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Talespin’17 – Results

– Coordinators, ELS

Hello folks. Talespin, our annual spring creative writing competition, was held last month, and here we are with the results. The winners got books as prizes. The topics for the event can be found here.

Winners:

  1. Promit Chakroborty
  2. Nikhil Nayak

Their entries, as well as those of the other participants, will be posted soon. So keep watching this space for some delightful reads!

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TaleSpin ’17

– Coordinators, ELS

 
“Setting topics for a creative writing event is too much work. It is like handing out ideas to every person who is suffering from a writer’s block.”  – Shehzad Hathi, TaleSpin ’16

Truer words have not been spoken. It’s even harder to set topics for people suffering from writer’s block if you’re suffering from writer’s block yourself. Well, we’ve done it, so welcome to TaleSpin ’17, the creative writing competition conducted as part of LitFest ’17.

The general guidelines are given here:

  • Plagiarism will lead to disqualification.
  • You can choose to compose on multiple topics. Your composition may be in the form of a prose, a poem, a comic or literally anything that involves some form of text. (Try to) Limit yourself to 2000 words.
  • Topics can be found here: TaleSpin ‘17.
  • Entries, along with the topic they have been written on, (and queries) must be emailed to litsoc.iitk@gmail.com
  • Deadline for submission is 25th March 2017. Winners will be awarded books as prizes and their entries will be published on the blog.

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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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TaleSpin Entry #8

[Link to TaleSpin]

A Story

 – Thoughtful Thestral

I am a story, and this is my first sentence.

“Four double-­three”, the worker shouted, and TT held up his hand. He received his coffee, and started sipping with lines of worry clearly visible on his forehead. He was sitting opposite Govan, who was having his regular evening samosa.

TT started the conversation, “I am trying to write a story for Talespin, you know, the writing competition in the LitFest, but I’m running short of ideas. Would be a great help if you could suggest some.”

Govan asked, “How much have you written already? Care to share a few lines?”

TT replied, “It’s just about 8-­9 lines so far. I am a story, and this is my first sentence. “Four double -three”,… 

When TT had finished, Govan looked him in the eye and reprimanded him, “Why are you being so bland? He said this, he replied, and everything. Make it interesting. Include details. At least create a proper setting for your readers to relate to.”

So I am dull. I guess I just insulted myself.

TT took a sip and looked around. He was in his Hall canteen, having his evening coffee and snack. I shouldn’t be repetitive, it’s a bad practice. The canteen was bustling with activity. Cliches demonstrate a lack of original construction. It was close to sunset: mellow rays of the departing sun provided an accessory illumination to the place. Plagiarism is a condemnable offense.

The walls were painted with a dull yellow interspersed with orange and blue areas. A television set was mounted on one of the walls, playing a Bollywood music channel at that moment. Residents of the hall, some having just returned from classes, some having just woken up, and some who wanted a place for thoughtful conversations, like TT, were seated in chunks around black circular tables. Freshly prepared samosas and wada­pavs filled the air with a delicious aroma. Pastries and cookies were available for the sweet­toothed, sandwiches and “Little Hearts” for those in a hurry. Conversations on varied topics ranging from cricket to the budget were being carried out, Mid­semester exam marks discussed, and Techkriti pranks were being planned.

Somewhere in the midst of all this, TT was searching for inspiration. A worker shouted, “Four two nine”, and came to Govan upon his hand­waving to deliver his grilled sandwich. TT looked at his friend in exasperation, hoping for more comments and suggestions.

Govan said, after stuffing some bread in his mouth, “Create proper characters. Sketch them with the passion of a dramatist, but with the flow of a poet. Let them make an impression.” He proceeded to chew his meal slowly, relishing the mayo and the tomatoes. Govan had always been a gourmet. I think TT wrote the previous sentence only for aesthetic purposes.

“Ask rhetorical questions. Make the reader think and reflect.” Govan was never short of suggestions.

TT got up and walked out to get some fresh air. Nature might inspire him, he hoped. He was on an edge of a properly cut out rectangle of greenery in the centre of the hall, popularly known as the “Quad”. He sat down on the grass, legs folded, elbows resting on his thighs, his hands supporting his chin. He tried to probe his mind for instances that could be penned down in an interesting manner.

Soon, he got distracted, absorbed in the worries of the impending quizzes and assignments. TT was that kind of a person ­ he always had things on his mind that might be more fruitful than his present preoccupation, and the worries would drive him to reconsider spending time on all things creative. He speculated that majority of his energy must be wasted in thinking of doing things and their consequences, rather than actually getting things done. The thought made him feel sad and exhausted. If he couldn’t achieve a clear stream of thought, he wouldn’t be able to produce a coherent piece of writing.

Govan appeared in a while, and sat beside TT. He put his arm around the latter’s shoulder, and convinced him, “Come on, man. You have the ability to write a meaningful story with relatable characters, exciting twists and a language that leaves the readers spellbound. Just invoke your creative genius and start writing. What’s the topic by the way?”

TT took out his phone, opened Evernote and read out the topic, “But one can also choose to consider this entire composition as a topic in itself.”

“Sounds cool. But in writing about yourself trying to write something, aren’t you taking inspiration from a movie you watched recently? I can’t remember the name…”

“Yeah. It was called Adaptation. Kind of, yeah. But isn’t all writing just a reflection of reality, viewed through the author’s set of mirrors?” TT replied.

Govan lifted his chin and nodded. “You’re probably right.” The two of them started walking across the Quad, heading towards their rooms. TT was still lost in thought when Govan started speaking again, “Another point ­ your story has a very plain start. I think an impactful story must have abrupt beginnings and endings. That makes it all the more effective.”

 

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TaleSpin Entry #7

[Link to TaleSpin]

Memory? Maybe

– Surreal Kishi

There’s this memory I have had.
(Or rather some fantasy!!)
Rectangular legs of cotton,
with endearingly curvaceous and
strong holders.
To hold me in past,
memories so selfish.
Thick to thin with a mesmerising blow of appeal;
Those black shiny grounders,
striking on my head palace
and so apt on the creme abstract rectangle;
The beauty immense enough to behold,
immense enough to distract.

Indian cotton per se!
Brown and creme from the land of nagas
A design crafted in the rendezvous
Of some great Rangrez with colours
and his blocks.
(Or by my distinctly clouded memory)
Splashy I rise,
Dumb
I fall
loud and sensual,
Pure and curvaceous.
Desire of half possession of others.
With a locket blue as ocean,
hanging over the valley.(oops!)

Above I climbed in hesitation
eyes still arid, lust still young.
Amidst of snow and wheat
lies a beautiful field.
Lying there nude; so so eager!
Waiting for Zeus to taste it.

A stem so virgin,
Even ripe grapes would eschew.
Bold yet fades away in just a touch!
Don’t  know if memory’s getting hazy,
Or Words have deserted this dare
Of describing further.

Beyond the abstractions of
round and long lies
perfection,
pure maiden perfection.

Let the flow change.

Dark sparks neither too long
nor too short.
There to savour the grain,
but to leave thou sere.
Palace of beauty and might
Of memories in fact!
(I am not part of)
Dark and endless
Surrounded by a web so fine,
Of spider sunk in blue.
Careful yet intriguing,
covered in snow white!
Two apple dumplings,
Christened by Aphrodite.

Sharp you look,
Sharp you go within.
Sharp is the pain.
Of thou getting in.

Two piles of wonder,
Slight a mystique up.
Crush of sugarcoated cherry,
touch so balmy,
flesh so polite!
Its been too far,
for a memory that hazy.
But only if it was one.
I hope it was not!!

 

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TaleSpin Entry #6

[Link to TaleSpin]

Mirror – The Silent Spectator

– Shivani Saxena

The mist of morning wintery
Covers its surface gently,
The glassy figure, it stands
In the corner, silently.

The fair reflector of beauty
Yet, fails at true revelation.
The mute spectator sees
All the stories’ creation.

It’s the spy of spies.
It’s the best secret-keeper.
It’s the witness to crimes bold.
It stores thoughts deeper.

Legs dangling from the fan
Of a student totally broken
Companion in his struggle
Spoke nothing to none.

The clamour of words harsh
Thrown like knives between him and her
The dark depressed girl rejected for marriage
Oh! If it could embrace her.

It watches her yellow feet sleep
With one man and tomorrow, another.
Her soul when peeped through eye hole
There is nothing left, all wonder.

The mangled face that wakes up
Eaten by the acid, looks up.
It knows all her feelings and fears
Still dumb! Atleast cheer her up.

Observer of the unsaid and unheard
Glows with the match of dowry.
The scream of abused child echo
In its heart that’s cold and unweary.

How could it still remain-
The spy, the witness, the spectator.
Well- aware of the plans of devils,
Rapists, hypocrites and murderers.

Shatter the glassy mask down
Rip your brimming chest off
Speak to hapless, be the savior
Oh! The world be so well-off.

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