Pock Marked Saucepan

A short story by Arnav Diwan.

A warm, fuzzy evening over Vatika apartments found a most solitary scene unfold by the water tanks. Whereas the vast slab of concrete underpinning said tanks was usually a site for daring football matches (it was three feet off the ground), at the moment it was being used for a different purpose entirely.

The hunched figures of two boys could be made out by the pole-lamp, squatting opposite each other. The dim light tracing their silhouettes shadowed the object between them- a large aluminium saucepan. The boys, aged twelve and nine, were attending to this pan in a peculiar manner- willing at it as if trying to possess it with some sort of telekinetic force (which given their ages, might have seemed plausible). A shrill thud! suddenly rang out from the depths of the pan, followed by a noise not much unlike that from a sputtering drill.

“Told you,” said the older of the two. “No one can beat the Earth Eagle.”

The other, visibly irritated- and not only because the remark had been accentuated by a very boorish drawl- moved to inspect the contents of the pan. Within lay two unseemly objects – spinning tops with plastic trinkets clasped in rings of metal. One was spinning quite rapidly, while the other lay tipped over; a state which seemed to signal its defeat. The nine-year-old grimaced. He had spent the better part of his today trying to prove the indomitability of his ‘Bey’ as he called it, to the neighbourhood. It was his birthday, and his father had relented, on his mother’s instruction (though he would’ve never suspected it) to surprise him at midnight with a gift long asked for: a ‘Storm Pegasus Generation II’ Beyblade. He had been ecstatic, so much so that in a frenzy to assemble the thing, he’d misplaced its tip. It wasn’t that much of a problem, however; he’d simply added another one from his own ‘kit’. The kit was a square plastic box that was with him all the time. He never left home without it, and kept everything valuable in it. Even lost things had a habit of turning up, his mother always said, if one kept a kit.

The next day had been promised entirely to his whim, albeit with the clause that the boy be home in time for his birthday party. So right after lunch he’d found himself running to the water tanks. The entire neighbourhood was into Beyblade tournaments, the whole thing regarded as a rather serious affair. At 4’o clock every weekend, the children would religiously gather at the spot for the day’s batch of tournaments. There’d been much critique and commentary on the boy’s Pegasus, with expert opinions passed on its design
and make.

“It has a short height. That’s good for hitting below the metal.”
“Its blades are so sharp! It’s definitely an attack type Beyblade.”
“Ha! It won’t beat my Eagle!”
“So much stamina! Look at how fast it spins!”
“Still won’t hurt the Eagle!”
“It might be too fast though. What if it spins out of the pan?”
“The Eagle would never do that. It-”
“Why don’t you stuff that Eagle up yo-”

The discussion had been halted when someone noticed the lack of the original tip. That one was supposed to be a flat- bottomed rubber-red, whereas the replacement was a common curved metal one.

“Metal tips are better anyway.”, someone had declared with an air of self-supposed wisdom. “They give much more stamina. The rubber ones create too much… hang on…. Whatdoyoucallit?” He’d screwed up his face trying to

A girl, the one who’d first noticed the tip, had taken it in her hands and looked at it darkly. “I don’t think its complete without the right tip. That’s not the way Pegasus is supposed to be.”
“It doesn’t matter”, the owner had said, embarrassed. He snatched it back. “Let’s play.”

“Friction!” the other boy had finally remembered. He
beamed proudly.

“It isn’t Pegasus without the right tip.” The girl had
declared, ignoring the boy.

The business-like seriousness had dissolved when requests of ‘borrowing’ the Pegasus began to be made. The boy had assented to these requests for a later date; secretly he’d vowed such grants would never come to pass.

For the purpose of an arena, they’d been using a kitchen saucepan. While its small size ensured the Beyblades be forced to clash (the most important aspect of the whole business) it also made the latter prone to launching themselves out of the pan entirely, spelling the dangerous possibility of
someone getting struck in the face. A call for a larger utensil was made; but the aluminium pan had been so badly dented, that one look at its pock marked insides discouraged further such donation of cookware. The pan was thus all that remained, forever exclusive to its current purpose.

The tournament had thus begun. Players were paired and match numbers set. Everyone had huddled around the arena. The Rock Leone had first gone against the Pegasus, followed by The Flame Libra squaring against the Eagle, a battle which resulted- to everyone’s dismay- in the latter’s
victory. The L Drago (a piece held in high regard solely because of the phonetics of its name) was knocked out by a ‘hybrid’ Rock Sagittario (the hybrid part being its centre ring swapped green instead of yellow). In the midst of this, the Storm Pegasus had found terrible luck. Sometimes it spun too fast and catapulted out of the pan. Sometimes it spun too slow and was knocked out by a single blow. It had even managed to get stuck within the little craters in the pan. The Sagittario it was up against struck so hard that it broke apart and had to be reassembled. At the end of the day, the Pegasus hadn’t won a single match. The boy was confused. The Storm Pegasus was the strongest blade spirit there was, it was the one the hero from the show had. And hadn’t the hero won every single battle? Then why couldn’t he? He felt like crying.

It was 9 o’ clock. Everyone else had already left. The boy was supposed to be home an hour ago; but he couldn’t go. He had to win at least once, especially against the unbeatable Eagle. The boy analysed his opponent’s blade, the way he had seen the hero do in the cartoon. It had a purple power ring with a thick metal blade. The latter wasn’t sharp, but it resisted attacks because of its weight. To add to that, its tip was just as small as his, meaning his Pegasus couldn’t even hit it below the metal. The Earth Eagle really did seem invincible.

“Ready for another match?”
“Yeah ok-”
“MANU!” His father’s voice suddenly rang out from
their faraway balcony, “Come home now!
“Coming dad! Five minutes?”
“Now means now!”

The last thing the boy wanted to do was to go home; that would mean admitting defeat and accepting that his gift was absolutely useless. On the other hand, he did not want to be scolded on his birthday. With a sigh, he took the Pegasus out of the pan.

“I’m leaving. It’s late.”
“How about a last match?”
“No. You’ve won every time we’ve played. Besides, you heard my dad. I’m going home.”
“I thought you said you wanted to beat the Eagle.”
He did. Oh, how badly he did! But the Pegasus couldn’t have won against a latoo, let alone the Eagle. He was going to ask his father to return the Beyblade tomorrow. But the other boy was adamant. “Tell you what, if you
beat me, I’ll let give you my batting tomorrow- two whole overs.”

“We’re playing cricket tomorrow?”
He nodded, “In the park next to green belt. You could come
too- if you beat me.”

The boy considered it; but shook his head. There really was no point. He began packing his kit. In went the launcher, the ripcord and the useless horse- He stopped suddenly. Wedged in the corner was a bright red
something. He took it out. It was the rubber tip! The one he thought he’d lost.

“MANU!” His father’s voice came again, sounding more belligerent.
“Alright.” He said quietly.
“But I’ll take five overs.” said the boy. He didn’t know what had made him change his mind. Well, he did, but he couldn’t see how it mattered.
“Not five. Three.”
“Three and a half.”

“Fine, if you’re so sure, four.” the older boy said, though he looked more bemused than irritated. “But if I win, you give me the Pegasus.”
“Sure.” the boy said with his newly found, still inexplicable confidence.
“Dad it’s my birthday! I’ll come when I like!”
Realising that the remark had earned him a drastically reduced window to fulfil his bet, he hurried to prepare the Pegasus. The boy removed the metal tip, and fastidiously replaced it with the rubber one, as it was supposed to be.
“Alright. 3…2….1…. LET IT RIP!

There was a sharp whiz! followed by a CLANG! and the great battle began. The Eagle settled in a corner, but the Pegasus started spinning in quick, deliberate circles. They met in the centre, engaged in a flurry of clashes and moved away again. But the collisions boosted the Pegasus’ momentum to
prodigious levels, the scale of its spin now encompassing the Eagle. Further clashes. Presently the Eagle started to wobble- its blade tipping dangerously close to the surface. But the attack had taken a greater toll on the Pegasus; it was losing its speed at an alarming rate. The wobbling Eagle was still faster,
and drawing closer, threatened the Pegasus with a knockout blow…
“C’mon Eagle!”, the older boy screamed “Finish him!”

The Eagle suddenly jumped back, as if stung by an invisible bee. Indeed, the culprit was invisible; a crater in the pock-marked saucepan. Yet the Pegasus looked set to die of its own accord. The rubber tip had depleted its stamina. The boy resigned himself to the fateful wobble…

…. only it never came! Something strange was happening. The Pegasus was moving so slowly that one could see the markings on its power ring, yet there was no sign of it
falling over; the tip seemed glued to the bottom. The Beyblade spun quite erect, unlike its opponent, which was wobbling in a manner most delirious.
“What is it doing?”

Another noise like a sputtering drill; and there was the Eagle, tipped over its side unceremoniously. But the Storm Pegasus stood upright in victory- perfectly still and balanced- with a little bit of luck, a little bit of necessity, on its red rubber tip.


Childhood’s Takeoff

By Ishaan Garg

When I walk down the lane,
I often sense the pain,
That I tried a lot to save,
But all in vain.

When I walk down the lane,
A thought hits my brain,
Those bats of twenty-two yards,
Are no more in the game.

When I walk down the lane,
I see the lake, its the same
Where the painting made of dove,
Turned into the feeling of love.

When I walk down the lane,
I feel the emotions turning plain,
When the tears roll when I cry,
She fondles my face with love,
And waits for the tears to dry.

When I walk down the lane,
I see the memories drain,
With the time sadly passing by,
I just wait for the lady to call,
We are ready to fly.

I won’t walk down this time,
Because it’s time for me to fly high,
Bidding my gracious childhood,
A final goodbye!


Burn Till All Left Is Ash and Coal

By Shreeja Singh

Breathing in the familiar, fresh air of my home had been one of the few moments in my life that had not been riddled with purpose. The act itself filled me with poise and grace, like adding fuel to an ending fire that was riddled with black coal and white ash. The colorful curtains that I chose for each of my sons and little characters I had etched on their beds when my womb was swollen with them, were my salvation. The example of unconditional love that I rarely got for just being me, not the most beautiful woman on earth or as the Queen of Indraprastha or as the wife of the five great Pandavas or even as the daughter of the King Drupad, my father. I had been born into hatred nurtured by disappointment and formed into destruction. I was born to be the cause of laments not praises, a job I fulfilled with extreme efficiency and accuracy but my children were those little bursts of sweetness in a barren and sour landscape. They were mine. Mine to love, hold, and care and cherish. They were the only part of me that allowed me to see the mirror because they made me feel real, they made me feel alive, and they made me happy.

But like the sacrificial fire from which I descended, I burnt them. It was I who condemned them into an early demise, not only did I burn away their life, I took away their past, future and childhood. It was I who caused the sacrificial fire to burn, it was I who destroyed them and it will always be I who would suffer. Tears that flow down my face are worth nothing, like me. They would never fulfill the true purpose like the other water droplets to quench thirst but like me they will stand as sinners and act as angels of pain, misery and anger. People will remember me as the woman who changed the world, the inevitable change of era and maybe even as a powerful woman known as Queen Draupadi but would they remember me as a mother? It has been said that a thousand doors of death open when a woman goes into labor. I have gone through many of them but they never said that after braving those thousand doors of death, motherhood becomes an eternal heaven.  I had been humiliated in a court, I have visited the death more than enough times but why , why did even after all my torment I could barely taste my eternal heaven?

My husbands, the men I am supposed to love, could not fight in schemes and had me humiliated to an extent that I could have ended my life then, but I consoled myself by saying they were honourable and honest men so they did not know. I was nearly raped by their so called cousin in law and they didn’t kill him and I consoled myself by saying they care for all even their enemy. They broke our marital  vows of never allowing another woman in their beds by marrying multiple times but I still made excuses for them by saying that they were preparing for war and being far sighted. But when they could not save their own sons in the arena of war, what excuse should I make? They failed in their prime duty as Kshatriyas and men, they failed as fathers and they expect me not to lament, not to cry, to be a Queen of a kingdom whose throne is wet with the blood of my children? I refuse! Oh I refuse!

I will burn like I was meant to be. I will burn till my wrath is felt by the heavens and feared by the hell because I no longer have any reason to fear the rain. They changed an era and built a new one on my account, they made me their pawn, and they killed my children and tore my heart out. They will pay. They will pay in blood and misery. I was fuelled into a righteous wrath for decades now I will burn in hatred. I burn by my heart to protect my children, I will burn into an inferno so violent, maddening, so amoral that even history would rub my name away in hope to forget me!

Burn like a broken lamp….. Burn like a sati on the pyre…. BURN ! For all that will remain is the fire within and ashes outside…. Burn to forget ! Don’t love them ! Don’t care just burn like the endless fury of my heart…


Doctor ?! The patient…

Sita heard a shout that resulted in a splitting headache. Her head was hurting, her chest was hurting ; her whole body was hurting and in pain , but the worst part was not the pain in her body but a pain from within her soul like a fire burning that flickered into her with every movement she made. She did not remember her name; she did not remember anything except the cry and voice of that woman. It was like a last roar from an injured tigress, it was haunting and horrifying. It made her eyes hurt like she cried excessively and her lips felt chapped. Sita went on introspecting and she did not notice the doctor who had entered and looked at her with shock. He was old but well-kept and slightly weird, something about him made her tick but it all settled when she looked him in the eye and saw the real him. He was a monster, he killed children, especially little girls, and he had to burn…

He hurt our children , burn him like he burnt us… BURN!

And my vision went black.

I looked up from where I had dumped my tired body to see the news. The reporter kept on talking about a murder of a doctor in a hospital who was found to be convicted of multiple illegal female feticides. Then she went on speaking of multiple break-ins into prisons where pedophiles and child abusers were found burnt with a little blood lotus next to them, quite similar to the doctor.

I heard the news with a horrified face for the people around me but the fire inside me was preening like a wolf as the voice cackled maliciously, asking me to burn more and more until I was coal and ash and I agreed with a smile because I will for sure burn, burn like a fire. Burn because no one touches little babies… My children, mine.