The Religion Called Pragmatism- Chapter Five: The City of Dreams

The Religion Called Pragmatism- Chapter Five: The City of Dreams

Ignorance… a quality condescended upon by many… but a dire necessity for the survival of many more. We ignore what doesn’t matter to us… and sometimes we ignore what matters most to protect ourselves. We generally tend to ignore the joy of those above us, and the pain of those below us… all so that whatever we possess neither seems less nor more. It is essential for the flourishment of atomic elements. One iota works isolated from the actions and inactions of others. The misleading apparition of the collectiveness of mankind is rebuked by his ignorance, often edging on selfishness; but aren’t intelligence, and the ability to uniquely perceive, formulate, create and recall the perfect alibis for this selfishness of ours. Each and Every is naturally selfish because of their intelligence alone. Our ability to comprehend differently at atleast the molecular level of perception testifies that we art ought to be ignorant of something or the other.

There are many of us who defy this natural ignorance, due to a more prominent trait of dominance. Then come obstruction, hindrance and imposition, the three elements of modern civilisation. When someone’s action or inaction directly or indirectly affects us physically, economically or socially, we have the right to discard that ignorance. Nevertheless, when someone’s actions or inactions have no affect on our lives, but tend to challenge our innate dominance, then, failing to present alibis for obstructing, hindering or imposing, some of us sculpt certain immaterial belief system out of thin air which in turn is being affected by it all; again, giving a reason to obstruct, hinder and impose. This was, is and will be how the civilisation survives through time. Not evolve though… For evolution, we need ignorance.

Veena and Amar had been the exemplar sibling duo, having little to no secrets from each other. That is what Veena believed. Amar carried a few secrets. No! Not just his habit of smoking. Although, they were very much related to it. Back in his school days, Amar was a bright and meritorious all-rounder. All thanks to the parenting by Sangram, who had learned it through the ancient art of trial and error, having gone wrong only once; but the virtual flaw existed in his conception and origin. Even though he was raised in a harmonious environment, the world out there wasn’t that pleasant for him. He carried the evil of belonging to the selectivetly and snobbishly despised ‘Scheduled Caste’. Yes, his name had created much more trouble for him throughout his life than Veena’s did for her. In the country of diversities, factions and collective identifications keep popping up every now and then at every street and corner. Belongingness to different faiths is, ofcourse primary; but even when religions are not dissimilar, people generally try to scrape up information to comprehend the sect and the class of the said person. The society is majorly divided by class, both economically and socially. It seems as if it gives some sadistic pleasure to the spiritual critiques in finding a reason to call someone different from them; and that difference is called out not just to divide, but to look down upon. Amar had been subjected to lot of casteism in his yet young lifespan. Sometimes a little too much to fit in that short while. He was too obliged towards the Bhagwati family to ever let them know of it; but the truth doesn’t take long to announce itself.


A small constable walked inside the Guest resting chamber to inform Veena of the early arrival of her brother by the passenger train. She immediately got up and started asking about his whereabouts. The constale told her that he was waiting outside near the first platform, seemingly ashamed to face Veena. She rushed outside in worry. Reaching there, she found Amar sitting on the bench with his head down on his laps.

“Amar…” Veena said lightly, placing her hand on his shoulder.

He rose his head, showing his dull red eyes sulking in guilt.

“I am sorry Didi… I have no excuse for what I did…” Amar said.

Veena had known Amar since his infancy. She knew that it wasn’t as simple as an ignorant mistake. She gently sat beside him and asked “What happened Amar? Tell me…”

Amar was trying hard to hold back his tears. He wiped the few droplets that had made through and gazed back at her, taking a moment to grasp the strength to tell her everything.

“I didn’t have to… I didn’t need to. Not today. But picked up the habit… It was back in school (sighs to gain vocal strength) I am ever indebted to Sir for getting me all the opportunities one could ask for in this world. I was educated in the best school… the biggest school of the city.  It sounds like a privilege and indeed it was for me. But… I carried an evil with me. The evil of my birth-caste. An evil I carried amongst the privileged. And that evil takes the shape of a self-destructing demon. It was not very bad in the beginning. You know, we were small… they were small and so was what they could have done to me. But soon, as we grew up… it kept evolving. Stealing my tiffin soon turned into spitting into it… Excluding me in the classroom changed to locked me inside the toilet… puring water over me to ‘clean’ the dirt my skin carries naturally changed into dragging me down and throwing mt into the swimming pool. Till when could I have fought back. Being with you all never taught me any societal differences and thus I never had the urge to find any community to belong to. But when I couldn’t see anyone who could see the world as I did, from where I did… from the lowest point in earth turning my head up to look at everybody else… then I became desperate to find someone who has felt the same. There was no one in my school. None who belonged to my caste since apparently, they don’t belong to such high-class schools. I used to walk home mostly, because the money which you and Sir gave for travel was mostly snatched. There was no teacher, no counsellor… no one who helped me. I turned to the Human Resources Department, and they assured me they would handle the situation internally. They even insited that I never told you people so that it might not grab media attention. So… one day I was walking home… I was going past this cigarette shop and I overheard two old fellows talking while smoking… about the money problems in their lives and how smoking helps them calm their stress down and helps them concentrate on business and family. I was immediately entangled. I waited on the side for them to finish smoking and the moment they threw down the bud, I discretely went and grabbed it. It had almost gone out and I could take just the one puff. I coughed and coughed like anything… Got a few stares even… a boy in school-uniform with a backpack on his back smoking some. After that, each day, I waited near that or some other cigarette corner for that left out bud… Never had the money to buy one and always hoping that today’s drags might reduce today’s stress. It never did. I presumed I need a full stick I think. So, I bunked the school one fine week to preserve some cash and went there to buy myself some cigarettes. The seller looked at me in judgemetn but still sold his stuff. I stood in the corner to smoke one… Nothing happened… I felt a little hazy and my throat started paining a bit. It felt like my insides are burning but nothing happened. I was still thinking about it all. I smoked another one… nothing. And another one… And you know what (cries) Nothing Happened at all… It never could help… I just became habituated to it. It still doesn’t help but what can I do? Even yesterday… I was trying to resist but couldn’t sleep without it. I went out and stood on the door and kept it in my mouth… but started feeling very guilty doing it because I was with you. I took it out and turned and there was this heavily built man standing beside me. Before even I could plead he started blaming me for smoking. He asked me my name and I told him. He asked me my full name then. I did that. He then asked me my caste… Seeing me reluctant to tell it… he started shouting on me saying “You low caste people… Firstly you infringe upon our reservations in jobs and education… and now you want to usurp our safety as well… How dare you come to the A.C.-3 compartment?” He then took me down at Vadodara and handed me over to the police there. What reservation did I infringe upon? I couldn’t clear the CLAT in the general category… even though I was getting a reserved seat. I didn’t take it. Not that I didn’t want it… but I wish to be normal in all ways. I want to pursue normally and be recognized normally.  I did clear AILET… and when I told a few people about it they presumed I had cleared it in my caste category… Why cannot I be normal? I don’t wish to be different. Everywhere… I am considered different. We eat the same, bathe the same, wear the same, know the same, tell the same, live the same… we worship the same… then why do they think us different?”

Veena stood speechless with red, teary eyes. She couldn’t contemplate as to how to react to Amar’s plight. She herself had a hard time dealing with her identity, but none in the domain of Amar. Amar never had the choice or the benefit of doubt of any side. He had to mandatorily go through the pain of having to bear of his societal status; and there wasn’t anything he could have done about it. Veena immediately sat beside Amar and wiped his tears off. She took hold of Amar’s hands and looked him straight in his eyes and said “You are quite strong Amar to have always kept that yourself without giving us a hint of it. You should always remember that you have us to add to that strength of yours and you needn’t rely on any material or substance for the same. No one and nothing, especially non-living, can hear you out, talk to you and tell you that you are an excellent human being and have earned rightfully whatever you own. Papa just presented opportunities to you. There are so many who overlook and ignore the opportunities presented to them. But you, you never took them for granted. And it is not just because of your roots. It is because that’s the way you are. And Papa knows it, and so do I. And (smiles) when I say I, I don’t mean your sister. I mean a teacher… a professor. You know what they say right, never doubt your professor.”

Amar cheered in that moment of psychological connection and smiled back at Veena.

“I am glad that you took so much of oppression head on without changing the way you are. I, myself would have given up long back and so would have anyone you know. Now, if you are going to make your old sister handle the quintols of luggage again, then maybe you would have a lecture from me again. Trust me, I am not known for boring lectures, but that one would definitely be the most boring of all.” Veena said in a composed tone.

Amar got up with a positive expression and went to grab the luggage.

“By the way Didi, who said “Never doubt your professor?” Amar asked inquisitively.

“Oh! That… I keep repeating it again and again in my sessions. Although, I am really sceptical of the statement myself (giggles) since there are certain professors out there that require incessant doubt due to their knowledge and the way they became professors in the first place.” Veena said in a whimsical tone.

“Hahahahaha… So, where are we heading? Same old Kochi?” Amar enquired.

“I realised, Kochi is still far away…” Veena said.

“So where then?” Amar asked. Veena turned and looked at Amar, and heaving a heavy sigh, said “We are going to… Mumbai…”

The Religion Called Pragmatism- Chapter Four: The Train

The Religion Called Pragmatism- Chapter Four: The Train

Intellect… something humankind has defined as its individual, singular and exclusive property. Yet, has time and again failed to showcase it. Definition perhaps is not sufficient for display. This property has been subjected to so much egotistical acute streamlining that it led to the coalesced definition of ‘Intellectual Property’, which presumably represents belongingness to a particular individual or human organisation. Intellect, primarily and supposedly only exists in humans. But what makes this intellect of ours? What defines an intellectual? There are several factors… Starting with Logic. Logic is basically channelled by isolated or collective perception. What we perceive should apply in the respective situations. That defines logic… the practical way to approach a given scenario. Only logic can help derive an inference and a possible method to fix a problem. When there is nothing logical evident, then the predominantly logical try to weigh in the probabilities to come about some kind of significant answer. Nevertheless, when the logical simulations are equivalent in weight, are evanescent to an extent comprehensible for the observer or are apparently incomplete, then we come to the scenario we refer to as confusion. Oh Yes! Confusion… the second most imperative factor defining intellect. An intellectual is more often than not also a seeker. They pursue the path to the solution incessantly; and in that pursuit, they are struck with confusion very frequently. That’s because they do not want to make an unaware choice; and thus, they seek to unbalance the logical weights. Furthermore, in scenarios where logic is scarce, there are also those who procreate their own logic out of thin air. They represent another category of intellectuals… the most handy and rugged of all of them… that is the self-proclaimed one.

Veena and Amar had officially left on their conjoint vacation of exploration. Why? Because the former was going through her greatest phase of confusion and self-analysis; and more importantly self-doubt. Veena was perhaps the most sceptical of beings to have ever taken the job of a professor, a job which is innately full of sceptics. Her cynicism had led her to pursue ancient and medieval history as her majors, the subjects in which she found thematic resonance concerning the exploits and lessons of mankind. To know more was all she had ever wished for and had thus embarked on this journey. And also, she needed a break; and who could have been a better travel companion than the ever-cheerful ward of hers, Amar. Ofcourse, he had put his semester at stake but that was the least he could’ve done for the person he idolized the most in his life, Dr. V.R. Jacobs. Sangram had also refrained from contradicting the sudden decision by Veena since he could very well understand the gravity of her ambiguity. Even though the length and duration of the journey was too much for the old Veteran to ward off his inner worries, he had given his blessings to the two for their route of exploration. Where were they heading to? They were heading for the peaceful, loving and educated state of Kerela; for its capital, Kochi (Ernakulam) to be precise. Sangram had insisted on them having some orderly to accompany them on their forty-two-hour long journey in the prestigious Trivendrum Rajdhani; but Veena assured him that journey in a first-class private cabin needn’t require a Sevak for security and/or service.

The decision to set-foot on that exploration was a bold one on the part of Veena, since she had never ever hinted at the need to know more about her natural heritage. All religions she knew but couldn’t understand, all the saints she ever heard of but could never relate to, all the Gods that she was told about but could never know, all of them along with herself and Amar were oblivious to what had just begun… A journey unlike any other which mankind had witnessed for a long time…

The train had already passed Vadodara but the Ticket Examiner had not yet appeared, maybe not to bother the First-Class passengers early on in their travel. Veena had bunked on the lower berth after going through a dozen electronic submissions by her students on her laptop. She had also seen Amar climb on top of the Upper Berth, and being positive about him being secure, she could gently nod off. It was around 3:30A.M. at night when she heard a knock on her cabin. About time she woke up to show their tickets, confirm their identities, and also quench the thirst that she had been having for an hour. She asked the TTE to come in. The latter respectfully smiled and asked her name.

“I am Dr. Veena Jacobs and sleeping above is my brother Amar,” she replied as she grabbed her bag to take out their identity cards.

“No need for the IDs ma’am, we don’t want to bother you so much, just go back to sleep again” the TTE said in a gratifying tone. Perhaps a demeanour they hold only for the First-Class passengers. Well, who wants to come in the bad books of someone who has a couple of thousand bucks more to book a ticket, right? This was something exclusive about the respectful Indian Official mindset. Before the TTE left the Cabin, he turned towards Veena again and said in a polite tone “Which washroom has Sir, your brother, gone to Ma’am, left or right?”

Veena got confused at that query and stood up to check the Upper Berth. The sheet, blanket and pillow were all haphazardly curled up, just like Amar was habitual to doing; but there was no sign of him. She anxiously said “Oh! I don’t know, I didn’t see him leave”.

The TTEE offered to look for him. Veena, worriedly discarding her worry for her bags went along with him to either ends of the Bogey. They waited outside the only occupied WC to find that there was someone else inside and not Amar. The TTE respectfully asked the man for his name, while Veena was lost in wonder. The man replied, but the name wasn’t there on the TTE’s list. He politely asked for the ticket, and the man nervously started searching his pockets.

“I just had it… maybe I dropped it in the washroom.”

The man looked doubtful, so the TTE asked him the details of his journey as well as his seat number. The man had no reply and looked taken aback. The TTE then shed his generous First-Class façade to confront the man and angrily told him to get off the Train at Vasai. Meanwhile, Veena was trying to grab the TTE’s attention towards her situation. The official asked her to patiently rest in her cabin as he searched for her brother since he had a bigger situation at hand. The argument with the man started increasing in verbal and audible magnitude, waking up all the travellers in that Bogey. Veena took the opportunity to go across the carriage to inquire about Amar; but to no resolve. He was nowhere to be found. Her restlessness overwhelmed her and she was about to grab the chain when the TTE stopped her. He told her that the train is stopping at Vasai soon and they can get the Railway Police to help her out, an offer generally reserved for the First-Class passengers. Veena stood at the door awaiting the station’s arrival. It was about 3:55 A.M. when they reached Vasai. The TTE went down to inform the supervisors about a missing first-class passenger while also taking the illegal traveller to hand over to the Railway Police. Veena stood at the door but the TTE didn’t return. She got startled when the Train sounded its Horn and ran back to her cabin to grab her and Amar’s belongings and rushed down the moving train. She had no time to gather her breath as she wandered here and there to look for the Station-Master’s office. She dropped the luggage and busted inside the room with the constables outside having barely begun to convince her otherwise.

“Madam… My brother, Amar, he is missing… We were travelling in this train and when…” she was interrupted by the lady.

“Who allowed you to come here? How can you lambast inside my office like that?” the Deputy said.

Veena saw the ticketless man from earlier sitting on the chair in the corner, with the TTE standing beside him with a small pie of cash in his hand, appearing to be counting it.

“You… you said you would get help…” Veena said as she approached the TTE.

Arre Ma’am I was getting to that only… (to the Deputy) Madam (with a strange expression) she is the one I was telling you about. The first-class passenger whose travel companion is missing. Dr. Jacobs (to Veena) right?” he said in an alerted tone.

The words First-Class resonated inside the deputy’s head just like it does in the impressionable mind of an Indian Cleric.

“Oh! Yes Yes. Madam you sit down. I will get in touch with the police staff in the train to search for him. Let me make some calls. And (to the TTE) go submit this man’s penalty at the office. Go, what are you looking at? (To her orderly) Get some tea for madam.” The Deputy said.

“He doesn’t have his ID as well… I kept it in my bag since he is too reckless. He is a kid… Where can he be?” Veena said.

“Don’t worry madam let me call the controller and see what we can do. We would find him…” the lady said as she dialled a number on her mobile phone and started talking. The other lady was unaware that Veena was a multi-linguist and was well-versed in Marathi as well. She put down her phone and asked Amar’s ID to circulate a picture. Veena did that. After that, there was an awkward silence marked by the humming of the dysfunctional table fan kept beside the Deputy. To break the pause, she tried to make small talk “My mother has a sleeping disorder… She either sleeps too much or doesn’t sleep at all. The local physician says it is due to menopause. What do you suggest?”

“Apologies ma’am I am not the best person to answer your question?” Veena said.

“Oh! Why (smirks) Donation or Dentist? Or both? Don’t mind I am just joking” the deputy said.

“Neither… Double Doctorate in Medieval and Ancient History” Veena replied.

Arre Arre you are PHD. Very nice and rare too. My son says he wants to do PHD in psychology. I told him to go for history. Who wants to study the science of madness? Right?” the deputy said.

“Madam, no offence… but can we concentrate on finding my brother?” Veena said.

“Yes we are on to that… (her phone rings) Must be about him only… See” she said as she picked the call.

She started having a serious conversation on her phone and got up from her chair. Veena was constantly lending her ears to the deputy. All she heard her say was “Vadodara?… A.C. Compartment te Cigarette Odhata Aahe?”

Veena looked pale as she heard the conversation. She was now more worried about Amar than ever. The deputy kept her phone down.

“Amar is at Vadodara station detained by the RPF. He was caught smoking near the AC-3 tier Lavatory. He has been charged with creating public nuisance and was not carrying any ID or ticket with himself.” The Deputy said.

“But this isn’t possible. He is a good kid. I assure you of it.” Veena said.

“What can your assurance do to help me Madam? Tell me, how are you two related again? You said he is your brother. His name here is Amar Kumar and yours is Jacobs… I don’t think you two can even be distant cousins… Why were you both travelling in the same cabin again?” the Deputy said with a suspicious expression.

“What are you implying ma’am. He is a young college going kid who lives with our family. I have seen him grow. He is my brother. Be it not by blood…” Veena said in a commanding tone.

“Please don’t raise your voice in front of me… It won’t help your case here. Smoking in a train is a heinous crime… Specially near the AC Compartment. I have seniors to answer to. And this case is out of my jurisdiction.” The Deputy said.

“So, you mean to say there is nothing you can do to help me?” Veena questioned as she got up from her chair.

“I cannot. Only the staff at Vadodara can. Now it is very late in the night. I think you should go and figure it out. Here take your ID cards” the deputy said pushing the cards kept on the table towards Veena.

“By the way miss… What kind of a name is it? Veena Ratankumari Jacobs? What religion do you belong to?” the deputy asked.

“I don’t know… That’s what we were trying to find out…” Veena said.

The deputy looked confused. Right before Veena was about to gather her stuff to step out of the room, the deputy received another phone call “Kaye?… Ho… Dr. Veena Jacobs… (To Veena) Ek Minta Thamba… (On the phone) Kaye? Sangram Bhagwati?… (To Veena) Your self-proclaimed brother has just claimed that he lives in Delhi with you and your father, Sangram Bhagwati…”

“Yes, we do…” Veena nodded.

“(Calls her Peon) Om, take madam to the waiting room. The Air-Conditioned waiting-room. (To Veena) Arre Madam you should have said so before. We always take good care of the families of our own and specially that of Veterans of the force. You don’t worry. Your brother would be here by 7 A.M. in the morning. Do what… you take the A.C. guest resting room for the while. We will sort this out…” the Deputy said.

Veena was escorted by the Peon to the resting chamber. So far, it had become quite evident to her, the dire significance of apparent status. Now, she was not being troubled by the difficulties that Amar might have been facing. The entire scene she had witnessed… the sadistic diplomatic dominance of beings whenever they find the freedom for it… and the sycophancy of the same when they don’t find any such liberty… it was all troubling her very much. She kept lying down on the rugged bed with open eyes, with her mind dwelling in a plethora of thoughts. The more she thought, the lesser she knew… Her journey had just begun, and the destination had now started seeming farther than it ever was. What would it take to end her quest? What can possibly end the turbulence?

The Religion Called Pragmatism- Chapter Two: The Rum God

The Religion Called Pragmatism- Chapter Two: The Rum God

“Come out… Your bail bond has been paid…” said a polite female cop to Veena, who sat on the lonesome red chair in a room. Unlike common pictorial depiction, the jail had no adverse effects on her well-being or get-up. With her boy-cut and well-kept hair, her sports shoes and her formal attire, she looked the same as she did when she had entered the station a few hours ago. No dried-up tear-trails on her face. She was engulfed in thought. The cop had to repeat herself. This time, Veena heard her quite well. She got up and walked up to the door. Seeing the tall professor bend a bit to walk past the door, even the cop assumed an informal façade and exclaimed “You outstand most of those of your Gender… right?”

Veena nodded. But then she questioned “Don’t you mean women? You are one too right? Then why didn’t you say ‘women’?”

Arre Madam, Aap Bhi, that was just small talk. But yes, point noted. Now let’s go. Your father awaits you outside,” the cop replied.

“He had to come himself? He is an ailing man. I told him not to leave without my permission,” Veena said worriedly.

The constant urge to be of aid amongst the cops of the station was an aftermath of the Veteran Police Commissioner. The octogenarian celebrated ex-cop, Sangram Bhagwati, had himself come to the rescue of his adopted daughter. Their bond was more than that of a regular father and child. After Amara’s demise, she was his sole caretaker too. The ailing old man had a stringent medicinal schedule. He was constantly battling Arthritis, Osteoporosis, Spondylitis, High Blood Pressure and Diabetes. Thus, he had to stick to his wheelchair for most of the day. Due to the dedicated care by Veena, his only son, Vidhyut Bhagwati, could lead his desired carefree life as a bar-owner in Las Vegas. The NRI Bohemian serving drinks to other immigrant Bohemians in a faded corner of the concrete jungle… well he was living the Great Indian Dream. Veena, on the other hand, had never resorted to dreaming. For the woman of curriculum, dreaming was not a dire necessity and rather a distraction. Her eidetic memory testified against Charcot-Wilbrand syndrome. She willingly never dreamt… and if it so happened by mistake… she never fantasized over them.

She escorted her father back to his vehicle. They both sat together and had a little chit-chat over the ever-corrupt and sycophant state of police-affairs. Sangram sighed in relief, for Veena was the recipient of the latter. The chauffeur gently drifted ahead through the clique of media representatives. The dramatic intensity disturbed the silence with its soundlessness. Soon, the gravity was broken by the foremost remark “Why are you so worried about it? This is India… People would be stupid… always… nothing has changed since my time.”

Veena was lost in wonder. It took her a while to realize the sentence and she gazed back at her father to question him “What is my religion?”

The question had only and only touched Sangram’s eardrum, but it seemed as if the strangers outside, the non-living objects, the chauffeur and the lifeless sedan had all lent their uninterrupted attention to hear the answer.

“Why do you ask? That’s the first time you’ve ever asked it…” Sangram said presuming a philosophical façade.

“I don’t know… I just want to know. What is my religion?” Veena questioned again.

“Well… I am not sure how to answer that… Vikrant… take a turn towards Sharadji’s place. We’d be visiting the temple beside his house. Maybe if we ask Godmen the same question with your interesting backstory, they might answer. I mean… if they don’t get confused themselves…” Sangram exclaimed with the car then changing its route.

Within a few minutes, they had arrived at the temple. Sangram was made to sit on his wheelchair again. Veena rushed forward, leaving the other two a little behind. She then suddenly turned around to question “Whose temple is this?”

The question was first intercepted by a vagabond.

“HaHaHa…Whose you ask? Then I think You’re in the wrong place…” He said.

“What do you mean?” Veena asked. The other two had now arrived at the scene.

“I need money… You give me money… I tell you stuff…” He said.

“Take this…” Veena said as she grabbed a two thousand rupee note from her bag and gave it to him.

“What are you doing beta?” asked Sangram.

“No Papa let him say…”

“It is yours… yours alone… when it’s not… it isn’t anyone’s… it is either everyone’s… when there is God… or it’s no one’s… when there’re just bricks.” The vagabond replied.

“He sounds drunk… He even smells of it… you shameful creature… why are you in a place of worship so drunk?” Sangram murmured angrily.

“Makes lose mind… for some… makes say the truth… for some… makes forget pain… for some… poison for some and Elixir for some…. That’s the beauty of Rum…” the vagabond added.

“What is your religion? You’re not Islamic for sure…” Veena said.

“My religion you ask? It makes me lose my mind… yes it does… but I don’t mind losing my mind… I am not Islamic… It makes me utter the truth like the Soma… to say my heart out… but I am not Hindu either… It makes me forget the physical and mental pain… as Jesus had wished for it too… but I am not even Christian… But whatever I am… I would accept only all I am… and none that I am not… Would believe all I know… and reject all I don’t… ” the Vagabond said in a dizzy voice.

“Then What IS IT?” Veena lost her cool.

“Go away… catch this… payment for stopping this nonsense” Sangram said, hurling his 9oz steel flask towards the Vagabond. He caught it and opened it to smell some liquor inside.

“Whoa…. My religion is Rum… and You’re my God… YOU’RE MY GOD… YOU’RE MY GOD…” the vagabond said and ran away jumping and falling at every other instance.

“Let’s go inside Veenu… The Godmen await us…” said Sangram as Veena helped him through to the edge of the stairs.

“Wait Sir… let me lift you…” said Vikrant.

“Why don’t they have a separate inclined for the specially-abled?” Veena asked.

“Well… I think medical science has reached such advances that they presume that handicapped might not get the right solution for their conspicuous queries to God…” said Sangram. “We would wait here… you go ahead beta” he continued.

Veena climbed the indefinitely long stairwell to reach the central spot of the temple. The huge queue waited to ring the bell hanging above and further pay the donation box to join hands in front of the idol, have a normal Q&A with the priest and receive the sacrament. The queue moved forward faster than an ATM queue. It was soon Veena’s turn.

She questioned “There are drunk maniacs roaming around the temple. Isn’t that blasphemous?”

Vatsa drinking isn’t a crime till you commit a crime after drinking.” Said the Priest.

Punditji then why is drinking considered bad?” Veena asked.

“Exactly… it is considered bad… just like abusing, smoking, overeating, everything is… But… a fine line between bad and wrong.” The priest replied. The people behind verbally mentioned their anguish for the bhakt was taking a lot of their time. It was usually a one-word scenario. But… Veena had questions. Though, before she could ask them, the priest gave her the Banana Leaf full of sweets and she was gently pushed away from the queue. She slowly came down. Her father awaited her and immediately asked “So what is it then?”

She clutched the banana leaf in wonder, almost crushing the sweets inside. But before she could throw it… there came an adolescent beggar. She dropped the food in his hands.

“Did you get your answers?” Sangram asked. “No… Not at all….”

The Last Hope (A Sci-Fi Story)

The Last Hope (A Sci-Fi Story)

A massive stroke of wind gushed through the dusty roads of what seemed like an abandoned and isolated town. It was though not as waste-clad as one would presume since the debris had either withered away or had become one with the stationary. There was no sign of any life anywhere. The absence of any traces of beings indicated how the place had long been deserted. A squirrel came out of a small opening to the sewer. It moved about for a while, searching for something to eat. The window-pane that lay behind her slightly gave way to reveal a dark pair of eyes staring directly at the little animal. All of a sudden, the window slid open as a woman, with her face wrapped in cloth, jumped out towards the squirrel. She chased the animal for a while. Then, a large number of humans started barging out of the different structures and corners of the block. They were all wholly wrapped in rugged clothes and were all chasing the small squirrel. A riot began amid the road as more people kept joining and jumping on each other, beating each other down and trying to grab the squirrel.

Suddenly, the public address system attached to the posts started sounding a substantial and long Siren, the sound of which could’ve rendered anyone deaf. The vast mob immediately started dispersing in a terrified manner, trampling over a few who couldn’t carry themselves well. The stampede left behind a few of them crippled, unable to reach back inside. The Siren went on for a few minutes and then became silent. No one was coming to help the fallen. The woman observed from her window-pane as the injured looked towards one side of the road with terrified expressions. They cried out for help, but no one listened. The winds started gaining pace. Everyone inside rushed further indoors. What followed was an enormous dust-storm. It continued for some time, causing no conspicuous damage to the buildings and other structures. They had apparently become used to it and had shed whatever they could have. As soon as the storm subsided, the woman slowly walked back to the window. She was shivering as she dared to look at the ones who had been left behind. They were all dead, and their bodies had turned black as if charred.

“Three more lost… They could’ve been fed to the scavengers…” said the young and muscular man standing on the window-pane beside her. She slowly turned back and walked inside. She then slid open a wooden cover on the ground, revealing a stairwell. Walking down, she reached a dark and small basement.

“Aasha…” she whispered as her sound reverberated.

“Aasha…” she repeated louder after hearing no reply. A small warm hand came and clasped hers. She took out a solar torch from her coat-pocket and switched it on. The light revealed a little girl sitting beside her in the dark. She was wearing half-torn and saggy clothes but had nothing covering her face.

“How many times I told you to cover your face?” the woman said in anger, as she looked for cloth in the little room.

“But… I don’t need it you told me…” Aasha said.

“No… but the world needs one on you or else they’d be afraid of you…” the woman said as she picked a ripped piece of cloth and started wrapping it around Aasha’s face.

“I feel Hungry, Mother…” the young girl said.

“I know… The storm hit before we could get any food. I’d be going out again soon. Did you finish the water-bottle I gave you? Preserve it. Asmit is acting weirder every day. He might not let many take their share of water next time…” the woman said. A rattling sound started coming from above immediately followed by someone saying “SCAVENGERS…”. The woman quickly pushed the child to a corner of the basement.

“No matter what happens… DO NOT MAKE A NOISE… AND DO NOT COME OUT…” she said while shutting her lamp off. She then climbed out of the basement and shut the lid, putting broken rubbles to cover it up. Everyone had gathered near the windows again. Outside, two black motorcycles had stopped, each ridden by one person. They both were completely covered in grey bodysuits which extended as helmets over their faces. They took out some electronic devices from their backpacks and put them on the road. Inside, everybody had picked up a piece of wood, knife, sword or any broken piece of equipment they could’ve used as a weapon.

“I have never seen such scavengers before…” said a young man standing at a corner of the building in which the woman stood.

The two riders were doing something with a signal-dish on the ground. One of them walked up to the charred bodies of the people who had died earlier. The other one said looking at their device “Radiation is low here… So is the groundwater… We can stay here but cannot extract for long.”

“Radiation is low… No Kidding… These are freshly burnt… We should expect company” the other one said while gazing at the charred bodies.

“Guess what… this place reported merely seven hundred thousand cases at peak…” the one sitting at the computer said.

“They must have migrated to the camps long ago… Damn, I feel hungry…” the other one said.

“Grab me that bar when you take one for yourself. I would do a pulse mapping of the place. We then move ahead. Sounds cool?”

“They have food…” said the muscular man standing inside the building. The woman looked at him and whispered: “Please do not do anything foolish Asmit…”

“Sarita… Why do you fear fights so much? Don’t you have that little girl below to feed? Feed her well, or she’d become too weak… and possibly scavengers’ food…” Asmit replied.

Sarita looked back at him with anger. He then gestured towards some people to come forward with their weapons. He reached inside his pocket and took out a revolver.

“Asmit… Where did you?…” Sarita questioned.

“It is just the two of them… We apprehend quick and steal whatever they carry.” Asmit said.

“And what about them?” Sarita questioned.

“We leave their fate outside… Storm or the Scavengers… whichever comes first.” Asmit replied. He then quickly opened the door, pointing the gun towards them. They were both startled. A crowd gathered behind him as he slowly walked forward.

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Beyond The Pandemic: A Journey of Self Actualisation

Beyond The Pandemic: A Journey of Self Actualisation
 “The Greatest pursuit is that of finding oneself.”

Millennia worth of efforts in enhancing the comfort and convenience within our households has brought us to the world of today; a world presumably ready to fight obstacles of any magnitude. Nevertheless, in our incessant attempts to improve the external, we somewhat lost track of everything that is within us. This is not a tale of fiction or a euphemistic or eulogistic account, but a brief narration of experiences of the pandemic of 2020 from my perspective.

It all began on the 14th of March, when all of a sudden, my University announced that it was shutting its classes indefinitely. Although the fear of the virus was prevalent yet it hadn’t yet materialised for any of us at a personal level. The rumour of a nationwide lockdown started making rounds, coercing those from outside Mumbai to book their tickets back to their hometowns. I did the same. Coming back to my family under such circumstances was both relieving and worrisome since their fears became mine too. The pandemic hadn’t spread to a large extent in India till then. Yet, the uncertainty was terrifying. Though, not as terrifying as the thought of isolation and loneliness.

The pace of life today has made it robotic and monotonous, all the while making that monotony inconspicuous with the veils of ambition and achievement. At the beginning of the quarantine, we all resorted to virtual socialisation trusting the tested deft of the digital. It sufficed for some time, but after a while, it started feeling unnatural to me. Virtual could be a momentary substitute for the real, but never a replacement. Soon, my online classes and courses ended too. It was then that began my actual quarantine; one filled with solitary thinking, introspection, experimentation, and the pursuit of true and unrelenting happiness.

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To Those Independent… And Those Not

To Those Independent… And Those Not

This wish of mine might be offensive to some. I would come to ‘whom’ and ‘why’ later. Firstly, let me start by saying Happy 74th Independence Day to those who have been independent for the past 73 years. I am excluding a few. Why? Because I don’t think they are independent. At all. Curious? Let me elucidate.
Most of us are celebrating 73 years of Independence in our households with a general consensus of being free within the house. Look beyond that consensus. It veils the plight of the mother, who has surely not been independent for the past many years; that of the grandmother, whose only chunk of freedom lay in her ailments and age, which one day had her excused from the duties of a household slave. A patriarchal world can never be totally Independent.
Talking about patriarchy, look towards the daughters now. Maybe your family is quite forward and has not placed any restrictions on their children. But what’s the gut feeling you get when a young girl in your house wants to go out alone after it is dark? If it’s that of fear, I am sorry to say that she is not independent. There is a rape reported every 15 minutes in the country. We cannot imagine the number of incidents not being reported. More than 50 lakh cases of crimes against women were reported in 2018 alone, including acid attacks, domestic violence, molestation, rape, Etc. Those who are afraid are not independent.
Coming to fear now, there are still those in the country who are victims of fanatic violence. There are so many who are expected to ‘prove’ their patriotism merely because of their religion. Furthermore, there are those who are consistently facing the barriers of caste, language, etcetera. If you are afraid to speak your mind, if you are afraid of going to certain places, if you are afraid of socialising with someone else, if you are made to feel lesser than anyone else who calls themselves ‘Indian’, if you are still to find your identity within this nation, then you are not Independent.
Identity… Yes… For more than 70 years, many of the people in India didn’t have an identity at all. If you exist but are told that your existence is illegal, I don’t think you are at all free. Even after winning the ‘legal’ battle, the one that exists in the social sphere is greater. Our society doesn’t understand the LGBTQ+ community. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have had to make a separate community in the first place. If insults are hurled at you, if there is a social boycott against you, if just generally you are not considered ‘normal’ because of your gender identity or your sexual orientation, I am sorry but you are not independent.
So, this is just a summarisation. There is so much more we can talk about. Firstly, just like me, if you have not personally experienced the aforementioned, congratulations, you are independent. We generally tend to assess the world from the level of comfort and support it is providing us, ignoring others along the way. That brings us to why this wish of mine is offensive to a few. Many fear that in the process of making the world comfortable for a few others, their own comfort might be usurped. They are the ones who get offended by the very idea of someone else’s plight, simply rebuking it. They either corroborate the differentiation by re-iterating it viz. ‘Girls should wear longer clothes’, ‘If you are not free here then go to XYZ country’, ‘We gave ‘them’ reservation, they are the privileged ones’ or ‘How can you love someone of the same gender?’, Etcetera; or they take offence and start abusing you for seeking freedom and in this case even me. These are the ones who are definitely independent in the country. So, once again, to those who are independent, it is time to compromise a little of your comfort for the freedom of others. And to those who aren’t yet independent, the fight is not over. Jai Hind!

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.

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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”.

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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!”

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