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From The Afterglow

Verses, Tales, and Thoughts: A Literary Odyssey

By Varsha Panikar

With the world on a lockdown, there is a lot of time to think; no time for socializing, nowhere to get a drink. Some, risking their lives at work with people dying at their feet, tucked away in body bags; wind heralding a thousand deaths and clinical suicides - every hour. Rounded up or down to a pleasingly symmetrical number. Prescription drugs, infomercials, images of families and foliage, and a pleasantly vapid disclaimer of collateral sufferings, followed by a drone shot to some unnamed music. Blue and white PPE Kits, everything smells of caustic chemicals; dogs chewing through their hair, for a morsel. Prisoners of our own making, of the horror, the invisible death, the stench of blood and sweat. All that talk of apocalypse sounds exquisite, flames twisting skywards, faces masked, as if some horrid holiday has commenced. Everyone’s in a mask, N95, blue, black, floral, abstract - endless designs, a pallid veil of dancing shadows, an impending demise. Is there a fury in the bleakness of the after-death, a separation beyond anxiety, hopelessness beyond the last farewell?

She asked - "Is this the end?”, and I said, “press your beautiful bones against my ribs, lay your mire upon my silt, as we stumble to a halt, tangle your rictus into my thinning hair and chew out a keepsake for the archeologists to carefully sweep a brush across someday. “ You laugh, and we leave it that.

Each morning we inch a bit closer to the bottom of the valley. Each morning becomes more arresting, and every evening we laugh ourselves to stupefaction, to an anthem of prerecorded applause as the news delivers a thousand clockwork deaths and suicides, an hour, a slow collapse.

The phone pings. Update! It is hard to see the pain in a selfie. Another smile in the sunshine pretending everything is 'fine'. Aren’t you getting sick of the grind? But we’ve all adjusted, shifted things. Persisting here day by day, the end of times delayed, yet again. Seems simplistic at first glance. Guess, it’s all up to chance.

Maybe the sun will eat the world today...

As I stand here

In this crowd of strangers

I hear a familiar song.

One that strikes a chord

Deep down in my soul.

Songs of menacing righting’s of wrongs,

Blood on the street,

Breaking of bones,

Innocent lives dusted once gone,

Of courage and resilience,

And stories untold,

Of injustice and oppression,

And the lies broadcasted and sold.

Hear their bells,

Hear their gongs,

Hear the beating drums!

Listen to the song!

Strangers singing together,

Singing a familiar song,

Standing together,

Together as ‘one’!

Do you hear their song?

Does it strike a chord?

Deep down in your heart?

It is the song of rebellion.

So come,

Come sing along!

Featured in the Zine - ‘Resilience’, November 2020 issue by the Rights Collective, together with guest editors South Asian Sisters Speak (SASS), featuring brown womxn of south Asian descent. Read the Zine here.

Here is a playlist - Resilience curated by each of the featured writers in the Zine .

And suddenly, I was falling through the clouds, through the rays of that blinding sunlight. It was a while before I could see clearly, but then I did, and I saw you. I was falling into your lips. On contact, I shattered like glass into a million shards reflecting turquoise light. That’s when I woke up, truly woke up. The firmness of the mattress affirmed that I was surely awake this time. The hum of the flickering fluorescent light, from across the street, illuminated my room. The wind was still howling against my window, painting a dissonant melody. I stared at the moon, muddled by my dusty turquoise tainted-window and eventually slipped back into the embrace of my sheets, hoping that the night’s sweet lullaby would hush me back to the dreamland where I could fall into you once more.

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