Broken God 5 (3)

My sister has always been an angel. Her skin was dark and blemish free, the color of the smoothest blend of chocolate. Her legs were long and firm, soft as a leafling. My eyes were a deep brown, darker than my own and sharp like a knife’s edge glinting in the firelight. Our parents were overjoyed when they had Radia – they still talk about how she was born with a head full of luscious hair that never quite curled in the heat. Straight black hair flowed in the wind as she gave them a steady smile, her plump lips curling up softly.

In contrast, I was born a frail thing, fresh out of the womb and pink in the cheek. No luscious locks crowned my head, my skin was sickly and dark, and my tongue lolled out of my tiny mouth any chance it got. The only extraordinary thing about me was the color of my eyes– a light hazel brown, with speckles of violet and gold. It’s the only thing that made me stand out in the crowd. The only thing that got me bullied in school too.

What are you looking at, you think you’re special cause you got freaky eyes?

Yeah! Who do you think you are?

Bitch! Slut! Freak!

My parents considered me a weak, spineless creature, for I could not handle the bullies on my own. Though my mother cried for me, I knew those tears were fake. She never loved me, hah, those tears are nothing but chains she threw around my body to keep me in place, to anchor me at the docks of her wrath. I should be grateful that the wrath of those in school is nothing compared to what I suffer at home. Radia would often turn a blind eye to the violent tendencies of everyone around me. She knew what happened to me in school; the girls pulled me away to the janitor’s room to punch and kick me in the stomach, and the boys would taunt and jeer me, even going as far as yanking my hair.

And through all that I had to endure, Radia was a constant, always lurking in the shadows, watching over me in unperturbed silence, like a guardian angel, one of God’s devices, warned not to interfere with the affairs of mere mortals. But when the name-calling and abuse got too much to handle, I saw Radia come out of the shadows, her eyes as bright and hot as a live wire, shooting daggers at the perpetrators that surrounded me. No one dared to look at me then. I was lesser than dirt in front of my sister, my God. Radia pulled at the hair of the girls who tortured me with an iron grip until she ripped out clumps of their limp strands, throwing them like flowers we throw at God’s feet. She cut down their ego with her serpentine tongue, piercing their ears and hearts with the deathly lithium venom of her rage.

“I’ve been watching you all these days and your audacity astounds me. How dare you hurt what’s mine?” My sister bellowed as she beat a girl with a broomstick nearby, ravishing even in her frenzied attempt at protection.

“W-we didn’t know! Radia- please, please, let us go-”

“No. Mark my words now, you wretched bitches. If any of you so much as touch a hair on my sister’s scalp, I will skin you alive.”

“We’re s-sorry! Sorry, Lily- please tell her to stop.”

My sister, my God, in her merciful cruelty, stopped her beating and turned to me, face flushed red from her righteous exertion. She looked at me with pleading eyes. They whispered to me in hushed urgency. Let me be your sword and shield. The girls couldn’t handle the looming silence as I lay limp, propped against a wall facing them as my sister exacted justice. The tension was palpable, like a living breathing thing, heavy in the air, and the final thread of their patience snapped.

“L-Lily, say something, you disgusting bitch!”

“Yeah, freak! Have some mercy-”

Mercy? ‘I’ should have mercy? I looked at Radia, who was shaking from holding back a punch, still waiting for my word. She had tears running down the supple curve of her cheeks, she looked torn between fighting and fleeing, like she didn’t want to hurt anyone. Oh, my poor sister, my angel, I’m sorry for making you do this, but I can’t do this alone.

“Don’t stop, Radia. Make them bleed.”

Radia smiled so wide upon my command, her fiery eyes burned in her thirst to avenge me. She turned to the girls and started laughing like a mad thing, picking up the fire extinguisher and making her way to my bullies. They’d scurried into a corner like rats, screeching at the top of their lungs in fear.

“Y-you monster!” 
That’s right, I’m the monster. 

“Don’t you have a heart?”
 How could I, when you ripped it out yourself? 

“Have mercy, you bitch!”
Why should I have mercy for those who hurt me?

“W-we’re sorry, Lily! Please save us!”
I smiled as my Savior avenged me.

Their cries melded into a beautiful symphony, charging the air with rage and torment.

My blood boiled at the sight. Radia was my guardian angel, she was my God, but she was also my sister. She shouldn’t have to protect a weakling like me. Radia made each one of those girls bleed and scream that day, and no one dared to open the closet doors. They knew that Judgement Day was here and that Radia was the one overseeing their punishment. She spared their lives that day, as a lesson to all who hurt me.

Everyone said Radia was born lucky, and I was lucky to be born. But we sisters know the real truth. That Radia was born to rule the lands, but I was born to rule Radia’s heart, her body, her soul. She was mine just as I was hers. Two halves of a whole.

She was merciful in her cruelty, but cruel in her mercy. If she was going to protect me, she should’ve protected me earlier on! She could’ve prevented me from ever being hurt why was she doing this now..? I mused over this question for hours on end, turning it this way and that in my mind in an attempt to reveal her ulterior motive. But what motive would a God need to protect her child? I shelved the thought, for now. I’d get to the bottom of this later.

Nobody touched me at school after that, everyone revered me instead. They sang my praises and asked to have lunch together, but I refused them all, choosing to visit Radia in her classroom instead. Radia was surrounded by her friends, boisterous and loud in their happiness, a stark contrast to the silence and dismissive gazes I received every day. And yet, with all this light and joy around her, Radia looked sickly and tired, she trembled in her seat as one of her friends fed her, not caring to ask what was wrong. Guilt pooled in my gut the more I stared at her. This was my doing, what she did to those girls must be taking a toll on her. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with air and courage.

“Raddy! Look here!” I yelled, the childhood nickname I gave her still startled my sister, it was funny. Radia looked around the room with her newfound energy, her friend got off of her lap and let her stand to search for my voice. That’s when she noticed me, hiding behind the door. Radia grinned at me as she parted ways with her many lovers and made her way to me. She ruffled the hair on my head and took me to the staircase leading up to the piano room, I silently walked behind her, listening to her chatter with a refreshed spring in her step.

We entered the room and shut the door behind us, tip-toeing our way to the cushioned piano seat lest the floorboards creak. She turned to me and pressed her hand against my forehead, her eyes scanned my face, asking me what was wrong. I shook my head sideways, silently letting her know that I was okay.

“Are you okay?” I murmured, afraid she might get mad at me for fussing over her. I have the right to fuss over her though, she’s my flesh and blood. The only one that mattered.

“Why do you ask?” She asked coolly. Ask her now. Ask her what her real intentions are.

“Why did you save me back then?”
“Why? What kind of question is that- Why wouldn’t I-”

“You never helped me before,” I asserted, fed up with her constant deflection. The look on Radia’s face gave away what she was thinking: Ah, I’ve been caught. She straightened her back and looked forward silently, honesty and reason warred behind those kind eyes.

Finally, she turned to me and looked me in the eye, searching for any ill intentions she thought I had behind my line of questioning. Finding none, she turned around and started stripping. I was speechless, the absurdity of the situation sinking in.

“What the hell are you doing? Put your shirt back on-”

“You wanted to know, right?” Radia whisper-shouted. The dim light of the room turned her brown skin gold, but nothing could’ve prepared me for what Radia showed me. There were bloody welts on her back, treated with a yellow ointment and roughly covered by cotton gauze. Dark palm prints covered the soft skin of her arms and back, they were almost too painful to look at. That’s when it hit me: I’d never seen Radia in our summer uniform. She always wore a winter jacket, no matter the heat of the summer days. I could feel my eyes tear up, tasting bile in my mouth.

“Who did this to you?” I begged, reaching out to touch her wounds. She flicked my hand away, holding herself tighter, her palms digging into her sides.

“Who do you think?” She chuckled, slipping her shirt back on. No one dared touch Radia, so who could it have been- Oh. Oh, Radia. I threw my arms around Radia, pulling her into a tight embrace.

“How dare they touch you? Whatever for?” I growled, tightening my grasp around her. 

“They’re my parents after all. If not them, then who?”

“That doesn’t answer my question, Radia, and you know it.” I pulled away from her, crossing my arms over my chest. “You can trust me, I’m your sister. You’re the only one I have..”

Radia tossed the words she wanted to spew like coins on her tongue, tasting each word, each feeling to find the sweetest way to convey her truth. Upon finding none, she hung her head low and broke down in front of me, her sweet voice muddled and torn as she sobbed into her palms.

My heart broke for Radia, my broken God. Oh, how much you have endured. I rubbed her head, coaxing her to speak. The words she said next shattered my soul.

“Dad beat me whenever I asked them why they did nothing to defend you. I- I called them horrible parents, for not caring for you better-” She paused to take a shuddering breath, and let the truth gush out of her.

“They beat me till I couldn’t move. They called me ungrateful and cruel to question them. All I did was for you, Lily. I’m sorry I couldn’t step in and help you earlier.” Radia wrapped her arms around me and cried into my shoulder for what felt like days. Any doubts I had about Radia’s allegiance dissipated with each tear that fell on my skin. This explains why she was torn to hurt the others, she was afraid of what our parents would do to her for taking my matters into her own hands.

“Raddy, I will always be here for you. I’m sorry I doubted you. Don’t worry, I’ll protect you from Mum and Dad-”

“You promise?”

“You know it.”

They say parents are akin to God. So tell me, why were our Gods so cruel? Word had spread of what she’d done to my bullies. What she’d done to defend me. Our parents beat Radia black and blue, the resounding crack of their rough hand across her swollen cheek was too much to bear. She had protected me thus far, it’s time I returned the favor.

I stepped in front of her before my father could deal the final blow, this act of defiance enraging my mother, who came at me with the knife she was using to cut vegetables in the corner. A shrill cry ripped through her vocal cords.

“You pathetic bitch, you should’ve just died in my womb.” My mother’s words bore no surprise, they were just as sharp and painful as the knife in her hand, cutting a deep line up my arm. The scent of blood triggered my sister into rageful delirium. She pushed our drunk father onto his back and beat his head in with a ladle hanging over the kitchen drawers. My mother turned to face Radia, her eyes bloodshot in a murderous haze. Our mother shortly fell victim to Radia’s quick wrath and lay still by our father.

The people who were supposed to love us unconditionally, now lay unmoving on the hard wooden floor, like sacrifices to a furious God that demanded satisfaction. Radia and I stared at each other and back at the monsters who lay unmoving. We might have killed our parents; does that make us monsters too? But they were the ones who tried to kill us in their drunken state. All we did was defend ourselves, right? Radia seemed to have the same questions rushing through her mind, her sore face tear stricken and bloody. I can’t take this anymore. I stood up and slowly edged towards where my parents lay, kneeling to press a finger against their necks to check for a pulse. There was a faint beat. They were still alive.

I scrambled to Radia and prostrated myself at her feet, like a desperate soul before her Broken God. “They’re alive, but they’ll kill us when they wake up, Raddy,” I said, almost begging my sister, my God, to read between the lines.

“What are you suggesting, sister?” Radia just looked at our parents’ bodies solemnly, unmoving where she lay limp and broken.

“Run away with me! We can start over elsewhere. Please Radia, I want to live. And I need you to live, please.”

“Even if I am the monster that I am? A monster that can hurt other people, one that almost killed our parents?”

“They deserved it, Radia! Pull yourself together. Come.”

We packed and scurried away, the first taste of true freedom and the weightless bird thrumming in our chest intoxicated us with its euphoria as we sat in a train heading South. We didn’t know where we were going or who we’d run into. All we knew was that as long as we were together, no one could hurt us anymore.

 My sister was a monster, my Broken God, but I was a monster too, for turning her into one.

My Kingdom Come 5 (2)

I awaken from the depths of my slumber.

Pitiful and scorned, in a world lonely and torn.

My eyes peel open, hit by the blinding lights, 

Of grey ash and embers of a dying fire.

Dark skin of mine caked in grey and white.

This ash a plague on my mortal soul.

It fell all around my tired form

Like the sheets of a white shroud.

Rags I’d foraged the day before 

Clung to the dirt and grime on my skin.

Choking me like the scent of fire and smoke,

Like memories of Winter’s War. 

The creeping chill the wind carried in its silent song

Finds a home in the burrow of my bones

Traveling up my spine like a cold serpent.

The demon of Misfortune smiles wide from below.

I leave my throne room, a damp cardboard box

Discarding my old home, I venture in search of another

The skies were hoary, the Way obscured

Orion’s mighty arrow points me toward dark woods

“This is it, the place of my final rest, the Last Bed”

I shuffle through the soft white expanse ahead.

Head and heart frozen by a polar kiss, 

Death’s tendrils nipped at my tired wet ankles.

The redwoods grew into the bleak winter skies

Their great branches like arms that guided me to my New Kingdom

The first flakes of snow sailed along windy currents

Landing on the ashy shores of my bare shoulders

My teeth chattered in my little mouth

Unable to withstand the torment of the North

Where was I to go if not to my Death? 

There is no home from whence I came.

Orphaned and alone, in the midst of war

Ash and fire, old friend and foe.

Tears trickled down the curve of my cheek

Pooling above Cupid’s Bow.

My tears brought a most welcome warmth

Dark meanders mark their path.

Soon, my eyes found a clearing in the woods

A ring of trees christened my throne,

A singular redwood grew tall and strong 

At the heart of the forest. My throne, a decaying stump,

Adorned in green moss and soft wisps of fern.

My heart ached at Nature’s kindness as I tread forth.

“Thank you, Mother, for this Last Bed.

I am sorry for the tears I have shed. 

Too young for war, my family bled. 

Now I lay alone, on my Death Bed.”

I prayed with a fervor that relieved

the sweet ache that takes over.

My veins sang in anticipation of relief

As my blood roared in my ears.

The forest retired into the cold tranquility  

Of the snow that rained down on me,

Like the warm woolen blanket 

My mother swaddled me in as a baby.

The winds sang their saccharine lullaby as

My mother tucked me in with fresh snow.

She kissed my nose with a gust of wind and learned to let me go.

Time stood still for so long, I forgot how old I am.

I awaken from the depths of my slumber.

My skin warm and my stomach full.

I rise from my Death Bed in a place unknown,

Candlelight shone on the recesses of a gilded room.

A fire burned at the hearth, casting a golden glow 

Over all of my belongings in the bedroom. 

Where am I? I wondered in awe. 

Who am I? I mumbled under my frantic breath.

A sharp knock on the oak door bounced off the stone walls

Snapped me out of my reverie, my eyes now clear as glass. 

A woman entered, her white gown trailing behind. 

Her eyes were an ethereal hue, a frosty blue.

Frosted eyes met mine as she held my lips in a honeyed kiss. 

Without a word, I was pulled out of bed and dressed, 

Vibrant cloth wrapped around me in a snug fit. 

I was led through winding halls into an Aerial Garden, high in an alpine abode.

Around me, I see chaparrals of redolent gardenias, 

Heaps of wisteria hanging from their laden branches.

Feisty vines of glacial roses climbed the trellis, 

dusting the land with its iridescent pollen.

Pear trees heavy with their nectarous bulbs bowed low, 

tempting me to taste the delectable fruit, 

to imagine the way it coats my tongue 

and leads my senses askew.

I turn to face my companion fair,

With frosted eyes and silver hair.

Her radiant smile did light a fire,

Most deep within, one of desire. 

I realized that this was all mine 

That I was the King of my Castle

Sole protector of the land of ice and fire, 

of snow and rain, of diamonds and wine.

I quickly discerned that it mattered not how I came to be 

In this strange place with its glass fruit and sentient leaves. 

I was standing on Hallowed Earth

for this was Earth no more.

Once upon a time, when I was sickly and dark 

Of straggly hair, leaving ashen foot marks. 

I’d dreamed of a Land of crystals and gold, 

Where I could eat aplenty and had someone to hold.

If that is where I am, Mother, please don’t wake me up

Do not awaken me from my slumber deep. 

For I wish to live my life with a maiden fair 

Ruling the lands of my kingdom come.

A Crow’s Lament 5 (1)

The last dregs of the night’s sweet tobacco hung heavy over the district’s visitors like the cloudy gray veil artistes used to obscure their faces, luring their prey with kohl-lined eyes.  Men from all walks of life could be seen scurrying about the streets of Sanguine Boulevard; old men with graying beards and stout bellies and boys in the last flush of their innocent youth would often visit with large bouquets for their beloved Sanguine birds. 

Today was no different. It was just another day’s work for an “Intimacy Artiste” after all. To be in a large pavilion surrounded by potential patrons was nothing short of a slow Tuesday night for Freya. Her licorice black hair cascaded down her bare back, exposed to the chilly winds that had patrons pulling girls into their arms, claiming they only meant to warm the slight creatures they will bed tonight and helped keep the girls’ pockets heavy and full. Freya was no less. She liked having enough money to buy whatever she fancied in the upcoming shopping season.

“Little Owl,” one of Freya’s patrons hooted for her, his gold monocle set snugly under his brow as he examined her approaching form. “Mon Amour! Tu as l’air exquis ce soir. Is that the gown I sent you last week?” The Marquis of Vienna was a frail old man with a heart of gold, his love for Freya grew with every visit and so did his favor. Freya swayed her hips with every step she took, her lips and cheeks stained a deep red as she put on the most convincing airs that only a temptress could.

 “Ah! Marquis de Vienne,” she whispered softly, her sultry voice hushing all thought behind those old beady eyes. Eyes that didn’t wander about to sample the many beautiful powdered hens on display. His eyes stayed transfixed on Freya’s elegant frame. “This is the satin gown you’d asked me to wear the next time I saw you, mon cher. Do you like it?”, Freya mouthed coyly, grabbing an appetizer for her beloved patron. She held out the pastry to him quietly, lips turned up in a smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes.

“You still remain as frigid as ever, mon chere. When will you open up to me, hm?”

Freya remained silent, looking elsewhere. Searching for the one she wished to spend her night with. Why wasn’t he here yet? She looked at the other artistes who danced and ran themselves tired like headless chickens in a race to find a partner for the night and secure their funds for the upcoming week. Freya was thankful she would never be in such a plight. The Marquis bathes me in his love, I shall never be like those insipid girls.

The Marquis de Vienne observed the cold calm beauty in front of him, watching her eyes flit through the crowd, scanning the faces of all of Sanguine Boulevard’s visitors in disdain. She engaged in an almost detached fashion every visit he made to her, trampling his heart like she did his roses. He called out to her several times, hoping all the money and effort to sway Freya weren’t for naught. She still looked away from him, barely acknowledging his presence and desperation. This insipid girl loves me not, not even an ounce. He straightened his stance, having had enough of her insolence.

“This shall be my last visit to you, mon cher,” the Marquis announces politely, loud enough for all the other Lords to hear. This caught Freya’s attention, snapping her out of her prideful reverie. 

“W-whatever do you mean, Sir? Was the pastry not to your liking?”

“This has nothing to do with your services, but everything to do with you, Freya!” He spat, her world crumbling below her feet with every word. She fell to her knees, grabbing his ankles with her head bowed, her pale forehead touching the grass beneath. 

“Please reconsider, my Lord. Tell me what I did wrong! I shall correct it this instant.”

“You are incapable of correction, Freya. Collect tonight’s favor from Madame. That will be all.” The Marquis de Vienne freed himself from the deathly vice of Freya’s touch, long mechanical strides carrying him away from the Pavilion. His exit was the spark that stoked the rumourous fires across the grounds. Even the girls in search of patrons looked at her in disgust. 

She must not be that good.
How fitting for one so prideful!
Serves her right. 

Freya couldn’t bear the humiliation. She stormed into the palace, running as fast as her feet could carry her across the marble floor. Her heart pounded painfully in her chest, and the weight of her current reality came crashing down on her like a mighty boulder. She had been cast aside. Now she is without patronage, just like all the other girls. But there’s Cedric. He won’t cast her away. He loves her, he said so!

She reached Madame DuPont’s study and banged on the cedar doors. She had to do something. Seraphina DuPont opened the doors ever so slowly, permitting entrance to a winded Freya. She offered her some tea and the Marquis’ final favor, holding the poor girl as she sobbed. “At least I have my Leonhart, Madame! Cedric would never abandon me.” Freya spoke fondly of the man she loved, the Duke of Valdorin, Cedric Leonhart. Many a night was spent under her thick quilt, with lips that worshiped and whispered promises of love. Madame handed Freya a letter that smelt like Cedric’s fresh sandalwood parfum, written in his flourishing letters.

Beloved Freya,
Forgive me for not meeting you today. I regret to inform you that I can no longer visit Sanguine Boulevard or you, sweet girl. I am betrothed to another, Adelaide is her name. She speaks of the smallest of things with such deference that I found myself wanting more.

I stayed with you to keep you warm all those nights ago for I know how you struggle against the cold. But it pained me to be by your side when my heart belonged to another. I have finally asked Adelaide for her hand in marriage and she was ecstatic to have me. If it weren’t for you, my Freya, I would’ve never learned to appreciate love and all it was worth.

I write this letter to beg your forgiveness for ending our arrangement so harshly and pray you may wish me a happier life from here on out. Live long, dear girl. 

All my love and regret
The Duke of Valdorin
Cedric Leonhart

Freya tore the letter to shreds and threw them into the fireplace. Madame wiped her angry tears and asked her to move to the shared dorms where the regular artistes resided. Freya abided, with not a peep nor snide remark, she’d resigned herself to her fate.

 There’s no such thing as love.

She’d abandoned all hopes of ever escaping the great halls of this glorified birdcage. Freya moved to the dorms and endured the animalistic taunts of the peers she’d looked down on all these years, hanging her head in silent apology. Still shell-shocked by Cedric’s betrayal, she slept cold and fitful that night.  What a horrible day.

The next night, even before Sanguine’s esteemed guests squeezed through its large gates, Freya was on the grounds. She danced like a wild thing, her licorice-black hair flowing in the wind, her bangles clinking to the beat of the drums as she twirled on dainty feet. When she parted her lips to sing her sweet song, one could not help but wince at the sharp agony of her words, like a peacock plucked of all its bright feathers. She was a prideful peacock no more, rather a wounded crow, and her song a mournful lament that went on and on into the long night.

Value Yourself More: A Lesson I Learned The Hard Way 0 (0)

Graphic by Arkayana Bora

Let’s go back a few years. I had just finished school and was still unsure of what I wanted to do with life. I asked for a gap year to figure it out but was met with, “Fine, we can get you married in that year.” I said nope, picked a college, and tried to mentally prepare myself for what was in store. My perception of college had always been warped thanks to 3 Idiots, where I saw college kids un-alive themselves and attempt the same. That meant, in my head, if I went to college, I would die.

College was wonderful until the pandemic reared its head around the 4th semester. Being in a new place there were challenges to be faced, but none as impactful as a person I met and what I learned.

She wasn’t there on the first day of college, she came in around a week later. It’s hard not to notice her; her attitude and hair made an impression before she did. But despite her uniqueness, I felt uneasy. I just wanted to avoid her for some reason. She looked around the room for a place to sit, we locked eyes, and she sat down next to me. I looked over at my friends, and they shared my expression of surprise. We introduced ourselves, and she stayed with us the rest of the day. She was one of the most confident people I had met at that point. She spoke her mind and did as she pleased, never concerned about what people thought of her. I admired that. Being around her, I think some of that confidence rubbed off on me.

Both of us would end up spending time together after class, at cafes or walking her to the end of the road to catch an auto. I didn’t have a curfew and she had time to spare. The whole time we hung out, my gut was never at ease. Something always told me not to get too close or let her into my life. I should have listened to my instincts. As time went on, she started to rely on me more. First for pens or sheets of paper, then for change at the canteen, and then money for meals. Later, it came to assignments, other college tasks, and emotional support. She opened up to me quickly, telling me about the friends she had and how she didn’t have close girlfriends. I thought nothing of it and told her that she would find the right girlfriends in time. She opened her world to me, and I never let her into my life the same way. I would (briefly) tell her about my family and friends, whereas I had met hers. It was clear that I was now part of her inner circle.

That’s when things began to change. She pressured me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with. When she got angry, she would never tell me why. I never knew what would upset her, why, or when. I couldn’t tell her the truth about how I felt because I was scared of how she’d react. I had to walk on eggshells around her. She got jealous that I made new friends and spent time with them. She didn’t respect my boundaries and frequently trampled on them. She would burden me with her problems and expect me to provide solutions when I was quiet, and when I would give my opinions, she would do as she pleased in the end. I would often contemplate not attending classes because I’d have to see her. It was a depressive and turbulent time in my life.

After our friendship fell apart, I was emotionally drained and extremely hurt. I started to wonder and believe that I was the problem and had projected everything onto her. These thoughts were like daggers in my mind that I couldn’t pull out. I knew in the long run, I had done what was best for me, even if it meant hurting a friend. To sever our tie was liberating, an enormous weight had been lifted off my chest, and I was breathing for what felt like the first time in months.

I began to pick myself up and love myself anew. I was pushed around and used, and it was time I realised who I was. I needed to appreciate that I was a kind and helpful person, and I could not let myself be treated this way. Moving forward, I would establish boundaries, ensuring that people knew when lines were being crossed and not give in to all their needs. Saying ‘no’, particularly to friends, is difficult yet vital.

Deeper ties with new people were difficult to build since I was still emotionally depleted. I took my time and made steady progress in allowing myself to connect emotionally. I decided to maintain deeper connections with a select few and keep the others as acquaintances. When people came to me to vent their problems, I would do my best to prevent them from unloading it entirely on me. I encouraged them to talk it out with the person in question or seek better help. I didn’t want to repeat being the therapist.

All this was made harder still as I had to spend hours in class with her. I attempted to speak to her about it, but her tone of voice and demeanour towards me indicated that she didn’t want to discuss it. After the pandemic, we met again and spoke. It wasn’t to do with the issues we had, and I didn’t get the closure I needed, but we could civilly speak to each other. That seemed like the best way to close that chapter in both of our lives. 

Social Extravaganza 4.5 (2)

Graphic by Arkayana Bora

In December 2019, I created my Instagram account, and it’s been a long journey since then.

Growing up, I was surrounded by incredibly passionate individuals. Both my twin brother and cousin sister had incredible talents in art and fashion design that had me squealing “Oh my!”. While I never considered myself an imaginative, intelligent, or creative person nor have I ever compared myself with anyone, now when I remember those days I feel a strange sense of no regrets, but there is some conflicting grief.

After joining social media, learning, and understanding it, my stage fright and social anxiety changed dramatically. My stomach quirks started in a grotesque way. I wasn’t aware of words coming out of my mouth, I couldn’t talk to 30 people in front of me, and my speech was slurred. Social media has ambiguously helped and inspired me. It gave me the confidence that I was also capable of accomplishing something. Further, social media has been the subject of conflicting perspectives, but I beg to disagree because when you look at individuals and what they truly contribute, you realize you may also have this.

I recall that even though my early poetry and articles were quite unprofessional, people were understanding and generous with their advice. I gradually developed self-assurance in my appearance, and my beliefs developed to the point that, as of today, my university classmates describe me as feminist and vocal, albeit there is still a long way to go. There is a personal, honest aspect to social media as well as a more sinister, unvarnished side.

Dark humor, a focus on money, and unwelcoming interactions between strangers are all present. My university-going male pals are initially taken aback when they discover the variety of unique requests I receive in my direct messages. I wouldn’t dare to utter aloud, there are certain messages for whom humiliation is an understatement.

Twitter plays a significant role in my life; I frequently vent my frustrations with instructors and other people there, knowing that they will see it, even though some individuals fail to understand the irony hidden in the posted phrase.

To acknowledge the “energy” people share, it has been exhilarating to watch Elon Musk tweet that Coca-Cola should add cocaine to properly live up to its name. My loved ones have become accustomed to laughing at my tweets because they are unhappy, but they are intrigued to see how I enjoy making it seem like a lighthearted joke and it is also therapeutic for me.

We are all so different from one another, yet when I tweet about something that is happening to me, I realize that everyone has the same copy-and-paste circumstances in their lives, but no one steps out to say it. Twitter, in my opinion, is a method to bring people together when used for the right reasons. Thankfully, my experience has been “vibeful” thus far, despite the fact that certain users of social media are active on the gory side of things.

“Engage, enlighten, encourage and especially be yourself, social media is a community effort, everyone is an asset.” These words by Susan Cooper show that even though you appear to be “cringe” on social media, in our parents’ eyes, all of us are a little bit “freaky” for being socially induced on these platforms.

Moving Forward and Holding On 0 (0)

Graphic by Arkayana Bora

I changed schools often when I was younger, following my parents as they scaled India. Unfortunately, unlike my brother, I was not bubbly and talkative, so it took me more time to settle down and make friends. Over all the years and all the friends I made and lost, I learnt to keep moving along the flow of time.

2017 was the last time I set foot into an unfamiliar school- my 7th school. I had a mental picture of how the next few months were going to pan out – I would be the awkward kid who really only spoke to either answer a question or when spoken to, the kid with few friends who could be tossed around easily; and that knowledge filled me with dread. But when I stepped foot into my school, I did so with a certain level of comfort that came from knowing that I may be new to this, but before I could tell- I would be like any other kid who has been here all their life. Looking back, that was the first time I told myself- “Time will keep moving and you will move with it, so try not to linger too much on what bothers you now- it won’t for long”.

Since then, I have consoled myself often with this ideology; be it on losing friends or not doing well in school or at competitions and more often than not, everything works out – every wound fades with time. Nobody remembers the one test you didn’t do well on, everyone is focused on the next. Nobody will pay attention to your rank in a competition, because life keeps moving on. Despite what may seem burdensome now, it will continue to tick by, second after second, minute after minute, and before you realise- the memory that pricks you fades away. It first blends into the background and then vanishes entirely till it is only a vague remembrance of the event.

Losing friends and holding sentiments too close to my heart stuck to me like knots deep down that I just could not untangle. But when a knot tightens noticeably, it reminds me of that time, that reality and how distant it feels now. It reminds me that whether tangled or untangled; I have moved forward with a heart full of knots- knots I could not deal with, knots I still hold onto, knots holding testimony to who I was and who I have become, and knots from moving forward.

Happiness in the Ordinary 0 (0)

Graphic by Arkayana Bora

Indian monk and lifestyle coach Gaur Gopal Das has once said, “Happiness is not about getting what you like, happiness has a lot to do with liking what you get”. The definition of happiness might be subjective but in the end, it is a process of discovering who you are, who you want to be and doing what brings you the most meaning and contentment to your life. For my househelp, happiness could be a Diwali bonus. For the shopkeeper down the street, happiness could be extra profit. For my artist friends, happiness could be new acrylic colours or freshly sharpened pencils. But to me, true happiness is Mumbai – a city that never sleeps.

I first visited Mumbai during the junior years of my college and since then it has become my escape from the rush of life. I savour visiting art galleries of Colaba and wondering about the inward significance of murals and abstract paintings. The passersby, street vendors and taxi drivers show me the ways of survival and the cobalt blue waves of Arabian sea hitting the shores of Girgaon Chaupati make me realise how endless the world is. Mumbai became synonymous with happiness when I started a tradition with my close friend who studies in a different state, and often misses his home in Mumbai. Thus, whenever he visits me on holidays, we explore Mumbai, its shopping streets, beaches, exhibitions and Irani cafes. To walk in the sand with dirty feet and talk about life, to look at the night sky from Marine drive and eat cotton candy, to walk the narrow lanes, picking up white flowers and giving them to each other until next time, is true happiness for me.

We live in a society where people think it’s okay to tell someone what to do with their bodies. ‘Are you on a diet? ‘ don’t go out,the wind might blow you away’ ‘as thin as a stick’
I grew up dealing with these unsolicited remarks about my body and the way I looked. Educational institutions are meant to make the students feel safe and unapologetic about themselves. But some of my school teachers would corner me during lunch breaks and ask if I was facing any family problem that has caused me to lose weight or if I was suffering from a chronic illness. My peers would pass remarks about how thin I was and how the wind might blow me away, if I go out during windy weather. I avoided family gatherings, because my relatives would never fail to point out how I needed to be fed more. This took away my confidence and made me camera shy. I tried covering my insecurities with new tattoos and dyed my hair every time I felt I wasn’t good enough. This didn’t help me, until I decided to be my own messiah and do the things that make my heart happy. I disassociated with people and friends who did not make me feel comfortable in my own skin. I started taking a stand and speaking up whenever I was being subjected to skinny shaming. From covering every inch of my skin to wearing the clothes I desire, I came a long way. Thus to me, true happiness means having positivity and acceptance regarding my body and loving myself unconditionally. True happiness is understanding the needs of my body and celebrating every inch of it.

Human beings are creatures of emotions. We find our happiness in the little things of life that require less to no reason at all. I find my merriment in the little things that remind me of my childhood. The orange candies sold in glass jars, long bicycle rides with my old friends and feelings the wind on my cheeks, Pepsi cola and bedtime Stories, meeting my school friends after a long time and remembering the good old days of shared tiffins and silly fights, listening to an old track and feeling nostalgic, the smell of new books and my favourite meal cooked by my mother is true happiness for me.

2021-22 has been a rollercoaster for everyone. The pandemic and sudden lockdown took a toll on our mental health. But at the same time, these two years made us slow down and reflect upon ourselves. I realised, sometimes things don’t work out the way we have planned. But the universe has greater things coming our way. It was now time to let go of people that no longer served me well and prioritised my mental health. I stopped giving chances to people who have wronged me and gradually evolved into a better version of myself. And that was true happiness for me. To heal, to learn and to let go.

Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities: A Literary Masterpiece 5 (2)

Graphic by Arkayana Bora

Are you a travel enthusiast, an architecture-lover or someone who loves to explore unknown labyrinths of fiction in their free time? If you want to see spiral staircases adorned in spiral seashells, visit the city of Isidora. Or Anastasia, a place where “your desires waken all at once and encircle you,” famous for its golden pheasant roasted over fires of seasoned cherry wood and dusted with copious delicious marjoram. Looking for a location with even more adventure? Consider Octavia, which spans a chasm between two mountain tops using ropes, chains, and catwalks.

“Invisible Cities” (1972) is a reflection on human frailties and problems told through the lens of Marco Polo’s elusive description of a number of fanciful cities to Kublai Khan. in a modern-classical manner. The book oscillates between mythic and repetitive; at moments, forcing the reader to question the point of envisioning these fantastical locations, and at other times, enthralled by the author’s deft imagination.

In the Paris Review, Calvino said, “I believe Invisible Cities is a book whose place is between Poetry and Novel.” To a certain extent I agree with the author, because after multiple readings still, I cannot, for sure, place the novel under one definite genre, as it constantly dwindles between magic realism and historical fiction.

The aspect to be liked the most is that while reading Marco Polo’s description of the cities, you will find a similarity between how the traveller remembers the cities and how we as an individual remember the cities/ places that we have visited in the past. It is almost a vivid, dream-like account of memories and ideas, pilled together to give us a feel of the whole sensorial experience, tapping onto the pulse of the place.

“Cities very much like dreams, are made up of desires and fears.”

Invisible Cities can be seen as the story of the struggle of human civilization, told through the description of humanity’s functional utilitarian creations, and their idiosyncratic nuances of them. Each city has its own unique culture and name and arising from that, its own specific struggle, bending the city’s structure accordingly.

Calvino is not at all using the word “cities” in the manner that we typically do. All cities, even those in Calvino, are built with ideas rather than with concrete and steel. Every city is an experiment in mind. Every city, therefore, is an exception to the ‘normal’ to which we are accustomed.

The book essentially distinguishes the places into 11 distinct categories namely, City and Eyes, City and Memory, City and Names, City and the Dead, City and Desire, City and Signs, City and the Sky, Thin Cities, Trading Cities, Hidden Cities and Continous Cities.

It is an allegorical portrayal of several surrealist fictional cities. Some of the depictions are amazing; Calvino’s mastery enables him to manifest bizarre cities that bear no resemblance to the cities we are accustomed to seeing day in and day out, yet they seem to us almost natural, and absolutely possible.

The text may seem light and loose to the superficial reader despite being filled with profound ideas by the master of the art:

“If you want to run off the ‘everyday’ inferno, there are not much but only two ways to go about it. The first is easy for many: accept it and be one with it. The second is to look for and discover those things and people who, despite the inferno, are not inferno, and to force them to endure.”

Frankly, I cannot fathom a linear way to discuss the allusive nature of this canonical masterpiece simply because reviewing in itself is an objective process and if you are familiar with any of Calvino’s texts, you pretty much know that they are anything but objective. One thing that I guess we all can agree upon is that Italo Calvino knows his way around words. Be it Cosmocomics, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller or Invisible Cities the imagery, world-building and well-knit storytelling make Calvino’s writings not just stand apart in the neo-realism genre, but also revolutionary in the sense that his writing makes the reader question, and to a certain extent, long for the world that he has so intricately illustrated.

If you are looking for fiction that will simply blow your mind and make you wonder about the world as it is; without a doubt pick up this masterpiece by Italo Calvino and be assured that you are in for an experience of a lifetime.

Chemist to Criminal: The Complex Antihero 5 (4)

Graphic by Arkayana Bora

Walter White’s journey in “Breaking Bad” is a powerful character arc that explores the evolution of a man from an ordinary high school chemistry teacher to a ruthless criminal mastermind. Throughout the series, Walter faces numerous challenges and experiences that lead to significant personal growth, making his arc compelling and emotionally impactful.

The protagonist of the hit series “Breaking Bad,” undergoes a profound character arc that showcases his evolution from a struggle to an inhumane illicit gangster. Throughout his life, Walter faces multiple obstacles and emotional bonds that lead to a significant subjective shift, pushing his hook significantly exhilarating.

At the start of the series, Walter is a frustrated high school chemistry teacher who has recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Despite his situation, Walter is determined to provide for his family, even if it means breaking the law. He begins cooking and selling meth with his former student, Jesse Pinkman, to ensure his family’s financial security after his death..

As Walter becomes more confident in his criminal activities, he becomes ruthless and willing to hurt others to achieve his goals. This serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of letting power and greed consume one’s morals and values. One of the most memorable quotes from the series, “I am the one who knocks,” perfectly captures the power and fear that Walter embodies as he becomes more confident in his criminal enterprises.

Despite the terrible things that Walter does throughout the series, he is motivated by his love for his family and his desire to protect them. This serves as a powerful reminder of the strength of family bonds and the lengths that a person will go to protect their loved ones.

Walter is also forced to face the consequences of his actions throughout the series, both good and bad. This serves as a powerful reminder that every action we take has consequences and that we must be prepared to accept the fallout of our choices. The most evident in the final season, where Walter is forced to confront the toll that his criminal activities have taken on his family and his relationships with those closest to him.

Despite the terrible things that Walter has done, he ultimately sacrifices himself to ensure that his family will be taken care of. This serves as a powerful reminder of the power of redemption and the ability of a person to make amends for their past mistakes. This is most evident in the series finale, where Walter takes one final stand to protect his family and make peace with his past.

The final scene of “Breaking Bad” is an assertive conclusion to Walter’s character arc, showcasing the lengths that he was willing to go to protect his family and his eventual acceptance of the consequences of his actions. This emotional bond between Walter and his family is a testament to the power of family and the lengths that a person will go to protect those they love.

Throughout the series, Walter’s emotional bonds with those closest to him serve as an important driving force behind his character growth. The love and loyalty that he feels towards his family are constantly at odds with his greed and ambition, leading to a complex and emotionally charged character arc.

The character arc of Walter White in “Breaking Bad” offers several valuable life lessons:
The importance of family: Throughout the series, Walter’s actions are driven by his desire to provide for his family, even when he is doing immoral or illegal things. This serves as a reminder of the powerful bonds of family and the lengths that a person will go to protect those they love.

The dangers of power and greed: As Walter gains more power and wealth, we see him become more ruthless and willing to hurt others to achieve his goals. This serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of letting power and greed consume one’s morals and values.

The consequences of actions: Throughout the series, Walter is forced to face the consequences of his actions, both good and bad. This serves as a reminder that every action we take has consequences, and that we must be prepared to accept the fallout of our choices.

The power of redemption: Despite the terrible things that Walter does throughout the series, he ultimately sacrifices himself to ensure that his family will be taken care of. This serves as a reminder of the power of redemption and the ability of a person to make amends for their past mistakes.

In conclusion, the character arc of Walter White in “Breaking Bad” is a masterful exploration of family, power, greed, and redemption. Through his experiences, emotional bonds, challenges, and personal growth, Walter transforms from a seemingly ordinary man into a powerful criminal, showcasing the lengths that a person will go to protect their loved ones and the impact that power and greed can have on one’s character. The life lessons and quotes from Walter’s character arc will continue to resonate with audiences for generations to come, making “Breaking Bad” a timeless classic.

When love can mean so much! 4.2 (5)

Graphic by Arkayana Bora

Rudraksha and Neepa had met on a dating app. Although Rudraksha was from India and Neepa was an Indian-origin Kenyan, They both felt they had finally found true love, or at least they thought so.

It was not the first time Rudraksha had tried to be involved in a relationship with a woman, and there were others he had met before. Some of whom he had taken out for dinner, to a movie, or the theatre, but in his mind, he wasn’t sure whether any of these women would like him.

From the outside, Rudraksha seemed to be well sorted, but internally there were demons he had been battling all through his life. Demons of how others found him and how others would react to him.

His uncertainty, which was part of him now, went back to when he was a kid. He was questioned and judged as a child by people around him and by his family, to the extent that he began doubting almost anything he said.

The idea that someone in his life could genuinely care for him and love him; for him felt really nice!

Neepa, on the other hand, had dated too; but was insecure about her looks as she was a bit stouter than other women and many men had declined her because of her appearance.

When she talked to Rudraksha, she couldn’t believe she had found someone so caring, for whom the idea of love was above all else.

It was the year 2000, so, you couldn’t start a date through easy face-to-face WhatsApp calls from the comfort of your home back then.

In those times, you had to go to one of the many cybercafes in town, and once they closed, you had to wait till the next day to talk again if you wanted to talk to someone from abroad.

Rudraksha and Neepa’s attraction for each other grew as they talked online, in spite of them having to go to a cybercafe multiple times, just to talk.

What Neepa loved about Rudraksha were his pure emotions and the deeply felt words with which he conveyed his love to her.

Each night, after chatting with Neepa, Rudraksha used to go to the Jetty and sit at the farthest corner near the sea, looking in awe at the twinkling stars in the sky. He could sit there for hours, staring at them and their shining reflection over the water, thinking of Neepa.

As he got to know her more, he began imagining himself and Neepa living together for eternity and starting a family together.There was an element of craziness in this dreamy notion of love that he had for her.

But Neepa was pretty sure her family would never approve of anyone who was either not financially well off or was from India. That worried her. She knew her parents would never allow her to travel outside Kenya, so the big question was, how would they then meet?

Neepa somehow found a way; her close friend was getting married in India in two weeks, so she told Rudraksha that there was a high possibility that she could make it to the wedding.

To be allowed to travel to India she said, she would have her cousin in Delhi invite her and take full responsibility for her time there..

Rudraksha was happy that he was finally going to meet Neepa. The coming two weeks were full of anxiety for him in anticipation of meeting her soon.

When the day of reckoning arrived, Rudraksha excitedly went to the airport to pick her up. He had nervous energy flowing all through, and all kinds of things ran through his mind.

Would he be able to give a first good impression of himself to her? Would she like him as much as he thought when she met him in person?

Rudraksha paid the visitor fees at the Airport Arrivals entrance and reached the arrivals hall. He couldn’t believe he would soon be with Neepa. He moved excitedly towards where the conveyor belt where the luggage arriving for flight 106 from Kenya was.

He looked around, and there she was; she looked different as he waved to her. The first conversation between them was like two strangers talking to each other.
She mustered the courage to come closer and softly murmured to his ears; I’m here, and then they warmly hugged.

When they were in the taxi, they kissed for the first time, and there was magic. It felt as if everything around them had either stopped or was slowing down and fading into oblivion when they kissed.

The next few days were great as Neepa, after visiting Rudrakshe’s parents, went with him to Kutch for her friend’s wedding.

When they were approaching Kutch, Neepa put her arms around Rudraksha, wanting to sleep a little, as the picturesque town opened up in front of them.

They had some memorable times together in Kutch, where their romance kindled further, in the background of the wedding and this exotic Gujarat Town.

After four days, they were in Delhi, where Neepa introduced Rudraksha to her cousin Amreet’s family in Vasant Kunj. Amreet and his wife Maheep were happy to welcome Rudraksha into their house and started to like him.

Amreet was this burly Punjabi guy who loved his Whiskey and Chicken, as all Punjabis do, while his wife Maheep loved cooking all his delicacies for him.

Amreet told Neepa that Rusraksha was really a nice guy, and was a good match for her.

But all this while, Neepa had not told her Mom and Dad that she had met Rudraksha.
After four days, Neepa’s dad somehow found out from Amreet that Rudraksha and Neepa were in Delhi together; and were seriously considering marriage. He was furious and told Neepa not to see him again.

It was all too abrupt, and her mother’s frail health also didn’t allow her to go against her father.

Neepa took him to her room one last time that day, hugged him tightly, and said; this was the last time he was seeing her. It broke Rudrakha’s heart, as he knew he would be alone again. Neepa went to Kenya the next day in a hurry, and they never met after that.

Rudraksha realised after this that love, at best, can be so transitory and in the end, loving the time that you spend with someone you meet, even for a little while, can be all that matters!