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MyStory Winners – Public Choice

30th October 2019

The top 25 entries (on the basis of number of votes polled) in The MyStory Contest were judged by a panel. Below are the winners by public choice.

 

All My Life, I Dreamt
by Agastya Dev Addepally

All my life, I stared down barrels of rifles,

Empty bullets shells, filled up bullet holes,

All my life, I walked through smoke bombs,

Tripping on people in comatose, slipping on blood,

All my life, thunder of guns and fires of Molotovs,

Drowned cries of help, burned out love and care.

 

People dream of ruling empires,

People dream of love unobtainable.

All the beautiful things they could do.

I dream about more grounded things,

Will I be the next collateral damage?

A bullet wasted, among the millions

That call my home, their area of control.

I dream of how long, until my friends know,

I dream of how long before my sibling

Becomes a single child,

I dream of how long I’ll sit in a morgue,

Before curfew is removed.

I dream of how long before they write my name,

In a memorial and hope for change.

I dream of how long before new names

Fill up the memorial, and drown out mine.

 

All my life, I only dreamt of nightmares,

Horrors and terrors ingrained in all our minds,

The soul of this land is tainted,

With blood and fear.

We raise our hands in surrender,

More often than to hold loved ones.

—————————————————————————————————————-

Beyond The Hills Of Afghan
by Ananya Bhardwaj

 

I remember waking to the call of the mosque, a
distant call,
Every morning my faith was roused, yes Allah,
I had to offer my supplications, not that I did not
believe in His greatness,
A child of ten wanted an answer from The Lord of
the world.
Throwing my blanket yards away, like the Princess
of Persia I would rise
I wanted to dance along that beam of light towards
my slippers, but I never did
What if Abbu jaan would see? Would his uncultured
daughter find a husband?
I had to struggle with my slippers to get my feet
pushed into them, but who would buy me a new
pair?
The same old burqa would adorn my body, black,
though I loved colours,
Ammi would say to comb properly, to look good, to
appear beautiful,
Who would look at me from behind that veil? Did
that black pall over my body make me pure?
But the seconds would not wait to ask so much,
and yes, there was fear. Fear of what? Being a girl?
The green mat I would spread on the floor, my
most beloved hour of day would be standing near,

With legs folded back and face in hands I would
read the namaz, with all my heart, though I didn't
know what it meant entirely
I did want to know, but who would take out their
precious time to tell me?
May be I had to be like the boy next door to make
Abbu jaan love me, tell me tales of far away lands
that I would never see.
Abbu jaan had to leave for work early sometimes,
with a metal tin rattling behind his bicycle carriage,
What did he do? Where did he work? I never asked.
For I would not be answered
It was as if I was a part of a family that I never
had, a part of the people to whom I never
belonged,
Maybe because I saw no reason to be clad in a
burqa when the summer sun was up.
One May afternoon, Ammi and I were returning
from maulwi saheb’s house, Ammi knew I wanted
to read the Quran myself
He agreed to teach me, and to my sheer
amazement, Ammi did agree
Nineteen years have gone by, twelve autumns
without her, still when I close my eyes and try to
tell my kids as to what my mother was like, I miss
a heart beat
At ten, I was thankful to her, but what would I not
have given, now, to realise what she had done for
me, then?
That night was starless, Abbu jaan was late, maybe
my stars wanted me to get closer to Ammi
She was in the kitchen, just a room beneath a roof

with a handful of utensils and a tap with running
water,
I stepped in, she smiled, I smiled back. That was
my thank you and somehow I knew she received it
with love
She blinked, there was a teary gleam in her hazel
eyes; I can forget anything but that gleam, that
sparkle, as if she had conquered the whole wide
world.
The next day saw me running to maulwi saheb,
with an old jute bag, probably Ammi’s, and a blunt
pencil. A Quran, also.
He was waiting for me, I was late the first day,
somehow I did not like it. There had never been a
place before where I had to reach on time
This was one, and I didn’t, because Abbu jaan
relaxed for a quater of an hour more, I couldn’t
escape in his presence
But maulwi saheb smiled still, his long grey beard
covered the best part of his chest, he called me in
with his spectacles askew and his promise of
secrecy.
I went in, not a foreign place, I sat on the carpet
that I thought had been laid down especially for
that day, it hadn’t been there before
He sat opposite to me and from that moment on I
was proud to be his student. You know why? For he
said,
“You are the tigress of Kabul. My wish before dying
would be to see such tigresses come out of their
hidden dens and roar, tell Afghanistan, even the
Taliban of their strength.”
I stared. I stared. I wanted him to go on. I felt so,

so proud of myself, so proud to be under his
guidance, so sure to shine one day, to cross the
horizon that bounded the hills of Afghan!
I did cross those hills, I never thought there would
be tears when the day would come, but my eyes
were numb, they still are, though nothing of
childhood remains
I see the sun go down behind the flames of Statue
of Liberty’s torch, I wish the torch could light the
sun again for I am afraid of darkness, perhaps the
darkness of childhood
There is darkness without Ammi, and what an irony
it is to think that she gave me light and took away
the darkness, she killed the night from my life,
For me to say that I fear it, would be a disgrace to
her. Wouldn’t it? So I look above for the night is
filled with sparkling stars and I try to find mine.
She must be watching, I know, as she used to
watch from behind the curtains of my room when I
used to flip the pages of the books unknown to her,
She must be smiling as she smiled from ear to ear
when maulwi saheb told her that I was his best
student, that I should be educated in English as
well,
She must be shedding tears too, as she did when
Abbu slapped her for her audacity, she was crying
because she wanted to see me smile
And I am still gazing at the brightest star, for my
mother, if here, would tell me that those who
twinkle are the stars that shine in the hearts of
others.

—————————————————————————————————————-

Fourth Candle
by Sibesh Sen

 

Eric Johansson is one of the richest men alive. A
Swedish billionaire with huge fortune in shipping
and real estate, had three of his four children killed
in the mayhem on Easter Day at Colombo 2019
where they had gone on vacation.  A day after, Eric
with his wife and surviving son, Elias, went to the
local church in Stockholm for a prayer service.
Surely deep in his heart he would be hoping that
after Crucifixion of his children, for no crime of
theirs, there might also be a Resurrection even if
momentarily as it happened with the Good Lord.
This one is for Elsa, my eldest one.
Pretty, pretty as can be, My Love.
So gentle, so lovely.
Oh Lord, why did it have to be my Elsa?
She loved all and hated none.
On a holiday she had gone,
Never to return.
I light a candle for thee, My Love Elsa.
This one is for Emma,
Smart, smarter than most, My Love
So kind, so humble.
Oh Lord, why did it have to be my Emma?
She loved all and all loved her.
On a holiday she had gone,
Never to return
I light a candle for thee, My Love Emma.
This one is for Emil,
My Little Big Swede.
So small yet so strong.
Oh Lord, why did it have to be my Emil?
He had hardly seen the world.
On a holiday he had gone,
Never to return.
I light a candle for thee, My Love Emil.
I also light a fourth candle,
This one for the person I know not.
The person who blew himself
Taking my three loved ones.
With so much sorry in my heart
Have no place left for hatred.
Why did you do it?
What cause could be so overwhelming?
To blow off yourself and other innocents,
Must surely be something personal and powerful,
As personal and powerful as my love for my
children.
All I can say on Easter Day
Forgive Him O Lord, for he knows not what he has
done.
I light a candle for thee O Unknown Soldier,
May you find in afterlife what you sought in this.
Amen.
Around the same time in the Cinnamon Island, the
police got leads and almost all led to Suleyman
Ahmed’s three storied mansion. Suleyman was
one of the most respected and richest of spice
traders in the country. His son, Yousuf, had been
identified as one of the suicide bombers.  Yousuf’s
wife Rashida heard the police sirens outside the
mansion. She quietly gathered her three young
sons and led them into a room. They knelt on their
silk mats and Rashida led them in their prayers.
O Dear Lord,
We lived the life you gave,
Lived it the way you showed.
Every day was dedicated to you,
Every deed was as the sacred text said.
Never did anyone falter
Never did anyone think twice.
You are always right
Yours will always be right.
We lived for you
Lived for your cause
Now the time has come
To reach closer to you.
Accept me My Good Lord
Accept my family
As I light the Holy Flame now
Ameen.
As the prayer ended, the children closed in on
Rashida who looked bloated around the belly. She
was not only six months pregnant but also had a
belt strapped around her. With arms wrapped
around her children, she pulled a
fuse- wroooooom Craaash!! The roof came
crashing down and Rashida and her children born
and unborn had their parts scattered all across the
place as the police entered the premises.
Life is an uncertainty, death is not. It will happen,
just that you don’t know when and how. Who is
right, who is not is difficult to judge. But what
makes you shiver is the faith that drives you to kill,
destroy and seek Paradise in return for the eternal
sacrifice. Which God shows a path, what text makes
people go to such extremes and do the unthinkable
and bring misery and death unto others will remain
a mystery in this life. I would surely like to meet
these bombers up there to write the next version of
Freudian theory. However, the reaction to such
fanaticism is always yours. Yousuf decided on
revenge for killings of his brethren elsewhere. Eric
took the course of forgiveness. Each to his own.
Meanwhile the ship MV Innocent ferrying people to
the other world had started its voyage. On seat
numbers 10 A, B and C were seated Elsa, Emma
and Emil. On the other side on seats 10 D, E & F
were Rashid’s three and half children. The kids
on both side of the aisle smiled and waved to each
other and sang in unison:
Michael row the boat ashore, hallellujah
Michael row the boat ashore, hallelujah
This old world’s a mighty big place, hallelujah
It’s got Satan all over its face, hallelujah
Jordan’s river is chilly and cold, hallelujah
But it warms the human soul, hallelujah
So Michael row the boat ashore , hallelujah

—————————————————————————————————————-

The Sitayana
by Srishti Tyagi

With a gruesome clutch he held the womb of birth,

The sky tore apart, wildly shook the earth.

She wept aloud, consumed with shock, guilt and shame,

She called for her Lord, even in this hour, not by his name.

 

Then Jatayu pounced upon Ravana and ferociously attacked,

Blinded him with its wings, wounded his arms and scathed his back,

“How dare you disturb me?” he roared and raised his sword up so high,

With one clean sweep, ruthlessly slashed the wing away from life.

 

Oh what a valiant battle, the old Jatayu had fought!

But it knew, it wasn’t its courage, this war had sought.

“Fight back, O Lady. Hide your strength no more.

There ain’t anyone coming. Fight back”, it encored.

 

And as with the echo of the last words, it fell on the ground,

She questioned the oaths taken by her Lord who was nowhere to be found.

The waves of bloody tears below reflected the gleam in the demon’s eyes,

She pledged that Jatayu’s fight will not be a barren sacrifice.

 

She uncovered her face, O what a beautiful face did show,

For a moment, even the rising sun was blinded by the glow.

She turned around and looked Ravana straight in the eye,

And as the gaze scorched his flesh, even the ashamed Fire just stood by.

 

“Mercy” he pleaded to Sita. In torment and pain, he called out to Ram.

(I wonder) What a magical call! There stood the Lord, panicked out from his calm.

“Stop Sita”, he commanded, “You are not adhering to the script, divine.”

And with love, purity and valour bare, she looked Ram too, straight in the eye.

 

As the remains shivered like puny twigs overcome by a merciless tempest,

She snatched the blood stained sword and broke it purely at her own behest,

into two pieces, just as those of the bow which had decided her fate,

Then she roared aloud, “I am no more the Ramayana’s bait.”

 

With the very hand that had destroyed, she then nurtured and healed,

Jatayu’s distraught wing, back to life she sealed.

The grateful bird made quills of the reincarnated wing,

Dipped in invincible ink, it engraved ‘Sitayana’, the great epic.

 

—————————————————————————————————————-

 

TIRANGA – SINCE 26 YEARS

by Vijay Kakwani 

The previous evening, clouds had appeared in hordes, violently attacking Mumbai like a gang of bandits. In the chaos that was left behind , Mumbaikars could do little except struggle through the deluge to reach their homes. ‘Mumbai spirit’, that could be seen surging like a kite on social media, could also be seen floating like a dead carcass in those flooded streets.

It’s not that the Weather department hadn’t predicted this. It had. But with the same promptness that police displayed in a crime scene from a 70s movie. A red alert had now been issued for the next day.

Here I was on the next day, standing under a sky as clear as a priest’s robe. With yesterday’s water still cupped in their palms, the loyal potholes dotted the Mumbai roads dutifully.

*****

“ Abey Andhey”.I shouted. “Bloody Autowallah.”. He’d splashed water all over my clothes.

Maybe the driver had the ears of a bat, because the auto screeched to a halt immediately. It started coming in reverse.

I gulped looking at the flowing white beard and the white skull cap. Was it respect for his age or a fear of his religion, but I ended up muttering an apology instead.

” Chacha, maaf kijiyega.The clothes got dirty. That’s all.”

“Beta.” The old man smiled. “It is I who should say sorry. Do you need to go somewhere?”

I hopped in. And that’s how I’d first met Akram Chacha.

I’d travelled in many a rickshaws till then, but this one was most unique. Much like a collage, there were photos of the man’s family, printed all over the interiors. Many a happy faces smiled through the colorful photo frames on the auto’s dashboard.

“So many pictures chacha,Your family?”

He nodded with a smile.

This man’s unique taste in music was also very evident. On a rather loud volume, what played in the auto was a cringe worthy song from the 90s.

“Put some new song Chacha. Don’t you have Dangal? Or Bajrangi Bhaijaan?”

Instead of changing the song, he cranked up the volume even further, and started humming himself. Weird man.

A few minutes on, the next song started. Pee ley pee ley oh morey Raja, pee ley pee ley oh morey Jaani. Aah! This particular song,I remembered very well .

Sloshed after all those booze parties in the hostel , my roommate and I used to bray this song on the top of our mangled vocal chords. Memories from those carefree days started floating in my mind. What I couldn’t remember though, was the name of the movie.And in difficult times like these , Google was always eager to rescue. The search results popped up, with images of a sultry Mamta Kulkarni trying to titillate in a skimpy little frock.

I obviously needed to impress the driver with my new found knowledge.

“Film Tiranga, am I right Chacha?”

“Yes Beta, Tiranga”.He said.”I’d seen this one at Plaza cinema. With the entire family.”

And that’s when I thought of pulling his leg a bit.

“Uff. Mamta Kulkarni was the hottest babe in the 90s. I can see the reason why you love these songs. Fond memories haan?”

Akram chacha laughed aloud. So did i.

Moments later, i noticed something kept behind me. It was a transparent box with some money dropped into it.

“Chacha ,What’s this box for?”

“Beta.It’s the donation box for an orphanage. Would you donate something?”

Now I didn’t know this man well enough. What I did know however were stories of a many a crooks who’d play on people’s emotions to collect money, only to splurge it on their vices later on. I ignored the request and looked outside.

“Beta,if you don’t mind , I’d stop for a minute in the next lane.”

The auto now turned towards a dingy congested lane and came to halt in front a tiny little shop. The lady in the shop, a widow by her looks, quickly lined up her dupatta on seeing the auto.

Akram Chacha got down, and my eyes widened in shock. How did I fail to notice this before. The man didn’t have a right leg. I gaped as he hobbled towards the shop and came back, holding a clump of notes in his fist.

He handed the money to me.

” Beta, will you please drop it in the donation box behind you.”

And that’s when I noticed one of the photos again. The widow in the shop was his daughter in law. What I didn’t dare, was to ask about his son. But the answer came in the very next instant, when he lit an agarbatti and placed it next to his son’s photo.

*****

It was a Friday, many years back. Akram Chacha’s small and happy family had just stepped out of the movie hall , when the bomb went off.

12th March 1993. Mumbai. 13 blasts that had ripped the city apart. One of them was Plaza Cinema. 10 dead. 37 injured. His son Wasim died that day,and he lost a leg.

‘Tiranga’. The last movie that Akram Chacha ever saw with his entire family.

It has been 26 years since that incident and Akram Chacha, come rain or shine, makes sure to visit the orphanage every day, donating most of what he earns for those little kids.

“Beta, I see my Wasim in those orphaned kids, I see his smile in their smile.”

There was another thing, that has not changed in the last 26 years. The songs that play in that auto.

“With these songs playing, and the photos around me. It feels as if the entire family is here. Including my Wasim.”

My lips were shut that day, but my heart, had opened up a little.As the auto stopped in front of my house, I dropped a 500 Rs note in the donation box. Chacha smiled and drove away.

From the receding auto, faint music still reached my ears. Pee ley pee ley oh morey raja, pee ley pee ley oh morey jaani.