my belongings.

The soft, yellow lamps flicker with a hiss. The auto drivers scream their lungs out with their calls.

But, no birds chirp on the lines today.

No sweet song, no rueful desire.

Only the silence in the chaos.

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(I do not own the pictures used in this post.)

A Shackled Sunrise

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I feel weak today. Strangled. The other days pass; this one is stuck, like a rotting corpse under a bombed shack.

I have thought about it, a lot. That is all I seem to be doing nowadays. It feels like I have been pulled into a time warp. No sense of passage, no sense of space. I must have been staring at this wall for three, four hours maybe now, and it has changed, growing on me, around the edges of my blurry vision. It shall consume me.

This wall is a strange thing, almost like a person, pale and flaking, scars of lost souls etched onto its wrinkled face. I wish I could splash my tumult on this withered being, scratching away at it till my skin gave away and my fingers bled crimson, feeding on its cries, cleansing myself. I really wish I could.

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But I have no stories to tell. Not out loud, at least. It is all in my head, churning and turning, a shifting mass of grey, a tangled mess I made for myself. Contrary to what anyone might say, this is comforting, this sense of finality. It is a warm haven in the constant noise of expectations and dreams.

At this moment, I am not weighed down by anything, no burdens, nothing to fulfill except that one pure goal. It is calm, but it hurts. The kind of pain that cannot be cured by makeshift remedies and solemn promises.

If only I could tell someone. If only I could unravel my mind and pour forth into another being, willing to soak all the darkness in, pulling the curtains away if there is any light left in this unforgiving world. I could have saved myself, perhaps.

No.

What has talking ever done except add a few more inconsequential syllables to latent conversations, feeding fake fires of concern? Everyone has their time and everyone has to deal with it.

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I can’t, not anymore.

I am tired.

Tired of putting up that façade every time I walk out.

Tired of laughing as if the sunshine graced me.

Tired of getting out of bed every single day.

Tired of pretending.

I am tired.

I wonder, would the world be a simpler place if we had no desires?

But what a world would that be, then.

Happier? Perhaps.

Worth living? Probably not.

Is it worth living right now, though?

I know my answer.

I hope this settles the dust.

I hope my mess becomes one with this dust.

(I do not mean to advocate or glorify suicide or self-harm through this piece, in any manner. If you feel sad or isolated, reach out to someone you trust, someone you can talk to. There are online forums which maintain anonymity too.

One can check out https://www.7cups.com/.

Seek professional help, there is no shame in it.)

Infinite

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I love my silence.

Those rare moments in which your mind floats around, questioning the triviality of existence and the extent of the universe.

Those precious moments in which clarity hits you, drizzling like the first rain, eventually flooding your insides with cold.

Those beautiful moments in which you notice the little things, the colors, the emotions and the hope, your eyes shine with a golden spark, and you embrace the world around you.

I love my silence because it lets me wander, free and fresh, closer to the sun, sea and beyond.

Silence lets me unravel the tangled ropes, wrap my head around the mystery that is life.

They watch me, lost in my own reality, and they mock me, my bizarre nature.

But I pity them.

They just see things, I feel them.

They freeze frames on a chip, I keep them in my heart.

They touch the sea, the sand, I carry it within me.

My smile hides a hundred different lives and my head contains multitudes. I evolve with time – learning, understanding, and living.

They miss so much that nature offers, fixated on the surface, never diving deeper into the azure ocean, never drifting lazily, never exploring the riddles.

Sometimes, it is good to let go, to let yourself be overwhelmed.

Listen to the sounds of the violin, the strings rubbing away, melody after melody,

Read a withered book, cure that malady,

Wander sans glamour, all stark and rustic,

Feed your silence, forget the world for that moment mystic.