A Boost over this Threshold, Please

Underneath a perversely-Four-Thirty-AM pall,
Two sorrowfully frigid hours before boarding call,
On a Jan pre-morning,
I find myself fenced in.

Walls of wire ring fiercely this place,
Interrupted intermittently by these infernal locked gates,
And no, Madam, they will not yield before eight.
At this time of distress and Frost, I spy,
Two roads diverged in a yellow smog,
And sorry I had to travel both,
And find twice the wall had no give for,
This poor citizen just recently turned rogue.

My colony steels itself for siege
So superbly well at times like these,
That I wish we were living rather more dangerously.
For that blessed-and-barbed slit-of-a-gap
Betwixt the wires I tumbled out of, madcap,
Snagged the collar of my coat
Snapped at the mess of my hair,
And for all the likeness to a castle-and-moat,
And for all that I lacked my jousting mare,
This is home, not a warring citadel, remember?
And could I perhaps leave it not-dismembered?

You’re supposed to bless a journey to its very end,
But I would argue it a much more useful trend,
To invoke your gods thus: I pray,
That you, fellow traveller, find your way –
Not home, dull wit,
But out of it.

Written by Swathi Gangadharan
Image by Hitashi Arora

Expectorate This Man.

The 45th man is not exactly
the definition of ‘considerate
or ‘progressive’.

This man who is affixed to the
red tie. Is he happy? Does the
glamour blind him?

This man is divisive and several
marches across the country
corroborate that.

This man who loves to fondle
vulnerable women will be the
captain of a gigantic train.

The engines will work on his
command and people will be
his puppets.

What does the 45th man dream
about? Walls and violence?
Sadness and immigration?

So many questions to so little
answers. I like to think that I
can grasp the indomitable future
in my grasp and somehow control it
when I can’t.

 

Written by Avantika Singhal
Image by Sanna Jain

Crossing into Delhi

 

For the first time in my life, I experienced my spectacles becoming goggles. I had to credit Delhi’s smog for this gift. The feeling of being promoted from a small town to a metropolis evaporated as soon as the Sabzi Mandi station helped the odours of the national capital to assault my nose. All the icky vegetables and family quarrels, which threatened to mar my idyllic images of Chandigarh, trumped (shouldn’t use that word nowadays, who knows US intelligence may zero in on me as a wannabe immigrant) the alien reproductions of Rajmah-Rice.

My history books referred to the jewels of the Khilji, Lodi, Mughal and Gandhi dynasties (they refuse to let go of their stake in 7 RCR), that had converted the innocuous and dusty city into a marvel. They mentioned stories carved in stone, songs thrumming in inlay work, art peeping from every corner (not literally, obviously), and culture seeped into the earth of the city of djinns. As compared to the newness of Chandigarh’s well-planned, grid-like, organised structure with little history to boast about, Delhi was a treasure trove.

I must be truthful here- my first impression of Delhi wasn’t so stunning. I distinctly remember turning my nose away from the piles of rotting garbage, staring in horrid fascination at a shopping centre painted entirely in white and paan stains, and furiously hoping that I’d see an actual tree, or even an (impossible) sparrow somewhere. Many visitors and travellers who have documented the city and struck gold in writing about its glorious past say that the city grew on them. Its markets awed them. Its people won their hearts. Its divinely ordained rulers benignly appointed them as advisors or scribes.

My experience was a little different.

The only growth I witnessed was that of eve-teasing and traffic in the evenings. The people were unusually helpful in terms of pushing me out of the metro when my station arrived. And the rulers worried tremendously about what the Delhi Police Chief was saying, which new crime an AAP MLA had committed, which house they wanted after the next election in Lutyens’ Delhi, and how many barricades would have to be placed in front of the US consulate. They should consider surrounding it with a wall now, paid for by our cashless economy. The amazing markets, as is evident from a sudden spurt in my book collection (only 40 Rupees for Half Girlfriend Madamji-no I didn’t buy it) though, didn’t disappoint.

But for every shrill whistle I heard, I received a pleasant smile. For every rude autowallah, I met one who wanted to use the meter. For every pile of garbage, I got the National Museum and the Bharat Rang Mahotsav. For every rue-ler, I got an activist. For every expression of disdain, I found hope.

And horror of horrors, I seemed to like it.

Despite all these factors, I want to sincerely thank God for giving me the opportunity to venture towards new horizons.

Shit.

I think I stepped into a muddy pothole.

I take my gratitude back.

 

by Tript Kaur
Image by Hitashi Arora

We All Fall Down

The first time Sam asked her who Katie was, she had just shrugged. She didn’t quite know how to explain it to Sam in the first place, and in the second – Katie was hers. Hers intimately, personally, inescapably. This ended when Sam found her, sprawled on the floor of her room, crying.

“There’s so much blood,” she’d said. “Why is there so much blood? Tell her to stop, Sam, please – she keeps cutting herself and spilling it on my sheets.”

Sam had looked at her funny, and Isabella had wanted to demand to know what he was thinking. Why didn’t he find Katie? Why didn’t he get her to stop? Katie was always making such a racket, always screaming, demanding, asking for food, for water, for something more – and always clawing at her throat, as if she knew something about Isabella that Isabella herself didn’t.

Sam got used to Katie eventually – as did Isabella. There was no shutting her up after all. She couldn’t help it – the constant screeching wouldn’t stop, and Isabella was not equipped to handle it.

“She used the knives again,” she told Sam one day. “There was so much blood.”

Sam looked at her, as her fingers tapped on the plastic table.

“So much blood,” she said quietly, contemplating the smears on her fingers, that left fingerprints everywhere.

*

She always dreamed of the first thing over and over again – it was hard to remember her sister, you see. So in her dreams, she’d appear over and over and over and over again. She didn’t know what point her sister was trying to make – but Katie never really had much subtlety that way. And the dream always started with a doorway – or a cliff, or an entrance.

And Isabella was always falling.

Falling.

Falling.

Falling.

Until Katie appeared again, her face smiling, telling Isabella that she had done well, that everything was going to be alright.

Katie smiled.

Blood dripped from her eyes.

*

“How is… everything… today?” Sam asked her.

“She used a rope this time,” sighed Isabella. “She’s over there,” she added unnecessarily, waving in the background. Katie’s body swung from side to side, as it trying to prove a point.

“Isabella… do you remember anything about Katie?” asked Sam

Isabella frowned. “I remember – I remember Mum and Dad loved her,” she said slowly. “I remember she was always loud – always, always, always. She took my favourite Barbie when we were six, I remember. I think her name was Violetta.”

“Anything else?” prodded Sam.

“Why was she so loud?” asked Isabella helplessly. “She always wanted everything – everything!”

“It’s alright Isabella, come on,” said Sam, patting her hand.

“She smiled so much – all her teeth, you could see them all, always –”

“I know.”

Isabella buried herself into Sam’s chest. “You’ll stop her, won’t you?”

Sam’s hand was hesitant on her hair.

“I’ll try.”

*

Isabella examined her nails. “It was a spanner this time,” she said.

“Yeah?” said Sam cautiously.

“I don’t know why she keeps doing it,” said Isabella, reexamining her nails.

“Isabella – you – do you –”

“What?” asked Isabella earnestly, looking at Sam’s worried face. Maybe something was wrong – maybe Mum and Dad weren’t well.

“Did Katie ever tell you why – why she does this to you?”

Isabella frowned.

She remembered the doorways, the cliffsides that she was always falling over. The entries, the break ins, and then Katie’s smiling face, over and over, saying words that sounded all wrong. “She used to say that there’s a threshold – to becoming stars or fire. She said hers was limitless. She said mine was limitless.”

“For what?” asked Sam.

“Mine for her,” said Isabella quietly. “And her for more.”

Sam didn’t say anything.

“But I showed her –” said Isabella fiercely. “I showed her. I showed her. There are limits.”

Sam collected his coat, leaving the room.

“Will you be coming to visit your sister again?” asked one of the attendants.

“Probably,” she heard Sam say. “Next week maybe.”

She wondered why Sam always asked all these questions – she found it hard to remember whatever he asked her about. Whenever she tried hard enough, she remembered Katie’s face, blood pouring out – everywhere, everywhere, everywhere – and a knife in her hand.

She sometimes wondered which threshold she’d crossed simply by placing a limit on Katie.

 

Written by Tanvi Chowdhary

Image by Sanna Jain

Thresh Too Old?

‘You’re enthusiastic, but you kinda don’t know too much. Let’s see what happens now,’ the fifteen year-old video game enthusiast I was trying to be sociable with said, ‘done with [my] lameness.’ He had been forced to my house as his own house was locked, his parents being gone on an impromptu outing. Indeed, I kinda knew nothing about the game he was trying to play, which is probably evident by my usage of the phrase ‘video game enthusiast.’ What I did know about was Christmas – I’m a ‘Christmas enthusiast.’ I had an entire planner dedicated to having the best Christmas possible, complete with an 8 am to 10 pm schedule of Christmas Eve, which included inane things like 8 am – drink tea, what-is-wrong-with-you things like 9:30 am – put tinsel on tree, and extra enthusiastic things like 9 pm – force parents to listen to Christmas carols (this ended up not happening).

I can’t quite pinpoint when my fascination with Christmas began. It wasn’t religious. Maybe it was the fact that the society I lived in celebrated Christmas with an enthusiasm that made me look like Darth Vader, involving a reluctant Uncle forced into a stuffy Santa Claus outfit who would proceed through the building distributing toffees, followed by a gaggle of children who would attack the toffee-distributor in scenes reminiscent of The Lord of the Flies. Said children would then be forced into uncomfortable costumes and dance to either Ganpati hymns or Sheila ki Jawaani. There was no in-between. These little monsters also made sleep impossible for the building by practising ‘A Parthridge in a Peal Tlee’ and other Christmas carols at the top of their lisping voices in the afternoon.

I was the most enthusiastic of these Jacks and Ralphs, and I loved all of this. I also loved the sense of anticipation of gifts, both giving and receiving, the decorations, the lights (aesthetic before it was cool), and the cakes. Christmas seemed like an amalgamation of my favourite sins – gluttony, sloth, and covetousness, wrapped up in socially acceptable fairy lights. I revelled in these sins, and callously gave little thought to the birth of Christ. Now, looking at the teenager slouching on my sofa, it is hard to reconcile his current hunched posture and social disdain that seems borrowed from a ‘Cliché Teenager Traits’ listicle to the little fellow who threw a sparkly purple shirt with panache at the audience, gyrating to Hud Hud Dabangg (evocative of the true Christmas spirit). Anticipating his disgust at my no-chill activities, I settled down with my box of decorations in front of the Christmas tree. Sure enough, the bemused question came, ‘What are you doing bro?’ I said, with a degree of shame that I was decorating. ‘You’re doing it all wrong, he said. And then, in a moment of true glorious magic-of-Christmas, this model of neighbourly apathy sat down next to me and proceeded to decorate the tree, and then the room with me, the beauty of the moment marred only by an occasional ‘snowmen have snowballs’ type of joke.

Planning, for me, is an act born of anxiety. Anxiety about not being able to accomplish what I want to, but also anxiety about not being able to control what lies ahead. By putting down words in a square designated box I manage to tell myself that everything that seems to be spiralling out of control can be hammered neatly back into shape (it has been established earlier that I have no chill). I plan not only for possible crises, but also for good things, for fun. But you can plan your little heart out, but more often than not, life will not go according to plan. My life thus far seems like a series of fully-planned, half-finished projects. Maybe on the threshold of the Time of Resolutions, I can resolve to accept that this is the beginning, and all I can do is go ahead one step at a time. The best moments, like a headphone-toting neighbour arguing with you about candy cane ornaments, can’t be planned anyway. So I start writing, ‘I’m enthusiastic and I kinda don’t know too much. Let’s see what happens now.’

Happy New Year (a month late, because who believes in dates and all that), to everyone!

Written by Anushmita Mohanty

Image by Kanishka Zico

Of Carols and Crayons

Midnight at Marine Drive, pavbhaji on various chowpattys, a stroll through the Hanging Gardens: most of the Mumbai Darshan items and more, had been ticked off, having lived in the city for five years. However a little hamlet remained unnoticed, undiscovered. Enclosed in a blink-and-miss by-lane of Charni Road, Khotachi Wadi is where Bombay pauses to breathe. It’s a world of crayoned bungalows with wooden staircases, of chrome walls and mosaic murals, and armchairs and floors polished by daylight. With each step into this pastel palette, the din of Girgaum chowpatty ceases to be muffled background noise. There are no cars, no autos and no two-wheelers squirming their way through the crimson BEST buses. Only one little boy calling out to another to fetch a new cricket-ball. Only an aged man reading the newspaper in the sun, his morning tea steady on a rickety wooden stool. And a cat escaping Mrs. D’Souza’s wrath as she hangs out the day’s laundry to dry.

It was Christmas when I visited Khotachi Wadi. A time of repose and rejoicing. The village, with a predominantly Christian population, had decked itself with fairy lights and porcelain figurines of the Babe in the Manger and the Three Wise Men. I sat on one of the benches outside the chapel and noticed, that in a world of unfeeling anonymity, the inhabitants of Khotachi Wadi were known to each other on a first and surname basis. A Mr. Pereira had been invited to dine with the Mistry family. Unfortunately for Mr. Mistry, the guest had not been mindful of the invitation and Mrs. Mistry’s loud grievances of having fried the surmai in vain were now upon the old gentleman.

Taking in snippets of the lives of the families who resisted the mad rush outside so effortlessly, I felt the balmy sea-breeze graze my face, as did the high-rises looming over Khotachi Wadi from all sides. I wanted to pinpoint where the beauty lay, whether in the seamless blend of vibrant colours, the quiet quaintness or simply the gentle assertion to hold on to heritage.

It is fashionable to visit the English countryside and put up a ‘check-in’ on Facebook. There’s also no doubt that Juliet’s casa in Verona can enrobe one in a romantic reverie at any time of the day. However, the window-sill above me, with flowers longing to swing down just a little lower, shouldn’t have to credit itself any less. It is just as beautiful. Khotachi Wadi is a small space, and there isn’t much to see. It does not overwhelm you; it may not inspire you to compose a lyrical ballad. But it does allow you to forget the blurred chaos for a while. The quiet here is the sweetest sort of silence. Maybe Khotachi Wadi does not make Bombay what it is, but it certainly is the oasis the metropolis needs.

Images by Deyasini Chatterjee


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Vagabonding ft. Chai
Ramblings from the life of an insomniac Lit major living by Stevenson’s aphorism: “The great affair is to move”, and trying to make sense of life and its squiggles.

Written by Deyasini Chatterjee

Updates monthly

Manufacturing Memes

In a world of Peak TV and rising popular culture, communities enjoy a lot of in-jokes – those wisecracks that go viral simply due to their relatable nature . Memes, no matter how they are pronounced, are generally characterized by the universal nature of their likeableness. Their creation has become so intimately commonplace that they exist even within small communities – for instance, universities use them to market themselves, to make their publicity look a little less like publicity.

Let’s return to a bygone time, one of the Rage Comics, where Derp and Derpina reigned supreme. Essentially ,the time when seventh graders on Facebook had a handle on what was going to be meme-ified and what was not.

Look at the current memes, particularly those on a white background, with one image attached. Using current trends to establish something that will gain likes and laughter reiterates relatability. Memes are no longer merely funnythey are a marketing strategy attempting to give a more human picture to the corporation that uses them by using the best tools of the very millennial they wish to address. The idea behind this is simple: the perceived irreverence of the corporation in question makes them more real and accessible – perhaps a little less like a heartless machine that swallows people and spits them out according to profit and loss.

Regardless of the way humour is being used for these purposes, the essence of this “relatability” of memes is interesting in the way it operates. The meme is currently primarily used by the Liberals – Tumblr, a website which is known for tumbling into predominantly progressive views, after all, set the new format of the meme. Before Tumblr, during that dark period in human history from 2004 to 2008, memes were in the shape of Rage Comics, and type cast figures were used to indicate emotions. Tumblr text posts, which reached insane popularity, have set the standard for the current memes – the ones with a plain white background and relatable text in the middle.

This forced “relatability” isn’t meant to be good or bad – it’s a result of the way the meme culture has turned. Where it’s easier to approach target audiences by employing things they enjoy – such as memes – corporations have begun to use them for publicity. The beauty of this publicity is that you will never realise it’s publicity. The meme culture began as organically generated popular content – a democratic understanding of what should be considered good or bad. Instead of a bunch of aristocrats and elites telling you what to enjoy, the meme culture is one of the nicer, purer things that was started on the internet.

Nice things aren’t meant to last.

Healthy, home-grown and organic memes are a joke, of course. But here we are, corporately-generated memes trying to get the one thing that money had not been able to buy – the word-of-mouth review. Obviously, obviously we’re going to have someone else get their grimy little hands all over it and not realise what’s going on until all of us are laughing at a plain white text post of questionable font that says something relatable about the multinational chicken joint or something.

Naturally, the quality is going to drop. We can’t have good things for too long.

Cheers,

T in a Cup


tanviedit

A Cup of T
‘T’ as in me, ‘Cup’ as in tea, ‘Of’ as in preposition and ‘A’ as in article. Bringing you thoughtful rants on TV, books, society and various other things induced by too many cups of ice tea.

Written by Tanvi
Updates every fortnight


Column icon and featured image by Sanna Jain