Literato '21: A TQR Publication

  


  
SHORT STORIES


Clockwork Hearts: Sabarno Sinha
 
The chilly wind splashed on her face the moment she opened the door. She was used to having someone stand in front of her, guarding her from the biting cold wind and instead warming her to the toes. But these days, the familiar warmth had gone. The cold had only intensified and would now have her hair stand. 
He entered in his usual sing-song voice. The voice she had loved since college. He glided these days. And his voice had lost its musical charm. 
She closed the door and turned to face him, back against the door. It was warm inside but not warm enough to remove the chill that had gone through her. She looked at him as he went about the living room in his ordinary gait, doing the exact same things he did one year ago. He took off the muffler, the jacket and the sweater, put it on the dining table, went to the basin and washed his hands and then came and sat on the couch, opening the newspaper, demanding a cup of tea and an increase in the heater’s temperature. 
Usually nobody would notice these small details. Besides, did it matter much if he had stopped washing his hands? Or not asking for the heater’s temperature to be upped? Or not drinking tea anymore? It shouldn’t have mattered much to her and yet it did. 
Everything was the same and yet, nothing was the same. 
She looked at him, imploringly. For some reason, her eyes welled up and she desperately wished for something. She could see him there on the couch, one leg atop the other, reading The Times of India and yet, she couldn’t see him truly. She didn’t want him to be there. She would rather read all the books in the library they had built together and die of sleeplessness. She would rather slit his throat and let him bleed to death. She would rather go out naked in this blizzard and never return. She would do anything but see him in their home again.
“Why are you looking down, dear?”, he asked. 
She realised that her head hung down. It’s what she always did whenever she was crying. Her long hair would hide the entirety of her face and make it easier to get done with all this melodramatic business. 
She sniffed and looked up at him. Through her blurry eyes, she could see him there. Brown trousers. Pale shirt, untucked. They had done the moustache so beautifully, just the way he used to keep it. His hair was just the way she remembered it: long, wavy, shoulder-length. She would play with it after their tempestuous sessions of making love. It calmed her. At least, it used to. 
“I’m fine”, she managed to say. 
“Should I get a cup of tea for you?”, he said with fake concern. 
She had enough energy for a smirk and even though she didn’t want it out, she forced herself to, because she wanted to ask something; something she had asked before but would still love to. 
“Why does it matter to you?”, she croaked. 
He stood up. Perhaps, he knew that her voice had reached that pitch which required standing up from the other end. 
“Because I have to take care of all your needs”, he said as was right in this situation. 
She wanted to smirk another time but this time all that came out was a cough. She eyed for water in the room but there wasn’t a single bottle. Water dripped from the wet jacket on the table. It dripped ever so slowly and she wanted it to stop. She hated equilibrium, rhythm; things happening at a steady pace, mechanically; water dripping at the rate of one drop per second. 
“Can you really?”, she forced out of her mouth, looking at the droplets throughout. 
His expression didn’t change. He still had the same face as he did when he had returned.
“Technically, I can’t. But I have to do it to the best of my ability.”
She helped herself to the nearest chair, putting her head in her hands. She knew it was of no use but still she asked, 
“Can you take both our lives and get done with this?”
He came closer to her. He knew what to do at what times. He had learnt this over the six months that he was here. 
“I am here to help you. If you can take care of yourself, I can go away from here”, he said as was expected.
The jacket was within arm’s reach. She took it and tried to fold it. He didn’t have any body odour now. She felt cheated as she looked at him, his straight abdomen. No fat, no paunch, nothing. 
“Then why would you be here?”, she demanded beseechingly. “You know you can’t help me. Why can’t I just forget him?”
He pulled another chair beside her and sat down. He knew that this was the time when he should place a gentle palm on her arm. But he didn’t expect her hand to recoil in horror at his affection. 
“It’s because he asked my organisation to send you a HUMANOID.NOSTALGIA SERIES 3000 model if he should have died suddenly. On 23rd March 2025, at the anti-segregation protests, he…”
“YOU DON’T NEED TO BLOODY REMIND ME”, she shrieked and threw a glass at the door. It smashed into pieces there and with it, she broke into tears. 
The robot was programmed to repair anything that had been broken. Immediately, he went to the site of the crash and started picking up the pieces of glass. 
“Don’t!”, she cried. “You’ll get hurt!”, she begged, as though asking for forgiveness. 
He was crouched at the spot. He turned his head to a humanly impossible degree and said, “Oh, but I won’t.”
She slowly moved towards the door where she had seen him for the last time. She had asked him not to go that day. She had always been afraid of what they would do to him. She had begged him to think about the family and their lives. She never knew that even after they graduated from college, college would never leave him. Closing her eyes tightly shut, she tried to picture him there. The biting cold, the chilly air, the fires across town, the smoke from all the debris. 
“Don’t go”, she had said with one hand on her breast. The other gripped to his strong arm. 
“Did you say something?”, the voice promptly replied. 
She looked at him. His eyes, his face, his posture- it gave nothing. She was enraged. At that moment, she wanted to do something that would remind the humanoid that it could never be a human being. It could never be her Rahul. 
“I should have tried harder to keep him indoors that day. I knew they would be bringing the army that day. Shouldn’t I have?”, she asked the robot. 
“No”, said he curtly. 
The tears stopped flowing for a moment. Her brows frowned. She had not Rahul 2.0 to use whatever it had for a brain or heart. She stared at it in disbelief. 
“What are you even saying?”
It stood up, recognising the tone of her voice but would not dare come closer. 
“Well, based on the memories and feelings of Rahul, I can tell you that he didn’t want you to hold him back. He wanted you to accompany him to the protests, like the old days.”
She couldn’t register the words. And when that happened, her vision zoomed out, in a way. She couldn’t focus on any one thing in the room. 
It continued, “His last thought was and I quote, ‘I wish we died rebels, not robots.’
She couldn’t face the robot anymore. She couldn’t bear to see that face anymore. She was losing breath. She couldn’t feel her pulse at that moment. It seemed as though something in her had stopped whirring and creaking. She couldn’t breathe. Leaning towards the door, sweating and looking for breath, she used all her energy to open it. 
The bitter wind pierced through her skin. She could see vapours as she breathed. She was alive. Was she? She wanted to tear the mouth that spoke those words. She wanted to dismantle that ‘thing’. She wanted to burn down the house. But most of all, she felt something that had been locked inside for a very long time. Something she was afraid to confront, to let loose, to face with all her strength.
It was disgust. For herself. 
As she faced the darkening twilight, she saw the glimmering stores in the distance. Where they took surveys. The expanse of trees. Where they put posters. The mall road. Where they staged plays, took beatings, rebelled. She could figure out that yellow police station where they had been beaten together. She imagined the banyan tree in the centre of their college where their lips had first met while practising sloganeering.
She had forgotten when all of that had stopped. But as the metallic drone inside of her stopped, she realised what she had lost. 
She yanked the door shut behind her and walked towards the fading light of the gloaming. As a solitary tear fell onto the frozen road, she absorbed the deathly chill of the town that she had not felt in a very long time. 


D-Day: Paushani Mukherjee 

The chilly wind splashed her face the moment she opened the door.
It was like Mother Nature had decided to reciprocate to the image of her heart tonight. 
The house seemed painfully empty; almost trying to press at her rib cage and the similar vacancy underneath it that was beginning to overlap her conscience and rationality.
Leela wiped her face against her shoulder and sniffed at the sombre temper. 
The clock in the living room ticked away as her estranged heart started feeling heavier; heavier and lighter at the same time. It was a feeling she couldn’t quite put a finger onto.
Leela had been lonely most her life but now she was all alone. Her core felt heavy with a rainbow of alien emotions that Leela had no clue how to handle. Her hands shook and teeth gritted from a lot of emotions but she told herself it was the wind that was coming in through the open door. Leela’s feet had frozen in their place, facing the swinging branches of the trees and sobbing wind outside. Even though her face still felt itchy and her hand numb from the tight grip around the trophy, still dripping beads of moisture onto the floorboard, Leela refused to turn around and face her freedom, her guilt.
And then it happened. The pain of realization at the pit of her stomach found its way into her throat and onto her lips. Into the howling of the storm, Leela let out a blood curling scream that made her insides burn with a murderous pleasure and her hand to lose grip. The heavy metal hit the threshold with a mute noise that drowned in the noise of the heavy rain. Leela let out another shriek. This time she saw her life flash in front of her eyes.
Walls adorned in medals, shelves racked with trophies, her mother’s proud smile -- her mother’s proud smile that she would climb mountains and steal stars for; her mother’s smile that she rarely ever saw except for when she would cut wounds into her arms and admire her work; her mother’s smile that kept getting more and more expensive; her mother who was never satisfied. Even tonight; even tonight when she had brought home the Student of the Year award, her mother only beat her up with a cane because the principal had already called her to let her know Leela had stolen it from her peer, Kiran. No matter how much she tried, she could never be good enough for her mother. And tonight she had had enough. And she knew she deserved that award more than any Kiran could, then why? Why couldn’t it be her? 
Her mother had scoffed at her, lying on the floor, too weak to move and began to walk away when it took over her.
She was tired of being looked down at, tired of never having friends because her mother didn’t think anyone was good enough, tired of trying so hard for someone’s approval, tired of never getting it, tired of being envious of her peers -- she knew she was better -- than getting the love of their mother so much easily than she could think of and before she knew it, her hand reached for the trophy she deep down knew, she deserved. But it was something else along with it. Her anger? Humiliation? Sadness? Sense of imprisonment? Or was it all of it?
The image of her mother’s sinister smile flashed behind her eyes and adrenaline coursed through her veins.
“Mama-“ She choked out, the lump at the back of her throat made it hard for her to breath. She tried to get up on her feet. “Mama”
But she didn’t turn. She didn’t have to.
The next thing Leela knew, the wind was cutting through her face and drying the wounds on her face, making it itchy. She couldn’t tell the blood on her face and hands from her own, it all looked the same, tasted the same.
The air reeked of salt and palpable gloom.
A laugh bubbled up her chest and pierced through the shroud of silence in the room. So piercing, even the corpse in the room seemed to shudder. 


The Neighbour: Reema Dhar

A melancholic, grim and dark moment descended, as he placed his head against the window in the train and when he watched the rain swirling down, his thoughts spiraled down the memory lane, leaving him dizzy and almost hypnotic. His face disclosed an expression of exhaustion, when a terrifying scenario of the dreadful past and the bloodshed World War II dawned upon him and how the benign ghost of his childhood followed him till his living days. On recollecting the bleak memories of his mother crying out for help, he abhorred the bullet shots which ripped his world apart and left him like a forlorn, disowned child.
“Can you show me your ticket please?’’ asked the ticket master.
“Where are you heading to?”
“Down South, at Tournedos Street.”
“Meeting Family or moving in?”
“I have been employed at the Mozart Publishing House.”
The morning was a cold, cloudy and a rainy day causing an eerie atmosphere.
Ralph felt a sense of suffocation as he walked out of the train and the heaviness in his heart and the screams of the past almost paralyzed his movements, as if he was stricken with a crippling malady.
“Mr.Hollins?”
“Yes, Mr.Ralph. I have been waiting for you. Follow me, I will lead you to your room.”
 As Ralph took the lift with Mr.Hollins, he felt his heart sinking in palpitations and the awful stench around him caused him to become nauseous. Ralph took the keys, walked briskly and unlocked the door, took a puff of his cigar and laid down with a heavy head, until he heard a strange sound next door and his face lighten in amazement. 
“A piano? Somebody is playing a piano? I have a neighbor! Thankfully, I have company in this weary building. Maybe I should go visit my neighbour or at least greet and introduce myself.” Ralph washed his face, changed his clothes, walked out and knocked at the neighbour’s door.
“Hello? May I know who is in here please? I’m Ralph Chapman. I was wondering if we can get to know each other.” The piano suddenly stopped and Ralph felt a strange cold air around his feet. Ten minutes of silence and Ralph left the scene. The next day Ralph returned home from work late in the evening and as he was preparing for dinner, he suddenly heard his neighbour singing and playing the piano. It was a voice of a lady. Her voice was so melodious, soothing and intoxicating, that it intensified Ralph’s emotions. His loneliness was won over by her voice and it filled in the void of destitution, erasing the peculiar gloom which afflicted him. Finding her voice irresistible, he ran out swiftly and started knocking at his neighbour’s door but still, there was no response. He decided to take a peek through the keyhole and was amazed when he saw a bright room, filled with colors and musical instruments and he saw a woman dressed in pale green, with her hair let loose and playing the piano. 
Ralph stood up and said: “Hello Ma’am. I’m Ralph Chapman. I was wondering if you could let me in and allow me to listen to your music. This may sound absurd but I would like to see you.” The piano stopped and he heard her sing in a soft, unclear voice, “see me through my eyes, see me through my eyes”. 
Ralph was stupefied and took another peek but the women vanished.
For the next few days Ralph was immersed in her music as if he was in a trance, forgetting all his painful days and memories. She was his remedy. But on one Sunday evening, Ralph felt uneasy when he did not hear his neighbour play or sing. He felt strange and ran out and knocked at his neighbour’s door again.
“Hello Ma’am? Are you there? I am sorry but I was hoping if you would like to meet me. I just want to see you, please”
Hearing no sound, he decided to peek through the keyhole. But to his surprise, his vision turned bloody red. He couldn’t see the bright room, the piano or the woman but just a plain bloody red sight before his eyes, as if someone took a brush and with one stroke painted his world red. Ralph felt his heartbeat increasing in that horrid atmosphere and he almost lost his consciousness, when Mr.Hollins tapped him on his shoulder.
“What are you doing here son?”
Ralph shrieked and said “Nothing. I was just wondering if I could meet the lady inside, she plays her piano wonderfully.”
“Lady? What Lady? There is no lady here.”
“There is. I have been hearing her sing and play the piano every day.”
“Nobody is here.”
“There is! I am telling you!”
“Son there is no one here. Let me show you.”
 Mr.Hollins unlocked the door and Ralph was appalled to see the dark room in complete ruins 
and destruction, with nothing around except debris of broken woods and shattered walls. 
“What happened here?” asked Ralph.
“Thirty seven years ago there lived a lady here Miss Huang Lee. She was very fond of music and was a very jolly and beautiful person. Some European soldiers came in and raped her and while she was still alive, they burned the whole house down. When people came to bury her, her body was left mortifiedand blood red tears were rolling down her cheeks. Since then nobody lives here.”
Ralph was thrown in a dismal state of fear and shock. His throat became dry and his mind went numb and blank. With the song playing in his head, he was placed in a petrifying situation, when he realized what he saw was terrifying and failed to fathom the laws and forces of nature.


Soch: The way of life: Suyog Dange 

This story is a small episode that occurred between a corporate manager and his cab driver. 
This Manager is very loyal and hardworking towards his work and always has been tried to contribute his best for his organization’s growth. On other hand he has been always trying to make fulfill all his family’s demands and expectation from his family. 
Once the Manager was provided by the cab facility from his company. 
This driver came from a very poor family. But he was a very humble and loyal person. He and his family have to face various financial challenges daily in his life. Besides being a driver, he used to work at other places as well to earn money.

Day 1:- The driver came at the correct time to pickup the manager. Soon the manger came but with an off mood, driver dared and asked him about it. He was having complaints about his life and job. Further while conversing, the driver told the manager that he started learning Japanese language for joining a tourist company.

Day2: As a routine, the driver came at the right time to pickup the manager. But today also the manager was complaining about his job and the working hours of his company. There was something different for the driver to tell the manager and it was about his wife, she had started a dosa stall with lot of varieties.

Day3: The driver came at the daily time but today he had to wait for much time as the manager was late. Like routine today also the manager again came with bad mood. He didn't even talk anything for about half an hour. The driver again tried to know the reason behind the silence of the manager. All of a sudden the manager shouted on him saying, I am tired of my wife, every corner of my life is filled with stress. The driver played the role of good listener and then told him not to worry as every time come and go. Continuing the same he told that in the morning he had started selling fruit juice in some garden and so asked the manager for some business tips. Although the manager was a poor listener here and thus didn't replied anything. 

Day4: As always the driver came at the right time and again the manager came with a new complaint. Today he was complaining about the apartment lift of his flat also he was so stressed because of office work, he was sweating even when the AC was on. He shared with the driver that he don't have any support from his family members, he started complaining about each and everything of his life, concluding that whole world is not supportive. The driver was also having something different today as well to share with the manager and he started telling the manager. He told on the drought affected land he again started farming in his village. As like routine this time too the manager ignored his talks.

Day5:- The driver came at the right time and manager sat in the cab. Surprisingly, the manger asked the driver to take a different route and told him to drop at some other place. The driver  found this suspicious and so started following the manager after dropping him at that place. What the driver felt was right, the manager was going to suicide. After seeing those situations, the driver went near him and said:-
'Sir, I know you were ignoring to what all I said in these many days, but I still kept on telling you with my whole dedication. In last 5 days there were a lot of things in my life too which were hurting, which were painful, there were quarrels, there were sorrows, but Lonely told u all the positive sides that happened, doesn't matter how much small that positive things were.
You live in an apartment and I live in a room with 6 family members. You work 9 hours a day and I work for 14 hours. I am paying the loans as well as the monthly rent, in spite of knowing the fact that there is no fixed monthly income. Ideally, if you see I should be at your place, but I am not because I live my life on a hope'.
Saying this the driver went away and the manager for the whole day kept on thinking and realizing about what all the driver said. 
Fortunately, the driver came as a God's sent angel in the life of the manager to show him the correct perspective of seeing his life. The result was seen on the very next day itself, when the manager had transformed in a completely changed person. Who started living his life full of satisfaction, happiness, with the attitude of accepting the challenges and sorrows and most of all he started facing the problems rather than running away from them. 


The chilly wind splashed on her face the moment she opened the door: Sumedha Ray 

The chilly wind splashed on her face the moment she opened the door.
S knew she was being silly. 
It was just another one, not like she hadn’t done this twenty times already. If the day did not bear any fruit, she would again start the next day with renewed hope.
She felt a derisive laugh emitting within herself as she knew she didn’t have the option of giving up. So, the only way left was the way forward. 
She had no plan B for next year.
She walked out of the washroom stall; hands shaking, sweat ruining the thin coating of makeup off her blemished skin. She saw a boy sitting on one of the chairs lined in front of The Room. He had his head buried in his hands, his spectacles in his right one, perhaps mirroring her feelings. She saw another girl nervously tapping her chair. 
She felt her heart leaping out of her body as the door opened and the boy who went in last came out, looking quite despondent as he took off his blazer and walked out without waiting for the final judgement.
She felt sorry for him. She would still wait if she were in his place, clinging on to the last ray of hope. Hope was the only thing she had left now. Even if she didn’t get through today, even if she became the victim of pilloried laughs again, she had to walk again.
She had no plan B for next year.
She went and sat beside the nervous girl who was the last scapegoat for today. She wished her good luck as the girl walked in, pallid and looking like she would faint any moment now. 
As much as S was tense, she felt she was nowhere close enough to what others were feeling. She had gone through this process so many times, it didn’t affect her as much as she thought it would. She was unnerved, not sick out of dread.
However, as she waited for the girl to finish, her mind went back to fifteen minutes prior. Maybe she spoke too fast, her English lacked eloquence, her posture too stiff. She couldn’t blame herself fully though. The panel of three were daunting and viciously intimidating, firing question after question. She was used to this. After twenty odd similar ordeals, your negative emotions dulled down to a throbbing ache from an excruciating internal panic. She was able to face some, dodge few and remain perplexed on a couple of them.
But she didn’t regret anything she said. She had studied enough, practiced in front of the mirror enough and now she was hoping luck would be her best friend today. She had enough of Hope’s friendship.
She was tired of standing on the precipice of the unknown, tired of jumping everytime and drowning or getting swallowed. For once, she wanted to float, swim to the edge and reach her destination. 
The door opened as the girl came out, looking relieved with a hint of smile that wasn’t visible before. 
It would take a few more minutes before anything happened.
She went back to her own world, having no idea if she would make the mark. She had mixed reactions churning in the pit of her stomach. She opened her phone - the screen cracked and worn down. She  reminded herself she would gather up the courage and ask her father for a new one if she got in. She had just this year to fall back on.
She had no plan B. 
She didn’t want to get married. Not yet.
The door opened again and they were all ushered in. Taking a few deep breaths, she walked in with the rest of the candidates. They were all made to sit down in a crescent shape, facing the guarded smiles of the panel.
One of them started speaking, proclaiming how wonderful it was and how everyone was a winner even if they didn’t manage to get in. She knew all these recited talks very well so she repressed a loud sigh despite the tense environment. She just wanted the results. 
She would treat herself to ice cream if she made it.
After the talks, the paper that held her destiny was picked up and the names started pouring in a painstakingly slow manner. There would be seven people selected over the twenty seven ones.
She could see the bespectacled boy looking like he would retch anytime as he grasped the armchair, his knuckles turning white. She could see the other girl, eyebrows furrowed and full of conviction that she was making it. 
She felt an odd calm sensation swim through her as the boy’s name was called out and he closed his eyes and let out a deep sigh of cry as he leaned against the chair and claps poured in, not very enthusiastic. She saw the girl’s resolve crumble as five names got called out, none of which seemed to be hers. She felt a tinge of morose but she knew this wasn’t the time to pray for others. 
She had prayed enough for others. She wanted this to be her time.
The lady in the panel clapped for the boy as her name settled on the paper once again. She looked up and made eye contact with her. She couldn’t figure out the motive behind the smile. Was it pity and regret or genuine and heartfelt?
“S. Congratulations.”
At that moment, she didn't care to notice if the last name had been the other girl's. She didn't care if her father said no to the wish of a new phone. She didn't care if she was marrying a year later or ten more so.
All she knew was that she was going out of the building with her head held high, tears in her eyes to the van that stood on the pavement next to the concrete structure and enjoyed the company of some delicious chocolate ice cream.


Some Meant To Be’s Aren’t Forever!: Yashodhara Bose

The chilly wind splashed on her face the moment she opened the door. Maggie, grabbed her bike and started cycling. She let the music from her phone’s playlist calm her mind. She always felt, music had the power to change anyone’s mood. Especially after watching her parents yell and embarrass her again in front of a third someone, she really needed to get some fresh air. It’s been 20 years, even though she has gotten used to her parents constantly blaming each other for everything that goes wrong in the family and creating a scene in front of possibly anybody, she still somehow feels claustrophobic sometimes in such a dysfunctional family. She always thought her father is to be blamed because he is an alcoholic but whenever she made that accusation in her head, she always felt guilty thinking about his past, where in his childhood, his father used to hit him and did not let him pursue his dreams, his mother was a lunatic, his sister committed suicide and his brother used to steal money from him. She then used to reason out the fact, that his life has been so miserable, that it’s okay if he drinks and takes it out on his family since different people have different ways of showing their grief. Maggie felt she and her sister, can not give up on their father because of his traumatic past but she never understood why her mother wanted to stay in such an emotionally tortured relationship. Nothing was left in their marriage, they haven’t shared one nice conversation in over a year, they argued about everything every day.
However when the sun set, Maggie, returned home after her evening exercise in the nearby garden at 7 pm. She found her dad snoring on the sofa, she could smell the smoke of cigarettes in the hall and the bottle of whiskey, almost empty beside him. She couldn’t hear the TV sound which usually comes from her mother’s room as she watches her favourite serial every day at that time. So she knocked at her door to find out what she was doing instead. When her mother, didn’t reply, she pulled the handle and went inside to find all the lights switched off. She could hear soft sobs coming from the bathroom, so she rushes to find her mother, sitting down on the floor, with her clothes half torn as if someone brutally pulled her. Her eyes were heavy with the constant crying and she didn’t have to ask her mother who did this. This wasn’t the first time, her parents were fighting. On most days, she wouldn’t care because this was a usual episode in her house but some days she really wanted her mother to stand up for herself and walk out of her marriage and this was that day. Their fight escalated to such an extent that they both started hitting each other to the point that their clothes got torn. Maggie couldn’t hold back her tears seeing her mother in this condition and begged her to leave this house immediately. Her father is a good man but circumstances have made him the way he is and she can not choose between her parents because they love her equally but her mother has a choice, she does not have to continue to live like this. She deserves better, she deserves a person who respects her. She is growing old, she needs to be taken care of, she has done enough for her father and this family but if he is not reciprocating the same love and care, she needs to take a hint and fight for herself. Maggie, walked out of the room and went straight to the hall to confront her father, when he didn’t wake up even after yelling his name a couple of times, Maggie, put water on his face, to get him back into his senses from the intoxication of alcohol. She asked him, ”Why you do what you do? Don’t you love mother? Why can’t you change for us?” But when she didn’t get the answers she was hoping for she decided it’s high time to change the dynamics of her family now. She told her mother, if she was in her place, she would never want her kids to go through what Maggie and her sister have gone through over the years, this is not a healthy family and they all deserve to live better and in peace. She asked her mother to set an example for her so that if in the future, her husband mistreats her, she finds the courage to stand up for herself like her mother. Maggie’s mother found the strength she was looking for in a really long time, she realised despite her failed marriage, she and her husband have raised their kids well so its completely fine if she needs to end this marriage now. She called her friend, Elena, who is a civil lawyer and fixed an appointment for finalising the divorce.
It's been 2 years, 9 months since that horrifying day of Maggie finding her mother lying on the floor in distress and her father estranged of emotions drooling on the sofa. Now she and her sister, stay with their mother when their father is working overseas and with their father when he is in the country. Their mother had opened up a school for teaching women music. On the other hand, the loneliness, Maggie’s father felt when he was working overseas and when he stopped receiving constant messages from their mother checking up on him, he reduced his drinking to once a month and tried to reconcile with their mother every time he came to pick them up from her house. They aren’t a family anymore but they have found a way to live a life where everyone respects each other and gives each other space and peace.


POETRY

The Fall of Twenty: Adrita Dey

It was dusk.
The father was cradling his child,
Pacing the balcony
Humming a lullaby
When the cool wind hit his face.
He sneezed.
And his one-year old slept motionless in his arms.

Like wildfire it spread
Sprinkling cyanide at every doorstep.
They said they smelled death.
He smelled nothing.
They said they tasted fear.
He tasted nothing.

Then pages turned
But the day was the same.
Wake up, have a bath,
Water the irises and pray for slumber.
He did this day after day.
Again.
And and again.

Summer passed.
So did rain.
Then came the changing fall.
With time they believed soon there would be away
To end this darkness for once and for all.

He watered the irises.
They would bloom
Just when they should.
The door was open
But the breeze would enter
Only when it should.

The pages turned,
One chapter to the next.
The story wasn't over.
Not now.
Not yet.
And chapters were not meant to be skipped.



Red Roses: Debangana Das

do you remember the red roses on mother's aanchal,
big as our faces then,
i loved that saree so much that i always had it wrapped around me,
it always made me feel safe,
the smell of her talcum powder,
the touch of her warmth.
mother was always so beautiful,
and baba used to call her, his gulaab.
and her smile would bloom like one too.
but todaymwhile cleaning the old cupboard,
sister, i found the old saree and realized the roses weren't pretty afternall blood rednin colour they
had thorns, entangled that pricked my finger.
and i remember the rose red bruises on mother's talcumed face,
the jingle of her gold bangles mingled with muted cries for help.
hernlong hairs pilling like the night,
tied around baba's wrist, a serpent preparing to strike and us sister,
we were kids in search of better days,
engulfed in cartoons and children's games,
and somehow the revolution stucked away in mother's saree slipped past our eyes,
like a glass marble that rolls away under
the wood cupboard.
the roses, sister wept blood and therefore were red,
and fought tirelessly night and day,
till one day,
it had horns that finally could pierce skin,
and mother's hair was no longer,
touching father's skin but were serpents
instead.
they hissed
a silent warcry,
mother kept softly hidden
behind her red rosed petals.



Dust that Settled: Prodipta Mandal

Is this dust, or is this me? 
For, I am not quite sure of what I see. 
In the mirror that stands before me, 
I stare with utmost uncertainty; 
At the layers that have detached “Me” from me. 
There are Words that were never meant, 
Words, thrown in vain from the mouths of the unworthy, 
Words, that now neither hurt, nor do any good, 
But just cover myself from “Me”. 
And there is Time, spent on moments, 
That now feels temporary, 
Time, which has woven me like ancient cobwebs 
And do not let the light of vision enter within. 
Then there are wishes that never came true, 
Maybe because they were not meant to be. 
Their remains are like an undesired veil 
That further makes me feel empty. 
Marvellously, all it takes is a gust of wind, 
To blow away all the dust, clear both the mirror and my mind, 
To see that the dust never settled on me, but my vision, 
And all I needed was a way to find. 


Life's Caprice: Rusa Bhowmik

Of incomplete dreams and wishes—
Tales of white weddings and perfect kisses.
We wanted to be so happy
All in love, the newlyweds,
Wanted to be poignant and verily sappy.
Never putting down or comparing—
Be each other's bridesmaids,
Wearing white and purple in your wedding
I was supposed to mix pink and teal
A little yellow, maybe if I will.
Like a fairytale, flamboyant and giddy.
How we construed our future to be,
Defining moments in diamonds and pearls
Exquisitely refine and ornate
Of precious fortune so delicate,
Sweet sixteen excited to see how future unfurls
You wished for identical twins
And unfolded such imaginative scenes.
A splendid job to do first
And then shall we think to marry
And with kids it will be the last
Of checkboxes, to tick all in a hurry;

Everything to be sorted by twenty four,
Forgot to calculate seventeen was before.
The team broke, you left rather,
None of us had known better any further.
The period of our everlasting friendship so brief,
A lifetime promise to be there forever,
So naive were we to forget death's endeavour.
Now, I am wishing everyday to overcome this grief.
I hope you found your dreams and peace in afterlife,
Death snatched you away to be his muse or wife.
Else, why would the need to depart,
You left at sunset, I am dying in a rut.


If: Amrita Ghosh

If the endangered species have to be saved,
Ways of their survival have to be paved.
If here people remain to be knave,
One would soon meet his grave.
If men don’t stop to poach and slaughter
They'll lose friendship as dear as daughter.
If the world has to be made better—
If man changes himself he can be a gainer;
Else every time he would be a loser.
If we make every creature dear,
Then from us they have no dear.
If man learns this message simple,
Then everyone on earth can smile with a dimple.


Darkness helped me when!!!!: Ananya Pahari

Darkness had  helped me ,when…
Sunshine had bid adieu to me
Darkness helped me when
Springs were replaced with The Autumn 
Stars were taken over by the misty clouds
Blossoms acted as an alternative for an humid pace!
Darkness helped me when
Life was derailed
Windows were dilapidated
Walls were broken
Rays were shadowy
Darkness helped me when 
I was cocooned in the corner of a room, procrastinating!
It helped me when I was in the virge of annihilation!
I was diving
Torn apart
But darkness helped me!!
I was alone
Helpless, hapless
Roaming and hallucinating
Wondering and expecting ‘’Company, friends, can’t I get one?”
Just then ,the “darkness” spoke:-
See the moon, that moon, yes that full circle!
Standing aloof, striving alone
In the darkness, furnishing “light”!
Shining
Gleaming
Glowing
Conquering
Waiting for none,
Expecting from none
Hoping from none
But surrounded by wholesome planetoid!
Isn’t that amazing?
Darkness twitched my hand and patted my back and squeezed my ears and whispered!
Be that “fiddle” and stooge around!
Stand alone , away from the crowd!
Wait for none
Shine alone
Conquer alone
Be that “mope” which will be fantasized by many!
Be that “lollygag”, which would lead the asteroids!
Be alone but safe
Be simple yet sophisticated
Gaze, for it gives wings to your imagination
But be an “enigma”, a reverie, who would be pined for!
Be good to all, but not obtainable to many!
Be cheerful, but don’t waste your time cheering up many!
The “darkness”, then vanished!
Patting my back
Kissing my head
Fingering to the moon, it disappeared!

Years later, I am still in the “Darkness”
 Finding solace!
“Solitude”, that could have, never been traced!
Here, I am gazing, goggling, looking vacantly at the “moon”
Alone
In the dilapidated room
In the corner
With a log in my hand
Smiling, Writing, Slaying, Imagining 
And realising!
How beautiful even the “Darkness” can be!
A perception, that “might” change the world of thee! 


If I ruled the world: Bitika Paul

If I ruled the world,
I would spread the light of knowledge,
To let the truth reveal from nadir,
I would liberate my world from sin.
I would make love with my Venezuelan beloved from distant Maruyama Park,
And I would gift my beloved my kingdom.

'Kingdom' this very word remind me of my pseudo world,
My Utopia seems to be a phoney so as my beloved,
But reality seldom concur with fancy.

If I ruled the world,
The throne would contaminate me,
The power would disgorge corruption in my veins,
My crave for authority would incite me to question morality,
As Tamburlaine had done once,
So I would fall in a state worse than the present.
Adieu! To such reverie that may snatch my art of existing contentment.


Urdu words: Aritra Basu

Urdu words are now banned from this saffron land
And for that, we have to be shukr-guzaar
The raftaar at which the words fled
Resembled the pace at which refugees fled from East Pakistan
To the districts of Dinajpur, the two Parganas and Murshidabad...
I mean Radhakantapur, as it is now called!
Murshid Kuli khan is now a part of our erased past
As are the areas of Park Circus, Rajabazar and Metiabruz.
The nazakat with which they put us in restricted spaces
In “concentric” circles of celebration
Made us lose the lihaaz with which we welcomed them to our homes
The centenary of that visionary
Marked the end of our sukoon
As the sun on our home’s progress
Set for an eternity
Which on pen and paper
Can be called half a decade.
No longer are voices allowed to roar
Or a flight of red kites; to soar
This kissa would probably never be read aloud
Only one urdu word can save us now,
The utterance of which leads you to jail for a fortnight.
“Hum lar ke lenge ….
Hum cheen ke lenge …”


'Princess': Atrayee Das

There she goes look at her!
Oh my god look at her!
Her slender figure made me wonder,
Is she real? My heart grew fonder.
Her fair skin troubled me in my dreams,
As if beckoning to me-''This is pure cream!''
I asked her '' Will you be mine?''
She said'' Sorry I don't have time.''
I threatened her '' Be mine!''
She ignored me with a look , very fine.
In my mind I made it clear,
Either mine or none so near.
She must be punished, for she rejected me,
A suitor to her ,so much worthy!
With 'it' in my hand, quietly I went to her
Threw it on her face and my revenge was finally over.
Down she went, screaming, crying for help,
None were there, but I deciding her fate.

Days went by I am over it,
With a beautiful family with me , whom I love beyond any limit.
Just a sin has made it clear ,
'Tit for Tat' makes me fear.
Now with a daughter , a princess to me,
Just with a burnt face , but that doesn't make any difference, not atleast to me.

Now I realise how that father felt ,
When he remembered the time when his daughter's beautiful smile made his heart melt.
Now I realise how that father felt,
When he saw his preety daughter on that tv set ,answering the questions,'' Did you see that coming?'' Or '' Was that someone known?''
Now I realise how that father felt,
When his daughter sobbed all night and not slept.
But, I believe that did not make any difference,
Afterall she was his princess.


Eyes: Chinmoyee Sur

They make a pair
They are true.
They never lie
As the lips do.
They may be black
They maybe brown.
Two little oceans
In which lovers drawn,
The feelings they convey
The emotions they express
A glean of joy
A stream of distress.
When they are closed,
The world is asleep
When they are open
He's like a river so deep,
They are like mirrors
Which reflect the state of heart.
And prove to the world
That living is indeed an Art.


Parallel World: Komal Kour

There was once a world of terror
Where the lovely flower of fear bloomed
Deep in the gardens of torture it was
Unto which all innocent life were doomed
Through the land of torment
And the cursed sea
It sang to all
Who doth come to thee
And asked for a special sacrifice
In exchange of a glorious prize,
"I bestow upon you the power of immortality
Only if you bathe me with the blood of the next person you see"
The flower mesmerized anyone who came;
The ears who heard the song were rendered insane
And still it continues to sing away
And grasp their attention to a malicious fate
It enjoys watching people stray
For it always used to sing away,
"The Path of Light it never may"
Yet people followed it blindly
Never analyzing that nothing's free.


A girl's mind: Mita Haldar

I am that question 
Of your mind, 
That makes you glad 
Makes me sad. 

I am that murmuring 
Of your conscience, 
That keeps me awake 
Every night. 

Why remind me 
Like old scars, 
That time survived 
Like old lies. 

Though i still alive 
To hide myself before you, 
That made my face 
Two moist eyes. 


Honeycomb: Paushani Mukherjee 

You are a honeycomb.
We are all honeycombs.
Dripping sweet honey;
reeking sweet honey
and pouring sweet honey
to quench
the constant unquenchable thirst
and lust
of those around us.
Burt they don’t see our insecurities,
all the places that it hurts.
—or do they see through,
because they don’t want to attend to them—
when they tear our flesh apart;
and feast on us 
like hungry savages.
Until we are empty, until we are
numb
and no more sweet.
But we are honeycombs still.
We will still learn to bind back.
We will still learn to yield the honey back.
And the next time that we do,
it is important we employ the
army of bees 
in the required direction
and with the correct spirit.
Because after all, it is
our honey
dripping in us.
And those that don’t have 
any in themselves,
don’t deserve 
to get any either. 


A new beginning: Rituparna Bardhan

Safe inside myself are all the thoughts of you
Closing my eyes and going back to memories so few
That one touch, one feel, one song
It consumes my mind and engulfs my soul.
The love that I have for you is the love that I cannot escape 
That overwhelming love cuts me like barbed wire
You sang your songs to the world so free
And every word you sang was about you and me
Every night when you gazed up to see the sky,
I would find my star right beside my side
When you were alone, I reached for you
When you were feeling low, I was there for you too.

With all those recollections my heart seems heavy,
Finding no reasons for the memories to bury.
For if I abandoned love, I would be a girl without a dream
Like a King without his beloved Queen.

Help me to love myself as I had always loved you,
You will always be there in everything I do and pursue.
You may have taken away the smiles from loved one’s face
But I still remember the dreams that we had seen in our place
And that has given me new meaning, a new purpose in life. 
Reminiscing the past and the lives as a whole
I will find you again in the snowy white forest hiding inside the hollow tree
Holding our hands and walking into the sunset till the eternity of life.


Sanatorium: Rituparna Gupta

As I enter into the sanatorium
There is a sense of futility 
That intensifies the restless eyes 
Around me
Some are tired, few numb
They seem to accept life's doldrum
I proceed to meet the patient I know
My heart is overburdened 
To learn about the affect of unknown
The hospital beds arranged in order
Subtly mocking the living's disorder
Facade smiles, empty promises
Mechanical treatments of the doctors and nurses
The inner shrieks of patients 
Pervades the entire dormitory
Crying to leave this place
Constant prayer to visit home 
Closed windows reflecting open skies through its glasses 
Slowly increases my own will to break free
The cycle of life and death itself is very simple
But  what comes in between is far more complicated.


Is it the best of times or the worst of times?: Ritupriya Bhanja

Is it the best of times or the worst of times? 
An year of natural revival or vulnerable death? 
An act of revolution or a vengeance? 
The city refused to answer for its healing 
Preferring to act in silence, only the wind whispered 
Though the time is hard, the best is yet to come; 
This too shall pass! 

Staring at the starry sky with emptiness in mind 
When the worldly darkness extend its cold hand 
Touching the weedy thoughts and the frail bodies 
| remember how we greeted the new 
How the Carouse, clamour, celebration marked its peak 
Scooting drowsiness with a kick 
And now the city looks barren like vast desert of sand 
But Infection clutched the city's hand long time back 
When atrocity smashed innocence with a smack 
The deadly virus happens to be still more fair 
For it cannot be blamed by false compare 
And when everything will fairly end 
Can we please start our doltish blame? 


Of Dusks and Losses: Rohit Dey

Not the winter eve...
The dead-end drew me back
As always
To the dejected alley
Has it always been this cold?
Or it's just me
Being prone to shiver!
I know the warmth fluctuates here,
And gusts of wind shift multitudes...
As leaves turn yellow,
They shed them...
As they lack hues,
They replace the hues with grey...
Through the door of worn-out greens
And decaying grey,
I found a fragment there...
A fragment of yesterday
Detained by the dearth and decay...
Still waiting for all the waited for's
And wailing to be waited for.
A futile wish...
I lit up a cigarette
And saw the impending death..
The death of a day
And the dead-end.


Taking sips of cold memories: Roop Rekha Ghosh 

I summoned the tale of time, in the court of burnt letters and poisoned poetries. It unfurled the aesthetic reality of midnight, in the room of dead, yet ecstatic memories. Beethoven’s sonata played in the background and froze a figment of time. I lit green candles and I felt I was possessed by jealousy, as I was just a smudge in this chaotic painting. It was a winter night, cold and quiet,when heart felt like a pack of cigarettes, weighed down by dead old leaves. The earth encapsulated my face in its palms, coiling my neck with chokers, underneath the calm and grey sky. The last cube of ice, in a glass of Irish Whiskey on my Maplewood desk, suddenly broke. That was the moment when I realised, the life of an artist is something like a lover’s. The difference which they grasp remains unethical, lovers bounce back and artists chop off the artist within them, not living upto their desired set of expectations.. These thoughts taste like cigars in the fog, as the cherries of childhood can be tasted just once. In another life, maybe I’ll again wait for the onset of winter time, and feel the sun a bit less warm against my skin, sinking it deeper and deeper into a lane, swallowing fire.


The Reunion: Shiba Khatoon 

Beyond the skyline, 
I see a fleeting wish-
Twinkling and disappearing, 
compelling me to blink: 
To let me get drenched in soothing tears, 
Before I blink again. 
Beyond the waterline, 
I see a floating dream-
Puffing its cheeks and releasing spring, 
compelling me to catch as it swings: 
Before I welcome the black slumber, 
Yet again. 
Beyond the headland, 
I see a resting desire-
Spreading its aura over the mighty acres, 
compelling to let it colour me: 
Before I set out on a Path 
Of no returning. 
The Wish, the Dream, and the Desire-
Join hands to buy a precious Gift for me! 
They rejoice to watch me play in my 
Brand New Space- colourful and bright! 
Allowing me to embrace my dark self, 
To let it reconcile with my subdued self. 
Singing in a glistening voice to my melancholic mind, 
And dancing to the tune of my carefree heartbeats, 
The two halves of me are healing and growing together, 
And, 
this beautiful Reunion is Gifting me-
More Time.


Doll House: Srilekha Mitra

He was like a whited sepulcher
Preaching scriptures of wisdom and piety 
A godfather to many but nothing more than a monster to me. 
I was five, when he bought me a doll house
To make me oblivious of the chaos he aroused in his own house. 

Mother used to wear heavy makeup on congregation day 
To conceal the blemishes and blotches of her skin 
Her gaze blank and pitiless staring at the messiah of anti-christ 
Her body stinking of his sins 

The four walls of the doll house 
Was my only safe haven 
In a house which resembled a cage 
Bearing echoes of an innocent's scream 
I could only speak according to his whim 

The inanimate dolls were my replica 
Since we both wore silence as our ornament
One by birth and other by choice 
To prevent our eyes from being moist 

Alluringly I called him daddy 
He made our lives shabby 
He was a devil disguised in priest 
He was the reason for the slashes on my wrist 

I was twenty one when for the first time 
I lost a close one, who was never mine 
As she spent all her life sacrificing 
To keep her husband's affairs clandestine 

On her funeral, the wreaths on her coffin 
Sent a cold gust to each particle of my body 
Replaying the visages of her dilated pupil in white sockets 
Her broken ribs hidden beneath his black jacket (cassock) 

I took refuge in the doll house
Where I could be impulsive 
Where I could teach my dolls
How to treat their master who is repulsive 

One evening when I broke my silence 
As he pierced the butts of his cigarette on my skin 
To test my resilience
He was shocked to witness his puppet's disobedience 

I knew my punishment 
Will lead to my banishment 
But I ought not to care 
Since my weary soul that reeks of submission and allegiance 
Wanted to be liberated from the pangs of despair 

That evening I burnt the doll house 
A symbol of my ignorance 
Which blinded me from pragmatism 
Encompassing my mind with innocence 

The fire inside my meek heart 
Was lurking since decades 
It was trapped in that doll house 
Which he bought to divert me 
From the enigma of his appearance 

Imposition of his torments for years 
Has now transformed me into an unchained melody of grief 
I am a scorpion now who is eager to sting him 

I want to kill him with the same poison 
Which disguised as love lured my mother to endure his malice 
Suppressing her identity to bloom
With his stereotypical views that, "Women should not speak" 

His death will mark the end of tyranny 
And will prove once again
That all worshippers of God 
Are not preachers of harmony. 


Hope: Yashodhara Bose

The harmful ashes of atom bombs and gun fires are polluting the air, 
The vehicles emitting CO2 are blocking my lungs,
But when I receive the assurance from the sweet fragrance of papa’s perfume after he quit smoking cigarettes, it smells a lot like hope.

The newspaper articles about rape and child sexual abuse disables my ability to sense anything,
Getting attacked  by acid and ragged by my seniors makes me shiver at a mere touch,
But when my sister hugs me and helps me rise back up, it feels a lot like Hope.

I hear them say you are fat and dark,
I hear them say you are not enough or you can’t do what you want to because you are a girl,
But when I hear T.Swift singing, “ I am the only one of me and that’s the fun of me”,
 It sounds a lot like hope.

Some days when it gets gloomy and sad, it tastes like tobacco sauce mixed with mustard,
Some days when I feel like giving up, it tastes like chewing a hard loaf of expired bread,
But when I realize there are people fighting their own battles one day at a time, 
Hope tastes a lot like the delicious chocolate cake, my mum bakes for me.

Hatred towards other religion or homosexuality, blurs my vision to see the right side,
Discrimination and violation of rights makes me blind towards humanity,
But when I see two lovers uniting under the stars and a person emerging victorious by breaking all the taboos, hope looks a lot like the victorious smile I see on his handsome face when he successfully calms my storm.


The “Reality”-Tale: Zakiya Khatoon

I want to scream my heart out,
But there’s no body to listen when I shout.
My friends all busy,
My life’s so fussy,
I want to pass out and escape the reality,
But the peace of sleep has left me with clarity. 
My days are dark, nights are blurry, 
Family assumes that there’s nothing to worry.
To feel the pain all alone,
To see the world on my own.
To face the harsh truth,
That life is not a beautiful fruit.
It’s like the apple that’s poisoned,
But there’s no Prince who will make my lips moistened.
The one who will bring  me back from death,
The one who will have tears to shed.
The one who shows me that I too deserve love.
That there is a fairy tale that awaits,
That there’s some miracle gates.
The path that brightens the day up, 
Inspires me to pick up my coffee cup.
And there goes another day without you my love.


TINY TALES


Unfavorable affirmative report, body trembles but mind stays panglossian.
                      Syed Neaz Ahmed


Lady washed ashore, with coat pockets full of stones.
                          Koushiki Saha


Hurray ! FEAST ! The little ant exclaimed at the sugar cube !
                         Amartya Basu


The virus is spreading again, people taking refuge at their homes but just are standing and staring the homeless on the streets.
                            Atrayee Das


The man-made word PUNCTUALITY found its way into Nature.  
                            Bitika Paul


Standing Behind The Glass Door
Both Hope And Person Died
                       Neha Kumari Jha
                         

I dressed up early, the phone rang, it was 11pm
                           Reema Dhar


Self love is not selfish.
                             Rituparna Gupta


"It's too quiet here..
 I just needed someone to share this silence with!"
                             Rohit Dey


'Why are all your poetries always revolving around him?'
              'Because words help me weave         dreams where he is still mine'
                         Srilekha Mitra


The magic lies in self healing despite pain being inevitable. 
                         Yashodhara Bose














































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