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.)

A Sepulchre Between Lines

I saw that face. A sad face it was. It hurt. I could see the culmination of a lifetime of experiences on it. The rosy cheeks were streaked with the epiphany of a morose existence. It was a beautiful face, though. Chaste and ethereal in its sweet innocence.
Those azure eyes searched for something in the void around them. They did not know what they were searching for. They did not know if the search would ever be over. How the hopeful deductions of a gentle soul work was lost on them.

That face remained radiant, though, as if the glittering hope will ever be fulfilled. You could feel it staring into your soul, realizing your deepest secrets and desires. It spoke into my being in a low, silent whisper. The enigma of life unravelled inside, a torrent of emotions overwhelming my heart.

All around me were the immaterial sounds of shells ringing, as the world itself unravelled to the whims of man. The silence screamed. It spoke to me. Just me. It spoke to me as the world fell apart. It spoke to me as ambitions clashed. It spoke to me as innocence died.

I could notice on that pale face, the apparent freedom souls fought for. In that moment, I melted into a surreal expanse. I remembered the day I met her. Between the dusty bookshelves of the public library, where ancient knowledge met modern wisdom, where lives were created, worlds destroyed, where enlightenment occurred every day, she stood.

She was the simplest being in my entire world. Her simplicity bewitched me. I had always believed that I would find love amidst the cozy warmth of my beloved books. And I did. The old books emanated that beautiful perfume, which carried my feeling through the air. Our eyes met. Those were the eyes of a reader. We glanced at each other for a second. That was enough. It was as if the world had been composed of us for a moment, just us.

I have always heard people say that some things stay with us forever. I had not known what it meant until that moment. No matter what, that face and those shimmering eyes are something I will never forget. That tinged visage, gurgling with the amazed curiosity of a child, holding a book as if it meant the world to her, and perhaps it did, was inexplicably satisfying. When we finally met, it was not us that did. It was a union of those tantalizing words, words that broke free and enriched us. The world of books was our common love. It was what we lived for, and would die for if need be. We never recommended each other. Both of us were aware of the fact that reading is a discovery in time. A journey. An imposition is the worst thing for a reader. I admired her for that. So it went. Those days tripped by on rosy wings, each moment captured in the frame of time, preserved in the glory of calm. Until.

The public library was where we ended up at the end of the day. That feeling of being among the silent guardians of humanity was what we craved every moment. Whatever book she picked, she also had to pick a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Not just any copy, a particular first edition, with its spine damaged, with an intoxicating smell, the pages a warm yellow. She never borrowed it, just picked it up whenever she came and read a few pages. It was always there, in that same spot, waiting to be caressed by her tender hands, to be felt and breathed in. It was not just something as transient as her favourite book, it was her life.

That was when the turmoil of mankind ripped apart the heart of civilization and chaos took control of that sanctum of peace. Our life was burning in front of our eyes. I pulled her and we ran. Just as safety was a few feet away, she stopped. A moment. I stared at her. “The book. My book.” I could not say anything. She turned and ran back. I tried to stop her, but I couldn’t.

Sounds rose and seized. Everything vanished. I held that unapologetic face in my hands. A teardrop from my eyes stained it. I wanted to drown in that sea that were her eyes. The book was there. It was in her hands. Even in that eternal sleep, she held it with all her life. I could just stare at her and weep. Weep for myself, for my love, for my life. It was over.

To this day, the thought that it was a wrong decision strikes my mind. But then, I realize how hollow I sound. I would have done the same. One who understands our world knows it’s not just about the book. It’s what it holds. A part of her soul resided in those ruffled pages. Waiting for her, calling for her. As I mentioned, it was her life. What broke me was that she was mine. I still read passages to her grave, and I can still feel her cold whisper in my ears. As long as I have her book, I have her. Her soul, her life.

The Eternal Mockingbird

Have you ever thought of how sugar behaves in water? It completely dissolves in it till it leaves no trace, and yet, when it meets the buds, the sweet taste delights. Some books uplift you in a similar way. Once you revisit them, they seem to have left you, but when perceptions of the mind meet, that sweet taste is unmistakable.

To call “To Kill a Mockingbird” a gem of literature is nothing short of blasphemy. To look at it objectively is a sin in itself. It is so much more than that. It is a part of your life. It is magic. It is the sweetness in the seemingly clear water. It is an enchanting amalgamation of words and feelings and sighs and whispers. You can feel the book working up an aura, a subtle atmosphere, which holds your hand gently and guides you through the alley that is Scout’s world. Scout, who endears you with her purity and sweet knowing ignorance, who lets you see the world in an unbiased light. Atticus, who lets you know the actualities of the world in the most gentle way possible. The fact that an issue can be held in its own in this complex web of human emotions and vistas is nothing short of a miracle. A miracle which dazzles with its simplicity. With its innocence. With its chastity.

A mere mortal is not capable of stringing words to produce immortality. It takes not just will-power but also an astonishing grasp over mortal sentiments and instincts. One cannot create a character without stepping into his/her shoes and to do that, the character has to be indicted into the apparent reality. This character feels reality, the author makes it tangible to him/her. Harper Lee is the sorcerer here. The palpable touch of existence all characters exude is the work of her sheer brilliance and vision. Those words spellbind you, let you step in between the pages and roam the streets of Maycomb. The mockingbird lives on, not because it is a sin to kill a mockingbird, but because it can never die. :’)

“People disappear when they die. Their voice, their laughter, the warmth of their breath. Their flesh. Eventually their bones. All living memory of them ceases. This is both dreadful and natural. Yet for some there is an exception to this annihilation. For in the books they write they continue to exist. We can rediscover them. Their humor, their tone of voice, their moods. Through the written word they can anger you or make you happy. They can comfort you. They can perplex you. They can alter you. All this, even though they are dead.”