Category Archives: Fiction

Hiraeth

Today, a woman died.

It was nothing very newsworthy, it would never be anything more than a paid obituary, a kind mention in a local newspaper published two weeks too late. But she would never have expected otherwise.

At 12:00 pm, her neighbor – who relied on her too often to babysit her children – found that the woman was not opening her door. She knocked once, twice, dismissed a negative thought and knocked again. Then she called for help. When the door was wrenched open, the old woman was found sleeping in her bed, tucked into white quilts she would have despised at a younger age; she would remain sleeping forever.

No husband. No children. No family.

Her walls were old, plastered with older newspaper clippings that grew shorter and more infrequent as the dates progressed. They said good things about her, flattering things – one even called her “The Next Big Thing” (These words were highlighted, circled, slashed through). This was perhaps the best article of all – the longest, the most optimistic, the most incorrect.

She was a “cliched struggling artist who caught her break when, in an even more cliched fashion, the main actress fell ill a night before the opening show. The anxious understudy didn’t just save the show, she stole it. She gave life to a complex, layered character that few can do justice to. There’s no doubt of a brighter future ahead, something awakened in her today.”

Something did indeed awaken in her that day.

Me.

It happens sometimes, an idea of a character becomes its own energy, own spirit. I remember stirring in her mouth, just as she spoke her first dialogues – she had never practiced me quite that way before – too timid perhaps, but that day, she had no choice.

She called on every ounce of energy she had and gave birth to me in the process, gave me a form -I strengthened as her emotion grew, wriggling up her throat to look through her eyes, before slipping into her ribs. I felt her breathe. I breathed with her.

So that’s what it meant be alive.

There was no stopping after that. We moved together, shouted together, saw, heard, smelled, tasted, touched together.

When performances end, characters fade, dissipate. I lingered a little longer that day – on the walls of the auditorium, in the minds of the people.

The reporter of the article was wrong for multiple reasons. The woman who gave life to me never got the chance to again. She rushed home to an ailing father, and after that, theatre never completely welcomed her back. Many tried to carry me after her, but no one got it right – though a good lot pretended. They play me with a wistfulness now – a mourning for something that’s lost, a sadness for something unknown. A longing for a home that’s gone forever.

But, none of them know who it was.

 

Written by Priya Saraff

Image by Joy Malsawmhlui

Advertisements

Excited First Year Caught in Hedge, Staff to the Guesscue

In a bizarre case reported on Thursday morning, the magic of Institution L spelled double doom for distressed parties – A. S. (name withheld as per the guidelines of Section 3.142857142857 of the IPC, also known as the ‘pi’les law), and Sreeram K., commonly known as Gardener Bhaiya. Here is a blow by blow account.

“I had just trimmed the hedge. I was practicing for the Preen Cup,” Gardener Bhaiya lamented. “That was when disaster struck.” We recorded eyewitness accounts of campus dogs revealing that they had smelled out the immaculately dressed girl as a first year because of the sheer amount of excitomones, expectomones and perfume (and self-congratulatory moans) she was releasing.

She was clicking pictures when it happened. The dogs were growling at her Snapchat doggie filter (what is this animalistic appropriation?). The accurate chronology of events that our efficient and effective and effing amazing team pieced together proves that first year students adore the college logo selfie (the psychology department is conducting a research study on this addiction). She then went to a cranny in a random wall for an aesthetic shot (we have many of them – Yay Yay L!) and when she returned from the basketball court after crouching for too long, she started inching towards the eating joint with the identity crisis. A jaded cat disdainfully purred that she was giggling all the way. A professor regularly seen with a coffee cup barely escaped her sudden advance, and scurried to Nescafe. He has not been seen since that day (Scroll down to read ‘The case of the missing professor, CID style’).

Anyway, A.S., the Girl, slipped on a strategically placed loose brick and fell into the manicured lawn. No one is interested enough to investigate who kept that brick there. We don’t have any money to offer as a reward for that. TO DONATE TO PIONEERING INVESTIGATE JOURNALISM AND SAVE THE WORLD CLICK HERE.

The same sneering cat said that she continued to revolve around the upturned girl and aim spit-balls at her heels, until lunch break. Our innovative journalistic credentials embellished by latest state-of-the-art calculator machinographters calculated that she had spent a sum total of 3 hours, 23 minutes and 17.999 seconds in the bush. A girl in bush is worth two in class #Attendanceblues. She was seen, as indicated by the blue ticks on surrounding eyes, but was she really seen? Seeing is a subjective impulse determined by one’s class position, prior commitments and academic interests. Seeing is not believing- are you dumb? She sells sea shells on the sea floor. But can she really SEE????????

Eventually, gravity helped. And her phone rang so she had to take the call. Plus, she had to update her status, and helloooo, who types a status while on a forced headstand? #YogainHeels #SwamijiPantalijiCapitalismji

“I lost my SnapChat story”, the poor victim cried, as her friends tried to pluck leaves out of her hair. Immense media publicity led by well-established, well-funded, well-connected (technologically of course, what were you thinking?) channels have brought in adequate attention and support for the rights and wings and anti-left handedness of the girl. They have hilariously, funnily, brainily, memeily photoshopped her suit to look like a mini-skirt. They then used the policy of the man-who-likes-to-twiddle-his-short-thumbs-on-nuclear-weapons, the TWITTER THING: 140 characters have observed her dress-code with the scrutiny of fanatic foodies (THIS IS NOT AL DENTE, WHAT THE HELL). Her elitism has been deservedly, again deservedly, brought to the focus of the debate. This begets the question- are institutions that claim magic wannabe? Damn, Harry Potter, ABORT MISSION! ABORT! ABORT!

The staff that deigned to look at her and then go have samosas is waiting for medals and certificates and cash prizes for looking at her. Their commendable behaviour is certainly imitation worthy, mimesis – you listening? To conclude this meandering dazzling piece of creative non-fiction, we would like to say that our sympathies lie with Gardener Bhaiya.

RIP Hedge. We’ll miss your half-cut leaves. #NatureLover #SustainableDevelopmentGoals

Written by Tript Kaur

Image by Anushmita Mohanty

 

 

Star-crossed Lovers

Romeo was beginning to feel underappreciated. His special talent, of brawling on the streets, was not being particularly well-received in Verona. Having decided to find a place where people would get him, he shifted base with Juliet to Uttar Pradesh in search of #innerpeace, #yoganotyogi, #eatpraylove, and #spirituality. His feelings about UP, for the sake of hastening the narrative, can be summed up through the caption of his Instagram post of a bike with ‘dekho magar pyaar se’ written on the license plate: ‘Indian spring, love and laughter’.

Nevertheless, it was a happy time for the couple, as it was spring, and they sat around basking in the sunshine, singing:

“It was a lover and his lass,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey nonino,
That o’er the green corn-field did pass,
In the spring time, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, hey ding a ding, ding;
Sweet lovers love the spring.”

Romeo had gone to get some poison juice, and Juliet found herself all alone. The police personnel in the area, seeing an unattended young woman, were hovering around in the interests of the ‘Anti-Romeo squad’, the interests of which they were enforcing with dedicated zeal, despite there being a slight problem: they were unsure about what exactly a Romeo was. And what did one do with a Romeo once they caught one? Most confusing, especially as it was entirely up to them to decide upon the properties of a Romeo, and what they should do when they found one. A logical argument was made and agreed upon; that this species could be identified by “the look in their eyes, their face and the way they stand”. Soon, Juliet called out, “Oh Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou, Romeo?” and Romeo hastened to her side. The police personnel’s ears pricked up. ‘It is a Romeo! We have found it!’ they cried, ran towards the couple, and surrounded them.

Romeo found himself picked up bodily by a police officer and was delighted, for here seemed to be an opportunity for a brawl. “Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?” he asked heatedly.

‘Don’t talk,’ replied the officer. ‘Go sit on the road, and do push-ups while holding your ears. This is how we punish young loiterers like you.’

‘Punish? But why? What has he done?’ questioned Juliet, who was a bit slow on the uptake.

‘He is harassing you, and we have to protect young women from their hormones and their boyfriends,’ said the officer.

‘But I’m clearly into him!’ cried Juliet. ‘That is to say, “My bounty is as boundless as the sea/ My love as deep; the more I give to thee/ The more I have, for both are infinite.”’

‘It is not up to you to decide that,’ snapped the police officer. ‘It is written in the manifesto that there will be anti-Romeo squads. This is a Romeo, now here is a squad. You are spreading immorality. And besides, “These violent delights have violent ends/And in their triumph die, like fire and powder/ Which, as they kiss, consume”’

“For never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo,” lamented Romeo, in handcuffs, as he was frogmarched to the police station.

‘No, stop! I trust Romeo! We have a deep level of trust and affection, because we’ve only looked at each other once before falling in love. We share a genuine friendship!’ pleaded Juliet.

All the police personnel exchanged knowing glances, and smiled, used to hearing this. ‘Madam,’ stated one of them, with the air of one who puts down a fundamental truth. ‘A boy and a girl can never be friends.’

Written by Anushmita Mohanty

Image by Stuti Pachisia

ACROSS THE FENCE

A whirlwind of emotions ventilated her striped outfit, as her weak eyesight drank in the picture of daisies smiling in the countryside. She hung from the doorless opening of the carriage chugging off at a snail’s pace. She didn’t want to obscure the few beams of joy lighting up her miserable world by gazing at the sickly faces wearing morose expressions in the train compartment. So she allowed the gloomy wind to caress her matted hair and strained her ears to hear birdsong. Only jarring sounds of machines and unceasing wailing welcomed her into Hamburg.

Hurtful wires and snide comments formed her first unflattering impression of the camp. Stony visages forced her into a large hall where shaved heads and hopeless eyes drowned the canvas in black nothingness. The guards cringed at the sight of her long hair- a source of perpetual lice and disease. As the razor touched her curls, she remembered how her mother expertly braided her chestnut locks, interspersing them with roses, violets and her favourite- daisies. The image of her mamma’s bloodied body being hacked to pieces by the Gestapo as her shrieks resonated in the street, fluidly entered her consciousness. This made her freeze in the queue, with another girl behind her nudging her forward.

Her Papa had been exempted from this tormenting scene as he had been picked up a day before. Her optimism compelled her to believe that he was alive and well. She soon realized that she would prefer to not see her gentlemanly father as an invalid living in nauseating conditions.

A new number was then branded onto her arm. The pain it caused was a minor prick in comparison to the emotional longing she felt for Papa. A laxity in discipline allowed the women to cling to the thorny fence. In the pandemonium that ensued, someone whacked into her. She banged her head against something, and the world went blurry. She imagined that her hoarse cries were met by a weak shout,”Liesel, my baby!” She imagined that she reached out to hold his hands. “Everything is alright, darling. Don’t panic. Papa’s here,” she imagined him saying. She told this to the violets hidden under the wires, their petals torn by metal thorns. At least someone would know her story now.

Was she dreaming up the violets? Huh. Why not daisies, then? She had always found the violets insipid before.

Soon, gunshots echoed in the bloody atmosphere as the inmates refused to be calmed down.

“These bloody rats!” an official shouted, aiming his rifle everywhere and nowhere.

A stray bullet hit her.

“I guess you’ll do then. Is it alright if I call you Vi?” she whispered. Her soul bled out into the earth, watering the plant’s roots.

The wind took a baby breath to convince the violets. They reluctantly shook their heads in acquiescence.

Someone stepped on them before they could tell her their story. Tell her how they refused to die because Lebensraum was too silly. Tell her how they hid in the dirt behind trembling feet that fed them a diet of bright liquid every time a gun coughed a bullet. How their insipidity had let them meet her.

“Hmmph. Bloody daises”, was all they could say.

Liesel and Vi died on the spot, hand in hand, across the fence.

 

Written by Tript Kaur

Image by Kanishka

SWINDLER’S LIST

“For how long do these two plan to waste my time?” the cranky bookstore owner thought, as he glared at the two men browsing through titles of the same section for the past half an hour. They seemed to be well dressed and conversed in soft whispers, grinning occasionally. He finally heaved a sigh of relief when they walked towards the counter. They nodded at him once and exited the shop, leaving him fuming. He shook his fist at them and turned. Only later would he realize that half of his expensive pen collection was missing.

A cool wind blew past them, spreading earthy fragrance carrying the promise of rain. One of them caught a pamphlet and stared at it until his friend finally cracked and asked.

“Well I’m knackered. This man here looks like you Sanjay, don’t he?” They read and re-read the paper fluttering in their hands and smirked. “Looks like we’ll have some more fun today.”

A light drizzle made them smoothly steal umbrellas from passers-by without a break in their gaits. Soon, they reached their destination. A large tent swayed in the breeze over the trees laden with flowers and fruit. Much of the audience was already seated. The journalists directed their crew hither and thither, arguing with the security guards, trying to secure all angles for the tardy minister. They had a hard time pacifying other dignitaries on stage, most of who claimed to have pollen allergies and grumbled until they received refreshments. The two swindlers adjusted their disguises and delicately coughed at the harried security guards outside the venue.

“Do you realize how long you have made me wait?” Sanjay began his tirade. “I’ve been sitting in my car waiting for God knows who to come receive me. I’ll not tolerate this shabby treatment any longer,” he shouted with an air of unmistakable authority. The organiser profusely apologised for his oversight and led him onto the stage, flattering him all the way until his righteous anger had cooled. As Sanjay delivered a generic speech, peppering it with false promises and unachievable targets, Amar had a field day pocketing purses and accessories. He chuckled when a garland of folded currency was graciously presented to his companion.

The real minister finally arrived with his entourage and shouted at the flustered organiser who was too shocked to apologize. It was almost dusk and tiny stars had already started peeping out of the sky. Sanjay and Amar were long gone. Later when the press reported the incident, one of the people interviewed answered, “What difference does it make?”

 

Written by Tript Kaur
Image by Sanna Jain

I Made a Thing

The making of the thing didn’t happen without provocation. A certain gathering had been made, and people try to impress people in gatherings, particularly those of the elite kind. In any case, the thing being made had intricacy involved, references were made within it, and the overall effect, in the end, was quite funny.

“What did you make?” someone asked the maker, laughing.

“Just a joke, you know,” laughed the maker right back.

Within the community, it was quite a masterpiece of a satire, when all was said and done.

They all chuckled, laughing, grinned, giggled and looked at the thing.

It was a small rock, one populated with green stuff (the maker called them trees). There was a vast amount of blue, and apparently, that was water. Somewhere in the corner of the rock, a species of animal was busy with fire, as if it was the most interesting concept in the world.

When asked, the maker said, “It’s funny now, but give it a few thousand years, it’s going to be hilarious.”

Down on the green rock, the species of animal was busy with the orange flames and the fact that you could grow plants to suit your purposes.

Quite a clever little joke.

Written by Tanvi Chowdhary
Image by Sanna Jain

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

COUNTDOWN

60
59
58

 A loaded vest fits snugly on my slender frame. It clings to my torso comfortably. My loose salwar-kameez flutters against the breeze and I hear memory murmur…

Rude grunts of one-sided lust
Overcome subdued screams of despair.
A pair of eyes hidden in the dark
Cry silent tears behind coarse greens
Tracing paths of teardrops behind armed lines. 

45
44
43 

My dupatta flaps around my braided hair, tamed by branded rubber-bands. I feel the texture of memory…

Sleek shiny metal fits into fingers
As hands run over the surface
Of carefully crafted earrings
Hanging from earlobes pierced by bullets,
Dancing around armoured smiles with AK47s for teeth. 

38
37
36

I climb the steps of the abandoned warehouse, adjust the ‘PRESS’ badge dangling from a noose-like ribbon around my neck, and peer at the scene from the rooftop. A large crowd chants his name and memory tickles my nose with the smell of…

 Freshly mowed grass fighting with dirty boots
Kicking unconscious bodies of suspects.
Suspicion forces batons onto battered frames
Pain satiates rifle-butts
And torture grins over bloody carcasses. 

21
20
19 

I make my way through the crowd, push past enthusiastic supporters with an apologetic smile and fix my head into a knowing nod to assure my cameraman. Nervous sweat trickles onto my lips as memory tastes…

Smoky ash swimming in freshwater,
Rendered stale by the stillness of algae-filled lakes.
As paradise flicks salty tears into the bosoms of its people
Salinity floods lives confused by
Legal terminology and censored news.

10
9
8

I discretely press a button resting behind my kameez and bestow a 1000-Watt smile on the Minister. The electricity of my grin begins the countdown as I ask a flattering question. The Minister chats like an old acquaintance while his bodyguards restrain the crowd. I see numbers flashing past…

5
4
3
2
1

 Fireworks spin around our bodies
Cracking bones with light and sound
A loud disclaimer rends the air
And fatal blasts leave smithereens behind
To decorate currency-garlands
With soil drenched in my people’s blood. 

 May peace be with you.

Written by Tript Kaur
Featured Image by Kanishka

 

SHELF(ISH)

1986
My VIP logo gleams in the dark room. I am too close to the roof for comfort. However, this is still better than my cramped former home at the shop down the road. A majestic red American Tourister suitcase struggles with me for space. The handy Samsonite black bag grins at our antics. As the days pass by, the Samsonite gets on and off the shelf, telling us stories of airports and hotel rooms. Jealousy gnaws at my insides, making my zips vibrate.

Finally, a calloused hand with multicoloured bangles on its wrist, gently pulls me down the shelf. It carefully unzips me to place neat bundles of clothes, undergarments, toiletries, towels and sanitary napkins. It lovingly pats my cover after it is finished. The red suitcase and black travel bag are already on holiday, forcing me to gloat by myself. I roll my wheels with excitement.

The calloused hand comes back. It unzips me with a jerk, throws all the packed items out and pushes me away violently. A few of the bangles slip out of reach, cracking under my weight. Shards of glass sadly twinkle in the grim light of the room.

1991
A new, work-roughened hand hurriedly wipes my case nowadays. My companions laugh at my short journey. Up and down the shelf I go. Up and down.

Down.
Dow.
Do.
D.

1997
The slender calloused hand has lost most of its bangles. It wears a single gold bracelet that refuses to tinkle, for it has lost its friends. The hand touches me sometimes. Its fingers trace untold stories, hummed songs and blurry pictures on my cover. It impatiently drums its fingers at times, working me up into a frenzy of anticipation. Its broken nails and chafed fingers seem too tired on other days.

2006
A new Safari Bag has usurped my place on the shelf. I have been confined to the store. Dirty trunks, unused curtains, moths and flies invade my privacy every day. I rest forgotten, like lost sepia photographs that make memory forget.

2016
Suddenly, I am jerked out of my slumber. A slender, weather beaten, shrivelled hand happily pulls me out of layers of grime. It throws me open under the benign yellow light bulb and cleans me thoroughly with soap water and dry cloth. Then, it puts a few dull coloured saris, some jewellery and many packs of medicines in me. As sugar free pills and tubes of volini scramble for space, the tired (albeit hopeful) hand places a passport in the centre. The red American Tourister suitcase, black Samsonite bag and Safari bag on the esteemed shelf look away furiously.

Indira Gandhi International Airport

Now, it is my turn.

 

Written by Tript Kaur

Featured image by Hitashi Arora

The Arbitrary Goat

No one was quite sure why it had happened or how they decided that this was a good idea. I maintain that I had nothing to do with why Champi, the – well, she wasn’t a local goat, and she certainly wasn’t one we had bought, but the long and short of it is that we had a goat on campus.

I know, you’re all wondering how this qualifies for the theme. But the narrative of Champi the goat is going to be completed, by hook or by crook.

In any case, Champi the goat is the focus of this story. I know why. I certainly don’t know how. Here’s what I know: Champi turned up on campus. It was something completely unexpected, a bolt out of the blue. All I know is that there she was one fine day, hanging out with the puppies and cats.

Quite used to animals turning up arbitrarily, we dealt with Champi’s appearance the way most girls do – by either including her in mainstream society by feeding her leaves of grass (much to Whitman’s chagrin) or by denying them space in the human world.

Champi did not have an easy time. Girls would run away from her, working men would throw stones  to chase her away, and the Animal Welfare Committee controlled her right to food. As a result she didn’t fare that well. On top of that, the garden was a sacred space, magical lawns were not to be nibbled at, and only the social responsibility of petting could make her feel included. Even that was in short supply, since protection against the germs in her fur became a burning issue. Regardless, the goat persevered – she fought for her space in the college hierarchy, nibbling leaves drowsily. She was a good goat, a mascot for the animals because she belonged to the minority community and was small enough to prevent complaints against her forays into grazing. And then Champi decided to take a holiday.

It all changed when the English Department decided to take her on the Department trip for the purposes of the article. Champi had been looking extremely restless for a while, as her attempts to escape campus were frustrated by the lack of space.

Like everything about Champi the goat, this was also shrouded in mystery. The girl who was handling her held onto a thick rope and muttered to herself about how “the whole idea was insane,” and “is this really worth an article?” Champi the goat was smuggled onto a bus and taken across borders for this covert operation to succeed –which, it did.

That was when all of us noticed that Champi had curiously emotive eyes, and in the darkness of the bus, some girls swore they could hear her thinking.

We woke up during the first night in the bus to curious sounds of metallic clunking. This was dismissed at first. After all, we were on a bus heading to the Himalayas – there had to be some amount of clunking around. Nobody suspected the goat.

But the noise continued, and eventually one of us investigated.

Champi was eating the bus.

I know it is quite impossible to believe such a thing, but the story begins with the presumption of a goat on campus. The reader will have to suspend logic for a while for it to function.

Back to the story: Champi had been chewing away at the bus. Some of the chairs had been chewed up, and we could see one of the tires through ghastly eaten metal.  We aren’t sure how she ate metal. She was a miraculous goat after all.

Some of us pondered abandoning her on the highway, while the rest were concerned about how we were supposed to get past the checkpoints with the bus falling apart. Funnily enough, when we did stop at the checkpoint, the man was more concerned about the number of girls travelling alone.

Itni saari ladkiyan akele?” he asked. “Aur kya hoga? Ladkiyan akeli ghoomne jaati hain toh yahi hota hai unki buson ke saath.”

Nobody cared about how freezing and disorienting it was to have the bus half open, but we made it – by another small miracle – to Manali.

By the time we got there, Champi had chomped off half the bus and had decided to begin with the suitcases. We all grabbed rooms to shower, while the same exasperated girl was stuck with Champi once more.

Champi followed us around everywhere we went. She came for the water sports and the hike, and managed to climb up to the corners we couldn’t reach. She came to the DJ night dressed in a red shimmery scarf, and nobody knew where she got that from. She was everywhere. People found her in multiple rooms at once, and most of us were angry at how this goat had been causing such havoc by messing things up just enough to cause a ruckus.

Eventually, we went to the Mall Road in Shimla. This was not a place where goats were traditionally allowed. Hell, even cars weren’t allowed. But nobody said anything about Champi (apart from the antique manager at the antique shop who warned her against chewing the antiques).

All the dogs on the Mall Road strangely avoided Champi They growled and grumbled around her, and made all of us very nervous, but maintained their distance. On the other hand, many eyewitnesses swore that Champi had a red glint in her eye whenever animals approached her.

If you think this story is going to end in a psychedelic goat with glasses, I will have to say no. Champi came back from the trip having traumatized the people who thought that the goat could read minds. Hostellers began to see her apparitions in the mess, calmly nibbling salad. The Animal Welfare Committee which was supposedly handling the problem planted more trees to feed her.

This story is a pieced-together report of what happened afterwards – because all the other animals in college rallied around Champi to demand food, water, and most importantly – holidays.

The animals declared that they were quite done with eating out of dustbins and being treated like second rate citizens. They were aware that it wasn’t a perfect world and they couldn’t get everything but basic necessities were something they deserved like the hostellers, deprived though those girls were.

The Animal Welfare Committee had long conferences with Champi the goat – the spokesperson of college animal rights. Nothing was resolved (which was just at par with usual college business, someone remarked at the Café while buying a sandwich that cost her sixty rupees). People were confused about how the goat was conducting negotiations, and even more about her demands.

The animals (the ones who were on the margins) became more and more of an inconvenience to the girls. The Admin didn’t like the whole affair either, and eventually, Champi the goat and all the dogs left. Like some grand Moses and his flock, they disappeared, searching for places to stay, food, and – holidays.

The cats stayed in the hostel, because they didn’t care for politics, and cared even less for grand narratives. They were cheerful as long as food was being given to them.

Like I said, Champi didn’t disappear randomly. But does it really give us credit, if the story demands her disappearance, for natural order to be restored?

Written by Tanvi Chowdhury

Featured image by Sanna Jain