First Prize – Swatilekha Roy
Second Prize – Anila Mathew Vivek
Third Prize – Shloka Shankar
First Prize – Bitter
By Swatilekha Roy
These unending fields of plenty speak nothing of the girl with that sparkle in her eyes. This is Idukki district of Kerala, where dreams get crushed faster than the traditional coffee beans it’s renowned for.
They do talk of the boy, with skin darker than chocolate, who got lost in the web of his expectations. ‘The boy who wandered’, they call him.
To wander is to sway. To expect is to dare!
Here, the world is oblivious of dares. The burden of an ancestral occupation sits heavy on its tilted back.
‘The bitter, the better‘, they prune leaves and sing in unison- men and women united by a common destiny. A destiny that sustains! Although, just.
Now, it’s a disgrace that the girl, with kohl eyes and a spring to her walk, should think otherwise. Doesn’t she realize how shallow dreams are? Why does she ask them about the seven seas and poetry?
They listen as she sings off tune and whispers to the moon. “I’ll touch you. Someday.” The moon whispers back, when they aren’t peering.
One day, just like the rest, her dreams will have blended with cold regret, as she keeps brewing endless warm pleasures for cocaine lovers over the world.
Second Prize – Grief-Relief
By Anila Mathew Vivek
Raman waited for the crows to arrive. The family clapped their hands and soon crows did eat the sacrificial offering. All agreed that Dakshayini Amma’s soul was indeed at peace.
Her only son Raman had performed all his duties in a dignified way, while his wife had ministered to her mother-in-law satisfactorily. The two grandchildren and spouses duly arrived for the well-attended funeral. All the arrangements had befitted the status of the family.
Raman looked at a nephew who was leaving for office after the ceremonies. On the spur of the moment, Raman called out: “Hey! Wait up!”
He strode quickly while his wife looked inquiringly. Ignoring all questioning glances, Raman walked up panting to the young fellow, impatiently glancing at his mobile. “What is it Ramu ammava (uncle)? I am getting late for the office…”
“Can you take me back home?” asked the bereaved son. Taken aback, his nephew answered puzzled, “But right now? Aren’t you all returning together?”
“No!” came the vehement reply. “I want you to take me on this bike,” replied his uncle. Raman lovingly stroked the machine.
Ceding to the unusual demand, his nephew gave him the mandatory helmet. As the bewildered family watched, Raman rode pillion with an unfathomable expression. Raman savoured the breeze, the jerks of the ride and the feel of the helmet, still wearing the wet mundu.
The only child of his parents, the precious heir had been kept away from all things “risky”; no riding bikes, no working away from home, no playing sports, no travelling…
The burden of love had been lifted. Instead of crushing grief, there was a sense of relief.
Third Prize – Saturday
By Shloka Shankar
For as long as I can remember, I’ve more often than not met those special to me on a Saturday. Maybe it’s the convenience of a weekend or maybe it’s how it’s meant to be. I’ve not analysed it to death. At least, not yet. But it makes you think, doesn’t it? You look forward to that moment when everything arranges itself as if by magic and time slips past you in liquid anticipation. The small talk closes in on you and you’re worried about what to say next. How do you make yourself sound larger than you are? And then you realize you don’t need to. Here, it’s okay to not think, to lower your guard, be whole, be vulnerable, to just breathe.
heart sutra untying the fabric of my universe