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Shadow

The gray flows into the blue,
The water rises to meet the sky,
The orchestra of sounds crashing into me,
The ship in pieces.

The waterlogged wood splitting,
The rain, washing everything away.

There’s a lady crying,
Holding her dead son’s body.
A hungry puppy looking for it’s mother.

A bullet has been shot somewhere,
we just heard it.

There’s no light left.
And yet, I stand on the mast,
looking for a tomorrow
in yesterday’s shadow.



Flashback

As I lay near the window,
A sphere of helium sucking life out,
A small portal in bright colours,
getting wider.

Someone screaming next to me,
I think I can hear it.
Someone sobbing on my clothes,
I think I can feel the hot tears.

I see him, he’s running across the tracks,
he’s raising his hand in class,
leaning on the pillar, torchlight on his forhead.
I should’ve known school romances never last.

“Gone with the Wind” lying on my bed,
My mattress turned over
She’s yelling…
Why’s she yelling?

The bloomed lotus outside our classroom;
Fading away.
The red flowers, losing their red,
And me looking out of the door.

I got my graph wrong that day.
Red ink splashed across the grid.
I see the portal now, dashed in blue.
I think it knows.

At the dinner table,
My parents sitting across from me.
All of us laughing over a bowl of custard.
The death toll in Iraq rising, and me so jocund.

The papers from my file are flying,
I’m strugging to gather them.
When did it all fall apart?
I realised too late I think.

I’m running on a circular track.
Seemingly endless.
Maybe it will end.
Today.

The last sounds being the slight murmuring
of my mother in my ear.
Then the even more slight siren of
The Ambulance.

————————————————————————————

Divyangana Rakesh is a 17-year-old passout of Rishi Valley School (KFI), Andhra Pradesh. Despite being deeply into science and in particular, Biochemistry, she has been writing poetry ever since she’s been 11.

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Sikkim

Sikkim 1 by Pujarini Sen

Sikkim 1 by Pujarini Sen

 

Sikkim 2 by Pujarini Sen

Sikkim 2 by Pujarini Sen

 

Sikkim 3 by Pujarini Sen

Sikkim 3 by Pujarini Sen

 

Sikkim 4 by Pujarini Sen

Sikkim 4 by Pujarini Sen

 

Sikkim 5 by Pujarini Sen
Sikkim 5 by Pujarini Sen
————————————————————————————
Pujarini Sen is a second-year student of English Honours at Jadavpur University, Calcutta.

Sounds of Silence

When you stop talking
The crickets fill up the silence.
The ticking clock,
Water, dripping in an empty bucket
The barking dogs in some faraway lane
A shouting child,
A quarreling couple
Gossiping televisions
Suddenly throng my nerves.
They just don’t shut up like you.
They simply don’t give up.
And that ceaseless noise from inside…



Elders

They talk about people
They talk about home.
They argue on their fate,
Sports, politics and the drainage system.
Moreover, the monsoon is delayed
By 13 days this year.
Their children are weak at vernacular
Their parents are weak at sensibility
And they have been weak at calculations
All the time.
So they are being deceived,
Or are they dodging deceptions?
They have seen the worse days.
They have trudged the harder way.
Indeed. And their stories are all told
Long before they could finish them.

But now…
Now they are keeping secrets.

————————————————————————————

Sayak Roy Chowdhury is about to be graduated this year as an electrical engineer from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. He fantasies he can write poetry and bullies others to read them; he finds his friends scampering all around when he approaches with his red diary.

Marcus Rediker

September 2007

This year and the next mark an important historical anniversary: Two centuries ago, both the United States and Great Britain abolished the African slave trade.

 

By the time they did, the trade had carried 9 million Africans to New World plantations, where they would live under the lash and produce the largest planned accumulation of wealth the world had yet seen. Abolition followed a long and determined campaign waged by antislavery activists on both sides of the Atlantic.

 

But who really brought the slave trade to an end?

 

In popular history, the people who abolished the slave trade are seen virtually as saints. They were somber, often dressed in black; they were devout, earnest, and good; they were the very embodiment of Christian virtue. In New England, many were descended from Puritans and reflected their austere and humorless ways. In England they were epitomized by the aristocratic evangelical William Wilberforce, the voice of abolition in Parliament. The recent movie Amazing Grace portrays him as a selfless, somewhat sickly angel who loved animals, servants, Africans and God. Piety has long been seen as the hallmark of abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic.

A Human History by Marcus Rediker

Slave Ship: A Human History by Marcus Rediker

 

If that were the full story, though, it would be exploded by this document. While working in the special collections library of Bristol University in England on a book on 18th-century slave ships, I found an almost completely unknown broadside entitled “The Petition of the Sharks of Africa.” It looked like any other printed petition, elegant in its composition, suitable for presentation, addressed “To the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of Great Britain, in Parliament assembled.”

 

 

It was, however, a vivid and harsh piece of satire. In fact it claimed to have been written by the “Sharks of Africa,” who declared themselves to be a numerous and flourishing group thanks to the many slave ships that visited the coast of West Africa. From these vessels, they explained, they got “large quantities of their most favourite food – human flesh.”

 

 

When the dead were thrown overboard, the sharks devoured the corpses. Sometimes they got live flesh, when African rebels who preferred death to slavery jumped overboard. When slave ships were “dashed on the rocks and shoals” of the region, throwing “hundreds of human beings, both black and white” into the water, it was a feast.

 

 

The sharks were writing to the British Parliament kindly asking them not to end the slave trade. Taking a sensible conservative view, the sharks denounced the abolitionists’ “wild ravings of fanaticism,” confident that their benevolent lordships would not let His Majesty’s loyal shark subjects starve. The petitioners were sure that they could count on “the wisdom and fellow-feeling” of the House of Lords. Sharks should stick together, after all.

 

 

Nothing I had read had prepared me for such a document. Here, unexpectedly, was a dark and daring kind of humor I had never known to exist among abolitionists.

 

 

Further research revealed that it had been republished widely, in Edinburgh, Philadelphia, New York, and Salem. I concluded that “The Petition of the Sharks of Africa” had been written by a Scot named James Tytler, who was a physician, poet, composer, an editor of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and Britain’s first hot-air balloonist. For his radicalism, he was eventually arrested and charged with sedition, only to flee into exile in 1793, first to Ireland, then to Salem. His contribution has never figured in the histories of abolition – partly, I am convinced, because it does not fit the enduring image of abolitionists.

 

 

The document joins a long string of new findings that have changed our understanding of who the abolitionists were. Working-class men and women protested the trade through boycotts; sailors smuggled pamphlets and told their horror stories to activists ashore. The front line of the war against human bondage was occupied by the enslaved themselves, whose resistance sent shock waves around the world, terrifying many and inspiring some. Their names may be lost to the history books, but they anchored a complex and diverse social movement.

 

 

Why do we need to know this today? First, it is important to understand that the abolition of the slave trade, and of slavery itself, was not a gift from on high. William Wilberforce did not abolish the slave trade, as Amazing Grace might make it seem, just as a lone Abraham Lincoln did not free the slaves. It will no longer do to pretend that a “great man” did things that are more accurately described as a result of a complex historical situation and a many-sided resistance.

 

 

Second, it is important to people demanding justice and reparations today – whoever and wherever they may be – to know that their forebears played an important role in bringing the slave trade and indeed the entire institution of slavery to an end. We owe the abolition of the nefarious trade not just to aristocrats and Puritans, but to enslaved rebels, to factory workers and sailors, and to at least one irreverent Scottish daredevil.

Afternoon.

 

 

The afternoon rain always bothered her.

 

She loved the sudden kaalboishakhis of the evening, which brought with them the smell of fresh grass, wet winds and jasmine. But the light monotonous drizzle on damp June afternoons made her uncomfortable. Restless.

 

She flitted from room to room in the tiny two-bedroom apartment that she called her home. The bright red Chinese table clock on top of the T.V. said it was 2:45 pm. He wouldn’t be back until five, at least, and her son would hopefully be arriving at around four. She was glad Amit was coming home early from the boarding this summer. After all, this would be his last summer in the city. She wanted the three of them to go on a holiday – a nice, proper one, preferably to the hills. They would be beautiful just before the rains started. She remembered early childhood memories of going for the family holiday to Darjeeling every summer during this time of the year — the air would be heavy with the smell of rain, the early morning mists would stay longer then usual, wrapping the town in a white coverlet of dream and sleep.

 

The clock struck three.

 

It had been so many years since she’d been to Darjeeling. Or even on a proper holiday. Not counting his numerous conferences, of course, which all took place in bustling corporate houses threaded together by a mass of overcrowded roads, all across India. Large, dynamic cities, like this one.

 

 And it had never been the three of them together. It was always with a Mr. Sharma or a Miss Rathode and then he would always be busy answering phone calls while she would be left to finish all the new Agatha Christies that she’d bought from the airport. No, this would be a proper holiday. With just the three of them. She would talk to him about it as soon as he got back home.

 

This time of the afternoon was always lazy – dragging itself slowly and heavily, like an old, wrinkled man shuffling away from the fire, not wanting to leave its warm shelter. And the rain made it worse, with its quivering patterns on the window… She would usually have taken a quick nap, re-read old magazines or even gossiped with the young daily help who came to ‘do’ the laundry; but today the help wouldn’t be coming, she didn’t feel like sleeping and the rain made her keep looking up from the old copy of Desh she was trying to read. She decided to give it up and wandered to the window, watching the raindrops trickle slowly down the glass leaving behind faint traces, which would later have to be scrubbed off. She tried to remember the song that her mother always used to sing on rainy afternoons, while plaiting her hair in the verandah or re-arranging the clothes in the old, mahogany closet near the window…

 

She suddenly remembered she’d promised Amit that she’d clean out all the junk from the large wooden trunk in his room, which had acted as a store-house for old, unwanted things for many, many years. Amit wanted to arrange all his old books there now that he would be going away sometime later this year. She decided that this would be as good a time as any since after Amit arrived there would be meals to cook, his bags to unpack, his clothes to be washed and general fuss over him. He, of course, would brush it off with a cursory hug and a lightly admonishing “Ma! Amar boyesh hoye geche” and then shut himself up with his laptop. She knew he was old enough to look after himself (and he was a responsible boy, after all) but she liked taking care of him, no matter how hard Amit teased her about being an old mother hen or a fusspot. She almost wished Amit were a little boy again, so that she had to run after him with his meals and teach him fifth grade geography. Or untie his shoelaces for him. All those growing-up years had been wonderful. Certainly for her, and she hoped for him as well. It had ultimately been worth all the sacrifices she’d made.

 

The old trunk had been a family heirloom of sorts. Her great grandfather had bought it from Turkish merchant decades ago, impressed by its wonderfully patterned lid and the rich, glossy texture. Over the years, it had gathered grime, stains and memories, sitting beside the four-poster bed in her mother’s room, until she’d brought it over to this apartment after her wedding. She’d known it for as long as it could remember, and the trunk had always evoked a sense of solidarity. She had put her old, faded, half-broken possessions carefully in its heart over the years and promptly forgotten all about them, reassured by the security the trunk had always seemed to provide. She felt an odd pang of disappointment as she sat down to clear out the trunk, as if she was violating its existence in some strange way.

 

The first thing out was a bunch of old shawls that she no longer wore. They were soft still, and smelled of naphthalene: a smell that always reminded her of the old closet at home. She shook herself a little. Her mother’s place. She was home now. At home, matter-of-factly putting away old rubbish to make new space for her son’s books. There was nothing remotely nostalgic or contemplative about that. Perhaps it was the rain. It made her what she’d generally heard being termed as ‘moody.’

 

She rolled up the shawls and put them to her right, ‘The Things to be Gotten Rid Of’ – she made a mental note. Next out were old stationery, her cooking books and Amit’s old school notebooks. And then, as she searched through a pile of moth-eaten books, she stopped. Her hands quivered for a second. Then, slowly, as if with a lot of effort, she took out a pair of ghungroos: the metal jingles on the traditional red velvet jangled, breaking the silence of the room.

 

The pitter-patter of the rain had suddenly grown fainter. The jingle of the ghungroos seemed to overpower all other sounds, drowning everything else, bringing back a flood of memories. She saw herself at the General Dance Competition at school, with this particular pair of ghungroos on her feet, holding up the special prize for Extraordinary Performance in Dance. She saw herself at her dancing school, with her guruji smiling at her as she confidently picked up the first prize. She saw herself at the National Dance Show where Mr. Sarabhai had come up to her, and congratulated her on her performance… and then, suddenly, the storm of memories petered out into a light drizzle and then stopped. Abruptly. She remembered tucking away this special pair of ghungroos, a few days before the wedding, solemnly folding away a bit of herself under a few old books. And there it stayed, well hidden, in this old, secure trunk.

 

She put them on slowly, warily, as if they were fragile creatures which would melt away at touch. Then, she stood up and took a few tentative steps. The sound of the jingles rang loud and bold. Hardly what she was feeling. A strange sense of vulnerability came over her. Even though she knew there was nobody in the house, she jingled through the apartment, closing a window here and there. As she walked, the old familiar sound seemed to run through her veins, making her almost giddy with pleasure. She took a twirl in the living room. And then another. And then another.

 

There was no music. She needed none. The music played constantly in her head, as she danced long forgotten steps. And as she danced, she realized what she found disturbing about the rain. It made her restless: it made her remember. As she danced, she realized how long she had been away, away from herself. As she danced her whole body vibrated with a freedom she’d forgotten and she wondered: was it worth it? Was it worth it to trade this exhilaration, this wonderful sense of contentment for lonely June afternoons? For evenings trapped in two-bedroom floors? Did anything else really matter?

 

She could have gone and on. But she stopped to rest her body a little; it had grown old with years of disuse. Her mind was elsewhere. She wanted to fly, to break free and dance. Only dance. To the end.

 

She sat fingering the tiny metal beads on her ghungroo for a long time after that, thinking thoughts that had never seemed important before.  She was surprised at herself. Surprised and dismayed. The rain had stopped; the sun was slowly filtering in through the drawn curtains, falling on old shawls and old books.

 

The doorbell rang.

 

She was startled. For a moment, she sat there with the ghungroos still in her hand. The clock said it was 4.30. It was probably Amit at the door.

 

The doorbell rang again and she gave herself a shake. Then, slowly, deliberately she picked up the pair of ghungroos and placed them to her right, with her old shawls.

 

It was Amit. She smiled and gave him a hug. And he said, “ Ma! What, on earth, were you doing? I was standing here for the last ten minutes!” 

 

————————————————————————————

 

Sohini Pal is currently occupied with the complex and confusing process of being alive. Incidentally, she is also in her Second Year, English Honours at the Jadavpur University, Calcutta. 

 

Poetry: Omair Anwar

I am, I feel

Hypnotize me.
Too much pain, too little respite
Cage me.
Too much vice, too little of virtue
Bind me.
Too many mistakes, just too many
I recede.
In cold dungeons of pain
I run.
Through forests of falsehood
Ere all that ends, ere all that begins
Like an endless circle
I am, I feel



And Death sang me a lullaby

Come to me or I shall come to you,
Careless whisper, who are you?
I am my Lord’s servant; I seek your soul,
Careless whisper, why cannot I see you?
Seek death and you shall see me,
Careless whisper, who would seek death?
Men who are waiting to meet their Lord,
Careless whisper, why me?
Your time has come, you must go,
Careless whisper, is it painful?
Death is not felt, death is another life,
Come to me or I shall come to you,
Careless whisper, sing me a lullaby.

————————————————————————————

Omair Anwar is a 21-year-old writer studying engineering at University of Engineering and Technology, Lahore.

 

The Drive

 

 

‘Speed it up there,’ said Zhievo impatiently, ‘Go on, step on it!’

 

‘I will man, keep your knickers on,’ Marco retorted back. It was the one solitary word which made them catch each other’s eye and then completely lose it as they burst out laughing at their own fun like little kids. They must have cracked their ribs in a few places by the time they were ready to let go of their little fragment of humour. As they drove down the smooth road in the dark of the night, the darkness was broken only by the pair of narrow beams from the headlights of their car.

 

Marco was behind the wheels and continually rubbing his eyes hard to shake himself awake from the dizziness the drinks had given him. Zhievo didn’t bother with anything as such – he loved the way alcohol disillusioned him and made him struggle to even stand up straight. At that precise moment, he was quite enjoying the zigzagging pattern the car was proceeding in. The darkness cooled his senses and he wanted it to stay that way, he was falling asleep as he kept staring out at the blank canvas of the sky. He loved this feeling of flying he was experiencing. He threw his head back on the seat and continued to enjoy the upliftment.

 

‘Dude, you mind? What the fuck are you doing?’ snapped Marco as he screwed up his eyes to concentrate on what was ahead on the road.

 

‘What? What did I do?’

 

‘Stop stretching your legs onto my crotch, I’m trying to drive here!’

 

‘You fucking insane? Why would I ha-’, Zhievo had to stop midway as he realised where his legs were and quietly moved them back to proper position in his seat. ‘Sorry, stretched a bit too much. The Jack Daniels… man! Tell you what, he is a dude, he’s freaking amazing!’

 

‘Jack Daniels is not a dude, not any more at least. Now, he is just a bottle of whiskey.’

 

‘Wrong. He is an empty bottle of whiskey. See?’ Zhievo held up the empty bottle for Marco to verify the claim.

 

Again, it was one of those moments when you just look each other in the eye and then lose track of everything around you as you struggle to stop laughing like a drunken maniac.

 

‘Gosh Zhi, how’d you finish that entire bottle? I only had about two swigs from it!’

 

‘Easy, you open the bottle, and then you bring it closer to your mouth. Got it so far?’

 

‘Yeah,’ said Marco who was now finding Zhievo’s comments more helpful in getting rid of the slight tipsiness he still felt. He let him carry on.

 

‘Okay, then…’ Zhievo paused for a moment trying to figure out the rest of it. Then he suddenly snapped back into concentration. ‘Then you get your lips around the mouth of the bottle, then tilt it upwards and drink from it. See, easy as fuck!’ concluded a thrilled Zhievo.

 

‘Fucking hell, you’re an absolute piss-head, that’s what you are. To empty an entire bottle of whiskey is mental! Seriously dude, get a grip.’

 

‘Oi! What’re you telling me to get a grip for, huh? What else was I supposed to do?’

 

‘What are you on about now?’

 

‘No seriously, what was I supposed to do? You were in there, fucking your girl, and what was I supposed to do? Fucking go in and watch? That would have been a better pastime, wouldn’t it?’

 

‘Hey… hey! Where’s this coming from, man? Cool down!’

 

‘I don’t care where it’s coming from, it’s already here so deal with it. Now, what was I supposed to do? Tell me! You’re in there have fun with that whore and it becomes a crime to even fucking drink whiskey?’

 

There was a silent pause. Thoughts kept running through the heads of both men as one of them continued to drive down the dark road. Thoughts, mainly jealous and piping hot in Zhievo’s head, but Marco – what ran through his head was beyond the capacity of words. It wasn’t rage he was feeling. He was used to his companion’s ways and he half-expected outbursts like these every once in a while, especially after a drinking session. He managed to calm himself down and spoke slowly as he said to Zhievo, ‘Bro, listen to me here. It’s alright if you drink not just a bottle but a whole gallon of whiskey or whatever shit it is you want to. But. You. Do Not! Refer to my girlfriend as a whore. You get that, man? I’m telling you once, won’t do it again.’

 

‘I’m sorry man… sorry bro… didn’t mean to… I’m gutted now, sorry…’ Zhievo stared around for some time and then asked, ‘Say, is there any of that good stuff still left?’

 

‘Yeah, there’s still a packet left in the back seat.’

 

As Zhievo shoved himself into the back seat and began shuffling, looking for something, he broke into a song – ‘She don’t lie, she don’t lie, she don’t lie…’ He paused for a moment as he picked up what he was looking for. As the glee began to get brighter in his eyes, he remembered the song he was halfway through and decided to finish it, ‘COCAINE!!!!’

 

On a little plate of glass, he emptied the contents of the packet. Then he gathered them into little thin lines. Rolling up a piece of paper into a nozzle, he ran one end of it over the lines while the other end was inserted into one of his nostrils. The other nostril was held shut by him to maximise the effect of whatever he was doing. When he was done with it, he was sniffing and breathing heavily. His eyes were slightly red.

 

Marco wasn’t interested in what was going on at the back seat any more, but he knew something now. Something had been bothering him a lot ever since Zhievo called his girlfriend – his Claudia – a whore. All of a sudden it became very clear to him; it all became so simple to him that he felt relaxed now.

 

‘Man, this stuff is amazing! I love it!’

 

‘That’s good. You should always love good stuff.’

 

‘Fuck yeah, I should and I would! But man, I want to tell you something.’

 

‘Really, go on then.’

 

‘Your girl, you do know your girl right? She is a fucking sizzler, that’s what she is.’

 

‘Oh Yeah? That’s good to hear.’

 

‘Yeah man, I’m telling you, her fun bags. They look a lotta fun to me. No wait, I’ve got it. They’re like mountains, huge fucking mountains.’

 

‘Interesting.’

 

‘Her tits remind me of the Rockies, and you want to hear something funny? I’ve never even been to America.’

 

‘You could then someday, it’s a nice place. I’ve been there.’

 

‘Damn right you’ve been there! Especially to the Rockies isn’t it huh? You like the Rockies, you motherfucker!’

 

‘You could say that.’

 

‘That’s right man, but tell me one thing. Why do you have to fuck her each time you bring me along to meet her, man? I kind of don’t like it.’

 

‘It’s not like I do it on purpose, man. But you know what our job is like; sometimes you just got to fit these visits into the little gaps we get between our work, and you just happened to be with me today when I managed to take some time out.

‘You know how it is with us – shipments arriving almost everyday, loading them, taking them across the country to where they’re meant to be dropped off. Where’s the time? We got a couple of days’ gap before the next one arrives, so I thought why not.’

 

‘But you still always got to fuck her, huh?’

 

‘Maybe.’

 

‘Fair play, man. I don’t blame you. I mean that ass… It makes me want to bang her hard then and there! That whore gets me stiff each time I see her, man!’

 

There weren’t any more pauses now, just a loud flash and a bang. There was then a long period of silence in which Marco continued to drive on.

 

 

A little later, in a house somewhere in the suburbs, a phone rang in the middle of the night. A man in his housecoat and tousled hair, just woken up, yawned his way across the hall to pick up the call.

 

‘Doug, it’s Marco. I’m close to your place, going to pick you up in a couple of minutes. Need a hand in dumping something off in the river. I’ll meet you outside the backyard.’

 

‘What’s the matter now, in the middle of the night? There any problems?’

 

‘I’ll tell you later. Just meet me outside your backyard, alright?’

 

‘Okay, I’ll be there.’

 

 

A few hours later, as Doug and Marco finished the little job that had suddenly come up, Doug had to clarify something that had been bothering him ever since he was picked up by Marco in his car and had seen blood splattered all over the front seat and the window. He had guessed whose it was, but there were more questions he had to ask.

 

‘Marc, what happened? What went wrong?’

 

‘Nothing.’

 

‘What do you mean, nothing? Hey, do I look like a fuckhead to you? Tell me what happened. He was your fucking partner for Pete’s sake.’

 

‘Telling you man, nothing happened! Plus he was going to die anyway. Once he did a whole packet of coke over a neat bottle of whiskey, he was never going to live much longer. It was obvious. I thought I could wait till morning for the coke to react with his system and the booze.’

 

‘Well then maybe you should have. It would have been much neater as well.’

 

‘Yeah, I thought that too. But I couldn’t. Things got a little too out of hand, and I couldn’t wait anymore. Anyway, how’s Bonnie doing? You don’t want to go back home right now, do you? You up for a pint at the pub nearby?’

 

————————————————————————————

 

Abhijan Barua is a Journalism student at the University Of Glamorgan, Wales, and a football addict and musicaholic. He has a bit of a gift at having dark thoughts all the time.