To Make Love

To Make Love

What ’tis to make love?
To take that ‘step’ in life?
Be it with a partner or stranger,
Or that with a husband or wife…

Is it just an act of the body?
Or does it need something much more?
More than a simple orgasm…
Something that is rooted and pure.

It takes courage to show your nakedness,
Even in front of a mirror.
Only love embraces your bare self,
And not only for the sake of pleasure.

It can be self-love or by someone else,
To find the beauty in even a scar.
Both kinds accept your reality,
And they both hold their separate power.

Self-love is not just of the body,
But also that of your soul.
It isn’t the mere self-gratification,
But a gift to yourself as a whole.

Similar is the love by someone else,
Where ‘to please’ isn’t the only motive.
But to also peep within each other’s souls,
To share, to experience and to live…

Making love doesn’t end with the night,
It continues beyond the so-called ‘climax’.
Holding each other’s bare, warm bodies,
As they both, in their dreams, relax.

Having sex is pretty normal,
And neither an achievement nor a crime.
It is simply not an act as special,
As is finding love in one’s lifetime.

But very few accept it as it is,
Keeping the feeling locked up in a box.
‘Robotic’ prevails over the world,
And ‘human’ is considered orthodox.

But if you’ve still kept that feeling alive,
You’ve already transcended above.
Blessed you are… if you know,
What ’tis… to make love.

Featured Image Credit: Alexander Krivitskiy (Sourced From Pexels)

A Love Lost Across Continents

A Love Lost Across Continents

I have a story to tell;
Different…yet all the same.
Don’t know if it all went well.
It all comes down to one name.

Two thousand and Fourteen.
A year of my aspirations.
I was a robotic teen
Fidgeting over my ambitions.

‘A little different’ is what they called me;
For my apparent lack of emotions.
But I knew that for me
‘Love’ wasn’t ever a notion.

I thought I knew everything;
Especially what the word meant.
Never had I had the feeling;
I think I was over-confident.

Came the month of September,
I was active on the internet.
Facebook brought the strangest wonder;
A name that requested to connect.

Blamed for having unfriended,
I fought with all my might.
But soon we had concluded,
It was ignorance that caused the plight.

The 25th day of the month;
Our bond was on a new hype.
The talks reached a new length.
The only option was Skype.

The talks became very regular;
Though there was no such intention.
My departure to passion was the trigger.
She had become a strange compulsion.

Then came the news of my failure,
Dejected, rejected, loitering around.
She became my only pillar.
It was new what I had found.

It took me months to really know
What exactly it was;
Recalling the events in a row,
I wondered why our paths did cross?

There was that strange urge in me
Accompanied by a dark fear.
‘Does she feel the same for me?’
It was yet not that clear.

I saw her with different eyes,
She sat there with a halo above.
Saw those heavenly eyes,
Yes… I had fallen in Love.

The end of the first month,
My fear had almost subsided.
I was a soldier on the battlefront,
With his life, all decided.

My plans were postponed;
When our friend found our dire need.
But then my heart condoned…
I cannot delay the deed.

Came February the 12th.
I restlessly read my verse.
I could have given all my wealth,
For a ‘yes’ from who meant me my Universe.

Long Distance was difficult,
I knew it was not impossible.
For it was true what we felt.
Nothing else seemed as credible.

It took us a while to share,
The beautiful three-word phrase.
It was all more than fair.
A reality we had to face.

The bond strengthened in your visit.
We were still shy and conserved;
The relation had been tightly knit.
It was what our bond deserved.

You returned, a sad day indeed.
The few days thence were painful;
Understanding my life’s only need,
I tried to make yours colourful.

We achieved in long distance,
What few achieve together.
Trust, Love, and Patience;
To sum it all together.

Months of cries and laughter;
As if we always held hands,
Sitting beside each other.
It all went as planned.

Until the day I came to this city,
In the midst of all my fears,
Confounded, in a bad self-pity,
I couldn’t then see that clear.

What was the most beautiful,
I made it so dark for you,
Trying to grasp with a handful,
My horrors had all come true.

I couldn’t give you what you needed,
That was my biggest mistake.
I had already conceded…
That my actions would lead to your heartbreak.

Desperate to find a solution,
Though it was straight in my sight;
I had dissolved myself in confusion,
Couldn’t give circumstances a fight.

Came that unfortunate night,
It was long that I had been away.
My actions were never right;
I led it all to that day.

It all hit me in a go,
All the wrongs that I had done.
In my desperate attempts to grow,
I had lost the one.

I was born stupid.
That is needless to mention.
When I had all that I needed,
Follies were all I had done.

Apology is a minor repentance,
I shall regret being myself for life.
I have no excuses for my ignorance.
Myself dropped my heart on a knife.

I regret being so senseless.
So much more I could have been.
Born with an inability to express,
I came between our own dreams.

Can give anything for what we held.
Those were the best times.
I have so much more to tell.
Can’t get it all in rhymes.

I was a big failure,
But that’s not what I wanted to be.
I have shed my idiotic demeanour,
I just wanted her to see.

These past months were difficult for me,
Even if it was all my fault.
What I needed, I couldn’t see,
Our bond had come to a halt.

But that doesn’t change a few facts,
Even if we have missed out a lot.
I couldn’t show through my acts,
But live without you, I might not.

I failed my first promise,
I cannot hate myself more.
But I want us to have what we’ve missed,
I won’t hold it back anymore.

You have always deserved the best,
That I couldn’t be.
Fate had laid down a test,
I failed at it, miserably.

I want to make amends,
To make up for what we lost.
It is not here that it ends…
I just need the last of your trust.

I know it would be very hard,
The fear of feeling that pain.
The pain of being so apart,
You do not want to feel again.

But trust me when I say this,
I fear losing you even more,
Won’t commit the same mistakes.
Won’t ever shut the door.

It has always been so very simple,
That a complex answer is what I sought.
Talk, share, cry and giggle.
But my absence formed a clot.

The journey would be unparalleled,
If you are a part of it.
You have done all you could have,
To me… Leave the rest.

These aren’t mere flowery lines…
I tried to be as real as I could have.
I think I took a lot of time,
To say what I just should have.

I don’t want you to leave me,
I know I couldn’t be more selfish.
But I know, you still love me.
I cannot let ‘us’ perish.

Whatever is your decision,
I would ever be there for you.
I would give you every reason,
To start it all anew.

Just one last thing I need to do.
I really think I owe it to tell you.
Even through the darkest of blues,
Girl… I will never forget you.

The Perfect Imperfections of ‘Love’

The Perfect Imperfections of ‘Love’

After a decade of experiencing the innately patriarchal Indian Society and witnessing certain chauvinists and misogynists dominate over specific females of modern India, a group of four heterosexual male friends had taken a latent yet resolute oath that when-so-ever any of them would be granted the grace and opportunity of a female partner in life, he would let her superintend the general decisions and hence bring balance to the natural ways. Roger and his three best friends. This is a narrative of certain events, recent and past, entailing the experiences of two of the other three. Their names are Andre and Simon.

It was the dawn of the month of February 2015. Roger and Andre sat in a corner of Roger’s house. The usual hookah and the melancholic melodies drew teardrops out of Andre’s eyes, just like every other yesterday. Roger had to play the role of the best friend and act bothered and hence he was compelled to put forward the query “Why are you crying, bro? She’d come back to you; you know?”

“I am not crying… I just feel something getting on my nerves…” Andre said, fidgeting through his statement.

“Come on… Chill bro. She has just left you to concentrate on boards. She’d come rushing back to you right after the exams…”  said Roger, trying to ward off the gloom out of the room.

“But why did she leave me in the first-place man? All those years of dreaming to be together… and towards the end of my high school, our relationship was on a new high… then suddenly she left me. Why? She called me obsessive… called me desperate…” Andre said.

Roger replied in the routine fashion “Dude… you have been neither obsessive or desperate… Although I don’t call either of them insults… I mean Gandhi and Lincoln were both obsessed with the idea of freedom and desperately tried to achieve it through their patient means. Don’t worry… everything would be fine… Okay, let me check on Simon… It has been almost an hour since he hasn’t tasted the hookah. I wonder what he is doing…”

“He must be having those gushy pushy conversations with her… why do you think he wants isolation?” Andre followed.

Roger left the room to go and check on Simon. Co-incidentally, he entered the room right at the moment when Simon had hung up his silent conversation. Before even inquiring him about it, he came up with the reply “I just got fudged, man”.

Simon and Andre had seemingly permanent and exemplary relationships back in school. Both of them were intensely committed with their respective girlfriends. Andre had once left his girl for a day over his ex, but that was pertaining to an emotional blackmail of his ex to undertake that action immediately. Other than that, he had always been true to his commitment, never even trying to glance at other girls, live or digital. His girlfriend, Susan, was the most possessive and controlling person that can be ever witnessed on the face of the earth. Not that any of them ever judged her back then. As long as she kept their buddy happy, she was nothing less than a protagonist in their eyes. They had a decent relationship. Simon, on the other hand, was famous to have the coolest of relationships ever. Checking out other guys and girls was like the common past time for him and his girlfriend, Marla. Out of Susan and Marla, these friends could always hang out with the latter because she could present herself easily as a friend. They all loved her and somewhat knew that Simon and Marla are definitely going to be married. But the past few years have been nothing less than Buddha’s cycle of enlightenment for them.

“She left me man…” came Andre’s sobbing voice over the phone. It was Summertime and Roger was enjoying the regular deck-chair sunbathing in Goa. Andre had called over another one of his breakups. Roger couldn’t really grasp the significance of the situation back then. Maybe he was too relaxed… or maybe Susan had broken up with Andre for so lame reasons and so many times in the past and then patched up again, that the Déjà vu had become quite monotonous. Andre and Susan had recently celebrated their third-year anniversary and that too pretty extravagantly. Susan always came out as a cheesy and controlling immature girl, not that they ever said anything to Andre. This is a redundant statement. Why would they risk losing a best friend? He was being controlled. He had taken up the medical field as per her ‘instructions’ and fought with various guys and girls as commanded by her will. In their eyes, she was the puppeteer and he was the puppet. But whenever there was an emergent conversation about her, there always came the convoy of her praises and compliments from Andre’s mouth, seemingly hypnotized. Roger used to love those conversations where Andre used to mention his plea of her anger. One time when he was committed, he had mentioned that she was furious over the physical boundaries of the relationship. Andre could only talk of her as being the omniscient party, although she came out as a wannabe control freak.

“If she hugged you herself… why is she angry with you for being desperate? If she kissed you… then why are you the bad guy?” came Roger’s nonchalant worry.

“No man… that’s not the point. I have no problems with her anger. Her anger is completely justified since she is angry because I forced her to cross her boundaries, directly or indirectly. I am just sad that I am not able to live up to her expectations… She is right man. I being the elder one should have taken the call on whether we should kiss or not. So, what if she wanted to… she had earlier declared that she wanted ME not to and I failed in doing so…” Andre said.

Roger thought to himself “The Hell… Whatever he ever does is whatever she always asks. I mean she is still angry… God save the earth man…”

Such conversations had become a default regularity of their telephonic talks. After Simon’s breakup, they became the subject of their sittings. Yes… even he faced a ruthless breakup. His was more ruthless… you know why? Because, unlike Susan, his girlfriend started acting a jerk only towards the end of his relationship. So… both of them lived in their respective bubbles which kept their partners in high esteem. Andre’s bubble was one of his own creation whereas Simon’s bubble formulated over the years giving to the Oscar Winning performance of Marla.

Simon and Marla had a very healthy relationship… both physically and mentally. On the other hand, Andre and Susan had a relationship which anyone in their right mind would call nothing but ‘toxic’. Simon and Marla had more of a symbiotic relationship than Andre and Susan’s relationship where whatever Susan said was the law and whatever Andre said was wrong. But both of these two relationships seemed lasting to Roger, Simon’s for obvious reasons and Andre’s because of his submissive nature and gullibility. Nevertheless, they were wrong.

Why did they break up?

Susan failed in her 10+1 finals and was given promotion on trial. The blame inadvertently came on Andre and he had to face the guilt of her failure.

Marla broke up with Simon because she couldn’t bear with their long-distance relationship, and all of a sudden fell incestuously in love with the batch-mate she had introduced to Simon as her brother.

Simon’s relationship was quite healthy and approaching, even in its dying days. This was more because of the fact that he never even had a fight with his partner, leave it be a breakup. So, when Marla revealed her sudden intention of leaving him and rather instantly cut off from him, he immediately travelled to her city to mend the gaps. But to his horror, after a three-and-half-year relationship, she completely neglected his presence in the city and was more like dicey about even meeting him. She even cursed him for destroying her life by being in the same city as hers. Till then, Simon was not aware of her illicit relation. Well… till the moment he went over to her college and saw the two of them embracing each other in front of him. The sight, as described by him, was even disgusting for his three friends. The girl they remembered, either she had been possessed or had always faked her attributes. Roger used to get regular notifications from his sister, whose place Simon resided at during his time in Marla’s city. Their irritation amplified to furious trepidation when Marla direly abused Simon and asked him to ‘F Off’. Thankfully, Simon took a trip to a place of worship and meditation and calmed down his suicidal tendencies and returned safely to his city, where he stayed with Roger for the next week. Why? They had planned only a day of that… but as soon as he left after a day, he tried to kill himself by ingesting poison. Realizing the magnitude of his pain, Roger recommended that he stayed with him under strict supervision and counselling of friends and family. There was a moment where he somewhat unintentionally lured Roger into tears as well, who rather rarely cried. But he was always the one who was considered the ever-happy ‘Soul’ of their group. He shall always remain the ‘Soul’ but the ever-happy fragment of his had been lost to just a façade he takes over to divert attention off his pain. Their hardest of attempts to make him take it all in good sport and remain genuinely happy, all went in vain to no resolve.

 Andre and Susan were more on a track to set the world record of breakups. Susan used to always make Andre take the blame for her wrongs. Not being able to score in ANY exam, being scolded by parents, hugging and kissing Andre with her consent, not wanting to talk to him (trying to ignore him) and thus blaming him for being obsessive for trying to speak to her, Etcetera. Once, she broke up with him when she called her best friend more beautiful than herself and Andre, just like for any other thing, gave his innocent consent. Making him change career streams, instilling fake chivalry in his mind to show off her ‘idealistic’ boyfriend to the few people she called friends (that is those who could stand her existence), trying to change his dressing sense and also making him follow some untoward extreme celibacy, all in all, she never accepted him and just wanted to change him miraculously into her showpiece partner. All giving in to her inner ego, her complex. Susan lived in complete denial. She wanted to be someone, to present her as the best, and when she couldn’t at all do it, she needed someone or something to blame or else she would have imploded. The only thing that was more expendable than her friends and family was this relationship at her leisure disposal. So, she left Andre. He cried for a year and controlled his tantrums because of the assertion by Susan’s elder sister that she would definitely come back to him after her boards. He waited… and waited. He never disturbed her for she had asked him not to if he wished for her good. And all he ever wanted was her good. Then the judgement day arrived… the board exams had passed. It seemed like a year of Easter Eggs from Susan who seemed to have been indicating towards a possible reunification. But… when contacted… she seemed to have been even blunter than the last time. She refuted any feelings for Andre and called her relationship a mistake. People cease to cry at the fall of hope. He did that as well. The pain he had kept close to his heart… still rebuking anyone and everyone that whatever that girl did was not all wrong… he gulped that pain down and tried to move along. He now only cries in solitude.

Now comes the part which is most painful. Justification. They wouldn’t leave you just like that, would they? They would use all the force in the world and try their level best to justify their actions making you feel the antagonist. It happened here as well. Marla blamed Simon for not understanding her various gestures signalling the detachment from him. When he put the argument forward as to why was she being physical with him when she didn’t see a future, a faint reply came back saying “I was just trying my best for everything to be normal so that you are not hurt…” In a moment, her actions had become completely righteous in her eyes. Now she didn’t care he lived or died. Rather literally… because she had acted extremely ignorant of his quite realistic suicide attempt. Now Susan blamed Andre for a variety of things ranging from not loving her and leaving her for a day for his ex like 3 years ago, to loving her a little too much and in turn irritating her. She could easily justify all her actions. Of course… only in her eyes, that is. The Alibis, the only things remaining that don’t defile their reputation in their very own eyes. If at all these alibis formulated by them over various periods of time were negated, then their minds would have gone haywire. Hence, they completely transfused into a new life, shedding the past relating to their partners and hence founding a new self so that their past doesn’t haunt them.

Overall, two famous and envied relationships came to unfortunate ends. Years have gone by now, but both of Roger’s three best friends cry still. They find their solitude to surrender to their sentiments so that they can rejoice in the other hours of the day. Andre is working hard in the very field he had undertaken for Susan, that is the medical field; whilst Simon is all set to enter the business field as a stepping stone to his future tycoon status. They are both quite focused in their lives and are completely ready to take on the adversities the world would put against them. One thing that came out well from the breakups. The other thing is that they have both shed kilos of weight and have adhered to a healthy lifestyle, now that they have time for themselves.

A relationship is neither about the exploitation of freedom nor its encroachment. An intimidated Susan once commented that she would leave her father if he ever slapped her. Why…? They don’t understand the concept of love… which is more about forgiveness than grudges… more about accepting the wrongs than expecting the rights. Love is something which cannot be merely orchestrated as per someone’s whims and fancies. It is a symbiotic and mutual relationship. Understanding is the most important part of a relationship… ‘Favour’ is not a word in the dictionary of love. If you ever stood in the afternoon sunstroke and waited for your partner and saved your share of water for him… then it is not a favour you shall present before him while breaking up with him… Do you know why he never did anything like that? Because he did way more and never made you realize it by telling it again and again… and forgot about it himself. Love is not a give and take business. It is not to keep it as complicated as they both did. It is very simple. There are no prerequisites to love. It just happens.

Susan wanted a fairy tale life and love story where she was the princess of limelight everywhere. For Marla, she was never in love with Simon. She was just his fan and that confounded her in making that decision. But at the end of the day, we cannot blame them for the tears of Simon and Andre. It is love which is to be blamed. For loving someone nowadays is a bigger rarity and moreover a crime than hating someone. What is their fault? They couldn’t have faked all their lives with someone whom they didn’t love, right?

The phrase ‘I love you’ comes and goes so often nowadays. It is the phrase of the century, thrown around every now and then to friends, acquaintances AND strangers. People say it without even thinking twice. Of course, it is not compulsory to know someone to love him/her. Sadly, ‘I Love you’ is no more the one-way journey it used to be. It is retracted as easily as it is released. We need to keep a check on the urge to convey this beautiful message. It is not compulsory to know people to love them… but it is imperative to know yourself to love them forever. I would just request my readers… before you tell someone that you love them… think it over. Think if you can commit yourself to be with them. And most importantly, ask yourself why do you love them? If you can answer this ‘why’, then never say it to them. The love pillared on reasons falls when the pillars break. By doing this you would be preventing an innocent soul from breaking apart.

The Pursuit of Winning Friends

The Pursuit of Winning Friends

‘Man is a social Animal’… as sexist as it sounds in this millennial era, this statement is indefinitely applicable for human beings. Most of our lives are spent in attempting to make people happy with endless efforts and perhaps a grain of gratification. In our young days, we end up doing this the most. The social stigma that makes us do such things sometimes ends up deteriorating our childhood, which is mostly just spent trying to attain popular appreciation. Having been a voluntary party to such actions, I have a very strange story to narrate. So, loosen your seatbelts and let go of whatever you are grabbing on to because things are not going to be exciting.

The social world has made it kind of imperative for all of us to have friends. Everyone does. I feel blessed that there are people in the world who can tolerate me. Nevertheless, it hasn’t always been the same. Therefore, this segment is for all the pariah strugglers out there.

I was a strange kid. I still don’t know why. Well, of course, some aspects of mine fit perfectly under the ‘taboo’ category, for example, my garrulousness, my weight, but most importantly my stories. Yes, that is the strangest strange part of it all. When I was just about to enter my double-digit age, I was circumstantially rendered friendless. Back in school, we are somewhat obliged to be part of some kind of group, aren’t we? Today we call it ‘squad’. Back then, the cool word was ‘Gang’. And I never had one. Initially, I presumed nobody liked me. Eventually, I found, I was right. ‘But why?’ I think every now and then. Why was everyone around me enjoying in some secrecy kept isolated from me? I didn’t know back then… but one day it hit me. It was my stories.

I have ever been a keen and meticulous observer. I like to be able to recall events in their most accurate forms. At first, it was an attempt to break the ice. But, after a few failed attempts, I made it a bad habit to try to converse with random people, probably the most famous chaps of my class, and narrate them certain experiences of mine which were close to my heart. ‘Maybe we’d have something to talk about?’ ‘Maybe they’d find me cool and take me to do cool things with them?’. Subsequent attempts were received with heavier rejections. Sometimes it used to strike well and I was able to gel with a select few. But then started what is called the ‘Best friend paradox’. It is a condition whereby you end up closely befriending someone who behaves that way only when they are alone with you, and otherwise you just stay the guy people make fun of. I could never score a real best friend, till I met this guy in class who seemed just as weird as I was. An unlikely coincidence was that he lived a few blocks from my house. Every other day we used to be at his or my house playing with our Beyblade collection, the infamous Yoyos, the legendary G.I. Joes, and what not. I had finally found a true friend. But, sometime later, he had to change his city. And in the era devoid of social media and in the India devoid of internet access, we hardly talked for years after that. I went back to trying to winning friends again. It had become more difficult. Puberty had hit us all and with it came all the aggressiveness which in turn amplified the criticism. I was the anomaly of the class at a point of time, only referred to whenever someone wanted some humour attention. I used to laugh it off, believing some idealistic stories that if I gave up then, then I was weak to begin with. Gulping my plight each day, I started voluntarily becoming a part of groups and gangs as the unofficial laughing stock. I was ready to face any amount of criticism if I just got the chance to be with them. And I did. But the pain kept increasing. Whatever I had presumed to be the end result of being part of social circles, it did not even feel close to it.

One fine day, I resolved that it isn’t enough. Maybe I need to prove my worth. And as every stupid junior schoolboy does to gain attention, I picked a fight. I was ready. I had geeked up on all parts of Rocky Balboa. I knew I could do it. I knew I had it in me. I knew wrong. It ended before it could begin. One punch to my nose and my stupid sinuses gave in. Man, I had a complicated nose back then. Didn’t even know we can use it to breathe till I got operated. I was standing there helpless and unable to breathe. My eyes were blacked out. And the only thing I could hear was the outburst of laughter engulfing the world around me. Yes, I had upgraded my level. I had gone to the extent of physical injury to gratify the people around me. And I didn’t blink an eye, leave it be shedding a teardrop. You know why? Because just like every spoilt kid in the world, I used to come back home and take out all my anger and frustration on my parents. And they, just like every other caring parent in the world, tolerated all my drama.

Simultaneously, I was also going to play some Lawn Tennis in the evening at the Government Club. Things were much worse there. I had no resources or plans to gratify people there since the object of criticism was not specifically me, rather what I and my family could afford, viz. clothes, equipment, etc. Though, I used to love going there. It was the one place where I could celebrate my loneliness. But the damned politicians took that away too. They decimated the entire place to build useless stone elephants in its place. And guess what, while everyone else went to the Private Club, I couldn’t afford it either. At the same time, I had made one friend who was apparently not that bad. We started hanging out and created many unforgettable memories. This friend ended up slapping me in front of the whole class for some now-forgotten love-story of his. I woke up dizzy and not very surprised, but then I saw him apologising in front of everyone… Not once, not twice, not thrice… but four bloody times. No one had given me that amount of respect and consideration, especially publicly. A smile engulfed my face… a genuine one this time. I told myself, “This guy is mad… but he is a good friend… He might accidentally kill me someday in anger… but at least he’d be there at my cremation”.

We started hanging out more often. I remember, one fine day, one of our common old mates came to me telling how this guy belongs to a different religion and I should be careful. I was like (to be read in a Kevin Hart tone), “Bloody hell mate! I don’t care if he belongs to another species. He my friend… the only one”. A few weeks down the line, I happened to be seated beside another idiot who did not refrain from talking to me. We ended up forming a group with yet another guy who seemed just as different yet as crazy as each one of us. And guess who that last person turned out to be? The most famous lad on our floor. Well, that achievement went unnoticed. We were busy rejoicing our lives. I was telling them stories… and so were they. They believed what I shared and the best part is that it was only shared when all four of us were around. It was the beginning of a new era of my life.

Soon after, my birthday arrived. My elder brother did something extremely unpredictable. He gifted me a jumbo acoustic guitar set. I could have never foreseen back then as to how that one event was going to change my life forever. I started messing around with the strings at first. By then, thankfully, internet services had improved. It took me an insulated six months to actually grasp it properly. When I played my first song, it felt like all the pieces of the puzzle inside me were themselves coming together. It is yet inexplicable how strange it felt. The very next day, I went to school and was more silent than ever. My thoughts were silent, my mouth was shut. I was able to glance around properly and I saw something. I saw myself, all around me. There were so many people just trying their level best to win even the slightest of attention and friendship, whereas there were a few who seemed like they had given up. I looked beside me and there was this guy whom the class had christened as ‘Alien’. He was murmuring something. I turned a deaf ear to the rest and virtually increased his volume in my head. He was singing my favourite song… the one set of lyrics I had always thought were made for me… “I’m tired of being what you want me to be… Feeling so faithless… lost under the surface…” That was it, I interjected, “Numb?”. He gave me a wretched smile and spoke to me, a thing he hadn’t done with anyone else.

I went back home that day and tried to contemplate what had changed. And I could only arrive at one darned conclusion. It was not just me all this while. There are so many of us so desperate for just an ounce of affection and appreciation. And in that desperation, we often end up doing the last thing which is required, that is trying to settle in where we cannot even fit. It is not just okay to be different, but actually abnormal to not be different from others. And in our pursuit of being alike, we often end up instilling the fear of replacement in the minds of others, which is quite natural. Let them be the type of cool they are. Do you know which’s the coolest bunch of friends? The only one that we can be honest and still happy with. I have made several good friends ever since with whom my relations have been nothing but constant. And talking about the three maniacs, we are still going strong. We call ourselves the ‘Fabulous Four’… well, only I do, since back then they had the monopoly over names and after growing up I called dibs.

I always wish my childhood could’ve been a little different. I sometimes secretly recreate my dream childhood memories, the ones which I could never live. Maybe not sitting on the bench when everybody played cricket, not sitting on a corner staircase eating my tiffin during lunchtime since I feared that they would make fun of my food and my weight, not hiding some inner celebratory joy of mine believing it would be called a lie, and so much more. All these years, every day, I have recalled what it could have been and what it was… And you know what… I have not shed a single drop of tear. Well, you know what they say… if they haven’t seen it, it didn’t happen. And perhaps even if it did, you know what I do right after it? Just as the title of the very first song I ever played on my guitar says, I ‘Turn the Page’.

The Lift (A Sci-Fi Story)

The Lift (A Sci-Fi Story)

Amidst the symphonic shimmers of the endless evening traffic, a dull set of footsteps, pierced asymmetrically as if on a scout for a particular destination. It was Amar. The dejected soul failed by life all over. Too afraid to think of a future because of a frightening deterring past, Amar had given up. After some thoughtful wandering around the place, he finally gained the so-called ‘courage’ to enter the tall premises of the huge skyscraper. He walked past the reception, hiding his face in nervousness, and stood against the elevator door. A translucent oscillation in his dizzy vision accompanied a strange echo in his ears. Suddenly, all the echoes were halted by the pinging sound of the elevator’s arrival. There was sheer silence now. He waited for the door to open. As soon as it did, everything went back to its normal pace for him. It was the moment of truth, to enter or Not to enter.

The clique around him rushed towards the lift, pushing him ahead. He tried to control his body but was being manhandled with a push here and a shoulder-thrust there. He then gave in to the force and took the voluntary step forward; but while entering, his shoulder banged with some strangely dressed old man exiting the elevator, gazing down his eyes all the while with apparent suspicion. Amar’s nerves had now become more tensed and he stood amongst the crowd perspiring endlessly as the door closed shut. Ignoring it all he tried regaining his breath and also wiped his forehead. The panel showed a cluster of numeric buttons ranging from minus five to sixty-one. Everyone started pressing their pick. Amar resented from making a move due to his anxiety. He restlessly waited for everyone to get down at their respective floors so that he could select his floor number, the last floor, Sixty-One.

Yes, he wanted to reach the end… he wanted to end his pain… he wanted to end his life. As the last person got down on the forty-third floor, he slowly leaned forward to push the button. The lift started climbing again as soon as he did so. This time, to him, it seemed much slower than before. Every time the screen above the panel incremented the floor number, the climb became seemingly slower and slower to him. Amar started becoming more anxious with each floor, with each increment signifying the countdown decrement of his life’s end. When he reached floor fifty, he panicked and de-selected the sixty-first floor followed by pressing the ground-floor-button; but the lift kept climbing. He pressed the zeroth floor again, but, strangely, the sixty-first-floor-button got auto-selected this time. The elevator started speeding up its climb. He started pressing random buttons on the panel in a hurry, yet the lift kept accelerating vertically. Soon, to his horror, the elevator reached floor number sixty-one but didn’t stop. The number on the display kept on increasing further. Amar became afraid. He pressed all the buttons on the panel but the acceleration continued. The speed increasing… seventy-five… ninety… one-twenty… one ninety… three hundred… six hundred… nine hundred… one thousand… fifteen hundred… The elevator lights were fluctuating and the floor was vibrating heavily. The quick climb, getting quicker by the second, was creating immense physical pressure on Amar’s senses. He soon started blacking out. The last thing he could see with his fading vision was the floor number seven two nine two, and the lift door slowly opening.

***

A blinding brightness unveiled a faint shadow. Against it lay Amar, with his evanescent recovering vision. The shadow started coming closer with near-soundless whispers tickling Amar’s ears. A smile broke through the Penumbra with a light giggle. Amar was still lying with an expression of shock. He gained his apparent consciousness and immediately started trying to drag himself towards the shadow, but to no resolve. He wasn’t able to move an inch.

“Madhu… is it you?” he inquired with an elated aura in his expression. The shadow completely uncovered itself to reveal a woman. He observed carefully to find that her little finger was being held by a small girl.

“Saisha… Oh My God… Come here and hug your daddy baby…” Amar said. The girl tried to step forward to reach for Amar, but the hand that she had extended started fading.

“What happened beta?” Amar said. Just after that, an infernal fire engulfed the girl and she started screaming. Amar struggled to go forward to help the girl and called for the woman to do the same. But neither of them could move regardless of their efforts. The ground started shaking as the girl kept screaming in pain. The ground below the girl broke apart as she was submerged inside it. The entire place rubbled and suddenly came to an untoward still. Amar lay with high nerves. He heard a faint whisper again “We are ought to be apart”. The ground turned over and the place fell apart. Amar could barely hear his own voice when his senses shut off. He immediately woke up gasping, this time in a stranger world.

(Trying to regain his breath) “What is th… That dream again…” Amar said in a restless tone. He looked around to find that he was lying on a muddy bed-like structure with his legs buried in the hard mud. He wasn’t able to move around at all. He tried getting up, using all of his strength, but he failed miserably. There was no more strength to put in his efforts. Once again, he was giving up. He tried comprehending as to where he could have been, and he could not see much in the dark. He heard a loud clank from outside and laid down in pursuit of pretending to be still unconscious. He heard a pair of two different footsteps enter and stand beside him, chatting away in some unheard tongue. Then, all of a sudden, another pair of footsteps came inside. Amar tried to take a glance through his semi-closed eyes. It was a huge muscular man with a large fire-torch in his hand. The visibility inside the room had increased. The huge man was followed closely by a small woman. She came in and instantly caught hold of one of the two who had entered the place before, who in turn was also a woman. She caught hold of her hair, said something in her language in an aggressive manner, took a knife out of her back and cut the other woman’s hair lock. She then placed the knife against her throat and seemingly threatened her. The other woman burst into tears and fell on her knees. She tried running out but was intercepted by the muscular man. The woman with the knife now walked closer to Amar, conversing with the huge man simultaneously. She then kept her knife over his exposed chest and raised it above her head. Amar was alarmed and he thus spoke up “Nahi No Nooooooo! Please No!”

The woman paused hearing Amar. She kept her hand down. As soon as Amar was heaving a sigh of relief, she screamed out loud and stabbed his thigh. Amar moaned in grave pain. The woman and the man walked out. Amar started bleeding heavily and was again rendered unconscious.

***

Amar regained his consciousness again and immediately became very cautious and sceptical. He sat up and found that his legs had been released. The woman who had lost her hair was sitting beside him with another man accompanying her. She started trying to calm Amar down. Amar struggled restlessly. She kept speaking in her native tongue and Amar kept becoming more afraid. She then exclaimed in a weird accent “Stop… Please”. Amar immediately halted his fidgeting. He looked down to see that his thigh injury had been properly bandaged.

“You healed me. You know English? What are you, where am I?” Amar asked.

“We… Shodian. You… Dorian?” the woman asked.

“Dorian… what is a Dorian? My name is Amar.”

“Amar… me Shalia. Him… Mantra” she said as the man beside her smiled at Amar.

“Where am I? Why am I being treated like a prisoner?” Amar asked.

“You speak Dorian. You must not. You alive because you said some Ancient Shodian. She spared. I not spared. She cut me.” Shalia said.

“Your hair. She cut your hair. That’s not a big deal.”

“Hair proud for Shodia. We grow and we display experience. She our leader. Man her guard. Him one of many.” Shalia said.

“Baap Re… just where exactly is this place? I remember entering an elevator…” Amar said.

“You said again. How do you know it?” Shalia asked.

“Know what?” Amar asked.

The woman grabbed the torch beside her and placed it against the wall to reveal many old-looking inscriptions on them. They were all seeming as if written in Hindi.

“Yes… that is Hindi…” Amar said.

“You can read?” Shalia said with an expression of awe.

“Yes… that is my language.”

Shalia and Mantra immediately got up and spoke to each other.

“Wait here. We come.” She said as they left.

Amar started trying to get up. He fell off the bed and groaned out loud. He dragged himself against the wall and got up pushing himself against it. In the persisting darkness, he could get a glimpse of the scribbled scriptures on the walls. Amar could read the words very well. He then slowly limped against to wall to leap outside the curtain cover. As soon as he came out, he saw a huge cauldron set on fire. Around it stood an innumerable band of people, observing, chanting and dancing. There were many others who stood beside the hilltop shelters observing the supposed ritual. He tried to be inconspicuous while trying to get as far away from the place as possible. But he found himself at the centre of a huge crater-like structure, inside which the whole procession was going on. He couldn’t have escaped on his own no matter what. He was soon seen by a few who then alerted the others.

Not long after, he was surrounded by a huge number of people. Some of then started chanting what seemed like slogans at him. Then, the crowd started making way for someone to enter. It was the woman who had stabbed him. She walked through with two women behind her, holding torches to lead her way. The crowd had now turned silent. Amar was frightened. He was still in disbelief of whatever was happening around him. The woman apparently ordered a few people to grab hold of Amar. They came and held him down and placed knives against the back of his throat. Suddenly, Shalia came running and screaming “He knows the Ancient Text. Don’t Kill Him!”

The woman commanded her loyals to grab hold of Shalia as well. Then, Mantra appeared at the scene to their rescue. He started talking to the people, addressing the woman leader, in their native tongue. He held what seemed like a book in his hand. The woman, after hearing him, asked the people to let Amar and Shalia go. Mantra walked up to Amar and opened the book to a random page. He held the book in front of Amar’s eyes. Amar slowly and inaudibly read the lines, which were written in Hindi. Mantra asked him to be louder, and he did. Everyone was caught aback hearing him. The crowd started murmuring in a scared demeanour.

“Silence,” the woman said, as the crowd stopped making any sound.

“How can you Dorian read our Ancient Guides?” the woman asked.

Amar replied “This is a book of medicine I suppose. It is (interrupted)…”

“I asked you a question Dorian…” the woman said.

“This is my language…” Amar replied.

“LIAR!!! All ways of learning the ancient scriptures were destroyed by the Dorians. After the great war those centuries ago, the Dorians made sure that every human record of History, Science or anything at all are destroyed, other than those in these ancient scripts. They made sure no one but the unholy mother can comprehend or decipher what is written, cutting off tongues, fingers and punishing all who knew or taught it. So, how do you know the script?” the woman said.

As soon as she did, a heavy tremor started flowing through the ground, followed by comet-like lightning covering the face of the sky and striking the mountaintop nearby.

“It is them… Hide away Shodians… Hide away or be forgotten…” the woman screamed. There was utter ruckus afterwards. Everyone started dispersing to underground shelters. Amar couldn’t get up and was helped by Shalia. She pulled him to one of the houses where Mantra stood by. She requested him to help others. In the bunker close-by, two small children stood crying for help. Shalia rested Amar and ran for them as another comet-like strike hit the ground beside her. She was thrown away across the ground. A flock of drone-like bots appeared in the sky, descending to find their targets. There was also a huge mechanical structure hovering amidst the clouds. It was larger than ten such villages put together. Amar was clueless as to what to do. He wanted to help Shalia, who lay unconscious. He started dragging himself towards her when one of the drones intercepted him. Suddenly, a spear came and pierced the drone, which fell on top of Amar. Mantra appeared and escorted them both to a small shelter. The attack had now amplified. Amar was carrying the disabled drone with him. He started fidgeting with the panel on the bot, but it was in an incomprehensible code for him.

“Hey! Mantra… where is everything I brought with me? There was a small thing…” Amar said.

“Yes… that unholy brick. We concealed it from her or you would have been executed in your sleep.” Mantra replied.

“Yes, where is it?” Amar asked.

“It is with me,” Mantra said as he took out Amar’s mobile phone from his satchel and gave it to him.

“I would also need that,” Amar said, pointing towards the knife on Mantra’s belt.

Amar grabbed the knife and cut the back panel of Mobile open. He then opened the panel on the drone and took out a wire, which he rolled and connected straight to the soldered part of his USB connector. He then switched his phone on and started fiddling through various on-screen buttons. His screen started loading and displaying the drone’s control.

“Let us see what is controlling you,” Amar said, as he continued his clicking and sliding.

After a few seconds only, he said “What… this is not even the minimum international recommended standard. Ain’t these people overconfident…” Amar said.

Mantra gazed at Amar as Shalia still lay unconscious.

“Hey! Help me outside, just to peep,” Amar said, as Mantra held his upper-body out. Amar started looking at the giant ship hovering over the village.

“I hope this works; jammers redirect to reverse control feed. And (pushes a button)” Amar said, as the ship started to thrust across the sky.

“YESSS!!! Now the master would know what it feels to be a slave…” Amar said as the ship started tilting downwards towards the mountaintop, spearheading into it and exploding in loud flames. All the drones combing the ground automatically shut off. Everyone was still ambiguous about what transpired.

“What did you do?” Mantra asked Amar.

“(Groans in pain) Nothing much. I overrode their controls hacking into their amateur server and brought it down.” Amar said.

By that time, Shalia had regained consciousness and was trying to get up. Mantra went towards her to help her up. The three assembled as they started hearing loud cheers outside. They supported each other to walk outside and saw that everyone was celebrating the victory that they couldn’t comprehend. Then, all of a sudden, a cloud of gloom covered the village as a few people carried the woman-leader to the centre of the crater. She seemed to have been hit and was bleeding from her upper abdomen. They kept her down as people got in closer.

“Where is the invader?” she whispered to one of her underlings. They all made way for Amar, Shalia and Mantra. The woman raised hands towards Amar as he limped towards her. He got in close as she said to him “You… it was you who brought that demon down, didn’t you?”

“Yes…” Amar replied.

“I saw it. He did something with the flee and it came down.” Mantra interjected.

“(Gasping for breath) You are not a Dorian… What’s your name?” the woman said.

“My name is Amar… Well (nervously) it means immortal in English.” Amar replied.

“And the immortal shall set us free…” the woman said in a disappearing voice as she raised her enclosed fist towards Amar. He grabbed hold of it, as she dropped a glowing pendant in his hand. Her hand fell down as she seemed to have passed away.

“What is this?” Amar asked.

Shalia came walking behind him and said “That is the medallion-key to Shodia… it is given by one ruler to the next…”

“What… Wait… that means… I am a…” Amar said.

“You are our king now…” Mantra said as everybody bowed down in reverence of Amar.

***

A dark smoke-filled room, with the door slowly opening to show some light. Amar and Shalia walked in as she guided him towards what seemed like an enclosed cave-way.

“The path from this is to be traversed by the ruler alone. No one in past ever understand what’s inside. I wish you luck. In there you would know the weapon of our survival.” Shalia said.

Amar took his pendant off and inserted it inside a small hole at the centre of the wall. The wall started displaying illuminated patterns as it started sliding upwards. It was dark inside, so Amar carried a torch with him. The wall closed behind him. Shalia went out to wait for his arrival.

“What do you think Mantra?” Shalia asked.

“I think nothing. I just hope for everything…” Mantra replied. A few minutes later, they heard a sound. Amar walked outside with his torch and a bundle of books in his hand.

“There are just thousands of bookshelves inside covered in paper-preservation oils. There isn’t any weapon there.” Amar said.

“WHAT… It isn’t possible. You are the one who shall wield the weapon to defeat the Dorians.” Shalia replied.

“Well… I am sorry to disappoint you.” Amar said as he carried the books back inside. Shalia and Mantra followed him. They accompanied him inside out of rebellious curiosity and saw that there were literally thousands of concrete bookshelves built there.

“Everything is in Hindi…” Amar said as he started picking up and opening books out of random.

“They are the holy text… the weapon must also be here…” Mantra said as he vigorously started searching the place for some clue. Amar opted to join him and started throwing random books off their shelves. Shalia interrupted “These are holy books. Don’t mistreat them…”

“Okay, my apologies” Amar said as he started placing them back on the shelves. He then saw a strange-looking book covered with red paper. It seemed like a diary. He opened the first page which read in bold letters in Hindi- Bhavishya ke bhulaye kisse- Bhaag 1/9.

“What is it?” Shalia asked.

“This is strange… It reads the ‘Forgotten Stories of the Future, Volume 1/9’.” Amar said.

“It is no time to read stories… Find the weapon.” Shalia said as Amar tucked the book behind his trousers.

Their search failed as Amar returned with them back to his bunker. Mantra and Shalia went on with their daily errands as Amar started reading the book.

A few hours later, Amar came rushing out. Everyone was surprised to see his weird behaviour. He ran towards the cave again and Mantra and Shalia followed him. He started scanning the entire area for specific books. He grabbed one from a corner. His search continued while Shalia and Mantra stood questioning what he sought. He didn’t say a word and continued searching for hours. Eventually, he got seven more books. He sat down and started randomly reading them all. Mantra and Shalia kept inquiring but to no resolve. Suddenly, Amar got up and turned towards them “I know how to defeat them. Or should I say… defeat her.”

“What do you mean? How?” Mantra asked.

“These are specific guides as to when did it all begin and what exactly are the Dorians… The Dorians are not humans you see. They are androids. They are artificial beings created similar to humans on an organic level using genetic cloning technologies. And they were created by the rebel artificial intelligence program centuries ago, called ‘Mother’. The mother controls them all and began decimating humankind by erasing not just their existence but their purpose of existence. Their history, their language, their knowledge… everything. Initially, the mother was controlled by this crazy man who could communicate in Hindi. Hindi enigmas were used to encrypt it all and that is why it was the only language preserved. Over time, as humans forgot themselves and went downhill the evolution cycle, they simplified their security mechanisms and made it all very simplistic. I know what weapon we have to use against them. The weapon is there in my mind. Help me reach their fallen ship and we can defeat them once and for all…” Amar said.

“I just understood that we have to go to the mountain. But it is impossible. That place must be full of Dorian flees.” Mantra said.

“We’d hide and hike… don’t worry about it.” Amar replied.

***

The three had made their way near the Ship wreckage, hiding in the dark behind rocks and trees. The pace was crowded with drones. Amar got up to sneak inside the back entrance. He went and sat in front of the secure gateway. Mantra and Shalia sat behind him with their spears and swords, guarding his attempt. Amar connected his phone to the security panel and pushed some buttons to open the doorway. The sound of the opening alerted the drones nearby, which started coming in armed positions. Everyone rushed inside. Amar started trying to close the gate behind them, but the drones were closing in fast. The door started closing slowly but two drones made their way through. Shalia impaled one of them with her spear while mantra caught hold of one. The drone stabbed Mantra’s shoulder with a hook as he leapt outside “You guys go. I would stop them here.”

Amar and Shalia ran in as the door closed. Cutter blades started showing up across the door as they heard multiple screams of Mantra. They both helplessly continued running. Soon they reached the bridge control of the Ship. The panels were all powered off. Amar went and tried to reboot the system. As soon as the system restarted, the big screen in front started displaying weird vector visuals and sounding in a strange female sound.

“System reboot initiated. Uplink to Mother streamed. Waiting for handshake.”

Amar started scanning the room for cameras. He took hold of Shalia’s sword and went across all dubious and out-of-place glass panels and broke them.

“What are you doing?” Shalia asked.

“They shouldn’t see we are here,” Amar replied.

Amar then connected his phone to a digital input interface and started fiddling with the device again.

“Input breach detected.” the screen displayed as red alarms started sounding in the entire ship. Loud noises started sounding outside the ship. The drones were all assembling.

“I cannot go through. It needs a familiar signature.” Amar said.

Amar and Shalia started moving around in a panic when suddenly the alarms and sounds stopped. The screen started displaying a set of large blue eyes.

“Hello, Shodians… It has been long since I talked to one.” A voice came.

“That’s mother. We have to go or we be dead.” Shalia said in a frightened tone.

“You cannot leave already. The party is just beginning. At least wait for your host to arrive,” the Mother said as one of the side doorways slid open to reveal dense smoke. A shadow walked in revealing a human-like figure.

“This is Captain Dama to Mother. I am intercepting the intruders,” the man said as he took a huge jump and landed in front of Shalia and Amar. He grabbed hold of Shalia by her neck and threw her across the room. He started walking in towards Amar. Shalia started getting up as a huge drone appeared above her head. Amar hurled the sword towards the man who caught hold of it. He broke it into half and walked in closer to grab Amar by his neck. He raised him up. Amar started searching on the table behind him for objects of defence. He found an open electric grid and pulled the wires. He then stabbed the man’s ear-lobe with them. The man was electrocuted and fell back. The drone was alarmed and left Shalia to go for Amar. Amar ducked the drone and grabbed the broken part of the sword. The man got up and walked furiously towards Amar. Amar was sandwiched between them. He hurled the broken sword towards the man who caught it again.

“Unlike me… you don’t learn” he said. Then came a scream from within the smoke “Duck now.” The man’s attention was distracted as he turned back. Amar ducked down as a speeding spear came and impaled the man’s head along with the drone and nailed them to the metal wall. Amar immediately grabbed the broken upper half of the sword and stabbed the man’s throat. He groaned to death immediately.

Amar looked behind the man to find that a blood-clad Mantra was dragging himself through the smoke. He had apparently lost one of his hands fighting the drones.

“Unlike me… You dead.” Mantra said as he coughed blood.

Shalia went to help Mantra, who warned them against an impending invasion. Amar looked outside to find multiple ships hovering over them and a swarm of drones flying in towards them. He immediately took out a knife to cut the processing unit from the drone’s body. He took it and connected it to the phone. The screen displayed ‘Signature Recognized. Stream to Mother initiated’.

The windows showed the ships loading and pointing their weapons towards them. Amar hurried in typing through various display panels on the screen and on his phone. The screen turned back to display the mother.

“You are already erased… The fleet shall end your existence as well as any memory of you…” Mother said.

“Likewise,” Amar said as the screen started displaying “Master Override. Reprogramming initiated.”

“How much time?” Shalia said, holding Mantra on her lap. Amar looked out to see that the ships had loaded their blue plasma canons.

“Just a second,” Amar said as multiple drones entered the room and rushed in to attack him. He immediately pressed a button on the panel which read “Mother Program Deletion Initiated.” The drones halted midway and started malfunctioning one by one. All of a sudden, they all fell down and the ships in the sky exploded into bright plasma glitters. The screen display started dying with the Mother’s eyes still visible “It isn’t… possible… we… made… sure…” The display went dead as it all came down to perfect silence. Amar immediately ran towards Mantra and Shalia. Mantra had almost bled out.

“We won brother. Don’t give up yet. The life begins now…” Amar said.

“I… never give up. You two… never give up… for me. For Shodia…” Mantra said as he went silent.

***

Everyone stood at the centre of the village crater awaiting the people of the night. Amar and Shalia walked carrying Mantra’s corpse with them. There was sheer silence of remorse amidst the crowd.

“Shodians… Our great friend Mantra sacrificed himself in our war with others… But… his sacrifice has not in vain. He died protect the chosen one… Yes… the immortal… Amar. He has defeat Doria, Dorians and the evil Mother forever. Shodia stands victorious…” Shalia said as people started screaming loudly in joy. They came and held Mantra’s body above them and passed it along to their holy shrine. They then bowed down to Amar.

“We won…” Amar ambiguously said to Shalia as the celebrations continued.

***

23 Years later

The atmosphere of the Shodian habitats had changed and evolved. With Amar helping to build new technologies from old texts, it was now an uphill journey for them. Amar and Shalia had married, with Shalia taking the throne as the official leader. People revered her and Amar alike. Their daughter, Saisha, had grown up to be a rowdy teenager. Amar used to spend his time in the old cave-library, sometimes for recreational reading but mostly for deciphering old texts. He had taught many others to read and write in both Hindi and English. He used to sometimes sit in a hidden corner of the cave and recall his life before ‘The Lift’. He used to sketch his ex-wife and late daughter. Shalia and Saisha often enquired about them. Amar always told them how much like them they were, but how first circumstances and then God took them from him.

One night, when Amar rested in the cave, Saisha came up to him.

“Let’s go for a hike dad. You had promised. It has been weeks since you promised.” Saisha said.

Amar decided to take his daughter for a trek into the unknown forest to have his desired father-daughter time. They both walked for hours through the forest, when Saisha told him she wanted to take a loo break. He waited beside a tree as she went ahead to attend her nature’s call. After waiting for a few minutes, Amar said: “You done baby?”

Hearing no reply, Amar presumed Saisha was playing a game with him. He walked ahead and started desperately searching for her. After not finding her for the next few minutes, he got restless. He started screaming loudly “Saishaaa”. He got high on his nerves as dark memory recalls started making way into his head. Suddenly, Saisha appeared behind him “Look what I found Dad…”

“Are you crazy?” Amar said as he shook Saisha by her shoulder.

“I just went to pee dad. Calm down. Just see what I found…” Saisha said.

“Leave it be… let’s return home. It is getting late.” Amar said as he walked ahead.

“Already… Arghhh (opens the book). What’s this… Bhavishya ke bhulaye kisse- Bhaag 9/9” she said as Amar stopped walking. He turned around and grabbed the book from her. He opened it. The book showed weird sketches on every page. Then Amar turned to a random page which showed the sketch of an Elevator. Amar looked stunned. He kept turning the pages and the last page showed written in Hindi- “Amar”. It was his signature. Amar didn’t understand what was happening. He turned back to Saisha “Where did you find it? WHERE”. He angrily shook her shoulder.

“It was by that weird rock,” Saisha said as she pointed ahead. Amar hurried down followed by his daughter. He found a huge rock and walked in close to it. It looked strangely shaped and oddly placed.

“Where exactly?” Amar inquired. Saisha pointed to a place on the mud which showed the shape of a dug-out cuboid.

“Here…” Amar said as he started digging up the ground. But nothing happened. He soon gave up. He stood up and lost his balance, with his elbow falling on the rock. The rock sounded a hollow noise. Amar got curious. He started walking around the rock to its other side. Saisha followed. To his utter shock, he stood in front of the same Lift that had brought him there. It was covered in vines and weed. Amar took out his sword to cut it all off. He dusted off the door and pressed the button on the side panel. Nothing happened. He then asked her to step back as he inserted his sword between the doors. He kept pressing as the doors opened halfway. He slid through them inside the dark box as the medallion he was wearing on his neck got stuck and fell out. Saisha grabbed hold of it. There was no light inside. He pressed against the front wall to find buttons. He started pressing them. Nothing happened still.

“What is it, dad?” Saisha said.

“Nothing. Just an old forgotten memory.” Amar said, smiling while giving up his efforts. As he began to step outside, the doors suddenly shut.

Saisha became worried and ran to help her father out. Then, the light inside the box lit up. Amar was almost blinded. He started struggling to see something. The only thing he could first see was the display panel showing the numbers seven two nine two. The elevator immediately started descending fast. Amar started screaming for Saisha. He fell down on his knees due to the turbulent movement of the lift. It kept descending. Three thousand… two thousand… six hundred… one hundred… twenty… five… one… zero. The lift stabilised as Amar got up. He was perspiring heavily, still wondering as to what was next. The lift door opened as he took a gulp. A huge crowd started entering the lift immediately, dispersing him out. He slowly walked out when suddenly someone banged against his shoulder. He turned to the most frightful of sights. He saw a young and nervous-looking man walking inside the elevator. Amar gazed at him meticulously to find that it was none but his own younger self. He was shocked beyond recovery. He could do nothing but stand still as the elevator door closed. He then regained his senses and started wondering about Shalia and Saisha. He ran to the reception and asked “Excuse me… How do we get to floor number seven two nine two?”

The receptionist was amazed at the idiotic query. She looked at the oddly dressed man and presumed he was either a drunk or a maniac or both. She said to him “Sir… we don’t have those many floors… in fact… no building in the world has those many floors and possibly can have also.”

“No… I went… I just… that man just went to that floor number.” Amar said as the people ignored him. He then hastily went up to the elevator and started pressing the buttons. The receptionist called the security who came to escort Amar out. He kept screaming “He has gone up… He has gone up…”

“Sir, the most anyone can go up to is the roof at floor sixty-one,” the receptionist said. Suddenly, a huge bang was heard outside with the car alarms starting to sound. Loud screams were heard. The security along with everyone rushed outside. Amar slowly walked out. There was a large crowd surrounding a rubbled car. He saw from behind that a man’s bleeding body lay on top of it. On observing closely… Amar saw that it was the same younger self of his who had gone up. He couldn’t comprehend anything.

“But… he should have… how…” he said as he went breathless. Everyone around him started clicking pictures of the dead body and whispering as to how it must have been a drunk and crazy person. Amar was feeling nauseous, so he started coming out of the crowd. The book he had carried with him fell down. He saw and bent down for it. The book’s back cover had some more writings in Hindi. He involuntarily started reading-

“(In Hindi) Time and Fate are two independent yet collaborating bastards. Where time shall work in the strangest of ways for you… fate shall not let your happiness persist. Nevertheless… they both can be defeated. Only, if you are willing to not give up… Only if you seek to live for those who are yet to be alive… Only if you wish to be for them more than to be with them… Yours Faithfully, The Immortal who Chose to Live…”

Duality

Duality

At the break of dusk, the streets of Chandni Chowk, Delhi were reverberating with the sounds of celebration. Not of an event, season or festival; but the end of the day. There was something unique and special about this street. Each day ended with the inadvertent tribute to the completion of its monotony, so much so that the celebration had itself become a part of the monotony. Nevertheless, it was not something the residents didn’t look forward to. The mundane had to be done with, each day… everyday. Why? So that they could go back home to their families, have loud discussions with their kin, watch cricket matches in groups with their neighbours, loiter around in the street over tea mostly talking ill about the one who couldn’t come that day, and perhaps, for a change, in the midst of this robotic world… be human.

As the Sun lethargically made its way down the horizon, the excitement persistent in the street seemed to amplify. The vibrating noise of an archaic Scooter’s engine began cutting its way through the jolliness. On it rode a lean man wearing rugged formals, covered in sweat all around. His helmet’s colour had faded, his beard had aged silver and he was carrying a blissful smile on his face as he greeted everyone around him. They all knew him and he knew them all. “Assalamualaikum Azhar Bhai…” (Salaam Brother Azhar), “Aur Azhar Bhai…” (What’s up brother Azhar!), “Namaste Azhar Uncle…”, “Arre Professor Saahab” (Oh! It’s you, Professor Sir). There was utter happiness and warmth in the micro-engagement he was having with them all. He soon reached his home, got down from his scooter and removed his helmet to reveal his grey receding hairline. He picked up the polythene bags kept in the front of the scooter and gave a call to his daughter “Sana. Dickey se samaan nikal do mere haanth full hain” (Sana. Please get the stuff from the dickey since my hands are full). His daughter hurriedly took the packets out and rushed inside, pushing him aside. Azhar’s phone started ringing in his pocket, but his hands were full. As he drifted inside with a small bag in his hand and his helmet in the other, he took off his shoes at the shoe-rack kept in the small courtyard and greeted his wife and mother. He handed the bag to his wife, washed his hand and slowly walked inside the darkness looming in the small guest-hall of his house. He took his phone out to check on his phone and then kept it down on the table. He then turned towards his wife.

“Kya Hua? Bohot jaldibaazi mein lagrhi hai Sana” (What happened? Sana looks in a lot of hurry).

“Ji… Woh Ajay aarha TV pe… Hume bhi jaana hai” (Yes…That Ajay is on TV… Even I have to go) his wife replied. Azhar smiled and kept walking inside. His wife and mother slowly followed. His two daughters were sitting on the floor, peeling peas in a large metallic dish. In front of them was kept a small black and white television displaying a news channel.

“The young and dynamic author Ajay Srivastava has reached the award-ceremony and he’ll be here very soon. The 25-year old is one of the youngest to receive the Sahitya Akademy award for his excellent contribution towards cultural and historical literature of India. Also, we have heard rumours that he is ready with his sixth book entitled ‘Pashupati’. Yes, the long-awaited book is rumoured to be in the pre-publication process already. Look… Here he is… (A young and well-suited man came walking in front of the reporters of the press conference. The horde of reporters swarmed him instantly asking questions). Are the rumours about your new book being ready true?”

Ajay smiled and scanned the crowd in front of him. He then said in a composed manner “You’d get an announcement soon…”.  The crowd cheered up and a loud call was heard from amongst them “I love you Ajay…”. Ajay kissed his right hand and then raised it, waving at the crowd as he walked away.

“Abba… Kitna achcha hai na…” (Father… He is so good, right?) Sana said. She and her sister started discussing about Ajay. Azhar gazed at them with a joyful expression and said “Haan achcha hai… Par kabhi iski kitaabein bhi padhlo…” (Yes he is good… But at least read his books too). “Ji Abba. ‘Suryaputra’ ki copy issue Karli hai library se par waiting me hai” (Yes Father. Have issued a copy of ‘Suryaputra’ from the Library but it is in waiting). Azhar immediately went to his bag and took out a book from inside which read ‘Suryaputra: The Invincible who Lost’ on its cover. He handed it to Sana and said “Aapke liye… aaj hi ek colleague se li maine…” (For you… Took it from a colleague just today). He then turned towards the television. He zoomed his vision on to Ajay and kept staring at the television with a blissful smile.

The world in front of the television was humble, yet happy. The world beyond seemed magnificent and glorious. But, what about happiness? Yes, it did look happy to them all. Much happier than they could ever imagine for themselves. How can glory and magnificence be devoid of happiness? The elements of nature, in their dire ambiguity, trespassed across the virtual barriers of the telecast to observe the world of Ajay, who was now returning home after the award ceremony. As he walked past the carpet towards his chauffeur-driven vehicle, he was chased by hundreds of his fans looking for a picture or an autograph. He greeted them with smiles, signed copies of the books they brought with them and then sat inside his car. As soon as he did, his Universe changed colour. The cheerfulness outside was left outside as soon as he had closed his door on it. He was all alone in his luxury car, with no one to speak to. His smile faded just as the faces of his fans faded in the car’s mirror. The further he got away from them, the more he entered back into his very own reality. There was a hollowness succumbing him. He immediately grabbed hold of his phone to escape it and go back into his virtual life. He started seeing his pictures from the event and reading the news about himself. Soon, he reached home. The security guard at the gate saluted him and opened the humungous gate to make way for his car. He got out of the car to step inside his huge mansion. Two Siberian Huskies ran out and jumped on him to greet him. He freshened up and began cooking himself a meal. There was no one else in the house. Often, he gazed at the portraits of his parents, recalling times back in his hometown with them. “It is for you only that I’m doing all this”, his nightmares re-iterated his own phrases from the past. Neither could anything be for ‘them’ nor did he now want it all to be for himself even. But fame was now a drug for him. The thing harming him the most yet the only thing keeping him sane.

All of a sudden, he was reminded of something and dialled a number on his phone. The person didn’t pick up. He then constructed a text message reading “Please Help Me. I need it as soon as possible…” and sent it to someone. He received a response immediately “Yes, pick it up tomorrow afternoon”.

***

A loud alarm broke the silence of the morning chirps of the singing birds. Sana woke up in her bed while her sister continued sleeping. Their mother entered the room with a tray in her hand. On the tray, there were two glasses filled with milk to their brims.

“Arre ab toh Uth Jao… School Nahi jaana kya?” (At least get up now… Don’t you have to go to school?) their mother said.

“Aaj Tuesday hai na?” (Today is Tuesday right?) Sana said to her mother while yawning.

“Nahi… Wednesday…” (No… Wednesday) her mother replied. Her dullness was immediately overshadowed by an instant excitement. “Arre Sara utho… Aaj Wednesday Hai” (Oh Sara get up… Today is Wednesday) she said to her sleeping sister, who also immediately got up. They stood upon the bed and started jumping. Their mother tried to calm them down but to no resolve. They both gulped down their respective glasses of milk. The mother then went out of their room towards the kitchen. Azhar was standing in her path, right beside the small doorway below the stairwell. He was wearing his formal office attire. His wife put one hand on his shoulder and he immediately snapped out of his daydream.

“Aapka Tiffin pack kardiya hai. Aur ye list lelijiye. Aate huey lete aaiyega.” (I have packed your tiffin. And take this list. Bring the items while coming back) Azhar’s wife said to him.

“Chaliye main chalta hun Aparmita ji. Aaj ink bhi lane jaana hai” (Okay then I am leaving Mrs Aparmita. I have to get some ink too today) Azhar said as he picked up his back kept on the floor, took the keys hung beside the door and made his way towards his scooter. He kickstarted it and greeted his wife, and then left for his office.

Azhar was a high-school teacher of history at a small school in Delhi. His school lacked the luxuries and extravagance of modern five-star educational centres but faired well in the department of imparting education. He was a senior and reputed teacher in his school, so much so that he had earned the epithet of ‘Professor’. He began his usual schedule in the school until the Sun reached its zenith in the sky. It was time for the mid-day lunch break marked by the hammering of the school-bell. Azhar went to the staff room to have lunch with his fellow teachers. He sat down silently amongst them as they started loudly discussing their household chores as well as those of the school. The discussions included talks ranging from the treacherous instalments of their cars to the mischiefs of the students. Azhar observed them all in his silence as usual. They did try to involve him in their conversation. One of the faculties took a book out of his bag to show to his colleagues.

“Ye maine nayi nayi padhni shuru kari hai… Kaafi romanchak hai. Mahabhrata ke kisse hain ismein kuch aise jo mujhe pata hi nahi the” (I have started reading this one recently. It has some stories from the Mahabharata which I wasn’t aware of myself) the person said. Azhar’s attention was caught by the book.

“Ye toh Ajay Srivastava ki kitab hai na? Meri betiyon ko bohot pasand hai.” (This is Ajay Srivastava’s book, right? My daughters really admire him) Azhar said to the person.

“Ji! Kaafi jawaan lekhak hai. Main padhke aapko deta hun fir…” (Yes! He is a pretty young writer. I would give it to you after reading then…) the person said. The woman sitting across him looked at him with a strange expression. He stuttered for a bit and then continued speaking to Azhar “Par aapko itni samajh nahi aayegi na hi achchi lagegi. Aap dekh lijiyega” (But you won’t understand it nor like it that much). Azhar smiled at him and said “Meri betiyon ko achchi lagegi ji” (My daughters would like it, Sir). The person replied “Chaliye fir aaj school ke baad lelijiyega aap” (Okay then take it from me when the school gets over).

The school hours soon finished and Azhar started making his way towards his home. He stopped for a while at a small grocery store, then at a vegetable vendor and finally at an Antiques and Pawn Shop. After collecting whatever he needed to, he started his journey back home on his scooter. He entered the lively and rather living streets of Chandni Chowk and warmly greeted everyone around him. On reaching home, he took off his helmet and grabbed hold of his bag. His phone was constantly ringing but he couldn’t pick it up. He called out for Sana to help him with the packets. He went inside and heard the loud sound of the television and had a small chat with his wife Aparmita. He then went to his daughters and seeing them so excited watching Ajay Srivastava on television, he brought out the copy of the book given to him by his colleague. He gifted the copy to Sana as she started jumping with exhilaration.

“Par Usse Pehla beta ye batao ki tumko Suryaputra Karna ke baare me kya pata hai?” (But before that my daughter, tell me what you know about the Sun of God, Karna?) Azhar said. Sana held a blank expression on her face. Everyone stared at her for a while and then broke into a loud laughter at her cluelessness. “Thik Hai… Main batata hun” (Okay then… I shall tell you) Azhar said, inducing curiosity in the demeanour of everyone in the room. “Yes, Abba kitne dino baad koi kahaani sunayenge aaj” (Yes, Dad is going to narrate a story after so many days) Sana said in an excited tone. The entire family sat together in different corners of the little room, be it on the floor, on the mat, on the bed or the plastic chairs. Then, Azhar started his narration in his very own and adored style.

So simplistic was the world of Azhar where a mere gift of such a small magnitude could bring all the joy one could wish for their kids and family. It was humble but pure in all its forms. In the void of materialistic pleasures, they had collectively understood that they aren’t pleasures at all. The only they knew were the actual pleasures of life which existed in the smallest of moments of happiness. Whereas on the other side, Ajay seemed to have everything one could virtually desire as a means to a happy life. So, why was he unhappy? Perhaps n his pursuit of achieving ‘everything’, he could never retain the few things that actually mattered.

“Der horhi hai. Bacchon ko khana khila do. Aaj main der raat tak kaam karunga. Tumhari liye firni laaya hun” (It is getting late. Give the kids their dinner. I have to work till late night today. I have brought Rice pudding for you) Azhar said as he gave a small earthen-pot, covered with aluminium foil, to Aparmita. He then took his bag and went towards the stairwell. He took out a key from his bag and opened the lock on the door to enter inside. There was pitch-black darkness inside. He switched on the bulb to reveal the small dusty room, full of bundles of papers. There was a typewriter kept on a small table in front of him. He took out an ink ribbon from his bag and started replacing the one fitted inside the typewriter. He then sat down and loaded a paper and started typing something. His phone beeped suddenly. He took it out to see that he had received a text message reading “Please Help Me. I need it as soon as possible…”. He got lost in thought for a few seconds and then sent the reply “Yes, pick it up tomorrow afternoon”.

Continuing typing on the typewriter, he wrote the words “The End” at the end of the page. He typed down his name, “Azhar Sheikh”, in full below the phrase. But then he immediately cancelled it out by retyping on it. His hands became stiff for a while as he zoned out again. But after a while of contemplating something, he smiled and said “For my family” and typed something below the cancelled-out name. He took the piece of paper out and raised it up, revealing a name written in capitals below the overwritten one. It read ‘Ajay Srivastava’.

The End

-Azhar Sheikh

-Ajay Srivastava

-Rishabh Dubey ‘Kridious’

Make A Wish

Make A Wish

The Following poem is dedicated to the brave and beautiful children fighting for their lives against a terminal illness.
 
Wake up, O’ my little one,
A new dawn awaits your presence;
Come out and greet the Sun,
See the light in all its essence.

Yesterday, you won the battle,
Today, there is yet another;
Don’t let your will unsettle,
We shall fight all the odds together.

That dream you saw in your sleep,
I know it is still no different;
In your conscious, you’ve hidden it deep,
Yet it seems to be so recurrent.

Why do you resist it so much?
Why does it seem outlandish?
Don’t let it ever forsake your clutch;
The whole Universe rests on your wish.

Unchain your dream from the grief,
No matter how sharp is the rising slope;
Climb up to the beacon of belief,
And unveil the illumination of hope.

Let us know your dream and fantasy,
And we shall not let them ever perish;
Let us all take their responsibility,
And you fearlessly just make a wish.

Make a Wish and see it come true.
Make a Wish that you always dreamt.
On the dullest day, In the darkest blue…
Make a Wish, ‘Cause it’s not the end.

The Voices of Silence (2020)

Silence has always been looked down upon as an indicator of weakness or retreat. The World today is constantly clamouring and reverberating with an endless noise; and in this noisy world, Silence is not a retreat… it is an advance… it is not a weakness… it is a weapon. When we glance the world from the side-lines as mute spectators, we are inadvertently ignored and forgotten; but soon comes a time to remind the world that in those moments of Silence, we are the ones who have actually seen it all, know it all and are now ready to say it all.

‘The Voices of Silence’ is an initiative to give a platform of unhindered expression to the independent writers and poets of India, and eventually the World. Each and every one is equally entitled to this platform so that one can fearlessly and seamlessly say it all.

The Idiosyncrasies of Life (2019)

‘The Idiosyncrasies of Life’, as the name suggests, compiles certain unforgettably strange as well as prominent experiences, imaginations and observations of mine in the form of rhymes, songs, essays and stories. The feelings of dissent, approval, frustration, helplessness, admiration and love are all extremely overwhelming as well as delicate; therefore, they always incite the most honest and raw forms of expressiveness in any given person. In my case, it has erratically switched from poetry to narrations to random scribbles. Travelling thousands of miles and meeting thousands of culturally-diversified people, I realised that no matter how different we are, at the end of the day there is a latent coherence in all our stories. I want to comprehend that coherence and perhaps help you do the same. I hope you appreciate my honesty.

Last but not least, I do not aim to offend any sect, culture, race, community, caste, gender, creed, region, Etcetera. I don’t believe in any man-made disparities and my judgement is completely based on my opinion of what I perceive as right or wrong. Hope you have a nice read.

Krikos (2017)

Krikos (2017)

I opened my eyes and saw walls all around. The symbolism of a restriction… of a limit. The stereotypes were formed. The Universalities were decided, yet it could never be known that the only thing universal is eternity. There is no known limit to thought. Therefore, one particular day… I didn’t just open my eyes. I woke up…. and I saw nothing. Because when you see ‘nothing’ … then only can you create ‘anything’. I didn’t go by the stereotypes. I didn’t follow the norms. Novelty is a direct aftermath of Idiosyncrasy. The idiosyncrasy of thought that is. The majesty and impeccability of this novelty can be compensated only by this Vertical Horizon of thought.

Imagine yourself walking inside a vertical bicycle tyre tube. For you, the General horizon shall rise upwards. If two such tubes were attached perpendicularly and scaled to a hundred times larger than the Sun, with the radial hole inhabiting the Sun itself, then it forms the ‘Krikos’; And the horizon rising upwards will be the Vertical Horizon of Krikos.

‘Krikos: The Vertical Horizon’ is a science fiction novel comprising the various struggles of humanity in a futuristic idealistic environment. The basic interrogative is “When we have everything then would the urge to seek more die?” What when all that we have been working for, and moreover ‘living’ for, has been achieved? Man has always thrived on his strive to prove his self-importance. Will this make man succumb to the archaic irrationalities to generate this so-called ‘Purpose for Existence’?

In this book, two stories run alternatively in parallel, chronologically a millennium apart from each other. The first, that is the ‘Diaries of Flex’, is the story of the creation of the Krikos along with the plethora of conundrums and secrets involved. The second story, that is ‘Into the Dimension’ is the current scenario of the Krikos which is drifting rapidly through the corners of the Milky Way and exploring its different ends a thousand years after the events of the ‘Diaries of Flex’.

Can the anthropocentric man combat his basic urge to explore… his basic need to know more? The gravity of this query intensifies when man came across another intelligent organism.

‘Krikos: The Vertical Horizon’ contests many such queries and provides possible answers to all of them. But the answer doesn’t always mean a solution.