Wednesday, December 20, 2006

half past one

Half past one.

The train raced on. Sandhya sat near her window and looked outside…the steady hum of the railway tracks, the distant glimmer of the countless stars and the hyenas’ call- everything seemed to merge into one mesmeric force, lulling her into a pleasant state of numbness, yet keeping her awake.

Rishi had fallen asleep. A pillow rested comfortably tucked under his head while his hands were wrapped protectively around a small leather case. Even in sleep, his features were contorted into an expression of extreme distrust.

Sandhya pulled her shawl closer to her face, half hiding it. She could make out the shadowy silhouettes of countless mud huts that had mushroomed over the years around those tracks, or the wheat fields that seemed to encompass the entire landscape. Everything had assumed an eerie and unearthly glow at this hour of the night. It seemed as if there was nothing that could convince her of human habitation in these distant parts of the country. Yet this thought seemed to afford her much peace… more than the thought of Delhi ever did. The night air had begun to work its charm, drowsiness lay heavily on her eyes- and she fell asleep.

“Shut the goddamned window, you!”

The shriek broke Sandhya’s reverie. Before she could comprehend anything, someone stepped on her toes, elbowed her out of the way and slammed the window shut. The lights in the compartment dimmed, flickered for a while and went out. The train screeched to a halt almost instantly. Rishi had woken up by now and hurriedly sat beside Sandhya, tucking his leather case between them.

The entire compartment broke out in excited whispers which continued till one of the passengers yelled, “Listen!”
Everyone fell silent at once. Sandhya strained her ears. For a while she heard nothing. Yes… there it was. Something must have happened out there. She could hear a shrill cry- more inhuman than anything she had ever heard. And then rose a mixture of frenzied voices…was that a gunshot?

Perhaps because it was pitch dark, and no one had to submit to public scrutiny, everyone felt courageous enough to air their views.

“Danga”, someone said. “It’s Bihar guys, hota hi rehta hai…”

“Nonsense. At this unearthly hour? An animal must have been hit by the train. It can be an elephant.” A gentleman proclaimed with much conviction.

“Yeah right- an elephant. And they are gunning it down to make sure it’s dead.” Sandhya heard herself remark quite audibly, perhaps much louder than she had intended to.

An uncomfortable silence ensued. Had there been enough light, Sandhya could have seen Rishi staring at her- or at least trying to-with considerable reproach and consternation. He clutched his case even more tightly. The passengers got over their discomfort and started talking again; however in much more hushed tones this time.
Almost as if people were gunning THEM down, Sandhya thought contemptuously.

“Nobody asked for your clever quips, you know”, Rishi sneered.
Sandhya did not answer him. She knew she would not be able to conceal the note of derision in her voice if she did, not even if her answer had been a clipped ‘sorry’. Instead she turned towards her window and pried it open a little.
To her surprise she saw hordes of people walking by, silently and stealthily- some carrying flashlights and others carried blazing torches. They were forming a human chain around the train, preventing the escape of passengers quite effectively. Almost without any warning, the train started moving very slowly. This sudden development had thrown everyone- both inside and outside- into frenzy. Amidst the panic and mayhem, the lights came back to life. Everyone had crouched back into their seats, looking pale and almost terrorized.

Suddenly they heard someone thump loudly on their door.
“Let me in! Please let me in… they will kill me!” A man wailed outside their compartment. “Please… let me in! Open the door! Save me…”
They could hear his strenuous breaths as he pleaded on. “Can you not hear me?! Have mercy… please save me… open this door.”

No one moved a muscle inside the carriage, yet all eyes were fixed on the shaking door. Sandhya’s blood had turned cold on hearing his voice- a voice which shook with the prospect of imminent death, a voice which stirred sympathy in even the hardest of all hearts- yet nobody dared to move forward to help him.

“Please…” He cried again, weeping copiously perhaps. Everyone could hear the mob closing down on him. Their wild cries and feverish laughter filled the entire compartment. Sandhya heard their taunting cries, “No one will save you! No one shall pity a worthless creature like you…” They hissed at him and laughed at his helpless state.

Sandhya could not sit still any longer. She lunged forward towards the door which barred the victim’s entry- when her husband caught her arm and forced her down.
“Sit!” he hissed.
“Help him Rishi! The brutes outside will kill him!” Even through her tortured despair she knew those cold grey eyes looking at her would never melt. The door continued shaking for sometime, as did his wails. They could hear the mob ascend on him, with their torches and chains. A last ringing scream broke the deathly calm. It hung like a shroud over them blocking out emotions and leaving everyone numb. Not even a look of shock surfaced on their immobile faces. The train picked up speed and moved on.

Sandhya crept into a dark corner and wept. She was the only one in the entire compartment who could vent her grief.
If only I could save him… if only Rishi had not stopped me…if only…

It has been over three years now. Rishi and the other passengers who had spent that fateful night in her compartment had successfully obliterated their memories.
Yet Sandhya continues to experience that night over and over again. She still hears his plaintive cries in her sleep. His wails still echo in her mind ‘Save me…’ conjuring up ghastly images and resulting in grim nightmares… of shadowy figures and blazing torches… of smoke and moans that thickened the atmosphere with gloom…of blood and despair… of imminent death…of elusive hope…of inhumanity…and at times she dreamt of a leather case…she saw herself flinging it out of the window, and letting the man in… she saw the bloodshot eyes of insane men challenging her endeavour… she dreamt of his soul too, which perhaps rose up like mist from his frightened chest… a soul not afraid of chains and sticks…

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

here goes nothing...

Perhaps I should have written this down in the first entry itself…but then, my exams were on and I seemed to be in a perpetual hurry to finish ‘this’ or revise ‘that’ and hence I got nowhere. Blog-wise or exam-wise.
Shailpik’s ‘beginning’ had been rather instrumental in my realizing that a concrete introduction to a blog is always welcome and is helpful too. So, here goes nothing!

One of my favourite poems, written by Percy Bysshe Shelley, is called ‘The Serpent is Shut Out From Paradise’- and hence I named this blog ‘shut out from paradise’… the ‘serpent’ part has been excluded for obvious reasons! The following lines confirmed my choice quite easily:

“I asked her yesterday if she believed
That I had resolution. One who had
Would ne’er have thus relieved
His heart with words…”

My entries can seldom be expected to be regular; it does take a long time to write stories. The ideas come often enough…but I’m rather slow when it comes to typing. I am never satisfied with the outcome, and almost rip the entire story apart trying to edit it. Reasons enough, I guess, to convince my readers that I need time to put up new entries. And all of the above has just been a rather lousy cover-up… I’m plain LAZY.

Well, contrary to my own expectations this entry has been rather short. I’m not in a mood to get profound, and thus I’ll take my leave- promising to put up a prose piece as soon as possible.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

writer's block

i grasp at a melting vision
it slips into the darkness again.
and the self same darkness
prevails everywhere
and forces itself into my being.
it blocks out lingering feelings
it blocks out emotions.
my head almost swirls with pain
till i black out..
consciousness dawns slowly
like light filtering in through creaks
and the torture is extended...
like drops of water hitting you
one at a time.
there the half written poem lies
on a yellowed parchment.
i've begun another enterprise
but i am too weak to sustain...
well known words and images
elude me again.
can't i write anymore?
is this where i put a stop to creativity?
i recede into a dark corner
watching shapes and figures
blur before my eyes
blending into one disfigured mass.
i hold on to slippery hope still...
waiting for someone to fulfill my poem.

the dance

My ardour cooled after a while, and so did my tears...I stared at the wall before me for countless vacant hours. I was tired of self evaluation and tired of thinking. Was there not any solace left in this shelter? Could I not seek comfort in my own room now?
I wanted to rest and nothing more, I wanted to keep tormenting thoughts at bay... I was so tired.

It was only a performance, just a dance... why can't I switch back to being my cheerful, normal self? The question disappeared like mist before my eyes and emptiness returned as answer.
Bloody choreographer! could she not opt for something more conventional?why is she so insistent on trying out new things? look what this led to... i'm almost an emotional wreck!

I can still her her words ringing in my ears. "Passion! the only thing that counts is PASSION! passion for life, for your art, for your dance, for everything." She pointed towards her heart, "I want you to use this... you won't fail, trust me. Remember how pain feels, bring out those emotional scars Ria, and cry... i want you to. I want you to emote... i want you to feel. Feel grief. And i want the audience to cry along with you... this has to be your finest performance ever!"

Then she left me alone. Alone in that dark room for twenty minutes...all i could think of was 'Quit it Sonia, I'm not a bloody machine who will feel when you want it to. Give me a break- i've had it!'
The darkness began to sink in. I don't remember anything else.


Somewhere far off I heard people praising my performance..."amazing! she gave me an outlet... i have never cried like this publicly." that voice was drowned amidst the buzz.
"Did you hear that girl? You rocked." Sonia stepped up beside me and escorted me towards my car. I did not respond. Truth is I could not. I was numb with emotions, memories came flying at me from almost nowhere and it seemed someone had torn off something and i had been left naked, I could not cope up with them.

I don't even remember when the car started and we took off. All i could see was a child crouching against the wall of a tiny garret while her mother and father bickered loudly. I could see another image rising from the abyss, a tall lanky boy slipping out of the house in the dead of the night, turning but once to wave me goodbye as i stood near a window, my nose pressed against the misty glass panes. My brother. He left too, promising to come back and take me along when he could afford to do so. Perhaps he never came back, perhaps he did... I do not know. I remember my mother's funeral faintly...I had been crouching behind a lone tree in the cemetery where they laid her. Did i cry? i don't remember. I remember seeing my father for the last time that day- drunk, with bloodshot eyes. For a change he did not shout that day, he remained stone-still...

After mother's death dad left me at my aunt's house. She was widowed by then and was childless and for sixteen years now she has been my only family.

When i reached back home i dragged myself to my room and sat down on my bed. I fought hard to hold on to the illusion i've been under for sixteen long years... this is where i was meant to be and i had no father or brother...

Weary sleep overcame me soon, and i dreamt...I dreamt of the warmth in a mother's womb...the security of a father's hug...and yet i saw misty glass panes...a lanky teenage boy with unsteady steps moving away...the darkness enveloped him somewhere.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


I will mainly be putting up short stories or poems or other 'creative writing' stuff here... feel free to leave your comments! hope you enjoy yourself...