Page 1

Plethora Volume 2, Issue 4

Cover Story: In conversation with author, poet & translator Lopamudra Banerjee Cover Story with author, poet & translator Lopamudra Banerjee Award winning poem ‘The White Cup’ by

Nandita De nee Chatterjee

In Aritst’s Sanctuary, meet self taught artist Vinita Saxena Award winning poem ‘The White Cup’ by Nandita De nee Chatterjee

The copyright for the stories, poems and artworks in this digital issue rests with the authors, poets and artists who have contributed for this online magazine. Plethora asserts no moral rights but only the digital right to publication and would like its name to be mentioned.

Contents 4. Cover Story: In Conversation with Author, poet & translator Lopamudra Banerjee 13. Arist’s Sanctaury: Meet self taught artist Vinita Saxena 18. Virtual Art Galley of Vinita Saxena 24. Tribute to George Floyd: A Poem by Sheetal Ashpalia 26. Poetry 27. Cold City by Manikant Sharma 29. My View Point…Life After Corona by Bhargavi Ravindra 32. Postcards from the Edge by Dr. Priyanka Naik 34. The Divine Love by Jyoti Nair 36. The Woman of Twilight ( A Lyrical Drama) by Maanasa Murugesh

39. The White Cup! by Nandita De nee Chatterjee 47. The Ambassador by Sakeena Jabeen 49. The Thief by Prasenjit Das 50. Mandala Art by Prasenjit Das

52. Stories 53. Cat Fight by Jayashree Pillai 56. Mission Venus by Moushumi Bhattacharjee 61. The Unbridegable Strait by Preethi Warrier

67. Featured Poet of the month August 68. Poetic Brook by Kaberi Mukherjee

70. #Contest Alert: Story Telling Prompt with the theme ‘Ghost & Paranormal Stories’ with Judge Ananya Mukherjee 73. Editor’s Note

In Conversation with Lopamudra Banerjee

One can’t actually take away the homeland from a writer’s heart, and this is what you will find in author Lopamudra Banerjee’s cover story. Born in a small town Barrackpore of Kolkata, she is presently residing in USA with her two daughters and husband. Though she calls it her adopted city but she has settled well, yet in her heart she misses her true home in Kolkata and shares a kind of love and hate relationship with it. She can’t leave it behind for what it has given her, be it literature, art or memories from her childhood days to youth, she still finds herself reminiscing often about her first home. As a daughter of her beloved ‘Tilottama’ she feels duty bound to give it a visit once in a year and shares with it a strange kind of bond that is beyond words. At times she seems much hollow for missing it, and yet again being in love with her adopted home she symbolizes herself as a bird caged in a woman’s body. As she has said in her interview that this vacillation has made her much of a Diaspora writer, yet who she truly is as a writer, poet and as a woman this exclusive cover story will give you a wider glimpse into her life. PB. Woman and her Muse, your book is a collection of poems, short prose pieces and few stories. Why did you choose this title for your book? Lopamudra. ‘Woman and Her Muse: Poetry & Memoir’, my book, as many readers who have read

know, is my tribute to the world of art, literature, cinema, a diet in which I grew up since my formative years, a journey in which I have matured, evolved into a woman as well as an artist. In the preface of the book, I refer to the lines by Anais Nin: “For too many centuries women have been muses to artists. I wanted to be the muse, I wanted to be the wife of the artist, but I was really trying to avoid the final issue – that I had to do the job myself.” This quote, I think, is kind of self-explanatory. A woman is always part of a familial home/world (microcosm) and a world-at-large (macrocosm), and hence, her life experiences are stark, vivid and ravaging, which becomes part of her stream-of-consciousness. As the title of the book hints at, ‘Woman and Her Muse’ is more about the identity of a woman as a creator, an artist, a writer who, while seeking her muse and while crafting the poems and personal stories, questions her own gender and the predominant patriarchy which compels her to pick up her pen. Her muse here is diverse and defies stereotypes and status quo, including a celebrated Durga painting, the female body as depicted in museums, poetry and prose on a dancer/ballerina, a singer in a bar, Madam Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, among others. At the same time, it is also an aesthetic journey where she embraces the sights and sounds, paintings and visuals of her diasporic surroundings in India and the US, making them her triggers that let her explode with her writings, weaving together diverse genres, across geographies and boundaries. PB. Reading your book it was quite comprehensible, that you miss your birth city Kolkata or as you have used the name in your book ‘Tilottama’. Tell me something about your growing up years and college days in the city and what is it that you miss the most about Kolkata? Lopamudra. Kolkata and I, honestly speaking, have a love-hate relationship, which is very aptly illustrated in our short poetry film ‘Kolkata Cocktail’, which I have co-produced along with Ipsita Ganguly and Gopa Bhattacharjee. It is very difficult to express the exact feeling of my bond with the city and the vicissitudes of my life in relation to the city. You have to see the film where I feature and read my book ‘Thwarted Escape’ to unfold the multiple layers and nuances. While I was born and brought up till my school life in the sleepy suburban town of Barrackpore in the outskirts of Kolkata, Kolkata became my refuge in my later years off and on, and since then, it has been a tumultuous journey of longings and despair. It’s difficult not to miss the throbbing veins of the city, the pulses of Park Street, the serenity of Prinsep Ghat, the poetry of Esplanade and the Ma flyover, even though I am thousand miles away in a city which again is my second home and my sanctuary. I have become this diasporic person with a dual life breathing within me, though in essence, I have always wanted to be a citizen of this world.

PB. I noticed that you have a stronger inclination towards Rabindra Nath Tagore, be it his literary work, his life story that you have shared in bits and pieces in your book as well. Why is it that you choose to translate his works only, although your own writings are mostly women centric? Lopamudra: While reading Tagore’s magnum opus work of fiction ‘Galpaguchchho’, and while reading his female-centric dramas ‘Chitrangada’ and ‘Chandalika’, I have realized what many others have too, in all these years: Tagore is one of the greatest feminists of his times. The reason I chose to Tagore was initially his songs and poems, I have already said in my earlier interviews, which grew on me since my childhood like old roots, like a religion quietly observed and internalized. His music, writings, art and above all, his existence within me, like many people of Bengali origin, is like a subterranean flow which would never stop and give me sustenance for this lifetime for their deep-rooted mysticism and spirituality. However, the reason why I chose to translate his selected stories with strong women protagonists in ‘The Broken Home and Other Stories’ is that deep within, I found indescribable affinity with the characters of these women—be it the essentially literary, sensitive soul of Charulata, the feisty, rebellious Giribala, the pensive Haimonti or the spunky, soulful and emancipated mother-daughter duo Sohini and Neela in Laboratory, who were not shaped by the norms of the patriarchal society of their times and claimed their rightful places in the universe. Even in his dramas ‘Chitrangada’ and ‘Chandalika’, Tagore’s spirit of feminism and human inquiry shines bright, and feminine subjectivity with the questions of gender, beauty and the menace of casteism form the core of the narratives, hence my choice of translating these gems into English for the global readers. Apart from Tagore, I have also translated Bengal’s other classic authors like Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay, Sukanta Bhattachaya, Jeebanananda Das for online publications and have also completed translating into English Bengal’s literary doyenne Ashapoorna Debi’s novel ‘Bakul Katha’, the third part of her award-winning trilogy which is now with the publishers. Among my peers of poetry, I have also translated Kalpna Singh Chitnis and Sunayana Kachroo’s Hindi poems into Bengali and English, so you can see my efforts in translation is not constricted to Tagore alone, though people know me mostly for my translations of Tagore. PB. If you ever write a Biography either on Mrinalini Devi or Kadambari Devi, whom will you choose to write upon and why? Lopamudra: As much as I know, many notable books have already been written about the women in Tagore’s illustrious Jorasanko family. But given a choice, I think I would like to write about the most dark, esoteric, brooding Kadambari Debi, who was Tagore’s muse in every sense of the term, mostly in his formative years when she was present in his life in the physical sense, and after her death as a surreal creative force in his journey as a poet, author, philosopher

A lover of literature, poetry and the arts herself, Kadambari’s life was an enigma, trapped inside the patriarchal ancestral home of Tagore, the Thakurbari of Jorasanko, Kolkata and she remained an enigma even after her tragic suicide, resulting from deep depression that went unattended. In fact, ‘Charulata’ in Tagore’s novella ‘Nastanirh’ (adapted into the award-winning film ‘Charulata’ by Satyajit Ray) has glimpses of the invincible spirit and unquenched longings of Kadambari Debi in the characterization of the protagonist Charulata. Mrinalini, Tagore’s wife, on the other hand, was his conjugal partner and inspired him in her own small way to continue his humanitarian pursuits, including the formation of Tagore’s educational haven, his Ashram, Shantiniketan, in Bolpur, West Bengal. She tended to him and their children with her sweet, traditional, unconditioned love that was characteristic of women in her times. I think both women complement each other in their own unique, distinct ways. PB. Your book ‘Thwarted Escape’ as the title suggests or if I have to talk about ‘Woman and her Muse’ I see this constant urge of escaping from the humdrum of your mundane life and come back to Kolkata. Why don’t you feel being at home in your adopted city Dallas? Lopamudra: Those who have been acquainted with my books have found that the various elements of place, family and relationships have shaped both my persona and my writing, and I would say, these elements have made me an author with a leaning towards diaspora writing, both in poetry and prose. In my memoir ‘Thwarted Escape: An Immigrant’s Wayward Journey’, there is this emotional urgency to go back to my Kolkata roots, and rediscover my childhood, my identity as the daughter. At the same time, I try to portray my life as a lover, wife, mother and a writer in USA, my adopted home and the myriad experiences here which are organically connected to my journey of self-discovery. I guess that is the essence of diaspora writing: referring to the oscillation between the two worlds, the one which I belonged to, and the other that I am a part of now. In my book ‘Woman and Her Muse’, there is a section, ‘KOLKATA: The poetry in which I breathe’, which is quite self-explanatory. Like an old lover, Kolkata keeps coming back to me and reclaims me. However, ‘Home’ is a very fluid concept to me and I really don’t think it is any singular place. I am equally at home in my adopted cities in USA where I have lived with my family, as I am when I go to Kolkata for my annual trips. You have to read my book ‘Thwarted Escape’ to really internalize this feeling of fluidity.

PB. Which contemporary women writers you admire and why? Is your writing inspired by any such women writers? Lopamudra:In Indian writing in English, especially Kamala Das, who has shaped my poetic persona and my sense of sexuality of a woman, through her feisty, her intensely passionate poems and her autobiography ‘My Story’.

Among the very current authors, I must mention Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, whose prose style touches me for its strength as well as subtlety. Among the modern English poets, I am perpetually in love with Sylvia Plath and Maya Angelou, and among the contemporary women poets of our times, I find Tishani Doshi, Danez Smith, Joy Harjo extremely awe-inspiring in terms of their content and style. Among my fellow poets in the current literary scene, the works of Santosh Bakaya, Jagari Mukherjee, Kashiana Singh, Deepika Chand, Mallika Bhaumik, Ipsta Ganguly, Gopa Bhattacharjee and many others are worth reading again and again, because of the richness of their imagery, style and diction. Though I don’t consciously try to imbibe any of these poets and writers and rely on my own unique style, reading all of them opens up my literary vision and my horizons as an artist. PB. How much struggle as an artist you have faced in the current place you live in and do you think things would have been much easier if you were in India, when it comes to writing or publishing your works? Lopamudra: There is not much difference in my struggles as a writer and artist here in USA, compared to India as the creative, artistic world and the publishing world is mostly the same, and I have been privileged enough to be surrounded by the best writing mentors in both Kolkata, India and in USA. While in India, I received the love of my literary mentors, academicians Sanjukta Dasgupta of University of Calcutta, Prof. Shanti Sarkar, Dr. Santosh Bakaya and many more names who have indulged my writing and creative pursuits unconditionally, at the University of Nebraska, I was fortunate to find my two mentors, Dr. John T. Price and Dr. Lisa Knopp, who taught me the art of nonfiction writing. Getting published by proactive and appreciative publishers is yet another story, as in most cases, big publishing houses look for celebrity authors or reputed personalities, and in USA, literary agents mostly determine the kinds of work big houses will want to publish, keeping in mind a lot of factors, including marketable content, among other things. However, in my case, I have mostly been published by small literary presses and also as an indie author till now, so I didn’t have much hurdles in getting my books out for the niche readers that I have been able to reach as of now. There have been a few glitches here and there, but I am sure many artists have faced them, which only enriches the learning curve and makes you more determined to continue your journey. PB. How did your writing journey start? Was it from the beginning that you wanted to be an author/writer or it happened through some other cause/s? Lopamudra: I was fond of the act of writing since my childhood, but writing seriously actually started with my foraying into journalism and content writing in 2003 (after my Masters’ in English from the University of Kolkata, India), and then my wings spread further as I was enrolled into a masters’ program in the University of Nebraska in creative nonfiction writing.

Poetry was my first love, but it was a clandestine pursuit all the while, and I never took it seriously before the publication of my memoir ‘Thwarted Escape’ (2016). All this while I have been passionate about writing regarding social issues, be it in newspapers, in portals or e-zines. However, if you ask me what I wanted to do when I was really young, my choices were: dancer and theater artist. None of these really happened later, but I guess I had a strong flair for the arts, right from the beginning. Writing is only a manifestation of this artistic self. PB. Which book remains most close to your heart till day and you would suggest it to other aspiring writers or readers as well? Lopamudra: So many to name here! ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte, ‘Little Women’ by Louisa May Alcott, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ by Maya Angelou, ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, poetry collections of Sylvia Plath and also ‘The Bell Jar’ (her autobiographical novel), ‘I am Malala’ by Patricia McCormick, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hossaini. How can I forget ‘My Story’, the fascinating autobiography of Kamala Das! All these books are slices of my soul, my psyche as a writer has been shaped so much by these…Recently I am gobbling up the engrossing essay collection of Dr. Santosh Bakaya, ‘Morning Meanderings’, written in her characteristic classical style. If aspiring writers are not reading any of these books, they really don’t know what they are missing! PB. Lastly, how would you like to identify yourself; as a writer, as a poet or as an author? Which one you feel would justify your essence more as a literary person? Lopamudra: I would like to identify with the image of a free bird trapped in the body of a female who occasionally spreads her wings in not only writing, but the whole gamut of the creative arts, editing, singing, sketching or painting, films, performing arts and above all, speaking about her body and mind as a free landscape. To quote my favorite poet Rumi’s lines: ‘Only from the heart can you touch the sky.’ So, let me see what my sky has in store for me in the coming days. Now, I am talking like a poet, so you get the drift, I guess! Thank you dear Monalisa, I truly appreciate your quest to know about me and my journey through this interview. It was a soul-stirring experience to lay bare my soul and I wish all the very best for Plethora mag and for your own writing and editorial journey! ‘ShuvamBhavatu’!

Artist’s Sanctuary with Vinita Saxena

Vinita Saxena has been passionately involved in the field of Art since her childhood. She saw her mother always involved in some or the other form of art and got inspired by her and followed her footsteps. She is a self-taught artist. From simple drawings to complex ones, she proceeded gradually. By the time she reached class 8 she had made some oil paintings. Later in life, painting was one of her subjects in graduation. After this she went for a post-graduation in English. Later she started teaching painting to children and elders alike. She always had the inclination to teach. Teaching students and watching them grow from barely able to draw to a professional always makes her happy. She has been a school teacher for about 16 years and being an English teacher did invoke an interest for writing poems which she writes in Hindi and English. Furthermore, her interest for art not just lies in the form of paintings but also towards creating DIY homemade items. She feels there is always a way to create something unique out of everyday items. Her art style tends more towards realism. Her paintings range from wide landscapes to close up of mundane objects. She usually goes for oil, water painting and pencil art and would like to go with other mediums as well. Also, she prefers to mix and match different forms of art which again turns out to be unique in its own way. She had the opportunity to present her paintings in the art gallery in South Delhi and in Bareilly, her home town. After some exhibition in her home town, she started to get numerous painting orders specially portraits. She has also created a Facebook painting page recently which goes by the name of ‘Hues n Hymns’ where she posts her paintings along with poems. In an exclusive interview with Plethora Blogazine Vinita reveals many facades of her life. PB. You are a self-taught artist? How did you learn art on your own? Vinita. I sincerely believe that for learning any

form of art, you need to have that passion in your heart. Though in my case, I believe that it is a gift by God which proved to be life-savior in my later years. Once you recognize your talent it can be enhanced or polished through self-practice or if you are lucky enough to find a good art teacher. Back then I was under the guidance of an art teacher but that was for quite a short duration. The more I practiced the more refined it became over the years. PB. You have mentioned that your mother was an artist and you have learned seeing her? What kind of art did she make? Was she a self-taught artist too?

Vinita . Never met any soul more poised, kind or humble as my mother was. She was brought up by her grandmother as she had lost her mother at the age of seven. She grew up observing her extremely talented grandmother making beautiful objects of art and gradually started making simple drawings on anything that was easily available in the house. Her drawings were usually simple scenes of nature which she drew of her own and they inspired me immensely. PB. Tell us about your journey from being a self-taught artist to teaching art? How does it feel to teach others when you come to know that they have an inclination towards art and painting? Vinita. Looking back I feel I have been painting forever. My journey began from making simple pencil sketches or cartoons using pencil color, crayons, etc. when I was in school gradually proceeding towards the more complex ones. After completing my drawings I used to hang those at various corners of the house. My parents played a huge role in encouraging my artwork. Whatever little time I could save between studies was devoted to art. By the time I reached class 8, I started making oil paintings. I took up painting as one of the subjects in graduation. I surprised my teacher as I knew a lot in terms of shading, sketching, or a live painting already. After my post-graduation, I started teaching children and elders alike. It was my first teaching experience and no doubt it felt great as I started earning as well. I would affirm what I stated earlier that only those who had the spark deep within picked up faster while others lagged behind. PB. What kind of paintings do you make? Would you agree that virtual platforms are a good way to get exposure or there are chances that your art can get stolen? Vinita My paintings depict realism and I am open to all mediums whether its oil, watercolor, pencil color, etc. I prefer to take my own pictures for reference to my paintings. So wherever I go am always on a lookout for some interesting capture, later to be developed into meaningful art. Apart from nature paintings, the demand for portraits seems to be never-ending.

Talking about the virtual platform everything has its pros and cons. On one hand, it’s a real boon for the artists as it showcases their talent to the world from the comfort of their homes. On the other hand, it can really be a curse as the unethical practice of art being stolen is quite common, if it falls prey to the wrong hands. PB. If not an artist what would you have chosen as your career option? Vinita. I have been a teacher for around 16-17 years apart from being an artist. English and Social Studies were my subjects. I resigned in 2019 to serve justice to my passion and devote all of my time now to painting as it makes me happier. PB. Does any of your offspring have an inclination towards art? And if not, does it bother you? Would you not want this lineage to move further from you to your children? Vinita. By the grace of God, both my son and daughter are inclined towards art. But as my son is pursuing his Masters in Science, he hardly finds any time for art. As for my daughter is concerned, she has recently shown some interest in it and has tried her hand at watercolor and her efforts are praiseworthy as she too I would say is self taught. I would have loved that my art would be carried forward through my children but at the same time, art is a passion that one carries in the heart, hence it cannot be forced upon someone thus I never pressurized my children to follow into my footsteps. PB. You are a poet too. Is your poetry inspired by your art pieces or you write whatever your heart guides you to? Would you agree that any kind of art makes one a better and much-disciplined person? Vinita. I just love to write poems. Some unspoken words that are buried deep inside my heart or something that touches me deeply gets spilled over a paper in the form of poems. Earlier my poems followed a rhyme pattern but I am trying my hand at free verse too. I would again with all my heart say that be it music, dance, painting, or any other form of art, it definitely makes you a better human being as it drives you away from all kinds of negative thoughts. In my case, I would like to say had art not been there I wouldn’t have been able to overcome numerous hardships that came my way.

Though its difficult to capture Vinita’s surreal art in confines of a digital magazine, yet Plethora Blogazine has made some efforts to display few of her art pieces through the ‘Virtual Gallery’ in the next page. Do give it a visit.

Virtual Art Gallery Virtual Art Gallery By Of Vinita Saxena Vinita Saxena

Black Lives Matter

George Floyd 14th Oct 1973 – 25th May 2020

A Tribute By Sheetal Ashpalia

Walking down the street, My heart skips a beat, I see the blue uniform, A cop it is, in the background. The horror of what transpired, Just a few nights ago, Is fresh in all our memories, A brother, another human, Lost his precious life, Shame on you mankind! Born of the same earth, And one day, we’ll blend into it too, Colors never defined us, When God created us, So why do we believe so? The blood in the veins is the same, Our hearts weep in pain, Rest in peace, God’s precious child, Your death is not in vain, Remember that, ‘O, Gentle Giant!’

A dreamer, a believer, are the words that best describe Sheetal. She loves penning her thoughts and writing is her passion. She is passionate about all that she writes, be it short stories, poems or her thoughts. Poetry is what she discovered accidentally on the coaxing of dear friends in the writing community. Apart from reading and writing, she also enjoys singing and painting.


Cold City By Manikant Sharma A cold city floating upon a torrid lake, hallucinating it goes berserk every night dreaming of collecting blood on its trembling palms, filling it into the empty leftover skulls. Every drop of blood replicates itself until the skulls are dissolved in their own calcium, one tooth falls every moment until the whole mouth cavity is filled. The blood changes color to azure, bathes in its own river. Nearby in a cave a goddess waits for the devotees but none comes, The coldness of the city increases, its hands frozen out of the nightmares.

The preys one by one are brought to propitiate her, she mulls over before refusing the offerings. The city swells during the day, swollen like a red ball of fire sends length-wise arrows that continuously spit poisonous venom.

The gargantuan city with bloodied walls remains in quasi-sleep, weeps when alone over its infamy and predicament, and tag itself with an albatross it takes with it always hung around it's neck as an antidote.

Mani Kant Sharma, born at Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, is a graduate in Biology and Education, Post graduate in Economics, an alumnus of Meerut University. He has been a teacher of Biology, Economics and English. He has also served as a Manager ( Quality Control) in Food Corporation of India. He has studied Philosophy and Comparative Religion. He writes in English, Hindi and Urdu. He is an Interpreter, Poet and Reviewer. Presently he resides at Saharanpur, U.P.

My View Point…Life After Corona By Bhargavi Ravindra

The loud cheer to greet Yr 2020 was still in air Blowing balloons, beating drums a yearly affair The night bid adieu to welcome Sun’s full glare The New Year walked into a deadly trap, unaware. Times are more tough, nerve racking and deathly As out of blue arrives an unseen, unheard enemy In one stroke, our whole world goes topsy-turvy No one for sure knows, what led to this calamity. No more welcoming Sun rays through windows Even Sun tiptoes in, frightened of dark shadows Jittery people stare blank as if pushed to gallows Roads bereft of people, home to weeping willows. A small virus called CORONA invaded our privacy To it, the mighty mankind surrendered its supremacy Even if wiped out, fear will be left behind, as its legacy The world viewing Corona/Covid19 with belligerency A small virus holding our lives to ransom, what shame! Yet, on the world’s larger board it is now a new game The empires are crumbling down…losing all its fame From biggest to tiniest ...sparing...no land, no name

No hugs, no handshakes, no gatherings, no celebrations And like hot coal on our heads are periods of lockdowns But for black, all colors evaporated from world’s canvas World bowed to the self imposed imprisonment, Alas! Death toll mounting up by minutes countries suffered A buzzing world grew quiet, deathly silence it echoed Ambulances making beeline, watched people, tear faced Their loved ones succumb, from a distance they grieved. Corona in its wake has taken the wind out of our sale Faces locked in Face books, Hello - Hai through E mails Corona calling shots, blue expanse lackluster and pale No hearty laughs, chasing butterflies, no stories to regale. Kids woes aplenty, no school n friends -walls for company Depths of their haunting eyes reflect submerged destiny Childhood learns to curb its naturalness- a new epiphany Their mind now house to unanswered questions too many They walk corona, talk corona, even toys inflicted with corona Their art - reflection of their minds - is all dark dots to corona No cricket, hockey football it is now hide corona catch corona No more V for violin or C for Cat it is V for Virus, C for Corona

The masked world is now busy scripting a tale, a new story Story of pain, agony, grief, anger, apathy, rejection in full glory Humanity has no choice but to stick it out ....life’s allegory Armed with most deathly weapon a virus invades our territory.

We the people are tired of frequent washing and sanitizing Yet our minds now store-house of fear of corona gate crashing The unspoken words-what next and who next-keeps haunting Peace into pieces, into thin air, happiness soon disappearing A small virus has had on mankind such a powerful impact People are scared even to utter ‘Bat’ forget playing with that Whom to blame for this pandemic, humanity’s grieving heart Will ever we be able to leap into future shaking burden of past.

Horrid tales, painful saga of migrant labors can be forgotten Escalating numbers of inflicted, rising death toll....left to rotten. Sporting fake smiles and wisdom - aren’t we not just an auton? The fear of corona will long dwell in our hearts, hence, on. The impact of corona so huge in our lives can fill up pages Has casted it’s ominous shadow - infants to senior ...all ages Business-tycoons, doctors, vendors, people on daily wages Its powerful grip hasn’t spared even God’s devotees and sage! The story of corona will go on adding a new dimension World armed with renewed hope will carry on the mission Wonder who will be the winner in this war of grit and passion Can’t wait to bid good bye to yr 2020 and usher in Yr Twenty-One!

Bhargavi Ravindra, presently residing in Bengaluru; Karnataka is a post Graduate in Physics and a teacher by profession. She is a bilingual poetess/Writer with great hold on the subject and language Hindi and English. She is passionate about Hindi poetry and Urdu Gazals. Her poetic journey started from her school days and was on the editorial board for the school magazine. Her book ...compilation of Poems and Gazals ‘बचपन....काश! कह ींठहरजाता’ was launched under the banner of Rashtra Bhasha Prachar Samithi, Bhopal; M P by Her Highness Smt Mridula Sinha; Gov of Goa on 19th March 2018. Some of her poems were published in a leading overseas magazine SAT -South Asia Times. Presently she is working on couple of books. In recent times she has taken to social media and regularly writes for number of Facebook literary forums Asian Literary society, United by Ink, Bhavon ke Moti, Amar Ujala, Hello poetr and has won awards and certificates. Some of her poems are part of Anthologies soon to be published.

Postcards From the Edge By Dr. Priyanka Naik What do you know Of the battles I have fought The wars I have waged The scars I have got, the hopes I have caged Did you know me as a child, demure and shy Struggling with dyslexia and a disturbing lisp Biting my tongue, chewing my lip Hoping I’d disappear or rather die When the bullies at school made me cry Did you know me during my awkward teens When acne and freckles dotted my face And to escape from that sheer disgrace I would slip away in the land of books Where I wasn’t mocked for my looks Did you know me with my teeth in braces When even with spectacles, I’d trip on my laces When nobody tried to break my fall Did you want to know me; no, not at all Did you know the flab and fat I gained The sneers I overlooked, the nonchalance I feigned Were you there in my journey of ‘when and how’ Then why do you claim to know me now?

The poem has nothing to do with the movie ‘Postcards from the edge’. The title, however, she thought was befitting. In a way, this poem is an evocative cry from someone standing on the precipice of life, enjoying the solitude from fake company, sending postcards to the world…postcards that say, ‘Only Genuine friends are welcome.’)

A doctor and writer rolled up in one, Priyanka lives and loves to challenge the mentality of societal stereotypes. Hitherto, she has authored a full-length novel titled 'Twists of fate', an e-anthology of poems titled 'Potpourri' and a range of short fiction, poetry, and articles, published both inside and out of the virtual space. Priyanka was the winner of the Tata Lit Live contest for two consecutive years (2017 and 2018) and also had a chance to read out her poetry at the literary festival. She is currently working on her second novel. You can reach out to her on Twitter, Instagram - @drpriyankanaik Facebook – https://facebook.com/priyanka.naik.75/ and also at https://drpriyankanaik.com

The Divine Love By Jyoti Nair

When love is all that you seek Giving it to others is all that you need What you have, you shall offer Healing the one, as if Letting the ship reach the harbor. But when emptiness creeps in And your heart gets crumbled from within, The Universe shall not let you quiver. To you will, the divine forces deliver, The subtle touch and warmth of the one you love, Like a touch of rainbow from above. With all the senses at rest As if you’ve put your faith to test, You open your eyes and shall find The Higher Spirit has heard your cry. Look up to the Lord and always rely Love and happiness shall be yours, as the time passes by.

A postgraduate in Political Science, Jyoti Nair is currently working as an educator in a reputed school in UP. She has a vast experience in the field of education, training and administration. Her journey has been quite an interesting one with a diverse experience from the field of art to corporate sector and finally leading her to the field of academics. Her passion for teaching and her love for children make her an outstanding mentor and guide. Being active in organizing cultural events, she has even choreographed for International Children’s Theatre Festival, conducted seminars for teachers and her enthusiasm in writing and playing with words has led her to become the school magazine editor as well.

The Woman of Twilight ( A Lyrical Drama) By Maanasa Murugesh In the mystic realms of twilight Resting in the fragile lap of the water lily The sweeping breeze, heavy with scent Her fragrant white blossoms, Gently wrapped around her flowing locks Dewy and pious as her, like still water Flowing and swirling like the stars Flavoring the nightly breeze The smoky dusk, curled up like a child in her eyes Glistening moist in the soft moonlight Her crestfallen eyes a deluge Of rejection and shame Of delicious passion and hope To craft her own story Every drop, hushed behind the dark kohl lines A marriage of ink in melancholy The blushing sun, soaring in the tan sky Of fire and passion's thirst As she lies forlorn Melting in the dry, thirsty flames In the gloom of the nightly mist

The strangled tears left uncried Like unborn words trapped in her lips Slowly groans and escapes her eyelids Her sorrowful droplets, stroking the tender daffodils Clinging onto the milky petals Pleading to protect the delicate slumber To kill the fiery thirst of dawn The lively darkness Of hushed voices and rested bodies Some fed, some barren The turmoil folks, with tiresome energy Their swollen eyes, burdened with dreams The happy children, in their play Saliva peeking in the corners of their mouths Drooling dreams in twilight oblivion Yet the woman of nightly dreams Her eyes, still lost and searching For joy, amid tears For laughter, amid sorrow Under the blanket of darkness.

Maanasa is a curious thirteen-year-old who cannot make it through a day without a dose of literature and music. She loves penning her thoughts in solitude on her blog and reflecting on what surprises and disturbs her. She cherishes her alone time and enjoys immersing herself in deep thought, good novels and draws her inspiration from music. And one more thing, she is often tangled in her own clutter ofthoughts. Being a true Aquarian, she is famously eccentric and wacky and if you don’t manage to spot her anywhere, you might find her staring at the sky or singing to herself. On her blog, she loves letting words play on paper with her strokes of emotion. She enjoys writing about good music, food, films, travel and literature.

The White Cup! By Nandita De nee Chatterjee

It was searing hot! An old small mug, placed with a thump on the bed tray. 'Tea? Didn't I have tea?' 'No, Dida'.

A shaking hand lifts the cup to her lips. A shudder and she puts it down. The plane circled in the air. The young lady touched up her lips. A waft of perfume floats in the twilight. She quickly pulls out the tray. He'll be home in an hour. The military truck will come home and the dashing, young officer will jump down. Suitcase, bedding... thrown to the ground.

She didn't know till just about now that he would be coming. They never did, the wives! Air Force has its rules. Military wives had their tea alone most morns. The cups were laid. The kettle was put on. Dad and Mom sat in the balcony, a while later, savoring the Darjeeling. A man of few words, he listened to the chatter, animated, two troublesome schoolgirls, their unruly ways. That bad fall, the hospital trips. The films screened in the Mess. He savored the stories, sipping his tea. Ah! Tea at home! A far cry from the Mess mugs! The flavor of tea bushes in the cold Darjeeling hills. The prized Makaibari. The delicate, fine bone china cup, white, with a tilted gold- rimmed handle. It was good to be back.

Many, many postings... many isolated stations. Life essentially the same. Challenges changed. Coming home at dusk I could see them sitting from afar. A rainbow encircled the horizon. The distance between the lawn and the distant hills stretched unendingly. Unfettered. A wooden gate somewhere in between read 'Trespassers will be prosecuted.' I joined them for tea. Some things had changed. Sister was in college. I wasn't given tea though. But teatime snacks were always good. Mom was a super cook.

The place was Assam. It rained incessantly. Prickly grass sprang up like dragons. The neighbouring hills were laced with tea gardens. Strong Assam tea. CTC. But it was still Darjeeling in their cups. Tea at home

never changed. Mom washed the white set herself. The honeymoon set. Made in UK. Brought for a radiant wife, waiting through endless days of solitude, anxiety, fear. The cup of joy. Husband home safe. Togetherness. Love. Sharing. In the meantime wars were waged. 1962 1965 1971. Mom kept her memories safe. Precious journeys of life. Daughters married. Grandkids coming home. Now the family had tea together. It was a family thing. She never gave up the kitchen. Her specialties rolled out. Her mentors, 'Woman and Home,' 'Femina'.

A young bride alone in an Air Force station, bereft of alternatives, learning the ways of the kitchen. I always pictured them such, sitting together at tea, the brew perfect, the brands Happy Valley, Lopchu, Makaibari. The perfect temperature. The perfect setting. Lilies in the vase, white cane chairs, a balcony with Rajnigandha, pansies, anthirrium dancing in the breeze. That same tranquility, same We-Time, stories of pride, reproach, anxiety.

I shot some photos, Mom pouring Dad tea from the delightful cups she acquired over the years. A scene engraved in my mind. Homecoming after a hard day, slumping down tired. The assignment's been tough. But now I'm home. In the warmth of an understanding family. How I loved those moments. •

I rang the bell. A new face opened the door. A surly welcome. I moved around, switching on the lights. Dispelling the dark. Pulling open the curtains. I stopped at Dad's picture. I always did. Crossing the dining room my eyes fell on the dainty white tea set. Clean. Unused of late. Mom was sitting up, fresh as a daisy, evening rituals never missed. There were flowers on the dressing table. A bell at hand to ring for the attendant. Television was on. It usually is.

'Welcome home, baby.' I squeezed in beside her on her bed. She had lost mobility now, for a few years. 'Having tea, Mom,' I smiled. She grimaced. 'Boiled, not brewed. No flavor.'

'Never mind,' I said. 'We'll have it together.' Holding back my tears I saw the little printed mug. Some gift, I think. A sip and I shuddered. A far cry from the pot which she made. No well-laid tea set, no tasty cupcakes. Some dejected snacks, served up carelessly, by uncaring hands. I took the girl aside. Again, I specified our habits, our ways. 'But she's old. And unwell,' the girl retorted adamantly. Mom called, 'don't bother. It doesn't matter. This is now my cup of tea. ‘

The above poem by Nandita De nee Chatterjee won her first place in a #poetryandproseprompt #cupoftales in the year 2019 organized by Plethora Blogazine in their Facebook Group Page.

Nandita is a writer/freelance journalist/housewife. Formerly with Economic Times. Cover stories and Feature Writer with Statesman, Illustrated Weekly of India, Economic Times, Telegraph, Times of India, Femina, Filmfare, Germany Today, Voix Meets Mode, UK, FrontierWeekly.com.,Namaste Ink March 2020. Was Part Time Lecturer at Calcutta University Journalism department, PG for 7 months. Was Consulting Editor, Environ. Launched Economic Times Marketplace for ET. Editing experience. Co Author, Big Bang of NonFiction, Life in Reverse; 30 Best Poets; Sea; Coffee and Echos; Wrapped Up Feelings; Poetry Planet's Christmas in my Heart in 2019, Moonlight; Asian Literary Society anthologies A Kaleidoscope of Asia and A Bilingual Anthology of Poems and Poetry Planet's Writers' Haven in Feb-Mar 2020, Rewrite the Stars by Poetry Planet in May 2020. Have a digital magazine and group, Studio Quaintrelle. Participate in major digital literary forums Poetry Planet, Our Poetry Archive, Bebee.com, AllPoetry.com, Asian Literary Society, Literature Lovers Association, Realistic Poetry International, Let's Make Stories, Plethora Blogazine, Wonder Women World Writers, English Literature, Story Mirror, Significant League, Gully Writers, Beyond the Box, Women's Web etc.

The Ambassador By Sakeena Jabeen In whiff of joy, yelled a stiff villain, Merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance, In midst of clampdown and in quandary of one, Beside mercurial alacrity of heartless king Having forte in swaying people by his rhetoric, An elixir not only to those going jokey for the power, Disgruntled, disgusted and for irritable lot too, Called himself an Ambassador, Uff! Mere a prank of vote bank, Sounds euphonic like a cawing of a crow, Befool no more innocent one, Well versed now far and wide, Having lost magical power of such a bait, Stop eating our heads, you bawdy villain! How weary, flat and unprofitable you are, Under thy wrecking rule, Havoc danced every nook and corner as a wild fire, Such an elegant ambassador of a nation

Sakeena Jabeen has done Masters in English from Awantipora Kashmir. She is from Pulwama and has immense passion for writing poems and loves reading.

The Thief By Prasenjit Das I lost my job due to recession, I’m not fed for last five days, Lost my rented home, My poverty showed in my clothes, And hated by this society, That society where people throw the excess food into the garbage, But they never feed a hungry man, I’m one of them, who will die like an insect, Who on one cares about or dares to feed, I walked myself towards a bakery, A soft loft of bread, that’s I want to eat, But don’t have a single penny to afford. I keep begging for a loaf, I felt humiliated and insulted, “Oh! Please in the name of god feed the poor”, I cried, No one there to listen or to help, As I was leaving, I was beaten badly, As I tried to steal a loaf, I was bleeding and shedding my tears, Suddenly a customer came with a pitied face, He paid it off for the loaf and went away, I lay in pain, Beside the downy lane, And smiled the last smile of my life, And asked god, who is the thief ? For I was beaten badly!

Mandala Art

Prasenjit Das is a 30 years old poet who grew up in Kolkata, India. He is fond of writing from the time when he was in 12th std. He has completed his B.com (Hons.) and his main fields in writing are poems and short stories. He wrote some stories which were played by children on cultural background in his colony, which inspired him to write more. The Mandala Art in the previous page has been done by Prasenjit Das.


Cat Fight by Jayashree Pillai

A word of

apology to animal activists, the world over. Whatever I write is not meant to hurt the sentiments of any animal, living or dead. It merely stems from a mortal fear of any creature that uses four limbs to navigate any amount of distance. It is an illogical, irrational, inexplicable, abominable syndrome, especially since these poor creatures have never done anything to trouble us. I view it as a case of Karma – we , in the family may have in our last lives terrorized the hell out of some of these creatures , and hence ... My story dates back to some hundred years ago, when I was less placid. The central protagonist in the story happened to be a rather esteemed member of the feline race. I say esteemed, gauging by the amount of affection and admiration showered upon it by the other residents of the building. If you ask me, I would say that it was a rather mean looking creature, but I belonged to the minority tribe. The fellow had a huge fan following and if this tale were to occur in today’s times, he may have had his own Instagram account. Life had been running quite smoothly for us, till one fine day, the neighbors in the flat below decided they needed a bigger balcony. This involved an extension of the frontiers of their balcony, such that the roof of the new big balcony now stood some four feet below our bedroom window. I was happy for them. They had ample space now, to lounge and talk to their plants. There however, was a teeny weeny little problem – our feline friend now found it easy enough to hop onto the new balcony roof and gain access to the bedroom of the pretty damsels of the house. Now, while that may not be socially too blasphemous, it was pretty much unacceptable to the sensibilities of the ladies, whose pulse levels fluctuated not to tall, dark, handsome Mills & Boon hero- like men , but to four legged creatures of all shapes and sizes . It took them a while though, to notice the nocturnal visits of our friend.

I guess I was the first one to notice it. I woke up one night, to discover something white moving around, very close to the bed that my sisters and I shared. I was not thinking straight and naively assumed that it was a white polythene cover flying about. A few nights later, someone else noticed it someone less naive than myself and all hell was let loose . Mom and Dad came running into our room, assuming the worst. Reactions varied. Mom wondered how the blessed creature had entered the room; a couple of others were still palpitating while Dad looked calm as ever. That wasn’t surprising though. His family had always nurtured a penchant for cats and his house in Kerala had never had less than three such creatures at any given time. The house now resembled the residence of the rich and famous–only from the outside of course. Windows and doors were always tightly shut, as if we were trying to keep out the Paparazzi or something. Peace and sanity reigned, blood pressure levels and pulse rates were normal and life was smooth. The winter months soon set in and the interiors of the house were nice, warm and snug. But if winter is here, can summer be far behind? That year, the weather gods decided to give spring a miss and so summer waltzed in earlier than usual, at its cheerful best. And that, my dear friends, was when the agony began. Home was no longer a cozy haven. Instead, it was unpleasant, hot and suffocating. Since my sister would always break into a chill when the air conditioner was switched on, we were rendered quite helpless. But we refused to relent. Nothing would make us open those windows. In fact we derived a sadistic pleasure as we harbored visions of the cat waiting outside, desperately trying to enter

the house. Dad tried to make us see sense. What harm could a cat possibly do, he argued. He really could not comprehend the kind of idiocy that his offspring were indulging in. But we, the ‘victims’ knew what trauma we had been through. Meanwhile the rising mercury levels kept soaring and were beginning to take a toll on us. Some solution needed to be reached. A family conference was held one The victimized ladies came up with a single and simple solution. The bedroom windows were to be kept shut. No arguments would be brooked. Furthermore, since the notorious balcony roof extended itself to one of the windows in Mom and Dad‘s room, that window too should be shut. Dad looked heavenwards, but we were adamant. evening, on the terrace. Two uncles, a cousin and the family members attended the conference, while the cat was seen strolling blissfully, along the parapet of the house opposite ours. My father was pretty sure that a mountain was being made out of a mole hill, but at the same time couldn’t bear to see his dear daughters enduring sleepless nights. The dark circles that had gathered around our eyes weren’t a pretty sight. We discussed at length, possible solutions to our predicament. After much brainstorming, we hit upon a rather brilliant solution. A consensus was reached to fix up net shields on our windows. A rather crafty looking carpenter was summoned the next day and deliberations held. He made two surveys of the windows, tugged at his chin and then grunted, before quoting his price. Dad balked a wee bit but then relented when he saw the misery that was writ large on our faces.

We finally began to breathe. The outside world looked beautiful and once more, after ages, we heard the crows caw. The cat still hung around the building premises and I suspect it even gave us dagger looks each time we passed by. We only grinned victoriously, as we walked past it. We had, after all won the fight!

Jayashree Pillai is a teacher by profession. She teaches Literature and History. She loves to dabble in words. Poetry is a passion with her and she churns out verses and stories as and when inspiration strikes. Cooking is what she does, to de-stress. She enjoys travelling and photography, solving puzzles and reading. She is on a journey, discovering life each day. As each day comes to an end, she goes to bed with the belief that tomorrow will unravel a new chapter.

Mission Venus By Moushumi Bhattacharjee

“Badrinath Pandey is selected as the leader of our next project, “Mission Venus". Announced the chief of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)in a huge gathering of bespectacled scientists, politicians, media persons and the executive members of the organization. With a broad smile Badrinath waved a victory sign to the huge gathering. Congratulations rained henceforth. Cameras flashed capturing him from every angle. Reporters gathered around him with microphones to record his statements. Badrinath talked gently to the media, but was unable to conceal his ear to ear smile. Champagne corks popped throughout the celebration. People cheered lifting their glasses to the toast for the evening. With jaunty steps, Badrinath walked around the hall exchanging pleasantries with the high and mighty. Envious eyes tried to excoriate him with filthy glances unable to gulp down his success. Juniors followed him throughout the lounge craving for his attention. Badrinath enjoyed every moment of the evening beaming with pride. Floating in ecstasy, Badrinath came back to his nest almost at midnight riding in a blue limousine. The chauffeur in a white uniform opened the door of the car with a gentle bow. A slightly drunk Badrinath stepped out of the car and looked around. His neighborhood was draped in darkness, but his residence was shining brightly with decorative mini bulbs. Whole house seemed waiting eagerly to welcome him. His wife blew the conch shell, least bothering about their sleeping neighbors, and showered flowers on her husband with utmost devotion.

Everyone wagged him a thumping welcome except his computer engineer son, Raghav, who was sitting with a laptop in a corner of the living room, wearing a wicked grin. Quickly, avoiding a tussle, Badrinath began narrating about the eventful evening to his wife and daughters, who were listening to him with acute attention. “But why on earth should ISRO select you for this mission, when you even do not know how to send a SMS from your mobile?” Raghav commented sarcastically. These types of comments from Raghav always irritated Badrinath. Raghav never missed a chance to make fun of his father. Badrinath was hurt due to his behaviour, but thought not to indulge himself in unnecessary arguments with his narcissist son, instead made his way towards the bathroom. A cool shower was what he needed most at that hour. He couldn’t get a wink throughout the night. Slipping out of his quilt silently, he went near the window and looked passionately at the dark sky. The moon and stars appeared more close to him. He felt like talking to them all through the night. Very soon he would be going very near to them. Unable to conceal his excitement he danced quietly crooning an old Hindi song, without disturbing his wife who was sleeping unaware of her husband’s activities. The days that followed were full of excitement and happenings. He had to shift to a quarter inside the campus of the space research organization, and had to stay there till his mission was accomplished. His mornings seemed to have lost their glory, as he was waked up every day before 5 o’clock, as guided by his physical instructor for exercises and yoga sessions. He was also put on strict diet. They said, he must be completely fit and sturdy before going for this mission. Badrinath, craved for the piping hot parathas stuffed with potatoes and lavish spread of

butter, which his wife used to serve him with curd and pickles. The cups of milk tea too vanished. His dietitian allowed him only green tea, that too two cups a day. Every time he drooled reminiscing of his past, he would admonish himself saying that, to achieve something great he must shun these petty things. With utmost determination he followed his physical instructor and dietitian's advise. At night he would make video calls to his wife and daughters and would give detailed descriptions of the day. He would avoid his son most of the time so that he had not to face his unpredictable queries for which he never had any satisfactory answer. Badrinath was quite sure that he would learn all the technicalities, which were needed to make the mission a successful one. Though everything was quite critical, but like an obedient child he went on learning things, which a while ago was beyond his intellect. Days rolled on. Badrinath felt as if he went back to his youthful days. His bulging stomach was long gone. He used to run five kilometers every day, and then spent his morning hours in exercises and yoga. Followed the days chart and obediently ate what the dietitian advised for him. Studied sincerely till late at night like a school going boy. Learnt with diligence all the electronic technologies and computer applications, not to appear dam fool before anybody anywhere in this world. No more he wanted to be ridiculed by his own children. He basked in his new found world like never before. Every day sessions with his team of astronauts and technical instructors made him aware of the problems and obstacles they might face during their mission. Though at first he was a bit apprehensive of the success of his assignment, but with passing days he grew more confident and focused. His other team mates were young men belonging to different regions of India, almost in their early thirties..

But that never deter him from doing his part. He was in no way physically weak, or less in intelligence. His determination showed that his decade’s long experience mattered. By accomplishing this mission he wanted to prove before his son, that he could seamlessly handle all the electronic gadgets that the young generations boast about. The D- day arrived. Badrinath made a video call to his family the night before. It was full of emotional talks. His wife wiped her tears with the edge of her saree. Even Raghav sent him a colorful well wishing message on WhatsApp. With misty eyes Badrinath bid a goodbye to his family. Dressed in space suits Badrinath and his team boarded the spacecraft amidst applause and cheers from the ISRO members. The spacecraft was about to be launched in the wee hours of the morning to avoid the weather disturbances. Everyone was ready in the ground with their jobs. The crews were all in good humor and shape. They were cracking jokes with each other while looking at the details before the launching of the spacecraft. Badrinath was laughing at their jokes, though in heart he was a bit nervous. He never thought in his life that he would ever be a part of such an adventurous mission. This mission transformed his life thoroughly. He could envisage his position in his family and neighborhood quite clearly after the success of the mission. Badrinath took charge of the situation. Within minutes he would be in the space among the twinkling stars and planets and meteors. Excitement rose to its peak as the time of

departure closed on. With a big jolt the spaceship rose to the sky. Everybody was perfectly belted in respective seats, viewing the sky through the window glass. After sometime they crossed the realm of the earth atmosphere and entered the space. The launch was successful. People on the board congratulated each other. Badrinath felt relieved. Now there were so many things to do inside the spaceship. They had to go through all the readings that the computer was showing. They were hovering on a dark space gazing at the distant light of the stars and other celestial objects. Their spaceship would take 3 months to reach their destination. They had stored enough foods for the team of five to sustain till the end of the mission.

Badrinath wanted some time of his own to watch the stars and planets flying around their spacecraft. He grumbled at himself for not bringing his ‘Sony camera’, that he carried everywhere with pride, along with him. He wanted to click some pictures of stars and planets, and display them as mementos on the showcase of his living room. At times he felt that his spacecraft will collide with a shooting star or a meteor. But skill fully it would pass away and Badrinath would get back his breath. The excitement was beyond imagination. The crew members would turn wise take rest or eat. Badrinath always remained alert as he was the leader of the team. He used to go through all the messages sent by the ground operators of ISRO, and would watch attentively the computer readings. One day as three members was taking a nap, and he and one other member were observing the functioning of the spacecraft, suddenly they came near a meteor like object, which never appeared in their readings before. The spacecraft started shaking severely. Badrinath at once took his seat and asked the other person to wake up all the crew members. The spacecraft was shaking beyond control. Badrinath was unable to stay upright on his position. And then a booming noise reverberated around him. “Hey, wake up. Why are you babbling in such a strange way? Badrinath’s wife shouted at him shaking his shoulder. “Oh! I don’t believe that you followed me to the space also. Why are you distracting me by pulling my space suit at this dangerous

situation?” Badrinath mumbled with angst. “Hey are you dreaming? Every day I tell you not to sleep with those headphones. Don’t know what you listen to every night. Now get up quickly and bring some vegetables and fish from the market.” She retorted back and went to the kitchen. Badrinath got up with a jolt. There was no spacecraft, no meteors or stars moving around. He was in his bed in pajamas and ganji, drenched in sweat. Sun glowing like embers in the sky. With a bitter face he came out of his bedroom. The desk of Municipal Office Kolkata, with stacked files appeared before his eyes. With an unhappy face he looked at the sky from his tiny balcony. “What is your problem if I try to live my dream at least in my dream? Before accomplishing my assignment you sent your brawling messenger to wake me up!” He grumbled. “Mummy says, you won’t get good fish in the market, if you go late.” Said his youngest daughter and hurriedly left the balcony without waiting for his reply. Giving a stern look towards the kitchen he entered his bathroom to wash his sweaty face.

A teacher by profession, Moushumi Bhattacharjee is an avid reader and a passionate writer who loves to jot down every experience of life that fascinates her. Many of her articles, stories and poems have been published in various e-papers, magazines and newspapers. Her interest for literature grew at a very tender age. Visiting libraries was her favourite pass time during her student life. Love for books grew manifolds as she chose teaching as her profession. Writing gives her contentment and pleasure. As a mother of two young adults she now gets enough time to fulfil her passion

The Unbridgeable Strait By Preethi Warrier I

cycled down the narrow lanes of Mangalam, and though I had lived there forever, it’s streets still gave me a fright. Lined with garbage and shanties, the lanes were aligned like a maze. Untouched by municipality or the government, Rameshwaram’s Mangalam Refugee Camp had always been the same, with no progress or development whatsoever. But none of this mattered that morning; my spirits were unusually high for a change. I had always known I would pass, but certainly hadn’t anticipated this. Well I could proudly declare, it was my hard work, we obviously couldn’t afford coaching. Moreover, I was now officially the most highly qualified lady in my little colony, Higher Secondary with Distinction.

I spotted Paatti (grandmother) from far. Short and stout with snow white hair, there she was, carefully balancing two plastic buckets full of water, lest a little would spillover. Every drop was precious to us, the taps always ran dry and these two buckets were all we had for God knew how long. I got down my cycle, grabbed the buckets from her and jubilantly broke the news. Poor Paatti shed copious tears of joy, this I guess was the only good news she had heard since long. We, at the Mangalam Camp weren’t used to happiness, something we had left behind in our island nation way back, and something we were still looking for. Paatti treated me to her fried rice for lunch, just the same ration rice, with some extra oil and raw vegetables diced in. But she cooked it for me with such fervor; I couldn’t help appreciate her affection. After all, we were all we had for each other. I set out to his house in the evening; I hadn’t spilled the news yet. I wished to surprise him. It would be amusing to see the expression on his face. He had always made fun, that I was an idiot that I would definitely flunk. But hey, I knew it was all out of his feelings for me, and I reciprocated them too.

“Nagesh is not home Kanna (dear), he’s at the secretariat, with his peaceful demonstration. He’ll be back by evening, I’ll let him know”. His mother congratulated me. He visited late in the evening, with a little gift, a pen. “This is all I can afford, you know. Twenty two and still unemployed. But then, there’s always hope. Two more months they say, the bill in our favor will be passed. This time it’s happening, the government will definitely do something.” I sighed, as I held his hand in support. I wasn’t hopeful at all, but that wasn’t the best moment to tell him. The next day, the local politician, Mr. Dharmalingam, who claimed to be championing our cause, visited my house. As a congratulatory gesture, he awarded me a cash prize of thousand bucks. He touched my head in blessing, but I was pretty uncomfortable. I hated the way he looked at me or other women; I nursed some unknown hatred for him. He didn’t prove me wrong. Apparently, he was a widower, looking for a soul mate had approached my grandmother, through someone, asking my hand in marriage and thus helping us out with the refugee crisis we faced. Paatti took me by surprise, she rejected him straight. “Too old and was already married. I have sent word around; very soon I’ll find someone young and suitable.” Sleep eluded me that night. All Paatti hoped for my future was marriage. And of course the groom was right before her eyes, Nagesh. Two years my senior, educated, good looking and a migrant from the same Sri Lankan village as us. What more could I

ask for? That definitely wasn’t what I was looking forward to though. I had to get out this ghetto. I didn’t intend to live all my life in a dingy slum, waiting in queues for toilet and drinking water. I refused to live on that meager thousand bucks the government paid my Paatti, the prize for being a refugee. That’s precisely why I had been hell bent on passing Higher Secondary and not given in to marriage long before. I was done with this life. Nineteen years was a long time and I couldn’t see Paatti struggle like this anymore. It wasn’t just me; there were thousands of us, who had crossed over to Rameshwaram by boat years ago, in search of a better prospects, better treatment, and better life. But alas, little had we realized back then, it would all be pretty much the same anyway. We couldn’t get out of the state, we couldn’t become permanent citizens, we couldn’t get jobs, couldn’t seek higher education, prisoners of Mangalam, that’s what we were. More than thirty years had gone by, rulers changed, regimes changed, and here we were, still waiting to be accepted. But now Nagesh seemed hopeful, there were talks about us in every news channel, a few more months and a new dawn. I drifted off to sleep. Two months down the line, as I stitched baskets with my friends, for a small scale industry that kept us busy, Nagesh barged in excitedly with his friends. Come out, I have news!” he almost commanded. My friends smiled cunningly, our affair wasn’t a secret anymore. I coyly made my way out, and Nagesh smiled wide.

“I don’t think it’s a rumour, there’s some bill to be passed by the centre very soon. We are migrants who belong to the religious majority, so we’ll be surely benefitted and granted citizenship after all. We’ll be free, we could study, we could work, and be deemed Indians.” I smiled, albeit confused. “What about Jameela and her family? She’s my best friend and just like us. They too would be Indians right?” I could sense his discomfort, he dodged the question. “Just a day or two, and then a vast majority of us will be Indian citizens, just like anyone else. Aren’t you happy?” He beamed as he embraced me. I managed to whisper a ‘Yes’, wondering what would come of Jameela and a few others like her and what exactly the bill was. But then, happiness evading us was nothing new. The bill got passed officially and the atmosphere in Mangalam remained gloomy for days. After an initial surge of unrest and disbelief, we, the largest refugee population of India had silently come to terms with the fact that we had been conveniently left out of the bill, our only ticket to education, jobs and some future. Alas, we were the NOWHERE people before, we were the NOWHERE people still. “They say it’s because we weren’t persecuted on a religious basis. But then is it actually that or is it because, we don’t serve as vote banks? Or is it because nobody cares? We have been living like this forever, so our silence has been taken for granted.” I heard these conversations at every nook and corner, youngsters at tea shops, women at temples, old men under banyan trees… We protested, Nagesh leading the front, many youngsters our age, peacefully held placards outside the secretariat. “No Citizenship! No Life!” we called out loud. The opposition blamed the ruling party, the ruling party blamed the centre, the centre promised they would look into the matter, but we had more or less realized, there

wasn’t going to be any miracle happening. We had to go on living our wretched lives, or perhaps return to Sri Lanka. “He called, that politician Dharmalingam. Some real guts he has, trying to tempt us into citizenship by marriage. He’s almost forty, how dare he I wonder. I said NO anyway.” Paatti informed one evening. “Good.” I responded before retiring to bed. In a matter of a month, many of our codwellers had already made up their mind to return. The civil war over, there was no danger to life, they maintained. Many had Sri Lankan birth certificates; they could go back and perhaps set up a new home or find a menial job there. Jameela’s family was one among the first to go. As I visited her the evening before her departure, teary eyed, her father spoke, “There’s nothing left for us here, the bill has unceremoniously removed us from everywhere. My wife and I have Sri Lankan cards. Maybe there’s something for us there. It can’t be worse; we are used to hell here. Who knows, we might meet there someday.” His words trailed off. The TV channels swarmed our colonies interviewing many of us. Nagesh spoke as our representative, presenting the thoughts that echoed throughout. “Many of us were born here, we have been raised in this country, we have lived more than two decades here, our parents and grandparents came here with lots of hopes. We don’t know another country, we are Indians. We live for India, we’ll work for India, and we’ll die for India if needed, why you guys don’t accept us!”

Our crowd applauded, his interview was telecast, but no good ever happened. One evening, as we sat hand in hand, lost in our thoughts, he blurted out. “Let’s get married. Let there be something good happening.” I don’t know why, but I was enraged. “And do what?” I screamed. “You’ll be a sweeper like your father, or work in some tea plantation like my Taatha (grandfather)? And die an eventual death? What will I do, visit rich households as a domestic help? I don’t think I could even manage that, Paatti got sacked yesterday because the lady of the house didn’t want a refugee anymore. So we’ll marry, have children and live off the little something that the government would give us and our kids. Live a blissful life amidst sewage and mosquitoes.” I was still panting when he mentioned calmly, “There’s another way.” I glared at him, seething with anger but he went on, “I wasn’t aware until recently, but Facebook has brought our people closer. It seems Amma has some very distant relations in Canada, her second cousins who flew off when in Sri Lanka. So my third cousin says, he could accommodate me there, provided I secure a passport. With my parents’ Sri Lankan certificates, we could get proper documentation there and as my wife, you could too. We could perhaps start a new life in Canada…” he waited for me to respond, but I could only stare. “Don’t give me that look; everything I said about being Indian was brutally honest. But look what they have done to us. Your Paatti should return too, she’ll be more than

welcome to stay with my parents. I can’t go on like this, I too want a life.” He added. “Let me sleep over it.” I assured him. “Please give me some time. Walk me home, its dark.” We walked to my shanty, hand in hand. Sri Lanka, Canada, two unknown nations, but perhaps my future, I was unsure. Everything sounded too farfetched. Paatti was dozing as I entered, she was jolted up. “Dharmalingam visited by the way. He wanted to know our decision.” I hugged her tight and informed her about Nagesh’s proposal. Though Paatti wasn’t very keen about herself returning to the island, she was excited for me. I spent another sleepless night, I just gazed at Paatti. Poor lady, she had lost her home, her son, her daughter-in- law, but she had left everything she had back in her motherland and risked a voyage across the ocean, on a wooden boat, risked her life, to save mine.

I hugged her tight and informed her about Nagesh’s proposal. Though Paatti wasn’t very keen about herself returning to the island, she was excited for me. I spent another sleepless night, I just gazed at Paatti. Poor lady, she had lost her home, her son, her daughter-in- law, but she had left everything she had back in her motherland and risked a voyage across the ocean, on a wooden boat, risked her life, to save mine. I owed her some peace and respite, at least now. She deserved to be happy; I had to do something for her. As if she had read my thoughts, she restlessly woke up from sleep and pulling me close, she whispered, “Go away, my dear. Go to that boy Nagesh. He loves you, get married in some temple and stay with him. I’ll deal with Dharmalingam.” I almost ran to his house, only to find them all packing already. He caught my bewildered look and gently took my hand, leading me outside. “Look,” he seemed to be fumbling. “There’s something we heard about your father being involved with the rebels, you know. I had no clue, but when my family broke the news to a few neighbors, they mentioned, your father was being hunted by the army back then. If what they said was true, their forces would be still aware of your family, they could never pardon someone who was involved in assassinations and stuff. My parents say if I get married to you, and someone there finds out about your background, it could put us all in jeopardy. So, let me go there, find out if things gad settled down, if somebody remembers…” I wasn’t listening anymore, I turned around and walked away, he didn’t call me back. I stifled my tears, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry. As I approached our shanty, I was seething in rage. “Nagesh won’t marry me, Appa was a rebel?

He was involved in vicious activities? Can’t believe you kept that from me.” I almost yelled at Paatti, “You told me Amma and Appa died in an accident. They were militants?” “Your Appa was a hero. Well educated and employed as a college lecturer. He fell in love with your mother, his colleague. But like all of us Tamils there, he believed in equal rights too. Conditions deteriorated a year after they got married, just before you were born. Some militants took refuge in our residential area, the forces attacked the place, even bombed the hospital. Your Amma died of birth related complications, only because she didn’t get adequate treatment.”Paatti broke down. “Your Appa didn’t shed a tear; all I saw in his eyes was sorrow of vengeance. None of us had harmed anyone, why were we punished? He left us in the middle of the night; I somehow knew he wouldn’t ever come back. Taatha wished to stay back, but I had you. How could we raise you there, amidst guns and bombs, with nothing to offer? So we did what everyone else did, flee. At least here, we weren’t perpetually in a war zone. Few years later, when another President of theirs was attacked, they showed the sketch of the bomber. I never confided in anyone, but the sketch pretty much looked like your Appa. It wasn’t like I was particularly proud of his deeds but he had sacrificed his life for our tribe and now his family is a burden for the very people he had fought for.” As Paatti lay weeping all night, I realized, there I was, back to square one, a nowhere person, an orphan with shattered dreams and a hopeless life. We would grapple with our everyday lives, lining up for water, ration and daily needs, toiling at other peoples’ homes, fretting about my marriage and eventually die a miserable death.

A month later, I found myself at the District Collector’s office. The officer in-charge inspected my documents closely and questioned without looking up, “Name?” “Mrs. Yalini Dharmalingam” I spoke. He glanced at me sharply before inspecting the papers again. “You Sri Lankan?” “Yes Sri Lankan, married to an Indian.” He looked up again and almost formed the question. I looked him straight in the eye and declared confidently, “I’m NOT a refugee…not anymore.”

GLOSSARY Paatti- Grandmother Taatha- Grandfather Amma- Mother Appa- Father Kanna- Dear Mangalam- A fictitious refugee camp in Rameshwaram.

Preethi Warrier has completed her Masters in Electronics Engineering and is an Assistant Professor at Shah and Anchor Kutchhi Engineering College, Mumbai. Apart from the technical stuff, she likes weaving stories out of some heart touching incidents she comes across. She has published three stories and one poem in the Induswomanwriting online magazine. Her work can be found in various Anthologies like Born Too Soon, She- The Warrior, Travel Diaries and Secret Diary. She is one among the winners of the TOI Write India Campaign Season-1, for the famous author Anita Nair. She is a regular blogger with Momspresso, Womens’ Web and Let’s Make Stories . She also won Third Prize at Asian Literary Society’s Gitesh-Biva Memorial Awards for her story ‘Orphaned For Good.’ Preethi resides in Mumbai with her husband and son.

Poetic Brook By Kaberi Mukherjee

Poetry, A brook Flowing on paper Sometimes perennial At others ephemeral. Down the hills, Along the valleys Across the meadows Meandering, gurgling, sparkling.

Poetry, A stream of thoughts A surge of emotions When gentle is the gush Flowery is the verse. When fierce is the flow Reflects the poet's gusto.

A brook merges into sea, A poetry culminates into philosophy.

Kaberi Mukherjee is a teacher by profession who has formerly worked in a medical transcription industry and as an academic content writer too. She is a mother of a teen, a good cook, an arduous reader and a day dreamer who finds solace in writing her heart out.

Plethora Blogazine’s New Release with Publishing Partner Writersgram Publications

#Contest Alert

Another interesting literary prompt for all the fiction writers and story tellers out there... As you all must be aware that our Publishing Partner Writersgram Publications have brought forth this new and one of its kind venture 'Audio Book Publishing' in their publishing platform. Thus we again have come forward working in collaboration on a new project and to bring to you this unique new literary prompt of getting your voice published in an audio book compilation. This prompt was inspired by Ananya Mukherjee's story telling sessions on her timeline. And the good news is that not only she is going to judge this literary event but also the first story would be in her voice in the book. The prompt has open from 1st of August 2020, the submission process is now going on and we are eager to receive your submissions. You just have to record your voice while telling the story. No visuals are required. Then send that audio file to plethorablogazine@rediffmail.com The theme of the story telling prompt is ghost or paranormal stories. You have 10 minutes of audio timing so write your stories accordingly. You have to begin telling a brief synopsis of your story first, then start telling your story. The narration, the way of story telling with expressiveness and the content, these will be the judging criteria. Three winners will get Ananya's book 'Ardh- Satya' as their prize and the best part is that all the chosen narrations would be compiled into an 'Audio Book' under the banner of Writersgram Publications. So grab your quill and start weaving that scary story that would give the chills and thrills to your audience. The contest opening date is 1st of August and it will end on 20th of August 2020. For more details visit our website here https://www.plethorablogazine.com/contest

Meet The Judge for the Contest Ananya Mukherjee Author, poet &writer

Ananya Mukherjee is a former business journalist and an acclaimed writer with more than 1000 publications to her credit. Before moving to Singapore as the editor of HRM Asia, she had amassed years of experience in the Indian print and television media. Her journalistic acumen covers a whole gamut of subjects including politics, lifestyle and business. Ardh-Satya & Other Stories, Ananya’s first book, a collection of 20 short stories was published in 2016 and has received raving reviews from Indian and the international media. She is currently working on her second book. Ardh-Satya, an adaptation from the title story was recently staged at Dastak, a Hindi Theatre Festival in Singapore and at the prestigious Kala Ghoda festival in Mumbai, India. Ananya also writes poetry in Hindi and six of her poems were recently published in a literary magazine called Nazariya in India. She is a known figure in the cultural and literary circles in Singapore and India. Ananya also wears a Corporate leadership hat and leads Corporate Affairs in Asia & Europe for a US based multinational company.

Editor’s Note

How does it feel when it rains from the skies, that sound of the pitter-patter raindrops from the heaven, doesn’t it fill your souls with sudden joy? A joy when you want to leave every chore or errands that you running up to and just want to sit back and have some me time. In those moments you sit near the window, staring at the bathing earth while having a hot cup of coffee or may be listening to some soft romantic number. Seldom have you chosen to read a book, but this time I want you to have a reading snack instead. What’s a reading snack now, you must be all wondering? Well it’s a light read in between the chores and your me time and what better way to use this golden chance and treat yourself by grabbing our Fourth Digital Issue from Issuu a digital platform and its completely free to download. In this issue we have a cover story done on author, poet and translator from USA, Ms. Lopamudra Banerjee, and a short and sweet interview done of a self taught artist Vinita Saxena, some most humorous stories and profound poems by other writers and poets too. And don’t forget to leave your reviews in our Facebook Group Page or send us your reviews/feedbacks to plethroablogazine@rediffmail.com I am waiting to hear from you. Yours, Monalisa Joshi Founder & Chief Editor Plethora Blogazine

Profile for ChrysanthemumChronicles

Plethora Blogazine Volume 2, Issue 4