“Class tomorrow we continue with properties of acids,” the teacher said while hiding a scar on her face.

“Hurt with acid, but pained by society”

-Akansha Singh

Image source: Google Images



The war ended,
The pain stayed.


You are made of stardust;
Your skin sparkles the way those stars do.
Your blood is made of the earth;
Your veins bloom flowers and leaves and trees.
Your breaths are made of the air of this planet;
You blow life into this world.
Your mouth, your lips are made of words;
You speak tales that nobody else feels.
Your eyes contain the universe in them;
They have stories to tell and stories to bury.
Your scars are made of the chronicles your life has lived;
They’re constant reminders that you’ve felt emotions nobody has.
You are infinite.
How did you think it’s okay to burn yourself down?


Everything screamed silence.

The bare walls gawked at each other across the hushed atmosphere of the room. The ceiling faced the floor, but seemed to look away, devoid of answers to unasked questions resonating in the room; unlike every time, when it had soundless words of comfort for restless spirits, today it needed consolation itself. Every inch of the desolate room echoed the cold quietness of the moment. A broken glass, neatly fitted in the window pane allowed some light to enter the room and cast pale shadows on the barren walls with melancholy and emptiness, and with a lone girl sitting in one corner of the room. Lone, to a silent observer; but for her, she never felt alone; her shadows and her gloom never let her.

In the instant that followed, a piercing sound pricked the still ambience; it was the telephone. “It must be the doctor,” she muttered, unmoving in her place. “I must go and get it; he surely has some news about mother.”

She tried to stand up, but her hungry body of a week protested. Her tired eyes looked at her limbs, lifeless and unappealing. Bones peeked through every corner of her physique, veins bulging out, trying to break free from the cage.
She had no energy to get up.

Even her heart refused to budge; if there was any left. Her heart, her soul had given up on life, and now she was slowly fading away, becoming a part of the darkness. “He surely has some news about mother,” she reminded herself. Her broken conscience, her shattered spirit, however unwillingly, did manage to radiate some reason for her to try again.

She gave it another try, and rose to her frail feet. She walked outside to the telephone.

Beside the telephone was a window. She looked out. The piercing sound of the phone continued to fall on her ears, but she chose to ignore it; the pain of the world outside was much more than hers.

As she looked through the crippled glass of the window, she saw a place she did not recognise. No. This could not be her town, where she spent her days as a child. That little town had flowers, butterflies, people, families and happiness, but this place only showed destruction and sadness, and the dilapidated buildings, that housed refugees in their own homes. One could listen to chirps of birds, whispering of the wind, and laughter. But all she could hear in the war-torn city now was war-sirens, gunshots and, phone bells, she reminded herself, and picked up the phone.


“Hello. You must have guessed it; it’s me, the doctor. I-I- just wanted to tell you that your mother- er–”

“Passed away?”

“Oh child! Please don’t cry! I know it’s devastating for you- not just as a daughter, but as person. Just- just be strong, like your mother. She was the bravest person I’d ever seen. She fought the soldiers in the most fearless way possible, till those wild hounds tore her flesh down.”


“You’re not sad?”

“Sad? What’s left of me to be sad? I’m just a piece of flesh left to perish. They took away my heart, my soul, my humanness. Every day I just sit in this run down building- which I can’t call home anymore- with my loneliness, looking it in the eye. The broken pieces of my heart lie on the floor staring at me, demanding an answer. But what do I tell them? Why did I let this happen to them? I avert my gaze, running away from these questions, but I end up stumbling across my hopes and my dreams; they mock at me, yell at me, throw tantrums at me, before I see them fade away into an endless void of despair- like myself.”

“But despite all this, you’ve been brave. Continue to be brave, don’t give up yet.”

“Sure. Thank you so much for all you’ve done for me- now, or ever. I can’t thank you enough. Goodbye–”

The door broke open in the middle of her sentence. Three men wearing military uniforms and black masks walked in, guns aimed at her. They had come. And they had shot her.

The bullet went right through her weak chest. She dropped the receiver. She collapsed to the ground. Before closing her eyes, she managed to utter her last word and complete her sentence; “–dad.” Her eyelids shut her eyes close.

Everything screamed silence.


I once knew of this boy,
who had magic in his fingertips.
Some small, subtle tricks,
and not the abracadabra hymns!
He made his cats into bats
and took out mats from his hats.
His money smelt of honey,
and his bunny, oh so funny!
His bells would never ring,
yet his wells would always sing.
And before he went to sheep,
he would always count his sleep.
With a flicker of his hands
police patrol around the slate
and his maths teacher
would write upon the state!
I once knew this boy who said,
“I have magic in my fingertips.”
Oh, did I tell you how
his dysgraphia rules his scripts?

Kurta Pajama

Ammi jaan, darwaza kholiye! Open the door! Ammi jaan!”

“Oh sweetie relax, I’m coming!”

Sahiba rushes to open the gate. A very excited Salim darts into the house like a bullet. Hurling his shoes straight onto the sofa, tossing his bag right beside the fireplace, the little boy nestled tightly into his mom’s chest.


Ammi jaan, tomorrow is my birthday, right?”

“Mm hmm… and I’ll be preparing your favourite dishes,” Sahiba leaned in closer, “sewaiyaan too!”

The expression on the boy’s guileless face was priceless as it lit up to the thought of savouring the vermicelli pudding!


Salim was a handsome young boy, just about to turn seven. He had messy hazel-hued hair that fell over his forehead, curtaining his wide, milky white brow. Further down than this were deep muddy brown eyes that reminded of a whirlpool, yet gleamed with innocence.


Following the two hour long chit-chat between the mother and the son about their day so far, was the time for Namaaz. The duo sat to read their evening prayer, facing the Ka’ba, or the west side, where in Mecca stands the House of Allah. After seven minutes of offering their devotions to the Allah, Sahiba and Salim were back to their talks and gossips.


“So Salim, what do you want for your birthday?” asked Sahiba.

“The green kurta-pajama we saw in the bazaar the other day!” blurted out Salim, without even giving it a thought for a second. Obviously, he’d been planning the answer since long!

“Oh beta! That’s just another pair of a robe and pants!”

“But that’s what I want!”

“No Salim, forget about it!”

“If you don’t get it for me, I’ll complain about you to abbu jaan!”

“Well, then why don’t you ask abbu jaan for it? He’ll get it when he returns from Lucknow after a whole month!”

“If you- if you- don’t get, I will- um- leave you and run away!”

Mahshallah, look at his cheeks, blackmailing his mother!”


The sweet little bickering in the courtyard of the house- oh how gratifying!


Soon, dusk settled in. The sun gracefully snuggled into the clouds, like a blushing bride would burrow into her veil. Darkness embraced the night sky. The moon elegantly rose up and beamed at the earth below. Mist enveloped the cold January night, while tens of thousands of people curled up in their blankets in the simple yet beautiful town of Akbarpur.


Here, a weeping Salim hit the sacks, a disappointed (to-be) birthday boy; there, a smiling Sahiba tucked herself in the bed, a proud and excited mother.


Next morning, the alarm in Salim’s room went off at 6 of the clock, as it did every day. The piercing sound brought Salim back from his post-sleep-early-morning dwam. He fluttered his eyelids open and rolled out of his bed onto the carpeted floor that tickled his little toes. Rubbing sleep out of his eyes, he walked towards the kitchen, cross with this mom, yet his eyes twinkling with anticipation.


Just as he pushed open the door of his room, he saw a green coloured kurta pajama lying on the threshold- just what he had wanted!


Salim rushed across the courtyard that was blanketed under thick winter morning fog, into the arms of Sahiba.

Ammi jaan, bohot shukriya! Thank you so much! Now I will never leave you!”

“Oh beta! Happy birthday! Come on, now go, get ready for school. And wear your best clothes today; let everyone also know it’s your birthday today!”

“Yes ammi jaan!”


Salim hurriedly ran to the bathroom, brushed his perfectly arranged rows of milk teeth, none of which had fallen by then, and had a short bath following which he ate his breakfast. Afterwards, he bade his mother a sweet goodbye- a kiss on the cheek- and left for school. “Hallelujah!” murmured Sahiba looking at Salim in his new kurta-pajama.


Skipping all the way on the streets, he made such a delightful sight for the entire neighborhood (save those unfortunate people who missed him), while his mom prayed to nullify any evil eye on him. In school, people just couldn’t stop admiring how cutely handsome Salim looked in his clothes! And the pride and enthusiasm on his face- just so precious and enthralling!


Back there at home, Sahiba turned on the radio as she put milk on the stove to boil. Humming to the tunes of Kishore Kumar, she imagined what Salim might say when he would eat his favourite sewaiyaan.


Ammi jaan, this is better than ever today!” he would exclaim.

“Hmm? Do you really mean what you say, or is it just buttering?” she would joke.

“No, ammi jaan, really!”

And then she would gather him up in a warm huddle.


At that very moment, the radio shifted from songs to news.


“And there goes another wicket! Yet another loss for the team!

And here we have a recent update. Terrorist attacks at a school in east Akbarpur.”

Sahiba rotated the volume wheel towards the right.

“Bombing attacks at IFR Public School in Akbarpur left 47 casualties, of which 38 were students, and over 60 injured, including more than 50 students. All the injured and the dead have been rushed to LACM hospital.”


The ladle slipped from Sahiba’s shaky hands as she leaned over the wall for support. She fell to the ground with her back rubbing against the wall. Tears were inevitable. Hurricanes arose in her mind, destroying all her thoughts. She could feel her happiness fade into hopes, hopes for her son’s life to be saved. The hurricanes grew louder, washing away her delight and leaving behind trails of worry instead.


Suddenly she heard a knock. She wiped off her dewy eyes and wet cheeks with her dupatta and tried to stand up on her trembling feet. Stumbling, limping, she somehow managed to reach the main gate. With baited breath she opened the gate hoping to see Salim. Instead, a tall man in the uniform of a school guard stood there with a school bag and a pile of neatly folded clothes.


Sahiba immediately took the clothes and unfolded them. It was the pair of green kurta pajama– she very well recognized- Salim had worn.


She covered her mouth with her hands. She tried to hold back her tears that now rolled down her cheeks in voluminous streams, while choking on her gasps. Sahiba could take it no more. She collapsed to the ground and ran her shaking fingers over the clothes.


In between her sobs, she could hear her little sunshine talking to her. His radiant face was still vivid in her brain, and so was his silvery voice in his dulcet tones.


“Now I will never leave you!”

“The World Has Changed”

“The world has changed,”
they say.
“Nothing is as fine
as ever before.”
“It’s ugly and loathsome
to live in a world
like this.”
“The world has changed.”
Well, no.
It’s not the world
that has changed,
It’s still the same.
The sun used to rise in the east;
it still does.
There used to be twenty-four
hours in a day;
so are now.
Fire used to be scalding,
ice used to be frosty;
such is the case
even today.
But definitely,
something has changed-
Our minds, our hearts.
Corrupt, brutal, stupid,
wicked, inhuman, ruthless.
Our minds have gone crazy
for money.
Our hearts have gone cold
for no good reason.
We kill, we fight,
we steal, we wound,
we lie, we cheat,
we hurt, we fake,
we wreck, we hate.
We do so many wrongs
that make this Earth pathetic.
Our minds have changed,
Our hearts have changed.
But still we say,
“The world has changed.”

Who Took Me Home?

It was a dark, stormy night,
Not a single body in sight.
Amidst the chilly, foggy air,
I was all alone over there.

All alone, in the middle of the road,
Something was lit up, was it a lamp post?
Or the moon? Or a star?
Or the headlights of a car?

The cold, icy air numbed my feet,
While I stood there and chattered my teeth.
Someone took my arm
And said, “I’ll cause you no harm”.

“Trust me, come along,
I’ll take you to where you belong”.
Along with him, I walked away,
And realised, a blind man had showed me the way…

An Indian Lady

An Indian lady,
So beautiful she is,
Proudly she walks,
Dressed in herself.

A bindi
Isn’t merely a punctum;
It’s an exemplar of her decency
And the purity of her thoughts.

A dupatta
Isn’t just a lace on her chest;
It’s her pride and self respect
That she carries everywhere.

A sari
Isn’t just a six-yard fabric;
It’s her identity and pride
And her trust in herself.

Her sindoor
Isn’t simply red powder on her head;
It’s her love for her husband
And her faith in her marriage.

Her mehandi
Isn’t barely a brown design on her palm;
It’s the reflection of her promises
And her belief in her culture.

Her chudiyaan
Aren’t solely bands on her wrist;
They are a manifestation of
Her incandescent soul and cheerful life.

The solah shringaar
That she wears
Isn’t merely her jewellery or attire;
It’s a piece of herself.

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