Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dipankar's Character Sketch

And I mean sketch
Life and Times of Shoshi Thakur-
Internal Timeline in square brackets.
Born Malda Town, 1970, as Ravi. Bihari father fugitive from law. Suspected of plotting to assassinate President. Bengali mother, who marries to escape village squalor.[Learning to stand on own feet early, learning to trust few people.] Till age 9, family of 3 move about from Malda to father's ancestral home in Giridih and from there to Benaras, staying for a few years at each place.[Sees and listens to people from many places. Learns never to settle down, to always be on the move]
Age 10, father is apprehended and shot 'accidentally' while trying to escape, in Benaras ghats.[Responsibility of a mother to look after toughening up Shoshi] Mother and Shoshi come to Kolkata under new names. Mother works in houses for a living, managing to send Shoshi to a school. Shoshi discovers a flair for football and debating.[Finds joy in comradeship in muddy fields and in being listened to by audiences in non muddy rooms] Age 18, enters Presidency COllege. Runs for student elections at 19,winning by big margins.
Age 22, jailed for protesting against police action of lathicharging students at a gathering.Acclaimed student hero.[Popularity, sees good and bad people from many sections of society. Obstinately dreams of changing the world.]
Age 26, runs state elections against the ruling party. Garners support,publicity. People talk about a wind of change. Identity of father discovered, allegations of corruption thrown at Shoshi by ruling party. Shoshi loses elections, resigns from party.[Ashamed at having a secret past he thought unimportant dug out. Devastated that a minor fact as that could remove him from people's favour.]
Age 27, Shoshi marries.[Seeking escape into the domestic.] Age 28, Shoshi leaves wife behind and goes to Tibet. Gains admittance to a monastery in North Tibet. Stays there in a room of his own and writes poetry secretly.
Age 32, Shoshi slips off mountainside and dies while on a search of a lost dog that used to live with him.

Times of Sochu---
Thwarter. Born Martin Goodson in 1930,London to Catholic parents.
25, takes up job of schoolteacher.
40, travels to Ichitaga in North Tibet.
44, Ordination to Sochu.
50, made Chief Abbott of Ichitaga Temple.
68, finds Shoshi dying of dysentery in a Tibetan house. Shoshi's delirious talks of philosophy and history attract him, and he takes Shoshi to his monastery, nursing him back to health and giving him a place to stay.

Trashy Remnants of Stupid Thoughts: Interlude ( or a little something I cooked up for ...

Piali's other story...

Trashy Remnants of Stupid Thoughts: Interlude ( or a little something I cooked up for ...: words of inspiration: FLOGGING, HONEY, HIGHWAYS, HAND OUT, FELLOW-WARRIORS     As the final and twelfth chime of the clock faded away int...

Map Exercise

Ecin- Political Location- 2000 Km South-West to Australia Shinjini Chattopadhyay Each colour coded area represents a province (like the ‘states’ in India) and the little black circle in the middle of each province is its centre (which are known as ‘capitals’ in India).

Stratlin
Centre- Leninopolis.
Area- 88,752 km2
Population- 91,347,746
When all the communists were driven out of Europe and America in 2020, they came to Ecin. The inhabitants of Ecin did not give a shit about communism and let the expatriates stay in a sparsely inhabited area of the country.

Unicornolium
Centre- N.A.
Area- 21,081 km2
Population- N.A.
This is the land of all the fantastical creatures from the fairy-tales of the world. You can find the unicorns, the fairies, the princes and princesses. They are all real in Unicornolium. Every inch of the soil of this province is enchanted. The creatures cannot cross the enchanted boundary. If they do they just disappear into thin air. And outsiders cannot enter Unicornolium either. The invisible enchanted boundary creates a barrier for anyone who tries to get inside the land of magic. The magical creatures are visible only from a certain distance.


Dwarfistan
Centre- Dopeynabad
Area- 94,163 km2
Population- 103,804,637
This province is populated by one of the native tribes of Ecin, called the ‘Tringeedipitee’. They are not dwarfs as the name of the province might suggest, but none of them scale a height of more than 5 feet. Hence the other tribes of the country assigned their province the said appellation.



Ѐcrancortum
Centre- Babel
Area- 38,863 km2
Population- 33,387,677
The inhabitants of this province are obsessed movie-buffs. They name everything in their province after movie-stars or directors or movies or anything related to movies.



Plutony
Centre- Haidrocloristopolis
Area- 22,347 km2
Population- 2,721,356
This province is known for being the cradle of many ground-breaking scientific inventions. All the budding scientists of the country head for Plutony.



Greeneland
Centre- Grainagogue
Area- 308,252 km2
Population- 75,697, 585
This is the agricultural hub of Ecin. Most of the farms of the country are located in the rich soil of this province.




North Vagiconland         

 and South Vagiconland
Centre(s)- Kalapakkam (North Vagiconland)
                 Bitchiathipore (South Vagiconland)
Total Area- 243, 286 km2
Total Population- 199,581,477
Until two months ago Vagiconland used to be a united province. Vagiconland has been known for its strict gender boundaries. If anyone wishes to have sex with anyone he/she will have to file a petition with the administrative body of the province. Unmarried men and women are allowed very limited interaction. Homosexual activities are strictly banned. People are not allowed to go to the beach before the age of 40years. The net providers have been given strict instruction to block any sort of porn site. Movies are considered as a bad influence on the youth. The inhabitants of this province have a strong disapproval for the culture of Ѐcrancortum. Many of the inhabitants of Vagicon have been seen to shift base to Plutony.
    Five months ago, a group of young people demanded that the age of going to the beach should be lowered to 30 years. While they got many supporters, again many went against them. Before long, the whole province was divided into two opposing factions. In order to avoid civil war, the government of Ecin decided to take matters in his own hands and divided the province between the two factions. The ones who had come up with the demand got North Vagiconland . The ones who were for preserving the age-old traditions got the Southern portion and decided this was the best solution because mixing with the ‘progressive’ mass would inevitably lead to decadence of the society.

Ecin- Important cities










 Ports

 Industrial Area

 Agricultural Hubs

1,2  Important Cities







Ecin- Natural







Mountainous Region 4500-6000 meter


  
             Plateau 1500-2000 meter

Plain Land 150-250 meter

  
           Plain Land 0-250 meter

                Lake

                River

               Desert





Shinjini Chattopadhyay
UG III

Character Sketch

This is from Piali

Name: Miyamoto Takashi, age: 21 years, year of birth : 1987 nationality: Thai, occupation: hairstylist,  origin/ethnicity: Japanese,  parents emigrated to Thailand  before his birth.
Reason for immigration:  Mother had a premarital affair with an influential member of the DIET and got pregnant with Takashi’s elder brother Hiroshi. Hiroshi’s biological father didn’t accept paternity. Grandfather, florist,married her off to one of his students and paid them to immigrate to Thailand. Father opened a florist shop in Pattaya, and there Hiroshi, Takashi, and their younger sister Miyuki was born. The difference was two years between each conception.
Family and their behavioural characteristics, aka timeline and Takashi’s psychological development: Brother was told of his true paternity by a nosy relative (probably the mother’s aunt) when he was four. Father, trying to show that he loved Hiroshi despite his coming from a different father,spoiled him exuberantly and in the process alienated Takashi and Miyuki. Mother, who ran a parasol shop in the tourist district andwho was rather subdued and guilt-ridden for her past indiscretions, followed whatever her husband did. Being  so alienated, Takashi grew fond of his books, and Miyuki sarcastic and bitter, though they were the only two people in the household to truly connect. Hiroshi, a bully by now, used one of Takashi’s books as toilet paper. Miyuki hit him with a spanner. Father, suspecting Takashi to be the origin of Miyuki’s violent behavior, sent him to Singapore to his uncle. He had initially a very good relationship with his uncle, who had two daughters but no son, but the two soon grew distant as Takashi came to realize that his uncle fervently opposed his career decision, dismissing it as merely effeminate.
Major turn in life: 27th December, 2006. He gets news that his parents and Hiroshi were killed in the tsunami. Miyuki was away on a vacation, so she survived. He is slightly relieved by the news, and feels no survivor’s guilt and feels very cold and clinical towards his parents’ death. Returns to Pattaya to look after Miyuki, who is still a minor( despite his uncle’s wishes, who wanted him to stay in Singapore and take on the family business). Opens up a hair salon with the aid of his mother’s friend Nakamura Tomomi and gains fame gradually. Tomomi, a widow made so by the tidal waves of tsunami, comes by often to talk about her friend and reveals that the son her friend used to talk about all the time was not Hiroshi but Takashi. Takashi does not want to hear nor believe, but he falls in love with Tomomi. He’s afraid of telling her, but he constantly offers to cut her hair. Tomomi refuses to do so, arguing that her husband used to love her hair, and will only allow her hair to be cut when she is ready to be put to coffin.
Present time: Takashi sits in his salon as he recounts all this. He is about to take part in a prestigious competition amongst hairstylists. This is the gala night. He is confident he will win and wishes to confess to Tomomi at the victory party, after she has seen him as a man capable of winning.
Characteristics: very sedate and pessimistic, but can excel if given the right incentive. His father indirectly taught him that even something as simple as a parent’s love also can never be taken for granted, so he has given up wanting even the simplest things and takes whatever fate throws his way. Has a love-hate relationship with older women, but prefers those with backbone, something his mother never had. Likes to be led around by the nose (which we may attribute to his fondness for external authority), and can never impose his own wishes upon others unless he finds a suitable and unselfish enough reason to do so ( He could only break his uncle’s stronghold on him because he thought Miyuki needed his help after the family disaster.)
Thwarter


Name: Miyuki Miyamoto, Age: 19, Nationality: Thai, Ethnicity: Japanese, Occupation: Medical Student, faring well in her studies at the moment.
Family characteristics and reasons for character development: Her father was fond of her, though she hated him with a passion. The reason for this was her father’s partiality, who favoured her eldest brother Hiroshi over the second brother Takashi for some unknown reason (She suspects that Takashi knows the reason, but he has never told her). She fancied herself and Takashi to be the second Justice League against the great big bully Hiroshi and defended her second brother at every opportune moment. At other times she was a quiet student, determined to make it out of the house and make enough money to support her brother, who she guessed (and rightly) to be a push-over. Has an intense brother complex that borders on downright incestuous feelings. She was also the only person to keep contact with Takashi over the years he spent in Singapore. The rest of her family simply did not bother.
Reason for thwarting: Nakamura Tomomi. Miyuki wanted, and still wants, to be the one to support Takashi, and does not approve of Takashi having a job to look after her, despite being only a young student herself (she resented being a minor at the time of her parents’ death). She has quite the independent streak and is convinced it was Tomomi who coaxed her brother to set up the salon. She also knows about her brother’s obsession with Tomomi.
Method of thwarting: She plans to invite Tomomi to dinner just before the latter leaves for the finale of the hairstyle competition. She will pour a few drops of a deadly poison into her dinner, and the effect of the poison is slow but sure and the subject will die within three hours of the intake, right in time for Takashi’s appearance on the stage ( and with Tomomi’s age and heart problems, it will most probably look like a natural death). She believes that witnessing Tomomi’s death will shake her brother out of the unhealthy obsession he seems to have for her locks (and looks) and he will promptly return to being her adorable big brother, completely dependent on her.
 Acknowledgement: Photos curtsey of google images. The model for Takashi is Kim Jae Wook (Koreo-Japanese actor who has worked in a bunch of Korean dramas. Do look up Coffee Prince if you ever need a sugar rush). And the model is from a hairstyle advertisement (I found it to be rather strangely appropriate.)

Locker Room

This is Safdar's.


When Swayam Patel felt a slight tug behind his right knee while stretching before the all-important final, he knew that it was something which was not supposed to happen. He sat down in slow motion and cautiously dug his fingertips into the flesh. It did not hurt, but it did not feel great either.
 He was a lad of twenty one, with a most endearing smile, and a gentle tuft of hair protruding from his chin on an otherwise spotless face suggesting that he’d never felt the need for using the razor on his skin- very different from the face you’d expect a merciless striker, who was the biggest name on the University circuit to have. If one looked at him strolling down the street, he could easily be mistaken for a school student who loved math and was going to appear for his tenth standard final examinations. It was, in fact, right about that time when he had to choose between appearing for his board exams and attending the National under-18 trials, when he realised that all that mattered to him in life, was playing hockey. Hailing from a conservative Gujarati family which expected him to take care of his family business as soon as he got out of school, getting this thought across to them had not been easy. But he was no good at math, nor could he remember names of customers, and he refused to learn anything about bathroom fittings. He’d hardly left his family with an option other than let him do the only thing he could.
He looked around the locker room at players who were busy warming up, the first spots of sweat appearing on their foreheads, and his thoughts went back to the day he sat all alone in a corner crying his guts out after an inter-house match back in school. His mother had passed away the previous day, and nobody in his family understood why it was so important for him to play a match that people skipped when they were down with cough. He had probably played only to take his mind off his mother, he had thought later, but there was a strange fatality that he had attached to that match back then. He had had abuses hurled at him from the opposition team throughout the match. Whispers also went around that he had faked his mother’s death to garner sympathy. He hammered five goals that day, a middle school record.
Casting these thoughts aside, he sprang up and got on his feet, he wouldn’t let anything get the better of him today, and tried walking around.  With every step that he took, he felt a slight niggle, but no major pain. He sat down again and absent-mindedly wrapped his palm around the Toofaan, a gift that his great grandfather had given him when he was shorter than the hockey stick itself.  The canvas grip had been replaced by foam, the stickers had given way to imprints made when dirt sticks on to the glue left behind by stickers, but the hockey stick itself was just the way it was when he had first laid his hands on it.
The coach called out for a last-minute pep talk, and everyone huddled around the chalk board. The strategy was to hold back during the first half, play the lone striker and play long balls to him, depending on him to convert and get the early break, after which they’d step it up and go all out. He drew stick figures and criss-crossed through the board, marking out what would be a flawless seventy minutes if the match went on the lines drawn on the board. The players could hear the buzz outside, the entire University had come out for the finals. Glucose was passed around, along with thumps on the back, and the odd come-on. Swayam glanced at the smiley that blinked on his phone screen as a text message and tried to think of all the nice things that had ever happened to him. He thought of Priya, who was in the stands, it would be the first time she’d see him play. He thought of her smile, he tried to pretend like it didn’t make him nervous. He felt the scar on his left elbow. It had become smooth over the years, fingers almost glided over it. He remembered how he’d got it, one of the first memories of the field for him. He thought of the Number 8 jersey, and how no one had touched it in his absence. He thought of how he was allowed to bunk the first three periods for practice during school for two years every day, because he was their star player and the school wanted to claim support when he finally made it big. Yet, somehow, this match held a lot of significance for him. He was back on the field after an enormous gap of a year and a half, and he had a lot to prove to his team and himself, a burden he’d almost become accustomed with over the years.
The team ran out to a huge roar all across the field. Their yellow jerseys shone brightly as they took their positions and waited for the referee’s whistle. Swayam looked all around, noticed a familiar smile, ran down the pitch and felt that the stage was finally his. The game started, he darted down the turf, in an opening move which had been rehearsed over and over again in the locker room. The ball was lobbed to him, he received it on the face of the stick, faked a flick and drove the ball between the defender’s feet, moving to his right while he threw the opponent off, and then pulling it back in spectacularly, while stretching for the drag. He felt the ball under his eyes and in front of his right toe, in perfect position for the end strike, and as he lumbered up, his right knee gave in, making him collapse onto the ground.
In the few moments between the whistle blowing, and him being lifted off the ground, he knew it was all over. He knew he wasn’t supposed to return to sport for another six months, he knew the ligament had torn again, he knew how it felt. He had just heard his life pop under his breath.
In the haze that followed, a familiar face was spotted hovering around, only without the smile, clutching the Toofaan very close to her, while Swayam Patel let out a sigh.


Submissions So Far

Updated as of 22/9/11

Roll no Name Back1st CS/T 3rd 4th
UGIII
      Deeptesh Sen 7 7
      Vikrant Dadawala 7
32  Sreyashi Mukherjee 7 6.5
      Shinjini Chattopadhyay 8 8.5
      Amrita De 6
      Barsha Saha 7 7 6
      Piali Mandal 7.5 7.5
2   Trisha Ray 9
      Dipabali Dey 7 7 6
      Piu Chatterjee
      Anushka Sen 8.5 7
     Safdar Rahman 6.5
     Anuj Raina 7
     Amrita Dutta 8
     Dipankar Lahiri 5
     Soumashree Sarkar 8
PGII
      Lav Kanoi 8 7
30   Shreya Sarkar 7.5 6 8.5 7
      Sejuti Roy 8
This is the state of things so far. Some of you need to give me one more story, and some haven't submitted anything yet. The only person to submit all four assignments is Shreya Sarkar. Piu please send me something. I need to have everything before the pujas so I can send the internal marks off. safdar, Souamshree, Anushka, Trisha, Anuj, Deeptesh, Vikrant and the Amritas need to send me more.

Note: You absolutely HAVE to send me at least two complete stories. I don't much care which two you send,. They need not even be one of the prompts we have done so far. If you send me more than two, I will take the best two.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Story by Piku?


Another unknown genius. Please own up.It's official: this one is Anushka

It’s a question interesting enough to think about- well, at least for a little while. What kind of relationship has the most scope for pain? I’m not trivialising it by calling it interesting. It’s just that it’s difficult to defend tags like profundity whereas ‘interesting’ will always find takers. So yeah. I’d come down to two options. Parent-child is one. There’s too much emotional investment there, too much history, too acute an instinct for anticipation  and attack. You know just where to hit and it almost always hurts. And of course, man-woman. That one has a remarkable range of death-bound routes to choose from. The pair I’m going to talk about in a moment is just one of the ways it can get crazy.

So let’s begin with the girl- Sameera. She didn’t seem to be particularly exceptional in any way, except that most people who met her thought she was. And though naturally they didn’t think about why, chances are they couldn’t really offer an explanation for it. In fact to be honest, she was really, well... moderate. Patient without the halo of a martyr. Passionate without the zest of one who changes things. Acutely logical and perceptive, but always tempered by a distaste for harsh criticism and a fear of misplaced praise. Never really straining against the borders though she appeared so very close. Yet, with her, one was always moved. She moved people in the sudden, half-conscious way that an empty street at dawn, or a new bloom on a dying plant, or the soft sigh of an animal might move you. It didn’t have to be full of grace or subtlety, but it was real, it was alive, it was coursing through your veins and you couldn’t dismiss it. Long after the thrill of a first encounter with her had faded, the depth of emotion she had once evoked would persist and call for love, even if she had been intellectualised and dissected and scaled down to average size in the meantime.

Now that’s a lot of words and concepts. But if we want movement, we need a few more rounds of them. We need to introduce the man. Because till Sameera met him, there wasn’t much that was dramatic in her life. Family played a big role, and it was an affectionate, close knit family of four- well off, not highly cerebral but educated and in love with the idea of education. They had a very healthy respect for each other, and an equally healthy difference of opinions. There were frequent, pleasant little vacations. There was a lot of talk. Friendly repartee and fiery (but sometimes pointless) debates, the usual quarrels and some solid advice– this formed the stuff of Sameera’s home-and conclusively-early life. Sure, her thoughts were largely beautiful and her appearance entirely so. Her growth from infant to young woman was full of exquisite little details; but with the world so full of grand, explosive things, we need more than that. We need something big, something we need to grapple with before we can name it. And that only happened once she met Prakash.

It was in college, he was in her class, they were both studying English. There was however a distinct difference in the way they responded to literature. Sameera’s first instinct was to celebrate what she loved. She knew what to say and look for as a student, a budding critic, but above all she loved to pay tribute to a work that affected her deeply. She spoke of these books on very personal terms, pointed out little nuances for having struck her instead of working them into an argument; and often went about in a glorious haze of recalling and reliving the reading experience instead of following it up with a flurry of research. Prakash had no patience for celebration. It came too close to religion for him, and he despised religion, though that didn’t stop from knowing an awful lot about it. That was the thing with him, really. He knew about things and had a hell lot of opinions too but they hardly had anything to do with sentiment. As for ‘intuition’, ‘instinct’, ‘spontaneous perception’, they were dirty words. He believed they were convenient abstractions, maliciously created to place ideas out of intellect’s reach. And he believed they were degraded even further by romantic simpletons who pounced upon these concepts as a means of worshipping the artist, and taking some warped pleasure in widening the rift between the ‘intuitive genius’ and themselves. Was he a cynic? To say that would be the easy way out. Rather, he was full of anger and that anger worked at many levels. Often it was quiet like a snake in the sun, at other times bristling and restless, or at still others- just a resentful fatigue. Interestingly, his background was almost the same as Sameera’s, except that his family was more old-fashioned, milder, their tastes more at odds with his. And that little inclination towards the slower side was all it needed for him to reject them. Not through confrontation, no point there; but in his mind and heart. So he lived apart from them, in a mess near college, hardly ever got in touch with them, and earned money by working part-time; so that his scorn wasn’t dismantled by a parasitic existence.
Now from the above it would seem impossible for Sameera and Prakash to achieve anything close to intimacy. But that wasn’t how things happened. Prakash, for all his anger wasn’t cold and he wasn’t overtly hostile. He had a way of being friendly and full of laughs even when he didn’t really care for the person opposite. Sameera found something oddly appealing in him- the presence of an energy and ideology, even if it wasn’t very cohesive. She knew she herself would never achieve a concrete ideology- there were too many voices in and outside her head, too many things to make excuses for, bring in the ‘yet I can see why’, or the ‘even so, one might be justified in...’. Prakash’s ability to feel things definitely, to voice them in his inimitably crude but right on point, and often uproariously funny way- these were things that attracted and disconcerted (even annoyed) her in the same breath. An added factor was his face, endearingly nondescript when it wasn’t animated by declamations. As for her effect on Prakash- it wasn’t overwhelming, but the very fact that he couldn’t dislike despite her wispiness got him thinking. He could chart out a whole list of things he thought was wrong with her, were absolutely small and degrading. And yet, yet he responded to her physically, even emotionally. There was in her a generosity, a startling lack of ego, something which thrived on affection.  It was impossible not to meet that with pleasure.

They began seeking out each other’s company. It was easy and unobtrusive because they both wanted it. They never seemed to run out of things to say to each other- if opinions became too hard to handle, there was always an anecdote, or a fresh in-house joke to take off from. Perhaps Sameera was the only girl around who was as lovely as she was genuine. The rest seemed to be divided between glitz and dowdiness- the former was repellant to Prakash and the other not arresting enough. Perhaps Prakash was the only guy who was as stimulating without being frighteningly academic. But whether it was for lack of options, or sheer circumstances or a natural attraction between them, Prakash and Sameera were drawn closer to each other every day. Soon enough, the inevitable happened- a day when everything came together- good weather, unity of thought, a well-timed kiss. And they were, without a doubt, romantically involved.

At first, things weren’t too different. There was the same friendly banter, the exchange of stories. Their lovemaking didn’t seem to add much their non-physical relationship. But few things remain static. Prakash and Sameera were definitely heading along a trajectory and it was one that found most transparent manifestation in Sameera. You see, she was a girl who was unnaturally sensitive to opinion. Every little thing one said to her, unless she thought the person was a real idiot- mattered. And if she liked the person a great deal and had discovered the joy, thrill almost, of agreement, it mattered a hell of a lot. It’s not as though they made her change her mind every minute, but they put her through moments of torturous reflection and vacillation during which she’d find herself putting forward passionate defences of contrasting opinons to differing groups. And the conclusion she’d come to would be positively quivering with vulnerability, where the only certainty was an overriding sympathy with the simple, the ignorant, the pained and the conflict-ridden. Prakash listened to what others had to say, listened carefully, but unless it was ostensibly earth-shaking, irrefutably wise, his attention rarely seemed to serve a purpose other than inducing a sharp reaffirmation of his thoughts. He would acknowledge that compassion had its place in the larger scheme of things but it could never tweak his beliefs. So it was natural that of the two, Sameera would be disturbed by the other whereas Prakash would merely be annoyed as one might be with a child’s naivety.

---You’re too middle path. Middle path never goes anywhere.
--Never? That’s way too simplistic.
--That’s a common misconception. Extreme isn’t necessarily simplistic. It can be complex enough. And actually achieve more.
--What if I don’t want to achieve the same things as you do?
--Naturally, we’re different people. But it wouldn’t stop me from scoffing at diluted philosophy. Like, like private good, that’s another thing that really gets to me these days. People who have more patience for a friend’s sob story than, I don’t know- a classroom of poor children. I don’t know when we’re ever going to break out of the I-love-my-mother mode.
--You’re so bloody opinionated.
--Since when was that a bad thing?

These glib assertions on his path would trouble her more than one would expect. The worst part was, she couldn’t be sure if he was serious because he’d even be known to say things like -Oh I speak a lot of cock. Why was she so damn self-conscious?

But it was worse when they spoke of concrete things. Like poverty and government and war. The cover of reality that these subjects assume generate more memories, more tangible images than theory so that superficiality is often hard to detect, and jargon becomes inevitable. Sameera began to hate words like ‘fascist’, ‘tradition’, ‘neo-liberal’, ‘natural’. Every thing that tried to say something definite seemed suffocatingly smug to her. But she couldn’t shut tear herself away from them. They seemed too real, to urgent to shrug off. Retreat to the havens of art was impossible now. Art became too firmly affiliated with society, and none of the thinkers who she could respect without misgivings ever severed this connection.

She began using Prakash’s terminology with surprising ease. She would defend his ideas in his absence when she sensed them to be under a mere impersonal attack. And all the while she grew increasingly resentful towards him, for not realising that she wasn’t a ray of sunshine who’d never met a cloud. She wasn’t a fairytale princess obsessed with crowns and rose gardens. She was scared and confused, she always had been and the only thing she knew how to do was love. She, who would always give more time to the individual over a group, simply because the sight of one sad face sucked her in before a mass echo of depression could knock her out completely. It was survival, in a way. A loving heart has a lower threshold for sorrow than a harsher one. But he never felt pity for her, only indulgence and affection.

Prakash sensed the change in Sameera. More than anything, he sensed a core growing bitterness and anger within her. And it thrilled him. All along, he had questioned himself on his choice of lover. He had wondered whether it wasn’t mere lust, or surrender to fresh, feminine charm. He had even suspected with a shudder that he might’ve been pampering his pride with the tolerance and tenderness he knew he’d get from her. But now, he felt there was substance to it. She was allowing ugliness to breed inside her. She had opened her arms to anger. She could share his pain, even if she didn’t quite understand it yet. Now, when they had sex, there was a violence in it which gratified him.

With time, Sameera’s actions and words became more and more erratic. She would just not turn up at college on certain days, and refuse to explain why. She got a tattoo and then got it removed in the next three days. To compensate for the waste of money, she refused to buy herself lunch for a week and then gave up, though it hardly covered half the expense. She would stare at the raw, red patch of skin on her forearm with a menacing glare while it lasted. One day she woke up at dawn and walked over 5 kilometers to college, arriving flushed and jubilant. But soon she was bleary-eyed and slept through lessons, and when she went home it was like a dog with its tail between its legs- humiliated. Even while these changes were taking place, she initially retained the sweetness and vibrance of her disposition in direct conversation with friends. But gradually it wore off. She became increasingly argumentative and she would often just stop short in the middle of what she was saying and drum restlessly with her fingers on some nearby surface, staring into space. They found it tremendously strange and exhausting too but they couldn’t hate her. A few were genuinely troubled but at large they grew more wary than anything, backed off and hoped it was just a passing  phase. If anyone was really hurt by this change though, it was her family. They just couldn’t fathom it and they watched and acted and watched more with growing desperation and weariness.

 She still got into debates with Prakash but now she had had stopped being pacifiying and accommodating. Moreover, there was no consistency in what she was saying. Her views jumped from more radical than Prakash’s to indifferent or spiritual within moments. Prakash never bothered playing the role of quiet listener, but he found a peculiar sense of fulfillment in these outbursts. He looked upon Sameera’s whole change as a transitory phase- a necessary period of turbulence before something hard and profound set in. Even regressive views didn’t bother him as they would have coming from other people, because they were provoked by momentary madness. The madness would be self-redeeming. From the chaos would emerge truth.

One day they had a particularly violent argument. Prakash was somewhat restless that day; Sameera’s venom and hysterics were getting a bit taxing. The last words she said to him were-

You, and everyone like you. You’re just so fucking arrogant. And limited. In this world, how can you believe in anything? Anything at all? How can you even speak with a free conscience? I don’t want your ideas, I don’t want your pretty little guide-books telling me how to change the world. I want- I want to see pain. I want to walk into a room and see a crowd of miserable people, wasting away, not knowing what to say to each other, to themselves, to god or the sky or anything. That’s the only way to be.

In a few days, news emerged that Sameera had disappeared without a trace. Her family was frantic, her friends concerned but not entirely surprised. They all waited long enough till they stopped expecting a dramatic return from a whimsical absence. No news. The moment Prakash finally accepted her disappearance as final, he said to himself-

She’s free she’s finally free. She’s even free of me, she doesn’t need me or any of us anymore.

He kept muttering these words to himself, faster and hoarser. Then he went into his room, locked the door and wept for a while. 

Red vs Blue

This is from Anuj


Red vs. Blue


I shoved the barrel of the revolver into the traitor’s mouth. The Red’s eyes bulged. He choked on the gun.

“You should have surrendered.”

“Ethan,” Jon Tristan said, standing at my shoulder. “That’s enough.”

“No, Jon. This is enough.”

I pulled the trigger and made one helluva mess.

Afterwards, as the twin moons Phobos and Deimos rose in the west and east, one after the other, Jon and I set about burying the squad of Red Phantoms on the lush, green slopes of Olympus Mons, the highest mountain in the Solar System.

“Got any painkillers?” I asked. The altitude made the work hard, the air too thin. My head was killing me.

Jon wrapped his Blue armband across his brow to keep his hair out of his eyes as he worked. “Why do you use that old gun? The Red’s fear it, you know. Call you ‘Gunslinger’. Not very practical, is it. Only six sh—”

“—shots to the barrel. Yeah, I know.” I patted the original Colt Anaconda .44 Magnum, made trusted and true in the old United States of America at the turn of the millennium—some five hundred years ago. “It reminds me of home.”

Jon turned his gaze up to the plateau, reaching six miles above the surface of Mars, at the very tip of Olympus Mons. Creeping green vines clung to what was once barren red rock, disappearing into loose white clouds. In the three centuries since Mars had been terraformed from a wasteland of dust and windstorms, the plant and animal life had flourished.

“We’re along way from home, Gunslinger,” he said.

“Hmm… you looking for a few weeks Earth-side?”

Jon scoffed. “That won’t happen this far west of the Moon.”

I scowled and booted the last dead Red into the pit. The whole stinking planet had become a giant headache—a pain in the ass, Tess—for the Earth Defence Force. The Reds wanted ‘freedom’, wanted independence from Earth—and control of Mars and all its resources. They were traitors, spoilt children, clinging to red dust.

Terraforming Mars had taken the best part of four centuries. The planet was seeded in the 22nd century. Heat factories were constructed, converting CO2 into oxygen, nanobots introduced for nitrogen. Enormous solar mirrors in orbit directed light towards the poles. Superconducting rings buried at key lines of latitude, thousands of miles across, created a man-made magnetosphere, reflecting harsh radiation back into space. Comets and ice-rich asteroids were manoeuvred into sub-orbits around the planet, releasing vast amounts of water as they burnt up. Once the key building blocks were in place, the process was accelerated through a series of chain reactions and micro-feedback loops. Genetically adapted plant and animal life was introduced at the beginning of the 24th century. A hundred years beyond that, Mars was declared safe for biological humans. It had taken five hundred years and collaboration on a planet-wide scale, but it was done.

Humanity had created a second Earth.

Not long after, humanity started its first interplanetary war. The original settlers, the ‘Reds’, declared themselves independent from Earth. Mars, and all its vast potential, was to be denied to its creators.

The stink of blood and death clouded my nostrils. I drew my trusty revolver and punched six dark red holes into the scum at the bottom of the pit. The shots echoed across the undulating slopes of the enormous mountain, carried on the still air. I didn’t care if there were more Reds around. Jon and I were the best Hunters on two planets. We could handle it.

“Yeah? Who killed you?” I spat into the pit.

Jon cocked his ear, listening to something I couldn’t. My nano-communicator had been fried by Red electromagnetic cannon fire some days ago. “EDF commends us for holding Olympus Mons. Ethan Reilly is hereby promoted to Field-Commander, First Class.” He laughed, shifting our reserve ammo belt from one shoulder to the other. “Looks like you might get Earth-side after all, Commander. You’re being recalled.” Jon’s voice caught in his throat. “Oh… hell. They want you to lead the armada from Serenity Base against Ascension City.”

“Piss on that. I’m staying grounded until every last one of these rebel bastards is dead and buried.”

Jon’s smile didn’t touch his eyes. I could sense his discomfort. He was good at his job, but he didn’t want to be. I think he didn’t quite know how to kill himself. “Killing Reds won’t bring Tessa back.”

I shook the dead shells from the Colt’s barrel and handed it to Jon. “Hollow points reload,” I said, a brisk order, and turned to shovel dirt back into the pit.

The Martian moons hung in the sky against a curtain purpling toward night. Jon handed me back the Colt. I pointed the barrel at the bright star in the southern sky, at Earth, two hundred and twenty million kilometres away. “Killing Reds makes me feel better. Makes me feel like I’m making a bloody difference.”

Jon laughed. “Oh, Ethan, you are in the unique position of knowing you are able to make a difference. Most people never see that, they wait for someone else, anyone else, to be the difference. That makes you, right now, across both worlds, the most dangerous man alive. Mars fears you and Earth respects you. You have the opportunity to change how this story is supposed to end.” Jon shook his head. “Don’t. You. Fucking. Waste. It.”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m saying maybe the Reds aren’t all wrong. Maybe at the head of an Eternity-class battleship armada you could force a peace.”

“Bullshit.”

“Is it? Tessa saw this war for what it was—brothers fighting brothers. She came here to make peace.”

“And they killed her in the uprising. They think they can just bite the hand that feeds them and not get smacked for it? No.” I shovelled more dirt into the pit, masking that stench of death. With any luck we could reset the ambush and catch some more of the bastards tomorrow. “I will take that armada and turn Ascension City back into red dust.”

“I thought you might say that…” Jon whispered.

Any soldier worth his salt could’ve sensed Jon’s next move. I twirled on the spot, drawing my revolver, as Jon raised his pulse rifle against me. I was the faster draw, always had been, and I didn’t hesitate. My finger hammered the trigger, as it had done a thousand times before, and a round of hot, solid lead—

The barrel turned with a dry click. Misfire? No…

Jon’s smile was grim. “Sorry, Reilly. Must’ve missed a chamber on the reload.”

I licked my lips. “Your mother was a nano-augmented whore.”

A sphere of arced light burst from Jon’s rifle and obliterated my shoulder, cutting through it as if it were warm butter. I was thrown back into the pit atop of the Reds, my shooting arm flying clean away from the rest of my body. Blood sprayed in a violent arc against the star-strewn sky.

This ain’t no painted desert serenade…

There was no pain—only cold, red dirt. Earth shone like a beacon so far away. Jon blocked the stars, kneeling down next to me in the pit. He unwrapped his Blue band from around his head and dabbed it against the bright, crimson socket where my arm used to be. It stained the cloth, soaked it. Not red, but—

“Close enough,” Jon said, wrapping the band back around his arm. He spared me a final glance and then turned and walked away.

I remembered running into the sea back home on Earth with Tessa. You’re my sad song, she had once told me, and you’re stuck on repeat, baby.

I remembered the smell of her wet hair. My headache was gone. I imagined her blood trailing through the waters of Mars. Bless her—she had been trying to do the right thing.

Jon Tristan would have understood.

Amelie Bossan

Character Sketch

Name: Ámelie Bossan

Age: 20 years

Gender: Female

Sexual Orientation: Claims to be straight

Current Location: 16, Rue Saint- Benoȋt, L’Auberge de Jeunesse, Paris- 75006, France. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in French and Comparative Literature from Sorbonne University.

Place of Birth: Resolute, Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canada.

Languages Known: English and French.

Religion: Christian Catholic

Family

Father: Late Jacques Bossan. Scientist/Alchemist.

Mother: Hélène Bossan. 48 years old. Teaches History at University of Bordeaux.

Uncle: Christophe Trévisan. 51 years old. Occupation- unknown.

Socio-economic Status: Apart from her mother’s lavish salary, she has a substantial portion of her ancestral property in Bordeaux to her name.

Physical Attributes

Ámelie is 5’7” tall. Her complexion is somewhere between cream and white matching the shade of the pages of the Penguin Classics. She is neither thin, nor bulky. Rather she has a fuller figure like the woman in Paul Delvaux’s painting Pygmalion 1939. Her chestnut coloured, ear-length hair often appears dishevelled. Her eyes twinkle like emeralds but are often obscured by her hair, still their innate gleam draws the onlooker’s attention. The sharp nose stands like a mountain-top in the middle of her oval face. Her thin lips were once red, but time has worn out the colour and has lent it a faded hue.

Timeline

1991. September. Ámelie is born to the delight of M and Mme. Bossan in St. Patrick’s Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canada.

1998. February. Jacques Bossan dies at the age of 31 due to an accident at his lab in Queen Elizabeth Islands, Canada.

1998. April. Mme. Bossan and Ámelie move to Bordeaux in their ancestral mansion to live with Mme. Bossan’s brother Christophe.

1998. May. Ámelie is enrolled in Lycée Privé Le Mirail. She starts going to a proper school for the first time.

2006. October 16. Morning. Ámelie is ‘bitten’ by a Hyrophil (a kind of monster) in the garden of her home.

2006. October 16. Afternoon. Mme. Bossan reveals to Ámelie that M. Bossan was not a ‘conventional’ scientist but an alchemist. He was working on a secret project under the International Union of Alchemists (IUA), an undercover organisation, to annihilate the Hyrophils. M. Bossan had chosen Queen Elizabeth Islands as the cite of his research because he had thought that the he would be able to protect his findings from the Hyrophils in this largely unpopulated island. But the Hyrophils were not ready to be executed this easily. They did eventually find out about M. Bossan’s objectives and barged into his lab one fateful day and killed him and destroyed his lab. So, what Ámelie had known to be an accident all along, was actually a murder. There is something that Hyrophils did not know either. Although the IUA had commanded M. Bossan to create a killing machine for the Hyrophils, but he was actually working on the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone to restore the Hyrophils to their original human form. A secret confided only in his wife. Unfortunately, all his notes and findings were lost in the rampage of the Hyrophils. The death of her husband induced a sense of disillusionment in Mme. Bossan and she severed all ties (whatever she had left after her husband) with IUA and moved to Bordeaux with her daughter to live with her brother, who was genuinely pleased to have them over.

2009. September. Ámelie joins Sorbonne University, Paris, to study French and Comparative Literature.

2009. October. Ámelie visits the IUA headquarter in Paris and is found to have developed a psychic ability due to the Hyrophil bite to be able to tell if there is any Hyrophil around within a 1Km radius.

2009. November. Ámelie is invited to join the IUA Hyrophil Annihilation Squad (IUAHAS) for having special psychic powers. She accepts the invitation. She is currently under training and has not been to any actual combat.

2011. January. Ámelie accidentally discovers from a book in the IUA library that her maternal grandfather was a descendant of Bernard Trévisan. The fifteenth century French count Bernard Trévisan was believed to have procured the Philosopher’s Stone and even wrote a short treatise on the bounty that the stone had brought him. Something tells Ámelie that there is some truth to this legend of Bernard Trévisan. Although her mother and uncle, the only two living descendants of the Count, have heavily denied any authenticity to the matter.

2011. February- present. Apart from performing her IUAHAS duties Ámelie is secretly looking for Bernard Trévisan’s Philosopher’s Stone.

Hyrophils

The IUA believes that alchemic experiments should be strictly confined to metals and alloys as outlined by Roger Bacon. But when the extensive searches of the IUA for the Philosopher’s Stone proved to be futile, a rebellious faction of alchemists violated the rules in 1995 and added organic matters with alloys and created a strange liquid substance called étern el printemps. It had the power of bringing back a mortally ill person to life. But it was not able to entirely cure the disease rather enabled the person to extract energy from living organisms and live until that energy lasted. Once that energy was exhausted, the person would have to find a new host. It made the person a parasite. The IUA coined the term Hyrophils for these human parasites. The alchemists who had created étern el printemps (endless spring) were thrown out of IUA for breaching the rules, which enraged them even more and they went on creating Hyrophils because they believed that they are serving mankind by curing the sick without realising that their act might turn out to be fatal for humanity. The Hyrophils can extract energy from any living organism (trees, birds, animals, insects, human beings and others) by clasping them for a few minutes. This is called the ‘bite’ of a Hyrophil. The appearance and lifestyle of a Hyrophil is just like any other human being. It is not possible to tell by looking at a person whether or not he/she is a Hyrophil. They generally domesticate cats or dogs or some such animal to act as the host. A full-grown golden retriever can withstand approximately six Hyrophil bites before it dies. A Hyrophil bite is not fatal or does not cause any injury for a human being and they generally do not thrive upon humans unless they need energy urgently. However, five or six Hyrophil bites in a row without given the chance of recuperation may prove to be fatal for a man.

The IUA has set out to annihilate the Hyrophils because they consider them to be upsetting the ecological balance.

At the age of 15 Ámelie was bitten by such a Hyrophil.

The one thing that can put a stop to the creation of Hyrophils is the Philosopher’s Stone. It will be able to cure any fatal disease and étern el printemps will not be needed any more and therefore futher Hyrophils will not be created. This is why Ámelie is looking for the stone.

Internal Map

Ámelie’s experiences in school

For the first few years she was rather pitied by her teachers and classmates for not having her father. The special attention made her uncomfortable. As a result she gradually became an introvert person. A sense of determination to prove her potential grew strong in her.

Ámelie’s thoughts on Alchemy.

Ámelie is not much interested in the intricate alchemical reactions. She is more drawn towards the mystical side of it. Growing up with the magical enchantment of Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, Bilal and Profondeurs she was rather pleased to know that alchemy was not confined to ancient scriptures only. She regards alchemy as almost something supernatural and is glad to be a part of this unconventional universe. She is devoted to IUAHAS and wishes to make a mark in the world of alchemy as a warrior. The thought of a ‘normal’ life is boring to her. She somewhat pities the mass for not having the least bit of magic in their lives. She enjoys living her dual lives, one as a University student and the other as a secret IUAHAS warrior.

Ámelie and her Mother

Ámelie shares a close bond with her mother. Throughout her teenage her mother was her best friend and confidant while her friends complained of regular fights with their parents. Although Mme. Bossan’s over-protectiveness sometimes drives her crazy, but she understands the reason behind her anxiety. Her daughter is the only one she can hold on to (Christophe does not really count). In Paris, Ámelie misses her mother a lot.

Ámelie and her Father

Ámelie has become prouder about her father since the day she came to know that M. Bossan was not just another scientist but a high-profile alchemic researcher. She remembers her father mostly through the photographs. She can envision the face of a young man with a benign smile. Although she doubts whether it is an actual memory. She holds a deadly grudge against the Hyrophils for snatching her father away from her.

Pride: After joining IUAHAS Ámelie has become a bit too proud. Although she is not aware of her having an excess of pride. Also she feels that she is burdened with all the responsibilities of saving the world and without her contribution the world might stop rotating. It is her idea that she and she only will be able to find the Philosopher’s Stone.

Fears: Ámelie fears that she will not get the recognition she deserves for her contribution in alchemy. She does not want to suffer the fate of her father who is remembered as an unfortunate victim of the Hyrophils but his alchemical findings are blissfully forgotten by IUA.

At the back of her mind Ámelie feels that without the associations of alchemy she is just another brick in the wall.

Needs: Ámelie is subconsciously always seeking attention. When she is with her friends from her university she always wants their conversations to be on topics she is interested in. If they talk about anything else she feels left-out and tries her best to change the topic.

Strengths: Growing up with a single and working mother made Ámelie self-sufficient earlier than usual. She has grown to be a strong and brave person. She can keep her calm in troubled times. She is not scared of Hyrophils. However, she is no wonder woman. She runs the possibility of snapping midway if tried to the ultimate limit.

Secrets: At twenty Ámelie is still a virgin and has never been physical intimate with anyone. She is very embarrassed of this fact and claims to have made out with nameless people.

Shinjini Chattopadhyay