The Old Cafe

We first met at this old cafe near Chandni Chowk, I still remember it was raining as the water droplets were going to pierce the land into pieces .I was wandering in old Delhi trying to find an old, famed bookstore, and some non-clichéd books. In Delhi, the time after November is the best. The winds are not so warm and there is a faded smell of heavy ghee filled sweets wherever you look, festivals are going on and so is the season of shopping. There were many things happening in city starting from my own food festivals and sales on many fashion labels which made a simple girl a Delhi girl. Then there were events as Comic-Con and the Grudge festival.

 

I love winters but that was a cloudy evening, and to top it all of it started to rain as well, but thank god it was not so cold. In the immediate search of someplace to save myself from the rain I found this old café with a shack, which seemed quite authentic to me but unfortunately I got drenched. So as soon I could, I ran into the café. I was half wet already and so were my new books. To my surprise this place was crowded, a lot more than I imagined. I guess all the people ran here to save themselves from heavy, yet not so romantic rain. There was not a single chair to sit and on top and I had so much stuff in my hand, my phone was ringing continuously, my projects were pending, and my editors were fed up with me, so as I was struggling to find myself a table. I looked over to the end and there he was, sipping his coffee with cigarette smoke coming out of his mouth, he was so quiet that a single sight of his made that loud cafe pin into a single sound. He had these greyish greenish eyes, the kind which are rare, the kind in whom when you look your heart skips a beat till all the nerves in our body are dancing with excitement. He was wearing a rugged shirt and ripped pant, tall I guess 6 feet, his guitar was resting on the other chair and As I noticed clearly He was reading something, I went a little closer and to my surprise he was reading  ‘The notebook’ .

It was unexpected because a guy like him, so rough and tough in his look should be listening to gangsta rap. To my luck, the table  close to him got free and I grabbed it as soon as I could, I sat there looking at him, no doubt I was attracted, who would not be for he fitted my description of an ideal guy. I was waiting for my ice cold latte, I hate hot coffees, nor do I have the patience to wait for them to cool down and they have burnt my tongue many times.

 

So as I was looking at him, he sighed and closed his book and started staring outside like he was going to turn those rain drops into the pain of a heartbroken poet, his eyes were so pure like a water drop on a lotus. I thought that he too might be waiting for rain to go away, or maybe a girl to arrive. I just sipped my coffee looking at him, he had a face so absolute that could not be forgotten once seen, or once loved. Rain stopped but neither did he step out nor did I, no girl arrived, I drank seven cup of coffees. Waiters were staring at me and waiting for me to leave, it was dark outside and I was here, falling in love with a unknown guy in a café I have never been to before, my phone rang and it was ma screaming at me to come back home because as beautiful this city is, it is sadly, unsafe as well. I waited for him to approach but he was still sitting there, looking at the magic of the sky and I, just staring at him .It was getting really late. As I was picking up my stuff to leave he called and out and said, “I come here every day, same time same table.” I was really happy because he did notice me. I looked at him and smiled and so did he, his smile had a roughness in it like the first octave of a piano, as he was leaving he left his rugged denim jacket at my table with a note ‘It’s cold, be careful’ His jacket had his smell, the smell of sand after rain, it was strong like the strong witty smell of cologne to blow your mind. It was amazing, I snugged his jacket while I slept, his smell lingered on me for days, and yes he did come there every day and smoked, someday with a book in his hand, someday a girl.

 

I waited, we did talk a few times and we went to places unknown to all, hidden behind trees and walls of the Red Fort, sat for hours in unknown parks and made love till our heart could be torn apart. We talked while lying on grass watching the stars twinkle into the galaxy of the infinite, he read me poems he wrote, but he never talked about his childhood. I told him about mine and he did listen to every word, he smelled my body like it is made of roses and daisies and caressed it like air brushes on water, gentle, yet still moving. He held my hand and that was the best time of my day, it made me feel so safe, I knew he was different and what we had was more than just infatuation. We laughed, we talked and argued but little did we know how those nights turn into mornings of love.

 

It has been three years till that day, that day when I first saw him at this old cafe and his eyes, they hold the same color, the same purity, our son also has his eyes, and my brain. One day while laying next time to him I asked, “Why did you sigh after completing the notebook?” He kissed me and said because writers are the best liars, and we should not believe them, I laughed at the irony of his statement, he used to write about a lot of things like his mother who abandoned him when he was five and his sister who committed suicide after she fought depression, but he never talked about this, he just wrote.

 

He never wrote about us, he said that if he wrote about me he would lose me, and I was way too precious, yet I never understood that. He looked at me in a way no one has ever looked, with a possession and a fear to lose ,but a security as well, that we are not just me and I, we are one, united and weaved into a love story for generations to read .He always used to say that love is like the smoke of his cigarette, the ones we love also disappear like the smoke in the midst of sky, consuming us, making us a mere addiction and then when we open our eyes one morning they are gone, we are finished and so is the cigarette .I never this understood till today.

 

Last night we were talking it turned into a fight, I told him he need to stop smoking and start talking about his feeling rather than just pen it down and close it shut, I told him that I was there for him. He said that he could never know when I would be gone. I cried and he just left, I should have known depression does not speak, he did not come home all night, I searched for him everywhere, every street, all his favorite writing spots, I came back home in a hope to find him here playing his guitar, but I didn’t, so I just hugged his jacket and waited for him to return, and it still smells the same. There was a box inside the pocket of his jacket, I opened it and there it was, a rose gold solitaire ring. I described this to him months ago, he was going to propose. I was so happy, finally, I had planned this day for so long, lived it so many times in my head. I called him but his phone was off and I was worried but I had no idea when I fell asleep holding that ring, I woke up to 50 missed calls, the police officers informed me his body was found in a river, he was dead and today as he lay in his grave His eyes and his skin both pale, all I want to do is kiss him for the last time, stop him from consuming himself into ink and words but I think that what writers do, tangle us into words and  just to leave us to wonder . I want him to come back, and complete our story.

And yet, today that cafe is empty and so is my soul.

 

By Riya Sharma (Editor, Fiction)

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Is India a Truly Secular Nation?

Secularism means that the state will have no official religion. Moreover, the citizens of India can practise, profess and propagate the religion of their choice. It is the equal treatment of all religions by the state. The word, ‘secular’ was not in the Preamble of the Constitution from its inception, rather it was added by the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India enacted in 1976, and since then the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a secular nation.

Secularism is important to India as the partition of the country was on the basis of religion and therefore to accommodate the diversity in India, it is essential for there to be no discrimination of religion. However, the state protects the rights of cultural minorities which is different from Western Secularism. Moreover, India is a diversity rich country with people from all walks of life. But has ‘unity in diversity’ survived through the ages?

There is an ongoing crisis with relation to secularism which has uprooted the peace and harmony between different religions. The case of the ‘Godra’ riots in Gujarat in 2002 prove that religion based discrimination was prominent. Muslims in Gujarat were brutally killed and their homes were lit on fire. It was because of this that there was a severe tension among the people. Following was the incident of the demolition of the Babri Masjid to build the Ram Mandir which was believed to be there before. The Congress party which was ruling that time did not oppose this and remained silent on this issue. It clearly sought the ‘favouritism’ in politics. The ‘Sangh Parivar’ is said to be involved in the demolition.

Many people contest that there should be a Uniform Civil Code, however the Muslim personal laws have some special status that allow Triple Talaq and Polygamy which are bigotry and are prejudiced against women. The Shah Bano case also depicts the strong hold of the Muslim Personal Law Board which despite the Congress Party’s effort did not support Shah Bano. She was subsequently denied the alimony when the Indian Parliament reversed the judgement under pressure from Islamic orthodoxy.

The most recent case of Pseudo Secularism has been that of killing of 50-year-old Mohd Akhlaque who had eaten beef and thereby hurt Hindu sentiments. To avenge the rumoured death of a cow, a human being was done to death. The mob bashed him to death. In another instance, there has been injustice in the name of secularism where a group of college students in Kerala were man-handled and threatened inside a movie theatre in Chennai allegedly because they didn’t stand when the national anthem was playing. The students have been charged with insulting the national anthem – which carries a three-year jail term.

Similar was the case where there were Anti-Sikh riots in 1984. The Operation Bluestar hurt the sentiments of the Sikh as it damaged the holiness of the Golden Temple. This in turn led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh body guards. This all turned into a national uproar against the Sikh minorities where they were massacred on the streets.

This goes onto show the façade of secularism and the ongoing debate about whether state sponsored secularism should be stopped as Pseudo Secularism is being practised.

 

By Saumya Rastogi (Editor, Fiction)

Hope

Hope, it is a very simple four letter word determining the terminology of our lives. It is indeed the most underestimated weapon, a weapon of destruction as well as that of peace. If the hope ignited inside your soul turns to reality then it becomes a blessing.

But if it doesn’t come true, then it will end up killing you a little every day till you are numb and hurt. Then it becomes the greatest curse, rubbing salt into all your healing scars of the past. It always makes you feel that things will go back to normal again, time will pass and heal up all the sore scales that are left behind, maybe you will meet that person again, maybe that love will come back to you and that everything will eventually become normal.

But this seems to be a blurry illusion as maturity hits us and as we sneak out of our own cocoons to face the reality of this unfair world. There seems to be no bigger lie than HOPE because now you can relate to the crudeness and unfair rules of this materialistic world.

Hope isn’t an illusion but rather it’s made into one and that too by us, the civilized organisms or maybe animals of this world. We tend to modify our own values, morals, ethics and basic structural phase known as humanity, we bend and amend all these set barriers according to our own flexibility but still have the courage to hope and expect the world to be fair to us, when we ourselves are not fair to our own self.

Isn’t it ironic? Hope breaks you, it may make you heartless because of the deep pain that it causes you, but you have all that right to turn those scars into power and your flaws into your highlights. 

 

By Yamika Khanna (Editor, Non fiction)

Be Yourself

You are who you want to be, who you choose to be. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Because it’s not true. You think that you can’t do something, that it’s just not possible? Well, the impossible happens every day. It’s called life.

You don’t need anyone to tell you that you’re talented enough, strong enough or good enough. You already know deep inside that you are. So, don’t listen to the naysayers. Don’t listen to those who would bring you down. After all, haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate right?

Just be yourself. Be who you want to be, who you chose to be at the moment when you felt most at ease with the world. Let everybody else’s opinions go to hell. It’s your life, not theirs. So, live it. Get out there, do something you’ve always wanted to do, but could never bring yourself to do. Put yourself out there, and let life knock you down. Because it’s in the getting back up that you will find yourself.

And then you will realize, once and for all, that you are good enough, and you always have been. You know who you are, and you know what you want to do.

Because it’s only when you’re at your lowest point, that you start rising again. And then you’ll find that life isn’t as horrible as it seems sometimes. Sure, there’s definitely a lot of pain and suffering up ahead for you; life’s no cakewalk. But you are strong enough to get through it.

To pick a rose, you have to risk being pricked by the thorns. Life wouldn’t be as beautiful as it is without all the petty problems that seem to be so painful to us right now. Without the daily mishaps, the little problems that seem to mar our otherwise perfect days, we wouldn’t really be happy.

The day we realize that, the day we stop focussing on the cloud, and we start noticing the silver lining, that day we will finally realize that everything is going to be okay. We will face a lot of problems over the next few years, but we will also have a lot more happiness than we can imagine or comprehend at the moment. So, it’s time to get started on living that life you keep dreaming about. Blaze your own trails, make your own paths. Be yourself. That is all anyone who really loves you will ever ask of you.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”

-E.E. Cummings

 

By Apurva Lodha (Head Editor, Non fiction)

The Ivory Tower

Looking out from the ivory tower so secure so sure of ourselves.

Now the doors have opened and we realise how lost we have been.

We thought we were being smart, we thought we realised how the real world works,

But let’s be honest tonight.

Our much vaunted philosophy doesn’t work in this world.

We all promised to be the best of friends forever, to Skype, call and be there for each other,

But as tomorrow comes and goes, and neither do you call nor do I text,

We realise our ivory dreams don’t matter much out here tonight.

Keeping in touch grows ever harder with every step we take,

And a realisation that our friendships were maybe born of chance not choice sets in,

It breaks your heart till you finally realise ,

That even if they weren’t meant to last,

They still meant something, they still mean something,

They were what you needed then, they got you through some tough times.

So take the hand you were dealt, and believe in fate.

For one way or another, your friends from the tower did have some meaning.

 

By Apurva Lodha (Head Editor, Non fiction)

Fire and Kisses

My hands trembled.

A little hesitation,
I was to play with fire.
His touch burnt deep into my skin,
But left a solacing effect.
It was the salt to my wound.
I bled,
As he stabbed me,
With something unknown;
Or a celestial blade.
He sucked my soul out,
As i longed to breathe.
He emptied me,
All my organs; one by one,
Till i was his.
I melted
And our lips parted;
The distance increased.
Finally our ways parted,
But he carried me.

 

By Ashna Mathur (Editor, Poetry)

The Purpose of YouTube

YouTube is an American video-sharing website. YouTube came about in the year 2005, and I do think that’s all the history you need to know about it. You know what YouTube is. YouTube is where Justin Bieber, Shawn Mendes, Carly Rae Jepsen and some major artists started their career. YouTube was a crossing-your-fingers, hoping-to-get-discovered platform, a platform, that has no doubt contributed by giving the world a few hundred truck-loads of talented and melodious voices and words which impact millions of hearts. Also, cat videos.

I have been an avid viewer of YouTube since I was about 11. I can’t help but look down on how the YouTube world has completely changed and went from showcasing hidden talents and absolutely heart-warming, down to earth millennials to money/view/fame-hungry kids. This, of course doesn’t apply to every YouTuber ever. But, I’m sure if you watch even a few people on YouTube, you KNOW who and what I’m talking about.

My YouTube journey started with watching late Christina Grimmie who did covers with a keyboard and her strong voice with nothing but one sketchy, digital camera. I watched her on my old box of a computer, which now sits at my grandparents’ house probably covered in about 60 layers of dust. I usually only watched covers on YouTube as I, myself wanted to do something like that once I was a little grown up. Make simple videos of myself singing, without really caring how many people are watching. Just to get my voice out there.

YouTube is a really intimidating platform now. Starting from scratch, having to be dedicated because of the quite high- REALLY high level of competition. I found myself watching videos of people other than people who just sung or played an instrument. My brother and I would spend evenings watching Smosh and NigaHiga. I then came across Miranda Sings and got addicted to watching her, a few familiar, warm-hearted names that come to mind around that time are Zoella, Lilly Singh, Joey Graceffa, Troye Sivan, Tyler Oakley, Shane Dawson and so many just pure-hearted fun people. People that never showed they were in it for the money or they fame. People that just genuinely enjoyed entertaining and making their audience happy. At this point, I’m not sure I even knew how much they earned off of it just because they never seemed to care about the money or take all that love for granted.

Now, excuse me, if I sound a bit hateful. But as soon as Vine stars started taking over YouTube, the aura of YouTube didn’t feel all too warm anymore. Now, Vine was also a video sharing platform, of six second videos on a loop. Vine was shut down in 2016, everyone who was from Vine shipped on to YouTube. Again, a little recap of internet history that I’m positive you all are already aware of. Vine brought to us Jake Paul, Lance Stewart, Cameron Dallas, Logan Paul, Lele Pons, King Bach to name a few. I can’t help but feel, as soon as Vine started dying down some of them just jumped up and down in a state of what-now and retired to YouTube. Jake Paul is described as one manipulative, materialistic, hate-on-me-but-I-still-make-money vlogger (video blogger) who is mostly loved by 10-year olds that watched his Disney show Bizaardvark. He lost his Disney contract due to his recklessness I reckon though he didn’t put it in as many words. They are so blinded by his Disney character, Dirk, that they don’t see what he really cooks up behind the scenes. He just seems, really, hungry for views. This generation of YouTube is what really let “Adsense” out to the first world. Adsense being how YouTubers make money off their videos. Lance Stewart was one of the Vine stars that was quick to start a YouTube channel but has been left behind by the Paul brothers and now makes fake videos of paranormal activity in hopes that people would believe him and his videos would blow up. He recently got into a tiff about this with one of his best friends Chris, which also I can’t tell if it’s fake. They seem to try too hard to divert the internet’s attention from the “Paul Brothers”. Jake Paul and Logan Paul also seem to cook up a lot of fake drama for views and entertainment to their audience to some extent but mostly, it seems, for views.

YouTube was once a warm platform that showcased nothing but talent. YouTube is now continuously turning into a drama hub between brothers and friends who claim to want to spread positivity but I don’t see how if they don’t themselves know the true meaning and honour of being an influencer. Can anyone do YouTube?

 

By Aayushi Khanna (Editor, Non fiction)