Monthly Archives: August 2015

The Inconsequential Debate

-Cheeky Chipmunk

The icy wind blew across his face as he trudged along the sidewalk, snow crunching beneath his feet, moving to the next house and hoping for a different reaction than he had received so far. The cold had slowed him down physically but his resolve wouldn’t get shaken, he vowed to himself. He had faith yet, and faith was what he needed to inspire. Slowly, he made his way to the last house on the block, which looked no different from all the other ones, with the same green lawn, white painted walls, sloping roofs, single car garage locked down due to the snow, but he hoped this similarity wasn’t a prediction of what would ensue. As he rang the bell, he pulled his jacket a little tighter and waited.

A young woman, probably in her late twenties appeared behind the door, and opened it, frowning at the unexpected visitor. Her skin was tan, her hair brown; she wasn’t conventionally good looking but had an attractive quality about her.

“Excuse me miss, do you have a moment to talk about our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ?” he began earnestly, just waiting for a rejection so he could be done with this for the day – it was twilight already. But no, he must not give up; this was his duty to the Lord and also to his fellow humans, to guide them on the righteous path so Jesus would forgive them and accept them. He certainly wished sometimes that it wasn’t so strenuous, but after all, the Lord tested those he loved the most.

“Sure, come on in! You must be freezing out there. How long have you been walking?” came the reply.

He hesitated; for a second he didn’t believe the woman was letting him in, but then he thanked her and entered. Grateful for the warmth emanating from the house, he walked in to see a modestly furnished home, but with books lining shelves on almost every wall of the house and even strewn across the carpeted floor. Taking it all in, he followed her to the living room and sat down when she said, “I’ll get you some coffee to help warm you up, I’ll be just a moment” and before he could reply, she darted to the kitchen. He suddenly shuddered thinking what could have happened with the dog who had been let out to chase him just a while earlier, but deciding he should not dwell on failures, he started to take out his Bible. He couldn’t help but notice all of the books around him and spotted a few versions of the Old Testament which lifted his spirits slightly.

The woman was quick as promised and then asked him politely, “So, what do you want to talk about?”

Sipping the warm coffee, freshly brewn, he began, “I… I’m on a holy mission to spread the message of Jesus, the Son of God. We believe that Jesus is the key to salvation, that… that there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved and it is our duty, as humans, to guide… to guide our fellow beings along the right path so we are prepared for Judgement Day”. He wished he had spoken with as much confidence as he truly felt in his faith, but his voice had faltered, in part due to the penetrating gaze that the woman had seemed to transfix him with.

She sipped her coffee for a long moment and then abruptly started looking for a book from the ones lying across the floor. Holding up a title, she read aloud “‘Why I am not a Christian’; it has been a very interesting read for me. Have you read it by any chance?”

He flushed – was she mocking him? He was torn between deciding if he preferred the warm welcome accompanied by the attempt to shake his faith or the outright disrespect he received elsewhere.

He finally managed, “No, I haven’t and I probably wouldn’t. I haven’t been much of a reader – I was homeschooled. All I have needed to live by is written in the Bible”

She nodded, but he wasn’t sure if it was a signal of understanding or approval. A sense of discomfort was rising in him by the moment but he ignored it with some effort.

“You said something about the right path and salvation. What is that path?” she spoke up.

“We will start with a Bible study, where I can guide you about the tenets. We can spend some time discussing it and I can answer questions you may have had, like how we should live our lives. We respect all faiths but I personally believe they are misguided, but that there’s still hope for them” he replied, regaining his composure.

“So I will just say this – I am an atheist. But I am open to listening what you have to say, but I assure you I will not become a believer”

Ignoring the incredulous expression on his face, she signalled him to get started and for about an hour, they had a spirited discussion about the scriptures. Her knowledge was impressive and she seemed deeply interested in his views about the pagan symbolism of the festival of Christmas. Despite her conviction, he still hoped to save her soul, and as he got comfortable, he hardly noticed the blizzard that had begun outside when she rushed to close the windows to prevent the snow from getting in. Only after a few seconds, he realized that he was trapped here for the night probably and by all means she had saved his life. The Lord truly worked in mysterious ways, he told himself, but for the first time, doubt crept in from the crevices he didn’t know had existed before. She offered him the couch to stay for the night, and he thanked her profusely for the generous hospitality that she had displayed.

The next morning he woke up to find a few feet of snow blocking the door, which he offered to shovel as a small repayment for her gesture of kindness and she acquiesced. Last night had made him think, and he felt like he had already overstayed his welcome but in a last effort, before leaving, he said, “I respect your ideals, but why would you not accept Jesus and live a happy life?”

She smiled. “But what will I achieve by that?”

“If you serve God right, if you have empathy…”, he hesitated and continued, “you can attain salvation!”, surprised that salvation didn’t seem to bother her at all.

“If the only thing stopping me from being a deplorable human being was the promise of salvation, then does it really change the type of person I am? And would your God judge me more harshly for that?” she asked calmly, with one of those penetrating stares that seemed to delve right into his soul.

As he walked towards the street, he wondered how he should have answered her. But for the first time, he was returning with more questions than answers, and somehow it made him feel lighter, more joyful and freer than ever.

Leave a comment

Filed under Prose

Paper Mirrors

-Naive Narwhal

All the world’s a stage.
Will was so very right.
I don’t say that with wonder,
But with self-directed spite.
He called them seven stages.
I think there are only two:
One where you’re freely unconscious;
And one where you have caged you.
You gather all social constructs,
With them construct a prison.
Inside you do a mono act, which
You believe is sold out every season.
Of course everyone is watching,
What else do they have to do?
So you cower beneath the spotlight,
Of a million, imaginary eyes boring into you.
You cater to the audience;
Assume the right glamours and poses.
You clamour for applause.
You don’t want brickbats, but roses.
One day you discover, the cage,
Has one bar slightly bent.
You gingerly crawl out, confused,
For you remember no precedent.
Little by little you realise,
The pointless cause you have pandered to.
There is no one else to blame.
It is you who caged you.
I remember that very moment,
When I fell from my own grace.
I’ll paper up my mirrors today.
I cannot bear to see my face.

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry

Atlas said, “meh” #10: Stockholm Syndrome

-Pensive Piranha

Untitled

Untitled2

4 Comments

August 12, 2015 · 12:38 am

Kumomi – Results

-Coordinators, ELS

We recently organized Kumomi, an Online Fresher’s Creative Writing Competition. The details can be found here. The results for the competition are as follows:

1st position

Tip
Tap
Rain falls
Petrichor
Overwhelms senses
Refreshes body, mind and soul

-Ankit Kumar

2nd position

Rain
Drops
Seeds sprout
Mankind smiles
I’m also here now
The drops drown the ones from my eyes.

-Geet George

3rd position

Birds,
Dawn,
Thin rain,
Cold quilt at
Six in the morning,
Days now start with many curse claims

-Nikita

Those that almost made it:

Rains
have
approached,
thunderous
nights and crazy days.
Farewell to you, calm skies, see you.

-Anushya Goenka

Moist
Dew
Holding
Breathe aloud
Relief, my heart felt
To let my soul bathe in the rain.

-Nitish Pant

Rain,
Falls.
Wind blows.
Skies go dark.
Nature roars at us.
Yet we dance with abundant joy.

-Sarthak Mittal

Leave a comment

Filed under Coordinator's Desk, Creative Writing Competition

Across the Universe

-Loquacious Llama

I sat alone in the dark and meditated. I thought long and deep about the nature of existence and how we connect to every living thing and the oneness of life and If there existed any higher forces or beings. Then, five minutes later, I realized it was all a front. I’m not a very spiritual person, and never will be. I couldn’t meditate for long because I didn’t know what to meditate about.

A spiritual experience can be loosely defined as a feeling of communion with the universe, a reduced interest in materialistic objects, a feeling of connection to the past, a decreased interest in superfluous social interaction and a redefinition of your ideas about time and space, life and death. In that sense, it can mostly be understood as indistinguishable from a very strong emotional experience, an awakening of sorts. Or so I had read. But what I found was that while it was easy to imagine such an experience, it was much harder to actually have one. So I gave up, lit a joint, and watched The Guru instead. This is a chronicle of that experience.

Of course, I realize there is much more to an experience than can be put into words and that my experience could probably never be replicated, but isn’t that the point of writing this down? So that you can give others a window into your thoughts and life, no matter how small and so that you might be able to preserve better some tiny part of the memory of said experience. Also, mind that this is merely a philosophical thought experiment, not a religious one in any way. These are merely the opinions and thoughts of one fool, trying to make sense of his exploits and also share them, for the benefit (?) of others.

There are seven chakras that go up the body. Each pool of energy has a purpose, and can be blocked by a specific kind of emotional muck. Be warned…opening the chakras is an intense experience, and once you begin the process, you cannot stop until all seven are open. Are you ready?

I am. I close my eyes. I find myself on the path to the self, in my mind. I get up and begin to walk.

The Earth chakra: located at the bottom of the spine, deals with survival, is blocked by fear

What am I afraid of? I’m afraid to turn out to be a disappointment, a disappointment to my close ones wouldn’t be harsh, but a disappointment to myself? I’m afraid of the day I’ll have to confront that reality. I’m afraid of consequences of my actions, I’ve been running away from them since so long ago, I have forgotten what it was like before, to go through life not feeling haunted, not having to look over your shoulder every now and then. Am I afraid of death? No, I’ve come to grips with my own mortality, strangely enough, or merely convinced myself that I have. Memento mori and what-not. And since I don’t live in a world where I have to fear death approaching at every turn, I don’t really know if I really have. I don’t merely have to survive anymore and the idea of survival has morphed into that of leading a meaningful existence. I also, like most ozymandians, fear being forgotten. I fear passing through life, never being understood and overlooked, consigned to oblivion. I often worry about the purpose to all my running about. I am nothing more than a stupid, tiny little dot on another little dot in the grander scale of things. What does anything I do matter? Why do we do anything at all, if it is inevitable that the sands of time will slowly erode away all traces of it ever existing? What do we gain from these futile endeavors? Why even bother anymore? I gaze to my left and see the golden calf I have built unto myself. In my mind, I am the center of the universe and I believe, stupidly enough, that everyone should remember me. I also see that I worry so much about the future that I often forget to live in the present, and how can you have a future if you don’t have a present? I pull down the statue, smashing it to bits on the ground. I find an odd satisfaction in doing that, perhaps my mind reassuring me that I am making progress, no matter how small.

The Water chakra: deals with pleasure, and is blocked by guilt

I see all the opportunities I wasted through my life fluttering softly in a small golden cage. The cage itself is tied to my heart. I can feel it pull something slightly asunder with every flutter. Every single time I made a silly mistake, every single quiz I lost by my stupidity. I realize I am weighed down by the cage. It is preventing me from moving ahead. I pull at the ropes, but nothing seems to budge. I am tiny before these forces, a tiny being, floating in on a wish. I pull myself together. I know that the saddest phrase in English has to be it might have been. There’s no point wishing on the past and by doing that I also overlook all the things I do have. All the glowing little opportunities in the jar I carry on me. I balance the cage with my jar. Again, that satisfying feeling, my brain playing tricks with dopamine, again. I am a little skeptical now.

The Fire chakra: located in the stomach, deals with willpower and is blocked by shame

I keep walking. I look ahead and I see myself, sometime from now, trying to assure myself of the fact that what I had written wasn’t entirely worthless. I had and always will probably be ashamed of what I write, unsure of as to its quality. I doubt the identity of the person who is right now, typing these words in, if he really is me, or a version of me who is certain that these words are the right ones to use. And since this is the real world, and I cannot change my will power at this instant, mustering enough will to convince myself without reaffirming, I continue to float immobile in this ocean of doubt. I wish for the willpower to assure my self-worth, the willpower not to let it be affected that easily, and the willpower to assuage my self-doubt. Hollow, empty wishes, flitting away into the darkness. I sink to the bottom and walk on.

The fourth chakra is located in the heart. It deals with love and is blocked by grief.

A framed picture hangs on the wall. Our failures define us, it assures me. That does not bother me a lot. I have failed so many times that I barely feel it at all, anymore. I’ll explain. See, I keep cats at home. And the thing with letting cats loose and free is, that you’ll soon have Fibonacci-an numbers of them pattering about. At one time, we could count 14, ranging from a week old to a 3-year-old. But the problem was, we suddenly had an infestation of stray dogs in the neighborhood. And I tell you, it is one thing seeing Spike chase Tom around, it’s another seeing a cat being thrashed about in a rabid dogs teeth, and then slowly dying as its organs rupture and bleed internally. They die painful, tortured deaths. And it breaks your heart every time this happens. But you see, as this goes on, you realize you don’t feel as much pain anymore. You’ve been desensitized, you’ve hardened your heart. But I realize what the show is saying at this point is true. That’s the thing about love, it never dies out, it just changes from one form to another. I now have three new kittens at home that I haven’t yet laid eyes on, waiting for me to get back. And I don’t doubt that I will fall in love all over again with them. And no doubt, at some point my emotional attachment to that cat might cause me grief when it passes away. But that’s the point of love. It’s vulnerability. It might cause me pain when it dies, but while it lives, I wouldn’t trade it for any other feeling in the world.

The Sound chakra: located in the throat. It deals with truth and is blocked by lies. The ones we tell ourselves.

I often try to justify my interests as well as my mistakes. I’ve found myself telling me that I do them for a reason. That I have some control over that part of my life. I’ve used that lie till its been worn thin. But you see, I’ve never actually lived. All I’ve done is move from one lamppost to another on the dark street that is life, never once venturing outside my comfort zone, never once challenging myself in any way. It’s often amazing how easily we can fool ourselves into thinking contrary to all logic and reasoning. I avoid the truth because it is bitter and hard to accept. I fall victim to my own hubris, so much more often than not. I am blind to things right in front of me, and deaf to the most obvious of signals that something is wrong, because I’m really closing my eyes and ears and going lalalalalala, refusing to accept truth, reality. It’s just like a Paris syndrome of my own. I know seeing this Paris might break me and so I cushion myself from the blow by not visiting this Paris and preferring to preserve the romantic mental image of it, keeping it intact. But even if you avoid Paris all your life, you do know that one day, even if you don’t go there, Paris will come to you. But escapist that I am, I leave that day for another. When that day comes, I’ll deal with it. I shrink away like a rat, still moving ahead, hoping to see an end, a conclusion to my travels, for I am weary.

The Light chakra: located in the center of the forehead, deals with insight and is blocked by illusion.

I find myself often thinking about how a person’s reality might just be a construct or even an extension of his mind. Everyone lives in their own little fantasy land reality, with their friends and their lives. You choose your own poison. That way, you know why every person’s life experiences are different, it’s because they simply perceive life in that way. And the best part is, no one ever challenges this. As a species, we simply enjoy stasis. We reject anything out of the ordinary, wishing to stay balled up in our little cocoon realities, sometimes even resorting to violence to avoid change, refusing to see that the world is nothing but change, turbulent, chaotic change. Nothing is permanent. But of course, these are also merely thoughts, ideas, that make the world seem to be much more classified and less chaotic than it actually is. It feels good to be able to explain the unknown, gaining a better grip on my perception of reality, or at least convincing myself that I have, because it is both tough and scary to imagine a tumultuous world, always in turmoil. And while I do gain some insight when I think about this, I can never truly be free of the illusion until I actually break free of the cocoon. Until I embrace the fact that all is one and one is all. There is no separation between people or for that matter, living things. We live in the same shared reality and our actions affect this chaotic reality directly. And until I learn to live in this reality, rather than my own, I will not be able to see much beyond myself. But, the cocoon is warm and inviting. Why bother doing any of those things? You can get through life with just one perception of reality, your own. I see that while this is not something I would do if I wanted to move ahead spiritually, the reasoning is logical, it makes sense. I step into the warm embrace of the cocoon. Suddenly I am clutching nothing. I make a slow crash landing on a narrow path. Seeing no other way to go, for now, I move onward.

The Thought chakra: located at the crown of the head, deals with pure cosmic energy and is blocked by earthly attachment.

Like all normal humans, I worry about my possessions, look at that ego go, huh. “My”. I put stress on that syllable without even thinking about it. We’ve been raised as materialists, and though the books try to explain how it does not conflict with the heart chakra, saying things like “But what this really means is,” and this is really corny but bear with me, “that when you love something, you must accept that at some point it will pass on. In other words, you must learn to let it go.“ I cannot accept those conflicting emotions. I see the inherent hypocrisy there. Oh, what’s the point! I was gonna toss out some more stuff like pain is an illusion, happiness is an illusion, we get so caught up in this illusory world, and so forth, but I just realized, all this is effort is worth nothing. I cannot change anything. I can see the train wreck ahead from my window seat, inching there little by little. I can see that if I hung myself right now, it would probably be a week before anyone would notice or care. I see the worthlessness in me, jeering at me, knowing I can do nothing to change it, and my mind, weakly rationalizing, murmuring something along the lines of “This too will pass”, telling me to keep walking. I see no point in going on. I jump off the path and into the abyss.

No, Aang! By choosing attachment, you have locked the chakra! If you leave now, you won’t be able to go into the Avatar State at all!

And that brings us to the present. Whoo! Two thousand four hundred words of convincing fiction in an hour! Well, convincing enough. Boy! I could really do with some onion and banana juice, right about now.

[P.S. A concern was raised that this was much too personal stuff. Well, I think Nathaniel Hawthorne puts it best in The Custom House (introduction to the scarlet letter), where he says, ”The truth seems to be, however, that, when he casts his leaves forth upon the wind, the author addresses, not the many who will fling aside his volume, or never take it up, but the few who will understand him, better than most of his schoolmates or lifemates. Some authors, indeed, do far more than this, and indulge themselves in such confidential depths of revelation as could fittingly be addressed, only and exclusively, to the one heart and mind of perfect sympathy; as if the printed book, thrown at large on the wide world, were certain to find out the divided segment of the writer’s own nature, and complete his circle of existence by bringing him into communion with it. It is scarcely decorous, however, to speak all, even where we speak impersonally. But—as thoughts are frozen and utterance benumbed, unless the speaker stand in some true relation with his audience—it may be pardonable to imagine that a friend, a kind and apprehensive, though not the closest friend, is listening to our talk; and then, a native reserve being thawed by this genial consciousness, we may prate of the circumstances that lie around us, and even of ourself, but still keep the inmost Me behind its veil. To this extent and within these limits, an author, methinks, may be autobiographical, without violating either the reader’s rights or his own.”. And though this is unnecessary, I will again remind you this is nothing but fiction. What else can you call something that takes place mostly in your imagination?]

1 Comment

Filed under Prose