They Who Were Wordless

Ku was named with a rare consonant and the last vowel her wordless family had to spare and she had fallen on desperate times indeed. The Qxlb recruited Ku when they discovered that she sold slang on the black-market, desperately moving from alphabet to alphabet to feed herself. Ku had always considered them her last resort, and now that she had succumbed to it, she felt her end very near. The Qxlb chose their unpronounceable names from scraping the remnants of burned lexicons on the streets, an act which endeared them to the wordless majority. They made bold claims to restore the depleting vocabulary and often acted on them, using methods that Ku could neither accept because of their extremity nor reject because of their results. The government could not capture or describe that which they could not name, which served the Qxlb’s purposes quite well.

Ku had come to realize that her introversion had moved from a choice to a survival trait. It was not only the quiet introspective silence that she had habituated to, but an impressive taciturn armor from which words had to literally be wrestled out. Ku had grown up around the increasingly thinning rationed dictionaries, watching friends and families unspeak themselves around her, whispering the last of their letters from their hoarse mouths and falling to a vocabulary of grunts which could at best communicate anguish. There were literally no words to convey what she had seen or felt so she denied herself the experience of it. If she couldn’t describe it, even to herself, what could it be? The frustration of the sudden limits on their expressive abilities often drove the wordless to death, that Eternal Silence. The sad silences, the awkward silences, the pregnant silences were not for Ku. She clung to her armor terrified, willing to risk losing her voice entirely than to risk losing the few words she had. Sometimes these words would jump to her mouth, but remain unexpressed.

The Qxlb researchers as well as the government had tried to come up with alternative languages. Could they teach an entire population of adults to sign before their language died? Could they come up with any language at all that would not suffer the same fate from their using, abusing mouths? The more outspoken members of Ku’s generation still believed they could Do Something about this situation. They directed scattered efforts to word-preservation methods or new ways to communicate without losing the expressive power they had formerly retained. The problem had to be discussed, the solutions had to be expressed. Ku guessed that they were in denial of an entire generation had been rendered disabled by the very language they spoke. Still she couldn’t blame them for trying.

Ku’s illegal transactions were conducted behind a governmental shelter that taught speakers to sign. She made words that could be used for one conversation and then died out. This made what people spoke impossible to remember (since they weren’t real words), but they gave people the illusion that they had more words to spare. They had signed till they had calluses on their hands and yet they became increasingly incoherent. It was a failing venture by a desperate government, foiled at will by the Qxlb who refused to surrender to these indignities. Large populations of adult speakers could not be converted to signers in a timespan that could retain their language. The silent inexpressible frustration that the signers now held in their hands brought literal chokeholds, broken fingers and hands. Signs failed to be accepted as the new norm, and people soon thought their hands could be better used to squeeze the remaining letters from the living and the speaking yet. The demented signers now roamed the streets muttering, “_Ny l_tt_rz pl_z h_lp-“, begging any possible letters they could from those who walked alone in the dark. Ku clutched her few vowels close to her heart, when she braved those nights.

The Qxlb had assumed that by killing the verbose, the archaic, the voluble and the redundant, they could recover yet the words and letters unspoken. Like spilled blood, the letters disappeared shortly after their death though scavengers actively hunted for short easy vowels or the occasional soft consonant. By the Qxlb’s “munificence”, they could collect as much as they could commit to their memory. The scavengers knew they were now impure with the letters of another, but at least they could lend comprehension to their speech, a voice to their demands. They comprised of the Qxlb in large numbers. They disgusted Ku, but she could never name the feeling without losing words, so she accepted their recruitment as some form of final punishment. She was one of the most passive and withdrawn recruits yet for she had no words to bandy, not even for small talk.

The raid on the old libraries tonight would be in vain, Ku thought. The Qxlb were under the impression that freeing words from the archaic manuscripts and texts would enable people to use them. Blood-curdling scavengers had been recruited for this noble task because they could memorize the letters of others so rapidly. The Qxlb also deemed it necessary to find new letters to identify themselves with. Notoriety had cut into the exclusive usage of ‘Q’s, ‘X’s, ‘L’s and ‘B’s, which would soon become rare due to overuse. The Qxlb could not afford anonymity to the extent that even their own members were unable to identify themselves. Ku herself had grown accustomed to living in the perpetual fear of unspeaking her own name. She let others assign aliases to her and did not care to repeat to herself what they were, since she didn’t want to be remembered by them. Ku knew they envied her silence. She must be holding on to a lot of words, they must have rumored, let her open her mouth and speak for a change.

Despite all of the projected bravado that the Qxlb members shared between themselves, Ku could not shake the feeling that the Qxlb had run out of alternatives. Ku watched the more aggressive members hold Silencers to the mouths of government officials, vicariously living through the memories of squeezing every last word that casually rolled from their fat mouths, spilling between the flecks of their saliva while they laughed or chortled. Did they deserve justice? Did they deserve to have their voices heard just because they could afford the waste? Ku crept into the raided library herself, assigned to secondary shifts, reading aloud from the echoes of words left behind by her shift-members. Her painfully hoarse, fragile voice carried the combined weight of disuse as well as the magnitude of “new” words. Scavengers stared at her lips hungrily, memorizing their moves, driving their own depraved growls to the sound of possible prestige and power and expression. Ku did not doubt that they had contemplated scooping the last of the words from her should they spot her alone in some dark corridor.

When the long night ended, the Qxlb poured into the streets, fresh with new words of joy and celebration. Even the wordless who could still speak joined in the revelry, since victory did not need words to be expressed. The Qxlb could shout themselves hoarse into the horizons with a “victory” that they hadn’t “earned”.  Ku did not care for the Qxlb’s losses and she certainly could not care for their successes.

“What is the point of fighting over the few letters we have among ourselves if we cannot save the history of a people?” she asked herself aloud, nearly surprising herself with the sound of her own daring. By speaking aloud to herself, Ku had unlocked the dam that had kept her words and feelings and ideas in. Now that her voice had been reluctantly put through the motions of speaking, Ku knew it was time for her wordless suicide to begin. She stalked back into the library for government bodies that still bled. She pushed past the scavengers who were ready to press words even from the ghosts of these people as spoken life left them. She dipped a sharp tip of wood in the slow-pooling blood and began to scratch words onto the recently emptied pages that had been read from.

“We are the Atlassian people. We speak a language that has abused us. Very soon, we will be silenced forever. There will be nothing left in our language. Without words to use, we will be thoughtless and nameless. Do not forget us…”

 

 

The Revenant That Did Not Confront a Bear

Dear Blogworld,

It has come to my alarming notice that the following things have happened (in order)

  1. I’ve graduated from college! (More posts on the musings of real life are definitely coming)
  2. I have time on my hands to write about all the things I wanted to! (Expect more of my attempted science fiction stories)
  3. I’ve been notified that it’s been exactly one year since my last post on this blog. (Hence the title, since I’m literally back to this blog after some sort of death)
  4. My writing skills are borderline dysfunctional. (Isn’t this parenthetical style annoying?)
  5. I have 80 days before Real Life begins.

With this terrible excuse of an apology, let me not waste your time any longer and begin by *slowly* resuscitating this blog back.

Cheers and best, etc.

The Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I’m simultaneously honored and humbled to let you all know that I’ve been nominated for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award by bdhesse who writes great stuff at http://bdhesse.wordpress.com/ and has successfully confused me into choosing (only) 15 other bloggers who inspiring.

These especially are my favorites at bdhesse’s: Who Needs To Know? and The Nightmare

Here are the rules:

  • The nominee shall display the Very Inspiring Blogger Award logo on her/his blog, and link to the blog they got nominated from.
  • The nominee shall nominate fifteen (15) bloggers she/he admires, by linking to their blogs and informing them about it.

*Cracks knuckles*. I’m splitting the blogs I read frequently into categories of similar types. I’m writing a one-liner in the hope that their About pages will obviously do a much more spectacular job than me, but I couldn’t resist.

Category 1: Articulate fiction, non-fiction and  mellifluous poetry.

  1. http://themirrorobscura.wordpress.com/ : Fabulous poetry with mesmerizing graphics.
  2. http://justbadtiming.wordpress.com/ : Delicate prose.
  3. http://4thaluv.com/: Well-written reviews, fictional content and a collection of bookmark-worthy quotes.
  4. http://florencecrayewooster.wordpress.com/: Exquisite phrases combined with a love of storytelling and as you can obviously tell, P.G. Wodehouse.
  5. http://robertokaji.com/ : Translations of oriental poetry combined with poems that often capture something fragile.

Category 2: Culturally-influenced authors who often pour their nostalgia and creativity into their work. I started my blog with the similar idea, so I’m reaching out to some other literal contemporaries out there.

  1. http://abitjuakali.wordpress.com/: Poetry, writing and often the cultural longing of home (which is Uganda) and the contrast of New York.
  2. http://juliealexandraa.wordpress.com/about/ : I love how the works on this site represent the Spanish language and its myriad cultural associations.
  3. http://verseherder.wordpress.com/: Hilarious, natural in the literal sense and very well-spoken/written.

Category 3: Different perspectives from people who have lived and experienced the often misunderstood side of life.

  1. http://takingthemaskoff.com/: Addiction, stigma, ignorance and how they form identities
  2. http://playingyourhandright.wordpress.com/ : Crime, life, mistakes and everything else that makes us human
  3. http://autismthoughts.wordpress.com/ : The struggles and achievements of living with autism
  4. http://suzjones.wordpress.com/about/ : Understanding depression and how writing can serve as an effective way to coping mechanism.

In my humble/inexperienced opinion, a lot of the problems that people have about sex and it’s interconnection with emotional relationships is simply because there aren’t enough sources of sexual enlightenment, let alone, general awareness out there which leads to a whole host of misunderstood, poorly communicated and emotionally-unsatisfying relationships. It’s only if you find out what you want and how to help you get to that, which will help you find what you need to make yourself happy.

Anyway. Here’s to the blogs that celebrate sensuality/sexuality/ gender and all other miscellaneous constructs that stem from the fundamental human need to love and be loved.

Category 4: Content Warning: Sexual, possibly Feminist

  1.  http://kateharding.net/: This blog may be moving to a new domain. Enlightening discussions of women, sexuality, rape and rape culture.
  2. http://captainawkward.com/: Genuine love advice which I may or may not seek because I fit the title description
  3. http://sexpectations89.wordpress.com/ : Casual sex and the misconceptions or self-delusions that people have about it

Category 5: Miscellaneous. Fiction. Opinions. I know I’m exceeding 15 but I really really wanted to mention these great people.

  1. http://aopinionatedman.com/ :The only blogger I know who is singularly and consistently unafraid of voicing their opinion, no matter what.
  2. http://illustriouspeacock.wordpress.com/: Really interesting photographs of random people, places and things.
  3. http://allmostrelevant.com/:   I like this blog. It’s random. Funny. Interesting.

It is way beyond my bed-time now and I’m just going to thank everyone and tell them to keep writing the awesome stuff they do. I’m also going to cut brutally short my speech about just how great WordPress is as a community and how much I love it because it makes me feel like I belong somewhere. The previous sentence is my speech. Thank you all!

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (V): Visitors

But on this winter evening, in their humble cottage, after fumbling through history and sharing a kiss that neither hoped would be the last, they paused.

They were survivors, and yet they still could not let go of the burden that their kind had created for themselves. Grandfather had burned his laboratory notes about Muridea research, so that nobody would ever have to create such a monster again. Grandmother disposed of the piano, quietly and with tears, for music was very intimate to her. These were several hard decisions that they made, but they made them together and they made them considering the future. Both of these attributes seemed to justify it as a right decision.

Nobody knew what became of the children after. Nobody knew what happened to DNA of the Muridea either. Traces of everything that had happened were removed. Eventually, the burned land relearned how to sprout grass, and the river could supply them with nutrients once again.

Grandmother looked up from the album that she and Grandfather shared in their arms.

There was the shadow of a person on the snow. It was too upright to be someone of their age. Yet it was impossible that anybody younger should exist. Hesitant, and quite frightened, the couple took to the door. Grandfather hauled an old weapon, that he had used to keep uninvited Muridea at bay. Grandmother shivered timidly as she hobbled towards the door.

Grandmother was not a person given to drama and hysteria, yet the shock of what she saw made her reel. A young girl, of about sixteen or seventeen waited at the door. She was wearing a full coat that was buttoned up to protect her from the cold, and the snowflakes was settling in on her mousy hair.

She flashed a bright smile that reflected the snow. It was unreal. It was beyond unreal. Surely at her age, she was prone to seeing delusions. Nobody like that could even be after all that had happened. The girl moved her mouth, clearly she was trying to explain something vocally, which Grandmother did not hear. Grandfather dropped the weapon he was holding in sheer shock. Grandmother felt the vibrations of the heavy bulky device crash to the floor via her feet.

Could it be? Could the children have returned? Had they truly survived everything to live to see this beautiful day?

Very shyly, the girl patted Grandmother’s hand, as though understanding their confusion. As a patriotic and respectful gesture she tried to embrace Grandmother, as though she was long-lost family. Though Grandfather and Grandmother had no children, the very fact that someone had reached out to them and considered them close enough to be family and wished to meet them made their hearts happy enough. It was the kind of happiness that hadn’t filled them since the silence began.

Grandfather’s eyes were watering again due to some combination of extreme emotion and age and cold weather. Grandmother clasped the figure before her very tightly. This was real. She was beholding the next generation. They were so overcome with emotion, as they had never felt in so long that they had abandoned all suspicion.

Indeed it was a such a simple thing that made them happy, and like most simple ideas, it was genius. Pure genius.

While locked in that fragile filial embrace, neither Grandmother nor Grandfather noticed as the girl fidgeted with a furry, rat-like hand under her coat and turned on the invisible ear piece she had. They could not have heard what she said, but this is what she said.

“Search successful. We have located two healthy pure human specimens for gene distillation. Purification process can be initiated.”

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (IV): Sounds

It was truly one of the most awe-inspiring days when Grandfather and Grandmother were brought out of hiding into open space for the first time. The Piper, with her youthful joy and fervor, was using a simple tool that she held in her hand and pumped her breath. It emitted a strange hypnotic pulse that washed out over the people and the waves expanded as they spread over the people and the desolate landscape.

The Muridea keeled over, squealing in pain. One by one. The hundreds in a wave, then thousands and then millions. All that emerged from the sound, heard it in its glory and then died. Perhaps it was a happy death. The first of its kind the world had ever seen.

Shortly after, the sounds died as well.

Grandfather and Grandmother clutched each other in worry, terror and joy all intermingled. The high frequencies were inducing strange behavior, but they were enchanting as well.

It was also the last sound they would ever hear.

But it was still that time, when Grandfather and Grandmother could go outside and walk in the remains of a park. They could walk, in the safety of being in their own environment, sure that no Muridea would sprout forth from the earth and then attack them. The air did not smell of blood and decay and death. It smelled of exhaustion.

For the first time ever, within their ears and within their minds, there was peace.

The river water could not be used any more, as it contained the corpses of several Muridea, which would take years to decay. It was only when all of Grandfather’s hair had turned white, that he would find the water clear. There was still the occasional Muridea skull that would float by, but those were years later.

Yet, despite the crushing, crumbling and much-needed silence, people rejoiced. They shouted their quiet joy, and celebration came to the lands for the first time in many years. Indeed, it was better to be deaf permanently than to live in constant fear of dying. Initially, there were panic reports of just one person going deaf. But then, as widespread reports flooded medical centers, two entire nations couldn’t hear anything.

Most accepted their silent designation with grace. They were a war generation, too tired with gore to argue with the unintended side effects. They were the ones who counted the number of fresh Muridea dying in the river, everyday. They had not yet lost their capacity to adopt to their new disabilities.

Grandmother and Grandfather learned newer ways to communicate. Visually, via gestures or written/expressed media. It probably helped their cause that their administration had also gone deaf and so adapted the infrastructure to suit their needs. The two countries which had once been bustling metropolises, then ravaged war grounds were just ghost towns of mute people. Even the agencies that could create sound were slowly silenced as nobody could hear them anymore. Audio technology stopped selling. People discarded any communications gear they had. Verbal language had no meaning any more.

But there were others who did not accept this so quietly. Some registered their protest, saying that the Piper had cheated them all, and so should be denied the right to a proper payment. When the Piper asked to be paid, they offered the remaining debris of whatever genetic evidence was left of the Muridea, saying that it was viable human DNA. They did not hear the Piper’s protests. Or see or feel them. They chose not to.

It was a collective decision, formed by the nascent union of both warring factions. As such, some historians maintained that it was one of the best decisions in history as it proved that the entire war had been quite unnecessary. But others maintained that it was one of the worst, for what was to follow.

Grandfather remembered shaking his tired head at the large posters that screamed of injustice to the Piper. Indeed, it seemed as though shortsightedness wasn’t the only fault with the people. Ingratitude existed as well. After so many struggles, wasn’t it good that they accepted the silence as is. After a decade of hearing the howls of the dead and the screeches of scavengers, wasn’t the silence truly a boon in disguise?

Grandmother worried that by handing over the remnant of Muridea DNA, they were inviting the Piper to re-create the invasion again. After all, if he needed the genetic resources to create families, he probably had the genetic resources to re-create their species and plague them again.

As events unfolded, the Piper had other ideas to equate the transaction.

The few children of both these nations were still able to hear very very faintly. This was due to their capacity to pick up frequencies that the adult hearing failed to after a while of being exposed to harsher sounds of the world. Still young, and capable of growing into healthy reproductive adults, the Piper secretly came by and whisked them away.

It was so simple, so non-glorious, so evident what was happening and yet nobody could do anything to stop it. Children were easily enchanted by a person who seemed to be in their own age group, and who could make sound. Lured away from home by the promise of something greater, bigger and more beautiful that the war-stricken land could ever hope to provide, they left in a quiet exodus.

Nobody heard them leave.

Parents tried to stop the children from leaving, when the attempts at abduction were more visible and blatant and yet so subtle. But their protesting actions fell on deaf ears, and numbed minds. There was the joy of company too. To be with each other, to be together, siblings, friends, adolescent lovers and the like fled from the authority of home, skipping over the Muridea remains, ignoring the charred world that they had formerly called home. For what kind of home gave it’s children nothing but explicit instructions to prevent going outside? What kind of a generation raised another in terror of their own creation? Their kind.

Despite the fact that Grandfather and Grandmother had no children of their own, they empathized with families that were now reduced to adults. It wasn’t that they missed the sounds of the children’s laughter, as they couldn’t hear any. But the very presence of someone young and dependent had given the war generation something better to strive for. Except now that there were to be no heirs, what was the purpose of their existence?

Among all the killers that had ruled the land, sadness and despair joined their elite ranks. Mourning, grieving wounded families were added to the death tolls. Every day their numbers rose, and their world’s shrunk and so did the people. And all that was left was hate. Hate for the War, the Muridea, the Piper and everything that had happened.

Yet, human nature was resilient. Several families tried again. But the Piper’s wide-scale treatment left them sterile.

Some begged the Piper that her revenge was too harsh for a land which had experienced sorrow. Indeed there were opinions which claimed that another campaign be initiated to get the children back. But then the Piper conveyed, and finally, when she conveyed, nobody could refute her argument.

She had helped a people get rid of a problem they had created. And it was only fair that he ask for something in return. The Muridea were formidable to defeat. Harsh methods usually have harsh reactions. She had explained these to the authorities when she had first entered the land. They had agreed.

Besides, she was promising the children a brighter, better future than they could ever hope to have in a land that was eager to jump into battle, had literally nothing to offer to a childhood of any form and was littered with death.

Even the protests fell silent at that.

Despite the apparent unfairness of the situation, Grandmother tacitly agreed with the Piper. It was better that they flee before the previous generation’s hate and debris weigh down on their shoulders. Grandfather, who empathized more deeply with the families, still felt that it was rather cruel. After all, they could have cleaned themselves up in hope that the next generation would enjoy the productive fruits of their labor. But with nobody to inherit, there was no reason for posterity.

Fate settled on the people and they resigned themselves to their doomed lives. They comforted themselves years later saying that at least their children were together and so they were all right.

It was a similar feeling that Grandmother and Grandfather shared. Friends became solitary, nephews and nieces disappeared, yet they still had each other. As long as they had each other, there was no pain too big to overcome.

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (III): Mutant

Almost a decade after the war began, the enemy state was brought to its knees. Two nations were now begging at the same level. The air strikes and the weapons fire had reduced considerably, but so had everything else. The Muridea were now returning back to their homes, spawning a population where they heavily outnumbered their creators. Due to their lethal scavenging abilities, they refused to discriminate what kind of humans they attacked.

But more so, as they bred frighteningly fast and frighteningly large litters, their genetic diversity varied. They grew stronger, wilder and more “natural”. With every progressive step towards natural reproduction, the creatures began to lose most of the original conditioning they had been designed with. Except the resilience.

Grandfather himself had been attacked a few times. All he remembered during those struggles that those beasts were approximately twice his size, much stronger than he had anticipated. The precise memory of encounters were fading now, but all he remembered was terror, blood, fur and fangs. They had invaded the lower levels of the laboratory, and they chewed through the walls and protecting foundations of the structure with as much ease as they had converted enemy architecture to a few twisted, partially saliva-coated segments of metal.

Grandmother would wait everyday, scoffing at Grandfather when he was late, but secretly relieved that he didn’t come back with half his face shredded beyond recognition. Everyday, she invested her time in trying to fortify their home with whatever limited salvage components she could find. She would sigh and say it was stupid how one country, in an effort to create an army, created an almost infinite problem that neither could solve.

A normal army could be asked to stay off duty. If they were machines, they could be deactivated once their services were complete. A rampant population of one of the most persistent pests humanity had encountered, the Muridea did not come with any such convenient reset button. More so, during their creation, nobody had ever thought their idea would triumph, so they did not ever see the need to create a method to end this.

It was strange how in effort to antagonize each other, the two nations managed to find peace over a universal problem, namely pest control. It was a temporary peace, a desperate effort to look beyond the border of the national boundary and the river and ask each other what they could do about the Muridea.

More so, as the Muridea mutated, their organic bodily liquids seemed to carry the capacity to cause mutations of those in contact with it as well. People started bursting out in fangs and rodent teeth and an irrepressible thirst for blood. The Muridea were adding to their own numbers. No more was it a battle of one nation against another, but of human against an organic weapon.

One person knew the answer. She went by the name of Piper. She was genius, and like all genius, dangerous. She had discovered a weakness in the Muridea. They intuitively communicated via auditory signals. Therefore, if a human being were to affect a sudden high frequency audio pulse, they could momentarily destabilize the Muridea. Of unknown identity, or qualifications, she walked with the power to control the fate of two nations.

She was young, too.

She promised to end the Muridea for something very small in return, a sustainable human gene pool. She explained that the land she came from had suffered stunted growth from war fallout. The aftermath had left them all sterile. So, she offered to make the Muridea sterile and use a sonic pulse to kill them, in promise of something that would help her people enjoy families again. It was a pulse that would suspend any mammal’s reproductive capacities indefinitely, and if conveyed at a high, irregular frequency, could frustrate the aural nerves to the extent that the Muridea would die.

Desperation. So much desperation for a convenient solution without ever wondering how such a debt could be repaid or what the consequences of such an action could be. But then again, shortsightedness had always been their greatest problem.

Again, unsure of fate, two nations decided to agree to let the river that marked their boundaries as the graveyard for the Muridea. They would provide whatever human gene samples that the Piper wanted, if he could end the plague of the Muridea.

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (II): Army

Grandfather remembered how the war began when he was very young. It was so long ago, that people still needed names to be differentiated from each other. Grandfather forgot what he used to be called, but he remembered from his childhood fantasies that he had wanted to be named after a hero, so that all would glorify his name.

Grandfather remembered waiting behind the laboratories glass windows. Of all the structures around, it was odd how a scientific warehouse was more heavily fortified than even the political structures, which were the first points of attack. As he emerged from the bubble of security, it struck him that nobody else seemed to be as uncomfortable about the sound of weapons fire than he was.

Lately, he had taken to walking to the premise. It was way too dangerous for the public transport to operate. Recent attacks had left them with rising death tolls every day. The sky bled in the morning, and in the evening, and with the air strikes, the wounds lasted during the day as well. But he was behind a laboratory’s closed door, sheltered, defended and protected, until the time he stepped out and the cries of the mourning, the whines of overwrought engines and the sharp punctuation of the weapons fire reminded him of where he was.

Everyday, the news covered another debacle of politics. Existing societal systems were failing. Rebellion and anarchy seemed to be the only route to survival. The economy plunged. Goods were looted. Yet everyday, the radiation from the attacks seemed to reduce the number of beggars on the street. Death, desperation and the enemy were persistent. They could not be stopped. They would not be stopped.

Yet, even in this dreary mess, he had reason to be happy. It was a small secret, folded up in the deepest corners of his heart before any of the plunderers found it. But it was also embodied by his lovely new bride who waited for him to come back home, anxious and worried. Despite all the misery and gore around them, they derived some small happiness in the mere fact of being together.

Perhaps it was cruel how their concern didn’t seem to bother any of the others on the streets who could have been anyone’s mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter. But perhaps shortsightedness had always been one of Grandfather’s problems. It was a problem that extended not just to him, but to his entire civilization as well.

When the funding for the laboratory and its security stopped, Grandfather helped several refugees into the warehouses and tried to keep them alive with the limited rations. Many died. Some survived. Like the very same desperation and enemy that drove these people to his shelter, Grandfather persevered and sent a few alive ones back out into the world as well. His benefactors glorified his name, the one which he himself would forget. But back then, he was a hero.

Then the call came to create an army. For a nation that was living off dust and grass, littered with decaying corpses and the pungent aroma of perpetual smoke, an army had to be raised. But from what? They had no money to buy anything. They had no more people to create an army. When the call came, a cry of confusion sang louder than all the other screams of pain. For a land that was losing its dignity, people and resources, what could it make its army from?

The answer was so simple that it was pure genius. Though nobody remembered that genius could be dangerous. Only Grandfather and Grandmother, sitting huddled up in their lonely cottage decades later, would learn to mistrust genius.

Rats. The rodents that scavenged the streets, feeding off the uncovered dead,multiplying abnormally in an environment that seemed to support their existence better than humans, they infested the city. Yet, people were so preoccupied with war, that they didn’t notice them. Most considered them as their new form of meat. Others made them into fur. They were not an inconvenience any more. They were property.

More so, they were genetically malleable. A few embellishments to their existing helix, combined with the encouragement of the native tendency to forage and scavenge and you could create a perfect army. Their skills in multiplication surpassed any automated machine, and there were so many of them that they seemed to be the only resource left.

Ordinarily, it would have occurred to some noble soul that this was cruel. Testing and forcing an animal to mutate into something that was beyond its natural capacity involved torture at some level. But inflicting torture to one species after having suffered immeasurably for their own kind seemed only a natural, and weirdly normal, way of extending the feeling of brotherhood among the remaining life-forms.

Grandfather watched as science, inspired by hate and the human need of self-defense, began to morph harmless rodents into one of the most lethal forces known. No more were there any decaying bodies on the streets. The new species required complete, clean meals in order to sustain itself, and any dead carcass presented itself as a valid option. Directed, they burrowed in millions of tunnels to the enemy state. Driven to a mad frenzy, they effortlessly crossed physical and geographical boundaries with great speed and tenacity.

They were known as the Muridea and they were formidable. Their accelerated multiplication began to displace the enemy population and give them a taste of what they had caused. They chewed through metal alloys, bone and seemed to have a lasting resistance to any form of extermination methods.

And thus began, what is colloquially called, the Era of Monsters. Though Grandfather did not know if only the Muridea should have earned that title.

Pied Piper Rewritten Series (I): Silence

It was a cold, dreary winter. Grandfather rode the bicycle the best he could for his age, and hobbled to a stop. He did not hear the wind howl. He did not hear the ice crack as the wheels crunched through them. In his clouded, foggy mind, he watched the world shrivel. He couldn’t even hear the sound of his own blood pumping through his ears.

But the world was not always so silent. Grandfather had experienced a winter when he could hear the old architecture of the house groan, the wind tear past and the nagging of Grandmother. He could remember how the fireplace was alive and crackling. It was only the memory of sound he could hear now.

He limped uncertainly back to the cottage, the sleet making the path slippery and cold. His fingers were numb already from holding the handles for too long. He fumbled to put his hood up as the rain slowly turned to snow. Steadily, patiently, he reached the window. He did not hear his bones creak as he raised his arms, trying to make a gesture that would attract Grandmother’s attention from the kitchen window.

In his younger days, Grandfather was a much more active and agile man, and so could manage to do this efficiently. Grandmother, an expert at multi-tasking, would need to watch his frantic waving in order to open the door to him. This was because she could hear only silence as well.

However, as the years passed, she was afraid that her failing eyes would miss him. So, she stayed to watching the snow blanket the earth, earnestly moving her lips in some prayer that Grandfather would come back alive from the storm. She did not know if any sound escaped them.

They hadn’t spoken to each other in years, because there was nothing to be heard. It was hard accepting this mute exile. But both knew that they were one of the last people alive, to have survived the Invasion.

Grandmother opened the door and clutched Grandfather with as much joy as her fragile fingers could convey. When the Silence came, eyes had become the primary organs of communication. Now that they were failing too, the mere experience of human touch was enough to reassure each other that everything was alright. They were still together. For another day.

Grandmother pointed at the fireplace. It blazed as brightly as ever, making Grandfather’s eyes water somewhat, both with forgotten memories and the intensity of the fire. He grasped Grandmother’s hand as some token of gratitude. Grandmother denied it, as if to imply that in being together and being alive, there was gratitude enough.

As Grandfather sipped the prepared warm drink that Grandmother handed to him, she nodded to a large volume open at the weak table. She brought it over and sat beside Grandfather. The book had stories. Many many stories which they had lived through together. But most importantly, they contained the stories of when they were familiar with sound.

 

“What does Converse with Kurti mean anyway?”

As a celebration of this blog’s anniversary, I’m going to try to explain why I chose the name Converse with Kurti.

Some cultural enlightenment is in order. A Kurti (pronounced koohr-tee) is an Indian traditional tunic, often decorated with colors and patterns and other ethnic symbols. Kurtis are often viewed as a diminutive or short-handed version of the salwar kameez, or churidar which come with their own scarves (color matched) and their own trousers/leg-wear (again, color-matched). The Kurti is a single shorter unit and is versatile at being paired. This has led to its increased popularity, especially with the college student demographic as it obeys the dress codes imposed at their institution and allows them to be flexible with their fashion. Ethnic patterns meeting skinny jeans was comfortably the last resort option when the comfort of a school uniform disappeared.

Growing up in a concrete jungle means that I obviously had a wider range of college-wear to choose from, but the Kurti remained a classical favorite. In my school, the only time that girls wore the Kurti was when they wanted to appear traditional or ethnic or even patriotic in some way. Wearing a modest Kurti would instantly earn you brownie points from the parents of your friends who may or may not draw unfair comparisons. Wearing a Kurti came to be understood as a symbol of chastity, the willingness to show that you were still bound to the heritage that you grew up with, even if you are equally comfortable flaunting Lees/Levis/American Apparel jeans under them. A kurti simply made people appear shy, feminine, mature, dressed up, modest and comparatively “more Indian” than anything else.

Combine that with the other contrasting brand image, as supported by Converse shoes. When you wear Converse shoes, your peers may or may not peg you to be that cool, low-maintenance girl who doesn’t care what people think but wears a fancy brand anyway, possibly even a gamer or a wannabe punk and almost certainly a tomboy. Your parents might either think you’re very childish (the thing has laces on it like a school-kid’s shoes) or practical (Well, at least she can walk in those) or unnecessarily an adolescent indulgence. (Why waste so much money on Converse when any other pair of sneakers can suffice?)

And what of the girl who wears both? What categories does she fit in? Is she destined to fit in at all? Which milieu of identities shall I claim as my own or is this haphazard mess of perspectives supposed to find a niche for itself?

I used to wear Converse with Kurtis to offset my femininity, to somehow provide a strong, if not equivalent representation to the sci-fi loving, dubstep-jamming punk that continues to code away. To me, it has evolved beyond a simple question of couture, but then what had/was I to become?

Searching for answers began this blog.

Daughter I

When Sudha had been born, Nikesh loved her just as much as he loved her older brother, Akshay. He had even chosen the name for her: Sudha from the Sanskrit word for nectar. Nikesh had always wanted a daughter and he spoiled Sudha with his constant tender affection. The elders of the community often laughed at his doting parentage. After all, daughters are destined to be married off in the future. They declared that Nikesh was inevitably setting himself up for a heartbreak when the time would come for her to leave the nest. Nikesh would reserve his sharper comments and politely mention that such a departure was quite a while away.

Rohini however wished that Sudha was anything but a daughter. She had chosen to marry Nikesh because he was such a refreshing break with his liberal ways, but she knew that her choice was limited to the fact that their families had arranged their alliance first. She often feared that the liberalism would peel away to the years of tradition and conditioning, and that someday her beloved Sudha would find herself bearing the weight of conservatism just as she and all the generations behind her did. She could not predict when Nikesh would succumb to the pressure of their community to let Sudha be treated just as any other girl child in their community.

Rohini still remembered the night before Sudha’s third birthday. Nikesh had come to her room after ensuring that Akshay and his little sister were safely in bed. He held both of Rohini’s hands and led her to the edge of the bed.

“Listen, I want to talk to you about Sudha,” he began and Rohini suddenly began to feel alarmed from the serious tone in his voice. Nikesh instinctively sensed her fingers curl up and began to softly rub his thumbs across the back of her hand to calm her down.

“What is it?” Rohini was unable to mask the anxiety in her voice. The fear of bearing a daughter was catching up with her and she began to suspect the worst.

“Sudha is almost going to be three, and I was wondering how you would feel if I sent her to a school. An English school.”

“Send her to a school?!”

As the only daughter from her family, Rohini had bowed to the Draconian rules which had denied her an education. From the archives of her faded memory, she remembered a time of classrooms and slate-boards and homework. One day, when she was ten, she was forcibly withdrawn from the school by her family. Rohini had to then learn the exhaustive skills of being a good housekeeper so that she would have some claim to marriageability as she grew older. School ended with her childhood.

Nikesh felt the need to hurriedly explain himself to his wife and he was unsure of how she was processing the information. He did not want Sudha to grow up with the same deep gender bias which was so strongly rooted in their customs. He wanted Sudha to be as competent and capable as Akshay. He was willing to invest time, money and emotion into equating the gap. But he wasn’t going to proceed without his wife’s consent. She was after all more knowledgeable in how a woman would grow and he had come to respect her common sense, despite her lack of formal education.

“For how long?” asked Rohini tentatively after Nikesh finished his speech. Nikesh was caught unawares by the question. “For how long do you want to keep her in school?”

“Rohini, I think school is just going to be a start. I want her to be properly educated and accomplished. I want her to be a member of society who does more than just be a mother. I hope that’s what you want too. I am only one of her two parents.”

Years of suppressed feminism came to the fore and Rohini agreed. Of course I want my child to be educated. Of course I want her to succeed, to be just as good or as capable as any man. It sank into Rohini just what a marvel of a man her husband was. Even though he was the better educated of the two, he had asked her opinion. He had not mandated an order. At the back of her head, she could hear the sneers of her community. Educating a daughter? Completely? What a waste of time and money.

“What will the others say?” asked Rohini, drowning out the chastising whispers at the back of her head with her own voice.

“I don’t care,” said Nikesh almost nonchalantly. He did care somewhat, but only to the extent that it made him feel like a rebel, uprising against the treatment that his mother, his sisters and his wife received. He was not going to restrict her mind and opinions and thoughts and feelings. He could not bear the thought of raising his beloved adorable child like a ceremonial cow, to be disposed off with pomp when the occasion arrived. But he wasn’t going to show his fear to Rohini.

“…But they will ask…”

If they did, she would have to share the blame. The women would ask her why she dared to let her husband educate her daughter when she could be far more useful at home. The women would ask her why she didn’t influence his decision strongly enough. After all, he was a man. What did he know of growing up to be a woman in their society? The gossip would fly. The women would say, “Oh, they probably didn’t think their daughter was pretty enough or skilled enough to be married and keep a home, so they probably educated her in a desperate attempt to make her more desirable.”

“Their talking doesn’t change anything.”

Rohini felt his hands grow cold and she realized that she had to be strong for him and for the three year old toddler cuddled up with her brother in the next room. Some part of her mind despaired why she was going against the tide. Perhaps it would be easier for them as a family to go with the flow and manage their lives as the generations before them had. Then, she realized that being a part of Nikesh’s individual rebellion was a part of the struggle that she had endured all her life and she was no stranger to difficult circumstances. Sometimes, Rohini sought the comfort of religion to soothe her anxiety. She used to bristle at the fact that nowhere in the scriptures was it mentioned that the women should be denied an education. If anything, their numerous pantheon hosted some of the most powerful goddesses. Perhaps time, convenience and biased interpretations had eaten away at the legends like dust. She comforted herself knowing that she wasn’t doing anything sinful. If anything, educating her daughter could enlighten her about religion and perhaps bring her closer to spiritual service than Rohini herself could be.

But then another calamity befell. She remembered that he had insisted on an English school. What if Sudha grew up absorbing the Western culture? What if Sudha should completely forsake and abandon the social customs that had rigidly maintained their world for so many years? What if this education turned out to be their imminent downfall, and Sudha somehow brought disgrace to them and her ancestors by adopting the alien ways of the West?

“Why English?” asked Rohini, hoping that she could find a loophole in his argument this time that her feminine charm could distort back to reality.

“I don’t intend to stay in this city forever, Rohini. If we are to go places and accomplish things, we have to speak the language that the others speak and English is the most common of them all. It’s not too hard to learn, don’t worry. My brother and I had to learn it, and it’s a part of Akshay’s curriculum from next year.”

“But…..do English schools teach our scriptures? Why can’t we send her to a local school? Surely they teach the same numbers and things?” she asked again.

“I don’t know, Rohini. I feel that an English education would be wholesome,” said Nikesh, sensing a real cause for concern. Rohini remained silent but Nikesh felt her fingers retract in the unmistakable way when she found her strength shaking, and his determination faltered.

“If you’re worried that she will grow up wrong in any way, she will still be housed under our roof.”

He felt empty saying it because he felt as though he did not have a strong argument to support him. Now it appeared that he was resorting to the value-system of the very same mechanism that he was rebelling against. Any culture that stagnates is eventually doomed to die. But Nikesh was unsure that Rohini would accept his abstract philosophy. Some part of him claimed that Rohini didn’t need to understand and she probably didn’t. Why should he bother with asking her opinion anyway? She was no more than a product of strict upbringing behind narrow walls and narrow minds.

Hypocrite. Nikesh banished the thought immediately, recognizing that he was giving in to the pressure. He would have to provide the safety net for Rohini and himself, and he wanted to treat her as an equal in this process, no matter how difficult it would be. It was easy to point out the flaws of the culture they lived in, but as parents he had now taken on the additional responsibility of filtering the better aspects of a cultural upbringing to their child.

“Rohini, I know this is difficult. But please trust me when I say that we are doing the right thing.”

“I’m not questioning that but…”

“I may not know all the pitfalls that come our way, but I need your support,” said Nikesh and he had never sounded so vulnerable.

“…We are bound together in this,” admitted Rohini rather lamely as she tried to rally all her strength.

“I’ll fill in the paperwork for Sudha’s school,” said Nikesh rather suddenly and he left the room. He wanted to distract his mind with action so that the deeper ramifications wouldn’t eat away at his conscience. He was also very suddenly alarmed that his guard dropped before his wife, and he needed some time alone to figure that out.

When Nikesh left, Sudha invoked the divine in the practiced Sanskrit whispers and prayed that the deities would protect and guide her family. As she chanted the names and legends, she felt that she would take Sudha’s religious education personally into her own hands if required. Let the schools teach her what they will. Sudha would not grow up to dishonor the universal force which kept Rohini’s world together, even though Nikesh was radically restructuring the methods behind it.