Author image
Do WithLIT Creative
Content thumbnail BROWN BOX MAGAZINE
AI Content Chat (Beta) logo

BROWN BOX MAGAZINE

THE BROWN BOX MAGAZINE Second Issue 2022

“Editor’s Note Sitting here in the phase of what looks like a near to attain normal situation world- wide, witness of dramatically changing scenarios, it’s difficult to summarize the ex- periences of the last year and half. A time that felt, and feels, like an overwhelming chaos of stimulus and response combination. Experiences of trauma, grief, pas- sion, fear, growth, love, belongingness and patience. The monotony that bewitched the entire world under its canopy and made things ordinary that felt more static. Being in a phase of consistent fight to figure out one’s own productive outline and to try and give our best every other day, was rather troublesome. But, within this state of re- cession arose the capability of creating something out of this troubled situation leading us here at Do With Lit, to the process of compiling the best that we can for our readers. The period since our last issue made sure of inoculating a series of novel thoughts and ideas ready to be curated. This being the second issue of our magazine, transi- tioned a process of getting the comfortable content to our readers. By comfortable, our idea belongs to the similar understanding of making our readers feel content with the magazine. The involvement of literary people from across the country made sure of the diversity of this issue. Articles and poems, mind crafted to make our readers visualise the process of evolving over the course of reading through the magazine. The team consisting of creative and innovative minds always looking for ways to improve and contribute, is what’s behind the story. It takes an organisation of mul- tiple elements to finally land a magazine and the efforts from our team members accounts for everything. Also the writers and their very own sphere of mindful influence on the content they write, makes a magazine unique. We would like to extend our gratitude to our DWL team, all our dear writers and designers for their diligence and dedication for making this edition possible. Their contribution and effort makes it a delightful experience for us to curate an idiosyncratic magazine.

Interview Piece: The Age Of Cinema 3 Investigative Piece: Plath By Plath 5 Women In History 11 Spotlight Stories: Summer Behind The Blue Door by Adya Bhalla 19 Bookmark: The Archer 23 Nostalgia:Excavation In Progress, 25 Keep Distance Winter Poetry: • Winter O’ Dear by Nitika Sawh- ney 31 • An Image Of Winter by Rutwik Dhiman 32 Legends And Lores: • The Divine Dance by Eshwari 35 • The Phantom Horseman by Har- ONTENTS rinei Kumaravel 37 C

THE AGE OF CINEMANEMA “So I can say that every individual is a story. Passion and process usually differ according to a person’s personality and choices.” - Harshit Bansal IG: @humansofcinema “Cinema is not only about making people dream. It’s The Spark about changing things and making people think.” -Nadine Labaki You are an influencer with a strong idea-To view cinema under an unconventional lens. How did Cinema has seeped into our cultures, habits, and this idea come to you? minds. From the posters on street ends to re-runs in high-end multiplexes, people thrive upon motion The idea comes from within. It finds its way to one’s pictures. It winds people by an emotional twine and mind where it wanders about for a while trying to get drags them into a common canvas, which an hour one to pay attention to it. It won’t rest until you utilize later is somehow their own. But one cannot dismiss it for something productive. it simply as entertainment. There are nuances and niches within it that we often miss. Hidden in that The idea was based on the fact that Cinema is sub- plain, silver screen. But there are some that see, truly jective. Some movies are generally considered good, see Cinema, for what it is. objectively and some aren’t. Mr. Harshit Bansal is certainly the best of them. “ I never did reviews for movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. But was more into movies like Tamasha, Ma- Mr. Harshit Bansal is the founder of ‘Humans of Cin- saan, Lootera, Dam Laga Ke Haisa, and other films ema’. This Instagram page, entirely dedicated to the that didn’t do good on the box office.” field of cinema, has been working in different areas like series making, documentaries, art films, critical My focus stayed on the films that weren’t a commer- reviews, unbiased opinions, etc. His goal is to spread cial success but were beautifully constructed. the importance of cinema to as many as possible and How did you garner a good audience for yourself on let others know what it holds and how that can be Instagram? harnessed.

Initially, when I started Humans of Cinema, I let Definitely, star power has a great influence on the people dictate the page. I received and posted the public. The sense of familiarity and comfort comes THE AGE entries to engage movie lovers and to maintain di- with the presence of a certain actor acts as a strong versity. Sometimes I tried contacting people over Ins- attraction point for the audience. Especially in India, tagram and asked for their review or critic over a cer- the culture of star power might be a tad too glorified- tain movie they watched or any movie that changed but then star power is universal in nature and is just their life. as appealing everywhere. It does have a profound “Back then, I honestly didn’t care much about the effect on how cinema is received and perceived. OFlikes and engagement over the post. I wanted diver- The Perspective sity. And simply did that.” Your reviews showcase a rich perspective. Can Soon I started to receive entries from Russia, Hong- you give examples of how varied perspective kong, and other nations across the world. Surprising- shapes/ could shape cinema? ly though, that did not do the magic. The magic came with a niche- the mainstream Hindi Cinema. When you tweak a character, ever so slightly, you will The Experience notice they can truly add strength to the portrayal. CINEMANEMA “Consider the movie ‘Pink’, had Amitabh Bachchan’s You have interviewed some of the amazing actors character been done by a female lawyer then the im- in the Indian film industry like Pankaj Tripathi, pact would have been completely different.” Neena Gupta, and other such personalities. What did you learn over the course of the interviews? Perspective comes with depth and experience. Simi- larly, in the series ‘Master of Nun’ (season 2 episode I realized over the course of his interviews with these 6) the actor who portrayed a black homosexual wom- people that the passion these actors carry towards an wrote the script of the entire episode herself to cinema is on such diverse, different levels. do justice to the character she was playing, It was a shard of herself. Such strong, honest changes when “Pankaj Tripathi himself has watched only 50 films they occur now is the start for healthy inclusion later. all his life, all of them strictly Indian. His passion for acting outweighed his passion for the art of cinema.” In our winding conversation. Harshit led us through the forms cinema can take, its ability to influence and So I can say that every individual is a story. Passion motivate people. Cinema can be powerful and ma- and process usually differ according to a person’s ny-faced and perhaps is our best bet at dealing with personality and choices. social and political issues amongst a wider audience. It can mean something more when people under- The Trends stand- something intricate, still somehow powerful. There is a constant tendency for Indian filmmak- ers to press the same kind of story to the public. What do you think of this trend? People don’t experiment in India in terms of pre- senting a story. Innovation does happen once in a while but then people start repeating the same thing. Western cinema is more widely recognized due to the extent of experimentation done there. People ar- Mr. Harshit Bansal is the en’t ready to accept something new, most of the time, founder of ‘Humans of and want to stick to the usual ones. There is so much Cinema’. This Instagram unused scope for experimentation. page is entirely dedicated What is your view on star power and its influence to the field of cinema. on the Indian audience? Does it spell good for Cinema?

PLATH BY PLPLAATHTH

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart- I am, I am, I am” Her name, her literary spirit still beats. About and within, perhaps louder. Sylvia Plath is the most dynamic and admired poet of the 20th century, albeit posthumously. Her life wound precariously between light and dark, both of which she would record in writing. Raw and personal; complex albeit simple, Sylvia continues to intrigue many. So much so, only she could get close to deciphering her life of acclaim. Presenting to you, dear reader- ‘Plath by Plath’. “I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beck- oned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant profes- sor…I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. “ Sylvia never settled for less. Even as her figs fell, she caught them and managed to sneak each into her bag. From being hailed as a gifted student from her earlier days, Plath crafted her way that in the years-long following would carry such an interest to a vast audience who in any shape or form had even the slightest inclination to poetry and literature. “I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.” However akin to these words of hers, outside her creative brilliance, lurked a mammoth of dark intensity that in some ways became, if not the most sought-after detail in her short life.

“Daddy, I have had to kill you. You died before I had time—— Marble-heavy, a bag full of God…” So Sylvia, the eldest of two children of the Plath couple would write, on her father. In1940, Mr. Plath suffered from an advanced stage of diabetes, so much so that it threatened his life. He died on the night of November 5th, the same year Sylvia Plath was but a girl of eight. This massive loss, as referenced much later in speculation and honest curiosity would be termed as the first real touch with grief and its conflicting emotions of love, pain, hurt, and anger for Plath. “...Bit my pretty red heart in two. I was ten when they buried you. At twenty I tried to die And get back, back, back to you. I thought even the bones would do.” So hard was the cross to bear, that her lifelong affiliation towards religious ambigu- ity may have stemmed from the very incident. This death would spur a pattern that caused stress and depression, that would lead to illnesses all throughout her life. “It was a queer, sultry summer,*they executed the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. I’m stupid about executions. The idea of being electrocuted makes me sick... I couldn’t help wondering what it would be like, being burned alive all along your nerves.” When Plath consciously attempted suicide at 20, it lead to hospitalization where she was treated with electro-shock therapy. The gruesome nature of this experience is again portrayed so in Plath’s fictional work, The Bell Jar, where the protagonist Esther Greenwood reflects what she has done to be punished this way. “Nobody sees us, Stops us, betrays us; The small grains make room - - - We shall by morning Inherit the earth. Our foot’s in the door.”

However, akin to the conquering mushrooms in her acclaimed poem, Plath did have her foot on the door to literary success. Plath received good grades and recognition as a writer and an artist throughout phases of junior and high school. Albeit, like all minds that work creatively, Plath was not immune to long ordeals of rejection which posed the all too familiar feelings of self-doubt and fear in the loss of ability. “I collected men with interesting names. I already knew a Socrates…” Plath objectively had a successful life professionally and personally from accounts of the numerous boys she dated. The glamorous New York lifestyle with its parties and men beckoned her, like a crystal chandelier. She served as the ‘guest editor’ at Made- moiselle magazine, where she spent a month in New York City. Her various experienc- es here would later form the base ground for the much-acclaimed ‘Bell Jar’ “That big, dark, hunky boy, the only one there huge enough for me.” Sylvia would write so about her beloved Ted Huges, who she would later marry. At- tending the launch party of the Cambridge literary magazine, St. Botolph’s Review Plath chanced upon the person who was about to cause an abundance of change in her life in the coming years, Ted Hughes. With a private marriage, the young couple finally set up their life in London. It was a ‘marriage of minds’. Sylvia was at her happi- est on her honeymoon with no cable, telephone- just Ted and their rickety bicycles. “God has to remind us that this isn’t heaven” Ted would write a scenic letter to his sister on their time there- “When you step from the doorway pine needles touch your head, and as you sit there you see chipmunks & little red squirrels among the house- high trees,” However, Sylvia was juggling the slow progression of her manuscript, the tedious and overwhelming work teaching at the university, it seemed that she has lost the inter- est to write, though this period was overcome with a striking breakthrough when she penned down eight poems in eight days. It was this time after her active period, that she had to deal with a marriage that was unbecoming. In between her pregnancies, and unfortunate miscarriage Plath complet- ed the critically acclaimed ‘Bell Jar’. The couple had two children, whom Plath loved dearly. So much so that she would write about them-

“You are the one/Solid the spaces lean on, envious/You are the baby in the barn.” Ted would later leave her for his mistress, a mutual friend. “It is as if my life were magically run by two electric currents: joyous pos- itive and despairing negative-whichever is running at the moment domi- nates my life, floods it.” A journal entry dated June 20, 1958, fresh with recent grief was heavily worded so by Sylvia. Long after it had been written, when the world was opening, albeit slowly and silently to the seriousness of mental health, these words would be deciphered as the best, if not the most eloquent description of bipolar disorder or what is termed as man- ic depression. The following months were a test of patience and a fight at staying afloat for Plath, who still produced works of rave criticism, that often people wondered if she really had moved on like her brave face portrayed. This whispered speculation or genuine concern would be proved correct, when in the early morning of February 11, 1963, after sealing the children’s room with tape, some bread, and milk aside, Plath downstairs at the kitchen was successful in annihilation. And unfortunately, this was the real end. Her journal entry is worded, “outcast on a cold star, unable to feel anything but an awful helpless numbness. I look down into the warm, earthly world. Into a nest of lover’s beds, baby cribs, meal tables, all the solid commerce of life in this earth, and feel apart, enclosed in a wall of glass.” “I do it so it feels like hell I do it so it feels real” As visible as it could be, as in these lines from ‘Lady Lazarus’, Plath’s work reflected her lifetime of unusual brevity, insane genius, and emotional instability. Clearly depicting elements of despair and pure pain, Plath outlines her struggle with depression, even at her height of popularity. For what it is worth, Plath chose not to conform to the conventions of building a rosy pink version of who she was, but rather face her demons head-on.

And that is why we shall never come across another Plath. She lived as her tomb- stone reads- “Even amidst fierce flames, the golden lotus can be planted.”

WOMEN IN HISTORY All portraits of me are lies. They’re “ Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar. -Dora Maar BECOMING DORA MAAR The future, which she can’t see right now, fraught At that moment, it was surprisingly easy to walk with therapy sessions and nervous breakdowns, out. will tell her in hindsight just how much time it’ll take Maybe it should always have been. Maybe it’ll for her to be back to herself again. never be, in all the moments which will pass now. A scattered studio, glint of light across a glass cabi

inet. Shadows over dainty black gloves kept inside it. Years later, when asked about the portraits of her that her lover has drawn, she would say with conviction- “All portraits of me are lies. They’re Picassos. Not one is Dora Maar.” For now she walks out of her storm, leaving behind a tumultuous story of a love affair fraught with pain of fighting for affection and the suffering of never truly having any. Through the black and white They spoke about her. The young woman with a serious face, lit up by pale blue eyes, her playful ambition shining through. They spoke of her work, and what she does with it - moulds it well, and then breaks those moulds. Experiments, borderline unsettling. Championing the idea of the irrational and the poetic. They spoke about her. And she knew. She always knew. It didn’t immediately start out that way, she’d say. But it stayed that way for a long time to come. Born Henriette Théodora Markovitch in Paris in 1907, to a French mother who owned a fashion boutique and a father who was a Croatian architect. In 1926, she started taking classes at the Académie Julian and studied at the École de Photographie. The years before establishing her own studio, Dora left Paris, alone,and took her camera to the streets of London, Paris and in the Costa Brava, where she photographed the effects of the economic depression. Her re- curring subjects were the blind, the homeless, mothers with children play- ing by their heels. In 1931, she opened a photographic studio with set designer Pierre Kéfer under the name ‘Kéfer-Dora Maar’. And to celebrate this reinvention, she chose to reinvent herself. A new name, catchier, and more chic : Dora Maar. Specialising in portraits, nudes, fashion and advertising, the studio was hugely successful.The work was commercial, but Maar never let her imagination be tied down. Her sense of playful subversion always shined through, and Maar’s commercial photographs were innovative and exper- imental. During this time working in advertising and fashion photography, the in- fluence of Surrealism could be seen in her work through her heavy use of mirrors and contrasting shadows. She was also heavily influenced by politics, and the leftist ideas which aligned with those of surrealism. She used dramatic lighting and techniques like collage and photomontage, with most of her own images, to blend fantasy and fiction. She would have even called them daring, with her burning flick of a smile.

A study for a fashion advert which shows a pearl nestled in a velvet pouch with more than a passing resemblance to a clitoris. A sea shell stranded on the beach, with a delicate hand crawling out of it. Contorted bodies superimposed on bleary street roads. She believed art should represent reality with intuitions and ideas, not mimic it. And her art was that through and through. She was confident, and the world knew it. “I’m as good as Man Ray.” she’d say with a grin. Still in her 20s, she was one of the few women whose work was on display in what were notoriously sexist exhibitions. She had her first publication in the magazine Art et Metiers Graphiques (in 1932), and her first solo exhibition in Galerie Vanderburg in Paris following it. It was this high that she rode into the most infamous phase of her life. It’s easy to wonder if she would have called it a ‘wild ride’ had she known. The rumblings of the storm She had known him from before. It was quite an accident bound to happen really, a collision course ready, and set to go. The filming area was busy, loud. The sets of the film The Crime of Monsieur Lange, directed by Jean Renoir, was buzzing with activity. She saw the painter Pablo Picasso across the room, and noted him with a detached yet captivated interest, but her gaze passed by. They met formally a few days later. If you ask people to talk about the story of their first meeting, they’ll whisper it now like a myth. They’ll speak of it like a little legend, a distorted subtle erotic fantasy, like her pho- tographs. If you were to seek out accounts to read, you’ll read about a pale faced woman, a sensitive uneasy face, with light and shade passing alternatively over it. You’ll read about a man, almost three decades older than her, but mesmerised. They’ll tell you how, in the little watering hole for lost artists, she sat at the corner of a table, distracted, her fingers fiddling with a small sharp pen knife. They’ll share hushed whispers of how she kept driving it between her fingers to strike the wood, about how it struck skin once in a while, and how the people around grew squea- mish at the sight of her blood blooming like flowers in the black lace of her gloves. A sadistic joke. A woman holding an upper hand in a power balance for desire. And a man who’s eyes could only trace the blood in the lace patterns with awe. A scene which seemed almost like something from her photographs. In early 1936, Maar met Picasso and they became lovers soon after. She was at the height of her career. He was emerging from what he described as ‘the worst time of his life’, having not sculpted or painted for months.

Their relationship had a huge affect on both their ca- reers. Maar was influenced by Picasso’s ways of art and the cubist approach he was developing. Picasso too was influenced by Maar, especially during his cre- ation of his most political work, Guernica (1937), whose progress she documented in photographs. Not only does its style – severe black-and-white, almost photo- graphic in its detail – borrow from her work, she actually painted a small section of it. She encouraged his polit- ical awareness and taught him complex photography and print techniques, many which he would use further to much acclaim. The artist would ask her for those beguiling lace gloves later, and would lock them up in the showcase he kept for his mementos. Portrait Of Ubu The weeping woman, in more ways than one She knew he was intrigued by her. His art took her as his muse, her seductive and mas- ochistic behaviour serving as inspiration for many of his works throughout their relationship. Initially when he painted Dora, he’ll paint a nymph, or a bird. A reminiscence of the woman who sat across that table and stabbed between the crooked spaces of her fingers. Now his portraits began to show her in tears, notably the Weeping woman (1937) in which she seems to dis- solve in her own pain. Picasso’s Weeping Woman, 1937 She didn’t mind, at that time. She could be the Weeping Woman for him, would be, if that’s what he desired. She too, went on to produce some of her most acclaimed work during that time. Portrait of Ubu(1936) is arguably one of her most famous surrealist works. People say it is the preserved foetus of an armadillo, disfigured, gro- tesque, but creating a tension, a need to see and know. But they never did know. She didn’t utter a single word about how that image came to be, and even now, with speculations, it’s still a mystery. Her photomontages took on a life of their own- 29 rue’d astrog(named after her studio address) still a favourite. Picasso, on the other hand, continued the series of the portraits of the weeping woman, and slowly the images “29 Astorg Street,” circa 1936 started to change. Photograph by Dora Maar

She knew he was intrigued, but the Other Wom- an never left. She’d tell herself that today was the day. Today, the Other Woman would walk out of his life. That today, she and the Other Woman will not come to verbal spats at the door of the studio. That today was the day it’ll end, and his affections will remain for Dora alone. Her today never came in the way she wanted. Pi- casso never broke off his long running affair with Marie-Thérèse Walter, her ‘Other Woman’. She tried to draw out the Other Woman, through her art, through the canvas, stretched taut to see how far it’ll go. A painting of hers, The Conversa- Picasso’s Dora Maar Portrait, 1937 tion, shows her and Walter sitting next to each oth- er, almost in mirror image. Walter looks out, pas- sive and inscrutable; Dora,with her back visible and face hidden. It was easier to draw the Other Woman at that time, than to think about how, maybe, they both felt and hurt the same way. Years later, when Picasso would go on to describe a story where they came to blows in his studio as “one of my choicest memories”, then she’ll under- stand better what it really was. It was a perverse thrill. A game, making Dora compete with the other woman for his affections. The black gloves remained locked in their show- case, but it was about time she let go. Their roman- tic liaison lasted for 9 years, finally breaking apart The Conversation- Dora Maar in 1945. Beyond the eye of the storm Rumours circulated, and she knew. Rumours about her giving up photography, of her going under- ground with her work, even rumours of her going mad and becoming a recluse. She probably knew her old lover fanned the flames for the last one, despite feeling some guilt, enough to help her buy the house she lived in. She laughed at those rumours, still a wild smirk, and went back to her own. When their relationship had fallen apart, Dora was “Untitled (Shell hand),” 1934 devastated. With the passing of her mother, the Photograph by Dora Maar devastation intensified into a breakdown, and it

Dora Maar in her Paris Apartment, 1956 Photographed by Lee Miller only got worse. In 1944, through Paul Eluard, she met Jacques Lacan. Jacques took care of her, he treated her ills. It was a struggle through and through. But she had crawled through that void with her head held high, and now on the other side, she remained, stronger. Catholicism began to occupy her life, and she found comfort in painting. While it’s true that Dora took on painting when she was pushed by Picasso to express herself in this way, she’d find her own joy and release in it in the years after. Maybe she wondered if he meant it not as a friendly gesture, but to constrain her away from the field she excelled in, and into a style of painting he had mastered. It didn’t matter now, did it? She was beyond them now. If you talk to the people who met her during these years, they’ll tell you how the rumours were blatant lies. They’ll tell you of a little woman, older now but still terrifically strong. Still curious about the world, still into gossip. They’ll talk of bright eyes and an attentive gaze, of photograms and experiments and a proud laughter at exhibitions. Of a woman who still remained, in essence, the child who had tried to capture the ocean through the lens of her Rolliflex on her journeys.

Contrary to what is believed, Dora never stopped working till her final days. The last laugh When Dora Maar died on 16 july 1997, few people seemed to notice. It took the newspaper almost 10 days to publish anything. And when they did, they always spoke of her as a muse, a spurned mistress. To the critics, she re- mained, “The Weeping Woman”. But not for long. After a spell at the Pompidou in Paris, a major retrospective is heading to London’s Tate Modern then Los Angeles. The largest exhibition of its kind yet staged, it features nearly 300 objects: photographs, photomon- tages, advertising mock-ups, self-portraits, watercolours, oil landscapes and still life. Few of these objects have been exhibited before, and certainly not on this scale. Here is Dora Maar, how she wanted to be seen. There is a sense of a curtain being pulled back. At that moment, it was surprisingly easy. To imagine a mischievous grin with her head thrown back, old with age and grace and the warm but burning fire Dora Maar-The years lie in wait for you which was all her own. The weeping woman would have her last laugh after all. A note to the readers from the writer of this piece: It’s funny really, how i found out about her. I found about Dora Maar on accident from a meme account on Tumblr, but the more I read, the more fascinating the lady and her work have become to me.Sto- ries like hers bring back the old debate about just how much the ‘death of the author’ idea applies to art, and these are questions we need to ask, again and again. She has inspired many like yours truly, and there’s even a song titled Dora Maar by the KPOP group Onlyo- neof which is inspired by her life, which is something of a bop if you listen to it.

Dora Maar in Her Studio, Rue de Savoie, 1943 Brassaï (1899-1984) Dora Maar-The years lie in wait for you Untitled Fashion Editorial Dora Maar- Later years in her studio

Summer Behind The Blue Door Adya Bhalla he tiny colony tucked away in the old parts books that were not decayed beyond the reach of the city was broken into narrow streets of the stories that lived inside and would read T meandering like veins in the city. At the them out loud to my sister. Recently, she was very end of a similar, perhaps quieter street becoming more capable of doing this alone for was the house where we had lived all our lives. herself, only stopping to ask me, and in turn, It had not been a long life for my sister and me, the thesaurus, the meaning of a handful of only ten summers long for her and nearly thir- words. The lengthening days and short, star- teen for myself. Within my earliest memories, ry nights were the summer trait that fascinated I recalled the blue front door bright and shiny me the most. I felt the sun love my skin till it under the raging sun. And like all bright and was sweaty and a little burnt. It was still love, shiny things, it was now dilapidated and barely the real kind, for it loved with a bit of violence. comparable to its once eye-catching past self. It made me feel more real. The stars visible in And like all things in such conditions, nothing the inky sky were decreasing with every com- was done to revive its pride. ing year, but I had seen them, and knowing that they were out there brought me comfort But no amounts of furniture pieces falling apart on humid nights. And of course, Baba would could make me feel averted to the house. In be home all day with the schools closed down. the nearly thirteen summers I had spent there, Our little world felt alive under the sizzling heat. I had come to terms with two things. One: that I adored the summer. And two: that there was Another fascinating characteristic of summer nowhere else in the world where I would spend was that the only constant thing about the sea- my summers other than my house with the bat- son was the changes that came to light every tered blue front door. year. Baba had more greys in his hair and dark- My sister had also come to love summers, but ness in his eyes. The hollows under Ma’s eyes I do believe that a part of her admiration for grew deeper and darker, her bones more prom- the season was influenced by my romanticiza- inent under her flesh. We changed the games tion of it. I would crawl into the attic to salvage we invented every summer to complement the

SPOTLIGHT STORIES

changes in our family. This year, my sister insisted that one of the games must involve hiding away Baba’s bottles of “stinky water”. I suggested wiping away the silent drops on Ma’s face till she would stop flinching away from our touch. My sister had learned a new word this summer, problematic. She said it reminded her of our family. I told her that all families were problematic; the only thing that made us family was our willingness to love even the ugly bits in each other. Loving did become somewhat difficult for us as we held on to each other tightly while the yelling echoed louder at night. But this was all we had in the house that we knew we would love till every single brick would fall apart. Across the street lived a boy. This summer, he was older than I was. I peaked at him while he was sprawled in his veranda, practicing his French. Whenever he would look at me, it felt as if his eyes pierced right through me, as if I were nothing more than summer mist. This summer, saffron-clad men walked into our house and eyed it with apprehension, frightening Ma and Baba, feeding their fears with lies. They chanted away rapidly, but it was all an illusion. We should know, they were meant for us after all. A glass ves- sel shattered as my sister began losing her temper; she was still new at this. The chanting grew more aggressive. Ma was already in tears. The woman from across the street tried to comfort her, said that the house had never been the same since the mur- derous fire and that it was a futile attempt to make a home out of it. At that moment, I could envision the next summer. The boy across the street would be older and well versed in French. He would seem farther away recit- ing verses in the alien language. A new Baba would

have familiar greys in his hair. And a new Ma would want to be comforted on long nights. And by the time the heavens would be weighted by all the sunshine and forced to let down the downpour of tears, the thunder and lightning would make the shadows of our house seem darker and more menacing. They would seek warmth in their new home, only to be terrorized by our cold touch. But that was the thing about summers, the nights were never very long. And the sun tried to love my frigid touch away. My sister would have a new word for our new family, cherishing them harder in hopes of feeling the love being reciprocated for once. And it would be my nearly thirteenth summer all over again behind the blue door, more decayed from all the love it held behind its back. Email Id: [email protected] Instagram Handle: the_colour_of_abyss

BOOKMARK About the book The setting of the book is split between a prologue and epilogue framing the structure of one’s life. It demonstrates the way of a meaningful life. A life with wisdom, simplici- ty, and courage as the author would say.

THE ARCHER Meet Tetsuya, a middle-aged calm & poised man the promise you made, never to reveal the with the gift of a bow and an arrow. Tetsuya is the name of the village where I live. If anyone asks leading man of Paulo Coelho’s recent spiritually you about me, say that you went to the ends uplifting philosophical novel, The Archer (2020). of the earth trying to find me and eventually learned that I had been bitten by a snake and The main character of the novel who was once died two days later.” known for his flabbergasting talent with the bow and arrow, however, retires from public life. So This passage from the book reveals Tetsuya’s begins a completely different life of anonymous present state of mind, present character. He no existence as a carpenter in a faraway village longer wishes to be known for his skills with the vaguely resembling someplace in Japan. bow, but just as a carpenter whose dream was to Working as a carpenter, Tetsuya somehow hides work with the wood. his authentic self from the world around him, like Tetsuya had always been a man of dignity and he doesn’t want to be seen, doesn’t want to be posture; he wouldn’t disobey the art he skilled. As known for the man he once was. the stranger was introduced to what he was look- ing for, he left thereafter, while Tetsuya explained He appears to be a simple man, with a simple the way of life; the way of the bow to the local boy, style of living. A man with dignity, skill, and pos- and as he did, his voice rings younger. ture yet not an ounce of pride in his eyes. He is quite unusual, the kind we rarely get a chance to Tetsuya reveals how the way of the bow serves for see. everything. The one who follows the way needs not a bow or an arrow or a target, which is why Tetsuya continues with his anonymous life sur- he followed his dream of working with the wood, prisingly well, when a stranger’s arrival to the vil- choosing to be a carpenter instead. Tetsuya was lage flushes out Tetsuya’s long-lost or perhaps a true archer, who followed the way because the repressed feelings. The man with the gift of a bow thing you are best at may not always be the thing and an arrow is no longer as poised as he was. you love. The latter is what fulfills the connection It is now that a stranger comes looking for his between our actions and our soul. sensei; the master archer. The stranger convinc- To be like Tetsuya is to develop the courage to es the local boy to take him to a man with the take risks, accept your true self, and follow the same name. Only this one was known for his car- way with a purpose. Tetsuya even though was pentry skills instead. The stranger came to chal- best with the bow and an arrow, but his true self lenge Tetsuya to prove he is more skilled than the lay within his love for the wood. He was a man best archer known. who had the courage to take risks and embrace the journey he was taking because he believed “I will do as you ask, but you will have to keep that was the life worth living.

NOSTALGIA

NOSTALGIA

Excavation In Progress, Keep Distance

Dear Nani, “They don’t live here anymore. You’re a bit too late.” These words pierced through my heart and cut it into half. I can’t even tell you the amount of pain I felt when the neighbor said this to me. I remember coming to your home ev- ery summer holiday, drinking mango shake, and watching Tom & Jerry. Every morning used to start with freshly cooked parathas. The amount of ghee and extra stuffing in it represented your love. I was startled when I read, “Excavation in progress, keep distance.” How do I keep my distance from the home I love the most? The neighbor’s blunt response was clear enough to tell me that I made a grave mistake by not visiting you for the past two years. The earthquake shook the house hard; harder is the repercussions I am facing now. I remember you massaging my hair with coconut oil and scolding me for not taking care of my hair. Yes, I still do remember our evening sessions of chai and biscuits with a pinch of gossips. I wear the clothes you had stitched for me; they have your scent. No one even had half the fashion sense like yours. The lace you had put on my kurta. You spent three hours in the shop only to find that one lace having the perfect shade. Even that lace won’t be able to seal my heart into one now. I would’ve stayed a little longer last time if I knew that was the last time I was meeting you. I wouldn’t even have left if I would’ve known the forthcoming. How can I forget speaking about that day when mama shouted at me for spilling water on his laptop? Instead of scolding me, you bashed at him for hours. You didn’t give him food for the whole day and said that it was his mis- take that he left the laptop carelessly on the dining table. You warned him that if he ever raised his voice on me again, you won’t serve him food ever again. I would’ve hugged you a little tighter one last time. I wouldn’t have let you go. I can see my tiny footsteps in the rubble. They are depicting the whole story of my childhood, but you are not there. As I stand here crying, my tears are blending with raindrops. They are tell- ing me it’s of no use now. I want you to wave at me from the iron gate, to call me half an hour before the arrival time, again. I want you to cook parathas and chai for me. I want to see you again.

WINTER POETRY

WINTER POETRY

Winter O’ Dear Nitika Sawhney The folklore she narrates, While knitting warmth, in sweaters and scarfs As the winter sun cosies up her broken elbows, fast The stories, so heart-warming, I wish this session to last O’ Grandmother, tell me a tale, one more! The smile she carries, While cooking veggies, their aroma wafting around Her veranda, drying pickles in multiple rounds The sweetness of flour-balls, still tingling in my mouth O’ Mother, give me a hug, one more! The love he offers, While prepping up for a day-long outside Returning home with goodies, for the awaited festive night Along with a bundle of wood, for an evening, shiny bright O’ Father, pick me in your arms, once more! The evening’s arrived - So, together we’re merrily encircling around - the holy fire (to douse evil), lit on the ground Its warmth blending with the airy-cold weather Seeping in cosiness, with neighbours we gather The nuts and sweets, we’re offering to the Lord of Fire - turn into holy offerings, and fulfil desires! I, still a child, await the festival of ‘Lohri’ every year Even though, it comes to gradually take with it my favourite season, Winter - O’ Dear!

An Image of Winter Rutvik Dhiman Buried blankets now bellow over our railings, Dusted and dried, for a war with winter, waiting and training. Warm white milk mugs we hold with both our hands, Both our legs crossed close, frost froze. Now is when we sleep the most. Heavier and heavier our eyes Softer and softer our minds Colder and colder the weather Hope I could see the snow now or maybe later.

LEGENDS AND LORES

LEGENDS

THE DIVINE DANCE Eshwari

ndian temples are unusual to me. Sometimes they are delightfully Istrange and the other times they are only strikingly rare. Whether it is the thrum of the divine that echoes with the aloof brass bells. Or the moist sanctums with their insistent scents of moon-yellow milk, woven flowers, and cold stone- temples are different and starkly so. There are hazy instances, small and big, picked at crowded impasses, one equally puzzling as the other. You see, each temple offers different food with a bizarre taste, sacred food as Ajji claims. Perhaps it is bizarre because neither Amma nor Ajji can cook with its’ very flavor; I don’t relish it enough. There’s some magic, a pinch of aesthetic sensation, and a little pleasure with temple food. They are perpetually small quantities, yet sometimes that is all it takes to puzzle out my hope, identity with holiness to some extent. Per- haps that is why my palm always brings Prasada toward my sights to pray before it reaches the lips. I behold the serene vibes while Amma and I unfix our souls in the temple, doing nothing but to gaze at the idol that seems to talk only to Amma. I nevermore perceive that the idol wants to talk to me simply because I hasten to it just when fears and anxieties come my way. But the case of prasad is comfortingly puzzling, a mystery to be savored. As opposed to the others that have startled me and at times, to the extents of ponder- ing wakefulness. It is a common sight- processions of ladies on festivals, some weighing crying toddlers upon hips, others without, with longing twice so. Sarees tucked at the waist, profusely smearing kumkum upon their combed partings. It is into one of these women, young or old, that the divine creeps in. Momentary exhibits of modified nature turn to dances of affluence. Ajji tells it is God’s power, it’s God indeed for her. My fingers froze, mouth and eyes widened and hummed quietly before I ran. From those bulging eyes, flailing limbs, and stranger’s voice, that growls a prophecy to the nearest. It was the first time I witnessed a woman with a glossy red saree screech, dance while she untied her hair, and also knock if any- one tried holding her. Ajji asserts that it is purely the god entering her mind, heart, and ultimately body. Grandpa said it’s a sham, or the person undergoes a kind of psychological puzzle. Possibly Grandpa was right, it ordinarily occurs only during festivals, amidst crowds. Even today the Mataji display happens here, but the fo- cus of attention to me is circumstances. Be that as it may, there are people earning money out of this. Maybe each soul present in such a state consciously or unconsciously recognizes it. But there’s no one to familiarize the unfamiliar.

THE PHANTOM HORSEMAN Harrinei Kumaravel s night slowly swallows the flicker- was tall, they said. Bare-chested with Aing streetlights, when you are com- a blue dhoti. The elders swear he was fortable upon the cool mud floor, a quilt broad, as broad as that Banyan tree over you- it happens. If you ignore the over the groove. His mustache, well lethargic moans of the low-beam fan oiled, gleamed in the moonlight. He or the scamper of the street cat, you was proud of it. An ebony spear upon might just hear it. Older men in the vil- one hand and a rope whip on the oth- lage have gotten used to the sound and er. It is said that he could throw and kill now sleep soundly. But it is the younger deers by the stir of their soft manes. The ones that lay wide awake, not minding phantom of an ancient prince perhaps, the nagging mosquitoes. who died bravely on the battlefield. For his village. But all this tale came from Around one am, it starts. The low hum an old, blind man, wrinkled yellow, who of hooves. Thudding ever so slightly was once a drunkard stumbling about. upon the riddled road. The deserted He is the only one that saw. And he village square, so far quiet, echoes. hasn’t seen anything else since. But With the thuds. The stray dogs take he passes the story, his milky eye still courage at first and start howling. And holding the translucent of the white then they whimper, as if afraid. The horseman. hooves grow louder and the whip rings now and then. A broad voice, thick as They have built a small temple by the the same whip, nudges the horse with village edge for the horseman. He, that faint ‘hmph hmph’s. The horseman protects the village from evil. His horse

and he did 12 rounds about the village every night, said some that counted. Throw- ing his spear at a devil here, another there. So long he runs, no disease or devil shall tred within the village. But he always disappeared with the night, as if divine dust. No hoof prints or rough tracks. But mind you, do not go outside to check. That is general knowledge. Every din- ner you munch these stories with the soft, round idlis grandma minces with milk. Grandma bathed in moonlight, her hair straying away from a silver bin, wagging her finger as she narrates those stories. Stories about a lanky group of rowdy teens that once camped out to rein this horse. They set snares and waited. Just around the corner of the village square, by stunted palm scrubs. But no one knows what happened after that. The group of boys disappeared with the wind. Just like the horseman. So heed to grandmother, will you? You can stay awake and listen to the horseman. But do not cross his path.

A DO WITHLIT PUBLICATION No winter will last forever Illustrators: Shruti Ganesh, Anshita Nair and Dhairya Gupta Designer: Disha Saha Editors: Animesh Vats, Yutika Sagar, Harrinei Kumaravel and Akhil S Kumar This magazine is the sole copyright of Do WithLIT Creative. The magazine or any portion thereof may not be used or reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the publisher. All content belongs to the respective author/creator. dowithlit dowithlitproductions Do WithLIT Creative Email for feedback/queries/concerns: [email protected]