Fiction # 1: The Trek

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Exhausted, and soaked in sweat, she decided to pause for a breath, and slumped down on a small boulder on the path. The rough-cut rock she leaned back on pressed hard against her back, but she sat there untroubled, looking out over the other side.

The world below had shrunk. Shrunk as well as expanded, she noticed, as her eyes swept across low hills, and unending forests, to settle on the horizon, light years away.

Up ahead on the winding path, the long straight line of the top announced the end of the trek. Not far now, she glanced up at the trees fringing the length of it, feeling satisfied. She’d be the first one to complete the trek, out of the group of fifty-odd people. An achievement, no doubt.

But… it could’ve been sweeter, she thought, had I been with my friends, instead. Far away this place might be from work, they were still her seniors, or rivals, and there was no way she was revealing her silly side to them. She just couldn’t trust them.

Yes, her colleagues, she had discovered in a rather short career so far, did not make reliable friends. And this sudden burst of camaraderie among them here was not going to fool her.

It’s all a fake show, she knew. Once back, they’ll forget all about the selfies they are clicking here, and return to what they do best – stealing credits, and backstabbing.

But for all her misgivings about the people it involved, she still couldn’t help loving each and every moment of the trip.

Up until the day she got a job five months back, her parents never even allowed her a night-out with friends, let alone an out of town trip. And a mountain trek was simply unthinkable. So everything here, including the very path, howsoever dangerously narrow or steep it might be at places, filled her with excitement. Even the jagged stones that constantly pricked through her shoes could not dampen her spirit as she pressed on with childlike vigour, leaving the fittest of them straggling behind.

Time to move, she nudged herself after a while, and springing to her feet strode ahead once again. It took her around fifteen more minutes of laborious walk to reach the place where the trek ended. The ascent from here was short, but very steep. So slowly and cautiously, she clambered her way up the slope, clutching the small rocks jutting out of its surface.

Halfway up she could hear the muffled sounds of laughter drifting from above. And soon afterwards her head pushed past the level of the ground. She straightened up, clapped the dust off her hands, and looked ahead. The trees fencing the place allowed only tiny incomplete glimpses through their leaves but that was enough to hook her.

All along the journey today, she hadn’t really thought about the top. Of course, she wanted to reach it, but that was it. The path itself was so fascinating that thinking of the end actually saddened her a bit. She hadn’t even cared to look at the pictures they shared on the office email. But once past the trees, she knew the pictures couldn’t have done justice to the place.

Before her stretching in all directions was a broad level field at least thrice the size of a football ground, its green surface mottled with hundreds of colourful camps amidst huge swaying trees. The place was swarming with people, laughing, playing, and crowding around shops, as if this was a regular picnic spot in the middle of a city. And, looming above it all in the background, piercing the sky, was a gigantic mountain range, staring her in the face, commanding attention.

It was so close she had to crane her head back to have a good look at it. Winking behind its high peaks, she saw, the Sun was struggling to stay afloat, throwing down great long shadows that swallowed the whole place.

Soon enough, she was walking, her steps leading her to the far end in the direction of the mountain. She weaved her way through a jumble of people, camps, shops and trees, until the last of them passed by, and all the noise reduced to a murmur, barely audible.

There at the edge, though imperceptible from the other end, the ground ended abruptly, and dropped hundreds of feet down to a narrow green valley kissing the feet of the arrogant giant in front of her.

She glanced down at the valley. Thick green trees tangled in a fight for space were crawling up the mountain that rose almost vertically like a wall, stopping only in the clouds.

The wind gusting authoritatively here was whistling in her ears and flooding her nose with the aroma of pine trees, making her eyes droop. Mesmerised, she let the backpack slide off her shoulders and peeled away the shoes. A stream of freshness shot up through her toes when her naked feet touched the grass below, melting all her tiredness away. She stood there, intoxicated, letting the wind caress her face.

It was running right through her, she felt. Cleansing her heart and purifying her soul. A vast sea of calmness seemed to be filling her being, drop by small drop. Overwhelmed, she lowered herself on the ground, shivering. There, she sat hugging her knees – sobbing yet smiling, famished yet somehow fulfilled.

The dusk had begun to settle around her when a sudden burst of music in the camps behind broke her reverie and made her heart leap up in delight. A latent longing to be among people – dancing, cheering, and laughing ones, rushed to the fore, and took hold of her as she gathered herself.

Just as she was turning to go back, the shouts of her name startled her, making her jump. Peering down the ground, she saw half a dozen people moving towards her, silhouetted against the campfires in the background. Their steps hurried, as they waved at her frantically, visibly relieved at finding her at last. She was surprised to find herself waving back in excitement too. Their voices, and their forms were all too familiar to her but she never knew they cared enough to come seeking her.

Maybe she was wrong about them, maybe not. But she seemed not to care anymore. At that moment she knew she wanted to be with them, and that was all that mattered – the moment. She would deal with everything else later on, but tonight she was going to be herself, even if that meant people judging her. She decided she wasn’t going to stop being herself for that fear. Nor was she going to judge them in return.

Forgetting everything, she just wanted to dance. And, if she was still hesitant, she had vodka inside her bag, she thought. But she knew she wasn’t going to need it.

She was already drunk.

Quickly, she scooped up her bag, and then ran towards them beaming, dreaming of the night to come.

© Sundaram Chauhan

Break the Jinx – Recommence

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About a couple of years back, when I was very new to writing, I faced a difficult period where I felt a sudden and overwhelming indifference developing within me towards writing as a craft.

A conviction that my writing ambitions were futile grew so strong in me that I stopped hitting the keypad completely, terrified of the new state of affairs in my mind.

All this while, even if an amazing idea were to pop up in my head, I knew I wouldn’t go for it, quite contrary to my general approach where I didn’t let go of anything that was worth expressing. In the rare events when I found my life laden with disappointments and defeats, I used to write about conquering them or facing them or just about them as they were.

But not writing at all – was new, to say the least.

This confusion resulted in the longest stretch I have ever had without writing a single word. And, I still regret it.

But the period didn’t go without gifting me a lesson, a rather harsh reminder that writing, irrespective of how much you love it, is simply a habit.

You might feel you are effortless and natural, and writing is an integral part of your being – but for all that, it still isn’t self-sustaining. Try resting your faculties for one week, for any reason, and you will find it harder to come back.

The next week will present a much more compelling case for not sitting and stringing together words. Give an ear to yourself in such times, and it wouldn’t be long before your so dearly maintained blog goes defunct.

Interestingly you tend to somehow convince yourself that it is all for good – that you never really meant to write that often anyway. That you already have a job, or a career to look forward to, and a blog was just an experiment, probably a waste of time.

But no, it’s not, and it will never be, whether you harbour desires to author books some day or not. Writing is much more than that. It’s an outlet; it’s freedom. A friend, and the best one at that. You’ll always have an edge over others if you know how to write, whatever may be the field of your work.

Remember, just as writing is a habit, not writing is a habit too (and unfortunately an effortless one). So please pick up that pen again. Read your earlier works if you need reassurance, as you might after a gap, and write.

Break the jinx by writing anything, but don’t give in just yet. You know you are full of thoughts that need writing down. You know you have the talent, even if that requires years of honing to reach your desired level.

Just remind yourself of the reasons that forced you to take pains to understand how a blog works, and get going.

Happy writing!

Flexibility and Rigidity

When circumstances

pull you down,

be flexible like rubber,

not rigid like steel,

so that you can

bounce back on hitting the bottom.

For steel will only crack it further

and create a new one –

still deeper.

© Sundaram Chauhan

I Am Done

Starting from scratch
Yet again!
Why do I keep
Falling back to zero?
Was so far ahead
So quick that
They told me
I was a hero.

There perhaps
Oh God!
Is something
You want me to know.
I only wish
You’d use
A kinder way
Than pushing me so low.

Each time
I looked back
Connected the dots
And dug something wise.
But this time
Let me stay
A little longer
If I reach new highs.

Falling down
Getting up and
Clawing my way out
Used to be fun.
Give me back
My peace now
I surrender
I think I am done.
© Sundaram Chauhan

Movies

I loved watching movies so much

that I started reading the books they were based on.

Now, I don’t watch movies anymore.

© Sundaram Chauhan

It Really Is Your Choice

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Some things will work

And many will not

But nothing will stir ’til

You budge from your spot

Don’t ever think that

The moment you blink

Some music will flow

Beer bottles will clink

You’ve got to begin

Quit pondering anymore

The time is to act

To push open the door

You know you’re good

And that’s your true voice

It all depends on you

It really is your choice

Others come mocking

But who the hell are they?

This game is but yours

Alone you have to play

The doubts aren’t real

Afraid them you not

In walking the path itself

A treasure you’ve got

© Sundaram Chauhan

Does Anonymity Bring Freedom?

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Does anonymity give you more freedom in expressing your true thoughts? The wild, peculiar, never-tested-before ones you hear tapping the insides of your scull.

I think yes.

The other day a friend said to me, “For long I have been wanting to write about a few subjects that stir me inside, but since they are either too bold or too personal to reveal, I don’t go ahead.”

That means he has consciously put a filter right at the place where creativity originates. As a result, it will only leave out the ideas that are non-controversial, and safe to share – not necessarily the best ones.

That is not how imagination prospers. Things offend others all the time, so if there is something you truly believe in, don’t worry, give it words. If you have trouble doing that with your name flashing there, going anonymous will help immensely.

It’s known that people judge others after reading a piece of their writing. That happens a lot if your readers are the people you know in real life, and you write a lot about your personal life. Therefore, unless you put a lot of checks in place, you run the risk of divulging something that you ought not to.

If using your name is making you constantly conscious of your image, and impedes the process of thinking honestly, you will produce a work less in quality than your true potential promises.

I am not promoting anonymity if you can write without being troubled by what others would think of you. If you can do that the debate is over.

People not afraid of anything while bringing forth the ideas they think are the best are doing justice to the art of writing.

But if you have to hide some and show some to be able to come up with something – best go anonymous and show it all. And, original ideas take courage to be brought out in the open. They are often first met with resistance and criticism.

So be courageous and write your heart out. Choose any of the ways but don’t hold anything inside. If it flows from your heart, it’ll make a good piece of writing, howsoever bold it might be.

© Sundaram Chauhan

Poisonous Fruits

The sweet

nourishing

juicy fruits

die a premature death.

Plucked away

brutally

in the peak

of their youth.

The poisonous ones

enjoy

an envious

longevity of life.

And die

only a natural death

close to their own

at the place of their birth.

© Sundaram Chauhan

Shoes

Me (irritated): Where the hell are my shoes?

Her (calm): I picked them up yesterday, and hid them somewhere.

Me (angry): What the f**k! Why would you do that?

Her (dramatic): Because that’s what I fantasise about all day. That you’ll come back, take off your sexy shoes, and go to washroom; and I’ll pounce on them undetected, and hide them at a place only I have access to. So that long after you’ve slept, I could just enjoy watching them make love to each other.

Me (terrified): I think I kept them under the sofa last night… I’ll go find them.

© Sundaram Chauhan

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