Romping Around Rainbows

Perhaps

Winter had come early that year;

Or mayhap

It was just my heart

That had turned bitter and cold-

Like a night in late December,

Sharp and unforgiving.

For it was a temptation I had given in to;

A mental illness, entrenched and chronic.

Forsaken

Like a pig up for slaughter,

Save that one soul for whom I had sinned.

That immaculate piece of art-

That man

I was not allowed to love.

Natheless,

I hadst fallen for that gent concluded, be it.

Armed unicorns can’t lose a horn

Queer as they may be.

Truth be told,

Hate, not love

Is a choice

And

In the end

Rainbows reign.

 

By: Anonymous

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The Shattered Walls Of Reminiscence

Image Credits: Gary Heller

As the sky blue mixed with the red, I entered into the now broken walls of what I used to call home. Running my fingers on the scratched and scraped paint, which was still fresh in my memory, I reminisced my childhood. I picked up the broken frame from the ground as the tear on my cheek rolled down, and managed to mumble the dusty words below the picture – “My Happy Family”. Who knew that this happiness won’t last forever? Who knew we all would be torn apart this way? Who knew?

The roof above my head was gone. The roof of protection, the roof of love and the roof of care…all just vanished into thin air. I sat myself down on what remained of the couch. Although it was now a jumbled mass of wood and springs, nothing could bring me more comfort than this.

Standing at the door to leave once again, just like I did 10 years ago, I looked back, but this time there were no smiling faces to bid farewell to me, no fresh flowers in the vase that used to sit in the corner of the living room, and no happy tears to wipe off my mother’s cheek. It was just me and what remained of a place I used to call my home.

By: Hammad Mohammad Shakir

The Late Train

Image Credits: chasingsummits.com

It was a winter night. The mercury was dipping steadily, and the wind was stinging every exposed inch of the body.

There is something mysteriously beautiful about winters. The eerie calm of the foggy winter nights makes you believe in the inexplicable forces of nature, and the sheer unpredictability of life.

The train was late, as expected. I was sitting on a concrete (and not so comfortable) bench on a deserted platform, all wrapped up from head to toe. I had made myself a makeshift bed right on the freezing concrete bench, and just as I became a little cosy, a computerized female voice boomed on the nearby speakers, “Train No. 12524 is running late by 10 hours, and will be arriving at 1:05 am on Platform No. 13. Any inconvenience caused is deeply regretted.”

Apology not accepted! Here I was, excited about going home after a tiring fortnight of semester exams, and meeting my family and friends after almost six months; and Indian railways poured a gallon of freezing water  all over my excitement.

The train finally arrived, in all its glory and grandeur, making me eager once again, in anticipation of my impending departure.

I boarded the train and reached my seat, which was a lower side-berth, having been assigned due to unavailability of my usual choice, the upper berth. I put my luggage under the seat and settled down with a blanket placed over my legs, for an extra ounce of comfort. I took out a novel, bought specially for the train journey, and set about reading the first chapter.

I was halfway through the second page, when a whiff of strong perfume hit my olfactory nerves. I turned around to find a bespectacled girl, dressed in an awful amount of pink, struggling with her luggage. Being the gentleman that I was, I rushed to help her. As it turned out,  her berth was just above mine.  I put her luggage, with some difficulty, on her berth. She thanked me and sat down on the lower one, in front of me. Interestingly, she put her feet inside the blanket too.

I was busy thinking of a perfect conversation starter, when she beat me to it with a not-so-perfect one.

“What are you reading?”

“‘A Prisoner of Birth’ by Jeffrey Archer.”

“Let me guess – it’s not a romantic story,” her tone suddenly turned mischievous, and I saw a hint of a smirk on her face, and a twinkle in her eyes.

“What gave it away?” I was not one to shy away from a battle of wits either.

She started giggling, and tucked a rogue strand of hair that had wandered onto her cheek behind her ear, and asked, “Do you read romantic novels?”

“I used to, but then I got introduced to thrillers, and haven’t bothered going back to the romantic genre.”

“I see. Hey, we haven’t been introduced yet!” she exclaimed. ” I’m Sara, by the way.”

“I’m Shayan.”

The train gave a resounding whistle and started trudging along the platform with the usual squeaking of rails.

“Finally!” she sighed.

“So, where are you going?” I asked, in hope of keeping the conversation alive.

“Lucknow.”

“Hey, that’s too near.” I complained, feigning disappointment.

She giggled. “What about you?”

“Kishanganj.”

“That’s rather far.”

It was, indeed. It took almost 26 hours to reach Kishanganj from Delhi, and the train was already 10 hours late. As we kept talking, however, I realised that I wanted the train to reach Lucknow as late as possible.

We spent the whole night chatting. I found out that she was a bookworm, just like me, and preferred to spend her afternoons wrapped up in a blanket, with a cup of coffee and a good book. The conversation turned from novels to movies, and then to more personal topics. We talked amidst the noisy, yet comforting rustle of the wheels against the tracks; the weirdly catchy tones of the hawkers defying the laws of physics by balancing ridiculously heavy and bulky baskets on their heads; the constant chatter of some women in the other compartment. It was as if our brains were filtering out all the unnecessary information.To see her talking in full flow was a sight for sore eyes.The way she kept touching the tip of her nose, the frequent shuffling of hair, her adorable laugh – all these subtle mannerisms made her attractive without even trying. She was the perfect blend of shy and mischief.

I woke up with a start. We had fallen asleep talking. It was somewhere around 8 in the morning and the winter sun was flickering like a candle running out of wax. She was still sleeping. There was a hint of a smile on her lips. Maybe she was dreaming about something pleasant. I freshened up a bit and returned to the seat to find her awake and gazing out into the trees.

“Good morning,” I said cheerfully.

“Good morning,” she replied, smiling from cheek to cheek.

We sipped masala tea with some Marie Gold biscuits. Talk about bliss! Some small talk ensued reminiscent of a few topics from last night.

The clock struck 9, and the train was just about to reach Lucknow. I reminded her of that, and she started packing her stuff hurriedly. Slowly and gradually, the train graced the platform, amidst the usual commotion of the railway station.

I had never been good at goodbyes. We shared a somewhat hurried and awkward hug, and promised that we would stay in touch. She kept waving me goodbye as the train left the station, and I waved back.

My seat felt weirdly empty. I smiled to myself and returned to my novel, thanking my lucky stars that I had not cancelled my ticket, and had decided to wait for the late train.

By: Shayan Ahmad Kamil

A Social Encounter

Image Credits: Anders Eriksson

It was 9 pm, and pitch dark. No moon could be seen in the sky. John was walking down a lane. A cold wind blew against his back. John was wondering how mean the society had become. People had stooped so low that they did not care even about their near ones or family. Nobody cared about anyone except themselves.

He did not realize, lost in his thoughts, that he was far away from his home. While  trying to make out where he had reached, he saw a shadow behind the bushes. He was attracted by the murmuring going on there. As he approached the bushes, he heard voices of people who were talking in a low pitch. As he wondered what they were discussing, a certain voice caught his attention. He was sure in his head that it was James’ voice, his friend.

Before he could go near them to confirm it, somebody out of darkness caught his hand and yanked it to get his attention. On turning around to see who had caught his hand, he found that it was a young girl. Her face was pale, and she was shivering with fear. Even in the darkness, John could perceive the terror in her eyes. Her face was drenched with sweat, and her heartbeat was so loud that John could distinctly hear it from where he was standing. All his efforts to calm her down were in vain. “What has happened? Why are you so terrified? What have you seen to frighten yourself to this intensity?” asked John.

She did not say anything except requesting him to take her to a safer place. John, understanding the urgency in her voice, took her to the people sitting by the bushes. Oddly enough, as soon as she saw them, she traced her steps back faster than she came that way. John felt her action a bit absurd, and asked her what had happened. She requested again to go to a safer place but not to those people.

John began pondering over where he should take her so that she might feel safer, when he heard a few footsteps. John saw her face turn as white as a sheet, and she clutched his hand even more tightly. He looked at her inquiringly as to ask what had happened, but she started running towards a tall thick bush, where she hid.

John followed her. She pulled him down where she was hiding, and whispered to him to be quiet. A few footsteps approached them, and  retreated after a few minutes.

After that she calmed down a bit and told John that the men following were her captors(kidnappers). She had been captive for two weeks by then. He asked why she ran away from the people sitting by bush, who could have helped her. To this, she replied that she had tried to escape once prior to this, and asked for help from those men, as they sat there every day, but they refused to help her. They feared that they would be involved in a case that was to be handled by the police. Hence, her past experience left her with no expectations of help from them. Moreover, she feared that her captors would catch her just like they did previously, and would beat her more severely than before. John felt very sorry for her, and decided to take her home.

As they were walking back, John took her through a different route to avoid the captors. As they approached a lane he knew well, he met  James, whose voice he was sure of hearing from the bushes. On recognizing the girl with John, James took him aside for a moment, and tried to persuade him to stay away from her, as it would be dangerous for him to be involved in this case. However, John snubbed him and went on with her.

He was disappointed that his friends too thought in the same way. He was pretty sure that this state of society was not the result of the ill deeds of some dirty-minded people, but because  the people capable to stop them don’t do what they should. He was determined to change this.

As they turned round the corner, he heard his mother’s voice turning from faint to loud. Just then, he sat up with a start, and found himself on his bed.

He was still not sure whether it was a dream or  a real incident. Despite this, he was sure that society can change and be a better place only if capable and good people do  the right thing, and  come together to stop ill-minded people from their misdeeds.

By: Priyansh Taneja

 

The Flight of a Lifetime

Image Credits: CNES/M. Pedoussaut

It was a tense night. Seated in the control room, facing a dozen monitors filled with pie charts, histograms, coordinate maps and raw footage, Zeenat and her team were frantically speculating the most probable path that Memphis was to follow. With every second seeming to last an eon, no one could fathom what would happen next. It was a desperate situation, with no way to stop the Orion spacecraft from its fateful collision.

This situation was not new to Zeenat. She had faced similar atrocities in her childhood, when curfews would compel all schools in her neighbourhood to remain shut. No amount of money could convince her that she was truly free.

During those days, she lived in a spacious bungalow, with a tulip garden at the front, a fruit orchard at the back, and servants to take care of her every whim. Despite the luxuries at her disposal, she felt a need to seek out her destiny. She wanted to be as free as the Moon – always orbiting round Earth, and yet, completing its cycle around the Sun on a timely basis; nothing to stop the Moon from its mission. She wanted to study, and stand on her own feet.

It was at such times when she would look out of the window. Celestial activities always excited her – be it cumulus clouds that floated across the pale blue sky, or the comets that she had the good fortune of wishing upon, before they burned away into oblivion.

Every wish of hers was the same – to study astronomy, and join NASA. The idea of being a ‘space scholar’ was a dream which Zeenat assumed too good to be true. Well, here she was, directing a team of six, having been designated the task of directing Orion back to Earth.

Peering down at her wrist, she realized that it was 12:42 AM. Time seemed to be crawling more than ever! Alas, there was nothing left to do but wait for Orion’s impending doom.

Why, only ten minutes ago, the situation was in control. Orion was returning back to Earth, bringing back samples of Martian soil with it. The astronauts were in high spirits, having completed their task 2 days in advance.

Her father’s congratulations still ringed in her ears, which she recalled from yesterday’s phone conversation with him. It was her first task under NASA, and everything was going like clockwork!

It was her father who ensured that these police actions didn’t hamper her studies. He decided to home-school her to his best ability. Being a physicist himself, he taught her all that he knew about science and mathematics. Seeing her leaning towards astronomy, he decided to buy her a few books on the subject for her seventh birthday. To his pleasant surprise, Zeenat had read all the 3 books within a week, and asked for more.

It then became a ritual for him to bring her a book every fortnight, for her to read. Zeenat’s library began to grow, and was soon filled with books by Jules Verne and Carl Sagan. He even purchased a telescope, for them to study the night sky.

Just then, out of nowhere, a tiny rock came into view. While the remaining team paid no attention to it, Zeenat felt a premonition of incoming disaster. She got up from her chair, and decided to get a closer look from the observatory’s telescope.

There was no mistake; this rock was 99474 Memphis – a deadly asteroid that had strayed away from the nearby Andromeda galaxy. To make matters worse, this 900 km wide asteroid was moving right towards Orion.

Zeenat rushed back to the control room, and told her teammates of their next course of action. They now had to come up with a new route for Orion, since it was midway in its return flight. Time was ebbing away, since they had only 7 minutes to stop the collision.

Her team quickly mapped a new route, and set up the coordinates, taking the asteroid into account. Having 5 minutes to spare, Zeenat heaved a sigh of relief. All that was left to do was to uplink the new route to Orion.

Just then, the spacecraft’s receiver stopped working. Her team tried everything possible to re-establish contact with Orion, but to no avail.

By then, the mood within the spacecraft had changed from carefreeness to listlessness. Those 200 seconds were the most draining moments for the team. The astronauts’ calm countenances intensified the atmosphere back in the control room, with morbid thoughts cluttering the teammates’ minds. At this point, Zeenat calmly said, “Let’s not lose hope, team. After all, we did whatever we could do.”

Suddenly, an audible ping was perceived from the console – the new route had been successfully uplinked. It was in the nick of time too, as the spacecraft missed Memphis by a few metres, and would shortly enter Earth’s ionosphere. Orion and its crew were saved!

A round of applause resounded the space shuttle, the control unit, and the entire observatory. In two minutes, the spacecraft’s crew members would touch down, and walk on Earth after a year on Mars. Zeenat and her team were congratulated for saving the spacecraft and its people.

All this time, she remembered her father’s words:

You can achieve anything as long as you don’t stop believing.

By: Mariam Nida Usmani

Seed Racer

The BIOME by Mercedes-Benz.

Mercedes-Benz has been an innovator for decades. You can thank the German auto manufacturer for diesel and supercharged engines in passenger cars, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability and many more.  But nothing could be more innovative than the BIOME concept car. This is a car that grows in a completely organic environment from seeds sown in a nursery. On the road, the car emits oxygen, and at the end of its lifespan, it may be used as building material or completely composted.

                 Engineers from the Mercedes-Benz Advanced Design Studio created the car as a part of the Los Angeles Design Challenge in 2010, which called for a safe, comfortable and compact car of the future that could accommodate 4 passengers, demonstrate good handling, and weigh only 1000 pounds. The BIOME represents the Mercedes-Benz vision. Made from an ultralight material called Biofibre, the finished vehicle, though wider than the typical vehicle, weighs only 876 pounds. If you think that sounds too good to be true, then get this: The BIOME isn’t assembled. It grows from two seeds- one that forms the interior, and the other that forms the exterior. The wheels germinate from 4 additional seeds placed in the nursery.

                  Sadly, BIOME didn’t win any awards. It lost out to the Cadillac Aera 2+2 coupe and the Smart 452 – presumably because it was too bonkers, even for a concept car.

                     The basic concept is that it is biotic in nature and is grown from seeds. It is said that you have to wait for 18 years to grow up your BIOME car and become road legal. The engineers at Mercedes say that the seeds’ DNA is built to accommodate specific customer requirements. It has some demerits too, like being 18 years and above to own it; but if it can take away the existing cars of today from the market, then many problems will be solved, and Earth will be a better place to live in.

                     Of course, you won’t find the BIOME at your local dealer, due to its far-out design. As such, it couldn’t exist today. However, with the help of innovative thinking and inspired engineering, it might become as common as a Corolla after 20 or 30 years.

By: Saif Akkas Ajaz (E&C)

I Need

‘What do I want?’

Is the question which haunts me.

Every time, day and night,

With a terror and a plight.

Do I want an IIT,

Which was never my priority?

Or a top college,

Where I would be chopped like cabbage;

And live in tension,

Which I can’t even mention?

Do I want a billion dollars,

With which life could be as sweet as honey?

For money can buy physical ease.

But how could your mind be at peace?

‘Cause you can’t buy these,

With any of your belonging’s piece.

Nor can you sell your sorrows,

However, you may lend or borrow.

Now I know what I need.

Oh God, please pay some heed

Happiness to live carefree

Satisfaction with no cease

Success with keys

To open every lock of sadness my heart sees

And always a blessing, shadow of the heaven tree.

By: Tehreem Shahid

(First printed in ‘Fiction 2017’)

Coke Studio – Bridging barriers by Music

Welcomed by the warmth of perfectly timed ragas by Munawwar Masoom Khan, as they invade the internal humdrum of your being, overpowering the listeners with complete harmony. Then, in his innate central-Indian dialect paired with powerful variations of tone, he pronounces the first words of the rendition. You don’t even realize when his voice fades away with the rapid yet suppressed beating of the cymbals by Darshan Doshi. Then comes our very own Kailash Kher, piercing the short-lived silence with his soulful, raw and almost mystic voice. Yes, you guessed it right! ‘Bismillah’ from Coke Studio it is. Most of us would’ve listened to this song at least once, but not just once. This song deserves more. All thanks to the unique Salim-Sulaiman & Kailash Kher combination brought to us by Coke Studio.

Striking of the ‘A’ followed by the ‘Dbm’ on the keyboard is soon accompanied by Abida Parveen’s heavy, low-pitched, and powerful voice. She takes you down into the magical world of surrendering yourself to true devotion also commenting on how the world makes a pretense of devotion while achieving none. You soon find yourself plunging deep into the world of devotion and spiritualism. Rahat Fateh Ali Khan describes the win-win condition that true love takes one to. Dripping Sufism, ‘Chaap Tilak’ is another mellifluous rendition brought to you by Coke Studio.

But what is Coke Studio? Not many of you would be oblivious to it. Yet, for those few, Coke Studio is a concept – a television series – that brings to you live, studio-recorded music performances by acclaimed, budding, as well as the non-commercial, folk music artists.

The history of Coke Studio can be traced back to 2007 when it was first presented in Brazil as Estudio Coca-Cola. In its initial format, the performances were held in a concert-style platform. It was soon adapted to Pakistani taste when Rohail Hyatt of ‘Vital Signs’ fame produced it as a television series. It was first aired on June the 5th, 2008 and has continued since. India followed the suite, and the first episode of Coke Studio India was aired on June the 11th, 2011.

I’ll now refer to both the Indian as well as the Pakistani versions of Coke Studio as just ‘Coke Studio’.

Ever since its adoption – in Pakistan as well as India – Coke Studio has been at the forefront of elevating the ethnic, folk music. This has mostly been achieved by the method of fusion. Combining myriad forms of music to create a new, coherent composition has done the trick for the composers. This has come with the consequence that certain folk singers who were only locally known came to the notice of, and well appreciated by, the national audience.

During the beginning of the second season of Coke Studio – India saw the appearance of a 75-year old Rajasthani folk singer, Sawan Khan Manganiyar who featured along with Clinton Cerejo in the super-hit song “Saathi Salaam”. It was a combination of Rajasthani folk with modern rock, a one-of-its-kind, successful experiment. But the boat had just set sail. In the following episodes, it was to venture out bold and fearless into the ocean of vast possibilities. Moora Lala, a Sufi singer from Janana village in Gujarat, who featured with Suman Sridhar in Hitesh Sonik’s song “Vari Jaun” stands as another instance of the same experiment. Similarly, there is Munawwar Rana whom I mentioned at the beginning of the article. And the list goes on…

The concept of Coke Studio has indeed evolved as a chief initiative to bridge the gap between the genres of music. Or, in a bolder way of expression, Coke Studio looks to abolish the term ‘genre’ in the context of music. On one hand it has presented modern songs paired with delightfully innovative music. On the other, it has helped the once oblivious audience comprehend the artistic gems that it could not due to linguistic barriers. Rajasthani, Gujarati, Punjabi, Eastern Classical, Sufi, Carnatic, Sindhi, and Pashto are a few genres which have been combined, experimented and presented along with modern rock, hip-hop, alternative rock, jazz and pop music through the medium of Coke Studio.

Some wonderful songs which have emerged out of this initiative are “Bibi Sanam Janem”, “Paimona”, “Rockstar”, “Madari”, “Kattey”, “Zariya”, “Husna”, “Yatra”, “Soz o Salam”, “Saahil Tak”, “Kheryaan de Naal”, “Saari Raat Jaaga”, “Allah Hoo”, “Tajdar-e-Haram”. This, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. Ignoring linguistic and regional barriers, it has made people identify themselves by what they like instead of by what they dislike.

Musicians love challenges because they become a stimulus for innovation. Anchoring this very drive for innovation, Coke Studio has given all these genres the much needed international exposure. Combining the rustic with the modern has established such equilibrium that has triggered a strange unification of audiences who identify each other through the medium of music. Many believe that Coke Studio is perhaps the best thing that has happened to Pakistan in the past decade.

Igniting hopes, uplifting ethnic values, uniting people, associating innovation to music and music to divinity (through Sufism), Coke Studio has achieved what decades of arbitration and plans could not. It certainly won’t be unfair to say that music transcends it all!

By: Azfar Zaidi

(First printed in ‘Fiction 2016’)

Catching the Funny Virus!

Fiction Magazine recently caught the cast and crew of National Geographic Channel’s famous comedy-science series, Science of Stupid shooting in the Jamia Millia Islamia premises. Directed by Maya Rao, this series stars the famous Manish Paul as the host. Paul, who is known to tickle the funny bones of his audience was also appreciated for his performance in the movie Mickey Virus.

Here is an excerpt of what happened when Fiction caught this Virus.

 

Fiction: What is Manish Paul like when he is not ‘The’ Manish Paul?

Manish Paul: (Laughs) I am just the kind of person I am right now. I play cricket on the sets whenever time allows, I keep pulling pranks and I really enjoy my work. I try to be funny and I like to have a positive energy around myself.

Fiction: You’ve done a variety of in-front-of-the-camera work. What was the ‘turning point’ of your career?

Manish Paul: Firstly, the day that I decided to go to Mumbai. That decision changed my life to what it is today. The ‘turning point’ I would say was when I signed Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa. That’s when people began to take me more seriously as a host. I started to do things that most hosts were not doing at that time, so yeah. But whatever I did, it was all me, I was being myself and yes, the audience did like it. Most of the stuff I do on-stage is impromptu and I think that’s what the audience likes the best.

Fiction: Where would Manish Paul have been if not in showbiz?

Manish Paul: Honestly, I have no idea, because I always wanted to have an audience for whatever I am doing. Since childhood, I have been actively participating in dramatics, singing, handling the stage, handling my audience et cetera. I guess, I am more of an extrovert. That, I think, is what works for me, and I have no idea what else could have!

Fiction: Do you read things written about you? How often is it relevant and how often a hoax?

Manish Paul: Well, as a matter of fact, I do read about myself whenever there are articles or anything. I like to read about myself, and I frequently find things that make me think Yaar, maine to ye bola nahi thaa, why have they written this. Honestly, I hate controversies and I try my best to be away from them. I try to concentrate on my work since it is the most important thing for me.

Fiction: We all know about your on-screen bonding with Kapil Sharma. Recently, he was in news for his conflict with his co-actors. Has it influenced your friendship with him?

Manish Paul: Kapil and I used to have lots of fun while shooting for Jhalak. Well, he is a busy person now. He has his work and I have mine. So somehow, we do not get time together, but whatever time I did spend with him was fab.

Fiction: Any message which you would like to give?

Manish Paul: Yaar, I would just say that be passionate about whatever you do and just start doing it. There will never be a right time for it until you do it. Dare to dream big, because dreams do come true.

 

Interviewed by Azfar, Tarab, Zaid, Alaika and Mayur.

Stay tuned for the full interview, to be printed in Fiction’s upcoming magazine!

Castles

Image credits: SvenMueller

It isn’t worthy to live on lies.
Carving fake castles out of a fading cloud that flies.
Have patience, a lot of it but stop before you become a patient ’cause that way, peace, you won’t find.
Shades of life will crawl back, once you leave the darkness behind.

By: Aima Juveria