Love your neighbor like I’ve loved you, he reminds.
So you say nothing when your boyfriend
says he wants to talk to her.
What he really means is he wants to fuck her.
Talk and fuck are synonyms.
Just like God and Boyfriend.
You prepare a candle-light dinner and
invite your neighbour over.
Then you lie down like a red carpet, waiting
for the VIPs to arrive.
Your boyfriend walks over you once
when he enters
God reminds you to turn
the other cheek.
So you let him walk over you
once more on his way out
and this time your neighbor walks over you too.
Her pointed heels piercing
your flat chest.
It was only when Mom caught me
meeting his gaze did she tell me-
Nectar doesn’t reside in between
thighs. It resides in eyes
so you have to become blind.
How can you lose your nectar
to someone as unworthy as him?
A virgin’s iris, full of nectar, is the most
tempting of traps…I promised
to glue my eyelids shut.
When she wasn’t looking, I stood out
in our garden. Cried my eyes out
hoping the dripping nectar
would attract the right guy
before it was too late.
The man I’m falling for
has long hair like Jesus.
When I twirl his curl
around my finger,
I ask him about the story behind the length-
Was it to attract a girl like me?
He tells me about his vow
to Mother Mary of Velankanni.
A girl child, exactly 9 months later
and since then his hair hasn’t been shorter.
And that I should meet his daughter.
This makes me want him
Michelle D’costa is a writer and editor from Mumbai. She is the co-host of the podcast Books And Beyond With Bound. Her poetry has been published in Berfrois, Eclectica, Vayavya, Guftugu, The Alipore Post, Visual Verse, The Bangalore Review and more. Her fiction has appeared in Out Of Print, Litro UK, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Coldnoon and more. She loves to interview writers. She also enjoys drinking tea, doodling and dancing to Bollywood music. https://michellewendydcosta.wordpress.com/
My partner turned to me and said, ‘Do you hear something?’
No, I replied, I do not hear anything.
“Yes. And isn’t that strange? It has been so silent here since yesterday. Leaf-drop silence! Haven’t you noticed it?”
Now that he mentioned it, I had and I hadn’t. I had been too busy feeding my children to stop to think about it, but one part of me must have noticed it. We live next to the largest garbage dump on this side of the city, and we often squeeze through the barbed wires to scavenge in it. We also live next to a four-lane highway that is usually thrumming with traffic, so much traffic that most of us dare cross the highway only at night. We live – squat, you would say – between this dump and that highway.
I scrambled up the ridge that hides our dwelling from the highway and saw a surprising sight. The highway was bare. And usually, at this time of the morning, there is what they call the rush hour, so that the paved highway is a liquid stream of metal. And it is repeated in the evenings, when the lights make it look like a river of quicksilver flowing both ways, beautiful and deadly. But there wasn’t even one car on it at the moment. Not one.
I could see many of us were already down on the other side of the ridge – littered with cans, plastic, bottles, paper, rubber tyre strips, hub caps – and a few had clambered up to the highway, something they would seldom dare to do at this time of the day. I looked behind me at the garbage dump, usually congested with trailer-bearing cars; the place was deserted. I could not even spot the hefty guards who chase us away with curses and sticks if they see us scavenging in there.
My partner had followed me up the ridge. He saw what I was looking at. ‘Locked,’ he said, ‘The gates are locked, and it is not a Sunday.’ Then he let out a wild yell. I hate it when he does that, as if he was a wolf or coyote or something wild like that!
‘Cool, isn’t it?’ he said, ‘I have to see what Robin says about this.’ And with that he was running down the ridge and into the clump of trees on the left where Robin and his pack of useless bums hang around, lapping up anything that drips, tongues lolling at any female who passes. There was no point saying anything. Nothing can keep him away from his mates in any case. And at that moment, I was distracted by a bird song that I, even with my sharp ears, had never heard before.
In a few days, we were so used to the silence and the absence of people that we almost forgot about them. Once in a while, a car or a bus would go past on the highway, but the dump remained chained and locked. Even the highway was empty for such long stretches of time that many of us started going up and squatting on it: this was late winter, and the concrete of the highway was warmer to sit or lie on than our moist, shady dwellings. Our children started playing on the highway all through the day and sometimes even at night, though I never allowed my children to do so. The first and only time I saw them playing with friends on the highway, I did not just forbid them to do so. I dragged them down the scree by the scruff of their necks.
My partner laughed at me. ‘Can you see any cars up there?’ he asked, ‘Ghost cars, maybe?’ I shook my head. It is so easy to forget: a few days back, not one of us would have dared to play on the highway, and we would have crossed it only if we had no choice, and as quickly as we could. But now, well, not only were many of us taking the sun on the highway, some were even going up there to sleep during the nights. Not me though, and not my family.
But Robin and the boys? They were up there, up there on the highway. Strutting around. They had marked out their territory, sleeping up there – the concrete was warmer during the night, as it slowly released the sun it had soaked up during the day. In a few weeks, despite the occasional reminder of a bus or a car, they had come to believe that the highway essentially belonged to them.
How long did it last? It was many weeks, months, maybe years? I lost track. We all lost track. Even I had to remind myself that once the highway had been a river of hot metal, which ate one up like acid, leaving only shreds of flesh, bits of bone scattered on it. It lasted so long that I started listening to that rare birdsong out of habit. Every morning.
It ended as suddenly as it started.
The gunshots woke us up. They were coming from the highway. We ran up to the ridge, hiding behind bushes, for no one runs blind and brave into gunshots. There were vehicles up there on the highway. There were uniformed men with guns.
There had been a massacre.
Robin and his boys, and many others, many, many others, were lying on the warming concrete, scattered around, some even on the scree, shot down as they had tried to flee. The uniformed men were dragging away all the carcasses and throwing them into a van. I could see that Robin was still alive. He was near the edge of the highway. Robin is a big mongrel cur, and his thick, bushy tail was thumping on the concrete. A man bent down to drag him and Robin snapped at the man, barely missing his hand. Another man came up and shot Robin again.
‘Fucking wild dogs,’ he said. ‘I had no idea there were so many.’
The man who had almost been bitten by Robin looked sad.
‘I don’t see why we had to shoot them,’ he said, ‘I mean, the traffic would have chased them away.’
‘There would have been accidents,’ the other man replied, ‘We cannot afford any further losses, man. The economy has to be revved up. Damn, it’s time to put your shoulder to the wheel! No bloody games anymore. Don’t you want to get back to normal life?’
‘Yes, I suppose it’s for the best,’ the sad man replied.
I pricked up my ears. I swear I could hear the traffic building up as if it was the tide creeping up on us. I saw it in my mind’s eye: the city lighting up, like a volcano, and a river of molten metal flowing from it towards us, a torrent of acid consuming everything on its way, humans, humans, humans.
I listened hard. I listened very hard. But I never heard that rare bird song again.
[Note: This is the FULL version of the short story that was later edited, in order to fit the time slot, by the author and read out by the brilliant Shabana Azmi for ‘The Decameron 2020,’ an You Tube channel envisioned by the renowned Italian writer, Erri de Luca.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrVkZMUK3Yk]
Born and educated in the town of Gaya, in Bihar, India, TABISH KHAIR is the author of various books, including the poetry collections, Where Parallel Lines Meet (Penguin, 2000) and Man of Glass (HarperCollins, 2010), the studies, Babu Fictions: Alienation in Indian English Novels (Oxford UP, 2001), The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness (Palgrave, 2010), The New Xenophobia (OUP, 2016) and the novels, The Bus Stopped (Picador, 2004), Filming (Picador, 2007), The Thing About Thugs (Harpercollins, 2010; Houghton Mifflin, 2012), How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position (Interlink and Corsair 2014), Just Another Jihadi Jane (Periscope and Interlink, 2016/17), which was published as Jihadi Jane in India (Penguin, 2016), and Night of Happiness (Picador, 2018). Other Routes, an anthology of pre-modern travel texts by Africans and Asians, co-edited and introduced by Khair (with a foreword by Amitav Ghosh) was published by Signal Books and Indiana University Press in 2005 and 2006 respectively. He has also edited or co-edited other scholarly works.
they knew when they dried – leaves wrinkling, the foliage thinning.
They gathered honey when the earth got angry
with wild wind knots in their women’s hair.
It was time for the rain to let down her tongue,
that she always kept in reserve.
They knew their forests by tigers, leopards, macaques, langurs,
hornbills, and cane turtles.
Their river was a lifeline on their palms.
They didn’t know how metal dragonflies could descend from sky.
The sky – as empty as a grieving mother’s chest.
And men came on cycles in shirts and trousers,
that everyone fled from.
They would build a dam here, pour concrete into waters.
Some days the sea ran into the old sweet river,
spiraling green noxious that grew beside her.
They had to leave their cows.
They had new roots now,
under another mahua tree.
They got looms, but no roofs, and no thread.
When the rain broke her lip
their money evaporated like sweat.
Their poultry died of sickness.
Each road was an island
turning bare the walls of school, center, shop.
Some went into the mouths of the forest.
Some lay as still as mud.
Some left for city shanties.
And some like Kalu sat outside their homes
rowing a boat gently
over the new river
stopping right at its center.
There were no fish there,
where many, many feet below
his village, home, and fields still lay.
He talks of the past … haltingly.
remind us of a village with its doors open, resisting a bridge
noon siestas with no iron locks
a sea with fish but no postal code or hospital,
of a city on a rig in the Caspian sea – 120 kms of road,
a town at the base of a volcano, where people lived with gas masks
or a ship-city that never left canal, with football fields
even dwarfs living in a pink tutus with a miniature police force, political system, fire brigade.
The walled city in Kowloon up-rooting from anarchy
not imploding on itself and
another city built on scrapes and salvage, with a
clock tower of garbage.
A town built around a conspiracy of a
devil’s statute at the gates holding holy water.
Make what you want to make of these,
as tourists flock like keep-savers,
A town in Brazil for only women,
started by a banished adulterous now encircled by rainforest,
its epicene dwellers not kissing a man
These strange kibbutz allowed flakes to flutter,
crossroads to move like sun dials, wheels to jive time
over bubble-wrappings of disharmonies,
chrysanthemum blurs of blueprints
like another city: Auroville
that doesn’t exchange money and has no sets of rules
with factories for cloud-making
giving us the notion
that strange people in strange cities
is a very normal thing.
The secret life of a roll
In rectangular wilts of tendu leaves
crushed in gold powder, thambhakoo appeased,
rolled by fingers of women and
children of chalk-dust fallacies.
Big Brother watching with hundred eyes
of a 40-crore industry
not all of them shut all the time,
baking in a furnace without a helmet.
One end of a thread tied,
tapping potent dust –
pension schemes of respiratory ailments.
Where does all the smoke go? All the tendrils?
Rejected beedis into the maker’s lap.
Sold, unbranded on the streets.
Gutka and low wages
competing in the market of
Smoldering at the other end
heavy levels of nicotine
fires stolen by Prometheus
in a reed from Olympus and the sleeping Jupiter.
Heavens to earth,
inhaling light and keeping shut.
A professor of health
trivializing secondhand smoke –
independent scientist – stooge of green lust,
connects it to lifestyle and the entertainment industry.
When the cameras are on
the whistle-blowers are always judged: mentally unstable.
That’s what happens to radiance
or fire-givers chained to cliffs,
a wrathful vulture eating livers
growing mutating cells
for a cancer-from-tobacco
500 crore industry.
Fictionist | Poet | Critic | Curator | Editor | Translator | Screenwriter Rochelle Potkar’s poetry film Skirt features on Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland. Her book of haibun Paper Asylum was shortlisted for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020. Bombay Hangovers, her collection of 16 short stories is due very soon.
Amidst the row of empty light pink and cream yellow walls, his door was an enlightened green. It soaked you in, through the wood. His house opened up into a courtyard where I never went. There were too many mosquitoes, or weeds. In front of the window bars that almost looked like prison gates, he was housed. A corner room on the ground floor, smelling always of sandalwood incense sticks, he cohabited with books and music. On other days, he would be housed in a room in her daughter’s apartment with plywood partitions segregating his worship room from his living space. Here too the smell of sandalwood incense hung with a synaesthetic texture. Sometimes, I couldn’t tell which was which.
We did not talk about what ails me for the first few months. He was in no rush to heal me. He never attempted to.
Twenty years ago:
I sit cross-legged on the revolving chair, imagining the sun. Outside the wooden door, my family sits, waiting. I see a gush of me running across the oval mirror hanging at the corner of the room. Outside, it is spring.
I look up and speak nothing.
Tears roll down the cheek as I sit there, and he asks me how do I feel. I howl. I can feel my family’s white cheek soaking through the wooden door, looking at me with vacant eyes. I rush past them. I can feel eyes following me everywhere, pricking my skin with the gaze, spilling blood all along the way.
“The tiny room has strange tiles”, I overhear myself saying. I see forms, moving, in swirls and brown lines. He asks in a quiet voice, “What do you want to do today?” The swirls are now flying , reaching out to my fingers holding on to the hand-rests of the revolving chair. I look up and see Ganesha sitting on the bed, now reduced to a pyre of books.
Nothing, I whisper.
We sit there doing nothing. I watch him close his eyes as he sits in the cross-legged posture. Elephant ears burst out of his little ear lobes.
“So, what do you think?”, he asks as he puts the bookmark at the juncture where Yama is talking to young Nachiketa. Yama has agreed to give three boons to Nachiketa.
I stand before the god of death , asking for the third boon.
I am waiting as he crosses over.
L. Subramanium’s violin commences and I feel my rib cage being strummed. Each note wrings something inside- something from the navel, rising and bellowing, howling a quiet ruckus. The music became droplets and escape me. I can’t feel my limbs. I am not crying. He doesn’t yet know that I can summon the rains.
On days when the volcano erupts, a cloud of wasted dreams climb up with cupped hands, praying. Ort clouds fall off, the universe quivers.
I look at my nails.
I don’t bite my nails. They don’t give away my anxiety. I ruminate inside- what it is to tremble with all that force that unsettles you. You want to run across the brick borders of the balcony. But then, you are caught, by life, once again. It flips you over and lays you down, holding down your heart by a gravity that is four point six times more than that of earth.
I survive the bruises and the bumps. Once more.
There are crow’s feet appearing all over my body, I complain. And we talk about crows for the next hour or so.
I miss my flight these days. I paint vehemently and cautiously, alternating the brush strokes to create sunsets, and mango blossoms in my neighbour’s mango tree. I can never bear a mango tree I rue. They don’t survive harsh winters covering all wounds with white-washed snow. Mango gains the kernel in the tropical heat, seething with rage, procreating anger into an edible fruit. I can never bear a mango tree. Neither can I become the kernel ever.
The swirl is but fluid and cracks are but mere bends. You heal that which is broken and erupting. You swim through a vacuum, a nothing that envelopes you, that is tangible and yet sand in your palm. Trepid steps sink into the sand that seems to be the boundary of the ocean. You look up and the horizon looms, unending, elastic, bending.
If only you can take a dip and let the droplets slide along your mortal skin, bobbing up and down, you can feel the ripple, the wave, the tsunami happening. The endless sand sneaks away under the ocean carpet, making you feel it is but an effervescence. It is but a seamless stitch, the neatness of the top takes away our eyes from the crafty underbelly at the back.
There is no healing, of the gold bursting through the ceramic cracks. There is an unravelling. A gift wrapped in layers. Onion peelings, shredding like cloaks of mortality.
It is not a luxury product that I advertise. It is strewn with rat faeces and smells of dying lapdogs. It is quailing with unflinching negativity. It is doom.
However, the next time you meet it, if you do, try to remember that the moon has craters and we cannot see it whole. It needs our crutches to wax and wane. Crutches be not your cross. Crutches be simply crutches, condemned to dare.
Susmita is a creative writer and independent scholar with bipolar mood disorder with schizophrenic potential. She writes in English and Bengali and is published in “Headline Poetry and Press”, “Montauk” and “Learning and Creativity”. Her published books are Poetry in Pieces (2018) and Himabaho Kotha Bole (When Glaciers Speak) (2019). She is the Founding Editor-in-Chief of The Pine Cone Review. Her personal website is www.susmitapaul.org
When you’re small, you forget most thatched conversations you have with adults. They tend to leave you restless and uninspired. Some bellow your emotional ambers so hot they glow when you’re lectured or you’ve taken insult.
Mother’s do’s and don’ts: Do your damned homework. Don’t piss the sheets again or I’ll sign you up for gross swimming lessons. You’re too sensitive, everything upset you.
Timmy’s mother seemed calmer. He was my best friend. Even her name was as smooth as chiffon, Sharin. Her’s was an egregious name, even for the 90’s. Not sure how we ended up alone. How I got the courage?
“Ms. Beauchêne, can I ask…?”
“You just did.” She’d said with the wryest of smiles. I blushed.
I was caught off guard, dropped both of eyes on the travertine kitchen floor. Her floor was sticky, a little unkempt. It was hard to pick them up. I felt ashamed and embarrassed. Questions at home were treated as dirty words.
“Why do you wear a platform shoe on your right foot?” It blurted out, not me.
Her head didn’t move to where I pointed.
“Hot-damned, you caught me off guard!” Somehow, her infectious grin lowered my shoulders.
“I’m sorry, I’m just…”
“Curious?” She quipped, forecasting my clumsy words “The short answer? When I’m squared away up here, and my shoulders don’t slope like a mouse. I can see almost anyting. Levi, I was born this way, one darned leg taller than the other.
“Ok, I can see you’re a very curious boy, a boy with a stallion’s heart, very sensitive. I like that you have the courage to ask steep questions worth climbing.”
“You’ll know exactly what I mean someday. It’s from high places that kindness and pathos come into focus, crystal clear at times.”
“I see where you’re going. I hide things good, deep inside, down here, especially when I slump.”
“It’s a good thing Levi, mindfulness. One day, you’ll look back and be thankful you are strong and kind, sweet attributes that are delicious all gummed-up together.”
I left Bobby’s house that day, a little confused, wearing a smile you wouldn’t dare leave behind.
Enough time has passed. Looking back is something I do more often. Things are clearer up here, especially from an adult vantage point. As adults, we can see so much more, especially when we have things to overcome.
It’s been nearly five years now, since Massie and I buried Carysa, our stillborn. We named her Carysa just because she was beautiful. There’s something not right about placing a tiny something in such a deep hole.
It was eerie up here, at the unattended funeral, just the two of us, a shovel and a dozen red roses from Costco. I can still recall the playful breeze that day. We shared it with Carysa. It had bounded in from the west. It was a gift from our future.
The Cumuli’s bristles were as soft as a baby brush, not one ounce of rain in their pouches. We watched as the funny shaped clouds hopped through the valley all day before ditching town.
Come next July, I’m hoping the pain cuts as dull as a butter knife. If so, Massie and might return and look for Carysa, up on the henna hill, overlooking the Hollowsworth Cemetery. We’ll fox our eyes beyond all the headstones, toward the horizon, mindful of all the weather ahead.
Dan A. Cardoza’s poetry, fiction and non-fiction have been published in BlazeVOX, Bull, Cleaver, Coffin Bell, Entropy, Gravel,O:JA&L/Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, New Flash Fiction Review, Poetry Northwest, Spelk, and Your Impossible Voice. He has also been nominated for Best Micro Fiction, Tiny Molecules, 2020 and Best Poetry, Coffin Bell, 2020.
“It’s not fair,” she yelled at Ms. Yvonne, the third-grade teacher. Ms. Yvonne snatched Sandy off the ground, little dust clouds rose around her, and pulled Sandy toward the principal’s office. Ms. Yvonne looked back at Mark and told him not to move, that she was coming back for him. Sandy sprayed blood all over Ms. Yvonne’s dress, blood from a busted lip and a missing front tooth, and within fifteen minutes, Sandy’s mother was in the office demanding justice from Mark and his parents and pulling Sandy to the car for a quick trip to Doc Johnson for a stitch or two.
Ms. Yvonne was sick of Mark, was sick of his bullying kids in class and on the playground, was sick of his smart-aleck comments in class about what he had already learned at some fancy private school up North, and she didn’t care if his parents were part owners in the mill. She was going to take pleasure in witnessing the principal paddle him. She’d make sure he hit him hard, hard enough that Mark’s heals on his shoes would rise up off the floor, hard enough that his behind would have imprint of the paddle and its holes, and hard enough that it would beat the meanness out of him and the Southern hospitality into him.
“We just can’t have this,” she told the principal privately in the office with the door closed while Mark sat outside and sulked in a straight back chair next to the bulletin board with cut outs of cheery cardboard kids playing ball, and learning math, all leading to a futuristic scene with graduation hats and diplomas.
“But you know who his parents are, right?”
“I don’t care who his parents are. They probably could use a paddling, too.”
“You and I both know that’s not gonna happen.”
“We’d do it for every other student, so we can’t treat him any differently and besides, he deserves every lick he gets.”
“I know. I’ve heard from all of you. We’ll get it over with then. Bring him in.”
“Mark, you understand the significance of your behavior?”
“I guess. Well, face that wall.”
Mark was whimpering before the principal pulled the paddle from the side drawer in his desk. “Can’t you suspend me instead?”
“Certainly not. You’re not going to stay home and play. You’ll go back to class right after the paddling. Put your hands on the wall.”
“But I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.” Before Mark knew it, the principal had whacked him once, his heals lifted off the ground, and he began to cry. The principal did it two more times, and Mark rubbed his bottom through his Levi’s
“Now, get back to your class.” Mark scurried down the hall, and Ms. Yvonne followed happy to have him finally punished and hopeful that he might change. He stood by his desk, the other kids gawking at him, and he continued to rub his bottom.
“Sit down, Mark,” she barked.
“I don’t think I can.”
“You can and will,” she snapped.
Mark sat in his desk and moved around and around. “Let this be a lesson to all of you that you shouldn’t bully anyone in or out of class, especially little girls.”
Mark’s parents complained to the superintendent, the principal got a reprimand and decided he would move to the city system the next year and leave the county school system to deal with its politics. Sandy returned to school the next day with two stitches in her upper lip and all the students oohed and aahed and asked if it had hurt, and Mark whispered to her, “You call me a loser again, I’ll get you after school on your walk home, and there won’t be a paddling.”
“I’m sorry, Mark,” Sandy said. “I’ll push you on the swings at recess.”
“Okay,” he said.
At recess, Sandy pushed Mark higher and higher, pushed the other empty swing in front of him, and he crashed to the ground. He didn’t breathe, but his eyes darted around. Sandy yelled to Ms. Yvonne, “Mark fell” and bent down to Mark. “Don’t mess with me again, boy.”
“Mark, do you need to see the nurse?” Ms. Yvonne asked.
“I don’t think so,” he said.
“You be more careful, hear?”
Ms. Yvonne turned toward Sandy. “Thank you, Sandy, for letting me know even after Mark was mean to you yesterday.”
“Yes mam,” she said, her tooth missing when she smiled and a stitch poking out like a fleck of food from the lunchroom left unwiped.
Niles Reddick is author of a novel, two collections, and a novella. His work has been featured in seventeen anthologies, twenty-one countries, and in over three hundred publications including The Saturday Evening Post, PIF, New Reader Magazine, Forth Magazine,Citron Review, The Boston Literary Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Storgy.
Home is a kidnapper who has finally made you submit to its territory, mapped and unmapped.
Home is your first partner in crime who, by introducing you to its hidden corners, gives a toddler you a taste of what manipulating adults with pranks feels like.
Home is the no-nonsense courtroom, where, you, still a toddler, take the gods to task by bashing up their idols at the altar for denying your grandma her own house.
Home is the compassionate table fan that breezes through the room on a hot summer day as Rafi and Geeta Dutt croon aankhon-hi-aankho-mein on the radio and two children – your brother and you – sprawl on the cool cement floor of a government quarter to hurry through your summer holiday homework.
Home is the indulgent playground overlooking that same government quarter where children make friends over hopscotch and their mothers, knitting buddies, on charpaais.
Home is the confused late-entry hero that is finally grandma’s own house. Its dust and half walls hold you in a perplexed daze. Your brother, yet to reach his teens, brings you back to reality as he returns with a pot of rice he’s managed to cook in the half-baked kitchen of this unfinished structure.
Home is the jealous new paara, neighbourhood, who estranges you from old friends and the loving playground with its consolatory offer of a cricket-colonized back street and stock loneliness.
Home is the keen, encouraging listener of your early-morning and late-evening riyaaz that mother helps add melody to with the harmonium she buys you off months of savings.
Home is the generous open terrace that grows in personality as you do in age – as your study-time ally in your yet-to-be-teen, mellow winter afternoons; as the host of a star-draped night sky beckoning you to let go in your ambivalent early 20s; as your gym and fitness partner later, when you do learn to let go.
Home is the comforting pal your grandfather brings you back to from the bus stop every evening after school. It’s where grandma waits with hot food and a listening ear for all your school stories, helping you bridge the interval until mother returns from work.
Home is the trusted ally you make your way back to, having survived an attack by gunmen in a public space, to hug your grandma, sick with worry. In the days to follow, home makes you an accelerated learner of what political revenge means even as your eyes adjust to the sight of blood on the streets you call paara.
Home is the saboteur who smashes that trust and hurtles you into the dark, suffocating dungeon of an empty house after making you witness the deaths of your grandparents for two years in a row.
Home is the traitor who makes you grow up while you’re still an adolescent without allowing you the time or the technique for the messy transition.
Home is the embarrassing hole in the bedsheet you cover with a folded quilt that you desperately hope wouldn’t shift when your university friends come over to your house to plan a trip.
Home is the sterile mate you’ve lost all love for but continue to live with, your days drained of élan vital, your nights a concert hall for sleep-snuffing nightmares.
Home, after years, no, a whole decade, is finally the conciliatory collaborator who invites you to work from home – with your mother, now retired from work, filling up all the hollows your grandparents’ departure had cleaved into its spaces.
Home is the humble plot of land your grandma bought, even if it’s no longer the house she built. Her breath moves through the guava tree she planted, still rooted to the faithful backyard soil and alights on your skin as a butterfly every time you fly back.
Home is a detective plot that can only unravel in back stories. Each flicker of memory is evidence of the scraps that went into constructing this labyrinth. Every solution is wisdom distilled only in hindsight.
Bhaswati Ghosh lives in Ontario, Canada and writes and translates fiction and non-fiction. Her fictional and non-fictional works have been extensively published in multiple print and online journals and magazines in India and abroad. Her first book of fiction is ‘Victory Colony, 1950’.
For the last couple of decades the genre of comics is vastly talked about. Academicians and scholars have started to talk about comics and graphic narratives in seminars, conferences and most importantly in classrooms. I’m no scholar yet, I’m just a mere lover of comics. My journey as a comic reader began like it does for every other Bengali kid– with the worlds created by Narayan Debnath. I won’t go into the details as I’m not writing an autobiography of a comic reader here.
Life takes unexpected turns when you grow older. Such a turn came when I accidentally found my abilities as a conceptual illustrator. For a period of time, I seriously thought about being a professional artist. After reading lots of Neil Gaiman (Neil Gaiman’s volumes of Sandman), I wanted to be a graphic novelist, if not that… at least a comic artist. When I was thinking about how to begin I came across the works of Julian Peters who literally changed my entire perspectives on comics. I began working on my favourite poem, Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (which I still haven’t finished). After lots of unfinished drafts through these two and a half years, I finally managed to complete some of the pieces. This time I was heavily inspired by the works of Elizabeth Haidle.
I might enrage the comic nerds by calling these comics. These are far from being ‘comic’. There is no element of laughter, sarcasm, cynicism or social criticism. I would call them just some pieces born out of curious experiment on both drawing and writing.
I have a habit of jotting down two or three- line micro poems mostly when I’m overwhelmed. These comics are based on some of those micro-poems. Both comics and micro-poems serve their purpose subtly. They are minimalist. When these micro-poems are telling stories in their ‘microness’, the comic is telling another set of stories in-between the frames. I did all I could as an amateur. I hope my hard works pay off and you, the readers!, like them.
Subarnarekha Pal is an independent thinker and enthusiast and jams poetry with her friend. Amidst everything, she struggles to be an artist.
Torn asunder by strife, greed, cupidity, hatred, genocide.
Nature devastated in the name of progress,
Ravished and cropped with deadly poison
so that crops grow aplenty at the cost of your health.
There is of course a vibrating optimism,
A faith in scientific innovation for the good of humanity,
Stretching beyond the limits of the universe,
Traversing other worlds, ambitious for expansion,
Dreaming of making beneficent drugs from lunar rocks,
As if enough has not been done already to make life long
Till you live on without zest, sans teeth, sans eyesight, sans brain
sans all but a faintly breathing heart,
And when that malfunctions your life can still be ticking
with a battery powered machine.
The whole world is evolving towards artificiality
You are also experimenting how youth can be prolonged and ageing delayed.
You blame me for covidisation of the wolrd
But have you ever analysed your own misdeeds ?
You call me a bad year, the worst ever in living memory
Yet I am just a unit in time, an aeon in the panorama of Time.
The virus sure is more lethal than previous ones
May be it is nature’s experimentation on human guinea pigs.
You have used nature to serve your purpose of wielding power
On other species, other human enemies
to kill whom
you devised biological, chemical and what -not weapons.
You have neglected nature’s beautiful creations,
You have polluted beautiful minds, made them cry even in sleep
Yet you blame me for covidising the world!
I, 2020 have given you occasion for self-searching,
For submerging yourselves in sunshine and waterfalls,
In learning to trust your own abilities, utilize your gifts,
By missing human contact you will learn to hold hands properly.
I, 2020 have united the whole world in common misery,
I, 2020 have tried to erase boundaries and made science achieve
common goals for humanity’s benefit
I, 2020 seek to erase the carbon footprints,
To re-plant forests, dismantle walls that separate blacks and browns and whites.
I am no prophet and cannot say whether you will safe-keep
the lessons learnt for future benefit
But surely you will realise you too are part of nature,
You too are agents for creating its rhythm
Do you realise that you, and not the stars, have initiated this covidisation ,
You have encouraged and aggravated it
It is up to you to cleanse yourselves before the malady starts dancing in the universe.
Before it bamboozles your intellect.
Stop blaming me.
Let me efface myself peacefully into ether.
May you re-achieve the zenith of perfection
But do not forget me, the dauntless 2020
Build me a memorial with grass flowers and thorns.
Tapati Gupta is a retired Professor of the Department of English, University of Calcutta and former Head of the Department. An erudite scholar, a theatre, arts and music aficionado and enthusiastic photographer, she continues to pursue new interests with indefatigable zeal.