Tag Archives: The Art(s) of Getting By

The Art of Getting By

The Magic Lace Shop

Before this, I’d been thinking, for a long while, of buying lace. But in the sprawling tangle of shops and lanes that Amar Colony is, I couldn’t find a single shop that sold lace. The day itself wasn’t a particularly bad one. Just a long day, with small disappointments. Exhaust and exhaustion making me feel more jammed than I admitted then, I stopped in the middle of the market, right next to a shop that sold lace. I don’t think this shop had been there the day before. Alonso Lace Shop. Alonso Lace Shop, which had probably picked its square frame up and scuttled to that particular dusty corner of that very market, spools of lace flying, unwinding and winding themselves right back.  It was a rather rickety and fussy shop, but all that moving around had only disturbed the letters that spelt out the name of the shop; the ‘s’ and the ‘o’, curious about their neighbouring letters, plopped their way to the right. An old frame jutted down, obscuring part of the sign. It now read: soLace Shop. It has, of course, moved on since, taking its wares where they’re needed, catching sad people unaware. I know this because I haven’t found it since, and I wouldn’t even have found it if I hadn’t looked.

The Sweet Shopper

The building in front of Nescafe has seen so many birthday celebrations, I think it must be the happiest building that ever was, because it gets invited to birthdays, celebrations, and birthday celebrations every day. Now of course, if we were to ask it which party was its favourite, it would be rather confused. But then it would think of one, and smile. Two girls sat, waiting for a birthday-friend. One was rather annoyed: ‘Why couldn’t you just get a cake? You’d said you would.’

‘I know,’ said the other. ‘But it got too late last night, and only a sweet shop was open. But don’t worry, I know it didn’t turn out the way you planned, but it’ll still be great.’

When birthday-friend opened the box of sweets, with the plastic knife poised over it, all four of them smiled, knowing the day had been saved. After all, milk cake does have cake in it.


The Kite Collector

When I walked into college that day, I had something I loved. It was small, half-formed. A children’s kite. It could get easily caught in the trees before it ever reached the sky, because in Delhi, one always sees the sky through trees. And then it sprouted, grew, hobnobbed with other kites. Soon it became a hundred things I thought I loved. Soon, I wanted to fill the whole sky with kites, put bulbs on the sky, until it became a blue dupatta with silver sequins that I could wrap around myself.  And my hands could only hold so many kite strings before they all got tangled, before the glass in the string started cutting into me, and the sun sliced into my eyes.  All the kite-knots became a bundle of tangles and I couldn’t hold them, they were too heavy, I wasn’t strong enough to hold them, and they started flying off, slugs leaving inky-slimy trails across the blue and green and red. I just about managed to hold on to the one kite I’d loved first, when I walked in, and it waved around gently, a small handkerchief of a thing I loved, that looked like a ‘hello’ to someone in the passing metro.


Written by Anushmita Mohanty

Image by Sanna Jain



Open Letter to the New Kid on the Block

Dear Friend,


I’ll refrain from calling you my junior, and you shall refrain from calling me a senior. Consider me your future consciousness, your quiet empathiser, your fellow wallflower or/and your newest friend. If you feel lost, disoriented and alone; know that I felt the same. I remember telling my sister, on the very first day of college, that I felt my heart trying to escape my chest every time I looked at the red brick walls. I knew no one, and this was the first time I had ventured out of my home without company. My sheltered existence had not prepared me for this journey, and I felt utterly alone like any other teenager.

Being a school topper, I had assumed I’d continue my winning streak in college. Soon enough I realised that I was sitting with 60 toppers with exemplary academic records. I was an awkward science kid in a batch of humanities students who could prattle for hours about Greek Mythology. I swear to Athena I was mortified beyond belief. Everyone seemed to know everything, and I, your resident potato, found herself stumbling. I’m sure you might have experienced that sinking feeling after The Realization that someone will always be a little better. LSR was scary, and I didn’t know who to turn to.

And Lo and Behold! A chance encounter over coffee and Iliad, and I made my first friend in the English Department. That friend sat with me for hours to guide me over the river Styx, onto the Elysium and beyond. I realized that I had been resisting LSR far too much. I was afraid of having my value systems shattered and rebuilt, and that I only had to begin accepting it to become a part of it. I had spent 18 years of life internalising some very toxic prejudices that stemmed from an orthodox upbringing. I unlearnt, only to become a better version of myself. I learnt to let go, and care about things that truly matter. I learnt to understand and acknowledge my privilege, and accept the lived experiences of everyone I encountered. I learnt to appreciate the accomplishments of my classmates, instead of seething in hot envy and constant self-deprecation. I have had the honour of making friends so different from me, and learning to accommodate their worldviews. I let LSR in, and in turn, it let me in.

Right now, you might feel overwhelmed by these corridors buzzing with excited conversations and existential debates; but I promise you that you will come to feel at home soon enough. You will come to navigate the obstacle course from the tut block to the new building without losing yourself. You will come to meet people who will change you, one conversation at a time. You will come to stare wide-eyed at the sunset from the amphitheatre steps, as the world winds down shop. You will come to make peace with your solitariness in a society that antagonizes individualism. But at the same time, you will forge strong bonds with stronger people in the inanest of locations. I, your humble potato-hooman, found friends outside the psychology corridor, shady corners and washrooms. You will come to realize that a cup of coffee can practically fix any problem in the world. You will come to appreciate the mild-mannered pigeons nestling in the windows, on the lookout for new competitors to see who can maintain eye contact for the most time. I have spent a good amount of time with them, and I can assure you they make for admirable companions. And if nothing else works, you will come to love the dogs who will occasionally walk into lectures; absorbing all the knowledge with the patience of an esteemed scholar.

Friend, you will be alright. If you feel yourself disintegrating, know that all the pieces will eventually come together. I hope that you conquer your fears and insecurities, and find people who challenge you to improve every day. Bukowski says that people are not good to each other. I sincerely hope that you’ll be good to people, and they’ll be good to you. I do hope that you never drown out your bluebird. And if you ever need a steady supply of memes, science trivia and wry humour, you know how to find me.



Your slightly older friend


Written by Aarooshi Garg

Image by Megha Chakrabarti

“Hungry, Are You?”

“Hungry, are you?”

“Starving,” said Harry, taking a large bite out of a pumpkin pasty.

Ron had taken out a lumpy package and unwrapped it. There were four sandwiches inside. He pulled one of them apart and said, “She always forgets I don’t like corned beef.” …

… “Go on, have a pasty,” said Harry, who had never had anything to share before or, indeed, anyone to share it with. It was a nice feeling, sitting there with Ron, eating their way through all Harry’s pasties, cakes, and candies (the sandwiches lay forgotten).


This happens to be one of my favourite parts of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s the true beginning of Harry and Ron’s friendship as they first “break bread together.” Food has a way of doing this to people – it brings them together as a community despite their differences. And this, is why I consider food as one of the essentials of college life – not just because those cheesy fries taste god damn delicious in my mouth or that chocolate cake melts on my tongue like a cloud but because food became my ultimate guide through college.


One of the first friends I made in college was over food. I was a scary, disgruntled first year student. Moving from a city where I had spent twelve years of my life, where everyone knew me and where I knew everyone to an indifferent Delhi where I was a non-entity was not the best feeling. Sitting on that creaky Nescafé bench in July of ’15, shivering and cursing my fate because the Gods (the Greek ones, because you know, first year) had gone out of their way to make me feel miserable (it was raining, I had lost my umbrella, I knew no one and I had slipped in the mud and muddied my ‘first day of college dress’), I decided to ask the stranger sitting next to me what they were drinking. “Caramel Macchiato,” she smiled and this sparked a conversation about her crappy choices in beverages. We’ve been close friends for two years now. I learnt to make conversation about coffee or how many spoons of sugar people take. (If you don’t like food, you is a monster. I know I am being judgmental, but thou art a prude.)


Food also breaks the awkward wall between people. Once you have seen a person spit out their drink while controlling their laughter or stuff four pieces of Gulab Jamuns in their mouth at one go (true story), there is no going back, a line has been crossed. That’s why I believe, that if you want to get to know a person, you must ‘break bread with them.’  Food always helped me with solving differences of opinion – I might be arguing about Marxism, Feminism and the other countless ‘isms’ that are now a part of my life with someone in class, but as soon as we sit down together at that precarious Nescafé table, there is an unmistakable, warm sense of camaraderie and friendship in the way my classmate turns to me and asks “Coffee or Iced Tea?” For me, it’s a symbol of her willingness to continue the discussion so she can make me understand her views while giving me time to make her understand mine, even if at the end of the day we do not end up agreeing with each other. You might want to keep this in mind the next time you have an ideological war with someone in college, for trust me, in an institution like ours, it will happen a lot. There is no debate, fight or argument the war that cannot be solved with food, over food. The point is to let it happen and respect the other person’s choice of liking their cup of black espresso or a sugary cream latte with extra caramel. And that’s all you need to know really.


Written by Devika

Image by Devika

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



The Sense of a Beginning

It rained on the first day of college and my nice new black kolhapuris, that had been carefully picked out as part of my I’m-now-a-college-student ensemble had to be ditched in favour of a pair of sequinned rubber chappals. The brief walk to college was slushy, sticky, wet. Our clothes were bespattered with watery grey-brown dirt. I tried to share an umbrella with you but it was too hurried a walk and my father was trying to say bye and there was a near stampede at the gate and then he was lost to my sight and I felt like I’d swallowed a piece of ice and like it was stuck in my throat. Cold and muddy.
The auditorium smelt of sweat and damp clothes. We found a pair of seats together and in my head I was clinging to you even before we began to speak. I waited to find things in you that I could latch onto and begin to assimilate.

I was so worried about not waking up on time for the first day of college that I woke up much too early. It felt strange to wake up alone in my large, completely unfamiliar room. The other three beds were empty; I didn’t have any roommates yet.
I had accidentally walked into your room the previous night but you were on the phone and I was too disoriented to say anything. Breakfast had been the usual series of awkward introductions. I was just relieved to have found someone to walk to college with.
The early morning rain had brought with itself mud, mush and the heavy stillness that I still can’t come to terms with after two years in the city. During the short walk to college, we tried our best to avoid the grime but by the time we actually reached the auditorium I could only feel sweat, dirt and slight deflation. Already I was grateful to be able to hold onto your voice over the cacophony and chaos of the crowd.

The words and the lights and the music were too loud. (In many ways, that feeling would remain for the next two years: voices would rattle around in a too-empty head, the strains of larger-than-life Bollywood numbers would hound me around campus, escaping the confines of the Dance Soc rehearsal and creeping into and warping my own musical tastes. And the lights have always been too bright— a glaring, metallic sheen on the faces of people, people who knew their way around a world whose contours I could never grasp.) We spoke that morning of many things. Dogs, schools, parents. We each listened as the other began to unravel the thread of her life. Loops began even that day to loop, spools intermingled.

Everything was overwhelming: I was awestruck by the performances, intimidated by the seeming perfection and perplexed by the “magic” I was supposed to find. There was a whole new world before us, both welcoming and unnerving at the same time.
I don’t think a lot has changed since then. The shine gradually wore off, the illusions slowly broke but I don’t think I ever found what I was supposed to. What I did find however caught me by surprise.
Somewhere in between the anxiety and confusion and intermittent spates of homesickness, I found people. People who gave me songs and poems, films and stories: parts of themselves to keep with me.
And somewhere with those people, I found you.

College would become this. A knot. Loose tangles of a soft, woolly, slightly frayed thread. Grey thread that someone somewhere dropped in a slushy puddle. Stories and people began to wind themselves around one another and I learnt, with you, that these stories and training our minds to listen to them is what would make the ordeal worthwhile.

One of the first things we learnt here was that you cannot define literature. Is it what life is or what life should be/could be/would be or all of the above? I am still not completely sure. But we don’t need to have all the answers. Sometimes just asking the questions and listening to those of others is enough to get by.

To listen is to attempt to know. To attempt to know is to attempt to love. And to attempt to love is to have stepped a meagre inch further into the light.


Written by Dakshayini Suresh and Shivani Raturi

Image by Shivani Raturi

Love, Delhi

The places we live in make us, my dear,

They created us in completeness:

I loved the way you spoke and breathed,

And I took it in a stride


That people were quieter,

That traffic was slower,

That life was a little easier –

Somewhere far away.


It was a home I never quite understood, I suppose

And Lucknow – my love, my first place,

It was something incidental

Something my mind conjured up


To battle with smoke

And traffic

And first heartbreaks

Maybe a few lost friends.


But heaven help us all,

I created Lucknow from my mind, I know

Just as much as I breathed out the smoke and heartbreak

When I created Delhi.


And I quite hated Lucknow when I made it first –

Like my first writing,

It was backward,

And forward,

And sideward,

All at once again.

I hated the way everyone hated English,

I hated, even more

How quiet I had to be to get by.


But Lucknow grew into something I enjoyed

I constructed something beautiful from whatever I had

I made Lucknow the way I made myself

I made it pink, and pretty, and decidedly loud.


I suppose we begin again right now, don’t we?

Because Delhi is smoke

And ash

And anger

But more importantly

Delhi is me.


Written by Tanvi Chowdhary

Image by Sanna Jain


the skin of your hands
will wrinkle
when you hold them
in water too

So long–
long before the muscles underneath


you will bathe at midnight and
expect the blackness
of night.
you will find the blackness of night
but you will also find the blackness
of your dog’s fur, brushing
against your fur. Tail
scoping to make sure you’re still
in your night clothes
to make sure you’re still
not going away.


Written by Sanna Jain

Image by Anushmita Mohanty

There Are No Real Perks of Being a Wallflower

There are no real perks of being a wallflower – you just become the wall as you grow older. However, there’s probably more character in the heap of clothes in the corner of your room than in what people sometimes say in class. I don’t know about you, but I’m not afraid of saying things, I’ve always been more afraid of the people things need to be said to. It shouldn’t have to be this way because there’s enough chaos with everybody trying to talk over each other in an attempt to make sense. This sense of fear is hard-wired in me; it still takes me a lot of time to think before saying something in any form of communication that is not an informal conversation with a non-authority figure.


Have you ever been to one of those house parties floating on alcohol filled plastic cups and music you’ve never heard before? If you find yourself sitting in the quietest corner of the living room, eating a banana (no puns intended), you’re probably like me. You just realised who the host is because he’s giving you the stink eye for laying claims on his food without asking, doesn’t seem like he really wants all these people here, either. If the number of strangers in the room made you instinctively look down at the floor and inadvertently cut across to the kitchen the moment you entered, things are probably going to be difficult for you in almost any college.


The magic of LSR. I don’t know if this phrase was hurled at you as many times as it was at us in the first year, but let me assure you I don’t seem to have figured out what it means. Not being too rosy or romantic, however, I can also assure you college will give you a moment or two where you can carry your quietness with just as much charm as those who seem to be exuding it with all their confidence. You’ll learn it’s possible to feel exceptionally intelligent and extremely inadequate in the same space and that your friends who will appear to be the most certain creatures you’ve ever met, harbour just as much insecurity as you’re keeping to yourself. You might also learn how to own the ‘t-shirt and jeans look’ as much as the bindi as much as the summer dress, only to realise it’s completely possible and okay to own all these looks or none at all. That’s kind of how being in this college will also feel, like you’re this, that, everything and nothing at all. Maybe you’ll draw your knees to your chest at the back of the class room and drape your hair around your face and your professor will read into it to mean insolence or angst and maybe the only things you’ll ever say in class are through your eyes, nodding or in the pages of your notes. There’s some grace in that, although nobody will ever make you feel that way.


I would love to tell you that it’s okay to be like that and you’ll find a space here that makes you feel included but that’s not real. There are really no perks of being a wallflower but that’s not your short coming, the world’s just trying to knock the softness out of you and mould you into itself. Give in sometimes, the world needs to hear the things you think, write and should be saying. Keep fighting it, too because there are enough patronizing people (including me, probably) trying to tell you your voice is its volume, your personality is how much attention you can garner and your identity is reducible into its immediacy – little check boxes you can tick off of a list.


When I think about it in retrospect, I’ve never backed away from saying what I’ve really felt the need to say, even if my way of expressing it isn’t conventional. It occurs to me sometimes that maybe it should count that I can write better than can I address a room full of people, I can talk to different kinds of people in smaller groups although I can’t say what I wish I could say in a formal setting with fifty odd people and maybe there are ways of noticing and including quieter people to engage conversationally in the classroom we haven’t discovered as a learning community yet. We often self-censor and silence our voices trying to find their way because the spaces we inhabit are so insidiously judgement-ridden and not as accepting of myriad ways of seeing, being and expressing. What should count more is the determination to keep learning, even if some of us have always been scared and apologetic about trying to find a voice which isn’t as vocal because of a host of reasons like patriarchy, gender socialization, childhood experience and sometimes, just personality. I’m not sure if I’m a woman yet, although I identify as one while talking about gender issues and I certainly don’t know if I’m growing into the woman I want to become.


My hair isn’t drastically shorter (why is it still called a boycut, anyway?) or coloured, I have no piercings on my face and my clothes are still the same. I just wear them differently, like my quiet self-assurance in the corner of the living room at an awkward house party.


At our college orientation, the Student’s Union President told us in her speech that we could feel ‘the magic of LSR’ only if we remained open to feeling it. That day, most of us were so overwhelmed and swayed by the instrumentalists, followed by dancers cart-wheeling across the stage in red dresses cut to perfection, that for very long, we would try to recreate this magic in the most mundane moments and fail. Forget magic, the only time I did feel any sense of comfort in the everyday was when someone I didn’t know smiled at me in the passing or when we sat on the lawns in between classes, drinking iced tea and trying to make sense of how we felt. That’s when any real transformation is really taking place, when you’re not noticing and aren’t pressurized into it. Is this the magic of LSR? I can’t tell, maybe it’s just the course of things, maybe it’s just me and the people I’ve talked to. The fact that I have a rhetoric to talk about being quiet and being woman the way I am is at least partly because I’m here and I’m glad. I can’t tell you what to think or feel because the ‘you’ I’ve been addressing here is mostly myself but I can tell you, the reader, that there can be no generalizations, there cannot be some kind of cookie cutter mould we’re all fashioned out of.


I can tell you I’m a wallflower and sometimes, the wall (I really feel I might even metamorphose into the furniture of the classroom one day, instead of an existential insect) and yet, I have conversations, I have words inside my head and down on paper, I have people to drink tea with at night as we talk about what is wrong with a space that confines us to talk about these things behind walls. I have ideas to try dismantling hierarchies and reimagining realities with – ideas that are teaching me to question my own biases while noticing them in others. As long as there’s possibility of some form of dialogue with people, especially in understanding conflict, I have hope that I’m capable of creating my own spaces on the fringes of an exclusive order and you might find it too. I might often sound discontent and cynical but the truth is, this is the most confident and comfortable in my own skin I’ve been in the last two decades. If that still means I’m a wallflower and the perks are lost between the pages of young-adult fiction I’ve outgrown, so be it and I hope you too can find the courage to look for yourself in places other than mirrors and classrooms and college societies, if you can’t find yourself there.


Written by Priya Tripathy

Image by Chetanya Godara


Coffee Talk


It’s funny how your final year in college feels oddly like your very first, only with a mild melancholy of sorts. There are new faces everywhere, uncertain and lost, but optimistic and enthusiastic. You suddenly feel lost amongst the crowd that once didn’t feel like a crowd to you. Your uncertainty clearly doesn’t feel too optimistic anymore. And that’s bound to happen, because things are about to start for you and end for you, all at once.


It’s like spending your last night in a home that was yours, but with everything packed up. The furniture is replaced with memories and empty spaces and empty sinks and a sinking feeling, accompanied by something hopeful, yet mild – sometimes hardly noticeable, but always present.


There is a sense of familiarity and comfort, tinged with nostalgia and a gentle sadness about things. It reminds me of the bittersweet coffee from Nescafé that you need early in the morning just to wake up, though you know you shouldn’t have too much of it lest you feel sick with all the warmth you feel inside you.


Bittersweet has been my favourite taste for a reason, simply because the bitterness is always followed by sweetness. It could have been the other way round and that’s kinda poetic, isn’t it? Maybe this is why I love coffee. Maybe this is why I always feel thirsty for something else every time I have something sweet or bitter, but never when I have coffee. Maybe measuring out your life with coffee spoons does make sense after all.

(random ramble hai, life weird hai, coffee pyaar hai)


Written by Tejasvani Datta

Image by Chetanya Godara