Creative Writing Exercise

The following post contains the creative writing challenges from the given image by different people.

Here goes.

1. Rahul Roy

The fuzzy blue and red neon lights flashed in their relentless warm glow all around me. The muffled sounds behind the decorated red curtains did no effort to hide the sexual libidos happening behind them. The golden dragon adorning the curtains seemed to wiggle and wyrm in the thick smoke of Burmese weed. “Hal” I mutter in thick breath as I wipe of the small beads of water from my eyes. The burly Mandarin man beside me seemed to notice my discomfort. But even if he did, he didn’t seem to bothered by it. And that was okay.

“Wait!”, He said in his thick broken English as he motioned for me to sit in a red stool. Then without a second glance, he moved a thin silk veil and left. “To bring the man out” I thought. After travelling around fifty cities around the globe, I was finally here in this run-down downtrodden corner of Bangkok. And all for that one man. That one man, for whom I had travelled the globe thrice. As I gripped the Colt in my jacket harder and harder, the sound of posh Harrots grew louder and louder. As the curtain moved and the man entered, I throw a dry smile. “Still haven’t outgrown those boots I see, Daniel.” I say.

“Neither did you”, he doesn’t hesitate to return my smile, “Hello, Rahul”

2. Anamitra Chaudhuri

The sound of alarms still resonating thick in the air, I look with fearful eyes at the night sky. The sound of engines haven’t died down yet. “Get down! Get down!”. I duck just in time to avoid the splinters from the Gargoyle bombs that the B-29 fleet above was carpeting down on us. “Get down!”. Another volley was just dropped. This time they were pretty close to the trench. We couldn’t avoid the whole of it. In the deafening whir of the explosion, I felt Sergeant Papen grab me by the collar and pull me deeper underground. “Don’t die on me soldier! We’re here to blast those Aliied bastards outta this place. And we’re gonna do it! You hear me? We’re gonna do it! Now grab this and go!”, he shoved my Sturmgewehr down hard on my arms and shoved me towards the .50 cal. That was when I remembered. Warm memories that were my only solace in this Godforsaken land. I gotta find him. We gotta run. This place wasn’t gonna last. Germany was doomed. 4 years ago, we had stormed this same Maginot line. Now we were the ones being pushed back from here. We gotta run. We can run to Switzerland. They won’t be able to distinguish me from the French. We can live there.

Avoiding detection, I sleaze my way towards the bunker. He was there. This was the time. We gotta run. He had to get back to her. She won’t last if he died. I gotta run. We will lose this war.

BOOM. With a deafening blow a slab of metal flies by me, barely slicing my cheek into two. I look towards the bunker. The B-29’s are showering those bombs on us. The .50 cal was gone.

We are humans goddamnit! It was not we who started the war. We didn’t want power, we did not want glory. Even when those wretched Gestapo came to our village to recruit, all I wanted was bread. Bread to feed our family. We were broke, bankrupt! We had no food, we had no wood. We were freezing to death. After the last war, Deutschland was stripped of everything. She was like a mother stripped before her children. We revolted. Herr Fuhrer gave us food. He gave us work. But not this! I did not ask for this!

I gotta find him! Where is he? That moment, I see him. Waving to me from the bunker, and my heart fills with joy. Finally, the night of our plan was here. All those weeks spent planning, they’d finally come true. We’d be free men.

My heart nearly stopped when I heard the sound of engines above me. Panicked, I look up to see another of those gigantic planes. B-29’s, terrors of the sky. Time crawled to a stop as I saw in slow motion, the bomb drop slowly…slowly……..slowly………….slowly. And it dropped

With a thundering roar and a blinding flash the bunker explodes in a raging inferno as the stashed barrels of panzer fuel blow up all together. Among the cracks of the rifles, I fall to my knees, too tired even to wipe the tears as the torn body of my friend rolls before me, his head crushed beneath the bunker ceiling. Anamitra, my friend, in this desolate warland, I have failed.

3. Sukanya Bhattacharya

Sukanya chuckled underneath her breath as I put down the bottle before her. “This? Really? You never get tired of these jokes do you?”. I chortle, “No, not really”, somewhat glad that my prank did not go otherway. I look at the man fidgeting and smiling uneasily at us beyond the smoke-ring of her cigarette, “Who’s he?”. As she pressed the cigarette against the ashtray, “Your date tonight?” I finish my question. “Don’t know”. “Not even the name?”. “No”, she replied nonchalantly and shrugged. I could not help but chuckle a bit more. “Then what about the number?”, I ask. “32”, she replies. “32! Wow!”. “I know, that’s a big number”. “Aren’t you going to go back to him? If he fidgets any more people are gonna suggest rash guard to him”. She looks straight at my eyes, and once again I find myself lost in that sapphire ocean I see before me. The mystique ocean of ancient mythos that I once chased madly. And like a dying moth, I was burnt. And I learnt. The poor kid doesn’t have a clue though. Can’t blame him though, anyone would be fooled by the smile of a fae. What he needs to know is that like a mirage is to a thirsty caravan, that woman is to a lusty man. Her smiles will fool a hermit, her words will elevate the soul, her eyes will kill anyone. But that was all. She doesn’t exist. The sooner he realised it, the better.

After some low muttering, I find her coming back to me with a smile, while the guy excuses himself towards the refreshment room. As we got to the parking of the Floridian Grand Hotel, I see her eyes sparkle. “Oooooo. That’s the new Lamborghini is it? What happened to your old one?”. “I sold it”, I force a gulp down a throat, unable to tell her that I cannot ride it anymore now that she’s no longer besides my seat, and it’s still in my mansion, in that same old spot.

As the car thunders towards the Collins Avenue, I get a whiff of the sea, and memories inside me turns upside down once again. “So, 32 is it?”, I repeat. “Yea, what of it?”, she leans towards me with her curious, cat eyes. “Nothing.”, I say, then add softly, “Yet no one like him?”.

As tires burnt asphalt, and we enter Ocean Drive, she looks forward, the wind fluttering her ruffly blond hair over her eyes. “No.”

As I dropped her near her villa in Biscayne Boulevard, I notice that she still has the bottle I gave her as a present. I laugh a bit, “Aren’t you going to throw it away? It was a joke you know?”.

She jerks the bottle a bit. Then looks at me, suddenly looking old and frumpy, as if she was thirty years older than her age. “No. You’re right. This is what I deserve. This is why he left me. This same bottle, he drank to his death.” I flinch, uncomfortable in this odd quandary. “But that’s snake repellent! Stop this idiocy now!”

As she wafts towards her door without a goodbye, I leave, sighing, …. , what would you have said had you been alive?

4. Sumit Kumar Kar

….. chuckled underneath her breath as I put down the bottle before her. “This? Really? You never get tired of these jokes do you?”. I chortle, “No, not really”, somewhat glad that my prank did not go otherway. I look at the man fidgeting and smiling uneasily at us beyond the smoke-ring of her cigarette, “Who’s he?”. As she pressed the cigarette against the ashtray, “Your date tonight?” I finish my question. “Don’t know”. “Not even the name?”. “No”, she replied nonchalantly and shrugged. I could not help but chuckle a bit more. “Then what about the number?”, I ask. “32”, she replies. “32! Wow!”. “I know, that’s a big number”. “Aren’t you going to go back to him? If he fidgets any more people are gonna suggest rash guard to him”. She looks straight at my eyes, and once again I find myself lost in that sapphire ocean I see before me. The mystique ocean of ancient mythos that I once chased madly. And like a dying moth, I was burnt. And I learnt. The poor kid doesn’t have a clue though. Can’t blame him though, anyone would be fooled by the smile of a fae. What he needs to know is that like a mirage is to a thirsty caravan, that woman is to a lusty man. Her smiles will fool a hermit, her words will elevate the soul, her eyes will kill anyone. But that was all. She doesn’t exist. The sooner he realised it, the better.

After some low muttering, I find her coming back to me with a smile, while the guy excuses himself towards the refreshment room. As we got to the parking of the Floridian Grand Hotel, I see her eyes sparkle. “Oooooo. That’s the new Lamborghini is it? What happened to your old one?”. “I sold it”, I force a gulp down a throat, unable to tell her that I cannot ride it anymore now that she’s no longer besides my seat, and it’s still in my mansion, in that same old spot.

As the car thunders towards the Collins Avenue, I get a whiff of the sea, and memories inside me turns upside down once again. “So, 32 is it?”, I repeat. “Yea, what of it?”, she leans towards me with her curious, cat eyes. “Nothing.”, I say, then add softly, “Yet no one like him?”.

As tires burnt asphalt, and we enter Ocean Drive, she looks forward, the wind fluttering her ruffly blond hair over her eyes. “No.”

As I dropped her near her villa in Biscayne Boulevard, I notice that she still has the bottle I gave her as a present. I laugh a bit, “Aren’t you going to throw it away? It was a joke you know?”.

She jerks the bottle a bit. Then looks at me, suddenly looking old and frumpy, as if she was thirty years older than her age. “No. You’re right. This is what I deserve. This is why he left me. This same bottle, he drank to his death.” I flinch, uncomfortable in this odd quandary. “But that’s snake repellent! Stop this idiocy now!”

As she wafts towards her door without a goodbye, I leave, sighing, Sumit , what would you have said had you been alive?

5. Arnab Auddy

I knew I wasn’t wrong. That was! But could it really be? It had been nearly twelve years! And here? Of all places? Impossible! When I had landed in Ciudad de Rodrigo to watch the coveted bullfight during the Carnival, I had never imagined to see this person before me. Auddy, the only Bengali to have ever been a matador in Spain, the home of bullfight. A matador is a maestro of bullfighting, he is the ruler of the stadium. I had served with him as a Picadore for two years. Every time he descended in the ring with his flashy dress and short estoque, the crowd had gone wild with excitement. A master even among masters, there has not been a single bull that he had not conquered. His stylish bow in his eclat hat, his splendor and elegance inside the ring, he attracted thousands during the San Isidaro in Madrid. But one day, he vanished. The ringlords searched high and low, they combed Spain, but couldn’t find a trace of him. As I recalled those events and shoved my way through the crowd, I almost seemed to lose him, when I flinched at a sudden tap on my shoulders. I look hastily to look sideways to find him smiling broadly at me; that old chuklish smile. And as we walked towards Cafe De Muleta, I found myself in a world which I thought was long bygone, the world of a Spanish Torero

6. Samriddha Bhattacharya

“Nice wind, eh captain?” I stroll across the slippery deck as the wind and hail buffets hard on my overcoat. Captain, a burly broad-shouldered man in his mid forties tried in vain to light his pipe for the umpteenth time. “That ain’t gonna work captain, the wind is against you today”. “Destitutus ventis, remos adhibe”, he mutters while flinging the lighter off the starboard. I tried to see where it fell, but even after squinting, it lost itself quickly inside the raging storm. “There it goes”, I shrug, “Ivory. A shame”. “How is he?”, asks the captain, motioning towards only cabin on the upper floor. “Lifeless and dull as usual”, I say, “That’s why we need to find this storm, captain. He needs this storm.”.”Eye to the left”, a cry resonated from the Crow’s nest. I looked and was not displeased.

Our American trawler was well equipped to handle smaller typhoons and hurricanes, but this one was something else. Something of this caliber hadn’t been seen since the Long Island Express six years ago. She was growing to be a terror of the east coast of US. But she was exactly something that we needed. “Turn left”, I asked the captain, “This is our chance, she is at her peak. She’ll only grow weaker from now.” But the captain looked once at the storm and then at me. I saw determination in his eyes. “No Mr. Defoy, I won’t”. “You won’t?” I shriek, “But the contract was for you to deliver us into the eye of one. Aren’t you Richard Dane? The 1st captain of legendary Slocum? You’d fear a storm?”.

His eyes said it all. He obviously thought that I had gone bonkers in this wild goose chase, “No Mr. Defoy, but I won’t risk all of my men just because some fool paid me a lot for it. You told me that you’d need to go inside a storm. Well, if we are not inside one, then my mother is in hell. Now if you’d excuse me, I suggest we turn the ship and leave immediately. If he hasn’t moved till now, he probably won’t”. “And beside”, he added, “I never bought your story. He will move once he got close to a powerful storm? What is this? Sailor’s tales? Don’t stop me Mr. Defoy, we are leaving.”

“That won’t be necessary”

With a crashing sound, a cabin door flew right between us. I turned and almost leaped off the deck on my elation. He was there!

After being immobile and lifeless for 3 years, he was moving again. The prophecy was true! He really was moving again.

The captain looked at me in disbelief, unsure what to make of this situation.

“Lower the boat captain, and then turn to leave. We will be going inside the storm ourselves. I finally can feel the power in my bones. I want more of it. More, more. Take me into the storm. I want all that power for myself. This will be my birth.”

Yes, Samriddha, I mutter beneath my breath, it will be yours.

As we row slowly towards the storm, I see the tiny figure of the ship fading in the distance. “He” was only looking forward.

7. Subrata Pal

Now this was something! I exclaim as I board the bus in Golpark. They’re doing street arts in Calcutta now are they? When did this tiny quaint city convert into this bustling cosmopolis? The new shiny electric bus slowly strolled across the CSSC officedown Park Circus to Quest Mall. Quest Mall is the costliest mall in the city, with it’s flashy lights and its splashy construction and a million rupees in sale every week. It was there I suddenly saw Subrata. In his same old trousers and punjabi, he was the embodiment of a perfect Bengali. He speaks, eats, drinks Bengali. The bus stops at a traffic and I jump down from it. After he left for Iowa, I hardly had any contact with him, and I wasn’t gonna pass up on this chance to catch up.

As I alighted from the hulking vehicle, I saw Subrata getting into Mouchak. I followed him there to find him nibbling on a sondesh. I call out to him. “Hey Subrata, recognise me?”

It was then it first struck on me. There was something wrong with him.
As we talked and walked towards Elgin Road, I grew more and more sure about it. Subrata had changed, he had changed drastically. I might be living inside a time capsule, but this Subrata was just a shadow of what he was.

“So why’re you here?” I finally ask him as we settle in the cozy chairs of Oh! Calcutta. The dim lights of the eatery hadn’t changed much since I frequented it seven years ago, and they still had those bubbly feelings as we sat awkwardly out of place among young couples barely out of college. Subrata, sat quietly for a while, slowly stirring his drink with his pipe, then to my utmost surprise, brought out a vape from his pocket.

Delicious smell of lavenders and Persian fragrance adorned the quiet little corner in the hotel, I looked in shock towards the manager. Was smoking even allowed here? But nobody seemed to notice, and to my relief, Subrata put the vape back in his pocket and resumed his small stirs. Then, after slowly taking a small sip, he talked.

Till now, the conversation was decidedly one sided. I was the one doing most of the talking, while his answers mostly monosyllabic and curt. This time, he looked at me with cold, stern eyes and asked, “Do you really want to know?”

I had a sudden epiphany. Alcohol! He was half drunk! That’s why he looked like that! I couldn’t believe what I smelt. Was it really alcohol? But how could I make that mistake? The stench of Blender’s Pride, from Subrata, in the midday heat of July sun. In complete disarray, I heard his voice again.

“Then listen to the tale of my comeuppance.”

8. Julia Banerjee

She struck me from the very start. When I first came here, I was really surprised. I never imagined to find a woman in the midst of a profession dominated by men. The beautiful pearls that she scooped from the Tennessee would have better adorned her as ornaments. But something about her looks bugged me hard. In midst of one of our leisurely sails along the Marysville, I finally asked sareng.

“Who? Her? Aye, many a travellers had already asked about her”

“That girl had neither kith nor kin. Came like a tempest one fine summer. Heard that she’s a pet of the manager here. She’s a fine diver, the finest in Tennessee, the finest in the world.”

The “manager” is surely the Lennard Cherryl, the owner the Cherryl Inc. the only company with the license to fish molasses in Tennessee. Is that the only thing though? But she looked so familiar?

Later that evening, I walk up to a commotion in my hotel. As I waded carefully through the mass of unconscious people littered across the floor, I see a crowd before me. Insinuating upon it, I peeped.

What saw did not disappoint me. The girl from before was forcibly held down upon the ground, dirty and ruffish, with her blond hair cascading over her bloody face. I pass a glance to sareng seated nonchalantly on his table, and slowly push my way to the center of the ring. As if the askance on the looks of the giants who pinned her to ground was not enough, the bartender walks up himself. “Sorry sir, can’t. This girl owes a lot. To me, and them. And just now she’s knocked six men cold. She’s dangerous.”

“But maybe I’m just a bit more dangerous than she is”, I pass a awry smile.

“Fuck you dirty niger!”, One of the giants leap on me.

With a reverberating sound of a gunshot, the man crashed face down on the paved tavern floor.

“Thank you sareng. That’d be enough”, the golden FBI badge giterring on his purse.

Walking up to the floored girl, I lean down, and smile “Never thought I’d see you here in this pitiful condition, Losing to a few men? You really have lost your touch haven’t you? Please save the animosity for when we get you into the red room, Agent Julia Markovich. We are gonna take it all from you. Please help us in that, okay?”

And with a sweet, winsome smile, I take out the tranquilizer pills.

9. Abhisek Bakshi

The smoke still thick in the air I walked by the ruined lanes of Akihabara, my electric gas mask showing a bare 10 minutes left before my filter runs out. The barren, almost deserted Electric Town Square told haunting tales of the ghosts that herded among its radioactive ruins. Before all of the 14,175 nuclear warheads were unleashed upon the world, this tiny, glamorous, euphoric corner of Japan never thought that they would soon be buried in this mass of Plutonium waste. To the residents still dwelling inside the tunnels and sewers of Akihabara like rodents and vermin, seeing the sun was all but a distant dream veiled by the radioactive dust and smog that permanently covered the sky. The world had grown colder. All those warnings about global warming and we never thought this is how we would cool off the world.

“Ouch”, I mutter as I just avoid stepping on a pointy, sharp tail of a red scorpion. “Red!”, I exclaim under my breath as I see yet another new species. “When did the scorpions start turn red? What new must I see?”. The bright red chitin of the previously unseen arthropod radiated a faint glow that reminded me of a glow-worm. Then, to my surprise and horror, I found it move the hard back-cover to unveil a pair of tiny transparent wings. As I screamed and nearly fell down hard on the ground, the scorpion took flight. Thankfully, it did not seem to be interested in me, and went down towards downtown fluttering across the murky crossroad.

“I hate the outside”, I find myself surprised as I utter these, since I was one of the few people living here that still remembered what it was like to see the sun. Most of my co-dwellers had all but forgotten. But still, I needed to move on. I had very little time. It had already been three days since the news of a traveler had reached us, and since then we had been combing the city for his traces. If we cannot find him today, he would probably be dead.

Suddenly, my senses pick up a faint sound of a pile of rubble crumbling down. It was nothing special, we hear it all the time. But this time, I also heard a slight groan along with it. It came from the direction of the AKB48 cafe.

The ghost of the cafe which once held almost a legendary status among its peers for being an iconic building of Akihabara now stood like a epitaph of a soul long forgotten. As I slowly burnt the cobwebs and waded through the rubble towards the kitchen, I could hear that again, that faint groan.

“Is anyone there?”, I ask the darkness. But silence was its answer. “Anybody at all?”.

I suddenly stumble and tumble as I step on a soft mushy object. The transparent porcelain viewfinder on the mask almost breaks from the fall. I grovel back up and shine the torch on the object that hit me. Soft, exposed skin revealed itself. It was an arm! It was not before I uncovered him from the pile fallen fall ceiling that his bloodied face unveiled itself to me. I never thought that I would ever see him again, let alone here in a setup like this. It was only after I put my spare gas mask on his exposed face that I could finally exclaim, “Bakshi!!!”

10. Anisha Das

As I doled the glasses out to the sleek man in his loud purple blazers, I could not help but notice the woman in titillating attire sharing table with him. Not that it bothered me too much. Being a bartender at Webster Hall comes with its own set of benefits, but it often puts me in a position of great discomfort. And that was the ability and the setting to easily peer into the lives of those around me. I felt like being a surfer riding the waves of emotions all around me. The Tom who lost his wife, the Dick who never had time for one, and the Harry who just killed his to inherit her wealth, saw them all through the lenses of Tequila Sunrise or Whiskey Lemonade. It was disconcerting, to be able to look into the lives of those around me so. It was nice when I started off. It shames me to admit that often I felt like an omniscient being who sat above cheap humans. But soon life grabbed me by the collar and showed me my place. But that’s not the point. The point is, six months ago that woman came up to me and told me that she was leaving this world for good. I did not put much faith in her. Many girls had broken down like that before her. But when I didn’t see her even once for the last six months, I assumed that she had really left it.

We call three A.M. in the morning to be the time of departure. That was when the affluent gentlemen slowly started to leave one by one. By four they had all left. After that their companions would slowly come down and slowly sip from the glasses of lime juice and tea while talking in a low hum. None of those tales are pleasing, almost always they would be on the verge of breaking down from the pent up frustration of being a premium escort. And that’s when the second set of surfing started, but this time as if the sea had gone dark and the waves far wilder than before.

That was why when the man in purple suit left in a rush and the woman lurched towards me, I was a bit shocked. It wasn’t even two. And it was always customary for the escorts to wait in their room until after their clients had left. Then why was she here? But keeping in tandem with my usual aversion to intimate matters, I mechanically push the glass of lime juice to her and start wiping the teacup with my spotless cloth.

But Anisha did not seem to be in the mood. Not that it was unusual among escorts, but she wasn’t the type to brood. In fact, if there was someone who inherently liked this job, it would be her. And good she was! Many coveted businessmen and their sons alike tried many a times to woo this unusual beauty. There was something strange in this reticence. Something far beyond the usual darkness that engulfs the lives of New York prostitutes. Something far colder than the snow and frost that dotted the streets outside. Something sinister.

Suddenly, I fly backwards as the lashed forwards to try and grab me. The teacup falls from my hand in a resonating shatter, while I could barely steady myself by grabbing the cupboard.

Flames in her eyes, she commands “I know what you’re thinking. Why I’m back, where was I all this time? You want to know don’t you? Very well, sit down! And we will talk”

It was thus that I had to do something that I disliked so much. Listen to another personal anecdote while the frozen night of New York crept its way to another golden morning.

11. Chandrachur Banerjee, Rupam Bhattacharyya, Deepayan Sanyal, Dipanjan Pal

“Want to go downstairs? The ISEC guys are playing football outside”, we look at the curious eyes of Chandrachur as he rambled up the south wing. “Get out!”, Dipanjan screams. Chandrachur fled in a hasty scarper. As we resume our silent mourning inside S-212, I drown in my thoughts once more.

I didn’t blame either.

Chandrachur was probably thinking that he would try and cheer us up. I am sure that he had only our best in mind, but it was we who remained unnaturally bitter. Dipanjan might have been the one to shoo him off, but probably everyone was thinking the same thing.

Even a week after that fateful day, we still brooded like an orphaned puppy and hissed like a threatened serpent. We were imaginably bitter. The radio bulletin from my room harped of the July Gujarat floods. “Please turn it off”, Rupam asked, “We are not in the mood, and it hurts our ears.”

With a dry sigh, I slowly alighted from the bed and lurched outside. A distant sound of Wish You Were Here from Deepayan da’s room was crying out loud the futile feelings we felt while succumbing to the greater truth of this fragile life. To my surprise, I find my door unbolted. I must’ve forgotten to fasten the bolt when I went inside, but that was quite uncharacteristic of me. I might neglect giving the lock, but I never quite forget to unbolt it. I fished about for the light-switch. After I found it, I turned it on.

But some surprise was still left as I found that Chandrachur was sitting quietly in the dark. “What’re you doing here?”, I asked as I unplugged the phone from the white Swan speakers that was serving the dual purpose of being both an antenna and a speaker.

“Imon-da? Did I do anything wrong? Why did Dipanjan-da shout? I just thought that watching a game could cheer them up”.

“I know, but you should see that they are not in the best of moods. Dipanjan, Rupam, as well as Anamitra, these are stolid people. But you must understand why they’re a bit shaken. Come on now, let’s go down, and watch the game.”

As the As I start to leave, the indistinguishable odor of weed blows me in the face. I sharply look towards Chandrachur, who was still sitting in my bed.

“Had you been smoking?”

It was only now that I had noticed the red eyes and the disorientation of Chandrachur. Then came the laugh. A maniacal, hysterical, diabolical guffaw the likes of which I had never heard before and would probably never hear thereafter. Rupam, Anamitra, Nilashis and Dipanjan rushed in from the next door. Clearly shocked, Rupam, tried to approach the seat.

I could never imagine what followed.

12. Arnab Boral

“Damn it, help!”

As the mosquitoes buzzed incessantly around us, I found myself falling down the steep interstice between the two gigantic Figs. Just as I was about to be lost in the overgrown undergrowth, Boral grabs my arm.

“Hold on!!!!!”

And with a sharp, timely pull, I was out of the crack, but not before a shoe was already lost. I slowly crawled back onto ground, to find the giant, hulking body of Arnab panting and giggling before me.

“Close call, wasn’t it?”

“Yea”, I chuckle. “How much is still left?”

“It should be two more days due north till we reach Putumayo river.”, Arnab says, looking at his compass, “From that its about fifty miles east. Easy enough.”

Well, should be easy enough, had it not been for the thick undergrowth of shrubs and vines that stalled us at every step. The reason that the two of us were gambling our dear lives at a place where every step must be taken after thoroughly clearing the way forward, and jaguars and anaconda greeted us during the night, and gators and scorpions waved at us from the water were the tiny golden feather in my pocket. Time after time men have gambled their lives for the untold wealth of the lost city of El-Dorado; Time after time, they had failed. But the only reason we held hope in this was the study by Gert Woeltje, Frederico Guimaraes Cruz and Roland Stevenson and the tiny piece of parchment that we had bought off the auction of the run down book house in Shaftesbury Avenue in London. Stevenson and others showed the existence of the fabled lake Parime on the banks of Putamayo and the location was eerily similar to the accounts of the Spanish Conquistador Francisce de Orlenna. The ancient, ragged, handwritten manuscript that we uncovered from the murky corners of the bookstore shocked us when we discovered its similarities with the recent developments and strengthened our belief in the existence of the Golden city Manoa.

Thus, with renewed vigor, we proceeded.

13. Asmita Roy

ছপাশ করে জলটা যখন ঋতব্রতর মাথার ওপরে পড়লো, তখনও ও বুঝে উঠতে পারেনি ব্যাপারটা কি হলো. তারপরে ওপরে তাকিয়ে তো পুরো খাপ্পা. আমি তো ছাতের উপর থেকে নিরাপদে মজা দেখতেই ব্যস্ত.

“এই! শয়তান মেয়ে, জল কেন ফেললি রে?”

সেই খিক খিক করে হাসির মাঝে কখন যে ঋতব্রত টঙের মাথায় উঠে গেছে, বেচারি হয়তো বুঝতেও পারেনি. নিজের মনেই ছাতের মাটিতে পড়ে হাসতে হাসতে হটাৎ কানে টান পড়তেই চমক ভাঙলো.

“এই! এই! কি কচ্ছ তা কি? ছাড়! ছাড় আমাকে!”, বলতে না বলতে দৌড়. সে কি দৌড়! পুরো রাস্তায় নেমে পাড়ার মোড় অবধি না পৌঁছে সে দৌড় থামেনি. দিয়ে সেখানে গিয়ে ঋতব্রতর দিকে ক্যাচঁকলা দেখাতে দেখাতে আবার হাসি.

“এই এদের জন্যেই পাড়ার লোকেদের সর্বনাশ হচ্ছে. ওরে বাবা! আপিসে যেতে যা দেরি তা হলো. ও শ্যামাদি! দেখলেন? মেয়েটা পালালো তো!! আবার বড় রাস্তায় না গিয়ে পড়ে.”

“ও শিবুদা! বলি ও শিবুদা! সর্বনাশ হয়ে গেছে, মেয়েটা আবার পালালো. যান যান, শিগগির যান.”, সিঁড়ি দিয়ে নামতে নামতে আমি শ্যামা বৌদির আওয়াজ পাই.

“কি হয়েছে রে?”, প্রশ্নটা আমার আইবুড়ো বোন নীলিমার. এখনো পর্যন্ত বিয়ে হয়নি বলে মা বড়োই অসন্তুষ্ট. সারাদিন বলেন, “এ এক বাঁদর মেয়ে হয়েছে বাবা. তোদের ইস্কুল শেষ আর হয়না নাকি? কবে হবে রে? এরপর তো আবার কিসব ওই ছাইপাঁশ কলেজ যাবি, মেয়েছেলে হয়ে চ্যাংড়া ছোড়াদের সাথে ফুর্তি করবি. বাবাকে বলে এই অশ্বিনের শেষেই বিয়ে দিয়ে দেব দেখ! পাত্র ঠিক করাই আছে. ওই নিমাই এর সাথেই তোকে বিয়ে দি কিনা দেখ একবার,” বাবা তেমনই নির্বিকার, নির্লিপ্ত, যেন এসব বিষয়ে তাঁর কোনো হাত নেই. তিনি নিজের মাস্টারি আর রাজনীতি নিয়েই আছেন.

“দেখ না, পাশের বাড়ির মেয়েটা ঋতব্রতর গায়ে জল ফেলেছে”.

“কোনটা? পাগলিটা?”


“হ্যাঁরে দাদা, ঋতব্রত ঠিক আছে তো?”

এ প্রশ্নটা নীলিমা করতেই পারে. ফির রবিবার যার সাথে থিয়েটার দেখতে যায়, তার উপর জল পড়লেও যদি না চমকায় তাহলে আর কার উপর জল পড়লে চমকাবে. “সেরম কিছু নয়. জামা বদলে চটকলেই যাবে. ও না গেলে তো আবার মজুরদের কাজ শুরু হবে না.”

আজ আমাদের ওদিকে বম টম পড়ে অফিস বন্ধ, তাই বাড়িতেই আছি. নীলিমার আগামী মাস থেকে কলেজ আরম্ভ, ওকে দুপুরে লজিক বোঝাতে হবে. তার আগে বাড়ির বাজারটা করে আনতে সবে রাস্তায় পা টা বাড়িয়েছি, অমনি.

আবার কে? ওই পাগলী! আমাকে দেখেই খিক খিক করে হাসতে লেগেছে. শিবুকাকুর চোখে ধুলো দিয়ে কখন চলে এসেছে বুঝতেই পারেনি.

“হ্যাঁরে পাগলী, ফেরত চ!”, আমি কষে এক ধ্যাতানি দি.

“যাবো না…..”

“তবে রে!”, বলে কষে এক কানটা মলতে যাচ্ছি, ওমনি বলে ওঠে, “ও বড়োবাবু, তুমি কোন বাড়িতে থাকো গো? তোমার নাম কি?”

কিন্তু কিন্তু করে থেমে গেলাম. এমনিতেই যদি যায় আর কানমলা দিয়ে কি হবে, এই ভেবে একটু দোনামোনা করেই নিজেদের বাড়িটা দেখিয়ে বললাম, “আমার নাম ইমন. তোর নাম কি?”

সে মাথাটা একটু ডাইনে বাঁয়ে দুলিয়ে সুর করে বললে, “আমার নাম অস্মিতা গো. আমি ওই বাড়িতেই থাকি. জানো? আমার দুবছর আগে বিয়ে হয়ে গেছে! কিন্তু বর ভারী দুষ্টু, আমায় খুব মারতো. তারপরে আমার একদিন খুব পেটে ব্যাথা হলো, সেদিন খুব মারলো. তারপরেই আমাকে এবাড়ি পাঠিয়ে দেয়.”

একটু ভালো করে তাকিয়ে দেখলাম মেয়েটাকে. বয়েস বেশি না, বড়োজোর আঠারো কি সতেরো, বেশভূষা অত্যন্ত মলিন, তবুও বেশ শ্রী আছে. একটু একটু করে হাত টা পাকড়ে ধরতে যাচ্ছি, অমনি.

“এইখানে তুই মুখপোড়া হারামজাদি. দাঁড়া আজ তোরই একদিন কি আমারি একদিন.”

আলেয়ার মতোই সে আবার খিক খিক করে দৌড়োতে লাগলো. পিছনে একটা সরেস লাউ হাতে শ্যামা বৌদি. ঠিক যেন শাড়িপরা ভীম দৌড়োচ্ছে.

আমি একটু দীর্ঘনিশ্বাস ফেলে আমি আবার বাজারের পথে পা বাড়ালাম. নীলিমাকে লজিক বোঝাতে দেরি হয়ে যাচ্ছে.

14. Tuhin Majumdar, Soumya Chakraborty, Rupam Bhattacharyya, Sumit Kumar Kar

Tuhin, Rupam, Soumya, Sumit, একবার দেখে নিতে পারিস. বড় হয়ে যাচ্ছিলো বলে শেষ করিনি, পরে সময় সুযোগ বুঝে করবো

চায়ের পেয়ালাটায় একটা লম্বা চুমুক দিয়ে নিজের আরামকেদারায় গাটা এলিয়ে দিয়ে “আঃ!!!!” বলে একটা নিশ্বাস ছাড়লো রূপম. ডান হাতে কাপটা ধরে বাঁ হাতে নিউ ইয়র্ক টাইমসের পাতা ওল্টাতে ওল্টাতে সবেমাত্র বিস্কুটে কামড় টা দিয়েছে, অমনি……

“দেখলেন ভট্টাচার্যিমশাই কান্ডটা?”, নিজের চোখের চিরাচরিত সঙ্গী লাল চশমাটাকে যুৎসুই করে আঁটতে আঁটতে এগিয়ে এলো তুহিন.

তবে কিছু বলার আগে বোধয় ওই ভট্টাচার্যিমশাই কথাটার সম্বন্ধে বিস্তারিত বললে ভালো হয়. একথা ঠিকই যে মার্কিন দেশের বুকে বসে এই ২০৩৫ খ্রিস্টাব্দে যদি আমরা একে অন্যকে পদবি ধরে ডাকতে আরম্ভ করি তাহলে লোকে আমাদের মাথার সুস্থতা নিয়ে সন্দেহ তুলতেই পারে.

তবে কি আমরা সবাই পাগল হয়ে গেছি? মাথার ঠিক নেই? এখন পাগলাগারদেই বসে বসে ধুতি পাঞ্জাবি পরে চা বিস্কুট খাচ্ছি?

তা নয়. আমাদের বাসাবাড়িটি যে খাস জায়গায় করেছি সেরম জায়গায় পাগলাগারদ থাকতেই পারে না. এই শহরের বুকের ওপরেও এরম জায়গায় বাড়ি ভাড়া করে এরম মৌরসীপাট্টা দখল করে বসে আর যেই হোক পাগল থাকতে পারে না.

তবে কি মার্কিনরা সবাই বাঙালি হয়ে গেছে? এটাই এখন হালফ্যাশন? শরৎ কাল হলেই নিউ ইয়র্কের পাড়ার মোড়ে মোড়ে দুর্গাপুজোর তোলজোর শুরু হয়ে যায়?

তাও নয়. বাঙালিদের উপদ্রবে যারা বহুপুরুষ ধরেই মার্কিন মুলুকের বাসিন্দা তারা উত্তক্ত হলেও প্রাধান্য এখনো সাদা চামড়ার লোকই পায়. আমাদের মতো কালাদের এখনো কদর কম.

তবে কারণ?

কারণ হচ্ছে এই যে আমি, রূপম, তুহিন, সুমিত, সৌম্য, এরা এখানের বিশ্ব বাংলা পরিষদের পঞ্চবার্ষিক মহোৎসবের প্রধান এবং শ্রদ্ধেয় অতিথি. ধুতিপরা না হলেও, অহংকেরে বঙ্গসন্তানদের জাতগর্বে শুড়শুড়ি দেবার জন্যে যেটুকু আঁতলামো না করলে নয়, সেটাকে ঝালাই করতেই আমাদের এই কথোপকথন.

তবে আজ সকাল তুহিন, থুড়ি মজুমদারমশায়ের, তম্বি করার কারণ থাকতেই পারে. তবে কারণ দেখে পাশের মখমলের আরামকেদারায় আধশোয়া হয়ে করসাহেব মুচকি মুচকি হাসছেন. আমিও সৌজন্যের খাতিরে পাইপটা নামিয়ে তাকাই.

রূপম, ওরফে ভট্টাচার্যিমশাই, অতিকষ্টে হাসি চেপে আগ্রহ দেখিয়ে ন্যাকা সাজলেন, “ব্যাপারটা কি মজুমদারমশাই? আপনি এতো উত্তেজিত কেন? কিছু ঘটেছে?”

চারদিকে চাপা কাশির হিড়িক পরে যায়. সেটাকে যদি কেউ হাসি বলে সন্দেহ করেন তো আমরা নাচার.

ব্যাপারটা অতি সামান্য. তুহিন একটা নতুন বরফে পড়ার জুতো কিনে এনেছিল. কিন্তু সেটা আগেরদিনই সৌম্য পরে বেরিয়ে গেছিলো. সেটা দেখেও কাল তুহিন না দেখবার ভান করেই ছিল, বন্ধুত্বের খাতিরে সে নিয়ে আর উচ্চবাচ্চ করেনি. কিন্তু আজকে সকালে এতো রেগে ওঠার কারণ অন্য. সেটা ভেবেই আমরা আরো বেশি হাসছি, থুড়ি…. কাশছি.

কাল রাতে, মানে ভারতবর্ষভের বুকে কাল সকালে ছিল হচ্ছে মোহনবাগান ইস্টবেঙ্গল ক্লাবের ডার্বি ম্যাচ. তাই নিয়েই দুজনের মধ্যে রেষারেষি কাল রাতে তুঙ্গে উঠেছিল. তারপর প্রায় যখন মার্-মার্ কাটকাট, তখন আমি বাধ্য হয়ে দুজনকে অতি কষ্টে থামাই. তখনই দুজনে বাজি ধরে. যার দল হারবে, সে এই বিলাসবহুল হোটেলের খরচ যোগাবে.

মোহনবাগান জিতেছে, তাই আজ সকাল থেকেই তুহিনের মেজাজ আষাঢ়ের ঘন কালো মেঘের মতো. সামান্য জুতোর আছে তুলে এই চিড়বিড়ানির বহিঃপ্প্রকাশটাও তাই বোঝা যাচ্ছে.

রাগটা অবশ্য সৌম্যর ওপরে না. যেন পাশের ঘরের বোর্ডারই এই কীর্তিটা করেছে, তাই নিয়েই সে বিরক্ত.

তখনই অবেলায় একটা কলিং বেলের আওয়াজে চমকে উঠলাম.

15. Navonil Deb

The crowd was going crazy.

As the players before her smoothly transitioned into their fabled instrumental jam, the crowd went completely wild with excitement. She staggered for a while as the girl right next to her hit her hard with her elbow, then slowly kept pushing her way closer to the stage. It was her only hope left to get to him.

When she was refused an audience with the manager of the coveted band “Blue-bards”, the only choice left to her was to smuggle the best ticket she could and get closer to him. Her only hope was that he’d still recognise her face, if not her name.

The blue and white neon stage-lights bathed the ocean of people while the electric guitar rocked the souls of the thousands that flooded the stages of Bacardi NH7 Weekender to savor all the musical delicacies dished out to them by the globally recognised musical troupes. As if the night was drowning in the ocean of music, whiskey and Red-Bull people prayed to the goddess of night while quivering to the tune of Whiskey Lullaby.

She had to move on.

She could finally see him beyond the forest of arms raised high in the air. Navonil, in is usual dapper attire, playing the electric guitar as a wizard plays with his wand and hypnotises mere mortals to his spells and charms.

“Oye!!!! Oye!!!!”, she cried out.

It was futile, nothing could reach him inside this pandemonium. He didn’t even pass a glance. But she had to, the time was nigh.

“Oye! Oye!!!!! OYE!!!!! NAVONIL!!!!”

It might have just been a coincidence, or sheer miracle, but Navonil chose just that moment to look at her direction. And just that moment all sound was drowned by the bang of the NATO round of the SSG 3000 sniper rifle. She could barely hold back her desperation as the armor piercing bullet smashed its way through the hard fiber encasing of the ESP LTD MH1000 and into his heart.

As the stage smoothly transitioned into the silent symphonies of the twilight theater, her shriek tore through the cloudy night of winter Bombay.

16. Soumava Pal, Deepayan Sanyal

After Deepayan-da lightly nudged Soumava for the fifth time, I finally lost it. It was one thing to be drunk or high, it was quite another to be drunk and high both at the same time. “That guy needs to be chucked out into the gutter, posit. What he needs now ain’t foam and pillows, some pavement and concrete would do him good”, I retort.

“Oh, leave the fellow. Come have another glass here”, Deepayan-da defends his partner in crime.

“You pamper him!”, I huffed.

“I know”, with a warm gentle smile Deepayan-da forced the plastic cup in my hand.

Later that night, I come across Soumava once again—this time really wasted beside the floor balcony—busy decorating the floor below with the concoction the Haji Biriyani and Blender’s pride had blended inside his entrails. Seeing him lean as dangerously as he was I try to grab him by his collar and drag him back to his room. Of course, I fail not because he won’t budge, but because he was—as usual—not wearing any shirt. I realise soon that hair is not a good substitute for a good old collar, but it was my duty so solemnly execute my onuses, and one can’t afford to be too picky about something so trivial.

As I throw him down on his bed and prepare to leave, I pass a remark, “You’re a disgrace. Do you know what your mother would say if she saw you now?”

I admit, I meant no harm. As a matter of fact, I did not even believe that he was in a position to comprehend what I was saying. But like magic, that simple comment seemed to wash away all his inebriation. The tipsy, intoxicated little guy was now sitting straight, without a glint of drunkenness in his posture. If there was any hint of his previous condition still left in him, that would be the yellow stains on his overgrown beard.

What could be the cause behind this sudden transformation? Was it the rebuke? Was it the vomit? Or was it the high? Whatever it might have been, I was sure that this was a spectacle the likes of which I had never seen before. As I was reflecting upon these existential questions, the ice was broken, as Soumava spoke.

“Imon da, what do you know about my mother?”

Admittedly, it was extremely awkward for me. I never imagined I’d have to face these questions, let alone be forced to answer them. I didn’t have to stammer for long though, Soumava had no intention of hearing what I had to say. He continued in his own pace.

“Don’t tell this to others okay?”

17. Ranojoy Dutta, Souomyajyoti Chakraborty

St. Petersburg Avenue was dull and dreary. The tiny glint of light glistening from the pale, greyed windows of the ancient bookstore tried in vain to warm the frosty outside. In the midst of this silence, a silhouette pushed it’s way slowly through the inch deep snow. As it neared the bookstore, the walk became hastier, and hastier, until the figure, reached the discoloured wooden door. As it stood before the shop, it paused for a few moments, then entered.

Inside the bookstore, a wizened old man carefully sifted through the old yellowed pages of the thick manuscript. Not that it mattered. For the past forty years, he had seen the same words again and again. But even a few months ago, this place used to bustle with people. But after the Great Winter struck Russia and snow fell continually for the last six months, Leningrad was nearly deserted. People had migrated to the warmer climates of the West and apart from the Polish border, Moscow and some neighboring towns the whole of Russia had turned into a frozen wasteland. The flame inside the small hurricane lamp flickered and danced in the quiet of the bookstore. Electricity had been a distant dream for the past few weeks. Lines were lost in the Siberian snowstorm and the only powerplant still left was a medium sized generator that could light up a few blocks every once in a while. But as fuel grew scarcer, even that was becoming increasingly infrequent.

The doorbell chimed mildly as the door opened and cold wind flushed the warmth and coziness of the interior. The dark figure covered in a furry cloak slowly dusted the snow off his clothes. A sound echoed on the oaken walls as the heeled Prussian boots tapped against the hollow wooden floor. As the figure wafted up to the counter, Ranojoy lowered his monocle a bit to take a good look.

“I never thought that I’d see you after all this time, had you finally finished your book?”, The figure asked.

“Almost, Soumyajyoti-da, I was just stuck about the way it would end. Care to join?”, Ranojoy smiled.

18. Sayan Bhadra

বৃদ্ধ রামধন দরজাটা খুলে লোকটাকে বসতঘরে আনতেই সায়নবাবু তাকে চিনতে পারলেন. লোকটির নাম রশিদ মিঞা, বহু বছর আগে বড়বাজারে আতর বেচতে আসতো. তখন তিনি সবে কলকাতার বুকের উপর নতুন বাড়িটি বানিয়েছেন. সেইসময় প্রতিবছর পুজোর দিনগুলি রশিদ মিঞা ঘুরে ঘুরে আতর বেচতো. তাঁদের পাড়াটি বেশ বর্ধিষ্ণু, প্রচুর বনেদী পরিবার এই পাড়ায় বাশ করতো. তাই পুজোর কটাদিন নানাবাড়ির নিজস্ব অনুষ্ঠানগুলিতে পাড়া মাতিয়ে থাকতো, তাই ব্যবসা ভালোই হতো. এখন অবশ্য বেশিরভাগ বাড়িই স্মশানের মতো ফাঁকা ধুধু করছে. বাড়ির ছেলেরা সবাই বাইরে গিয়ে বড় বড় আপিসের বড়োবাবু হয়েছেন. তেনাদের আর বাড়ির দিকে মন চায় না. তাই শশানঘাটের আত্মার মতো বিরাট বিরাট ফাঁকা ফাঁকা বাড়ি জুড়ে কিছু বুড়োবুড়ি ভূতের মতো বিরাজ করছে.

“ব্যাপার কি রশিদমিঞা? তুমি এতবছর বাদে?”

“আজ্ঞে বহু সাল বাদে আসিয়েছিলাম বাবুজি, তাই ভাবলাম আপুনার সাথে দেখা করে যাই”, পরিষ্কার ধবধবে দাঁতের ঝিলিক দেখিয়ে রশিদমিঞার উত্তর.

“সে তো ভালোই করেছো, কিন্তু সেই পুজো, সেই ধুমধাম তো আর নেই রশিদমিঞা. তোমার এই আতর আর কিনবে কে?”

“সে থাক বাবুজি, হামার রেহানেকেলিয়ে একটু ঘর দিলেই হবে বাবুজি. দো দিন ঠাউরাব, উসকে বাদ হাবার চলিয়ে যাবো.”

রামধনকে বলে তাই নিচের একটা ঘর খুলিয়েই দিলেন সায়নবাবু. রশিদমিঞা নিজের আতরের ছোট কাঠের বাক্সটি আর কিছু পেটরা নিয়ে ঢুকে রইলো.

সেদিন বিকেলে রশিদমিঞা কে দালানের আশপাশে ঘুরতে দেখে পুরোনো স্মৃতিগুলো যেন ধাক্কা দিয়ে উঠলো মনে. কোথায় যেন হারিয়ে গেলেন তিনি. মনে পড়ে গেলো পুরোনো সেইসব দিনগুলির কথা. যখন তাঁর ধর্মসঙ্গিনী নিজে হাতে ঠাকুরের অঞ্জলি করিয়ে দিতো. তখনো রশিদমিঞা ঠিক এইভাবেই উঠোনের কাছে দিয়ে উঁকিঝুঁকি মারতো সকালবিকেল. নমাজ পড়তে হবে, সময় হয়ে যাচ্ছে. কিন্তু উঠোন খালি নেই বলে পড়তেও পারছে না. শেষে তার নিজের ঘরেই ফরাশ পেতে দেবার ব্যবস্থা করতেন সায়নবাবু. এখন অবশ্য তার দরকার নেই. বাড়ির জোয়ানদের সাথে সাথে বাড়ির ঠাকুর কোন যবনিকার অন্তরালে চলে গেছে কে জানে. সেই পুজো, সেই পার্বন আর নেই. এবারে অন্দরদালানেই খোলা আকাশের নিচে বসে নামাজ পড়লো রশিদমিঞা.

রাতে খাবারের পড়ে নিজের আরামকেদারায় বসে গল্প করছিলেন সায়নবাবু. সে কত পুরোনো সব গল্প! পুজোর গল্প, ব্যবসার গল্প, যৌবনের গল্প, দেশের গল্প. তার দেশ এখানে নয়, তার দেশ কাবুল. সে আজকাল আতর ব্যবসাতেও আর নেই. বয়স হবার সাথে সাথে রশিদমিঞা ইস্তফা নিয়েছে.

“তবে তুমি এলে কেন এতদূর?”, প্রশ্ন করেন সায়নবাবু.

“হামার কাছে কিছু মেহেঙ্গা আতর ছিল বড়োবাবু. আমি চেয়েছিলাম, মাঠাকুরান যেন ইস্সবার ওই মেহেঙ্গা আতরটা ঠাকুরের পায়ে দিয়ে পুজো করেন.”, এই বলে তার চিরাচরিত সঙ্গী কাঠের বাক্সটা থেকে একটা স্বচ্ছ শিশি বের করলে রশিদমিঞা. টিমটিমের আলোয় সেই শিশি ঝকমক করতে লাগলে. সেটা সে কাঠের টেবিলে রেখে বললে, “মাঠাকুরান জন্নত চলে গেছেন বলে আপনাকেই এই আতর দিচ্ছি বড়োবাবু.”

পরদিন সকালে ঘুম ভাঙলো রামধনের ডাকে. সদর খোলা দেখে এবং রশিদমিঞার ঘর ফাঁকা দেখে সে ডেকেছে. ঈষৎ হেসে নিজের প্রাতঃকালীন প্রাণায়াম করতে চলে গেলেন সায়নবাবু.

কিছুদিন পরের কথা, বাড়িতে ভিড়ে ভিড়াক্কার. বহু পুরোনো মানুষ একত্রিত হয়েছে সেই পুরোনো বাড়িতে. ঘুমের বড়ি খেয়ে আত্মহত্যা করেছেন সায়নবাবু. উইল কিছুই ছিল না, ছিল নিজের ছেলের প্রতি উদ্দেশ্য করে একটি চিঠি.

“বাবু, তুমি বহুদিন বাড়ির বাইরে. আমি জানি যে তুমি বহুদিন এই বাড়ি বেচে আমাকে নিয়ে চলে যেতে চেয়েছিলে. তোমার মা মারা যাবার পরে আমি এই বাড়ি কাউকে বেচতে দিইনি. এখন এই বাড়ি তোমার হয়েছে, তুমি যা খুশি করো. শুধু এটাকে নিজের বাবার শেষ অনুরোধ ভাবতে পারো. বেচার আগে, ঠাকুরদালানের চারদিকে এই আতর ছড়িয়ে দিয়ো. এতে আমি ও তোমার মা শান্তি পাবো. ইতি—তোমার বাবা”

19. Sarthak Chowdhuri, Rahul Gupta

I need another story
Something to get off my chest
My life gets kinda boring
Need something that I can confess
Till all my sleeves are stained red
From all the truth that I’ve said
Come by it honestly I swear
Thought you saw me wink, no
I’ve been on the brink,

I really loved to massage. When I massaged, I felt like a nymph, weaving his fine colourful magical threads over the fields of raven black hair. I had neither the blessing of a good voice, nor the gift of a dancer’s intuition; yet when I massaged, I felt closest to the music. At that time I was one with the music. Yes, I masssaged, not because I wanted to share the pleasures that I had felt when I learnt the same from my own father, but for my own selfish reasons. As the heads under my palms melted away in their own pleasures, I felt myself transcending to a throne beyond the artificialities of human-life. Human life was laid bare like an open book to me, with me, drifting through those endless words which sung the tales untold.

And as the Secrets were laid bare through the pulsing tempo of the JBL and the 2.1 stereo systems that dotted the cornice, I slightly gasp at my own ennui. So many years had gone by, but no one had bothered to look beyond my garrulous antics. For the better perhaps, as the society projected superficiality, and in this inorganic world, secrets were meant to be kept, especially from those who could not wrest it from others. Especially from those who weren’t out looking for it. Especially from those who could not handle the truth.

The smell of Whiskey Lemonade thick in the air; the Whiskey Lemonade that I had prepared with my own hands just a couple of hours ago, I stagger in a tipsy saunter as I empty my third raw swig in one fell swoop. “Another! Fifty Fifty this time”, I command, without bothering to care about who was going to obey it. I was the monarch in this hallowed ground, my wishes were absolute. The wind, the air, the lights, all around me whispered into my ears, assuring me that my wish was the Nature’s command. It would be obeyed. I slip more and more into the deep spell I was casting on Rahul’s head. With the echoing tunes of the Bob Dylan: The Tambourine Man my soul diffuses more and more into the vibrant energy around me. This was my probably my last massage in the institute. It was already 2 AM. I had already enjoyed this life far less than my peers had. One and a half years less to be precise. I was not gonna let this time slip by. Carpe Noctum. This is my Night. She was mine.

From the dim trees on either side, Night’s ghostly army, the grey shadows, creep out wiwth noiseless tread to chase away the lingering rear-guard of the light, and pass with noiseless unseen feet, above the grasses dancing lightly in the breeze, and throught hte sighing rushes and Night, upon her sombre throne, folds her black wings above the darkening world, and, from her phantom palace, lit by the pale stars, reigns in stillness.

I see Sarthak, quite disoriented himself, come up to me. And we talk, and talk and talk. About friends, about events, about schemes. I was the observer of this world. I knew it all. Trapped in my own magic spell, after years, I finally break my vow of silence. I chuckle hard once again at the clock slowly turns to 3 AM, then 4. As the guardians of the sky, the rays of Sun ushers in the new life of the day with a pale illumination in the eastern sky. Someone had put Secrets on the speaker once again.

Then he finally asks, “What about you?”

I smile, broad as the brightness now creeping up the eastern offing. Then I stretch out both of my palms. Quid pro quo. Give to receive. My dear friend, what are you willing to give, to get this information?

He replies, “Anything.”

“Very well”, I say.

Tell me what you want to hear
Something that will light those ears
Sick of all the insincere
I’m gonna give all my secrets away

20. Sauleha Manzoor Ahmed

What makes good tea?

Pure dried leaves, dropped in boiling water. Then the gas is turned off and the saucepan is lidded to let the leaves soak and release their flavour all the while trapping the aroma with the lid. The leaves soak for 2 minutes to the clock before tea is served warm.

I contemplated on this procedure while sipping from the cup of Starbucks Espresso. Like a bride, Yonge Street dressed herself in beautiful white while the colourful neon lights of the shops adorning her sidelines sparkled like the tinsels on her wedding gown. As the light ebbed, so did the warmth, the darkness of the dusk looming ever so closer; creeping up like a nervous muse from the offing.

There is a special kind of appeal in yearning. That feeling of unquenched desires twirling inside of oneself. The uncharted, the unknown, the slight discomfort that stemmed from facing the unexpected tingles the senses until reality expunges the imagination. Often times, we are disappointed, rarely we are not.

Thus, I had waited for years. Patience, perhaps my only virtue, had been strained and strained. Now, after nineteen long years, it was stretched hair thin. Yet the longer the wait, the more the expectations. The more the fear that it will fall flat.

The world was not kind to my yearning. The display of such audacity from someone as negligible as me was inexcusable. I was severely punished. The price of the mere fact that I had wanted like any other normal person would do was paid to the penny through my own self. I had developed acute dementia, contracted frequent conniptions and faced severe depressions. The symptoms had fostered in terms of numerous sleepless nights. I was afraid of falling asleep, lest the nightmares return. But my attempts were rather futile. I spent years where I had not a single nights good rest.

Like a silver lining to a nimbus, my only gain from this was perspective. It might be that in the far future I realise the true value of this gift, but as of now it seemed to be an awfully unfair trade.

It would never really be over, because, as we all know, some things are never over until we want them to be, and while I hibernated in a time capsule stuck in the fall of 2015, time all around me had flowed on. But just when my grand schemes crumbled like a house of cards, my plans all crushed by fate, my wishes and dreams squashed like a bug under boots, life had set up this new pantomime for me. Nineteen years after I had uttered, “Thank you for liking all my comments” and was replied that, “well they are likeable”, the stage was magically set, one chat, one reply and one phone call later, we were finally meeting.

As the clock ticks 6:30 the door opens, and entered a bright young lady in a long coat, trousers and hijab. I snap out of my ennui, looking at her direction, with the smug I usually pass, partly because over time I had became incapable of comprehending other types of smile and partly because I was as awkward as a Florida Cuckoo. With that, I say,


Like morning Sun, a bright smile blossomed in her face. Her voice, like that of an Oracle, resonated the tiny Starbucks hall. A single word, not more.


What makes good tea?

21. Dan Kuzo

Slowly, but smoothly, the stone door opened wide to reveal the pitch black room. Like a beacon of hope in the the sea of despair, the small lamp on the old, wooden desk fluttered its dying dance. On an easy chair before the desk, rested his silhouette, the angel’s wing withered on the right, the devil’s wing torn on the left. He was dead.

We had been together for years, inside this dark stone prison. I prepared for years, yet was still not ready for this. I thought I was strong, yet I was weak. I gulp the rising tears down the throat.

While I move forward, the tall monolithic walls on all sides glowed up in a blue tinge as holographs of photos and videos speed past me while faint tunes of music fill the whole mausoleum.

“These are his memories.”

Fuzzy images waft all over the room in a sluggish pace as I trudge towards the easy-chair. His memories might never truly rest, but at least he needed the final homages. His body heavy on my shoulders, I moved towards a large crack on the wall. It was only from an angle this close could one notice the fine, endless precipice separating the floor from the wall. As I gently rested the body against the chamber, it starts disintegrating, just as the memories start fading away.

“The world does not revolve around you. Man up to it, and make it.”

What did all those plans came to my friend? Did you not know that none of it would amount to anything? Nay, you knew the futility of it all, and yet chose to push forward. Like a dying moth, you danced with the flame, and let the fire cast the steel. Unfortunately, my dear friend, the steel burnt bright. But that glowing steel shone light, and upon your bones were made the roads of tomorrow. It was over, it was all over.

I come back and sit on the vacant easy chair. And start recollecting…………….

It was never about the war.
It was never about the victory. It was never about the survival. It was never about the triumph.
It was never about not feeling the pain, but gritting your teeth and moving on. They say fear is for the brave, for cowards never stare it in the eye. Thus it was never about being brazen, but facing fear while being a coward. It was never about being infallible, but being able to stand up again, quivering and panting, and take another weak step forward.  It was not about fighting back, but about getting beaten and not breaking of non-violence. Those who can be cowards, weak, powerless, senescent, decaying, dreary, yet hold on to life like a vermin, clawing on to its bag of filth desperately like dear life. Those who can look death at its face with their dull, dreary, devilish, defiant eyes.  Those who could hold out their hands and turn back the wheels of time. Those who could move mountains just through their willpower. Those who could fight the devil alone for the sake of saving a butterfly. Above all, those who could hold the knife to their throat, but not thrust it down. Those who can bear the world upon their crippled shoulders with waning smile on their wrinkled face solely for the promise they’ve made. They are the heroes of this age.

Daniel my friend, you’ve been a true hero.



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