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Vol 3 Issue 9 63 pages

Word.World.Wisdom September 2012

Navarasas Featuring Flash Fiction by 

Abha Iyengar

Anuradha Kumar

Dipika Mukherjee

Fehmida Zakeer

Hema Raman

1 2012 | Navarasas Stories | Poetry | Non-fiction | Spark—September Art | The Lounge


05 September 2012 Dear Reader, This month’s issue is truly a celebration of fiction and poetry. The theme we have explored this September is ’Navarasas’ or the nine human emotions and we are so excited to present an amazing variety of fiction and poetry, along with non-fiction and art that our team has come up with by interpreting each of the nine rasas. What we are doubly thrilled about is our special flash fiction feature wherein we have five wonderful, award-winning writers writing nine stories on each of the nine rasas. It’s a beautiful line-up of contributions we have for you up at Spark this month, one that you are surely going to enjoy and savour in the coming weeks. For the non-fiction lovers, The Lounge this month has stuff on books, movies and spirituality. We hope you like it and look forward to knowing your valuable feedback! We will see you again next month with yet another interesting theme. Till then, goodbye & God bless! - Editors

Vol 3 Issue 9| September 2012 Contributors Ankit Srivastava Anupama Krishnakumar Aravind Menon Gauri Trivedi Jessu John Meghana Chandrashekhar Parth Pandya Pranay Mathur Priya Gopal Smruti Patil Vani Viswanathan Vinay Krishnan Vinita Agrawal

All rights of print edition reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Spark editorial team.

Viswanathan Subramanian

Spark September 2012 © Spark 2012

Anuradha Kumar

Individual contributions © Author

Dipika Mukherjee

CC licensed pictures attribution available at www.sparkthemagazine.com

Fehmida Zakeer

Published by Viswanathan

Concept, Editing & Design

Anupama

Yayaati Joshi

Writers of the Month Abha Iyengar

Hema Raman

Krishnakumar/Vani

Anupama Krishnakumar

editors@sparkthemagazine.com

Vani Viswanathan

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Spark—September 2012 | Navarasas


Inside this Issue POETRY Navarasas | Nine-Bow Rain by Vinita Agrawal Kāruṇyam | Heartbreak by Jessu John Navarasas | Navarasas by Parth Pandya Bībhatsam | The Rose On the Night Stand by Smruti Patil Adbhutam | The Wonder in Your Eyes by Anupama Krishnakumar FICTION Vīram | Dear Mother by Gauri Trivedi Sringāram | When the Sparks Fly by Vinay Krishnan Hāsyam | Operation Katpadi by Aravind Menon Raudram | Pazhani of 17M by Vani Viswanathan Bhayānakam | Circles by Meghana Chandrashekhar NON-FICTION Navarasas | Empowering Emotions by Priya Gopal WRITERS OF THE MONTH |Capturing the Navarasas in Flash Fiction Raudram | Mala’s Marina & Hāsyam | Unmatched by Hema Raman Bhayānakam | Silent World & Kāruṇyam | Crossings by Fehmida Zakeer Sringāram| Her Beautiful Face by Anuradha Kumar Vīram | Honour & Śāntam |Breath by Dipika Mukherjee Adbhutam | Blue Sky & Bībhatsam | Inner Room by Abha Iyengar THE LOUNGE STORYBOARD| FILM FREAK Thoughts on David Lynch’s Films by Yayaati Joshi THE INNER JOURNEY| Are you the World? by Viswanathan Subramanian STORYBOARD | Gangs of Wasseypur 2 : A Review by Pranay Mathur TURN OF THE PAGE| Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary by Ankit Srivastava ART | Śāntam | Simplicity by Anupama Krishnakumar 3

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Poetry

Navarasas

Nine-bow Rain by Vinita Agrawal

Navarasas | When the rains come down, it unleashes the navarasas or the nine human emotions in different parts of the country. Vinita Agrawal captures the magic of the Nine-Bow rain in her poem.

When the floods struck

Peace in the light drizzle

People watched their dreams

As if a charred, restless night

Swim like champions

Had been dipped in lavender milk.

But drown like fledgling sparrows. The horror entered their pillows

Shiny new eaves awakened in wonder

Every night...like black seeds in silk cotton.

Under the gentle rain.

Despite the deathly swirls,

On Mumbai's roads,

The paper boats that children

Lovers clasped raindrops in their palms

Set adrift, bobbed delightedly.

Surrendering to

Amidst the tears,

Streets, skies and winds

The children laughed.

Walking where their feet led them.

The river swelled like A neglected corpse, Roared in fury, like a woman scorned.

Westwards, a hot earth found 4

Spark—September 2012 | Navarasas


In a lost, far off corner of the country, A pinched monsoon Failed to bond a parched earth

Disgusting the pandits.

On my terrace, a red hibiscus shrivelled in compassion Blanching at nature's injustice. The cries of pain had travelled wide, Dry, searing winds were heart-eaters.

In a lonely, high-rise Penthouse

Nine-bow Rain

Devastating the farmers

I braved the monsoon alone Rails of water enticed The French windows, drenched my voice But did not enter the heart.

Vinita Agrawal is a Delhi-based writer and poet and has been published in international print and online journals.

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Spark—September 2012 | Navarasas


Fiction

Vīram

Dear Mother by Gauri Trivedi

Vīram| A daughter writes to her mother on a very important decision that she has taken in her life. In a story structured in the form of a letter, Gauri Trivedi celebrates the rasa Vīram (Courage) – the bold decision of a woman.

Dear Mother….

always brought with it a dreaded announcement or a noteworthy change in our lives. This one I am sure by the time you open this letter and comes with some news too; good or bad, derecognise the familiar curves of the pen on papends on how you look at it. per, you already suspect something is amiss because we spoke last evening, just as we do every Remember how, when I was growing up, I had Friday and yet I mentioned nothing out of the questions about the occasional arguments you ordinary. And by now you will have already fast and Daddy had? Didi and I were never supforwarded through the lines to find their actual posed to know about them and most of the purpose with a frantic heartbeat because you times we didn’t; but at times, the loud voices know we always resort to writing when it gets transported from behind the closed doors and too difficult to ‘tell’. into our ears. It troubled me that you always seemed so composed immediately afterwards It has been a family tradition initiated by grandand when I probed too much, you would smile pa when he wrote to his own father living under and say “a marriage runs on compromise, the the same roof, informing about a job opportunihusband and wife may argue but they must alty out of town. His daughter, and my aunt, had ways concur.” no other choice but to leave a note when she eloped to marry the neighbour’s son next door. In the past few months, concurrence has taken a Dad would probably have managed to break the whole new meaning in maintaining what used to ritual had it not been for you – his wife-to-be be my marital bliss. Faced with a nagging fear of who wrote to him a day after their engagement losing my voice along with the whole of my beand asked that he convince his folks to hold off ing in this institution, I have tried again and the wedding for two more years so that she again to seek solace and inspiration from the could finish her graduation first. The ‘letter’ has only marriage I have witnessed up and close – 6

Spark—September 2012 | Navarasas


my parents’. But as I look back over the years and try to match your actions with your words, a whole new picture emerges in front of me. I think what you actually meant to convey was that marriage runs on compromise, where one person always gives in while the other prevails.

breaking up because of the unhealthy influences on our society. People talk about how we are aping the west and asking for divorces under minor grounds such as “incompatibility”. Yes, the family system is changing, marriages are crumbling and relationships are falling apart. And is it because of that one person who used to give in, compromise, put everybody else in the house before her and is now refusing to do so? Maybe. But don’t you think our whole system itself is flawed when it puts the onus of holding the marriage and the family together on the woman, the wife or the mother by expecting her to make the necessary sacrifices and then putting the blame on her for destroying something that was primarily based on repressing her individuality? It is all good as long as she doesn’t raise her voice or express her desire to not be controlled. It is so very convenient for everybody in the family to have their egos pampered and their needs taken care of by putting the woman on a pedestal created out of convenience.

You somehow convinced Dad and successfully completed graduation before getting married but turned down the job offer of a school teacher soon after. You cooked our meals and yet never had any favourites or dislikes when it came to food. You always had an opinion but never had your way. Daddy’s parents stayed with us for 18 years before peacefully passing away in succession. I saw you care for them with patience and affection as their health continued to fail. Last year when your own mother was bedridden for several months, all you could muster up was a week at her bedside before her death. Now what has your marriage got to do with mine? Yours survived the imbalance, mine didn’t.

While we talked about everything under the sun, Well, I refuse to be that woman on the altar. you maintained you were more a mother and less of a friend. And for the same reason, you Once, the word spreads around, everybody will accepted that our ‘generation gap’ was real and not just an imaginary line drawn between individuals from different decades. One particular thing we used to squabble about was your strong feeling about intolerance being the root cause of increasing number of divorces in the current generation. As I stand on the brink of being one more addition to that tainted list, I can give some recommendations first hand.

have questions for me, you will have them too A lot is written about how our family system is though you will be the last one to ask them. 7

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But I believe I am not answerable to anybody other than you. You, who will face the heat of disapproval and shadows of doubt on the upbringing of her child. The mother, whose values will be questioned, and who will be made to feel responsible for the daughter’s (mis)deeds.

I would rather free myself from a bond which feels like a chain at the cost of being labelled as “too independent” than spend the rest of my life playing second fiddle to a spouse who will never consider me his equal. I would say I am not giving up on my marriage; just pulling out of it before more damage is done.

And so this letter is kind of an advance notice to you; to adequately prepare you for the havoc the news of my divorce will create in our family. It is my unapologetic account of what I refuse to suffer anymore.

The issues that you faced in your marriage, I never expected to face them in mine, after all I was the ‘next’ generation and should have learnt a lesson to two from my predecessors. So in a way, it was ironical to come face to face with those very things that I used to find repressive (the MCP attitude) and an ‘older generation’ characteristic. I guess it will take more than a couple of decades of age brackets before we can get rid of certain traits in the society.

I don’t think I have the right words to articulate the unbearable suffocation experienced all along in my marriage of a year and a half. I can make adjustments, tolerate some good-intentioned dominance and even twist and turn my personality a bit to create a harmonious living with the person I love. What I find impossible to do is give up my ambitions completely as if I wasn’t supposed to have them in the first place. Believe me Mom, it isn’t the person, it is the attitude I find hard to live with. Trust me when I say this; if I had the slightest of hope of saving this marriage I would have fought for it but from where I stand, all I see is a clash of core ideas, increasing and intensifying day after day.

For now, I am in no mood to change the whole universe, only my small little world. Love Swati p.s. I may need to camp in my old room for a while till the paperwork is all finalised.

Gauri Trivedi is a former business law professional who makes the law at home these days. A mom to two lovely daughters, her days are filled with constant learning and non-stop fun. All of her “mommy time” goes into writing and finds itself on her blog page s h tt p:/ / me ssy h o me love ly kid s .b lo gs p ot .co m/ and h tt p:/ / pastaandparatha.blogspot.com/ and if she is not writing she is definitely reading something!

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Capturing the Navarasas In Flash Fiction Abha Iyengar, Anuradha Kumar, Dipika Mukherjee, Fehmida Zakeer, Hema Raman It’s a celebration of fiction at Spark this month. For, isn’t fiction a wonderful way, apart from poetry of course, to explore human emotions? When the editorial team decided that the theme for the September 2012 issue would be ‘Navarasas’ or the nine human emotions, one of the first ideas that we had in mind was to invite some well-known flash fiction writers to interpret the different rasas through their stories. Very much a dream-of-many-months idea, indeed! And what do we say? We have been lucky indeed, with providence being on our side. We feel privileged that five wonderful, awardwinning writers agreed to write flash fiction themed on the nine rasas for Spark this month.

operative and accommodative and worked together with us, demonstrating great interest and patience. Despite working on tight schedules, they have sent us some really amazing stories. Last but not the least, we would like to thank Rumjhum Biswas (Writer of the Month, June 2012 issue) for helping us get in touch with each of these writers and making our long-time dream come true. Readers, Spark proudly presents “Her Beautiful Face” themed on the rasa Sringāram (Love, Attractiveness) by Anuradha Kumar “Silent World” themed on the rasa Bhayānakam (Horror, Terror) & “Crossings” themed on the rasa Kāruṇyam (Tragedy, Compassion) by Fehmida Zakeer

Spark is proud to feature, Abha Iyengar, Anuradha Kumar, Dr. Dipika Mukherjee, Fehmida Zakeer and Hema Raman – writers whose works have been published in literary journals all over the world, writers whose works have won great recognition in the form of awards and writers who have achieved many other milestones in their writing career. Do check out the profiles that accompany their stories – they are a pleasure to read!

“Blue Sky” themed on the rasa, Adhbutam (Wonder) & “The Inner Room” themed on the rasa Bībhatsam (Disgust) by Abha Iyengar “Mismatched” themed on the rasa, Hāsyam (Mirth, Happiness) & “Mala’s Marina” themed on the rasa Roudram (Fury) by Hema Raman

Of course, this introduction cannot be complete without mentioning how wonderful each of them is as a person – their humility, trust us, just cannot be missed. It indeed was such a pleasant surprise. Inspite of having very successful writing careers to their credit, Abha, Anu, Dipika, Fehmida and Hema were so understanding, co-

“Honour” themed on the rasa, Vīram (Heroism, Courage) & “Breath” themed on the rasa Śāntam (Peace) by Dr. Dipika Mukherjee Find the stories spread across this issue.

A Special Feature 9

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Writer of the Month Hema Raman Raudram & Hāsyam Hema.S.Raman has been writing for the past six years and her short stories have won many prizes. She was the Regional Winner (Asia) in 2007 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association short story contest. Hema also won the first prize in the Katha India Currents short story contest in 2010, first prize in the Sampad-British Council international writing contest in 2010 and first prize in the Indian Women’s Press Corps short story contest in 2011. Her stories have been shortlisted in several other contests and published in many anthologies and magazines. She is a British Council certified creative writing trainer.

Raudram & Hāsyam | Hema’s story, ‘Mala’s Marina’ is about a little girl who sells bajjis at the famed Marina Beach in Chennai, a little girl who is a witness to nature’s fury. This is a piece that has the rasa ‘Raudram’ (Fury) as its theme. ‘Mismatched’ is based on the rasa that’s quite the opposite, namely, Hāsyam (Mirth). A girl brings her boyfriend home to a rather strict father. In the end, the father and daughter share a laugh. Find out just why.

Flash Fiction 10

Spark—September 2012 | Navarasas


Raudram | Mala’s Marina The Marina beach on this humid Saturday evening is a sea of people, with islands of constantly shrinking sand. This sea threatens to take over, as more people arrive and hardly anyone leaves. Children shriek with delight, through mouths sticky with cotton candy and ice-cream. Lovers whisper secrets. Old people relax on blankets. Occasionally, boisterous groups of friends pass by. Evening breeze blows the bright kites high and playfully snatches away bits from the jabbering voices. It billows Mala’s full skirt and she hurriedly tucks it down. Mala has to concentrate on the orders, as hungry customers return from their walk to the sea. A family dressed in their shiny best, demand quick service. She has all that she needs at hand, arranging everything meticulously according to how her mother would do it. She draws the sign of the almighty on the sand, says a prayer and sits within a circle, enclosing her and the sign. Onion, cauliflower, chilly and potato are the varieties of bajjis she offers. She quickly cuts or grates as she makes. This way there is no wastage. The deep pan that she uses is constantly boiling with oil and she dips the vegetables in the batter, frying them until they are golden and crisp, as she mentally queues the orders.

As dusk approaches, lighted ships bejewel the plain horizon. A flower seller attempts to entice Mala into buying jasmines for her braid. She lights the lantern, knowing that she must never buy the jasmines, irrespective of how fragrant or cheap they are. They stole them from the fancy mausoleums of famous and departed leaders further down the beach and would bring ill luck, mother had warned. Mother had been the bajji seller and fourteenyear-old Mala had helped after school. Mother sold soups too, making them out of the leftover vegetables. It had been a cool December morning when mother loaded the piping hot, mixed vegetable soup on her bicycle for the last time. Mala heard her moving around, but shut her eyes tight, as mother might call for help if she saw Mala awake. She must have gone to her usual place and the customers would have come. The early morning joggers and the children who skated or learnt karate, all lining up. Maybe, it had some members of the laughter club, tired after laughing loudly together, for good health. Then, without a warning, the queue was shattered by the ferociously angry predator, the marauder of the Marina, the sea that rose in a huge wave, diluting mother’s soup, making a salty mess. For days, the orphaned Mala searched for mother amongst the dead fishes that filled the beach. She never found her.

Onion, cauliflower and then potato or was it It is 10 pm and time for Mala to wind up and go two plates of potatoes? back home, to sleep alone and dream of mothShe hurries and some hot oil splashes on her er’s warmth. She never once questions the unhand. Wiping it away with hardly a wince, she warranted wrath of the sea or the unfairness of serves the bajjis in aluminium plates covered it all, but only prays to the sea to let them be. with newspaper and hands it to the customers Tomorrow would be another day of early mornfor ten rupees a plate. ing soup and evening bajji selling. 11

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zled by this strange nervousness. Arun’s fingers creep up to his pocket but he holds them back “No, I can’t let you marry him.” by swinging them up and down and sideways as “At least meet him once. He is waiting outside.” if he is exercising. Mala’s father is amused when this charade continues for a while and he be“Every day, I see him talking, laughing and gescomes smug when the lower body shivering beturing wildly. Mad fellow. ” gins. He almost anticipates it when Arun runs “I shouldn’t have told you that he passes our out without even excusing himself. house on his way to work. Getting a little carried Lydia follows Arun with the tea tray and the away on one’s hands-free doesn’t mean anyfleeing figure of Arun calls back, thing. I am calling him in,” says Lydia. “I cannot do it. I just can’t.” Her father sighs, thinking of how his pampered, motherless daughter always gets her way. Not Once out of the compound wall, he stops and fingers his phone lovingly, enjoying the beeps of this time, he decides and juts his chin out. the incoming messages as he shifts from vibrating Outside, Lydia whispers threateningly, “Shut mode to normal. your phone, Arun.” “I hate you. How can you, Arun?” fumes Lydia, Her scrawny, spectacled boyfriend nods and but there is no one to hear. fiddles with his phone. Her father tries hard to hide his glee as his After Lydia introduces Arun to her father, her daughter walks in. He guffaws and puts a hand father stares at the blank wall. She tries to start a to cover his mouth but can’t stop himself as his conversation, but gives up when her father prewhole body shakes. tends to be deaf and even Arun doesn’t answer her. In a short while, she excuses herself and “You are so mean,” she says, but soon she too can’t help but smile. goes in to make tea.

Hāsyam | Mismatched

At first her father doesn’t notice Arun’s discomfort, but when Arun swings his hand, he is puz-

Also in this issue: Stories by Abha Iyengar, Anuradha Kumar, Dipika Mukherjee & Fehmida Zakeer

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Poetry

Kāruṇyam

Heartbreak by Jessu John

Kāruṇyam | What happens when two very close friends who have always been there for each other have an ‘unspoken love’ between them? They restrain confessing their love to each other worrying about a tragic heartbreak, in the process living with heartbreak every day. Jessu John writes a poem that captures the rasa Kāruṇyam (Tragedy).

In the quiet between us,

I wonder how

I know the depths of heartbreak,

You cannot trust me so.

That you and I

Name your fears to me,

Will be broken

Let me undo them

By an unspoken

One by one.

Love. It is either us or them,

I know why you are waiting,

Those others who weary us.

You know why I wait too. The beauty

We speak the same language,

Of our quiet mutual intuitions

Yet why can we not utter

Is sometimes too painful

What we know?

For words.

In the solitary nights

Do I desire to hurry my healing

Between your coming again,

If only to be special to you?

I’m shattered by your silence.

Yes, I do.

If I may speak and unburden

Yet, this restraint is needed,

A lifetime of my troubles,

You know it, I know it too. 13

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There is a heartbreak Waiting to happen, And it happens everyday

Heartbreak

You unravel the secrets of my pain, And I, I long to know The mysteries of yours.

There is a heartbreak Looming over us, Will our bond be blown apart by it? Will I lose you to denial Or disillusionment? Will I be searching for you In the darkness Of a wrecked friendship? Or will you be a warrior And claim me From the pits of our heartbreak And make me yours forever?

Jessu John is a Branding and Communications professional based in Bangalore, India. She loves all the joys and challenges of a corporate career, but would choose to write if she was given just a day to live. While she does not limit herself to any one format or genre, she finds reading and writing poetry relaxing. These days she also keeps herself busy with her new found passion of long distance running. You can follow her latest blog Force of Dreams and link with her on Twitter (@JessuGoodfellow). 14

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Fiction

Sringāram

When the Sparks Fly by Vinay Krishnan

Sringāram |When the sparks fly between a man and a woman, you know it is the perfect setting for Sringāram (Love). Vinay Krishnan writes a story that unravels this beautiful rasa.

He stood at the top of the flight of stairs, looking impa- or basically anywhere else in the planet. She’d be tiently at his watch, waiting for his friend. He was five an extrovert, completely open about herself, minutes late already. nothing to hide, and immensely independent – all this and other clichéd expectations based on He was about to call his friend when he sensed movement figments of your imagination. around the corner. He was about to say, “Thank God you’re here. I was-”, when he saw the most beautiful sight And then I met this girl. he’d ever set his eyes on. From around the corner came a She’s been great so far. She’s not much of a talkgirl who had the loveliest of faces, and the brightest of er as I, on the other hand, am known to be. She vibes. She passed him, and there it was –that feeling. smiles often, laughs at every lame joke I crack, His insides felt warm, and his heart fluttered like it was and is full of sunshine. just hit by a million watts. I spoke to her for the first time, last month. She Sparks flew. was more of a listener than a talker. I didn’t noWhat you just read must have sounded like a tice it at first, but she has a habit of giving this scene from many a chick flick that you must completely adorable smile in the middle of conhave seen or have been dragged to. Ever experi- versations that sets my heart racing to the moon enced it in real life? and back. I didn’t get to know her much on the first day, but I wanted to come back. This kept I’ve known this girl for a month now. happening till I realised that slowly my priorities Might I add that she’s definitely not the kind of and my expectations were changing. I started to girl I’ve had in mind for myself. like this girl who was not only nothing like I’ve always pictured myself with the kind of girl whom I’d hoped to be with, but in certain ways who is very talkative, so we can have those long very contradictory to the imaginary girl I’d learnt conversations on the park bench, or over coffee, to love over the years. 15

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I’ve not got to know her a lot better after all this while. But I get this intense feeling every time I am with her. I’ve learnt to completely understand the idea of loving someone not only for who they are but for who you are when you are with them. When you are with them, you feel a connection with them that no words can really define, or explain—a connection that may be emotional, intellectual, or of any other kind. All I can say is, this girl makes me be a lot more like

myself than anyone else has, does, or probably ever will. I see her now, sitting across the hall. She walks this way. She gives me that smile and asks me what I’m up to. And I swear to God, sparks flew.

Vinay Krishnan is currently pursuing his post-graduation in Transportation and Automobile Design. Besides being a design student, he’s also a blogger, daydreamer, thinker, and artist by heart. His dream is to change the way people see the automobile and also to own a firm that caters to understanding and designing what people would like to see in their automobile. He blogs at http://myscribblesonpaper.blogspot.in/ and has a chapterised novel at http://mylifeoutofthebox.blogspot.in/

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Writer of the Month Fehmida Zakeer Bhayānakam & Kāruṇyam Fehmida Zakeer works as a freelance journalist as well as an Instructional Designer. Her articles have appeared in various publications such as Azizah, Herbs for Health, Good Housekeeping and Prevention, to name a few. Her stories and poetry have been featured in many online magazines such as Out of Print, Muse India and Everyday Poets. Her story, “Shuttered Landscape” has been published in the anthology “Pangea” published by Thames River Press. Fehmida was shortlisted twice in the prestigious Binnacle Short Story Writing Contest.

Bhayānakam & Kāruṇyam | ‘Silent World’ is the story of a mother, whose world is, well, silent. In this silent world, vibrations set in, unleashing some kind of horror. The story explores the rasa Bhayānakam (Horror). ‘Crossings’ is a moving story of school children off for an excursion. It touches upon the rasa Kāruṇyam (Tragedy).

Flash Fiction 17

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Bhayānakam | Silent World The silence threatened to smother her but she refused to let the skeins of self pity ball up within the empty spaces of her ears. She should consider herself lucky; here she was preparing dinner for her twins and husband when last year this time, dinner for her had been some glutinous mixture sliding down a tube. Not that she remembered it as such, but that’s what she had been told. She remembered very well what had landed her in that state - a blazing headache and a blinding light that burned and sucked her into submission. Two months of life wiped off - she’d been lucky to wake up she’d learnt. She looked at the twins arm wrestling, presumably yelling each other’s ears off – she grinned, she was now spared the ear splits her ten-yearolds specialised in. She tapped the counter with the spatula and said “Don’t shout.”

ous vibration that waxed and waned imperceptibly. The light shade moved a tiny bit. She rushed the twins down the staircase; on the way, they banged on every door down four floors. Minutes later the residents of the apartment complex watched as the earth shook violently and buildings all around them tottered on their foundations.

Kāruṇyam | Crossings “Miss, next excursion let’s go someplace by train.” Leena laughed. “Sure, Arun, we’ll ask the principal whether we can plan a train trip for our next excursion.” The bus jumped along the road causing its occupants to clutch their seat handles in alarm. “Baalaa…careful,” Leena raised her voice over the din of the chattering children.

The driver looked back and grinned… “Don’t you worry, Miss Leena. I just wanted to give the Their arms fell off each other immediately and children a little excitement.” both asked almost simultaneously, “How did “They are excited enough with the outing to you know we were yelling?” Tipu’s fort. You keep your eyes on the road. “I knew,” she smiled, thankful of her newfound Please don’t jump over humps as you are wont ability to read lips. to. If the bus breaks down here, we’ll be stuck,” But that’s not the only ability she gained as she she peered out of the window, “We should have adapted slowly to the blanketed world where taken the main road.” sound waves could no longer drum beat their Balan waved his hands and looked through the presence to her. The waves now took different mirror, “Trust me miss, less traffic on the road paths to reach her – they tapped a litany of tinand scenic too. The children will enjoy, so what gles on the back of her neck or vibrated up her if it is a bit of a roundabout.” He pointed and arms and feet. Like the buzz caressing the soles called out. “Children… rail tracks.” of her feet now. Maybe it was the doorbell but the feeling was too faint and the boys had not The kids on the right side of the bus craned raced to the door. She felt it again – a continu- their necks for a glimpse, while those on the 18

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left side let out a cacophony of “We can’t see”.

do you think-it is a train?”

Miss Shalini reassured them. “When we cross Balan looked through the mirror, his gaze skitover the tracks in a little while it will come to tered past the sweaty faces of the teachers to the your side, then you can see.” incomprehensive eyes of the children. He kicked open the door and jumped out grabbing the Leena walked up to the front. She stood behind bottle strapped under the seat. The approaching the driver’s seat and balanced herself against the train was a mere speck in the distance, its conpole. The tiny ribbon of the road sped by, caustours getting more defined every second. ing a green frenzy along the sides in its wake. Balan raced towards the train, splashing the conA lone sign popped ahead. tents of the bottle all over him. Leena gasped “Be careful, this is an unmanned crossing.” and looked at Shalini whose eyes were shut Leena sounded a quiet warning. tight. She shifted her gaze back to see pungent “I know, Miss.” Balan brought the bus to a kerosene vapours leaping in response to the call standstill. His eyes traced the twin pairs of paral- of the tiny matchstick in Balan’s hands. She lel lines disappearing into the horizon on both sagged against the seat, gasping for breath. sides.

A wail pierced the somnolence of the midHe switched gears and inched the bus forward. morning hour. Birds snoozing within the recessThe bus bobbed past the first pair of rails. It es of leafy canopies rose up in alarm contribcleared the first rail of the second pair, and then uting to the disjointed eruption of sounds. A tempest of leaves and burning smells exploded the engine spluttered. even as the bus rocked between the tracks. Balan swore under his breath and twisted the key…once…twice, but there was no response. Leena opened her eyes and took a step back the massive train shuddered to a halt couple of He tried again…and again. inches away from the bus. A boom traversed its way from afar. Shalini who had walked over, clutched at Leena, “Is it-

Also in this issue: Stories by Abha Iyengar, Anuradha Kumar, Dipika Mukherjee & Hema Raman

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Fiction

Hāsyam

Operation Katpadi by Aravind Menon

Hāsyam| A man on train meets yet another man, whom he finds a very interesting personality to observe. In a story that embodies the rasa Hāsyam (Mirth), Aravind Menon takes us on an interesting journey marked by interesting observations of a curious traveller. In the end, there’s a little message too. Here’s something to make you smile.

With great difficulty, I peeped through the sambar-stained window pane. The caterpillar-like train spat out thick black smoke and I figured out that it was moving towards a faint yellowcoloured board in the distance. Ah! A station approaching, I smiled to myself. My tummy made humble grumbles to let out its frustration and though my rectum made significant efforts to back it, I pressed myself hard against the seat in order to not let it out. I had faced many an embarrassment due to this. Though there were just two of us in my six-seated cabin, I could not take a risk as my co-traveller was a lady, a young lady to be precise. The yellow colour board was now nearer. What was it? Kapada? What a name! A place named Kapada? Is it Kadapi? Of course, there is Cuddapah that I had read about in Social Sciences during school but Kadapi? Must be Kapadi. I peeped out again. After making yet another failed attempt to use my pathetic knowledge of the Hindi alphabet, I read the English version out loud. Katpadi Junction. I

looked at my watch. Ten minutes past four. Perfect time for a couple of samosas and the ‘socalled-tea’ of the Indian Railways. The seat in front of me was empty and understandably, I converted it into a comfortable rest-place for my aching feet. Even as I rested thus, I wondered who would come in to play spoilsport. The train came to a halt. I got down and looked to the left and then to the right. There were neither samosas nor a tea stall to be seen. My tummy hurt again and I had to relieve myself of, well, you know what. Quickly reconciling from the discomfort and disappointed at samosas and tea eluding me, I started walking towards the train when a man in red shirt turned up. “Sir, tea?” I nodded. I handed him a ten-rupee note. “Change, Sir?” Bloody lizard. He wanted change for ten rupees too?

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“No change Sir. Ek aur tea?” My nasty look must have given him the impression that I had started giving ‘adjectives’ to even his great grandfather’s secret wife. He at once put his hand into his shirt pocket and took out 10 to 15 five-rupee coins. I looked at him again as if he had just run off with my sister. In reply, he gave a wide grin from which I understood even the brand of paan masala he used. I sipped a mouthful of the liquid from the paper cup. What in the world was that? It tasted a bit like Horlicks, a bit like sugar concentrate, even like ayurvedic syrup. To be precise, it had the taste of many liquids but tea. Without spilling a single drop, I placed the paper teacup inside the trash bin. Tired of the ordeal, I got into the train. Now, this was the last thing I wanted for the day. Mr. Spoilsport had arrived. I sat opposite him and removed my sandals. He stared at my feet and smiled. “What?” I asked. He shook his head, smiled wider and immediately looked out.

directly, preferring to observe him closely through the corner of my eyes. I wondered how long he would continue this exercise of his but soon found out he had other things to do too. After about ten minutes of ‘enjoying nature’, he took out a book and started reading. It didn’t seem like a novel of any kind; rather, it looked like an old diary. He had his glasses on now. As though looking out through his side of the window, I surveyed his facial features. Must be a college lecturer, I thought, and the diary ought to be his notes. I wanted to ask him badly, but thought of not disturbing him from his engrossed reading. After about 15 minutes, he again started his ‘nature’ exercise. Would he be a geologist? Even I looked outside just like him. All I could see was an uninteresting landscape replete with dry vegetation including small shrubs here and there. Or was he a scientist? Would he be thinking about some solution to a problem in his diary? Yes, he did look brainy. Uh, how I hated physics in my school! One hour passed. I wanted to talk to him badly. But he did not even bother to look at me. Was this normal for a social being? What was that he was reading about? My curiosity was crossing its limits. Was there anything queer about him? Yes. He behaved in an odd way. Too preoccupied with his work, and avoiding me deliberately. His beard though short, evoked a little fear within me. I would have shared minimum five to ten posts in Facebook that read “All bearded men are not terrorists” yet there was something within me that made me begin to doubt him.

How did this man know about what was going on in my mind? The train gave a hoot and started. My feet’s enemy was still staring out of the window, like a kid enjoying his first train ride. I guessed he would be in his mid-thirties, or early forties. Of course, I definitely looked younger than him. He wore a cream-coloured kurta. A cloth bag lay carelessly on his lap. My first impression of him was that of a literary figure, his Two hours passed. Suddenly, to my surprise, he short beard adding strength to my assumption. got up and walked away. Should I follow him? I His eyes were still set upon the countryside that looked at the others in my cabin. None of them raced outside. I avoided looking into his face 21

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seemed to bother. I looked at his seat. No.11. The white cloth bag caught my eye. The bag, yes, the bag. He walked away just like that leaving the bag there? Now, my heart started pounding. The bag certainly had something inside it; the rounded bulge spoke for it. My legs were growing restless, my bladder was getting full. Should I report to the Railway Police? The memories of an old Bollywood movie where the hero saves a train and its people thus, started running in my mind. Fifteen minutes elapsed. Yes, I knew things were not good. I made up my mind. Gathering all the courage left in me, I got up. Just as I took my second step, Mr. Nature Lover came in. We stood face to face. He smiled at me. I smiled back. Should I talk? But he did not wait, he sat and took out his book. To avoid embarrassment, I simply walked out of the cabin as if I were heading to the toilet.

He peeped out. The train was slowing down, a station, I guessed. He got up. To my surprise, he left his bag behind and started moving out. I grew nervous. My idiotic co-passengers were too busy to notice all this. I decided it was time to act. With all my courage, I went behind him. “Excuse me Sir, your bag.” “Huh?” “Your bag, you left your bag there.” “I just came to wash my face, brother. How did you know I’m getting down here?” “I... err.. I guessed.” “Thank you.”

I wanted to ask his whereabouts. But there was some inhibition within me that stopped me from continuing the conversation. Just to make sure that he did not escape leaving his bag beAfter five to ten minutes, I came back and sat hind, I waited alongside him until he went back down. The man was writing something now. Or and picked his bag. was he drawing? What could it be? I stood up as if to straighten myself to get a peek. He leaned Should I ask him? It’s not impolite to do so. Just back immediately as though he understood my ask him casually, I told myself. The train came intentions. He smiled once again. I smiled back. to a halt. He was drawing. Was it a map? Was he doing a survey of the train earlier? What was he planning? My eyes were set on the big bulge in his bag. He still evaded conversation with me. I was reluctant too, thinking it would be impolite to disturb a man preoccupied with his work. I traced his hand movements. He was making crosses. Then he drew something, long lines and short lines in between. Then two circles. My god! Indeed, it seemed like a map. This man was certainly one among ‘those’. He started writing something. He wrote about two to three lines, folded the paper and held it between his fingers. 22

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“Err…Sir, are you a writer or a geologist?” Of I felt as if I were a seven-year-old made to strip course, I could not ask him whether he was a for an injection. With a gentle whistle, I went terrorist. and sat quietly in my seat. My feet took to the empty seat in the front. Though his words had He gave a wide smile and handed me the piece thrown a rotten egg at my face, I liked them. He of paper that he had between his fingers. He got must be a writer, I guessed. May be a nature down and disappeared into the crowd. It was writer. Or could he be a geologist afterall? Could the same paper in which he drew the map and be a lecturer too, there was nothing to suggest marked places with X. My eyes widened. I unotherwise. Or what if he was a terrorist afterall folded it slowly. There were two horizontal and I had spoiled his plan for the day? lines, two vertical ones and x and 0s within them. He had been playing the X and 0 or the tic-tac-toe game. Below it were these handwritten words: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. But sadly for curiosity, brother, there is no cure.”

Aravind Menon is a doctor by profession who likes to keenly follow his passion for creative writing. His works have been published in The Hindu Openpage and in online magazines like The TeenMag.

Do you own a copy of our anthology, ‘Sparkling Thoughts’? Order it now at http://pothi.com/pothi/book/anupamakrishnakumar-sparkling-thoughts

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Poetry

Navarasas

Navarasas by Parth Pandya

Navarasas | A haiku each for each of the nine emotions. Parth Pandya brings in a new dimension to our theme, ‘Navarasas’. Revel in Haiku magic.

Sringāram (Love, Attractiveness) Hair strand tucked behind A moon rises from darkness The light glows hearts

Kāruṇyam (Compassion, Tragedy) The wait ends

Hāsyam (Laughter, Mirth)

The road is crossed

Limbs flying high

Hands help eyes

Banana peel claims Its shocked victim

Bībhatsam (Disgust, Aversion) Small hands beg

Raudram (Fury)

He raises the window.

A light. Then sounds.

“Driver, go fast”

Then the attack unfolds. Rain unleashed

Bhayānakam (Horror, Terror) A scenic view Perched on a mountain His leg slips

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Vīram (Heroism) Curtain unfolds An audience awaits The boy smiles

Śāntam (peace, calm) A tap drips

Parth Pandya is a passionate Tendulkar fan, diligent minion of the ‘evil empire’, persistent writer at http://parthp.blogspot.com, self-confessed Hindi movie geek, avid quizzer, awesome husband (for lack of a humbler adjective) and a thrilled father of two. He grew up in Mumbai and spent the last eleven years really growing up in the U.S. and is always looking to brighten up his day through good coffee and great puns.

He listens keenly The rest fades

Adbhutam (Wonder) A blue globe Lights the horizon An Earth-rise

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Writer of the Month Anuradha Kumar Sringāram

Anuradha Kumar’s most recent novel, her third, is 'It Takes a Murder' (Hachette India). Her other two novels are “Letters for Paul” (Mapinlit, 2006) and “The Dollmakers’ Island” (Gyaana Books, 2010). She has written for older readers and also for children, and her stories have appeared in several magazines and newspapers. Anuradha has won awards in the Commonwealth Short Story competition twice, for short fiction.

Sringāram | In a work of flash fiction, Anuradha Kumar gives the rasa Sringāram (Attractiveness) a different facet. ‘Her Beautiful Face’ is the story of a man, and a woman with a beautiful face.

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Sringāram | Her Beautiful Face The door slammed, and he knew. He would never see her again. The late evening rain pelted down, that sudden heavy downpour with flashes of lightning. The way it rained in Singapore, when you never knew when it started or if it would ever stop. It was the way she had spoken to him, hurled at him her books, her DVDs, even her clothes, whose sharp hooks had stung him hard on the face, drawn blood too.

ing its every contour, as she walked fighting the rain. He saw her skirt move, stretching as she surged forward, swinging and flapping as the rain proved too overpowering. One day she had taken off her skirt and walked in the rain. But this was not her, it couldn’t be her.

Angry now, he took a step on the bridge, his breath drowned by the rain. The world had turned silver and gray in the rain. The universe was just that small bridge and the two of them. To forget something, you fill your mind up with He would forget her. Begin now, he said. One something else, that’s how it worked. by one, disregard, throw away every image of He rubbed his eyes, and saw it come away with her. blood. The hook of her skirt had caught him He pulled his windcheater tighter around him- there, rough and he had walked out, seeing red self and stopped at the bus stop. For a minute everywhere, hearing her scream when he had only, he said. struck her. The vase hurling towards her face. There was the crunch of plastic, the creak of the The most beautiful face in the world, and he had seats, and the patter of raindrops on the roof. not waited to see what had happened. Her The lights made yellowish circles where scream too was the colour of red. raindrops danced. The woman next to him At the streetlight, she stopped. And leaned stretched out her ankles, and he saw them show- against the banister. He saw her fingers curl over cased in red. Red pointed shoes with a dagger steel. Blue painted, dotted with red. The way like heel, and her ankle perfectly poised, rising they did their nails these days. Her slender above like a delicate cup. Ankles he had known wrists, decked with raindrops, and the slim arms too, the kind you’d love to rest your head swathed in white, her cream shirt stamped with against. rain. He wiped his face; his hands were now pale He moved on, impatient, tapping his umbrella, -red. The rain washes away everything, even past sins. It redeems. not using it. The rain had to make him forget. Someone ahead of him rushed up the stairs that She turned, her face red with blood, as his was. He saw before him again, the most beautiful led up the Kallang Bridge. face in the world. Her wet skirt clung to her legs and body, shap-

Also in this issue: Stories by Abha Iyengar, Dipika Mukherjee Fehmida Zakeer & Hema Raman 27

Spark—September 2012 | Navarasas


Fiction

Raudram

Pazhani of 17M by Vani Viswanathan Raudram | Pazhani, the conductor of 17M, is very angry today, and as the bus courses through the long, crowded Mount Road of Chennai, has innumerable reasons to lash out at the passengers. The emotion of Raudram (Anger) is brought out in a story by Vani Viswanathan. “Aren’t you buying your ticket, Radha?”

what do I get for bringing them all this money? A measly couple of thousand. My ungrateful “I only have two rupees – the ticket costs four. bitch of a wife cribs about it all day long – not I’ll buy it when the bus reaches Sapphire bus that it stops her from stealing it from me the day stop.” I bring it home, mind you…” A man loudly cleared his throat, making the two The oiled-hair woman did a customary “Is it girls jump. The girl called Radha turned back so?” and went back to looking out the window gingerly. The bus conductor was standing right at the dusty summer heat of the retreating afterbehind her, and if it were a cartoon, you’d see noon. smoke coming out of his nose, he was fuming that bad. Gritting his teeth, Pazhani said, “Find Pazhani then yelled at two people who shoved another two rupees and buy your ticket now.” 100-rupee notes to buy tickets. Stuff the note up your behinds, he told them. When a tired womThe girl nodded and frantically collected another an sat on the conductor’s seat, wiping beads of two rupees from her friends, and passed the sweat off her forehead with her saree, he went money down the crowd to where the conductor cuckoo, and cussed until one of the men stood was sitting. Pazhani took the money, glaring at up and offered her his seat. He abused the drivher throughout, as the girl cringed with shame. er whenever the bus took a sharp turn or braked “Bloody cheats. Thieves. Stealing money off the so hard that people fell on him. When he ran government,” he said to no one in particular, out of 50 paise coins, he yelled at people who although the lady with the well-oiled hair sitting insisted on asking for their change. “What will in the row right before the conductor’s seat nodyou do with 50 paise, buy Aasai chocolate?? I’m ded sympathetically from time to time. “And 28

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not hiding it, look! I have nothing and 50 paise Pazhani pushed through the crowd, growling at will add nothing to my fortunes!” the people to give him way. He grabbed the grinder by the collar, and yelled at the girl. Pazhani wasn’t usually this vicious. Today was “Won’t you tell him to move? Have you swalespecially bad because this morning his wife had lowed something that makes you mute?” People pointed out with much taunting that he couldn’t looked at the scene with a mixture of interest afford to buy their daughter a new pair of shoes and fear, worried that Pazhani might turn to to wear to school (which her father was paying them next for not saying anything to the offendfor anyway, because Pazhani’s miserable thouing man. sands were just enough to keep the roof over their heads.) Pazhani muttered under his breath Pazhani didn’t have any of that, though. He again, mostly focusing on the wife and the gov- simply dragged the man down the steps of the ernment, but also bringing in the Municipal Cor- moving bus, and gave him one shove. Right on poration for laying terrible roads that made the arterial Mount Road of Chennai. Where a shoes go bad months after they were bought. thousand vehicles ply at any given minute. The He stared at the crowd inside the bus. Nobody man bounced off a car bonnet, and fell on the was on the footboard, he had barked at them road. The crowd in the bus was straining to long enough to annoy them to move inside. A catch a glimpse, and many gasped. A car group of giggling school girls, women with sa- screeched to a halt right before the man, and the rees sticking to their bodies, men with multiple man managed to get up, shaky-legged, and coldark sweat patches covering their shirts… and a lapsed near the yellow divider. The bus driver man busy grinding against the girl called Radha, realised there was a commotion, but only who, Pazhani noted with disgust, was standing stopped at the LIC building bus stop. Pazhani stiff, terrified, not saying a word. was fuming again. His chest was heaving with rage.

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An old woman with crinkled skin and glasses whose lenses were so thick you couldn’t see her eyes, boarded the bus, and stood right in front of Pazhani. He looked up at her because she kept knocking against his knees as the bus creaked and groaned its way down Mount Road.

here,” he said, offering his seat, and went to stand at the footboard, looking at the traffic flowing down the road, his heartbeat slowly returning to normal in what seemed to be the first time the whole day. The shoes could be managed if he didn’t drink for a week, he realised.

“Ei, kezhavi!” he called to the old woman. “Sit

Vani Viswanathan is often lost in her world of books and A R Rahman, churning out lines in her head or humming a song. Her world is one of frivolity, optimism, quietude and general chilled-ness, where there is always place for outbursts of laughter, bouts of silence, chocolate, ice cream and lots of books and endless iTunes playlists from all over the world. Vani was a Public Relations consultant in Singapore and decided to come back to homeland after seven years away. Vani blogs at http:// chennaigalwrites.blogspot.in

This month’s Spark features a lovely artwork too. See the back cover of this edition.

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Poetry

Bībhatsam

The Rose on the Night Stand by Smruti Patil

Bībhatsam| Smruti Patil captures the helpless state of a woman trapped in a relationship that disgusts her, a life where hope is scarce and repulsion is in excess. A poem that is themed on the rasa Bībhatsam (Disgust).

I get up to see the rose on the night stand, I stretch out to touch it but he pulls me back, He pulls me back hard and strong, As I fall, losing that moment of solace, His mocking laughter echoes along.

I think of the day that lies ahead, Yet another day when I will be slaughtered, Not just in body but in mind and my heart, I try to count the days spent in this dungeon, But the scars on my trembling hands stop me before I start.

The rose on the night stand has begun to wither, Reminding me of my shrinking soul.

From dawn to dusk, I sit quietly, facing this agony, 31

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No words, no noise, no reason either, My demure nature, no match to his atrocious authority, With no one by my side, I am my own griever.

Every night I die again, When he rips my dignity with his lustful mind,

But his eyes do the trick of shattering my soul, And at this moment, I lose another part of me.

The rose on the night stand has now shrivelled, Reminding me one day it will be my turn.

Under the dim light and the dark shadows, All I hear is my soft cry for freedom, Freedom from this cage, freedom from his presence, Freedom from this bitterness, freedom from this self-pity, Freedom from this wretched, abhorrent subsistence.

As I dress up tonight to fulfill his desires, I hold on to that delicate string called hope, Every day I am born again, only to die,

The Rose On the Night Stand

He touches me never to open me,

But I think of that priceless moment When I will fly deep into the sky.

Though the rose on the night stand has now lost its petals, Its lingering fragrance strengthens my belief - in hope. 32

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Yet, while I prepare myself to satisfy his notions, I think of the unknown world that lies outside, What if there are more like him, All those who are waiting to lay themselves on me, Uncertain and unsure, I see the gentle ray of hope dim.

I realise that my vulnerability is my own enemy, I see him waiting to unleash himself on me, I am swamped in aversion and disgust, And I repel the idea of breaking free.

Maybe this dirty pond is better than the dangerous sea out there, I console myself, I hold myself, up for the night ahead, Somewhere there must be a reason, If not a new me, there might be a new him, Filled with doubt yet some hope, I pray there is no new deception.

For, tomorrow again, I will get up To reach out for yet another rose on the night stand.

The Rose On the Night Stand

I shudder, I fear, I come back to reality,

Smruti Patil works as an Integration Consultant and lives in California, U.S.

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Writer of the Month Dipika Mukherjee Vīram & Śāntam Dr. Dipika Mukherjee is an award-winning writer and is the author of the novel, ‘Thunder Demons,’ which was long-listed for the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2009. She won the Platform Flash Fiction competition in April 2009. Her work has appeared in the Asia Literary Review (Hong Kong), The South Asia Review (U.S), Flashquake (U.S), Freefall (Canada), Del Sol Review (U.S.), Pilot Pocket Books (Canada), Quarterly Literary Review of Singapore (Singapore), New Writing Dundee (UK), Asiatic (Malaysia) and Muse India (India). She has edited two anthologies of short stories: Silverfish New Writing 6 (Silverfish, 2006) and The Merlion and Hibiscus (Penguin, 2002). Her first poetry collection, ‘The Palimpsest of Exile’, was published by Rubicon Press (Canada) in April 2009. She is currently Professor 211 at the Institute of Linguistic Studies, Shanghai International Studies University, Shanghai. She is also a Fellow at the International Institute for Asian Studies in Leiden, Netherlands. To know more about Dipika, visit http:// www.dipikamukherjee.com Vīram & Śāntam | Dipika’s first story ‘Honour’ reflects the rasa Vīram (Courage). It examines the courage of a brother and a sister, a brother who follows the norms of his community and a sister who breaks such societal norms. In her second story, ‘Breath’, Dipika touches upon Śāntam (Peace). It’s a flash fiction on a little boy’s relationship with his grandfather.

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mad ride through the city, the wind whipping her hair. Instead, as he leads her out of the car, She doesn’t know why she is here. The mist she finds her hand tightly clasped in his. She completely draped the mountainous roads as her feels his tears, the jagged smear on his cheeks, brother and his friend drove through the night, and she finally understands why she is here. and she now awakens to a morning curled into silence. The distant mountains, dragon-like, spit His thumb caresses her neck until she angles her misty vapours into a paddy field studded with head. Her blood is a warm hum, its thrum slow monasteries. The car comes to an unsteady halt from the drink, but she still feels the blade smooth over the creases of her short journey as the tire spins unevenly on the gravel road. through life. The friend says, “Hurry up. Some herder will get Śāntam | Breath curious soon.”

Vīram| Honour

Her brother still grips the steering wheel, his The boy loved purple balloons. Dadu would knuckles strained. He looks straight ahead, but blow carefully into the purple ones (after they she sees his eyes glint in the rearview mirror. had separated all the yellows and greens, the pinks, reds and blues), puffing until his shriveled She peers out, still groggy from the drink. The cheeks rounded like ping-pong balls. Dadu’s rooftops shiver with prayer flags and three hands shivered as the balloons grew, his breath schoolboys in uniform squat, playing marbles in shook, and often, Dadu would have to stop and the valley below. She imagines the dust rising cough until he couldn’t breathe anymore. Then with the flick of deft fingers and colours clashthe boy would run to the kitchen tap, balance ing into each other recklessly, fused momentaricarefully on the rickety plastic step he was outly by the impact of that joyful click before the growing and fill a glass of water. The old man race in opposite directions. would pat his young head wordlessly, gulping She looks at her brother; they used to play mar- down the water, some of it dribbling onto his bles together. But this is not the time to discuss shirt. Sometimes, after the fit of coughing, Dadu childhood games. She has been locked up for would have to change, his pee wet on dark the past three weeks, the wooden barricade lift- pants. ed twice a day for the food to be slipped in. The As a treat, Dadu would take out ripe guavas nausea of her pregnancy, the rumours of her from the fridge and warm them in the micromurdered lover... she had lost her appetite anywave for the boy, peering blindly at the numbers way. on the display and stabbing aimlessly until the Her brother yanks the door open. Her bruised machine whined into action. The boy hated anyface hangs down as he hisses, “What were you thing cold in his mouth. thinking? Why are you making us do this?” Today, Dadu’s cheeks are unpleasantly cold to She wants to hug his waist again, like the times his lips. The house is full of people he does not she sat behind him on a motorcycle through a know. A cousin explains what has happened, 35

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and ends by saying that Dadu had gone to loons, floating up into the sky in a happy release. Heaven, pointing upwards with sorrowful eyes. The boy also looks up. But no matter how hard the boy tries, he can’t see it; he can’t see Dadu, filled with the breath of the many purple bal-

Also in this issue: Stories by Abha Iyengar, Anuradha Kumar, Fehmida Zakeer & Hema Raman

Buy the print editions of Spark’s June 2012, July 2012 and August 2012 issues online! Now available at http:// www.pothi.com

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Non-fiction

Navarasas

Empowering Emotions by Priya Gopal

Navarasas| The nine emotions play a very important role in our lives, particularly children. It is therefore important for parents and teachers to help kids identify what they are feeling and why they are feeling so, opines Priya Gopal. This helps them grow up into emotionally-strong and confident individuals, she reasons. Read on.

“I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want early in life. The emotional state of a pregnant to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.” woman’s mind is believed to have far reaching effects on the development of the baby in the ― Oscar Wilde, the Picture of Dorian Gray womb. It’s not uncommon for elderly women in What’s a human being without emotions? Emo- the family to advise young, pregnant women to tions are present in every living minute of our keep themselves in a happy state of mind. ‘A lives. They rule the roost in our waking hours. happy mother, a healthy child’ is something They manipulate our dreams. They help us ex- most gynecologists' would tell expectant mothpress ourselves, in the process, aiding us to un- ers too. derstand and interact with the world.. The navaThe Emotional Spectrum of a Child rasas, I believe, are emotions inherent in every living being, playing a major role in our lives A child is born an emotional being. He comes every day. The mind of a child is an exciting into this world demanding not just physical atcanvas for emotions. Children go through dif- tention, but also emotional care. Babies react to ferent emotions, at times, without knowing what emotions and go through emotions themselves. it is they are feeling. As adults, parents and Research has shown that infants less than three teachers have a great responsibility in helping months old feel at least five different types of children identify what they are feeling and why emotions: joy (Hāsyam), anger (Raudram), sadthey are feeling so. The ability to identify emo- ness (Kāruṇyam), disgust ( Bībhatsam) and wontions helps in developing an emotionally-strong der (Adbhutam). Infants use these emotions to and confident individual. link themselves with the outside world. They relate to people and things using these feelings. As far as children are concerned, emotions start 37

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Babies as young as three months have their favourite toys. I remember when my husband bought a little toy puppy for my four-month-old daughter, she looked at it with her wonder-filled, large, twinkling eyes. The pup barked and she screamed with joy. But the moment it flipped over, it scared her so much, the look in her eyes spoke of the disgust she felt for it. The pup retreated to the showcase and never came out till the day we gave it to someone.

As they grow older, they become curious. They ask questions and want to know the answers. The world around them is Adbhutam (wonder). Every day teaches them something new. They become seekers of information, especially of their immediate surroundings. As parents we need to encourage them to explore, treat their questions seriously and answer them sincerely. The more kids explore, the more confident they become of themselves. This is because their curiosity is being fulfilled. This generates a sense Right from infancy, children go through the of satisfaction in them. process of developing trust. Kids have very clear ideas in their minds as to whom they can trust Right from the age of two, children learn anger and whom they cannot. That is why a one-year- and frustration—particularly when their deold cries when a distant uncle tries to cuddle mands are not met. These demands could be him. Distant uncle is definitely a stranger in the physical or emotional. The fact that you didn’t child’s mind. This is Bhayānakam (fear) that de- buy a toy for them or that a teacher chided them velops out of mistrust. for an incorrect answer rouses these emotions. It is at these times that we need to teach them As kids grow older, they use their emotions to how to identify what they are feeling and why. tell us what they want and what they don’t want. Most of us usually share the positive emotions. The terrible-twos are called so because at this When your child has won a race, you tell him stage, children are actually discovering the emohow happy you are; discuss how happy he is and tions they are capable of displaying. Throwing generally how happy and proud the entire family tantrums, screaming, shouting—the habits of is about him. But when it comes to anger or the terrible-twos are a result of their process of frustration, we often chide the kid and close it self-discovery. They suddenly realise that they with a ‘Grow up!’ But isn’t that exactly what he have so many different kinds of emotions in is doing? He is growing up; finding it confusing them. This is the stage when they get more conand we don’t seem to be aiding him in that. trol over their own lives. Support your child in his endeavour to attain this independence and Negative Emotions: The Role of a Parent feel the pride. Little things like using building When the child is angry, irritated or frustrated, blocks to create structures give the child a sense discuss why he is feeling so. Let him talk about of achievement and independence. Let him learn these feelings. Only then will he learn to handle to put on his shoes on his own. He may take them too. Children go through all the emotions time, but the wait is worth it. These small that we adults go through. However, the way achievements nurture in him the feeling of they express it is very different. They don’t exVīram (heroism). actly know how to express their emotions and 38

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hence turn to displaying it at a physical level. A child throwing a tantrum at a mall may not necessarily be misbehaving. He may just be trying to communicate something to the adult who has failed to understand. He, therefore, expresses his emotion by physically throwing himself on the ground. The most influential gift a parent can give the child is the freedom to express his emotions to him. When the child is comfortable expressing what he feels, he is more in control of himself. And when he is in control of himself, he knows how to handle his emotions. He may be angry, irritated, happy, ecstatic or sad, but when he expresses himself, he is not confused about what he is feeling. It is highly critical for parents to aid in the emotional development of the child. Discuss emotions with your child. While reading out books to them, show them pictures of the main characters. Discuss what feelings the character may be going through. Ask them, for instance, “How do you think Snow White is feeling? Is she scared? Is she happy?” Make small moments of life your teaching moments. Discuss how your little fellow got irritated when he had to share his chocolate with his sibling. Let him say why he didn’t want to share it. He just may have a logical argument that may not go with your lofty ideals of sharing and caring. But when he refuses to share because of hurt or anger, point out the emotion to him. If he tells you, “I am angry with my brother. He refused to give me his toy to play. Why should I share my chocolate with him?” he is connecting to the anger within him. Tell him, “I know you feel angry. Let’s talk to your brother too and see if

both of you can share your stuff.” This way you teach him that his anger is not directed against his brother but against his unwillingness to share his stuff. Play games like Simon says. Simon could ask them to be happy, sad, angry, brave, curious, thankful, loving, scary etc....cover as many emotions as possible. Soon your child will know the subtle differences between each one. He will begin to acknowledge these within him and outside of him. Handling the Emotional Teenager As your child is growing up, he goes through a number of issues: peer pressure, exam stress, rising expectations of the adults around him and conflicting viewpoints on almost everything. By the time kids reach their teenage, most parents are at loggerheads with them. Loud music and louder voices usually demarcate a house with a teenager. This predictable scenario could be averted and avoided with a little care from the side of the adult. Teens grow to experience emotions that are new and thus confusing once again. His heart wants to write a letter to the pretty girl in his class, but his mind tells him that he should be completing his journal. His heart is on winning the next level in a video game, while his mind wants him to practise the piano. This tussle between the heart and the mind within, releases a good amount of frustrating energy which at times get personified with vigorous physical reactions, swear words and the building of a ‘no one can tell me what to do ‘ attitude. A child who is able to identify the emotions that he is experiencing, grows into a teenager who may not be as confused as those we generally find around us.

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This stage can be a peaceful sail through if the adult is capable of helping the child handle the emotional upheaval he is going through. The question at this stage is not what the child is feeling. Frustration arises from the fact that he doesn’t figure out why he is feeling thus. Most children go through adolescence without realising why they are feeling what they are. This makes them grow into adults who are equally confused about what is happening.

self discovery.

The trick to managing a turbulent teenager is to manage your own emotions. ‘Keep cool while you school’ should be your mantra. If you get agitated for every little thing that the teen does, do not expect him to be paragon of peace. Help yourself maintain your peace of mind. Always find a different perspective. Look at the situation as your teen would. Try to remember the time you were a teen. How did you feel? Once Encourage your son or daughter to speak to you hit the connect button with your teenager, you. Try to get a parenting moment in the day the turbulent years could turn into terrific years. when you can just hear what your child wants to A little bit of encouragement, a little bit of pasay. If your child is not very communicative, tience, a little bit of caring and a little bit of sharencourage him to write a diary of what he feels. ing through their years of growing up, will enThe attempt to verbalise his emotions will give sure the navarasas paint a pretty picture on the him the ability to look at what he is going canvas of your child’s life. through with a different perspective. As he reads what he has written, he will question himself about why he feels so. This exercise will give him the required privacy to handle his own emotions. It will also aid him in his journey of

Priya Gopal is the Section Head (CBSE) at the Curriculum Department of Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd., Mumbai. An educator by choice, teaching and interacting with kids is something that has enthused her over the last 16 years. Priya lives in Mumbai with her husband and two children. She blogs at http:// keepsmilinginlife.blogspot.com

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Poetry

Adbhutam

The Wonder in Your Eyes by Anupama Krishnakumar Adbhutam| A child’s curiosity and sense of wonder is unparalleled. Anupama Krishnakumar expresses the wonder, which one witnesses as a father or a mother, in a child. Here’s a poem that explores the rasa Adhbutam (Wonder). The day I waved those colourful blocks In front of your chubby and soft innocent face Although your eyes caught them as mere shadows Your black, beetle-like large circles darted alertly.

My dear child, Since then, I have seen the wonder in your eyes.

Within tiny fingers, soft like fresh rose petals Little things became their mesmerised captives In those tender confines, they were turned and turned This way and that way, dropped and picked, and explored.

My dear child, Then too, I have seen the wonder in your eyes. 41

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Soon that sweet little pinkish tongue too Swung into action in a milestone-filled drama You wanted to demystify the conundrum called world Through taste - crawling and then walking towards targets.

My dear child, Then too,

What do I say of how music touched you? That magic that has permeated a wonderstruck you That which has soothed your fears and made you joyous Each time, you have looked deeply at the source of sound.

My dear child, Then too, I have seen the wonder in your eyes. *** When the power of words entered your life First to be understood and then to be spoken What was seen, felt, heard and tasted

The Wonder in Your Eyes

I have seen the wonder in your eyes.

In words, they found a joyous, new expression.

The beauty of articulation coloured our lives Like million colours splashed on a canvas Like the many hues of the evening sky you looked up at Pointed a finger to and mouthed your wonder. 42

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And like the pigeon that you watched awestruck With pure, innocent joy, as it flapped its wings and flew Your wonder too found a pair of strong wings Ready to take flight into unknown realms.

Molten wonder was cast into baffling moulds Those moulds called thought-provoking questions

Only to be heard incessantly, defining the deep thirst to know. *** My dear child, Now too, I see the wonder in your eyes.

But what I also see, at times Is hurt and disappointment Born out of unconvincing answers That fail to satisfy your curiosity The shortcomings and impatience Of an adult’s mind Marring the joy of exploration.

The Wonder in Your Eyes

Why, what, how and when have now entered our world

Don’t give up, o’ little one, On this beautiful emotion called wonder It’s a gift that we have failed to guard For ourselves Letting human wrath corrode And turn wonder into rust. 43

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Don’t give up, o’ little one, On this beautiful emotion called wonder

With as much open mindedness As this demands. Perhaps then, I will rediscover Somewhere along the way The joys of wonder.

Anupama Krishnakumar loves Physics and English and sort of managed to get degrees in both – studying Engineering and then Journalism. Yet, as she discovered a few years ago, it is the written word that delights her soul and so here she is, doing what she loves to do – spinning tales for her small audience and for her little son, bringing together a lovely team of creative people and spearheading Spark. She loves books, music, notebooks and colour pens and truly admires simplicity in anything!

The Wonder in Your Eyes

I promise, I will walk along

WANT TO BE PART OF THE SPARK TEAM? GET IN TOUCH WITH US AT editors@sparkthemagazine.com VISIT www.sparkthemagazine.com FOR MORE DETAILS! 44

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Fiction

Bhayānakam

Circles Bhayānakam| A student weak at Math, a professor who might be crossing the line, and a row of tamarind trees on a college campus - the perfect setting for Bhayānakam (Horror), don't you think? Meghana Chandrashekhar pens a story.

by Meghana Chandrashekhar

My college, situated in the outskirts of the city, is well known for its huge campus stretching across many acres of land. The best part is the different kinds of trees spread across the campus. I especially like the line of tamarind trees just behind Block C. Whenever I think of Block C, the image of MD drawing a perfect circle on the blackboard in classroom C-22 comes to my mind.

MD’s. I was very excited but the excitement was short lived, for I couldn’t get any sense of what he was saying and moreover, it was mathematics – the one subject I hated and had hoped I was done with in school and pre-University College. All I heard was planes, angles and lines. Concentration is not one of my strengths. Soon, my mind happily wandered and I was imagining what would happen after four years.

It is said that over the past year, MD had started behaving very strangely. He would walk out of class looking very scared and had even demanded a different staff room from the management and when they did not agree, he had quit the job. A few days ago, he was found dead in his house. It seems he had locked his room up from inside. Rumours suggest that he committed suicide because of the various allegations and court cases he was involved in.

My daydreaming was interrupted by the girl sitting next to me. She nudged me and started scribbling in the last page of her book. Joined Late? First Class??? Yes. I wrote in my book while pretending to take down notes. U re lucky!!! U missed 3 of his classes. Why?

I still remember the first time I saw him – the Our seniors call him MAD DOG! first class of my first day in engineering was MD moved away from the blackboard, took a 45

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metal sphere and rotated it.

“You are very weak in Maths.” He paused.

“If you see, the world is full of circles; the earth “Join my tuitions; otherwise you will fail in the is also…” externals,” he said, in a low but stern voice. He was right. I could have in no way earned those His bald head is also a circle. I wrote in my book. marks. I had only attempted three questions. She giggled. Everyone asked me how I got full marks in a “Hey you green top, get up.” The two of us subject I hated and wasn’t good at. The answer looked up to see MD looking in our direction. that everyone assumed was that MD was a little partial towards me and I was the only privileged “Why you are laughing? Is this a movie?” student from my college who was about to at“Sir, but…” tend private tuitions at his place. “Get out of the class.” On the first day I went to MD’s house, he was half an hour late. There were seven of us, and “Sir” the other students told me that MD was always “I said OUT!” late for class. We waited for him in his house. I “A circle consists of …” he continued. I felt saw his wife pouring coffee into glasses in the bad for that girl. She had to leave because of me. kitchen. Soon, a month was over and it was no secret that I was the only one in the class of 35 who had not been barked at or sent outside the class. My friends told me that my turn would come soon, but it never did. After the internal test in the first month, he told us to come and collect our papers in his staff room, and as the Head of Department of Mathematics, he had a separate room in the ground floor of block C.

“Coffee,” said a small boy who held a stainless steel glass in front of me. I took the glass from his hand and ruffled his hair. He smiled at me and ran away to the kitchen to get another glass. I still remember how great it tasted; it’s sad that I can’t have it now. I was looking around the house. There was a room right next to the kitchen. The entire house was well lit but that room was dark. My first thought was that it would be MD’s.

“Your sheet is here,” he said, handing over my I was right. MD came back while I was helping paper. His hand brushed against mine. I thought his son with his Science homework. He went it was accidental. straight into that room and returned with a textbook and told us rather politely to go to the ter“Thanks, Sir” race. He then told us to start solving problems “I have given you 25, but you have not earned from page 89 in the textbook. it.” It was said that the students for the private tui“Sir?” tions were handpicked by MD from the hun46

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dreds of applications he received from various colleges every year. He didn’t charge fees. He tried his best to make the subject as interesting as possible. Despite his best efforts, though, my hatred for mathematics remained, and I continued to be as bad at it as ever. His son was my only motivation to go to his house. I loved helping him out with his homework and talking with him till MD came.

“Why did you come so early? The class is at 7.30 today, I mentioned it in the message.”

I was 15 minutes early that day. There was no one on the terrace, so I went down to the house to check if anyone was inside. I couldn’t see anyone in the house, so I went to MD’s room; he was sitting on a rocking chair. My first instinct was to run from that place, but I saw him get up.

I went near him and whispered,

“No Sir, you said 7 pm.”

I took the phone from my pocket and began checking the message when I saw him moving towards me. I believed that he was coming towards the switchboard on the wall behind me. After a few seconds, I realised that he had cornered me against the very same wall. I had my The huge terrace in MD’s house was customised back against the wall and his hand was by my for tuitions. There were four rows of chairs and side. Before I could react, he shut the door and a black board. The fourth row had only one slowly locked it. chair, and that was the one I would sit on for all classes. Sometimes, MD would stand very close The creaking sound of the lock made me shiver. to me and stare at my book. It would get very I knew something bad was about to happen to uncomfortable. I would feel his breath on my me, and it did. I tried to run away from him, and hand. He was my professor but there was some- he pushed me down with great force; my head thing wrong about this man. I always avoided hit the steel rod of his cot, and I slowly lost conthis argument in my head; I tried to believe he sciousness as I felt the warmth of my own blood was just trying to make me better at mathemat- oozing out of my head. Later, I realised that he had buried me in a deserted area in the college ics and nothing else. campus. It was about three months since I had started attending tuitions that I received a message from Now on to the mystery surrounding MD’s MD that the class scheduled for Thursday was death: I was there with him that day. He was to be on Friday instead. My college internals had sitting on that same rocking chair all alone and I been scheduled during that period. I did not was leaning on the same wall. He was lost in his bother checking on it with the other students on thoughts, and didn’t even notice me playing with the changed timing; I thought it was done for the light, switching it on and off to get some me to concentrate on the two internal tests on attention. He went out and came back with a torch and sat on the chair again. Friday. “Mmmmmmmmmm” And then, “Dddddddddddddd” “Sir…” I said, floating above his head.

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I saw beads of sweat forming on his forehead. would die if he saw me. I should have guessed it. His right hand, which held the torch, was shiverEven after I died, I tried learning mathematics. ing. He tried to say something. Those pages from MD’s book didn’t help, but “Wh… h… ooo” what do I see next to you? Is that a math textbook? “Sir, it’s me,” I said, and shut the door from inside and switched the light off. He tried to get up but I pushed him on to the chair again. “So.. ooo … rry” He looked terribly scared, and made a desperate attempt at switching the torch on. Guilt took over him, and that’s when he finally saw me. He called my name and apologised, but it was too late. I took a textbook from the table and tore it apart and flung a few pages around, as if for special effects. I could hear his heart thumping loudly, and then I saw his eyes close. They never opened again, no matter what I did. After that I went through the door to one of the tamarind trees in my college. Initially I’d thought I would just trouble him; I used to follow him wherever he went, playing with the spheres in his room, sometimes juggling with them or throwing them in his direction. They always missed his head. I never thought he

Meghana Chandrashekhar has a degree in Engineering and works with an IT firm in Bangalore. She is an avid blogger, fussy foodie, pampered sister and an expert procrastinator. She is instantly attracted to people whose vocabulary is better than hers. She dreams of writing dialogues for her favourite movie stars and also aims at writing a psychological thriller.

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Writer of the Month Abha Iyengar Adbhutam & Bībhatsam Abha Iyengar is an internationally published freelance writer and poet. Her work has appeared in several anthologies, magazines and literary journals, both in print and online. She is a Kota Press Poetry Anthology contest winner. Her story, ‘The High Stool’ was nominated for the Story South Million Writers Award. She has won several literary contests. She has contributed to popular anthologies in the U.S. ‘The Simple Touch of Fate’, ‘Knit Lit Too’ and ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ are some of these. Her work has appeared in literary journals like Moon dance, Raven Chronicles, Gowanus Books, Tattoo Highway,Tryst3, Bewildering Stories, Kritya, River Babble, Enlightened Practice, Poet Works Press, Fabulist, Door Knobs and Body Paint, Citizen 32, Arabesques Review among others. Abha also has a book of poems, ‘Yearnings’, a collection of flash fiction, ‘Flash Bites’ and a fantasy novel, 'Shrayan' to her credit. To know more about her, visit http:// www.abhaiyengar.com

Adbhutam & Bībhatsam | Abha Iyengar’s story, ‘Blue Sky’ addresses the rasa Adbhutam (Wonder) and is a story of hope after misery. Her second story, ‘Inner Room’ focuses on the rasa Bībhatsam (Disgust) and is set in a beauty parlour. Read on.

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removed the bandages covering her eye. She had resigned herself to blackness and was sure she Two months ago, Rashmi had had acid thrown would see nothing. Life was futile. on her face as she was sleeping. Her husband, Munna, had come home and found her asleep, She opened her eye slowly, unable to bear the and she had not cooked the evening meal for pain of facing the truth. But her eye began to him. He had not found any work that day, he focus, to see colour, to see shapes. She was told the lawyer later when she asked him the wonder struck. She had forgotten how beautiful reason for this act. He was angry and hungry, he the world was. She glanced towards the window added, his face not showing any shame. “Reason and saw the blue sky. enough, don’t you think?” he had asked, and “Thank you, doctor,” she said. hoped for a positive response, some support for He held her hand and told her, “You are very his action. brave. And you will soldier on.” The lawyer had said to him instead, “I’ll see you Her lawyer was standing there, so was her in jail.” He had almost spat on her face, then daughter. They came up to her and she hugged changed his mind and spat on the floor. The them both. “Now I will not give up,” she said. paan he had been chewing left a brown stain on She spoke softly through her distorted mouth, the floor. “My husband, Munna, should be punished, lawRashmi heard all this in the hospital. She could yer Sahiba. He has finished my life.” not see, her eyes had been scarred by the acid. It “Yes,” said her lawyer, “one life is finished, your was perhaps good that her sight was gone, she life with him. But you will have a new life. We thought, for she could not see her own disfigwill find a doctor to restructure your face. It will ured face. However, a miracle had happened. A take time, but it will happen.” doctor was willing to examine her eyes and see if he could restore her sight. She was waiting for “A new life. An independent life.” She looked this at the hospital. She had not wanted the ex- out once more with wonder. She could see the amination, but Sunita, her fifteen-year-old blue sky. “Thank God, I am alive.” daughter, had been insistent. Sunita had stayed Bībhatsam | Inner Room close to Rashmi ever since that fateful night. “Rashmi, we can only operate on your right eye. The SonaRupa Beauty Parlour was small but The other eye is beyond repair,” the doctor said. clean. The lady behind the counter wore hot pink lipstick on a pockmarked face and several Rashmi accepted this. She did not have any beads around her neck. Srishti began to wonder hope but she went ahead with the operation on if she had been too clever in choosing a cheap, Sunita’s insistence. nearby place, but quietened her misgivings. The place was clean, and the young girl waiting to *** attend to the customers was simply dressed and “Rashmi, open your eye,” the doctor said. He neat. The salon was deserted and there was no

Adbhutam | Blue Sky

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other customer, so she would be readily attend- please don’t go in there.” ed to. The parlour owner was beating a young girl Srishti told the lady, who obviously owned and around the same age as Sona. The girl lay shiverran the parlour, that she wanted a haircut and a ing, covered with her own vomit, on the floor. manicure. “Don’t do this,” Srishti shouted, running in, “I’ll As the ends of her hair were chopped and fell to report this to the police.” the floor, Srishti closed her eyes. By the time she “Madam, stay out of this. It is not your business. opened them, the girl had soaked Srishti’s hands And police? What will the police say or do? She in warm sudsy water for the manicure. is my daughter. I can do what I want with her.” A woman walked in, and seeing the new cus“Don’t you touch her.” tomer, the lady behind the counter ordered the “Please make your payment and leave.” girl, “Sona, Rupa ko bulao!” The girl was painting Srishti’s nails. She looked up and Srishti nodded. Sona went into the room leading inside from the parlour. She came out and said, “Ma, Rupa is not well. She is vomiting.”

Srishti moved to pick Rupa up, but the parlour owner pushed her away. “My home, madam. Rupa, my child. You leave now.” “You will not hit her.”

“I won’t madam, okay?” she said with a sneer. The owner’s face changed. She asked the other “Now go!” customer to wait and went inside. There was the sound of a slap, a stifled cry and then some Srishti found herself staring helplessly. She could not stay there forever. more slaps. Srishti did not know what to do. It seemed She walked out of that place, her nails half coloured, and her self smudged forever with the strange to be sitting there getting her hands knowledge that a mother could heartlessly and painted with colour while someone was being beaten inside. The customer who had walked in, shamelessly beat her sick child and get away walked out, she obviously had no time for all with it. this.

She went home and vomited, loathing the reality Srishti stopped the girl, Sona, in mid -brush and of such inner rooms. She would revisit the room got up. She pushed open the door with Sona again and again in her mind, hating its existence. following close behind, pleading, “No, ma’am,

UP NEXT —> The Lounge, Spark’s non-fiction specialty segment. 51

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The Lounge

September 2012 52

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Storyboard| Film Freak

Thoughts on David Lynch’s Films by Yayaati Joshi

The works of David Lynch, which are hard to categorise into any one genre, are to be treated like Franz Kafka - watched, pondered over, understood, and only then will one realise his genius. Yayaati Joshi in his monthly Film Freak, pens some thoughts about Lynch and some of his movies.

It’s no secret that critics and fans have polarising opinions of David Lynch’s work, most of which is hard to decipher for the causal movie goer. His oeuvre is an array of work that is impenetrable, and to those who don’t invest much time in watching films, boring. The perception of his personality is that he is someone who has his own, peculiar visions about filmmaking, and they are often not in concurrence with what is considered to be “regular filmmaking”. An obvious and slightly populist opinion is that given he started out as a painter—and painters (or artists in general) are known to be quirky —some of that quirkiness, and abstraction crept into his films as well. One needs to look no further for evidence of complexity of Lynch’s work than the fact that one of the books on him is titled

“David Lynch Decoded,” acknowledging that his films need to be decoded in order to be understood. Not all opinions of his filmmaking are favourable. The first full length feature film that he made, Eraserhead, has got as many bouquets as brickbats. That the abstract, obtuse, and bizarre film was made in a period of over five years indicates either of the two things: the director is, mildly put, crazy—to invest so much time in a film that even he doesn’t discuss openly; or he was trying to produce a work of high art, which in the first place was never meant to be understood by many. Like a Franz Kafka novel, his first film is very difficult to understand. There is no other way of putting this across—there is no standard plot to begin with, characters appear 53

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out of nowhere, and the film features a terrify- the most Kafkaesque of things in the movie. For ingly disfigured, misshapen “child” that is appar- example, in one utterly grotesque shot in the ently born out of wedlock. film, the protagonist dreams that his head has been chopped off, and is taken to a pencil manLike Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the opening shot of the Eraserhead has no dialogues for almost 15 minutes—all one hears is what can be construed as the sound of many machines running together at a faraway place.(Interesting trivia: Kubrick himself liked Eraserhead very much, and the only other filmmaker to have solidarity in this matter was John Waters—whose films are as glacial, macabre and strange as Lynch’s). The first thing that we see is a sperm-like thread ejecting out of the protagonist’s head, and disappearing into space. The following scenes provide no explanation of the imagery. Then, in a dark corner, a man with visible blisters and boils all over his body is operating levers—which again, are left un-discussed and unexplained. Throughufacturing factory, where material from his head out the film, there are dozens of things that will is used to make pencils. If there were anything make the viewer feel uncomfortable. That makes that was most open to interpretation, then it was us question the intent of the filmmaker. What this first film by Lynch. Hardly belonging to the was he trying to achieve, with this dead plot and “horror” genre, as many critics and aficionados sickening spectacles? (Towards the end of the have labelled it to be, Lynch’s first recondite film, the protagonist cuts the bandages, in which film is important in at least one aspect: it allows the ugly “child” is wrapped, thus exposing all us to prepare ourselves for other movies by the the internal organs and starting a sort of foamsame director, and understand that he has a taste like bleeding, which can only be described as for the macabre. disgusting.) But perhaps Lynch himself knew that if he had If there were a subtext to the movie, and there to make himself known outside of the uppity were deeper meanings to each of the scenes, one circles, he’d have to make a more “mainstream” would have expected Lynch to explain those, film. And he came up with a cracker of a film— and make the movie understandable. But Lynch, The Elephant Man. The film was about a real life even in the DVD release, has been silent about character, John Merrick—known as the the premise of the film. The DVD release of the “Elephant Man” due to his facial deformity. film has him talking about the making of the Merrick’s head was considerably larger, and had film, but nowhere do you find an explanation to tumour like growths on his forehead, which 54

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were formed, it is believed, due to an attack of wild elephants on his pregnant mother (hence the moniker “Elephant Man”). The plot of the film was comparatively simple: a doctor spots a deformed man (John Hurt, long before he became the famous Mr. Ollivander of the Harry Potter series) at a freak show and makes an effort to cure him. The doctor, Anthony Hopkins, soon realises that he won’t be able to cure Merrick, and thus decides to shelter him in the hospital, by allotting him a permanent bed there. If this sounds like a simple tale of a bleeding heart doctor—it is not. Lynch is never divorced from his fascination with the macabre. Lynch puts the viewer so close to the deformed character that it takes a while before the character can earn our sympathies. By the end of the film, we see the character mixing with the society, being visited by actresses and receiving gifts from people— but there is a hint in the film that this is a very cruel joke. The type of joke that doesn’t make you laugh, but sneer. Because no matter how “accepting” the city of London becomes to this deformed character, in truth, their interest is piqued only because of his condition.

nominated for eight Oscars, thus catapulting him to worldwide fame, and establishing his expertise in dealing with traditional, linear narratives. Later in his career, Lynch went on to make some films like Dune and Mulholland Drive. The plots of all his later films were labyrinthine. Lynch’s work continues to baffle and astound critics, and adds to the fierce debate between “high art” and “commercial cinema.” If some critics are to be believed, then, these two terms belong in the trash can, so that each film can be seen as an individual piece of work, without the burden of being pre-moulded in a label. A counter argument is that the director is obligated to at least present something to the audience which they can enjoy—thus bringing the oft-discussed “escapism” angle to movie watching.

The most notable parts of the film are the ones where Merrick has to interact with “normal” people. For a person who is used to being awed at—usually in horror—it is difficult to accept that people can be kind to him as well. In a scene where the doctor introduces him to his wife, and shows him pictures of his children, Merrick comments “They have such noble faces.” Perhaps the children were not so pretty after all, but for Merrick, a regular face devoid of any flaws is “noble.” All of which brings me to this point: there is considerable drama in the film, and Lynch handles it all very well. The film was 55

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I am all in for trying out new styles of cinema, but at the great risk of being dubbed as a philistine, I have to say that I agree with people that they should get their money’s worth while watching a film. Lynch’s cinema is not something that I would recommend to people who are starting a serious relationship with movies, for it can take more than just time to adjust one’s viewing pattern, and get familiar with his work. Should that stop people from watching

his films? If there was a film festival with Lynch’s films being shown, then I am sure that first timers would walk out of the hall disappointed. But if initial reactions were anything to go by, Franz Kafka wouldn’t be considered a literary genius. His works are to be read, considered and pondered over to be understood. The same is true of David Lynch.

Yayaati Joshi is a man with simple tastes and intense beliefs. Contrary to the bling associated with the capital city, he prefers the company of close friends, an engaging book or an Alfred Hitchcock movie. His placid demeanour is often mistaken for reticence; Yayaati is a self-proclaimed loner, whose recent pursuits include his foray as a budding writer. Yayaati blogs at http://rantingsofadelusionalmind.wordpress.com.

Do you own a copy of our anthology, ‘Sparkling Thoughts’? Order it now at http://pothi.com/pothi/book/anupamakrishnakumar-sparkling-thoughts

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The Inner Journey Are You the World? by Viswanathan Subramanian Taking the discussion on memory and mind forward, here’s the third part to the series on the nature of the human mind. This month, Viswanathan Subramanian explores an interesting question, ‘Are you the World?’

In our discussions thus far, we have seen the role of memory in our lives – as to how memory is the root cause for problems that man faces, particularly in his relationships. We also saw how mind has to cease for life to be. Examining this further, I would like to point you to a book by Jiddu Krishnamurthy. It is entitled “You are the World”. The title brings about an interesting question for us to examine- Are you the world?

month’s column, starts from this aspect. Because we see the world outside us, it is logical and indispensable to accept the existence of one “first principle” which has the power to appear as many. Here is an analogy:

When we see a movie in a theatre, there is the light from the projector. This powerful light gets dispersed through the film reel running at a particular speed. There is a screen at the distance. Before we answer that question, let’s understand On the screen is captured the moving illusion of this. Plethora of questions – this is what the a cinema. Now, let’s draw the parallels to the mind throws up. The nature of the human world one sees. mind is to seek to know something other than itself. Hence, any initiative to know your reality What do we see around us? We see a picture of starts from the mind which looks outside itself. names and forms; there is a seer who sees, the mental screen on which the picture appears and Verse 1 of “Ulladu Narpadhu” by Bhagawan Sri the pervading light which illuminates this picMaharishi, which I had touched upon in last ture. In the normal course, the seer and the 57

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world seen are taken for granted. But what we experienced by us as God, a third separate entity, who is should perceive is that without the seer to see, endowed with unlimited qualities such as Omnipotence, there is no world. This is what happens when who govern the entire world and all the souls therein. one is in deep sleep. Even when we see this world of duality and multiplicity, Having said that, there is always this argument – non-duality alone is the Truth and hence all duality and there may be no world for those in deep sleep; multiplicity should be understood to be merely an unreal but, at the same point of time, there is the world appearance (like a mirage in a desert). experienced by people who are awake. This ar(Ref: Sri Ramanopadesa Noonmalai- Wordgument will not hold water, as experience of by-word in English by Sri Sadhu Om and people in waking state cannot be proof enough Michael James) for those in deep sleep. A mind (which is a reflection of the real light of There is yet another facet here. In a dream, there self-consciousness) is posited when we see the is only the dreamer who is transformed into the entire picture of names and forms. seer, the picture, and the background screen. Thus, the dreamer gets transformed into many Are we not then the world? Yes, you are the in the dream. Can you deny this experience? world! A separate entity called “World” is only Same is the case in the waking state, when our imagination and not real. Any multiplicity is an ego gets transformed into multiple dimensions. appearance in name and form and nothing but Hence, ego is the starting point of world seen becoming. around one. The entire appearance consisting of the world, the seer, the screen and the light are not other than the first principle, which is affirmed to be the reality, the real self. But, as long as we experience a difference between our self, the seer and the world we see, the one first principle will be

We are all then, in a common platform – infinite energy consciousness, with nothing other than itself. If there arises a doubt on this, then who is the doubter? Is he independent of the consciousness that you are ever?

Viswanathan Subramanian was a banker for over 35 years. In his new retired life, he loves poring over business newspapers and journals and making notes. Spirituality also interests him, and so a good number of Sri Ramana Maharishi’s and Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s books find space in his bookshelf. He is extremely passionate about movies and music too. You are sure to find some good old English movie DVDs and an enormous collection of old mp3 Hindi and Tamil songs at his place!

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Storyboard

Gangs of Wasseypur 2: A Review by Pranay Mathur

Pranay Mathur, an ardent fan of Anurag Kashyap, is glad that the director is back to what he does best, with Gangs of Wasseypur 2 - making movies the way he wants to. In this review, Pranay tells us about how despite its technical brilliance, clever script and hard -hitting dialogues, there were some aspects that could have been better.

As someone who has been well-fed on Anurag Kashyap’s staple of hard-hitting cinema, I couldn’t help feeling enthralled by the obscene attention to detail in the second installment of Kashyap’s ambitious venture and was thoroughly entertained, even if the film couldn’t satisfy my inner sceptic. His earlier films, inconsistently appealing though they were with respect to tone and purpose and the overall politics of the subgenres Kashyap loves to dabble in, were fulfilling on the most part though they could not match up to the haunting visuals and atmospherics of Paanch and Black Friday, which lingered on my mind years after having seen them initially. Leading their viewers to draw their own moral conclusions, both films were bona-fide

masterworks wherein Kashyap hadn’t lost the faith in telling a good story even with an early millennium audience that had given a cold shoulder to realistic, gritty dramas sans entertainment and masala elements in past, barring an occasional Satya. After facing troubles with an unkind, scathing censor board, the filmmaker somewhat lost faith and digressed from his roots and the kind of filmmaking he initially believed in. Taking a departure from the edgy, earthy feel of violent dramas, he made No Smoking – a film David Lynch would’ve found interesting. I do have a weakness for the Abraham-Takia starrer, but I severely missed the filmmaker who had arrived with a bang in the post-Ram Gopal Verma era.

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Following it was the youth-friendly and darkly comical Dev. D. Then there was Gulaal: a political drama intermittently narrated with beautiful poetic symbolism. I didn’t bother watching The Girl with Yellow Boots, as that was more about a smitten Anurag directing a screenplay written by his actress-wife. Coming back to Gangs of Wasseypur (GOW), in more ways than one, it is a return to roots for a filmmaker who after tasting adequate success with his target audience goes back to making movies exactly the way he wants them. Being a fan of someone who makes films on his own terms, I’m kind of glad he did. However, barring the usual ‘technical’ aspects, the intricacies of thought process behind every shot selection and the intensity and understanding of dramatic nuances of relatively unknown but supremely talented actors, GOW-2 on the whole is staple Kashyap cinema wanting of tension and narrative depth. It’s hard not to miss the irony in the events unfolding over six decades (the entire revenge theme is turned on its head in the final, shocking sequence; additional divulgence will spoil the fun for those who’re still looking forward to the film) but sitting through a movie that, amalgamated with the first part, lasts more than five hours long of screen-time, you can’t help feeling a bit needy of asking ‘What’s the point?’ to a script that has scenes sparkling of raw intensity and unbridled energy, but appears disjointed when considering the narrative. On the surface, Kashyap has made a shining example of how wannabe Hindi filmmakers, more focused towards manoeuvring filmmaking techniques, would want their films to be, instead of catering more to a neutral, unsuspecting observer who likes his cinema to unfold like the stories

he has always revelled in listening to since time immemorial. There’s much clever, albeit unnecessary use of dialogue in far too many scenes; sub-plots that have absolutely no relevance to the main story arc are frequent; and random characters appear and disappear out of frames without conviction. Anurag, in his quest for detailing and his unfailing love for every one of his talented bunch of performers, gets a little too lost in distinguishing one character’s motive and thought process from the rest, making most of them one-dimensional and thereby making much of his scenes redundant in a screenplay that’s carelessly edited.

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This is not to say the shortcomings of a film as ambitious as this are glaring enough to dilute the impact it has actually had. This one cleverly mocks Hindi cinema over the years yet contradictorily pays heartening, charming tributes to Bollywood stars through innumerable references. Much of the characterizations, Faisal Khan and Definite notwithstanding, take their often corny cinema of Salman Khan’s cult favourites Maine Pyar Kiya and Tere Naam way too seriously. There’s Perpendicular, whom I find most interesting and unpretentiously funny in the film (how he derives his name is still unclear though) who ironically gets, well, beaten to pulp after watching a film of which nobility is the underlying theme! The chemistry between characters, especially the heartening and amusing interactions between the leading couple (Siddiqui owns the film despite his small and skinny stature and Huma Qureshi, an easy

screen presence despite her character’s garish, over-the-top clothing), brings the house down on several occasions. It is, however, Zeishan Quadri as the Salman Khan fanatic, Definite who steals the show with his natural, restrained act. Kashyap is one of the most important voices in the Hindi film industry today. There’s no doubt that in the GOW series, he has delivered a oneof-a-kind picture that is bound to garner him more fans and accolades. If only he could understand the difference between a recipe that is naturally tempting and one that leaves you wanting and unsatisfied even after mixing the ‘ingredients’ in perfect proportions.

Pranay Mathur is a copy editor cum ardent cinema enthusiast, who, when not watching movies from all over the world, spends time reading and chatting up with friends. He also likes to read and write blogs and aims to be a successful fiction writer some day.

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Turn of the Page

Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary by Ankit Srivastava

In his review of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Ankit Srivastava professes his admiration for how Flaubert has dealt with a seemingly boring subject of life in rural France with excellence - and most importantly, without judgment on the protagonist's attempts to make her dreary life more interesting.

Legend has it that Gustave Flaubert, a romanticist at heart, got challenged by his friends to write a novel based upon the dreariest of all dreary subjects: life in rural France. What he produced is now widely considered to be the book that gave birth to the movement of literary realism. Madame Bovary is a painstaking and masterpiece study of the monotony that was rural life in France in the middle of the nineteenth century. But what makes this book really stand head and shoulder above many other great novels is how Flaubert manages to create vigorous emotional turbulence against the background of the commonplace and the mundane.

in the romanticized confines of the passionate tunes and melodies which have inadvertently promised her a life similarly fine and invigorating. She grows up to discover that real life doesn’t quite live up to the grand image that she had imagined growing up but she is too much of a romantic to give up against the weak bargain that she seems to have received. She marries a young doctor named Charles almost believing that she has finally possessed that fine and sweeping love that she had dreamt of growing up, only to be disappointed yet again. Charles, although madly in love with Emma, is after all merely a common man and Emma’s disappointment at his love, which lacks the vigour of ficMadame Bovary is the story of a small town tion, turns her to yearn and look out for other starry-eyed young girl, Emma, who has grown ways by which she might satiate her dreams of up reading the flamboyant stories of heroic sacbeauty, wealth, passion and high society. The rifices and of forbidden love. She has lived with62

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novel explores how the boredom of the rural life and the special disappointment it engenders in Emma, who had dreams of such beauty, force her into extra-marital affairs, crushing debt and eventual ruin. Along the way Flaubert gives us a compelling description of a person in the complete throes of her passions and the extents of selfcenteredness and cruelty to which they push her. The novel is a nuanced study in the power that our passions have on our perception of reality and morality. Perhaps Emma isn’t me and you but we have all had glimpses of her. She is forever looking at the world through the tinted glasses of her own twisted imagination and we’ve all had times when we have tried to fit the reality around us in the neat little moulds which our prejudices often produce. While most of us possess the rationality to snap out of such a mistake, Emma is forever caught in the dichotomy that the world around her is to her imagined reality. She is perpetually disappointed by it but her mistake is that she never gives up trying to bridge that gap. She flaunts the social boundaries in the little pathetic ways that she can but she doesn’t possess the courage to stand up to the social ridicule which must surely accompany such digressions. She is caught in an infinite limbo as she tries to sustain both the image of a respectable housewife and a life pulsating with the pleasures and passions of illicit liaisons. And yet, she is merely a human being not quite sure of what she is doing and oblivious of the repercussions of her own actions. She is a bit like us as she feels her way around trying to figure out what she can get away with. It doesn’t make her a bad person and Flaubert never

paints her as such either. He never judges her actions and never resorts to the assignment of generalized labels. He tells her story dispassionately and in excruciating detail, describes the ruinous results of her actions and moves away without ever implying that she has done something immoral or that she is repentant. Her final ruin is society’s way of disapproving her actions but it is remarkable that Flaubert saved her the final disgrace of falling in her own eyes. His is a sympathetic take on human nature. He is as sympathetic to the transgressor, Emma, as he is to the victim that is Charles but one almost feels that Flaubert reserves his final plaudits for Madame Bovary. He almost seems to nod the slightest of approvals at Emma for dreaming and for being mad enough to live and die for her dreams. In this tragic story of one woman’s constant suffocations in a world much more constrained than she had imagined growing up and

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her doomed efforts to break free in the small ways that she can, Flaubert hints at where he, as a genuine artist, stands on the issue of the worthy way of living life. One gets a constant sense that in the juxtapositions of the monotony of everyday life and the tremendous inner world of Emma, Flaubert is relentlessly asking us to pick what we would rather choose for ourselves. And

whether we would still choose flamboyance over dreary certainty if we were to meet the fate that Emma did. Madame Bovary is a great book and its greatness lies as much in its meticulous form as it does in the questions that it forces us to ask ourselves.

Ankit Srivastava is a researcher working at the University of California, San Diego. He scours the world of the written word in the perpetual search of the vitality and motion that he fails to find in the cold hard field of engineering.

SEND US YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO editors@sparkthemagazine.com FEEDBACK feedback@sparkthemagazine.com WEBSITE www.sparkthemagazine.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Spark/240605447679 Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/sparkeditor Pictures with no attribution have been provided by Microsoft’s clipart gallery and are copyrighted. Madame Bovary, Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Gangs of Wasseypur 2 pictures sourced from Google Images

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Simplicity

Śāntam

In Simplicity Lies Peace. Art by Anupama Krishnakumar 65

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Spark - September 2012 Issue