Page 1

Issue 3 September 2012

Them

Pretentious

Basterds

1


2


fiction 6- Annotating Ourselves, Rihan Najib; 12- The Title, Thomas Manuel; 15- The Habitat, Shivankar Jay; 18- The Sea, Vasudevan Mukundh; 23- The End, Shilpa Krishnan Poetry 26- Summer, Sandhya Ramachandran; 28- Sweet Labdanum, Smriti Prabhat; 30- Exasperation, Twish Mukherjee; 32- Odalisque, Geralyn Pinto Graphic Fiction 34- Ball Point Flash, Satwik Gade; 38- Forty Five, Basma Rizvi open letters 39- Dear Corner, Shivani Dobhal; 42- Dear Prudence, Chithira Vijaykumar

illustrations by

photograph by

Satwik Gade &

Yugandhara

Neethi Goldhawk

Muthukrishnan

3


Editors: Chitralekha Manohar, Rihan Najib and Dhiya Susan Kuriakose Layout and Cover Illustration and Design: Satwik Gade Acknowledgements: Neethi Goldhawk, Rashi Vidyasagar, Visvak Reddy, Niranjan Sathyamurthy, Kaber Vasuki, Yugandhara Muthukrishnan, Vishesh Unni R

Copyright 2012, Them Pretentious Basterds. The content of this magazine is protected under the Creative Commons, Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA) If you wish to use the content in any other manner, please contact us at: contact@tpb.co.in

4


Basterdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s note <>

We offer the reader a fair chance to briefly acquaint themselves with us before commiting to read this magazineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s contents. What does Them Pretentious Basterds stand for? Them Pretentious Basterds stands for nonmainstream poetry, fiction and narrative art from India. It stands for writers and artists who seem unable to quite fit themselves into an established genre. It stands for wit and dark humour and poems that pretend to be stories. It is about taking writing seriously, and contemplating semi-colons. It is about taking writing lightly, and letting characters trainwreck narratives for their own amusement. It is about carefully constructing structures and then maliciously destroying them. It is about self-expression, but also communication.

pages are filled with love, lust, loneliness, frustration, and sudden bursts of nostalgia. These stories defy genre classification, the poems dare us to. We hope you find reading these pieces as satisfying as we did. Write to us at tpbchennai@gmail.com Cheers, Chitralekha Manohar

Them Pretentious Basterds is edited by writers and designed by artists. It is a Chinese box of surprises, and rubix cube of meta narratives. We adore surprises and abhor blandness. There is no place for sledgehammers here moral, emotional or otherwise. Everything is subtlety and soft corners, we invite you to feel your way out of the maze. The Ochre Issue of Them Pretentious Basterds Magazine constantly looks over its shoulder, plagued by the questions of selfaware fiction and unreliable narrators. Its

5


Annotating Ourselves Rihan Najib <>

I

t is the year of some vague lord. It is the century of some cryptic animal in the calendar of a borrowed culture. It is Thursday. It rains, it rains, it rains. It has become a season of foulness under the toenails. She looks up when she hears the chimes atop the door of the café jangle in a chorus of announcement. He walks in briskly, holding a dripping red umbrella away from his clothes, but they are already soiled, his trouser hems are caked with mud. He is troubled by the way his damp shirt sticks to him, but he smiles tentatively when he spots her. He is here, after all. She stands rather awkwardly by the table. Smile quietly and shake hands. He asks, did I keep you waiting too long? I’m so sorry, but the roads, they are such a mess. It’s pure mayhem outside. You know, we might be washed away before we even get to the train. She smiles and replies, well then, the harbor is just around the corner. I’m sure some passing liner will give us a ride. He responds with a shrug and becomes preoccupied with the drenched contents of his wallet. Images of him as she has remembered all these years flash around even as she looks at him sitting before her. How strange to co-exist in this moment with his past and present. Let’s have some tea to warm you up before we leave. You

look like a drowned man. *** I watch the wind around her ankles; those gusts of air that distress the gauzy fabric of her skirt. Springtime is slender here, she says to me. She is regretting the skirt, of course; even on warmer days, I’d deem it foolhardy to be clad in something so generous to the wind. Feroz is sitting at a distance; I see him remove his sunglasses and turn to look at her when she begins to walk towards the river. Noura, just what were we doing that year in Istanbul? Can you remember? Cascading sheets of water hurl themselves at the window. Passengers whisper worriedly every time the lights fixed to the train’s ceiling flicker ominously. This season has moved from rain to ocean. She looks up from the newspaper and peers at me through narrow reading glasses perched precariously on her nose; her eyebrows arch searchingly. She asks, what? Can I remember what? Istanbul in ‘86. What were we doing there? She maintains her gaze as she takes off her glasses slowly. You had an assignment in TripoliI cut her off impatiently. I know I had an assignment in Tripoli. I had to wait six weeks

6


in Istanbul till I could get clearance to leave; I know all that, see. What were you doing there? And Feroz? I press my head against the cold windowpane and close my eyes. Well, I believe we were having an affair. You and him or you and me? Both. At the same time? No, not always. I look at her. You were engaged to Feroz, weren’t you? She flashes an ambiguous smile at me. Oh dear God. I pour some water onto my handkerchief and press it against my forehead. Occasionally I glance at the sphinx in front of me. Her mail had read, “My husband, Feroz, who had worked with you in Istanbul and Anatolia in 1986, is currently in the process of writing his memoir. He would be extremely grateful

if you could meet him to discuss details of that period.” It took me hurtling back twentysix years to a moment in time marked by the Kurdish insurgency and the Turkish military’s bitter reprisal. As I replied to her in the affirmative and set a date for our meeting, I wondered what such a reunion could herald. Then I fell to thinking of her and how some roads bend into themselves, bringing back bygones. But I thought no more of it until now. Three weeks of haze in a crowded city with a woman who was a fever. I was thirty two, conflict zones paid my taxes, and Reuters would fling me to every place on the map marked in red. Libya was being shelled to bits by the US at that time but I learned it would be a while before I could leave Istanbul. There was much lotus-eating as I waited for the call from my editor, and then one day, I met her at a meyhane by the

7


Bosphorus. I was reading the newspaper when she walked past my table humming a folk tune softly. I saw her lean across the counter to whisper to the proprietor, who only nodded grimly. When she came to my table again, she was wearing an apron and a disarming smile. Turkish Daily News or Milliyet, she asked as she set down the glass of raki that I had ordered. I let a moment pass for us to just look at each other. Guess again? I’ll order another round if you get it right. As she cleared my table of the empty raki glasses, she replies, that won’t be necessary. Some more of these and you’ll tell me soon enough. Over the next few weeks, I spent most

But censorship has always been customary with the Republic. I undress her as she speaks. Censorship is the mortar of the Kemalist regime, Ayman. But this law makes persecution a concrete fate. Folk singers and musicians are being rounded up and imprisoned on charges of inciting separatism. It’s quite an effective way to smoke out a culture. And Feroz…he makes sure no one reads about it. I don’t reply. I am looking at an unnervingly large purple bruise under her right breast. Then I see another one on her hip. It contrasts horribly with the whiteness of her skin. She puts a finger on my lips and

evenings with her, sufficiently smitten. Sometimes, Feroz would come round to the café and she would conspicuously avoid me, wearing a tense, edgy look about her. Once as we climbed up the stairs to my room, I asked her what it was that Feroz did. She stopped at the landing and took my hand, suddenly looking plagued. Do you know of İsmail Aygün? I shook my head. Nizamettin Arıç? Or İbrahim Tatlıses? I asked her if I should know them. She smiled wryly and said, they are the other fatalities of this war, Ayman. I opened the door to let her in. Soldiers? No, she replied, musicians. I see. And where does Feroz figure in all of this? Feroz writes for the Hurriyet, and that paper does everything in accord with the military. Now, I don’t know if you’ve heard about this, but three years back, the Ministry of Culture passed Law No. 2932 which outlaws broadcasts and publications in any language other than Turkish.

says, shhh. The train gives a jolt. I press the wet cloth against my eyes and address her. What were those bruises you had on you at times? She doesn’t look up from her newspaper. Judo lessons. J- Judo? I used to think they from Feroz. Feroz thought they were from you. I bang my fist on a small side table between us. She straightens up immediately but looks me squarely in the eye, challenging me to go on. You repulsive, vile thing. I went out on a limb for you! I researched all those laws, interviewed all those folk musicians and made sure every major magazine ran it. I put myself at stakeAnd look where it got you, Ayman. Your piece on the vanishing Kurdish musicians spawned an underground revolution. Then a few awards in the bag and the sub-editorship of the Middle-East bulletin to boot. Her voice grows tender. And be honest, didn’t it seem like a good idea at the time? To add a little

8


9


depth to that exasperating war. I suddenly recall the only time I was ever face-to-face with Feroz. I was wrangling with an under-secretary in the Ministry to get me an appointment with the minister when Feroz strode by. He stopped in front of us and looked at me for a long time; I read odium in his gaze. Then he asked the hassled under-secretary in an imperious voice, he knows I’m coming, doesn’t he? Yes, sir, you can go right in. Feroz nodded and glanced dismissively at me again before walking in to the minister’s cabin. Two days later, I was at the Faculty of Language, History and Geography at the University of Ankara, and I was writing my name in the library’s register when I spotted Feroz’s name on the page. The following evening, when I crossed the road to meet the Kurdish singer, Nizamettin Arıç at the restaurant he had suggested, I saw Feroz walking out through the very restaurant’s doors. I ducked into a side-alley and waited till he got into his car and drove away. Was I on his trail or was he on mine? Now I know. My hands tremble as I pour some more water on my handkerchief and press it to my forehead. You were playing Feroz with the same card. The train has begun slowing down. She watches the crowded station grate into focus and turns to me with a threadbare smile. You both thought you were doing something higher. But Feroz didn’t get very far, you know. He had to go into hiding when the military got wind of what he was doing. He stayed on in Istanbul in the sole hope that I’d leave you and marry him. Why didn’t you? You got him into that ridiculous mess, it was the least you could have done for him.

Because, Ayman, I wasn’t around. A few months after your article was published, I was shot for having been your accomplice. Because I didn’t die and because they didn’t have enough evidence, they shipped me back to Lebanon and told me to never come back. She rises. Come, now. We’ll have to catch a taxi to his place. It’s not too far from here, I gather. *** We are in front of a door that says Suleiman Efendi, Maestro Plumbing Solutions. She turns to me and for the first time since our meeting, addresses me sharply. Ayman, Feroz doesn’t know anything, he isn’t writing any memoir and we haven’t seen each other in over two decades. So one word from you and I will find ways to send you home with massive internal haemorrhaging. I am, as I have been for the past few hours,

10


utterly and unreservedly baffled. The door opens a crack to reveal the worry lines of an old woman’s forehead. She opens the door a few inches more and asks suspiciously, are you the relatives from Beirut? We are then allowed inside an apartment that smells of illness. The old woman mutters to herself as she leads us through a musty hallway. When we enter the bedroom, the lady tells the man lying within the tangle of tubes and medical equipment, it’s Noura and her husband. When I hear the announcement, I am suddenly overwhelmed with the weight of all that time has taken from us, I want to sink to the floor and no longer be part of this unending charade. Noura goes to the bed and

rasp. Cuckold! I stumble backwards, knocking over the chair and a small shelf of medicines. Out of nowhere, the old woman runs into the room, hollering like a caged animal. I am spreadeagled on the floor, breathless; my heart is conducting a riot somewhere.

places a hand gently on his forehead. She is about to cry. I turn to the window and stay there until she calls my name. Feroz would like to talk to you. Her cheeks are wet and there is a tremor in her voice when she tells me to watch the tubes. She leaves the room to get some water. I walk closer to the bed and sit on the chair next to the pillow. For the second time in both our lives, we face each other. Feroz smiles at me; he is a withered gourd of a man. Ayman, come closer. I lean in, willing myself to ignore the odours of old age and disease. Closer, Ayman, I’m a sick man. My ear is now so close to his lips that his voice fills my head in one ghastly

younger. Did he now? I could have made some excuse, yes. But after an age, we like our memories to summarize our lives for us. We spend some time walking around the station arm-in-arm. The train arrives late, with a shrill screech of metal. I look at her, she is smiling; there is a conspicuous lack of an apron around her. Go on, Ayman, I’m staying. I kiss her hand and step on to the train, turning back to wave at her before getting inside. She disappears from my window slowly, everything that she was and caused. I press a wet handkerchief to my forehead, feeling a bit shipwrecked.

*** She consults the train timings chart as I light a cigarette. Noura, you could have just told him I was dead, or that we had separated. Do you know he called me a cuckold? She laughs the laugh of a woman much

11


the title Thomas Manuel <>

T

hree fat multicolored Nazis sit at the bar. To their right, a skeleton band plays jazz instruments made out of matching monochrome lobsters. They sound like a herd of elephants having a particularly discordant orgy. None of the other patrons seem to mind though. Onewinged dragon flies fly above me, dripping blood and nectar on the gauze carpeting that is stretched all over the floor, spilling over onto the walls and the ceiling, creating an optical illusion that hurts my head. I push the pain away and continue to study the room. Somewhere behind me, in a corner, a bunch of men in rainbow tuxedos are sucking each other off. I hadn’t expected the Gay Mafia to come out tonight but it was too late to turn back now. A polka-dotted orangutan is huddled over his drink in the other corner booth, in a deep philosophical conversation with an inside-out crocodile. The croc didn’t seem to be listening, and simply stared blankly at the tomato heads as they formed neat lines and jumped into the blender behind the bar. A gremlin and a hairless bunny were copulating on the counter. I stop. Something is wrong with this picture. Is it the Nazis? No, no one would be that unimaginative. I have to give the kid writing this some credit. I honestly like the inside-

out crocodile and the rutting gremlin. What were the Nazis drinking? Fanta? I know it was invented during World War Two but in a bar like this? Butterfly piss would be more likely. And then it hits me, like a slap in the face, there is no bartender! Where did the glasses come from? It was the one thing missing from the picture. I take out Bubbles, the rocket in my pocket, my mini cannon, my guardian angel. I never leave home without her. Stepping carefully over prone porcupines with snicker bar quills, I approach the bar. I cock my gun, a stupid thing to do as just my thinking of the word caught the attention of the tuxedos behind me. They carefully extract the dicks from their throats and place them neatly back in the pants of their owner. The whole bar goes quiet but I am passed caring. I continue walking towards the bar, trusting my instincts. While there are a lot of things that the Gay Mafia might want to do to me from the back, shooting me wasn’t one of them. With a bullet, that is. Trying to peep over the edge of the counter turns out to be harder than it looks and I’m just about to blindly leap over to the other side when a giant panda in a waistcoat comes out roaring. Instead of eyes, he seems to have a small squid in each socket, tentacles waving like tiny sensory fibers. I can’t imagine how he drives during rush hour. That’s when I notice

12


he isn’t packing and I should’ve been using the female pronoun. She opens her mouth but I can’t hear anything. I step back confused and then I see the speech bubble over her head. It’s a goddamn comic book! Should’ve seen this coming, I’m losing my touch. The words in the bubble seem to be in Japanese though, but the art isn’t manga at all. I look down for the translation and realize the limits of three-dimensional vision. Meanwhile, this crazy panda bitch is still talking to me. I’m one step away from blowing her all the way to the glossary out of sheer irritation. That’s when the Tuxedos and the Nazis decide to step into the frame. I’m guessing this is a whole page illustration. The skeleton band start playing some phat dub step, it’s

pretty good but I’m not a big fan of the wobble sound. It’s overused, a white trash drug thing. Twenty guns are now pointing at me along with two tentacle eyes. They expect me to say something, not realizing that I have no clue what’s just happened. I can feel the tension in the air, it seems a bit early for a climax but what the heck, I activate bullet-time and let Bubbles loose. As she starts firing on all cylinders, I duck behind the counter. If I close my eyes, I could just be listening to a bad d’n’b track. I start humming the theme tune of Happy Days, trying to take my mind off the carnage going on around me. Bubbles isn’t going easy on them. I can imagine the slow motion bullet tunnels forming as the tiny capsules of death zoom towards their marks—heads, crotches,

13


hearts, whatever does the job. The tuxedos probably got the best deal out of the whole lot. Death is always easier to face after a blow job. The Nazis, I pity, Bubbles has a thing for blue eyes. I wonder how she feels about tentacles. When the sounds cease, I look up from behind the counter. Except for me and the skeleton band, everything is dead. The orangutan’s slumped over, each polka-dot perfectly pierced. What a time to get creative. Bubbles hovers in the air expectantly. I stroke her before putting her back in her holster. She loves it when I do that. The band stops playing and there’s a definite sense of an arc ending. They pull out shimmering razor blades from within their instruments and start skinning

and start rifling through her waistcoat pockets. There isn’t much except for a few cigarettes and an inflatable rubber raft. I take the cigarettes. Never know when they could come in handy. I start scanning the body with my body scanner for any subcutaneous devices. It beeps at kidney level. This is going to be fun. Shoving my hand up the panda’s arse, I rummage around till I find what I’ve been looking for. A small plastic packet with two ornate gold cufflinks. While not being enough evidence for a conviction, it’ll convince enough of the hoity toity to raise eyebrows and whisper about bad breeding as he passes by and there’s always the hope that he’ll die in the resultant duel.

the bodies with an almost ritual boredom. I guess this is how they recruit. Maybe the orangutan will play the theremin. Back to business though, I have some skinning of my own to do. I go to the panda

Feeling quite pleased with myself, I exit the storyline via a convenient plothole.

14


Shivankar Jay <>

F

or the longest time I have written in a confined space. A space that I call the writerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s habitat. I become a different person when I inhabit this space. To an external observer I might even appear irrational and insane. I speak volubly, seldom coherently, addressing inanimate objects that donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t answer back. I pace about, gesticulating in a body language of no known vocabulary. The observer might shake her head sadly, mutter something about failed lineages and go back to her activities. I remain oblivious, continuing my routine. The habitat is not extraordinary because

of its physical features. It is not aesthetic on an architectural level. Nor is it a place filled with natural beauty. It is merely a place that one is familiar with. Familiarity that builds enough trust to let you revel in your own imagination. And I have revelled, on my own in solo adventures or ponderous monologues, and with people that only my mindâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s eye can see in travels to places beyond human exploration. I talk to them, listen, laugh, and break down in sorrow when they die, knowing fully well that they will return some other time. I pace about the room, covering kilometers,

15


sometimes light years, reaching far out places and meeting people in encounters that last for minutes or span centuries. There are no barriers in my habitat, it has historical inaccuracies and anachronisms, and I find myself staring intently at a face off between a pirate captain and a ninja assassin squad. The pirate captain is a recurring character in these journeys of the mind; not of my own volition though. She defies the class system of literature. Designed to be of lesser birth than even a secondary character, she engineered a plot twist that killed off my protagonist and stepped into his shoes. With my handsome hero sent off page across a plank, she drove the plot along to a reasonably good ending. How

elastic. He would then pull out his pistols in a flourish and offer his services as a coloniser. The leaders, having read of the exploits of 19th century Englishmen in the colonies of Earth, would offer their daughters’ hands in marriage to him if he would lead their forces against the enemy galaxies. I would throw my hands up in despair at this moment and let the tale weave itself. The author’s agency was lost at this point and the characters began to express free will. I could have even perhaps left the habitat while this was happening if it weren’t for my role in penning down the story. I became a mere chronicler of the events happening in my mind. In the years that followed, I began to spend

she manages to come back time and again into my thoughts disregarding my hostility to her is a good question that I cannot answer. Perhaps she is a facet of my personality that I have hidden deep inside me. Nevertheless, Cap’n Hooker as she calls herself gained resident status in my habitat, a place where thoughts and people were ephemeral and permanence was a state of being unheard of before. There were others to follow soon. Other characters began showing up uninvited and overstaying their welcome. It began to affect me. I could no longer meet deadlines. The construction of a story would go on schedule and suddenly a character would appear, a Victorian gentleman named Foogy Foplin, right in the middle of a conference between the planetary leaders of the Milky Way in the 22nd century. I would try to shoo him out, explaining that he was ripping the fabric of space and time. Oh, if I may point out, he would interject, the fabric of fiction is more

more time outside the habitat. The outside world was charming and I met people with their own habitats. They had different names for it. Some of them called it their perches and some their windows. And in these habitats, I became the external observer. I wished I could see what they saw when they stepped into their habitats. I would follow their gaze, but could only see blank walls. What were they painting on them? I knew that just as they could not see what I saw in my habitat, I could not see what they saw in theirs. That saddened me. Later, I would learn to share a habitat. Know so much about a person that her habitat became mine, and mine hers. Our characters would cross over into our respective universes. Stories would have two narrators instead of one. We would share histories. And still later, I was sent out of the other habitat. Forever. I went back to mine, taking my characters with me. I left some of them behind, the ones birthed from two minds,

16


unable to function in the presence of just one. The days that followed would find me lonely. The habitat, forgotten in that period, was a dark place where nothing happened. I returned to it in a morose mood and it lit up. Hands grabbed me and I found myself being pulled up into a hot air balloon. I was over Paris. Not a Paris that I knew. A tropical Paris. Why donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t you get your geography right,

I screamed at the Captain. Paris be damned, she answered. My ship has been stolen. And I have to get it back, she said. I stared at her in surprise. How did they steal your ship from right under your feet, I asked. Oh, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a long story, she sighed as we entered the clouds and faded away.

17


Vasudevan Mukundh <>

B

ig Fish walked into a wall. His large nose tried to penetrate the digital concrete first. Of course, it went in for a moment, but Marcus recomputed the algorithm, and it jumped back out. The impact of its return threw Big Fish’s head back, and with it, his body stumbled back, too. The wall hadn’t been there before. Its appearance was, as far as Big Fish was concerned, inexplicable. And so, he turned around to check if other walls had been virtualized as well. Nope. Just this one. What business does a wall have being where it shouldn’t belong? But here it was.

He turned into the door on his left and looked around. Nothing was amiss. He walked back out and tried another door on the opposite side. All the desks were in place, computers were beeping, people were walking around, not minding his intrusion. It was surreal, but Big Fish didn’t mind. Surreal was normal. He walked back out. There the wall was again. Has Marcus got something wrong? He poked a finger at the smooth white surface. It was solid, just like all walls were. He turned back and walked the way he had come. Right, left, right, left, right, left, left, down the flight of stairs, straight out, left,

18


left, left, straight out once more, left, right… and there the canteen was. The building was the way it had been before. Marcus was alright, which meant the wall had to be, too. But it couldn’t be—it didn’t belong there. He walked back up once more to check. Left, right, straight, right, right, right, straight, up the flight of stairs, right, right, left, right, left, right… and there’s the bloody wall again! Big Fish had to log out. He walked into the Dump. The room was empty. No queues were present ahead of the Lovers, no bipolar behavior, no assurances being whispered to the new kids or hysterical religious clerks talking about being born again. Just him. So he walked up to the first of the two Lovers,

Fish, however, didn’t say anything. Older Fish stared for a minute more, and then walked away. Big Fish continued to watch Older Fish, even as he walked away. Had he seen the wall, too? Just to make sure, he began to follow the gaunt, old man. The stalking didn’t last long, however. He watched as Older Fish turned around and pointed a gun at Big Fish’s temple. The barrel of the weapon was made of silver. My gun. How did Older Fish find my gun? A second later, Older Fish pointed the weapon into his own mouth and fired. Flecks of flesh, shards of bone, shavings of hair, dollops of blood… and so, Older Fish fell to the ground. In a daze, Big Fish ran up to the still figure

and stood under it. When he decided he was ready, Big Fish pushed the green button next to him. The green guillotine came singing down. The blade of the machine was so sharp, it whistled as it parted an invisible curtain of air. The screech, however, was music to Big Fish’s ears. It meant exiting the belly of Marcus. It meant reality was coming. As soon as the edge touched his head, Marcus came noiselessly to life in the Dump. His thoughts, memories, feelings, emotions, scalds, sutures, posture, and many other state-properties besides, were simultaneously and almost instantaneously recorded as a stream of numbers. Once the input had been consummated with an acknowledgment, he vanished. When he stepped out of his booth, Big Fish saw Older Fish staring at him from across the road. His stare was blank, hollow, waiting for the first sign of doubt from Big Fish. Big

and stared. Older Fish’s eyes were open, the skin around them slowly loosening, wrinkles of some once-tension fading, in their place gentle ravines formed through which the last of his essence meandered out. To Big Fish, time had ended. The world was crucified on the splayed form of Older Fish. The commotion around him happened in a universe all of its own. The lights that flashed around him, seemed to bend away from his bent form, curving along the walls of their reality, staying carefully away from his arrested one. The sounds came and went, like stupid matadors evading raging bulls, until the tinnitus arrived, silencing everything else but the sound of Big Fish’s thoughts. Only silence prevailed. When darkness settled, Big Fish was able to move again. My friend, he lamented. He opened his eyes and found himself seated in a moving ambulance. Where are we going? There was no answer. Big Fish realized he

19


was thinking his questions. When he tried to speak though, his tongue refused to loosen, to wrap itself around the vacant bursts of air erupting out his throat. Am I mute? He tried again. “Where are… we…” “To the Marxis HQ.” Marxis HQ. The cradle of Marcus. The unuttered mention of that name brought him back. What were the chances of walking into a wall-that-shouldn’t-have-been-there and Older Fish killing himself? The van swung this way and that. Big Fish steadied himself by holding onto the railing running underneath the windows. His thoughts, however, were firmly anchored to the wall. Big Fish was

attention. Simultaneously, Older Fish’s death evaded the grasp of his consciousness. In the company of people, he felt he had to maintain composure. Composure be damned. Yet, tears refused to flow. Sorrow remained reluctant. The van eased to a halt. A nurse stepped up and opened the door. Big Fish got down. One of the medics held him by his forearm and led him inside a large atrium. After a short walk that began with stepping inside a door and ended with stepped out of another—What was that? Did I just step through a wall?—Big Fish was left alone outside a door: “Armada” it said. He opened the door and looked inside. A long, severely rectangular hall yawned in front of him. At the other end, almost a hundred feet

sure it had something to do with Older Fish’s suicide. Had Older Fish seen the wall? If he had, why would he have killed himself? Did it disturb him? When was the last time a wall disturbed anyone to their death? Could Older Fish have seen anything on the other side of the wall? Did Older Fish walk into the space on the other side of the wall? What could have been on the other side of the wall? Had Marcus done something it shouldn’t have? Was that why Big Fish was being ferried to the Marxis? “I don’t know.” “Huh?” “Mr. -------, the reasons behind your presence being required at Marxis HQ were not divulged to us.” I’m not mute, then. Big Fish laughed. He hadn’t noticed that he had been thinking out loud. The others looked at him. Big Fish didn’t bother. He settled back to think of Marcus once more. At first, his thoughts strained to comprehend why Marcus was the focus of his

away, sat a man in a yellow chair. “Please come in. My name is Marxis Maccord. I apologise for this inconvenience, but your presence here today is important to us. I know what you’re thinking, Mr. ---------, but before you say anything, let me only say this: what happened had both nothing and everything to do with Marcus. It had nothing to do with Marcus because it wasn’t Marcus’ fault you walked into a wall and almost broke your virtual nose. It had nothing to do with Marcus because it wasn’t Marcus that precipitated Mr. ----------‘s death. At the same time, it had everything to do with Marcus because, hadn’t it been for Marcus, you wouldn’t have walked into a wall. Hadn’t it been for Marcus, Mr. ---------- wouldn’t have killed himself.” Silence. What is this dolt trying to tell me? That they’re not going to take responsibility for what Marcus did? Why can’t they just get to the point, the idiots?! Bah! “I understand what you’re saying, Mr. Maccord. You’re

20


saying you’re going to let Marxis Corp. be held responsible for Marcus’s actions, and that’s fine by–” “Oh, Mr. ------------, I’m not saying that at all! In fact, I’m not going to assume responsibility either. You see, Mr. ------------, I’m going to let you decide. I’m going to let you decide on the basis of what you hear in this room as to who’s culpable. Then… well, then, we’ll take things from there, shall we?” Ah! There it is! Blah, blah, blah! We didn’t do this, we didn’t do that! Then again, we know this could’ve been done, that could’ve been done. Then, shit happens, let us go. Your call now. Bullshit! “Mr. Maccord, if you will excuse me, I have made my decision and

“Mr. ------------, you are downstairs, standing in booth SP-8742, your thoughts logged out of reality and into this virtual one.” Big Fish didn’t say anything for a while. The transition had been so smooth. Big Fish hadn’t noticed a thing when he had entered the first door. It was like walking through, past, a veil. It was an effortless endeavour, a subtly subversive gesture that drew the mind out of its body. Maccord continued to talk. “Say hello to Marcus II, or, as we call it, MarQ. When you stepped into that first door, your reality was suspended just as ours took over. Once the switch was complete, your limp body was lain on a bed and transferred down a shaft 3,000 feet deep, under this building.

would like you to listen to it. I don’t care what Marcus did or didn’t do… and even if I want to figure it out, I don’t think I want to start here.” Big Fish turned to leave. “Mr. -----------, your friend put the wall there because it scared him that someone might find something out.” Big Fish stopped just before the door. “Mr. ------------, the wall wasn’t there a second before you walked into it. It was computed into existence by your friend because you were trespassing into his thoughts. If you had crossed over into the other side, you would have witnessed something… something we can only imagine would have been devastating for him in some way.” Marxis Maccord stood up. With a start, Big Fish noticed that the man wasn’t standing on his legs. Instead, his torso, his neck and his head were floating in the air. From the other end of the hall, they looked like a macabre assemblage of body parts, a jigsaw held upright by simple equilibrium, the subtle cracks visible along the seams. Him? It? It.

You are now lying sound asleep, dreaming about this conversation… if that.” “In a world where moving in and out of reality is so easy, picking one over the other simply on the basis of precedence will gradually, but surely, turn into a meaningless argument. It is antecedence that will make sense, more and more sense. Your friend, Mr. ------------, understood that.” Big Fish finally had something to say. “And why is that important, Mr. Maccord?” He felt stupid about asking a question to which the answer might have come his way anyway. However, Big Fish felt a growing sense of loneliness. Soon, he realized it wasn’t loneliness at all. He felt like a grain of salt in the sea, moving with currents both warm and cold, possessing only a vintage power to evoke memories that lay locked up somewhere in the folds of the past. The sea couldn’t taste him, Big Fish couldn’t comprehend the sea. They had devoured each other. They were devouring each other.

21


Maccord responded quickly. “Marcus is the supercomputer that computes the virtual reality of your old organization into existence. You log in and out everyday doing work that exists only as electromagnetic wisps in the air, shooting to and fro between antennae, materialised only when called upon. Marcus tracks all your virtual initiatives, transactions, and assessments. You know all this. However, what you don’t know is that the reality Marcus computes is not based on extant blueprints or schematics. It is based on your memories.” At that moment, it hit Big Fish. He had wondered many a time about how Marcus knew everything about the place where he worked. The ability to log in and out of

already knew about, but not yet as the source of a problem.” It was hard for Big Fish to resist thinking anything at all at first, but he did try. When he eventually failed, questions flowed into his head like water seeping through cracks in a bulging dam, simply unable to contain a flooding river. The questions, at first, cascaded through in streamlined sheets, and then as gurgling fountains, and then as jets that frayed into uncertainty, and then as a confluence that flooded his mind. Big Fish understood this was the end of the “interaction”, that Marxis Maccord had been waiting for this to happen since the beginning. Everyone would have wanted to

reality—or realities?—gave the machine access to people’s memories. This means that the architecture was the least common denominator of all the memories of the place. “You’re right.” Maccord’s observation startled him. “You see, Mr. -----------, MarQ has computed me, and MarQ has computed you. However, I own MarQ, which means it answers to me. Before it transliterates your thoughts into sounds, they are relayed to me.” He can read my thoughts! “Oh yes, Mr. -----------, I well can. And now that I know that you know that the place is the least common denominator of all your knowledge, the wall could’ve been there only if you had known about it. However, the wall hadn’t been there in the first place. Which meant Marcus had computed something that had happened fairly recently. Then again, if the LCD hypothesis is anything to go by, then the wall shouldn’t have been there because you continue to be surprised about its presence. Ergo, on the other side of the wall was something you

know why Older Fish killed himself. To get to the bottom of that, and to exculpate Marcus, a reason had to be found. Marcus had known we’d come to this. He let me hit the wall late. He let me know that no one else found it odd because they’d been used to it. Marcus had let me be surprised. Marcus knew something was going to happen. And when it did, Marcus knew I’d be brought into its hungry womb to be judged… to be devoured by the sea. “Mr. Maccord?” “Yes, Mr. ----------?” “Take what you need.” “I already am, Mr. ----------.”

22


the end Shilpa Krishnan <>

S

he had locked herself inside the room at 3.15 in the afternoon. Four hours had passed. Nobody had asked her to open the door yet. Nobody cared. She looked at the ceiling fan. From it hung a thin, pink rope. “More like a fat pink thread,” she muttered to herself. It was the nada with which her mother used to tie her rose-coloured petticoat. She stood up on the

bed and tried making a noose out of the pink thread-rope. All she got was a knot. “Damn! It looks so simple in the Tamil serials that paati watches.” She tried a second time. Again, a knot—a bigger one this time. Frustrated, she pulled at the rope. The fan swung violently, making a loud, creaking noise. Terrified, she jumped off the bed. Death by thin pink noose was all right. But

23


death by a ceiling fan smashing her head to bits? No sir. Thank you very much. *** She counted up to 10, took a deep breath and climbed the last flight of stairs. She felt strangely euphoric. Walking to the edge of the tank, she looked down. It was a sheer drop. Eight and a half storeys. Earlier in the day, she had read on the internet that seven storeys is all it takes. The eight and a halfth one was just in case. She looked up. It had stopped raining a while ago. A thin rainbow was forming in the east. She looked down again. She extended her left leg, let it hover for a while and pulled it back. “What if gravity gives up on me? What if I float away into oblivion instead?” she wondered.  An idea! She decided to conduct a little experiment. She would drop the first thing she could get hold of. If it floated away into oblivion, well, mission aborted.  She turned and there, in a corner lay a grayish-white pigeon feather. She picked it up, went to the edge of the landing and dropped it. It fell a few feet. Her heart skipped a beat. Then it rose. Her heart skipped another beat. And floated away. Into oblivion. *** It was past midnight. She knew it because she had just heard her neighbor make strange noises to Midnight Masala on that Telugu channel. She plugged her ears with two small balls of cotton, put the toilet lid down and sat

on it. Her father’s shaving kit lay in front of her. In it was a razor. And no extra blades. “Do I have to slit myself with his used blades?” She removed the blade from his razor. It had little bits of hair sticking to it. She carefully held the blade under the tap and let the water run. But the tiny bits of hair stuck on, steadfastly. Suddenly, she heard a loud moan from her neighbor’s end. Startled, she dropped the blade. It fell headlong into the small hole of the wash-basin and disappeared into the abyss. She sighed, packed the shaving kit, washed her hands and went to bed. The next morning she woke up with a start. Her father was running about the house in his towel, “Where the hell did the blade disappear?” She smiled sleepily. She had never really liked that man anyway. *** She was washing clothes. Her mother made her do it whenever the maid didn’t turn up. She hated it. First the three failed attempts. Now, having to wash clothes. And then, her eyes fell on it. It was a transparent plastic bottle with a white lid. And in it was detergent. “This will definitely work,” she said to herself. Better now than later. She sat on the bathroom floor and opened the transparent plastic bottle. She decided to smell it first. “Nice. Do I smell jasmine?” She decided to taste it. She took a pinch of the whitish-blue detergent, smelt it again and put it in her mouth. At first, there was no sensation. And then it hit her. An acrid taste.

24


her house smelt bad. And what if there were other dead bodies floating in it? Jumping into the sea from a ship was out. She didn’t know any captains who would take her to the deep seas on their ship. Jumping from anywhere was out. What if gravity gave up on her again? And then, she found it. “You can die from drinking too much water.” That was it. She would drink too much water and she would die. Peacefully. The logic was simple—drinking too much water washes away all the minerals in the body and thus leads to death. She sat on the floor of the bathroom and took out a small plastic cup from her pocket. She dipped it into the bucket and drank the

A burning sensation in her throat. She spat it out. How can something so fragrant taste so awful? She gulped water from the tap. It was the same water that she used to bathe with. It didn’t smell good. It didn’t smell at all. But it tasted better than the detergent. She decided that if she was going to die, it would have to be a watery grave. She smiled at her pun. She frowned. Was there a pun?

first glass of water. It felt nice. “This is going to be easy.” By the time she reached the 17th cup, her stomach was full. By the time she reached her 22nd cup, she felt like she was about to throw up. By the time she reached her 28th cup, she could not take it anymore. She popped three sleeping pills, lay in her bed and waited for death. The next morning, she woke up late. Very late. She had slept a sound sleep. She had failed, again. She felt something wet. She touched her bed. It was soaking wet. Watery grave, eh?

*** Water. As usual, she had done her research. Jumping into a well was out. The well near

25


The Summer > Sandhya Ramachandran There is a little bit of exposed skin from the burn of being out in the sun for long in this humid heat these long afternoons of endless dusty winds and whirring fans That which was raw pink and soft to touch and hurting once as if impaled,

26


over the summer has got a dull coat of brown and worries me less even during a casual brush with wall or skin Over time, I think it will heal a new skin shall spread to cover this summer shall be long gone winters and autumn shall visit maybe a spring maybe other summers and other sunburns and their varying degrees of heat Or maybe, this will remain a scar between skin folds when old and worn still constantly reminding me of that summer I could never forget.

27


Sweet Labdanum > Smriti Prabhat I I seek warmth at the place where her face last pressed  against the window as she  waved me goodbye, the glass still retains an imprint  of her moist cheek and some orange lipstick  that seems to be going away too.  Her white wayfarers look stern  as they lay nestled in  the whirlpool her scarf creates, 

28


hurriedly thrown on her writing desk, having her smell in its folds - Labdanum sweet; Her pen is still short of words and the pencil,  lying idly on the canvas having a half drawn face  without the smile, mocks the bleeding pen, plays with synonyms and emotions alike.  She is staring out of the mirror  with knitted eyebrows, concentrating on her black heads  and complaining unabashedly,  “You never write to me, you don’t...” II An old fashioned table lamp that got heated in seconds, adjustable to everything but light; a glass ash tray that always overflowed, I joked it was like your mind while you added more thoughts to it; a stack of books uneven and eccentric, Shakespeare, Poe, O Henry and Bhagwad Gita; dust swirling on the table top as you hummed an old Mukesh number, Kahin door jab din dhal jaye (When the sun sets far away); I bring you tea and breathe in Wills, you add two cardamoms and hum, Chue koi mujhe par nazar na aaye, nazar na aaye (Someone invisible touches me), ah invisibility. And that’s how I remember you, all old songs and vintage ideas. You say I never write to you, make this note a letter worth 50 years.

29


Exasperation > Twish Mukherjee â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;anotherâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; has become a favorite word in my world of repetitive epiphanies shuttling past people in the odd, old houses stationary in their gloom and pouted lips, amid the jumps and cuts and spins that I freak through thoughtlessly every evening and every dawn when the light turns on and off and the ceiling fan rotates in sync with the dynamics of this dreamy existence some things sediment back into the watery truth that engulfs us enough to blind us even from its own very being that has no core, red and sore expanding more with every tick of a clock that remains dumb at the face of all change that fingers fabricate with their sour flesh soaked in sticky ketchup, or ketchup-like fluid of all those goddammit moments whose memories will come back months later on a night when a song sung by a moaning male will brush past your delicate drum-skin like a whirring whizzing fly that gets high on all that we excrete while we embrace our only time alone inside cubicle like concrete structures that shut out all air and fragrance from the room where your princess sits smug in her white flowery gown waiting for you to caress her hair and praise her glossy gross lips and look into her glassy eyes

30


and pretend to say the truth that you never gave a thought to because you were too busy building mountains out of mole-hills in the harsh afternoon sunlight when your brothers carried bricks past the buildings where your princess inhales cold air and exhales clove as smug in her dark and stark uniform as in her nocturnal disguise; but you, you shall join the foolâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s feast where they drool over despair and distress and drugs and boo the bosses who sell the same and growl loud into broken ear drums until, yes until, you join them or the brick-carrying brothers.

31


Odalisque > Geralyn Pinto Silver-hipped woman carving luminosity Out of the dark body of night, Flowing â&#x20AC;&#x201C; molten, undulating, Making ripples on cheap frescoes Of old kota walls with Shadows of suggestion. Wringing mouths dry and Wetting skin with unmoored imagination. Teasing with the hot-cold Of presence-absence behind The water-green gauze of veils Fish-scaled with sequins.

32


Incarcerating the senses with erotica in Powders and bottles: Sandal talc and essence of champa. Inviting the adventurous Into unknown waters, Silk routes and mercilessly beautiful Pools of jade, Drowning grateful victims in belladonna eyes. Commodified sensuality, Passing through many hands Would now make Small change of the zamindar, Blind him with the gold Of fire between her palms; Wear him carelessly Like a cheap girdle around her waist, And with the toss of a silver hip, Bankrupt his empire of sense.

33


34


ball point flash Satwik Gade <>

The girl with nine piercings The girl with nine piercings is a fucking statistician. She collects data all day and stocks it away in the many pockets of her consciousness. She distills information and moulds it into bar graphs in the abundant moonshine. Her room-mate thinks it’s penis envy but doesn’t know if she should ask. During summer afternoons, when sweat collects into transparent buttons under her neck, she composes eloquent three hundred word abstracts on ‘Past Accumulation and Classification’. ‘Each passing moment has its designated place’, she scrawls on a piece of paper. ‘Whenever moments can’t find their place in history, they come back to haunt us’. She rolls the note up and slips it into the mast of the ‘ship in a bottle’. She laments that communication is getting rather long-winded. She has dystopic nightmares about a world over-run by un-slotted pasts. In her defense, agoraphobia is not central to statisticians. ‘You can’t just dump your past in Somalia’, she tries to explain, ‘The pirates are fighting back’. But the boy with a scar on his cheek knows people who get these things done. She has her own past stocked away neatly in the many compartments of a jewelry box. But slivers of tasteless moments are found interred next to the ATM receipts in her handbag and moments spent in passionate isolation can often be found tucked away behind her ear.

35


36


The boy with a scar on his cheek The boy with a scar on his cheek is a fucking insomniac. His joints loosen steadily and his insides are rotting. The blood coaxes his subconjunctivals closer to his pupils while his eyelid twitches every once in a while. Eleventy-Two D is the bus he can be found in, perennially sensing a pregnant potential for moments of perfection. In the mingling of sweats and the kneading of thighs, there is a certain reassuring propensity for disease; perhaps an epidemic. He doesn’t care for names; he knows there is an inherent failing in that Ravi lacks in Ravi-ness and Shobha is infact a bit of Shruti-tude with a lot of Ismail-ity The separation of the name from its ‘ness’ creates moisture and this paves way for decomposition. “Exactly what I thought...”, exhales Doctor Ramana who is about 83% Paramasivam In their defense, god complex is not central to doctors. Adjusting the fringe on his semi-bald plate, he explains “It is a rare psychological con...” The boy with a scar on his cheek supresses a laugh that spontaneously explodes. At night, when moments sag under the weight of their self-importance, he chisels away at his farewell gift to the girl with ink under her fingernails. The light is dim but his pupils are dilated with nothingness; he is able to dispassionately shed bits of the self.

37


Forty five Basma Rizvi <>

38


Dear Corner Shivani Dobhal <>

Dear corner, Almost the most ironic ‘dear’ and it took me a while before I could decide on the salutation. This salutation is to be my last greeting to you and I did not want it to debauch our equilibrium. All my grammar books in summation could not get past beyond the clichéd dear and its derivates for writing to anyone and everyone you knew. Leave alone writing to someone you’ve imagined you knew. Lazy books! On this penultimate day, I cannot help but retrospect the succession of events that made this letter inevitable. Tomorrow is the day we will finally meet, the day I had been waiting for since the time I discovered your existence. It all began with just a peep and then the entire reaction was spontaneous. You intrigued me with your darkness, excited me with your mystery, enchanted me with your magnetism, intimidated me with your insurmountability and eventually absorbed me with your certainty. Our first encounter rolled me into your universe. I was on my routine treasure quest, when I looked under my bed. Your extreme darkness distinguished you from the otherwise very usual ‘dark’ under the bed. It was the only section I could not check. It was something that wanted to stay away from me. It was so overtly covert that it sparked

my curiosity instantly. Intrigued. You were well protected by the two adjacent walls against which my bed rested. The foot of the bed further blocked my view and my inability to conceive you strengthened you and made you invincible. Excited. It was then I realized that it wasn’t just me who was caught in your charms. I noticed how anything dropped on the floor tried to reach you. The peanut from sister’s bowl, father’s pen, mother’s ring, the bottle’s cap, my eraser; in fact my sister claimed that whatever she lost, you had taken. It was as if the moment anything touched the floor, it steered the momentum of its fall in

39


your direction. As if it wanted to escape its own world to become a part of your universe. Enchanted. However, your guts were never challenged, encouraging and empowering your realm. Everybody spoke highly of your impenetrability. My attempt to interfere with your reign was bitterly condemned and strictly prohibited after I got my head stuck under the bed when trying to move just one head closer to you. Your invincibility had established its dominance and I accepted defeat. Intimidated. Thus began my interaction. I stared at you for long, lost in oblivion, visualizing the world you lived in. The interactions soon advanced from the visual to the verbal when my mind

cauldron, for my thoughts, emotions and also my treasures. I knew everything was safe in your darkness. All my possessions were well wrapped in your cobwebbed drapery, protected. All I knew was: there will be a day when we will move my bed and... and, I could not think beyond that. I have waited for this day, everyday. Every that day, I lost my special car as it raced towards you, every that day my dice rolled in to you or my favourite marble wandering aimlessly got pulled towards you, every that day when my ant took shelter in you, every that day my new lucky coin seeped in through the gap between the bed and your wall to settle in you, and every that day when mother

was old enough to fabricate a friend that only I could see. And you let him stay. My invisible friend had a visible home. This prolonged the staring sessions which were now accompanied by my incoherent rambling. I chuckled notoriously after a concoction, confessed responsibly when it went awfully wrong, complained quietly after being reprimanded and forgave after the reconciliation. Absorbed. In between all these events, I never gave up on my desire to meet you. My invisible friend soon faded, leaving just you and me. Nevertheless, my enchantment with you was unabated. I materialized all your potential. Sometimes my things just got pulled to you and at other times I just pitched them right in where mother could never see it. The shiny stone I picked from the road, the vibrant feather I plucked from Mrs. Maan’s bird, the dead butterfly I found in the garden and also the sticky balls of mucus that I carefully-cum-secretly rolled and tossed into your darkness. You became my container, my

said that my God was in that corner watching over me. I wanted to operate my car, see every gear and screw and meet the smallest driver in the world. I would watch his silhouette through the black-painted windows of my red car. I gloated over my success when I imagined my mother’s face when she would shake hands with him and at least somewhere I will be right. I would treat him with all my mother’s stories and food and then coax him into leading me into his world. A world with small men. I could be their king. What number could it be on the dice? I wanted to protect the galaxy inside my marble from ‘bad’ aliens that were frantically searching for it. They had even messed with my robots and toys, and they no longer seemed to respond to me. I wanted to defeat them and finally get felicitated by the good aliens and who knew; maybe I could have had an alien friend for life. That galaxy was now safe, but I wanted to be the one to get all the credit.

40


That ant. I just wanted to eat it. I saw it gnawing on a sugar cube and that instant I wanted to taste the sweet ant. But, it knew the safest box. I wonder if you saw it too. My lucky coin! My number one coin. It found me and rolled over to me as if it wanted me to take it home. I had kicked it all the way from the garden to home and now, it lay there with you. I was convinced that even God chose you of all corners. I was convinced that he tipped mother off sometimes when I confessed to you. Time has passed, I have grown, you have stayed and we have lasted. Tonight. My last night in this bed, this

alien friend; that I am not Uncle Scrooge to own a lucky coin; that God does not live in any corner. But I know that if not for you, I would not have learnt to confess, to forgive and to believe. Tomorrow. The bed will be moved as all the other furniture into a new house. You will be exposed. You will no longer be dark and distinguished. You will not be what I have known you to be. I donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t want the last glimpse to be an iota less exciting than my first. I want to remember you the way I had conceived you. I want you to have all my things, keep them with you. This is the last piece of my collection and I am sliding it through to you. For you to keep,

home, next to you. I just took a top view through the gap between the bed and the wall. These cobwebs make you look older. And it is not excitement now, but affection that keeps me attached to you. The links of our chain have changed over time, but we have always been tied together. I now know that there is no smallest driver; that I can never have an

not for me to take it someday.

Lots of love, Whatever name you had given me.

41


Dear prudence Chithira Vijaykumar <>

Dear Prudence, I was drunk on wild sunshine and muddied from the monsoons when you found me, a comma of laughter on the ground; my hot, milky, ginger tea spilling from a chipped glass tumbler in my hand. Eleven minutes later, “You are foul-mouthed and loud,” you noted without judgement. “Yes,” I smiled, pleased. Three days later, I lie on an impoverished mattress that smells of old photographs, my skin aflame. My fever is wide, like a river in spate. It rustles ominously like dry leaves are wont to do in the moments before they dance to reduce forests to fumes. My coughs weave angry cobwebs on the ceiling. I am the equator, hot and still. You lie alongside me, my feet are on yours, your forehead touches mine. You are mopping up my fever with your hands. The pale cream-coloured soup you fashioned has gone to sleep in its deep, smooth bowl, and dark, weeping crests of pepper have washed to its edges; Baricco’s Silk has fallen to the floor and we’ve lost forever the page you paused on. I find it impossible to tell my fevers and you apart anymore.

42


Contributors The Basterdâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Note Written by: Chitralekha Manohar connect2chitralekha@gmail.com

Sweet Labdanum Written by: Smriti Prabhat rdmchcool@gmail.com Illustration by: Neethi Goldhawk

Annotating Ourselves Written by: Rihan Najib rihannajib@gmail.com Illustrations by: Satwik Gade

Exasperation Written by: Twish Mukherjee undernourisheduniverses@gmail.com

The Title Written by: Thomas Manuel thomas123manuel@gmail.com Illustration by: Satwik Gade

Odalisque Written by: Geralyn Pinto kalpanarj@hotmail.com Illustration by: Neethi Goldhawk

The Habitat Written by: Shivankar Jay loonanthebarbarian@gmail.com Illustration by: Satwik Gade

Ball Point Flash Written and illustrated by: Satwik Gade twix1311@gmail.com

The Sea Written by: Vasudevan Mukundh mukundh.vasudevan@gmail.com Illustration by: Neethi Goldhawk The End Written by: Shilpa Krishnan shilpa.virgo55@gmail.com Illustration by: Satwik Gade Summer Written by: Sandhya Ramachandran sandhya321@gmail.com Photograph by: Yugandhara Muthukrishnan

Forty Five Written and illustrated by: Basma Rizvi burrburrchan@gmail.com Dear Corner Written by: Shivani Dobhal shivani.dobhal87@gmail.com Illustration by: Satwik Gade Dear Prudence Written by: Chithira Vijaykumar chithira.v@gmail.com Illustration by: Satwik Gade Copyright 2012, Them Pretentious Basterds.

43

Ochre Edition - Them Pretentious Basterds Magazine  

The Ochre Edition of Them Pretentious Basterds Magazine is our first all-illustrated issue. It constantly looks back over its shoulder, plag...