There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Sweet Melancholy of Love

By Kartik Arora

Life starts with birth
I started living it only after you came.

I led a simple life
each day no different from the other
Because till that day
God would never bother

One fine day
When my turn came
Fate got mischievous
She played a small game

She got you in my life
And then it was never the same

She put you somewhere high
Where my arms would just reach
I would jump high to touch you
And then take the fall

I tried, I jumped
To touch you strong enough
I tried to cling to your outstretched hands
Finally you pulled me up

Life had never been so vibrant
Full of so many colours
Yes, It would now never be the same
But I didn’t know, that this was just a game

Lightning struck
And our hands separated
I tried to hold on
But you pushed me away

I fought the storm
And found my way
Your heart had outplayed fate
I saw you waiting for me
And now were to stay

Fate was beaten
She couldn’t accept the affair
She had sworn now
She wasn’t going to play fair

It was her game
She made the rules
With the universe at her disposal
Death just one of her tools

You had already been played
I was to played at dawn
I went in acceptance as death came
Unaware, he is just a pawn

The final move had been played
I realised, when he went for you instead

I begged, I cried
to take me along
I watched you rise from my side
As death sang his song

It hurt too much to be alone
And I said now no more
I punished myself again and again
causing pain to my soul

I was to go and on
Force death to show some pity
Make him pull me to its side
And take me to your Heavenly city

But Death didn’t come
To take me on the ride
For this was a game
There were rules
And I had to abide

I lost all faith in Him
I was about to turn my back


“Wait” God said, “ For I have a plan”
I believed, I hoped.

I kept looking through the door
I saw you go further
Each day a bit more
I would think of you and wonder
Is life worth waiting for?

Finally the time came

I set out on the magnificent Journey
Holding hands with Death
I let go of all the agony
As I took my final breath

I came face to face with the Divine
I felt wronged for he had lied
He had promised to save me
To send some sunshine
I was kept waiting till my tears dried

I yelled at him and asked him

“You took her away from me
Was this your brilliant plan”

He replied with all the calmness of the eternity

“It was a game fate played
one I always despised
Matters of the heart
even leave me surprised

Death brought her here alone
He told me you still had time
“He can’t do it himself” he said
“It’s not in his time
But if life was too hard to live
Ending it won’t be a crime”

I had to make up for what I did
You had to be together
I had promised

I ordered Fate to let the dices roll
As I now took control
I asked it to set the wheels in motion
To keep you there
To push you to the hole
Fate was puzzled
It had no notion

I explained

To push him to the limit
And to pull him beyond is my plan
A mistake has been made
which needs to be set right
I have to bring them together
As soon as I can”

We may not have lived our lives together,
But the end is still right,
After death, my love, we unite.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Avataar

By Ananya Mukherjee

In the beginning, there was just nothing; only a vast expanse of deep aquamarine, ripples and floating shadows of abundant liquid exuberance. The ocean floor danced in a magnetic slow motion, caressing the tip of pale pink coral beds, gurgling into the purple reefs and gushing out through the secret crags, sweeping a school of bright orange goldfish.  Something moved with them forming a shape, edged by a strange aura; floating, gargling, rippling in the fantasy, and slowly took a human form.  A soft, pink, delicate human body floated up....and called out...Mama.
Siya woke up startled by that call and instinctively touched the bulge of her abdomen. Almost at the end of her third trimester, with only a few days away from the expected date of delivery, her body felt very heavy. She stroked her palm gently across the swollen bump. It was a baby boy, they had confirmed only a few weeks back. The very thought that he was growing inside her with each passing day, breathing what she inhaled, hearing what she heard, and perhaps feeling what she felt filled her with a strange mix of contentment and longing for his presence. She pressed her hand tenderly down her abdomen. For a moment, she did not feel any movement. Then, as if anticipating the yearnings of her desperate search, he obliged her with a kick. Ouch, it hurt, yet left her with an overpowering affection.
It wasn’t morning yet so she had some more time to catch up on sleep before going back to the buzz of the newsroom. Siya’s maternity leave had not started yet. As a single mother, she knew she would need all the time in the world once the baby came. She was even considering a sabbatical. Her own parents lived thousand miles away and were aging. It wasn’t possible for them to offer any childcare services. Also, they were not too pleased with Siya’s determination to go for artificial insemination and bear a child alone without a male partner. She was their only child, young, attractive, glamorous and successful. The very idea of single parenthood sounded bizarre to them. 
“You are only 35. Why don’t you marry a nice man and have your own child instead of carrying someone else’s baby in your womb?” Her mother had argued.
It took Siya a while to convince them that it was not “someone else’s baby”. It was hers, an extension of her being, nurtured inside her with her own flesh and blood. But her parents were still unsure. Wasn’t adoption a better idea if she wanted to cherish the bliss of motherhood, they questioned. No, she wanted her own child, she had put her foot down. And without a man in her life! After a few unpleasant relationships, especially her last complicated commitment with a senior colleague, she had decided not to be in a long-term commitment with any man. The question of marrying a non-existent “nice man” therefore did not arise.  Yet, she wanted to be a mother, desperately wanted to conceive and raise her own child for a long time.
Naturally, when a gynaecologist friend convinced her a year back that she needed no man to fulfil her dreams, and artificial insemination was not rocket science, it took her little time to decide.  Despite no support from her family, Siya went ahead with the idea. In due time, a sperm bank was contacted, and on a scheduled date, she was inseminated by a donor who chose to keep his identity under wraps. Siya was happy with the arrangement as she had neither the interest nor the will to know the biological father of her child. It would only invite more complications, she rationalised.        
Another sharp kick broke through Siya’s reflective mood. She pulled a pillow and sat upright, as her back was beginning to hurt now.  She could feel a numb pain in the abdomen and a sudden pressure growing in the pelvis. Then a wave like motion resembling a strong menstrual cramp seized her body. It lasted a few seconds and then came back again, till it almost became a norm. Then gradually the length of the contractions increased and the gap between their intervals lessened. Siya realised the time had come. Between contractions, she started to focus on the breathing exercise she was taught at a pre-natal workshop she had attended and called for an ambulance.
The next few hours went in a whirlwind. Before she knew it, the amniotic membrane ruptured and Siya went into labour. Whilst the doctors waited a few hours for the dilation to reach the right measure, amidst excruciating pain, Siya who was lying alone in a dull labour room saw recurrent visions of her dream in aqua blue. It was the same swirling ocean, masquerading in a riot of floating colours—pink, purple, crimson and Prussian blue. She swam with the fluid’s magnetic motion, falling into its unfamiliar charm until it drew her to a cul-de-sac, She felt her own body rise and swell above the water and then sensed a free falling like never before. It was close to midnight when the uncontrollable agonising pain reached its climax and Siya heard the baby cry out.
Siya was still gasping for breath, when she caught the intrigued expression on her doctor’s face. Something was not normal. It was not the post childbirth scene she had rehearsed in her mind where the doctor and nurses would be congratulating her for giving birth to a healthy child. There was darkness on the faces of the medical staff surrounding her. She tried to read the expression.  It was one of bewilderment and nervousness. The nurses had the same look in their eyes and the uncertainty of their appearance frightened Siya.  Assimilating some energy, she asked, “Is everything alright?”
“Ah..well.....yes, Siya. There is no sign of distress. He’s perfectly fine, I think, but...” her doctor replied, handing over a little bundle smeared with blood and mucus.
Her mouth fell as she gathered him in her frail arms. His tiny gentle angelic face was well defined with a pair of large eyes and a small pointed nose. He looked healthy, well formed and his head was full of dark curls.  Only his skin had the colour of a bruised plum. In fact, the prominent bluish tint was so dark that it looked almost purple.
Coming to terms with the unanswered mystery of the unpredictable blow that changed the complete dimension of her dreams was difficult, actually much more difficult than Siya had ever imagined. She tried to find answers to the many questions that tormented her mind and agonised her soul. Why did he have to be this way? What was wrong with him? Was his condition life threatening? Was it genetic? All she had wanted was a normal healthy baby.  Why did God have to do this with her?
Unable to find an explanation and fearing that she might go into a post-labour trauma any moment, the doctor had taken away the baby boy immediately and raced him by ambulance from the maternity ward in the hospital to a bigger research and medical laboratory in another part of the city.  A team of doctors had begun to investigate the case. In the beginning they assumed it was a case of abnormal haemoglobin or an enzyme deficiency but the results were negative. Two days of test results produced no explanation why a seven pound healthy baby boy who showed no signs of foetal distress exhibited such an unusual disorder. 
Though unable to pinpoint to a particular reason for his unnatural blueness, the team had ruled out possibilities of a heart disease or any blood or lung disorder. What no one ever found out was a medical condition called hereditary methemoglobinemia where the absence of an enzyme called diaphorase from the red blood cells could lead to such a blueness of the skin. Due to the enzyme deficiency, the blood of these victims has reduced oxygen-carrying capacity. Instead of being the usual bright red, arterial blood is chocolate brown and gives the skin a bluish tint. Hereditary met-H, as it is called, is caused by a recessive gene. In other words, to get the disorder, a person would have to inherit two genes for it, one from each parent. Somebody with only one gene would not have the condition but could pass the gene to a child. Siya must have carried such a strain without her knowledge and what seemed like a cruel joke played by destiny, the unidentified sperm donor had the same. The result, thus, was a blue baby.
“His blood is just a little closer to the skin,” a colleague had sarcastically remarked while paying a visit to the new born in the hospital. The thought of the social stigma that her son may have to grow up with in a world that was accustomed to see only men who were either white, yellow, brown or black was intimidating Siya. Where would her blue child fit in? 

Ever since she came home from the hospital she had tried to retrace the sperm donor in an attempt to know if there was any genetic disorder in the donor that might have led to this peculiar condition. The sperm bank having pledged confidentiality to the donor, revealed no further information than that he was apparently a healthy man with no such evident disorders. She consulted all the doctors, researchers, social anthropologists she knew but found no satisfactory answer. While some literature directed her to a certain blue family called Fugates in distant Troublesome Creek, Kentucky, others misled her to the Tuareg nomads of Sahara desert in Africa. The skin of the desert herders are known to turn blue from the dye they use in their clothing. But how the Fugates or the Tuareg tribesmen could correlate to her child was still a mystery. Whilst the malady of the soul ripped Siya apart, the little one was, of course, oblivious to the uniqueness of his appearance.
She looked at him sleeping peacefully with his fingers curled on the baby cot she had specially designed for him ever since she knew he was coming. The moist afternoon sun filtered through the blinds and fell on his forehead. It shone like specks of gold dust over his little frame. The purplish tinge had begun to fade into a more uniform hue of blue after the first few weeks. In some places, the skin was so light that Siya felt she could almost see through it like alabaster. With the tiny sunlit dots shining on him, he looked as if he were gilded in soft gold. The black curls fell on his rounded little forehead, accentuating the blueness of his porcelain skin. She stared at his contented innocent face and thought she saw him smiling in his sleep. Babies often converse with gods when they sleep, they said.
 Just then someone rang the door bell. It was Maya, Siya’s domestic help for many years.
“Why are you so late? It’s already afternoon. What took you so long?”
“Arre Didi, there is so much traffic these days. You know I come from so far away. And then my husband also came back last night, “she added with a shy smile.
“Oh, that joker of yours! What does he want now?” 
Maya’s husband worked as a part-time comic relief in low grade circus companies that travelled in small towns across the country in weird looking buses with strange and ugly faces painted on them. Ram Prasad was an incorrigible bloke who came back jobless after every few months to torment Maya and live on her savings. Once he had finished with what Maya had worked hard to save, he came home drunk and often ended up being abusive. This was a routine affair that Siya had observed over the years. She had told Maya several times to get rid of him but Maya had protested with a logic Siya could not refute. “Didi, in our society, one single woman cannot survive alone. Men are like vultures. They will tear me and my children to pieces if I leave him. In your educated and rich society, you can do what you want but my world is different.”
“Hmm. So what does he want now?”
“Nothing, Didi. You know him. He has been kicked out again for stealing money from his boss. Now he has nowhere to go. I can’t let him die on the streets,” she said picking up the used feeding bottles.
“How’s Munna? Is he sleeping?”
“Who?” Siya retorted with her eyebrows raised.
“ baby! You haven’t named the poor fellow anything as yet, but I call him Munna and he responds, you know.”
“Please, babies at this age don’t respond to anyone or anything. And he’s definitely not Munna. I will decide on a name soon and let you know.” The thought of labelling her precious son, the dream of her life with the commonest Bollywood stamp “Munna” irritated her. But then, Maya was right. After she got the hospital registration certificate that said “baby boy” Siya had been so caught fighting her own distress and disappointment that she had not christened him with any of the names she had on mind. As she recapitulated, Siya felt guilty of her negligence now.
She dialled her mother’s number and told her she was organising a naming ceremony for her son and wanted her to give him her blessings. Much as her parents were against the concept of artificial insemination, they were horrified by the reality that their grandchild displayed such an abnormality. Their rejection wore no mask, and her mother refused to participate in the official and religious christening of what she now called the devil’s creation. Siya hung up crying, frustrated that the nearest of her kin had so ruthlessly ousted her from their lives.                          
“Auntie, can I come in?” Neha, the neighbour’s chirpy four-year-old daughter was peeping through the door that Maya had forgotten to lock.
“Yes, please,” Siya said as she tried to hide the moistness in her eyes. In a frilly pink and white dress, Neha looked like an ice-creme candy doll straight from the shelves of a toy store.
“Can I see the baby? What is he doing? Won’t he play with me?”
“Yes, of course, Neha. He’s sleeping now, but you can see him. Come with me.”
Siya held her tiny hand in her own and led her to where he was still sleeping with a smile on his face. 
“Why is he so small? How will he play with me if he’s so small?”
“He’s only a few weeks old, Neha. Let him grow up a bit, then he will play with you,” Siya broke into an affectionate smile.
“But why have you painted him blue, Auntie?” She peeped further into the cot.
Siya’s jaws tightened. “I didn’t paint him Neha. He was born that way.”
“Why was he born blue? Is he like Shrek?”
Neha’s curiosity was beginning to irritate Siya now. “Shrek was not blue. He was green. And Shrek was an ogre. My baby is a human being like you and me. Now if you have seen the baby, you can go home or play with your friends.”  The poor child was taken aback by the harshness of Siya’s tone and ran away at once.  She regretted being rude to a little girl almost immediately but her patience with speculations about her son was weaning. 
Neha had left the door slamming aloud startling the baby in his sleep. He curled his lips and began to cry. Maya rushed to him picking him up in her arms, and started pacifying him as Siya watched on looking defeated.
“Didi, he’s hungry. Just hold him and I’ll get the little one some milk,” Maya left him wailing in her arms.     
“Siya, are you home?” Her colleague Jenny was at the door.
“Oh yes, Jenny. What a lovely surprise! Please come in.” 
Jenny was a young reporter who had joined the newsroom a few years back as an intern under Siya. Ambitious and reckless, Jenny could go to any lengths to get a story. Though Siya never quite liked her personally, she was an asset to the team. Jenny’s untimely visit surprised Siya. What was further suspicious was the way Jenny was staring at her son. It made Siya uncomfortable.
“How have you been Jenny?”
“I am good, thanks Siya. How are you doing? Must be difficult managing a baby alone!”
“Oh we are doing perfect together, aren’t we love?” Siya said putting the nipple of the milk bottle in his hungry mouth. Maya stood behind the two looking angrily at Jenny.
“Didi...please don’t feed Munna in front of others. People have evil eyes, you know. Let me take him inside while you talk to her,” she whispered hoarsely.
“Hmm. Take him inside, Maya. Once he finishes his drinking, give him a lukewarm water wash, powder him well and change his clothes. And no kohl please! I don’t want my son to look like the babies down the streets.”
Siya turned to Jenny and asked, “What brings you here? Are you not working today?”
Jenny looked around hesitantly. “Well, Siya, there is a buzz in the newsroom about the birth of your son. You know we understand there has been a mishap, but we all want to know more. I just wanted to ask you some questions.”
“What? Are you so short of ideas that you need to make a story from my own personal life?” Siya couldn’t believe her own colleagues were trying to commercialise her despair. Jenny’s insolence seemed unpardonable.
“No, no, don’t get me wrong. There have been speculations of all kinds. Some say, the baby has a lung problem. He won’t live long. Others are talking about an abnormality in conception, or maybe that he has other features that can reveal he’s not really human like us....maybe he is from another world, another planet, an ET of sort?”
“STOP!!! What do you mean? My son is a Martian? He has horns? Did you see any? How dare you? Is this a Hollywood 3D flick? Have you gone out of your mind? ” Siya’s voice and temper were rising beyond the civic norms.
“You are getting me wrong. There’s a great story here,” Jenny tried to convince.
“Story? Damn it, it’s my life. Get the hell out of here before I call the security and throw you out,” Siya was standing now and shaking with rage.
After Jenny left in a rush, Siya locked the main door, bolting it from inside, flopped down on the living room couch and closed her eyes.  What did she do to deserve this? All she had wanted was a child of her own!        
“Didi, my husband has come to take me home today. Can I go a little early? I have finished all the chores and even Munna is happy now after drinking his milk. He will fall asleep in a while. Then you can also take some rest. The ayah who comes for the night shift will be here in two hours. You can manage till then, can’t you?” Maya was standing at the foot of the couch tidying up the pleats of her saree. Siya did not have the heart to say no to her.
“Ok. Call him inside. Put baby to sleep first and then go. And don’t be late tomorrow morning,” she said in a tired voice.
The noise of an object falling shook Siya. “What happened Maya?” She shrieked and what she saw left her jaws open. Like a woman who had been taken over by some uncanny power, Maya rushed out of the kitchen chasing Ram Prasad out of the door hurling abuses at him. In one hand Maya was holding Siya’s son close to her chest. In the other, she had a long kitchen knife pointed at her husband.
“What is this? What is going on, Maya?” Siya panicked.
“The rascal! The devils will feed on your rotten corpse!” She shouted as Ram Prasad ran out of the main door.  “He came to tell me to take Munna away and sell him off to those bastards in the circus. Says they will pay good money for a blue baby. I told him to get out of my sight if he did not want his throat slit. The scoundrel that he is, Didi! I never thought he could come down to this level,” she was panting furiously.
“Oh my God, what are you saying, Maya? He came here to kidnap my child?” Siya’s head was reeling. She grabbed her wailing son who was now wide awake from the commotion and violence around and broke down.
“Didi, don’t fear the evil. Don’t give up hope. It’s not your fault. Munna is only little different but he’s still your own. God only made him this way. I am not educated like you. I am only a simple God fearing woman. Didi, let’s take Munna to the temple and get the Lord’s blessings. He will protect your son,” Maya tried to offer all the consolation she could.
Siya’s maternal instincts were stronger than her indomitable modern independent spirit. As a self made successful professional, she never needed to bow before anyone, and religion was the last thing on her priority list. Yet, when it came to the intimidating fear for her son’s life and security, she gave in to an ordinary illiterate woman’s advice. When Maya took them to the nearest temple in the neighbourhood that very night to plead the deity to save the child from evil eyes, Siya did not question her intent or actions. She mutely followed the rituals that the priest suggested, exposing her son to the world for the first time since his unusual birth. Standing next to her as she offered her prayers was a dreamy eyed little boy with what looked like a down syndrome. He kept staring at her son with a strange look in his eyes, as if he saw what others could not, as if he saw beneath his skin. Siya was beginning to get rigid, fearing more assaults for the little one, when the boy’s mother pulled him away and apologised to Siya.
“Sorry, he doesn’t mean any harm. My son is not very well.” Siya thought she saw tears in her eyes as she said the last words. The boy refused to budge and when his mother insisted, he cried out “kaaaan..ha....”pointing a finger at Siya’s son. Siya felt a lump in her throat as he repeated,”Kaaan...ha... kaaanha.... kaanha”
Why didn’t she think of this before? Kneeling at the altar of the Supreme where all powers merged and disseminated as one, with tears rolling down her cheeks, Siya picked up her son, the dream of her life, the extension of her being, kissed him on the forehead for the first time and softly whispered, “Kanha...the avatar of the strongest and the most positive force in the world, the emblem of truth, love and beauty –the blue God, yes, that’s what you will be called henceforth. Welcome to the world!”           

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Broken Images

By Ananya Mukherjee

For those who love the work of Russian masters who delve into the conscious of the individual, or the Shakespearean art of bringing forth without warning a confronting alter ego, Girish Karnad’s Broken Images is a theatrical treat that simply cannot be missed.  

The one-act high-intensity monologue is based on an original script by Karnad in Kannada, directed by Alyque Padamsee and brought alive single-handedly by veteran actor Shabana Azmi.

The story is simple, set up against the contemporary backdrop of India’s bustling capital, New Delhi. Starting with a mild comical portrayal of a Hindi author whose first English book has become an international bestseller and made her a star overnight, the play delves deeper in the truth behind the book, the author and her life.

It moves from being a social drama to a psychological thriller as it slowly rips the mask off the celebrity writer Manjula Sharma. And so powerful is the deliberation, that even without your conscious interest or intent, you will find yourself  going through a steady yet unpredictable shift of loyalty between the two characters, Manjula and her crippled and dead younger sister, Malini, deftly portrayed by Shabana.  

The innovative treatment of the script and direction clearly demarcates Padamsee’s style of doing things differently. Conventionally, Malini would have been a background voice or a shadow in the dark.

The use of a pre-recorded act to bring Malini alive on stage was the stroke of a genius, and the Shabana on screen, with her theatrics, taunts, and brilliant sense of timing delivered the intended punch just as much as the one who flawlessly played the character live on stage without a stammer or a prompt. What was most striking was that the sync between the two was never lost.

If you are a lover of contemporary theatre, and if Shabana and Alyque are in town, you wouldn’t miss the next show!

The Final Rendezvous

By Anindita Baidya
Anand, Gujarat, India

 The silence was broken by a faint call from somewhere very far. But it was very distinct and she recognised the voice immediately. And the realisation sent a chilling wave down her spine!  “It couldn’t be him! How on earth is it possible?” 

Samay ke uss paar se bhi awaaz deta hai koi?
 Tera naam doosre jaha se bhi pukaartaa hai koi?

Annelise ignored the voice and treaded ahead. It was a dense forest and the cold windy morning in January made it difficult to move very fast. 
She again heard the voice, “Ann..........................!!!!”
 She almost started sweating in spite of the harsh cold wind. Annelise now decided to hurry back to her resort.
 The resort manager had informed her that the beautiful Sunrise Point in this part of the Shivalik hills was closed for tourists, since last thirty years! The tourism department had sealed this part and notified the place as ‘UNSAFE’.
 She very well knew, why!
 Annelise tried to shrug off the thought of the voice calling out her name. Her very own name, ‘Ann’. And there has been only one person in the world who ever called her by that name!

Sahir! Only Sahir!

Sahir and Annelise, the star struck lovers, the prince and princesses of a fairy tale love story, a tragic love story. They both belonged to very rich families. The two families in the same neighbourhood had built fortune over the generations and their wealth, splendour and dazzle could speak only a small part of the enormous power and strength they had built in the society.

And so, undoubtedly, the highly regarded two families could not allow the two lovers, belonging to different culture and religion, belong to each other. They were like the two banks of the same river, nothing in the world could allow them to meet. 
There were tears, there were pleadings, there was violence, house-arrest and unlimited pain and woes at both the sides. Ann and Sahir, however, could not bring their families into a mutual peaceful contract. Soon Ann’s powerful brothers arranged a hasty matrimony for their sister, ignoring cruelly her tears and heartache.

It was with the help of a cousin that Ann managed to sneak out of the busy house and meet Sahir at a remote lane. They had decided to board the next train to the neighbouring station. But hell soon broke loose and both the families discovered that the lovers had left! There was a chase, a bad chase, a long chase and Sahir and Ann headed straight towards the forest, with no idea where the road would lead to! After an hour of chase, they clearly spotted Ann’s brothers and Sahir’s family running towards them like a group of mad elephants. It had not taken long for them to decide the final fate! They looked at each other and knew what they had to do.

In another moment, the two lovers jumped off the high cliff, down, down the rocky hill, rolling past high trees, thorny bushes and steep rocky edges.
 Fate had different plans for each of them.
 Ann was rescued by a group of trekkers. They tried to help Sahir too but he did not live long enough to even reach the hospital. Ann had remained in coma for a day and much after she had regained her senses, that she actually realised what a crooked game her fate had played!  Death had embraced Sahir while her own life had deceived her and death had deserted her!

After recovery, Ann left the town for good. She lived the years in her own captivity, in some lonely hilly village and had never returned to her homeland. She punished herself for not having crossed the boundary of life and death along with Sahir.

Thirty years later, she planned a rendezvous with the long lost moment and landed up in a small tourist cottage, not having even informed her family. She had borrowed the cottage owner’s car and had headed towards this place, knowing very well that treading inside was forbidden.

Her thoughts were once again shattered by the same faint call, ‘Ann....’ and she now started perspiring badly on her forehead. In the almost freezing cold, she felt very hot with her cardigan and shawl around her. She tried to walk faster but the thick fog made viewing very difficult. Her own legs seemed like heavy pillars and hands trembled badly.

And then....her heart almost stopped beating and she tumbled over a rock. About twenty feet away, on a rock, she saw her scarf, her very own red silk scarf which had her name beautifully embroidered in blue, at one edge.

Ann had tied this scarf around Sahir’s neck just before they plunged themselves downhill. Her cousin had informed that Sahir was buried along with this scarf; a small, last piece of regard for his love, shown by his repenting family.

Ann was in no way looking forward to any more chilling surprises. She ran towards her car and drove it very fast.The car pulled along recklessly through the forest, cutting through small herbs. Her hands were shivering so badly and had almost lost control.

In all her panic, she missed the ‘Forbidden path’ signboard on the way and drove into the path, still sweating and fighting hard to look through the thick fog. She had avoided looking back or sideways while driving. Some vehicle lights visible through the rear view mirror caught her attention and she looked back while driving at the same speed.

She did not notice the deep valley just ahead and in no time Ann’s car along with her, dived into the deep valley, knocking against the rocks, tall trees, thorny bushes and steep rocky edges........!!!!!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Someday, Somewhere,Someplace Else...

By Sayantani Saha
Kolkata, India

Someday, Somewhere, Someplace Else

I will sense back my long lost dream,
Left in mid way, not cherished for long.
No matter how I find it - ransacked or robbed,
This time I will quench my thirst
and live it till I fill to brim.

Someday , I will murmur my forgotten words
Jigsaw-ed, scrabbled , unuttered yet.
I will put them on rythm,tie them in verse.
Poetry may not you call it
Yet I will bring them startlit magical sparks.

I know, someday I will shiver again;
Again will be drenched in divine.
Turbulent,trembling - touch of sovereign
Somewhere in deep , submerged in time; before drying,
My eyes will surely find tiny drops of rain;;;

Someday, Somewhere, Someplace else......

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Shehnai: Its Origin and Evolution

By Deepanjana Sarkar
Kokata, India

In India, weddings and Sahnai are like Juno's Swans, completely inseparable from each other as if  all pomp and grandeur is incomplete without Sahnai. As I was listening to a beautiful light classical rendition by Pt. Ajoy Chakraborty yesterday. the beautiful use of sahnai in it kept me wondering about the origin and evolution of this beautiful instrument. Even though Sahnai is synonymous with auspicious occasions in India, specially marriage, it always takes me on a sad trip to a world of old memories, refreshing myriads of subdued emotions.  As I got completely immersed in its "Karun Ras", I kept on thinking about its origin, evolution, popularization and specially the reason(s) for its association with auspicious occasions in India. Is Sahnai an India instrument? - is a question that I kept on asking myself. I started searching for its origin and came across some interesting facts. Like several other musical instruments, Sahnai is also an instrument which had its origin in a different geographic region and later on infiltrated into the music culture of India and Pakistan and have now become ineluctable components of our melodic tradition. Sahnai, an ancient woodwind instrument, is played on many different happy occasions. In India, Hindu priests perform the nuptials amidst the renditions of Sahnai. In Pakistan, out in its rural hinterland, groups of musicians headed by Sahnai players lead marriage processions to and from the home of brides. In Punjab and Sindh, Sahnai is also played on other joyous occasions such as village fairs, sports competitions and male-folk dances. In the North West Frontier Province this instrument is now an important component of the repertoires of Khattak dancers. In the opinion of musicologists, Sahnai, like several other musical devices, traveled into the Indian Subcontinent with the invading armies from the North, or infiltrated into South Asia as a natural consequence of trans-regional melodic pollination. However, historians claim that Shehnai was introduced in the subcontinent by the immigrants from Central Asia where it is known as Surnai. In several parts of Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province, it is still called by the same name. Sahnai (also Sanai, Shahnai, Shehnai) is a double-reeded wind instrument similar to the western Oboe. The name Sahnai is of Persian origin (In Persian, "Sah" means "King" and "Nai" means "Wind Instrument"), and some theorize that the instrument may have been taken to India from Persia by the Mughals, a tribe of Mongolian origin, which occupied much of northern India from the 16th century to the 18th century. Others believe the Sahnai may have developed from an earlier Indian instrument. The Sahnai or Shehnai, double-reeded instrument of the wind instrument category is one of the most ancient instruments used in India. Sahnai or Shehnai is mainly an outdoor instrument played particularly on occasions considered auspicious such as processions and weddings. The Shehnai is a tube that gradually widens towards the lower end. It usually has eight or nine holes. The Sahnai has a wooden tubular body of about 45 to 60 cm (1.5 to 2 ft) in length, backed by metal, ending in a wider bell shape. Of its or nine holes, only seven are used for playing; the others are left open or are closed with wax to define the pitch of the instrument. The reed is fixed at the narrow blowing end. The reeds used in Shehnai are made of pala grass. Spare reeds and an ivory needle with which the reeds are adjusted are attached to the mouth piece. The Sahnai produces a rich, expressive sound, with the characteristic timbre of the reed. It is considered to be an auspicious instrument and is used in celebrations and festivals, particularly at weddings. It is often paired with a shruti, a Sahnai with several closed holes, with the shruti supplying a drone (a continuous accompanying tone) at a suitable pitch.The origin of Shehnai instrument is shrouded in controversy; it does not seem to be more than three-four centuries old. We see similar-looking instruments in ancient carvings and paintings, but it is in the 20th century that the instrument has attained concert level status. Closely related to the Sahnai is the nagasvaram of South India, which is also double-reeded but longer at 60 to 76 cm (2 to 2.5 ft). The nagasvaram has 12 holes, of which 7 are used for playing, and the body ends in a metal bell. It produces a higher-pitched, sharper sound than the Sahnai, and is usually only performed outdoors. Also considered auspicious, the nagasvaram is frequently played at temple festivals and processions, and on ceremonial occasions. Shehnai or Sahnai has been an integral part of Indian culture for centuries. Any special occasion, with or without auspicious ceremonies began with the Shehnai or Sahnai. So strong is the association between this instrument and festivities that the very word Shehnai has become synonymous with celebrations and happiness. Perhaps no Indian wedding is complete without the sound of the Shehnai permeating the wedding venue. Because of its auspicious quality, it's a must in every Indian wedding. Since ancient times, the Shehnai has been regarded as an auspicious instrument and featured in religious ceremonies. In fact in several parts of the country even today the temples resonate with the sound of the Shehnai in the early hours of morning, to awaken the deities. A small wind instrument, Shehnai looks somewhat similar to Oboe, but instead of furnished keys as in Oboe, it has eight or nine open holes. The Shehnai is an integral part of the temple music of every part of India. The Shehnai found a place in every palace in every region of Nepal and India, whether in the palace of temple or on the top of fort.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Silence and Tears

By Bina Biswas

We would not recognise each other
even if we met again,
My face will all be smeared with dust,
my body glazed with frost.
In deepest night,
a sudden dream would return to you!

I sit on my small boat
and sail on.
We would look at each other without a word,
as tears flow.
I bid adieu
Where the moon shines brightly in the night,
and bare palms guard my sepulchre.

An Epic Retold

Reviewed by Anna Kishore

The Mahabharata is one of the greatest epics to be written ever. It would be a rare case that there would be a person on the sub-continent who did not grow reading or hearing the stories from this epic. And based on these inputs each person would have their own questions, opinions and conclusions on the numerous characters and incidents of Mahabharata. For instance each time I heard or saw, I would wonder how could the queen of the blind king, Dhritarashtra, blindfold herself for life, when she heard that she was to be married to a blind prince? Or how could Princess Panchali agree to get married to all the five Pandavas? But the somewhere with the passing years these questions, images and interpretations got pushed back into one corner of my mind.
Then, a few days back, I came across this very interesting book while browsing in the library. The name of the book is The Palace of Illusions written by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The synopsis of the book given on the back intrigued me to read the book. It said the book was Mahabharata retold by the Princess of Panchal – Panchali, more commonly known as Draupadi. The story has been written in first person, as if being narrated by Draupadi herself. I was both, filled with curiosity to read the book and ready to find faults in the work. This was because, according to me, trying to give one’s own version to the epic which has stood the test of times is no mean task. But after reading the entire book, my critical mind was thoroughly impressed.
The character of Draupadi comes across as a strong, unconventional woman, who is caught in the customs and traditions of the society. But despite everything, within her limits how Draupadi manages to stand out and makes her mark in history. This has been narrated in an interesting as well as an inspiring manner.
From the very start the book holds the attention of the reader. The unusual way in which Draupadi is born into this world has been well described to capture the reader’s imagination. The emotions of a princess, who is born out of fire and who does not have anyone except her brother to call her own has been described in a manner such that one can empathise with her emotions. The pains and pleasures of being a princess, the doubts and thoughts that crosses the minds of even the greatest of princesses is very well handled. The attempt to portray Karna, the son of a charioteer and not Arjuna who actually won her hand for marriage, as the person whom the princess is actually attracted to is a good attempt to add a bit more of drama to the original work and thus make it entertaining.
The character of Krishna, which has little bit of divinity, a little bit of humanity, a little bit of chivalry and a little bit of slyness cannot be easily brought alive through words. But the cleverness of the author is evident in the way the complex character of Krishna can be visualised going through the various scenes of the story. The highlight was the famous or rather infamous scene, where Draupadi is dragged into the court room to be insulted in front of a large audience. In all the previous attempts of reproducing this particular scene, it was the divinity of Krishna, who is believed to be the incarnation of the Supreme power, has been glorified. But Chitra has used this scene to bring out the strength of her main character who is Draupadi. Her anguish and anxieties and her courage to question the wise men around and ask for justice was truly inspiring. Even in that moment of despair, her heart calling out not to her husbands but to the person, whom she is truly attracted to, to Karma, is indeed very bold. And last but not the least, her undying faith in Krishna whom, though, she looks upon more as friend than as a god accomplishes such feats that compels her to think or rather question his true identity.
Finally when her end is near, the author beautifully brings out the fear, the longings, the pains and pleasures that she goes through effectively. The reader is forced to look at this great Indian princess with new eyes. No doubt she is one the greatest princess of all times, but first and foremost is that she is a woman. And the book leaves you with the feeling that after all the great Draupadi, wife of the great Pandavas though did not have an ordinary life in many aspects still craved for things that every woman, no matter from which part of the society she comes from aspires for, like true love, recognition, attention and admiration from people around her.
After reading The Palace of Illusions the characters of this great epic called Mahabharata and particularly Princess Draupadi seemed to come to life amongst us yet again.

Monday, April 30, 2012


By Ananya Mukherjee

Bandhh almariyon ke peeche se do udaas ankhein taakti raheti hain; 
akelepan mein apne aap se poochti hain kai mushkil sawaal...

Ek arsa ho gaya hai tumse mulaqat hue; 
Kya itni badal gayi ho ya phir koi aur parr leta hai tumhari khamosh zubaan?
Ab zehn ke aag ko thandak ki bhi zaroorat nahin parti? 
ya phir kahin aisa to nahin ki tum bhi shaamil ho gayee ho uss bheer mein jisse kabhi tumhe darr lagta thha?
Tumhare ungliyon ke nishaan bade yaad aatein hain mujhe,
oss ke moti jaise bikre kalikh ke daag un tamam gili raaton ko dauhrane lagte hain jo humne sath lipat kar bitaye thhe..
siski ho ya sannata, haath nahin chora thha kabhi tumhara..
gusse mein bhi mujhpar hi barasti thhi, aur mohabbat ka afsaana dil jalakar mujhe hi sunati thhi..
gulab ke sukhe patton ke sath kahin mere panno mein tum aaj bhi mehekti ho
Kabhi besabab aakar mujhse milo kisi din uss bachpan ki tarah
rubaru baithho, apni sunayo, meri suno...
Ek umr ho gayee guftagoo kiye ..

Tumhari Diary

In other words....
They stare at my face from behind the dust laden cabinets
Sighing, whispering, contemplating in the silence,
The quiet eyes pose a thousand unanswered questions :
It’s been eons since I met you
Have you changed so much with the times or have you found someone who can read your unspoken unsaid words the way I would?
Or is it that no fire burns in your soul anymore, and that you have transformed as one of the many in the herd, led by instincts that you so once dreaded?
I remember the way your fingers lingered over me,
The dew drops smeared over all of me, blotted smudged ink marks all reminisce the nights when we lay woven in each other’s arms
Sniffles or silence, I never parted with you,
You showered your wrath on me, you told me a thousand heart burning tales of infatuation,
Like the dried rose petals concealed in my pages, somewhere within me your fragrance has remained
Come to me someday without inhibitions, like your childhood faith,
Sit with me and talk, tell me  about yourself, learn about me again…
It’s been ages since we spoke.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Rabindranath Tagore

Translation by Bina Biswas , Secunderbad, India

In those flustered days of the primeval age
when the Maker frustrated with himself
was ravaging the new creation again and again,
In those days of His impatience, the frequent tossing of head,
The enraged arms of the ocean snatched you from
the breast of the Eastern mother-earth, Africa,
and tied you down under the thick watch of foliage
in the inner quad of stingy light.

There in the solitude of leisure
you accessed the mysterious remote
besought to learn the obscure notes of
water, land and sky.
The nature’s imperceptible wonders
aroused spells in your cataleptic mind.
You scorned the dreadful
in the appalling guise,
yearning to beat the terror,
by making yourself grotesque in stern grandeur
to the drumbeats of the divine dance.

O the shadowed one,
beneath the dark veil,
unknown was your human form
to the hatred's blurry eyes.
Came they with iron manacles
their claws sharper than your wolves,
Arrived the human-trappers
More blind with pride than your
your sunless woods.

The savage hunger of the civilized
bared its brazen inhumanity.
The forest paths moistened with
muted sighs, the dust was mucky
with your tears and blood.
Crushed under the nailed boots of the bandits,
on the ugly lumps of clay
left their stubborn scripts
in your insulted history.

Across the ocean, all the while, in their towns
bells chimed in their temples
morning and evening in the name of all merciful God.
The children played in their mothers’ arms;
the poets’ songs rang with the adulation of beauty.

Today, when on the western horizon
The evening is breathless in the windstorm,
the beasts emerge from the hollow caves
Announce the end of the day with their ugly howl,
Come , O poet of the eon,
in the approaching gloom of the dusk,
Stand at the doors of the slighted woman,
Say, ‘Forgive us’.
Amidst delirious raving,
Let these be the last hallowed words of your civilization.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

60 and Still the Most Thrilling of It All!

By Ananya Mukherjee
Monte Casino, Johannesburg, South Africa 

What differentiates an ordinary crime thriller from a piece of theatrical history that has captivated audience, retained its original flavour and overwhelming suspense for six decades over 24,000 performances? Two words. Agatha Christie. Period.

Written by the greatest crime writers of all times, the Mousetrap, West End’s longest running whodunit is currently in its 60th year in 2012. What started as a 30 minutes radio play called Three Blind Mice on BBC and evolved as the Mousetrap, has mesmerised thousands of theatre lovers over the years. Although periodically the cast is changed, bringing in freshness and variation to the play, the basic structure and treatment of the two-hour high-intensity drama remains unaltered. And so enthralling is the experience that the audience spontaneously engages and warms up to the characters, almost trying to solve the country house murder mystery as the scenes unfold.

The setting is the Great Hall of Monkswell Manor in Berkshire soon to be cut off from the rest of the world due to an impending snowstorm. The curtain is raised with the announcement that a murder has been committed in Paddington. The Police is looking for the suspect on the run dressed in a coat and a hat.  

The long opening scene sets the pace as each guest arrives shaking snow from his/her hat and winter coats, blissfully unaware that  they and the young proprietors of the Manor will soon fall under the deepest suspicion of guilt and threat of sudden death. 

The action kicks into gear when the earnest Detective Sergeant Trotter arrives with the disquieting news that the suspect who committed the London murder may be amongst the guests of the now snowed-in Manor. Furthermore, clues carelessly discarded now point to the Manor as the killer's next stopping place in pursuit of two more victims of vengeance . But who are they? No one knows.

The lurking danger is well enhanced by a realistic rural English Manor with doorways, staircases, scones and dim lights that accentuate the suspense as the tension builds and the secret finally unlocks.

By tradition, at the end of each performance, the audience is asked  not to reveal the identity of the killer to anyone outside the theatre to ensure that the climax of the play is not divulged and future productions remain as mysterious as ever. 

Mousetrap comes forth as a beautifully preserved example of a country house murder mystery and the cast does excellent justice to Agatha Christie's characters. Needless to say, the production's historic credentials make the experience both entertaining and exciting right till the end.