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.)

A Soliloquy of Colours

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It is blue here, deep, edging on black. I look at my hands, thin and wrinkled, shaking. The water trickles slowly through the tap, forming ripples in the stagnant water. The sound haunts me. Drop after drop, banging like drums in my head, refusing to stop no matter what. Drenched in the cold, I sit and stare.

I can hear the hiss of the cameras flashing outside, the self-appointed judges of moral code crying out red chants of blasphemy. I walk out of the bathroom. The curtains have been closed, leaving the room sprinkled with the vestiges of a soft sun. I peep through the broken glass. Chaos guides this crowd, who claim to be united, but would be at each other’s throats as soon as a little thorn threatens their inflated egos.

A stone crashes into the house, shattering the glass into tiny edged crystals. Third one today. I had always thought that the glass was strong. I now realize good times are not the perfect judges of adversity. I walk back and slump down on the sofa. It is strange how people can twist the truth to mould and soothe their own trivial realities, how seamlessly their minds can wrap around their mistakes, transforming it into a self-glorifying truth.

My eyes catch sight of a photograph, old and ruffled in the frame, a frozen tear of time. I pull it out. It is fragile, torn at the edges, and it smells of memories. Lost, faded memories. A boy looks happy, all smiles and joy, ignorant of the vicious whirlpools life is going to plunge him into.

They say life is but a journey, and every sunrise is preceded by a dreary night. But what if it’s not a day, but a season, a cold, grey winter? Reckless, unending. The leaves fall and the spring doesn’t greet. Isn’t that a fair possibility? The edges are not smooth and rounded. They are sharp, jagged, waiting for someone to falter and bleed. I have been cut, deep and purple, and I do not want to wait for the light.

I walk towards the terrace. The sky is slightly clouded. I walk over to the ledge and prop myself on the thin, rough surface. I stumble, balance again. A cool breeze strokes my face. I feel myself giving away.

Police personnel enter the house sometime later.

It’s Blue.

And Black.

And Red.

I just wanted my freedom.

A Curtain of Smoke

This is her tale of love, loss, deception, and desperation.

This is her journey through the depths of the nine circles.

This is her encounter with the devil of her life.

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An angel of dreams

Swinging in a flourish of stars

Swept me off my feet a fine day

One whisper at a time 

All little things and slow kisses

The meaning of life,

The homely wishes.

 

I see those little protrusions now

And what all the temptation was about

What those eyes lured me into

What they made me say and do.

 

He soars flapping those evil wings,

Clawing into my head,

Digging out little pieces of flesh,

Bathing in the leaking crimson.

He walks with a soft gait,

Baring his teeth, rotten, sick,

He pins me on the executioner’s block,

And stabs me dry with his diabolical spear.

Blood curdles and gurgles out of me,

Splashing on the sea of pain,

Mingling, swirling,

And I don’t feel it anymore.

 

I am reserved for hell

Temptation, perhaps.

I see him, I see him still

That smile, those teeth,

The bloody spear, the omen ill,

He’s here.

 

He walks with his patience,

And then loses it all at once

As one world collapses into another,

I lose my voice in this pyre of ash

Where infernal sins adorn vernal suns

Where words stagger into abysses of hurt

Where gazes rip my soul into weak, little pieces

Too fragile to be gathered, 

Too tough to be moulded,

Too dark to be coloured.

 

I can’t rise now

Neither can I drown

Just gasp for air 

Every day, every minute, every second

Wishing, wishing for the smoke

To melt my skin

To take me far away

In a wisp of mist

On a shooting star.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Misty Muse

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Roaming around the place was a daily ritual for him. The sunshine, the greenery, the sparkling river, held a romance of sorts. He could see the people there, lost in their own thoughts, lost in their lives, lost, and trying to find themselves. The one thing that intrigued him was that they were almost always alone. That was the irony. A place full of cliches from the world, and yet, lost souls knew no way out.

It was a particularly chilly day. He had worn his withered brown jacket, as always. He could see a couple today, young and gentle. They stood staring at the dazzling water, talking to each other. The only curse was the intrinsic nature of this place. They were talking to each other, but a silence captivated their minds and hearts. A silence too deep to be ignored. It is sad how we explore masks as a means to protect the ones we love or the ones we think we do.

A cool breeze touched his cheeks. The mild fragrance of roses hung in the air. Sometimes, he could smell things others couldn’t. He could clearly feel the hot breath of freshly mown grass at times, of a steaming coffee brew, of an old parchment at others. He had a strange sensation then. His vision reflected a clear stream, but he was transported to another place, a figment of his fertile imagination, a phantom. It was a place he felt close to. He could almost feel the tender touch of the elements, reaching his nerves, entrancing them.

He always carried a book with him to this open haven of his. It made him feel safe, not of the physical, but of things unknown. It gave him a power nothing else could. It was a higher form of interaction, mingled with the beauty of invisibility. It was like a warm hug in times of despair, and he could not remember the last time he was happy. He could not live without it.

He contemplated going back, but where would he go?

Right then, a little girl passed by with her mother.

“Momma, look! There’s the man with the brown jacket Granny was telling us about!”

There was apprehension in her mother’s eyes. “There’s no one, dear! You need to give your mind some rest. Sleep early.”

“No, momma, I’m not making it up! Please, Momma, believe me.”

For once, she did. Composing herself, though, “Granny’s ghost stories are for entertainment, my love. They are not real. Ghosts do not exist,” her mother smiled.

The girl kept staring at the man in the withered brown jacket. That day, lore took on a deeper meaning for that tender mind, as the apparition of despair turned into mist.

 

The Final Breath

(I don’t own the pictures used in this post.)

I wrote these lines a while back. This may not be a great piece, but I felt I should share it. I am sorry if this is not hopeful and optimistic and empowering, but the ground reality does not change. Some fight back, one way or the other. From realms beyond human comprehension, at times.

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The cries, the screams

It’s silent now

Peaceful

The scars suddenly seem like badges

From a war won gloriously.

 

Colours

Flowing through the grooves

It’s beautiful how

The blood looks the same

Crimson, then black

But that smell, that stench

Of hypocrisy, of a charred ego

That. That gives it away.

 

A fitting climax to the years of loss

Stabbed through the heart

A million times

As she was.

A Grey Masquerade

“See, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little push.”

The Joker.

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I feel an absence in my bones. The emptiness leaves a hush upon me, like the silence after a raging storm. It is peaceful, yet a hurricane. The storm never abated. The tumult persists inside these fragile walls. The absence is not the only thing that meddles with my soul. There is another feeling, hidden deep beneath those rusty bars of time. A feeling I have not been able to explain, not even to myself. There is something beckoning me from those deep recesses. Every time I try tapping that thread, something inside me resonates with such intensity that my head feels like the deep gongs of a monastery.

I live in a dark place. There is a lot of sunshine, but it’s dark and colorful. A paradox. It is an unknown culmination of a lifetime.

It was time to leave. I took my umbrella, picked my coat, and ventured out. It was raining heavily outside. I could hear the little dense drops striking the umbrella. I went into my garage and got into my car, a black sedan, which clearly reflected my disheveled visage as I reached it. I drove into the night. Lightning struck the sky relentlessly as the wheels drifted through the hazy roads. Lightning has always fascinated me. Blue streaks of purity and dazzle. It somehow gave you a glimpse into the past and the future, that moment when you saw the raw power of nature, capable of chaste destruction and justice.

I stopped at a bar.

“What would you like today, Sir?”, the female bartender asked me with a smile.

“The usual, Sarah”, I smiled back.

I was treated with a pitiful grace and quickly supplied with my drink.

I could listen to her, even when she was speaking in dressed undertones, “Poor man, lost his wife. Not lost, really. She ran away with another man. People saw those two. Rumoured to have gone out of the country. Six months of marriage, new home, and this. He’s been a sad little heart since then. Try and treat him well.” This was addressed to a new bartender.

I looked at Sarah but did not say a word. Just smiled, again, ever so slightly. I finished my drink, paid my bill, and went out again.

It was still raining.

I stopped at a nearby gas station. Everyone knew my story here, and that bout of sympathy that came naturally to humans was displayed with perfect expertise.

“How are you holding up, man?”, one said.

“Anything we can help you with?”, another said.

“I’m fine. The gas would be enough help for now.”

It’s really strange and sad how so many minds find empathy a gesture worth considering. No one believes in sharing sorrows. Everyone is on their own. Everyone has to calculate their own justice. Empathy only serves the purpose of disillusioning the brain and making one full of oneself. That’s what it does. It is a self-serving gesture, purely selfish in its motive and nothing else.

I drove on, the rain still hitting the windshield in a torrent. The road was barely visible ahead. I felt a tingling sensation in my spine. The time had come. I finally reached the outskirts of the city. I did not stop, not yet. I kept driving till I reached a region with dense undergrowth. I took my flashlight with me, and began navigating through a region I knew pretty well.

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I finally reached a dark shelter. Abandoned. I went inside and lighted the two candles already kept inside, and kept my flashlight on. The candlelight cast a soft, orange glow onto the silhouette of two figures, moving very little, drugged.

I said, “Hello, Robert. How are you holding up? Anything I can help you with? After all, you are the dear husband. You must be happy to know that humans around you are kind and generous. Why do you look so sad? There is so much in this world. So much laughter, joy, and you choose to be sad.”

“Why, please, why.”

“Everything in due course, Robert. Wifey, I’m sure you have something to say, don’t you? No? Well, see, I am sure you want to know things. Curiosity must never be suppressed. That’s what gives way to marvels. I am a marvel of my own making just because I have always been curious. Wait. Let us do it this way.”

That tingling had given way to a seductive pleasure. I had a feeling of supreme power in that moment. It made that day precious. It was time for the omega, the crescendo.

I took out a surgical scalpel, and made precise cuts on both their necks, enough to make them bleed to death, but not until I was done satisfying their curiosity. It was important. No person should die without their questions answered. That is a mortal sin.

“Remember, wifey, the guy that asked you out when you were serving at that bar during college?”

The look on her face was everything I could have ever asked for. So much time and effort for the reward, and it was worth it.

Both of them flailed and shuddered. Pure elation.

“That was me. Yes. You denied and humiliated me with all those soft, meaningless, words. Denial is one thing, empathy is another. I hate empathy, you see. It is fake.

Then, you married this man. Beautiful. Poetic, I must say. You left a kink in my heart, though. That irregular beat. You had to be taught the meaning of life, obviously. As someone had to do it, here I am. As always.

You had moved there two days back. No one even knew your faces. They still think I am the husband and the person they saw you running away with was a stranger. They think I have been through police procedures. Tell one drunk moron a story and the whole town sympathizes with you. Such fools. But then, who am I to judge, yes?”

“Please, please…”, wifey murmured through a bleeding fit.

“Shhhhh, do not try to do that. You wouldn’t want to die before him, would you, now? You are soul mates, you shall reach those gates together, hand-in-hand, as you thought you would. This is touching. I really should have brought my camera. Could have shown them the real meaning of a wedding bond.”

I watched as life slowly left their squirming bodies. It was such a peaceful moment. It felt eternal. The resolution of curiosity does douse a fire inside you. I could see that they were waiting for the reality. That was their trigger. It was a mesmerizing symphony. A symphony of the sweetest composition in the world. A symphony of life and death.

The next day, I went to the bar and asked her,” Sarah, I want to get over this and move on. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee sometime?”

She smiled. I smiled back.

Empathy. The evil.