The story of the storyteller.

Seven wonders, seven wonders of the world. Seven wonders of mine, when seven wanderers set out for freedom. All seven rejoiced, looked up at the seven stars with seven prayers in their eyes. The sun from seven sides beaming at their shadows of night. As the curtains slipped from their minds of wonder, reality struck it’s thunder bolt shine. Breaking their destinies of freedom into seven pains in disguise. Each set out to find their broken pieces, with threads of hope to sew them fine.

One shed tears to the Gods and built a shrine.

The second built a house of magic and filled it with wine.

The third turned the hourglass and invented time.

The fourth found his treasure of gems stuck in rhine.

The fifth built a society and glorified his crime.

The sixth entered the scene and turned sublime.

The seventh climbed the hills to watch the Heavens burn, and built his wonder once again to turn.

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The beast of the skies.

A loud noise boomed across the horizon and from the skies wizzed an aeroplane. I got off my cycle and looked at it, as it made it’s way. I looked at it hard, till it turned into a speck of dust. My eyes were failing me, so I looked at the bright sky under the comfort of my hand.

It trailed two streaks of white clouds as it disappeared with the stars. I got onto my bike and forced my tiny legs frantically down the pedals, in a failing attempt to reach the majestic marvel. My bike trailed down the hills clumsily, as I stubbornly continued to grasp my reach.

The front tyre gave in to the unforgiving speed of my desires. I fell down face front on a narrow stream entering a forest, wiped the mud off my face along with my hope to reach the aeroplane. I gazed at the sky for one last time, a sharp ray of light winked back at me. I smiled at myself and dragged my cycle home.

This was the first time I’d seen an aeroplane.

The old man in my mind.

A cloud of smoke was rising from the ridge across the hill, the smoke had a familiar fragrance of memories. Memories so striking, one could lose themselves to them and teleport to the ridge of their days of life. Ridges attract attention, the ridges of the body define beauty, the ridges of nature define it’s course, the ridges of the mind define it’s experience.

On the ridge an old man puffs magical clouds of realism grained with the herb of life. He looks at the stars in the sky filled with daylight, the moon peeking its head through the blue melody of sunlight. He slides the bone vessel into the pouch of the voices, as it cools down the cracks in his soul fill the interior with echos of emotions.

He stares at the moon and disappears with the clouds.

An Ode to my Past Self

I was looking through some old pictures and it suddenly took me back to my school days. Days when I was an awkward faced teenager with braces on her teeth, struggling with self confidence, and like all other teenagers, wanting to be ‘cool’ and ‘popular.’ I sigh because I was naive (who wasn’t when they were growing up?), but that’s okay, because I’m pretty sure everybody has made silly mistakes in the past, mistakes that would make them groan and laugh at themselves. 

I remember trying so hard to ‘fit in’ but I just wouldn’t, like an odd piece of a puzzle awkwardly sticking out, at least that’s how I felt. Maybe there were others who felt the same, maybe there wasn’t. The point is, I tried to deny who I really was, this incredibly book loving person and a quiet ambivert who’d use words as a form of escape, because it just wasn’t cool enough, because cool people were pretty, popular and almost always had boyfriends. 

But I laugh now, because my struggles as an awkward teenager came to pass, and I needed that to grow into the person I am today, just like my future self needs me now to turn into her later. If I could give advice to my old self, I’d probably tell her to be herself, as cliché as it is, because there IS no better way to say it.

Be yourself. Be the girl with her awkward braces. Be the girl who reads. Be the girl who takes studies seriously. Be the girl who has her silly fun doing silly things. Be the girl who sits for hours with her guitar and her classical music notes. Be the girl you are.

For when I look inside, I still have that girl inside of me, the girl who loves reading, writing, classical music and also the girl who takes her studies seriously, and still feels like an awkward face out of all the other pool of beautiful faces. The only difference now is that I love the girl that’s there, because without her love for books, how would I go for adventures all in my head? Without her love for writing, how would I ever be able to tell somebody how I feel? Without her seriousness in studies, even though that’s considered ‘uncool’ universally, how would I ever dream of repaying my parents back?

But most importantly,

without her, 

how would I ever find myself 

and the people

who love me?

Aastitva ko chari.

The silhouette of the raven on the tip of the cypress valley blended with the evening sky, with his ends met for the day. He sighs “Autumn”, the wave before the crash.

As the mountain winds graze through the trees, he takes off in tune with the high strings of November. The flight brings with it an overwhelming current of freedom. As he scours the majestic lands below him, a bright light from the forest blinds his vision. The flight route changes from dynamic/multidimensional to static/one dimensional, the orb allures him like pirates to mermaids. He starts falling, accelerating towards the pine like a scud.

The branches break his fall, breaking twigs of their own. He slips down the branches one after the other, beak deep on the ground. As his trance breaks with his neck.

All left of his existence is a carcass and a memory which cannot be stored in a flash drive.

The Truth behind the Sausages

“There’s a story that must be told,” said the old man looking up towards the sky as the fire crackled nearby. The children huddled up together in their blankets and stared at him, their huge eyes unblinking.

“Ah,” he sighed, “do you know how I met your grandmother?”

The little ones shook their heads. There were three of them wrapped up together in a blanket under the starry skies.

“It was a cold starry night just like this one. She was a bookish girl. We’d all heard stories about her.

People said that she had killed her parents for money so she could buy more books. They said she had a book in every nook and corner of her home. They even said that she sometimes ate the fingers of dead people when she needed to save money. Fingers deep fried so it would look like sausages…”

“Was that true Mami?” said the little 5-year old boy, terrified out of his wits.

“Ah, that’s the thing you see. At that time none of us were educated. So to see someone who’d actually read terrifies us savages. And what do we do when we see something unknown? We fear it. Like we feared her.

But I was an adventurer. I needed to see it all for myself. So one night, I ventured out. There was one light glowing in her wooden house. The girl was probably reading. When I knocked on the door, I had to wait for a few seconds before it opened. It was then that I saw her for the very first time.

And she was beautiful. She had long hair and big, wonderful brown eyes. I told her I wanted to learn how to read, and she, dying in want of companionship, gladly let me in.

Days turned into weeks and we quickly fell in love. There were times when we’d abandon the books and rest in each other’s arms instead.

In addition to her reading skills, she also had another talent; cooking. Needless to say, I fell even more in love with her.

We soon decided to get married.

It was a simple marriage. We hardly invited anyone. Yet, we were happy.

One day, somebody died in our village. It seemed to be a gruesome death and his fingers had been cut off.

I rushed to tell my wife about the strange happening but I stopped at the window where I saw her cooking. She had spices and oil and small pieces of meat, and behold! I almost screamed when I saw it.

They were fingers neatly sliced up by the side.

That night, she served me sausages. I was too terrified of her to not eat it. It looked like a sausage but tasted nothing like the normal kind. It felt more… fleshy than usual.

Repulsed, I pretended to tell her that I was allergic towards meat and since then, I have never touched meat, especially sausages, again.

I have remained in fear of your grandmother all my life. I was too scared to leave her, I didn’t want myself to be her dinner you know?”

The old man gave a dramatic pause and put out the fire, “Now, get going children. Run along inside. Your grandmother must be sleeping, be sure not to disturb her.”

In the darkness, the three children tried to swallow down the horrible grotesque story of their grandmother as they ran towards the cottage.

The old lady was waiting at the table with some left over food. “Ooh, there you are! My wonderful kids must be hungry,” she gushed. “Here, I made some sausages for you. Do you want it?”

She saw none of the usual enthusiasm in the kids. Instead she looked at the mute, ashen faced, horrified children and then understood what had happened.

She put the plate down and sighed, “Ah, I see. The old man has been telling stories again, hasn’t he? He always throws a fit when I tell him that sausages and fried things are not good for his health…”

Just like Old Times


It was a beautiful day out. She was wearing a white floral dress embroidered with red flowers and was hopping around with sunshine in her hair. He was dressed smart and handsome as always, with his shirt sleeves rolled up and his hair slick and tidy.

The two of them made a pretty picture as she put her arm around his and he whispered something in her ear to make her laugh. Her laugh was like a jingle of bells and his smile stretched right up to his eyes, his youthful face lighted up with happiness at the sight of her.

And then, she woke up. Right in the middle of the night, she woke up from her bed with tears in her eyes. She put her head down and cried.

It had been this way for a long time now. She couldn’t get her mind off him. How could she when she knew that he was out there somewhere fighting for his life?

A type of rage took over her. Damn you, she cursed. Damn this war. Damn you and your patriotism, she thought, but it was a weak accusation for she could never get angry at him for long, and although she missed him, she knew it would have been selfish for her to tell him not to go to war, for had she been given the chance, she would have done just the same.

She peeped out from the curtains. The sky was grey and dismal and even the day smelled of war and death.

Sometimes troops came into Yugoslavia marching on, and they rested there. Vanida knew it well because she would often go to the mountains to look at them, searching for him in the crowd. It had been six months already, but never had his troop come in.

“Promise me you’ll forget about me,” he had said, always being the selfless hero that he was.

Bullshit. As if she could do a thing like that.

But could he? She bit her lip. It didn’t matter anyway. Whether he still loved her or not, she was one hell of a stubborn girl and she wouldn’t let go until she was absolutely sure he didn’t want her anymore.

She had a piece of bread, she made sure to save some, because food was always hard to find in times of war. She then marched out as usual, towards the mountain trail. She didn’t need to take water (she had scarcity of that too) because there would always be trickles of it running from the mountains.

One hour and a half later, she had reached the familiar barbed fence. The army had set up tents there and her eyes very quickly surveyed the ground, she had done this every day for the last six months, without any luck, but love raged furiously in her heart and refused to be extinguished by time and routine and the dark villain called war.

And there, her breath stopped.

She could have recognized him from a distance, anywhere, anytime.

His broad shoulders, clad in the army uniform, boots dirty, a cap on his head. He was turned sideways, talking to a troop member. His moustache had grown and his face was covered with black dust. He looked tired and a lot more serious, but this was still the man she loved.

For a moment, she just stood there, soaking it all in, his movements, the twitch of his hands, the seriousness in his face, the shape of his cheekbones. It was as if he knew that she was there, when Klahan sharply turned his head and saw her across the field. A thousand emotions flitted through him. For six months all he had seen was death and war, and the sight of her was pure love and beauty. He had dreamt of her, every single night as the sound of bombs reminded him of what lay ahead the next day. Sometimes during the war, he’d see her, clicking her tongue at the sight of his blood, putting a bandage over his wounds and scolding him to be more careful. Although the blood still bled, he felt better just at the thought of her. Then sometimes he’d wonder about whether she had forgotten about him. He hoped she did. She had always deserved better, at least that’s what he thought. And now, he was too wounded by war to ever come back.

All of this just lasted a second and reality set in. She was here. What was she doing here? It was not safe for her. He frowned and then quickly turned and walked away. Perhaps, she had come to see him, and she’d go way once she saw that he wasn’t interested in talking to her.

But, he underestimated how fierce and determined she could be. As soon as he turned away, a kind of a reflex movement caught hold of Vanida. She had seen the look on his face when he’d seen her. It was one of pure longing and helplessness and it was at that moment that she knew, that he hadn’t stopped loving her. She lifted her long skirt, jumped over the fence and ran across the field until she reached up to him.

He turned quickly for war had made him alert, horrified at the reckless thing she’d done.

Panting, she reached up to him. He immediately caught hold of her arm and brought her inside his tent.

“What are you doing?” he whispered furiously at her.

“Oh please. It’s not as if this is the enemy troop. No one will harm me. I think, I’m much braver than you, even though you’re off to war,” she said proudly.

She had a point but what she didn’t know was that the Captain had given strict orders that no visitors would be allowed inside. But she didn’t need to know that.

“Of course you are,” he smiled, letting her win without letting her know, like always. “You’re my fierce little bull.”

She smiled too, and this moment was so beautiful that it broke her. She fell into his arms and cried.

“I miss you.”

“I miss you too, every single day.”

“When will you come back? Please come back,” she whimpered as he took her in his arms and stroked her hair.

“Soon, I promise. As soon as the war gets over.”

They stood that way for a while, embracing each other, until Klahan had to unwillingly break the silence.

“You have to go now. It’s not safe here.”

“Why?”

“These are drunk, angry soldiers, Vanida. Enemy or not, there are no friends here. And for a pretty girl like you, it’s especially dangerous.”

“I’m not afraid. Not when you are around.”

He smiled and stroked her chin. “I know, but you still have to leave.”

“Are you chasing me away?” she pouted playfully, just like old times.

“Ah, never in my life,” he played along graciously as he carefully drew her out of the tent. They were holding hands, and for that moment, both of them felt that they were home, in a world full of chaos.

“Come on,” he walked her through the empty field, thankful that no one was around. Her bright imagination drew flowers in the empty field, the sun in the dismal sky. She imagined wearing a pretty dress and she imagined walking past the beautiful field of daisies as her lover escorted her back home. Just like old times.

They reached the fence and he helped her jump over it.

“I love you,” he said.

“I love you too.”

They leaned in for a kiss, warm, soft and passionate. One they’d remember for eternity.

He stroked her hair.

“Come meet me whenever you can,” she said. “Tonight, if you can sneak out.”

“I’ll try.”

“Do you know where I live?”

“I’ll find you, love.”

“Write me letters too.”

“I will.”

From a distance, he heard some shouts.

“Quick, the boys are out,” he said.

She nodded, gave him a peck on his cheek and smiled. He smiled too, her favourite kind of smile, the one that reached his eyes.

As she left the place, she knew his eyes would follow her until she disappeared. That would be his way of making sure she reached home safe.

His heart swelled up with love for her, and when he walked back to his tent, he found his strength renewed.

*

Almost an hour after Vanida had left, the troop was called to order.

“There’s a war we must go to,” the Captain bellowed. “The British have invaded Poland, and they have sent urgent messages for us to leave immediately. They need our help.”

Half an hour later, the troop was ready with everything and they started their march forward to Poland. Klahan was among them, and he marched with a heavy heart.

He imagined her walking by his side as they marched and he promised her that he would meet her soon.

*

Back in home, Vanida hoped he would come that night. She cleaned her little cramped up place of a house, wore the best possible clothes, put on the earrings that he had given her that she had carefully kept inside her drawer. She even risked to go out to fetch some butter from the local salesman who’d carry out his business secretly in the ground floor of a nearby building.

“Lovely day, isn’t it?” she chimed, buying the butter even though it cost her a fortune.

He looked at her as if she had gone mad and she left the place, with a skip in her steps.

Then she waited. She waited till hours ticked by. And she waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And waited.

The next morning, she woke up with a neck cramp. She had fallen asleep on the table. The bread had gone stale, the butter was still unopened.

She quietly put the plates back to their places again. She undressed and took off the earrings, put them back in the drawer.

Something must have come up. Maybe that was why he couldn’t have come, she consoled herself.

Then she rolled herself up into a ball in her tiny bed and stared at nothing. Everything was quiet, and death chose this moment to whisk her away. It came dressed as fire and a loud noise. At one moment, everything was quiet, the next, a bomb had landed, turning the town into dust, and her heart into ashes.

A hundred miles away, he promised her that he would meet her soon.

~*~

Beauty in Imperfection

His overgrown hair filled with knots of simplicity and ignorance within them. Small strands of them scattered over his face, marking coordinates for bombs of sweat to drop on during the day. A cupboard exploding with small things, a few tasked and others with none. Dusty frames with fresh memories captured within, some with fungus flooding on them, drawing new streams of parasitic rivers on the deserts of time.
The dinner plates on the study table lie desperately unattended with hardened remains of the soup and bread crusts, a usual supper from last night.
He wakes up wiping the perfect dream off his face and splashes the cold waters of reality on the eyes. A toaster with black taped wires, leaking electricity like rumors lies shattered and defeated, blackened with heat on the kitchen counter. He plugs the two pins hanging threateningly, like a cobra’s fangs ready to strike into the half burnt socket. He turns the smashed switch on and the magical device sparked to life, the cold white washed lanky slices of bread hop in and transform into hot strong tanned ones.
He carefully takes out his precious bottle of butter from his old empty fridge, he twists the lid open and a very sweet fragrance fills his stomach with satisfaction. He spreads the butter carefully, not using anymore than required (one extra small scoop for every two slices.). He takes bite and a smile of satisfaction and simplicity marks across his face, one so pure and genuine. He savors the meal and empties a cold glass of water at one go to finish it off. He then closes the butter lid very tightly with all the might in him, like it held treasures inside.
He looks at the mirror and put on his clothes, a very thin shirt one aged with time and a dirty jeans with holes as work rewards in a few places. He slip his old tired feet inside the muddy boots and looks at his humble house, one he could call his entirely. He smiles at himself with pride, strokes his long moustache and marches off to work. The Room awaits him patiently as it’s master walks forward to reality.