short story

The Forbidden Love

The stage was set — decorated with lights, like vines falling from the heaven. That day, she was her best self. It was her best performance. There was no question of the possibility of a better performance in her life.

Image by Sitara VS ©️

Avyaktha would often twirl around in continuous circles, at an age where she could barely walk. And once she could, her mother took her to a teacher nearby. That’s how it started : the tatkaar (footwork), the chaal (walk) — her love affair with the art form.

She walked onto the stage, her heart excited with anxiety. She did not remember the last time she’d ever been so happy. The last time she had danced before this never-ending wait ?

She grew up with it — her first performance on stage at the age of seven. She could not stop smiling to herself as she danced away like the wind. She would participate in various cultural activities every year.

At the age of 14, she was put in a residential school for her parents had to go away for work. She fell extremely home sick — everybody and anybody found pleasure in bullying her; student or staff. 

The curtains went up, and the show had begun. The music reunited with her ears and the taal with her body.  She flawlessly switched into the world she’d missed so badly, as she faced her audience — the biggest she ever had. 

She tried out for the annual cultural fest’s dance team, for kathak; but was rejected. The lady barely looked at her — the team had already been selected. The try-outs were merely a facade.

The hostel, her class, the school – they never accepted her. Her mother forbid her from any cultural activity — focus on your studies. She did try very hard. The following year,the school did not allow anybody from the batch to participate in the fest, keeping in mind the board exams. But by then, she had lost interest in it.

Illustration by Sitara VS ©️

The sound of her ghungroos in congruence with the taal brought her utmost joy. She twirled like nothing could stop her – the chakras she’d practiced to perfection. 
She managed to do well in her exams, and begged her parents to take her back home. She was tired of searching for tiniest pieces of happiness, and an occasional nostalgia could barely calm her mind. 

In her higher secondary, she was at home — on the condition that she would only think of studies. But how could she control her thoughts? The clatter of vessels often reminded her of her ghungroo. The subjects were going beyond her head, and her life beyond control.

Her teacher watched her with pride from the side, enjoying every bit of her performance. After all, she had been teaching Avyaktha from the age of five. The transformation was incredible,and she felt happy that she had run into her student after all these years — a serendipity that sealed Avyaktha’s journey to this very stage. 

Avyaktha finally fulfilled the meaning  of her name — one whose life is like the Gods’ — and that is exactly what she felt at that moment. She could not draw a line between heaven and earth.

She glowed as she effortlessly did her storytelling – her feet, arms and face coordinating with her. In perfect rythm. She danced like never before, it was her story. The music went into a crescendo, and her body followed.  The story was at the turning point.

The stage disappeared, the audience vanished — only the blurred remains of the red vine lights glowed. She was wind, swishing to the music, twirling and taking her whole world with her ; all of it resting on her two light feet. The curtains fell down, and the music stopped — but so did her heart. 

Her story had come to an end.

Image by Neha Menon ©️
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short story

Psychedelia 

     [First published in Sweek]

The Tyndall Beam

She squinted through the hand-lens of her makeshift camera, and followed the golden stairway descending down all the way to the wet Earth. She was wearing her favorite pink pajamas and blue T-shirt she always wore the second day of her stay. 
It was a part of a set of dress that had been kept aside in the Narnian wooden wardrobe, in her ancestral home. She remembers the day she had discovered her Narnia, right behind this house —much before the CS Lewis one.
She hadn’t gone there in a long time,and after the death of her Grandpa, she stopped her rare one day visits too.
She walked further into the woods, the damp mud covering her feet, taking in long aromas of the rain. 

“Ammmuu…”

She could hear a familiar faint melody, and she rushed back towards the house. Just as she was about to step into it, through the backdoor, she felt a tight slap on her left wrist —which was at the hinge of the door.

“Where are your manners? Wash your feet before you step into my house.” said Grandpa.

****************

Mirror Ball 

She runs off to wash her feet under a tap,and rushed into the house with a glee. Grandpa gives her a stern look before slightly smiling to himself. 

She was busy playing video games with her cousins at dinner—her mother running around with a plate feeding her. Then it was time to sleep. She could barely see her face in the mirror atop the washbasin. After she was done brushing her teeth, she jumped — barely managing to see a fragment of her face for a second. It was Grandpa’s mirror. 

She squiggled into the bed between her cousins and closed her eyes. Mosquitos kept sucking the blood off her,and she managed to kill a few in her sleep. Then she fell into deep sleep.

She was wearing a pretty black dress,and standing at the centre of something, but there was too much smoke in the air for her to ascertain. She looked up at what looked like a glimmery moon in the night sky, rotating at a high speed; her mouth exhausting clouds of smoke into it. She was in the middle of a crowd of zombies,moving with great random rhythm —strangers. 
Or were they? 

****************

Floored 

The music slapped her eardrums,and she almost lost her balance for a while. All around her were people,throwing their bodies at the music against the glimmery lights, like lightning piercing the night. She stared so hard into blurred faces, searching rigorously for some glimpse of recognition. 

As the music dropped to a distant subconscious level, she felt a vague sensation of elevation; her body moved involuntarily as it wished. She walked backwards slowly, drifting away from the crowd, when a voice absorbed her back with great force. 

“Where do uh think you’re going?”

A hand slipped around her waist, pulling her closer to a handsome face. She was unable to observe his features further, but she did feel her lips break into a smile. She danced. Danced like a three year old, as if nobody else were around. She jumped, and revolved. She flipped her head in all possible directions, her hair defying gravity. Tired she walked away, and took a seat. The guy followed, and asked her wha she’d like to have. She failed to recollect the last time people around her had been so nice to her. This new kindness from a stranger, which she couldn’t completely digest,made her suspicious. Did she know him? Were they together?

A random girl walked upto her with a glass, and started talking, as the curtains slowly went down. 

“…..Dance……ther..K…mm……” 

She woke up with a start, and still could feel the foggyness in her head. She was on the cold floor with part of her blanket. She was panting.

****************

Wail

Her eyes finally adjusted to the darkness around her, and she gradually recognized her room. She held her head in her hands for a second, confirming that it was indeed where it should be. She let out a long sigh, a loud whisper in the dusty silence. 

She dragged herself up, kicking out the blanket entangled to her feet. The night lamp shed an eerie shadow of yellow in her room and she swept up the blanket, which had dutifully followed her as she fell from her bed. She swallowed mouthfuls of water as she sat on her bed, trying to recollect her dream. 

But she didn’t remember anything, not even the part where she rolled down. She stared into the ceiling of her room, pulling up the blanket upto her eyes. Weird, she thought, or perhaps she meant interesting. The fan just went round and round. It was least bothered about whether she was still on her bed or not, whether she was still breathing or not. 

It just went on and on, as long as it was fed with electricity. 

Round and round and round.

Round and round.

Round. Round. 

Round. 

She had to blink at least five times to be able to see anything at all, like when you stare into a tubelight for an undisrupted minute. She struggled to keep her eyes open. Her mortar skills were completely dead, yet she discovered her body was in motion. She could hear the wail of a white van. 

****************

The End?

She spotted red scratches on the van, and a few blots on a hand. A random force had transported her into the white van, which was becoming more white every moment. The wailing confused her — at one moment it was unbearable, and the very next it was barely there. Just when she would stop searching for the noise, it would blare into her ears. 

A while later, a force similar to the previous one, perhaps stronger, deported her to a mobile platform. There were a lot of shuffling around her — she was not sure whether they were people or paper. A cool breeze blew her hair, but part of her hair seemed to be stuck to her forehead.

Then somebody — there were probably more than one person — swooshed her through a long neverending road. Like a train passing by another train. But she was not sure anymore if she was the stationary train or the one in motion. 

Then she saw the sun. In a room. A bulb? 

The sun melted into concentric patterns,and she heard somebody say, “We’re losing her…..nu…” 
Is this my end? 

Can this end be a new beginning?

Image by Neha Menon ©
poem

Geometry 

A lost trapezium with my sides

In this vast blue globe

Trotting away from stares from 

Each corner of the circle

At my uneven sides. 

The elephant in the room

That makes you so uncomfortable

The heat is unbearable, but they wait 

For the right moment — hit the iron 

When it’s hot. So I get curves; on point 

Tangible but incongruous, push me away

Laugh at my diagonals, and angles 

For circles do not possess them.

You envy, as I unaware, try

To build the facade required to fit

Bury myself. Once. Twice. Always.

Disperse away every segment 

From my lines, once well defined.

Perish, though what fault of mine?

Decided that all should abandon 

Then life, allow me first. 

Illustration by Sitara VS
short story

Interstellar Love

The galaxy was at unrest. The situation was such that Soorya and Chandra had to join forces, which was only possible during dusk or dawn. Together, they managed to banish the meteorite from the galaxy ; but Soorya was hurt.

Aysha was strength in beauty. She emanated everything she believed in. Whispers of her footprints echoed through the Palace of The Night. She left behind silver wisps as she twirled around the Palace —her home — and her long white hair obeyed accordingly.

A hurt Soorya had been resting in the Palace, when he woke up to the twinkling of laughter. That was the first time he saw her, the Moon Goddess; daughter of Chandra. Night was just about to set in. 

It was her birthday, and she was her brightest self. Fireflies adorned her hair, and he found her happiness empowering. She was the only one immune to the effects of night and day; and she created a temporary shield for Soorya  to protect him from the night – he belonged to the day.

That night his mind was in a storm — he could not rest. She sparkled in his eyes, and stirred his heart. The following dawn, he left to rise.

They met again often, and their lives instantly fell into place. She found a reassuring warmth in him, and she brought about a cool- headedness in him. They met at dawns and dusks, away from the celestial responsibilities and disturbances. They would talk effortlessly on everything and anything beyond bounds, but it was never enough. Then on a day when lightning illuminated the ambience, and the rain showered on them, they confessed their love to each other. 

Their love could no more be a secret ; Chandra was unhappy. He and his daughter belonged to the night, and Soorya belonged to the day. He was convinced that this union was a bad idea, almost forbidden. Aysha did not oppose her father, but she stated clearly that she could not imagine her life with anybody but Soorya.

After quite a delay, Chandra finally gave in. The two got married at a grand ceremony, and that was probably the best day of their lives. They were the happiest that day. 

Lightyears passed by, and their lives got busy — Soorya with his work, and Aysha with her heavenly chores. The dynamics of their relationship changed —it had become quiet, and they had fallen into a routine. Dates to the garden went down, and they often ran out of things to talk of. Or perhaps they were not required to speak up, they knew each other well. But with new founded leisure, Aysha found herself unimportant to the love of her life.

As time passed, the insecurities took a toll on her, she formed cracks over her body. This was a time when there was much turmoil around, and Soorya went away to protect the galaxy, fighting alongside Chandra. The fear of losing him made her realise that she still loved him the same, and perhaps even more. She had only got so used to him that her love had become latent, but it had never gone away. But this worry did much more harm to her.

The war had been over, and Soorya rushed back to Aysha. He held her in tight embrace the moment he saw her. She was overwhelmed by this gesture, assured that the warmth and coolness in their relationship was very much alive.

But by the time Soorya noticed her cracks, it was too late. He woke up to loud gasps. She lay near him— all ashened, shining through her cracks. The light in her eyes had shrunk, and her hair no longer had wisps. He held her face in his hands, looking into her eyes : “You dare not leave me.”

Tearful, she gave him a weak twinkling smile.

“I had to pay a huge price for rediscovering the magic I thought we had lost. Change is inevitable, but perhaps it does not mean love has to dissappear. You have to let me go.”

He watched as she disintegrated into shards, and slowly disappeared.

Day or night, she was always with him— though she was only visible in the night sky.

Illustration (and featured image) :
Baba Yaga.

poem

Carpet 

Rub off all your dirt on me

Forcing your stampede all over

Hiding your sins under me

As I lay, with your lies, tied to the floor

By the end of your sharp shoe

Brush away your imperfections into me

Still hiding behind that mask

Playing asphyxiating guess games

Polluted, decaying and dead

You won’t stop till I rot and rot 

Till one day you walk over me

Before throwing me away. 

Illustration by Sitara VS
short story

Amaya #6 : Away

“But Amma”, started Amaya.

“No means no. It is too slippery over there, and you will stay inside the house.”, said her mother firmly.

That was the first time she had been prevented from playing in the rain. Her neighbour had had a bad fall the day before, as the continuous rains made the neighbourhood slippery.

She was sad, so much that she was almost at tears. But as she stuck her head to the window, her friend reassured her : Better luck next time.

Another day, it had been the fear of acid rain. How can my friend harm me?, she wondered. She asked. A drop fell on her right eye, and rolled down. She had to wait days, looking out the window, before her friend finally returned.

But all of these were mere temporary restrictions. The real one came when she was sent away to hostel for her higher secondary education. She was absolutely banned from playing in the rain, and the barely got the chance to meet her friend. These rare occasions were followed by sessions where the wardens would scold her so badly that even the drops would shudder.

And then, little by little she got so much into that vicious circle of life, she no longer waited at the window. No longer searched the skies.

short story

Amaya #2 : The Old Lady 

“Amu, what are you staring at?” asked Grandpa.

“It is going to rain, Grandpa.”, she replied.

He frowned at the bright sky. Later that day, the grey corroded the blue sky. It became more grey, as if it were trying not to pour down, till it finally gave in. Amaya had had an incomplete nap, when it arrived.

It declared that this time it was falling apart for an old lady, who lived in a big house. But the house no longer belonged to her, except for a tiny room where all her belongings had been stashed away.

Her two sons lived in the same house, with their wives and kids, but nobody ever came up to check on her. So much that in that corner in the upper floor, she did not have any bed, cot or mat to sleep on. Her sons had forgotten about the bed, and their mother. So she decided to sleep in the wooden cupboard – the only furniture her children let her keep.

The cupboard was as old as the house – which was very old – and had a partition in the middle. It had two beautiful doors with carvings on it. One half had shelves – where she kept her stuff ; and the other half had none – where she slept.

Two days ago, one of her daughter in laws locked the cupboard, not realising the old lady was asleep in it.

What happened next, little Amaya does not remember, for she had returned to completing her nap.