Monthly Archives: May 2016

Sweet Summer Sweat

-Coordinators, ELS

And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
― F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Summer is back, hopefully bringing with it similar convictions as our mutual friend Scott, above. Here are the topics of the summer creative writing contest, Sweet Summer Sweat. The best entries get published in Meander and win books. Mail us your pieces at litsoc.iitk@gmail.com latest by July 31st. Modifying a quote by Jeannette Wells, one benefit of Summer is that each day we have more light to write by. So get writing, folks.

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TaleSpin Entry #10

[Link to TaleSpin]

 – Geet George

Cynic feels lost nowadays. She wouldn’t confess this to you, though. She portrays herself as completely callous to everything that goes on around her. She has an innate ability to hide and stay hidden. Very few are able to witness Cynic unmask herself. The words in her diary and the frets on her guitar are among the privileged ones. Often, the smoke she devotedly billows, gives good company to them. However, it has been a long while since the smoke got together with her words. She has kept herself busy with lectures, submissions and nerve-wrecking exams. The words she writes nowadays seem static. They all have a single, common intent – better grades. Her pen feels strangled by all the mechanical writing. Her pages miss the life that the flow of ink used to have. The writer within her feels suffocated by the lack of inspired air in her textbook-like words and remains arrested in a prison of peer competition and mono-context words. Since the mid-semester exams got over, Cynic has felt empty inside. She doesn’t realize that it is the imprisoned writer that is wishing to be set free; she doesn’t see the light that the writer within is wishing to see. The toil through the exam times has weakened her. She cannot figure out what to do. A sip of coffee and two seconds later, her phone gives out a short whimper, as the screen comes to life. She gives a hopeful glance to it. The glance does not disappoint and brings back hope to her heart. As she stares at what has come up on the lit screen, her eyes light up. A long gone smile complements her now radiant face. Sooner than her tongue can say “yes”, her mind makes a decision. She gets up, finishes the coffee and walks towards her hostel room, where her diary has long been awaiting her, pressed under the burden of textbooks. The writer within her leaps for joy. It is time to be freed. The phone screen still reads “1 New Email: [students] [ELS] Online Creative Writing Competiti…”

Cynic’s decision to end the sabbatical from writing is showing its wonders. Long withheld ideas have now found an outlet, and the turbulence they bring to her mind amazes her. The flow of thoughts is so rapid that she is unable to pick and process each one. She smiles, as she realises how many treasures of thoughts she has buried over time. The writer has been dead for some time, but has now become a phoenix, who has resurrected from the ashes of loneliness. Cynic connects with her old friend, the writer within. She has had enough of spitting out textbook-friendly phrases on pages. She is eager to write words like she used to – words that shout, but are silent, words that whisper, yet touch a chord, words that belong to the reservoir of her own feelings, words with thoughts that hug her heart, words that make her alien to her friends, yet help her resonate with complete strangers. With pen in hand and resolve in heart, she opens a fresh page in her book and ponders for a while. If you have access to look inside her thought process, you’ll see Cynic constructing a mind-map of her ideas – a network of inter-linked clouds of different sizes. Some link with others on an equal level, while most link with a single, large parent cloud. This large cloud comprises feelings that make her heart heavy, and for this same reason, the mind decides to paint this large cloud in a dark grey hue. Much like the dark, large, heavy clouds in the air above, this one too looks ready to rain down hard on the book below. Thoughts filled with anger are what rain down first. It is a complete downpour, and it has come down without a warning. She doesn’t have to wait and think for the right words. Her mind is a storehouse brimming with bitter experiences, which help keep the process of spewing out angry words, a continuous one. She is continuously provided with memories of incidents that made her hate the people around her. The anger originates in different tributaries, and then confluences into a mighty raging river, which in turn nourishes her hatred for society. The source of one such tributary is her disgust for the way men behave around her. Their piercing eyes make their vulgar imaginations visible to her. Their not-so- subtle stares ensure that her love for summer shorts and miniskirts is never manifested in her clothing. Another tributary is her hatred for the way members of her own sex annoy her. Their nasty comments and smirks, when they smell the ash from her clothes, make her want to ignore them. Yet another tributary originates from the unasked horror that nature gifts her once every month. She especially hates the packaging that this gift comes in – the cramps that make her into a monster much worse than she really is. Many more such tributaries come together to bring enough anger that it makes the river capable of destruction. True to its nature, the river brings destruction to the story Cynic has been penning for a while. Like an athlete’s anger destroys his game; angst has done to her story the same. As she reads it over, she grins. This is not even close to a story. This is angst, though not alone. Melancholy proves to be a worthy companion to it. She feels that a lighter, a more feel-good piece would perform better, if it is a creative writing competition she intends to win. Now, with all this release of emotions, she does feel a lot lighter and capable of writing a serene story, not as dark as the one she just wrote. This is inspite of the fact that she knows true stories have a much better impact. She wants to keep it for her diary. By no means will she allow the world to witness what is within her.

Cynic decides to take a short break. A cigarette would relax her and help her focus. She ties up her hair in a quick bun, and paces out of the hostel. Her steps trod a path that leads to a Motor Transit station, which however is much more popular with the students for a reason that is quite unrelated to transport services – the easy access to cigarettes. Cynic goes there with the same purpose. She, however, would argue that the purpose is not really unrelated to transport. The difference in the transport she seeks is that it does not lead her to a geographical destination, but instead, transports her mind to a much relaxed state – a destination where her mind finally calms down. She looks around and sees that a minor fraction of the demographic is not really here for the destination, but for the joyride. These are mostly young boys, who have not grown their first bit of facial hair. She smiles at their innocence and tells herself that very soon they would find no joy in the joyride, and would come only to get to the destination. They would know the ride did not wish them well, but the destination would feel like home – it would be the only place they were used to being in. It would be dreadful to even think of not reaching home after a while. Cynic suddenly remembers the early days of her graduation in Bombay, when she was also a part of this same, innocent demography, which held slim, slow-suicide sticks with their lips, not for the feel of it, but for the look of it, for the charm of it. She had always been a rebel, but she did not possess then, the wisdom to know that not every rebellion was as rational as it was radical. A rebellious adolescence, minus the insight to control it, had led her through to an inescapable love-hate relationship with nicotine. Today, she regrets every moment of those days and wishes to go back to her non-smoking self, but then, her hatred for this habit is often overcome by the spurts of yearning that keep coming back to greet her in the most stressful of times. Unable to withhold herself, she lights up a death-rewarding cigarette, as familiar well-meaning hymns resound in the temple behind her. She tries to match the frequency of her puffs, with the beats from the temple dhol, but the time signature of the hymn is too fast, and she coughs. Achieving a high frequency of puffs might be difficult, but she knows the frequency of these coughs would definitely increase as she gets older. She returns to the thought of how an innocent youth had become the cause for her hideous habit. As these thoughts linger in her head, the same hideous habit comes back to take control. She takes a deep breath, relaxes her lungs and then takes a non-resonating puff, which starts another cycle of unrest for her lungs.

To be held in high regards by mates
I’ve often obeyed what their law dictates –
The law authorised to decide
What to show and what to hide,
The law that promises a lot better,
The law they call peer pressure.
Pushing myself to ends of discomfort,
Not the least bit of lack in my effort,
I’ve called myself one of them;
I’ve tried to be part of them.
I look like them now;
A stranger, I am now.
Youth, in all innocence, is benign,
The exploiting world is what’s malign.
I wish I had the needed insight,
I wish I had the wisdom right.
Youthful innocence, it’s the truth;
Is the reason why, I’m uncouth.
Buds should’ve an armour on the out,
So they bloom in time, without a doubt.
The winds won’t shake them off
Beaks of birds won’t peck them off
But nature doesn’t function that way,
Likewise, wisdom, from youth, stays away.
I despise this new person, I’ve come to be;
Miles of animosity, between her and me…

A sense of peace prevails now. The much needed smoking session has stimulated Cynic’s senses enough to bring order to her cluttered mind. She now carries a vibe strong enough to inspire inanimate humans to write stories. She reaches her hostel room and spends an hour cleaning every accessible nook and corner. Now that neither her inner space nor her outer surroundings seem confused, she sits down to write, her favourite pen in hand. Writing comes naturally to her and she is surprised to find that there is no estrangement between her words and her thoughts, inspite of her long sabbatical. The minute hand on her desk clock has crossed the same mark seven times since she has started writing. She becomes aware of the passage of time only when dawn’s first rays begin to illuminate strands of her hair, which have come forward to mention sweet nothings to her cheeks. She smiles to herself as she realises that she has been in the process of writing all night. Leagues of stories played in her mind, before she finally decided to settle on the one that is she is writing now. She seems content with her content, and finds that her writing has developed into a style she has never tried. The piece she has just finished is in the third person narrative, yet the writer within is celebrating the first of many autobiographical accounts, that are sure to come soon. She is unsure about the chances of her piece winning the competition, but she does not worry about that now. What matters is that she is back to writing stories, and the significance of this homecoming is magnified by her realization that she has figured out a way to be able to show herself to the world without any fear of judgement or be accused of blasphemy. All she has to do is resort to the third person. She now plans to reward herself for deciding to participate in the competition. She may lose this battle, but she has won a war. She decides to go through her piece once more. She starts reading aloud, “Geet feels lost nowadays. He wouldn’t confess this to you though…”

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TaleSpin Entry #9

[Link to TaleSpin]

Talespin

  – Naive Narwhal

I am a spinner of tales. I am the one blowing smoke in your eyes; literally and figuratively.

I sit at my loom each day, painstakingly pick out the material, thread the needle carefully, and weave.

Today I work with golden silk. I am lonely today. The gleaming thread is the finest I could obtain. It came from the silkworms I fashioned from silver wool, they cluster on the tree in the far corner of the room, can you see it? They yield well, those worms, enough for me to give birth to a harem; but I save it. Abundance does not make the material less precious; economy is the best path to take.

Aurelia… In a few hours she will be alive; gilded skin glowing and the darker silk of her hair flowing to the floor. I will get to work in a moment, I just have to roll this square of cellulose, add a bit of dried tobacco. Can you see a matchbook anywhere? Ah, here it is. Hmm.. this is good. To work now.

It’s always good to feel the pedal of the loom working under my feet. The bars press into my soles creating a painful but pleasurable pressure; by the time I finish, there is a delightful numbness in every sinew. I don’t recall my skin without the purple embroidery of varicose on them. I strain myself too much, perhaps, but I feel strangely stagnant, without the rocking of the loom, and the chafe of thread against my fingers. Not even stagnant, no, it’s the wrong texture to use; what I mean is adrift. I am constantly flitting between worlds and people and things; old and new. The loom is an anchor; with the loom there is a start and from there a logical progression. There will eventually be an end too, maybe, but I don’t want to think about that right now. With the loom there is Aurelia, without it, it will just be me nursing my loneliness in an empty room, slowly unravelling to oblivion.

This cigarette is out. Can you roll me another? No, no, you do know how to roll one. Just do what comes naturally. Yeah, see, I told you. Thanks, old guy.

The smoke is necessary to this delicate process of making fabric out of thin thread. I lose rhythm sometimes, makes the whole thing go awry; worlds jumble, faces blend together to create something unintended. The results are almost without exception horrendous, and it takes forever to make it right. I was taught how to smoke by a traveller from a land far away; he was as exotic as the cotton he was made out of; one of the most fascinating characters I have encountered thus far. I am proud of that one. He told me that lungfuls of burnt air will keep the pace going, even when I’m too exhausted to see straight. It’s bad, I know, but see, I don’t really care if I’m threadbare and ragged, as long as I can keeping weaving; faster, better and longer.

There, just look at her, almost complete; she’s so perfect. I’ve been planning her for a long time. Can you get me that wooden chest over there? Yes, that one, right by the map of the world. That map… brings back memories. It’s goatskin, very good quality, would outlive me for centuries if that were possible. The chest yes… open it… I’ve gathered quite a few things over the years to make Aurelia whole. See those brilliant knots of green, they’re emeralds, for her eyes. Scarlet satin for her lips. The grey for her dress. I just need a bit of black for her hair… can you see a skein of black thread anywhere? No, no, that won’t do… too coarse. Only the finest for her.

Where did I leave it? I could not have run out… This place is just too messy sometimes; too many things I’ve created and cast aside… Some of them find their way out, some don’t… It’s a labyrinth, this place… like my head… that’s why the cigarettes are good… it quiets down the static and filters out the melody. I really must find some black soon. The brown silk, is good, yes, but her hair needs a little more depth… Just a little more… Aurelia, must be perfect, you know… I can’t scrimp on her… I intend to keep her here forever, next to me… I have had enough of solitude, enough of silence… Yeah, I do talk to you, but see, you never respond. That’s how I made you, of course, to hear myself speak, to have someone nod and not contradict. Now, I want more… you understand don’t you? You will help build her, right? I just need a little bit of your blackness, just some of it. I put some thought into forming you too, you know? Black, the perfect absorber, the perfect reflector; you show me what I want to see, not more, not less. You’ve served me well. There, the needle is threaded. Did that hurt? I’m sorry, but the pain will end soon… I feel guilty for doing this, you know, but I need more… So tell me, how does it feel to be… unravelling? I have often wondered how it would be like, when my time comes. You can’t tell me, of course. It’s not your fault. It’s mine. I’m sorry, old man, I really am.

This is for the bes-

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