Azure light reflected from the pipette necked, discoid bodied, dramatic container. The graphically translucent glass containing a liquid, of course, for which it was exclusively made, is presently being reached by a slender hand. It is a costly affair. No, not the bottle of cologne but the hand itself. It is a hand of a slave, that too, a skilful one. The slave or cosmetae, as she was called in that country, gently lifted the decanter and capping its mouth with the index finger tilted it to 45 degrees. As the fluid landed on her tip it commenced to gradually evaporate, taking all the heat from the surrounding flesh. Placing the bottle down, the cosmetae rubbed the toilet water against her master’s skin, unaware of her power over her master. The master has a beautiful face but for a blemish which is now being concealed with snail’s ashes. The cosmetae continues to brighten up her master’s dusky face by smearing a mixture of crocodile dung and chalk powder. He is now ready and leaves the house for his nightly errand. The slave visits her master’s wife forthwith whose bedtime demands that her face be covered with sheep’s sweat but first she has to remove the almond ash( kajal) from around her eyes. Not many women applied this, as not many could afford such an expensive as well as an efficient cosmetae. She additionally asks her to paint her nails with the shellac that her husband had imported from India. Cosmetae is shocked, ‘how much truth can these elites conceal via makeup, what would they do without me?’ She thinks quietly.

A beautiful thought my dear girl but little do you know that slavery would be banned; i.e. people wouldn’t be allowed to enslave OTHERS. Ohh, but yes, they would commit a greater crime. Nobody would stop them to make themselves a slave to themselves. And little do you know that a word would emerge from your noun, cosmetics. It will assist people to hide their pain, struggle and soul. A person would not know another person, all veiled behind a thick mask, as expensive as you are. That’s the potential you hold my dear. Men would continue to mock women for their love towards cosmetics yet fall for the one who would be most laden. Girls would no longer need a scarf, a yashmak or a mantilla. A thick paste of rose beige, a pink gloss, some highlighter and a pair of fake eyelashes, that’s all and no one would know how a person actually looks!

PS: Shellac is a resin secreted by a certain lac bug found in India. To produce about a Kg of shellac around 200000-500000 bugs are required. Hence, the suffix lac stemmed from lakh – a sum in Indian numbering system.

If you don’t know already, all the historic scriptures on cosmetics were male authored. So, I hope its not a problem if I write this. ; )


Image by Ghanishtha Bhatti

What crosses your mind first?

A laser eyed, extended jawed and armadillo scaled beast who can lacerate you even from a couple of miles or did you envision those cute little almond eyed, parakeet coloured aliens with spring like antennas who crash lands in some nearby woods and pleads to be your boon companion.

Well, we have been exposed to a colossal amount of such descriptions with one basic common trait. They all are assumed to be technically advanced species than Homo sapiens. This makes us wonder why in cosmos we have not been yet contacted. There have been “hoaxes”, yes, like the crop circle or Vrillon’s voice but as I am in no way even close to verify them, let’s keep ‘em at bay.

The consternation has perpetually been about why they never communicate with us. May I ask, can they? It is a credible question indeed. For centuries we have waited as if they’ll blink a torch on and off to give away their position but pause, here we miss an overstatement. What if they are not advanced enough to even put hand on our Golden Record or the Arecibo radio signal? What if they are still struggling to believe that their system is heliocentric? What if they are mere Neanderthals in Kepler22b? Oh! Did I disappoint you? The mere solace I can give you is that they are shy and mulling over Trump’s reaction. Uh, now don’t be incredulous, my friend. You just have to wait a few more centuries for them to take a “giant leap for alienkind” and maybe till then you can think of a technology to use the sun as a signalling flashlight.

All I ask you as of now is to not try and contact them ‘cause I’m under lockdown and least of all, prepared to square up to them. And as the saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for, you might receive it”, for who knows in what form or in with what end in view they visit us. Shhh…. you never know who’s eavesdropping, could even be Nazis from the Moon (wink).

Blue is my colour…

A blast of tearing air, a blinding light from the slit of curtains, a feeling of being left behind…

As I gained consciousness reality peppered like stab of blades. I’d gone to sleep just after 12 at midnight and oh! was it 12 noon at which I’m waking? Fear not, it was just 8 in the morning but the sun shone like it was at its zenith – the rays that had rendered moon desolate was now rendering me stark. That feeling of being lost, of being inconsolable, of being forgotten, of being pushed away, of being haunted by seclusion…

How do you do when your fears don’t leave you nor do the nightmares? What do you do when you can’t live but also can’t die. Do you think of that sound that feels like coming to engulf you, that sound when flights take off. But that wasn’t a flight, okay? Only a train. Strange isn’t it? Stranger still it is when you are weighed down by those who had promised to live by your side till the big crunch.

But then another train comes, filling the air with sound of metal rolling on metal. That unstatic sound that tells you life goes on, you should move on.

Only The Name Means JOY(Breast Ironing)

Again she dropped the stone on hearth and allowed it to get warm. After a while she pressed Boitumelo’s breasts with it.  Boitumelo felt a melting sensation within and then she noticed it going inside. Crying till her throat went dry and prickly she tried to run but in vain. Being a girl of twelve she couldn’t fight the two women who were holding her hands so tightly. Thinking that Boitumelo had cried enough for the day she left her in a room and closed the door behind her but only after announcing that they’ll continue with the process at night. Tears streamed her cheeks , sniffing sounds filled the room when she noticed the door was left ajar. A notion of running away quickly passed her mind but then she knew it was safe in here. Her mother’s voice reverberated in her mind “This is for your own safety.  I’m trying to protect you. If you don’t let me do it the boys will get attracted to you, only a couple of months more then you’ll be safe”. She told herself that whatever her mother was doing was correct.

She tried to recall the day when her mother had first ironed her breasts. The memory was getting cloudy as was the day, filled with clouds of dust, created by children’s incessant running. Usually she walked past, oblivious to her surrounding but that day she was mindful of every quotidian event. She had been specifically noticing the boys, the little ones were chasing each other and the elders, nowhere to be seen. Relieved she had proceeded to her class and lo and behold! There they were staring directly at her. She had noticed they weren’t making eye contact, wondering where they were looking a chill had run down her vertebrae. Afraid and horrified she had scuttled to the furthest bench.  

This had been a fortnight ago. Now her thoughts are occupied with the stories of her mother which she tells her to prove her undertakings. While a crucial part of her is being lesioned and carbuncled she is taught that the men around her, if they see her breasts, would think she’s ready for sex. Sadly she surmise that this is the way of women hood. Little does she know that it’s a mere taboo in Cameroon.  Boitulmelo means joy but now she lies un veiled to mental trauma, breast cancer, deformities, cysts and other such maladies. Will her life be joyful?

ein Dankesbrief

There were around sixty of them , the class was almost full with boys except the first row . I trudged towards the last bench glancing sideways if I could find an empty seat but there were none . It felt like I was in an alienated world but with me being the one amongst them . Our tutor entered and asked us to introduce ourselves .I was looking at my feet and when I heard Jamshedpur I moved my glance towards the source of sound just in time to see you sitting and when my turn came I caught you smiling at your friend. First few days went without much difference, in the same last bench which had the capacity of 6 people but me sitting alone hiding from the bombardments of what is band gap?  Formula of probability of number of holes? So on and so forth. I had never thought that you would even talk to me that too properly with the look you carried and from the school you came. Little did you know about the impact of your words when you asked me to team up with you . Was the first time when I didn’t have to beg someone to finish my class projects. I was just staring at you , dumbfounded and you didn’t even ask you had already decided.  Thank  you Aayush for being the stanchion in my journey.

But my problems didn’t end here. There’s this hell of a guy who has been source of my hurdles from the first semester.  Do you want me to tell everyone what you did in my English class , Siddharth? You uncle ji types kid , I used to look at you and wander how you might be feeling with no one of your branch in the class. Well I didn’t have to mull over it for too long, you know why! It was a peaceful afternoon with soft breeze and branches doing waltz, not at all like the ambiance suggesting the entry of a villain and then you entered Mr.Menon with a grey cells nourishing news that we would soon be called in our tutor’s cabin. Anyways that doesn’t count as you sat beside me , then and forever, enjoyed my company (again a new thing for me), gave a worrisome look when I felt sick and you always know when things are not right with me. It’s not about  those two questions that you solved it’s about the warmth and confidence that I got when I sat beside you . I used to be a timid, shy, diffident and cringey girl but when I was wrapped by you both I was no longer the same. Initially such petty thoughts leaked in as you might be avoiding me but it were those times when you text me first that proves you care. Thank you for the moral support because of which I’m here. Even now with my messed up timetable you pursue to take classes with me. Believe me no one has ever wanted to do that.

Though things were commencing to be okay but all these above realizations dawned on me much later. Till now my life was messed up enough to doubt the best person yet to come. Now if I wax lyrical about him it would be an injustice for there’s no adjective that portrays him felicitously. From the moment I judged you to be a South Indian senior (and I won’t forget you thought I was a Bengali) till the time when you are feeling tiered but still talking to me (maybe you are afraid I’ll get angry)” darr lagta hai na merese?” you have been with me . I’ve seen you shiver and tremble beside me in the library. You remember I went to the fiction section pretending to give you time to solve the question , I actually wanted to give you space . I saw your shivering lips, your nervous smile , fear in eyes , uncoordination in hands , it was incredible how you managed yourself then. No amount of thanks in any language can ever sum up the things you have done for me. From my assignments to my practicals, from my interviews to my speech, through my nightmares and dreams , my sorrows and joys (the list won’t end) I had the privilege to have you by my side. Thank you for not losing hope when I did. Thank you for being there with me setting your fears aside. Thank you for sharing with me things which nobody else knows . Thank you for being what I thought could never be mine. Thank you for remaining a true friend Shikhar.

It has been more than a couple of months now and in less than 24 hours we’ll be together again.

PS : I just saw your smile when you met Rocky , it was …… sorry no such adjective coined yet. Just keep that smile. And yes just a few hours…..


Killing a President would have been much easier than putting on his EMU, but that was the reason why he was here struggling with his lower torso assembly. A couple of years ago India had suggested to pass a bill in UN for deploying criminals in any new and fatal space endeavor . Cosmonauts would be spared from dying in the unknown and criminals (already sentenced to death) would not be affected. He gripped the EVA hatch of Quest airlock and took a long breath. He had to replace the wheels of Tesla with beach wheels (to transform Tesla into a rover) and cover it with an airbag and then penetrate the Martian atmosphere . He had oxygen supply only for a fortnight(after entering Mars) during which he could produce as much oxygen as he could. If he succeeded more men will be sent by NASA for colonization , if he failed he would die. This all passed through his mind in fractions of a second and in another he was out of the airlock .A brilliant crimson against the black background , was a pity to leave Tesla Roadster exposed to cosmic radiations. Covering it with airbag all he had to do was to pull some levers and tap some buttons to get the car attached to his spaceship. This was just a warm up , the real feat was ahead – to be the first man on Mars.
60 YEARS LATER …………………
Life on the red planet’s surface was alive with storms. Dust clouds were rolling and high wind screaming across the surface , but the solar green houses were unstirred by these outside squall. These were the high-rise vertical infrastructures that concaved down while forming a closed semi-sphere. The green hue was due to the plants supported on solar panels divided in irregular quadrangles that composed the walls of the building . On closer inspection one could see that these were the
windows and through one of them a woman of about 50 was visible gazing at the dusk sky. She was gazing at Earth , which now looked more brown than blue . Remembering how her father had landed on Mars and had slowly built this city ,she missed her home, her father’s home to be more specific , though she had never visited it. This city still had to produce water from electrolysis , there was just enough oxygen for everyone . Don’t get deluded by those green house boundary , the storms frequently covered the glasses blocking light to the plants. Not all food crops could be grown on Martian lands , terraformation on this small scale had faced so much difficulty the whole Mars has yet to be colonized. “ I have tasted better days my son, better days on Earth “,her father used to say. She was the manager of this city , yet yearned to go to Earth . Life was still difficult here , strange thoughts trailed across her grey cells , “if only humans had not taken Earth for granted , if only they had given more heed to the population problem , if only my father was not sent here I would not have been MARS BORN” .