Literature

 

What is literature? That was the very first question that every Professor threw my way during my first week of Masters in English. I was fed up (really!), going through the same answer again and again. ‘Literature is the expression of ideas, thoughts and feelings’, I would say. It eventually dawned upon me: the significance of doing that simple drill in the initial days opened my eyes to the universality and versatility of this very term. I began to see literature in a whole new perspective that I never had before.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines literature as “written works (such as poems, plays, and novels) that are considered to be very good and to have lasting importance”; it can also be “books, articles, etc., about a particular subject” or “printed materials (such as booklets, leaflets, and brochures) that provide information about something”. Literature, in its broadest sense, consists of any written productions. There have been various attempts to define “literature”.  Simon and Delyse Ryan begin their attempt to answer the question “What is Literature?” with the observation: “The quest to discover a definition for “literature” is a road that is much traveled, though the point of arrival, if ever reached, is seldom satisfactory. Most attempted definitions are broad and vague, and they inevitably change over time. In fact, the only thing that is certain about defining literature is that the definition will change.”

 The Encyclopedia Britannica Eleventh Edition (1910–11) classifies literature as “the best expression of the best thought reduced to writing”. Coming to my own definition (which was not totally incorrect!), literature is indeed a reflection of ideologies, philosophies and dogmas. It shines light on various beliefs and views regarding economic, political, social, traditional, moral and religious settings. A plus point to this quality is timelessness; even decades and centuries after a literary masterpiece has been written, it does not lose its worth and charisma. Thus, literature is a queerly interesting encyclopedia that allows one to sneak a peek at the history of time and mankind. It is indeed a huge advantage for the kind of people (myself among them) who are terribly bored by the very notion of history. Literature narrates the tales of a certain time and peoples in history in the form of a novel, poem or even a fairytale, hence, keeping the reader spellbound and interested till the very last page.

Another aspect of literature is the expression of feelings, emotions and sentiments that, in my view, are the prime characteristics of any literary work. It allows one to explore the wildest fantasies and the deepest corners of his mind and soul. It is a hope for those who are terrified by the bitterness of harsh realities and helps them take refuge in the valleys of peace, tranquility and serenity.  Literature is the voice of one’s heart and mind that provides him with the freedom of expression. It is a thrill; it challenges and dares him to step beyond the stereotypes and traditional labels of a society. It is a device that helps him to think outside the box and color outside the defined boundaries and lines. It is a dream that urges him to move on fearlessly and courageously. It is a light; it guides many in the dark and assists countless in paving their ways through life. Literature is life, for it beats in every masterpiece ever written by any person at any time.

Literature is every bit and fragment of the thoughts that human mind can imagine, but most of all, it is a delight, an immense pleasure and relaxing pastime. It is what soothes one with a hot cup of coffee in bed during the night. It is a companion that travels with him during a long journey. It is the fountain that quenches his thirst for adventure by taking him to places far off. It is the wand that fulfills his desires for fantasy, magic and mystery. Thanks to literature, we have this all-in-one package! Salman Rushdie shares his opinion about literature as,

“It is literature which for me opened the mysterious and decisive doors of imagination and understanding. To see the way others see. To think the way others think. And above all, to feel.”

Catastrophe

 

Do you know what doesn’t make a sound? The dying hopes. The lost willpower. The unsaid words. The unfulfilled promises. The misplaced anger. The false trust. The broken friendships. The unrequited love. The cold betrayal. The undeserved punishments. The stained loyalty. The lonely outbursts. The unslept nights. The tender emotions. The fragile nature. The slaughtered wishes. The aching body. The unshed tears. The swollen eyes. The dead dreams. Do you know what doesn’t make a noise? A breaking heart.

 

 

Gul-e-Arzoo

Once upon a time there was a beautiful, comely garden. The garden was nothing less than a heavenly, sublime piece of land on the otherwise barren, arid region. It housed innumerable creatures, plants, trees, insects, birds, small animals; all of whom granted the garden it’s enticing, bewitching grandeur and serenity. The halcyon garden thus got its name- Baagh-e- Arzoo– the Garden of Wishes; for it resembled Eden and offered such peace and tranquility that everyone wishes for.

Every object, creature and organism that surfaced in the Baagh was extraordinary and marvellous in its own way. But everything was put into shade by one particular being the newly born Rose. She had just opened her eyes to the magical land of beauty but it seemed as though it was she who was the benefactor of all that glory and majesty. She was so little, and somewhat confused and hesitant to have become a part of such a big, wide world. She was wrapped in her green sepals that were accomplishing the crucial task of protecting this newcomer. Despite their utmost efforts, they were unwillingly revealing the blood-red of the petals inside. The soft, red petals were peeping shyly out of the cover of their protecting sepals. The Garden of Wishes seemed to be boasting off its pride in the form of the Rose.

The next day, to the Rose’s immense pleasure and sheer surprise, she got a visitor; a young boy of merely 10 years of age. His fair, round face was becoming crimson from all the excitement that he got from just looking at the Rose. She did not mind such attention at all; rather she was enjoying and cherishing it. The boy claimed that he loved her so much and was ready to do anything to have her always with him. The Rose believed him for she was just an innocent, little being and did not know deception or falsehood. She began to savour his remarks, attention and continued to grow into a bigger bud. But poor Rose had yet had to learn about misery and heartbreak. So one morning, the boy left; uttering harsh words that cut deep into the Rose’s heart. He had taken out the frustration and anger that he received from his parents’ fights on her, leaving her disconsolate and dejected. The blows of his severe, cutting words gave her sharp, invisible wounds. The Rose mourned and grieved over her lost love for a long time but eventually learned to focus her excruciating pain to grow. And thus, the once tiny bud now bloomed into an alluring and most appealing Rose.

The Garden blossomed with all its might for now the Rose was at its par of beauty and magnificence. The Rose had learnt her lesson; she kept herself steadfast and haughty; for many claimed to love her just to get a moment of solace with her. But life was not done teaching her yet. So on a bright day, when the sun showed mercy with its heat, and the winds endowed the atmosphere with their slight, welcoming chill, there came an admirer; a fair, tall, handsome one just in his early twenties. His elaborate looks, impressive dignity and unfaltering eloquence stole her heart. She forgot all about her misery and hurting pain of the past and kept waiting for him regularly, just to be with him, to listen to him intently as he spoke in his soft, engaging voice. A Rose without a lover is incomplete, she told him timidly, and you, My Love, complete me.

He loved her like no one else could ever do; she fell for him like no one else could ever. They were inseparable; the complemented each other in most inexplicable ways. When in the Garden, he had eyes for no one but her. When away from him, her heart ached and longed for anyone but him. Every day, the thought of being united with him propelled her to carry on her journey of life. He named her Gul-e-Arzoo-the flower of wishes. She indeed was the fruit of everyone’s wishes; for everyone desired her. The two of them were envied by all other creatures that strode on the earth they lived on. The envy proved to be a bad omen for them.

The Rose was destined to experience pain and agony; Gul-e-Arzoo was cursed to be desired by everyone but to BE no one’s. Such was written in fate; for she was again heartbroken as she got separated from her Beloved, this time due to unfavourable, rough Winds that blew hard and disintegrated her very being. The poor, fragile Rose lost its battle of love and life and its once soft, red petals now rot in the barren soil.

It so unfair. To be always on the losing side. The waiting side. To live in mere illusions. Of happiness. Of elation. To keep dreaming. Having strong impulse about a future that holds nothing but sheer harmony n peace. Madman’s dreams of Utopian world.

It’s so painful. It hurts. It’s just unbearably pinching; to keep shedding tears over such matters that when voiced, seem petty and insignificant to the world. But they don’t know, they don’t realize the momentous and humongous power they have. The sheer force with which they collide with my heart and leaving aching and bleeding. If only, ah, if only the world possessed such an aching, throbbing heart.

But it doesn’t. It doesn’t possess a heart at all. And you are just compelled to thrash n bang your head against the rocky coldness. Till you bleed. Till it claims the last drop of your life from your miserable being.

My Precious

“I’m all yours,” her Precious claimed. She kept looking at the sight being offered to her eyes, as if it was all she had. She felt so complete, so ecstatic with the presence of Precious. Otherwise, the world was a dull, dismal abode for her. “You’re mine, all MINE,” she whispered as she embraced the ‘Precious’ being one more time.

Little Ella was unfortunate in the manner that she had no parents while growing up. She lost them to a car accident when she was just seven and had since then been living with her maternal Aunt and Uncle. They loved her almost just like their own daughter Tia who was a year older than Ella. Well, almost. Sometimes Ella could perceive the bitter reality that Tia is always given the more conspicuous and prominent kind of love. The love her aunt and uncle had for Ella was subtle and often suppressed by the dominance of their feelings for Tia. Ella learnt not to complain; it was enough she was being fed and clothed and educated under their roof. What’s love compared to these needs? Nothing, she always convinced herself.

Love works in mysterious, incomprehensible ways. While Ella was acting quite sensibly for her age, being only in her early teen age and keeping a lookout for love, it found a way to penetrate through her strong defence. Love conquered her in the form of that exquisite and enticing pearl necklace. It was brought for Tia of course, from abroad, by her father. She offered Ella to try it on as a courtesy and as soon as the delicate thing touched her milky, smooth skin, everyone could see that it was made for Ella. Tia could not part with her invaluable, exorbitant present so easily but she was tactful enough to act generously in front of her family. So she kindly offered Ella to share it with her. Little Ella was foolish enough to accept the proposal without any hesitation. If only she had not.

The necklace undoubtedly elevated Ella’s beauty and glory. It was like a charm for Ella; she considered herself to become invincible after wearing it. It empowered her to soar high in the skies of self-confidence and endowed her with a unique kind of elation. If she was not wearing it, she kept feeling as though something significantly vital was missing from her life. The absence of the necklace would make her unbearably grouchy and edgy. It had become her most supreme and precious possession. That’s how it got the name; Ella would run her sleek, long fingers over her neck, feeling the strong sway of the necklace and murmur, “My Precious.”

Little did poor Ella know that Love is barbaric and merciless. It indulges you in a sea of deep obsession and crapulence for the Beloved. You are swiped off your feet by one, single, mighty blow of love and it may take a whole lifetime to stand upright again. Love is a mirage, a façade and nothing more. It extends its vapoury shadows like solid, robust iron towards its victims; the wretched creatures cling to them considering them sturdy and secure. While in fact the shadows are nothing more but mere mists of derisive, cynical suffering, the prey of Love are phantasmagorical; caught in between the logical mind and the loving heart.

Tia being more fortunate and the original owner of the lavaliere, easily noticed Ella’s obsession and conveniently felt jealous of her. She abstained Ella from wearing the necklace ever again, claiming that it was solely hers. Ella felt like the ground had been snatched away from beneath her feet and her lifeline has been cut.

 The deception of Love was over; it had unveiled itself to her in all its ugliness and hideousness. Love blinds you, provides you with the false yet tempting delusion that something or someone belongs to you. Slowly and painfully, it dawns upon you that you could not be any more mistaken. Despite all your logical arguments and brainy, rational thinking, you lose. You forfeit in front of Love’s cunning, convoluted trap. You are broken, you are shattered and you accept your defeat. But how on Earth do you learn to continue living your life without your Precious?

Ten Hours To Live

“Wait for my text”, he had told her and she obeyed; may be because she had no other option. There is always an option; we are all familiar to this cliche. Yet sometimes, despite all the possibilities and choices presenting them to us, we choose the one that is the most difficult and exigent. That is the one that holds the key to changing our lives forever too.

She met him at the coffee-house. She had noticed him on the very first day he entered there; there was something about him that made her keep looking at him. Probably your eyes, she later admitted to him about how impressed she was of him at the first sight. He would always smile and teasingly comment, “Do you X-Ray all the strangers in a similar manner?” leaving her just scowling at him. Little did she know then that first impression was going to beset her entirely.

It was one hour since she had been instructed to wait. If only he had chosen another punishment, she reflected to herself. Dangling on the rope of wait was something she despised and yet had to endure frequently. He had not meant to punish her; making her wait was just a way to let off some steam caused by certain heated arguments exchanged between them. Nevertheless, it was a punishment for her. Sometimes things seem to be perfectly in your grasp but in reality it is a mirage; what you consider to be held tightly in your fist is slowly falling off, leaving you empty-handed at the end of the day. She checked her cell phone, another hour has gone by, she thought and heaved a deep sigh.

The clock seemed to have stuck or had its arms glued so that they would travel slowly. She bore every passing second as a heavy burden inflicted upon her fragile being. Each moment took ages to pass. Her eyes continuously flicked over her cell phone’s screen hoping that it might blink with his name, but deep down her heart she knew it was not going to blink. Not so soon anyway. The little light of the phone’s screen could have been enough to brighten her day, to lighten up her smile but she must suffer. She must writhe with pain for it is what a smile costs. With one lingering glance, she placed the phone over her dressing table and began to get ready for the evening.

“What a waste!” she exclaimed under her breath as she stepped into the brightly lit house that hosted the evening’s party. As she checked her phone and made her way slowly into the main hall, she could not feel but a little exasperated. It had been seven long hours since he had last heard from him. Nonetheless, she composed herself and managed a smile as she spotted her friend in the far corner of the hall, seated on the overly decorated stage. Her childhood bestie was getting engaged that night. She hugged her, praised her elegant attire for the event and tried cracking a joke or two to tease her before securing a seat at the end of the hall. She did not want to mingle; the reason being his absence. He was supposed to accompany her tonight.

How lame and useless it seems to participate in someone else’s happiness when you yourself are dying inside? It appears to be quite silly to congratulate someone when you are in the state of mourning and longing. The fake smile, that she had to pass to people to convince them that she was enjoying herself, required utmost and paramount effort. Nine hours gone, she noticed sadly as her wrist watch struck nine p.m. The unending wait continues.

As she stepped out of the car and walked towards the door, she was shocked to notice that it was already unlocked. Burglars? She was horrified by the thought. Or him? This thought was not less terrifying. After the entire wait and the yearning, she was slightly dreading to face him. What if all the fighting and accusing starts again? The mere thought of it was agonizing. Mustering up her courage, she took short, uneasy steps towards the lounge. No one here, she observed and went straight towards her room. The clock struck ten as she opened the door to her haven.

He was standing there, waiting for her. His eyes met hers and as their gazes locked into each other’s, it was as if the time and everything that moved with it, stopped. She looked at him, first angrily, then dejectedly and lastly complainingly. “You look beautiful”, he remarked as he paced slowly towards her. She crouched towards the corner away from him, avoiding him. He acknowledged her complain and held her firmly in his arms. As she succumbed to his strong yet comforting hold, she murmured, “These ten hours were the hardest to live. Yet they seemed too crucial, too vital to be lived, for at the end of them, YOU were waiting for me.” “I’m sorry I put you through such an arduous task of waiting, it won’t happen again I promise,” he reassured her soothingly. Her lips curved into a lively, charming and precious smile. She had survived the long hours and was HOME finally.

A Walk Down The Memory Lane

The phone was continuously ringing and nobody seemed to care to answer it. Mumbling with irritation, I paused the movie I was watching, put aside my laptop and got up to answer it. My mother had also approached the phone; I gave her an angry look, complaining with my eyes about this disturbance in my relaxation session of the weekend. “Hello”, I said casually, answering the phone. What I heard next was something that etched itself on the walls of my mind and will reside in my memory for the rest of my life.

I could hear the sobs and suppressed crying of someone on the other end; it was a woman’s voice. I got nervous, thinking it might be a wrong call. “Hello?” I exclaimed again, this time a little louder. “He’s no more, he’s no more”, said the woman’s voice, which with some difficulty, I recognized to be my Aunt’s. “What do you mean? What …?”I began, but was interrupted by her lamenting tone. “He has left us forever, your grandfather”, she informed me as she tried to compose herself. I could barely breathe, my gaze turned towards my mother and I started looking at her in disbelief. My mother, obviously sensing that something was wrong, snatched the receiver from my hands and held it to her ear. I turned my back towards and muffled my cries with my hands as I heard her let out a heart-tearing wail upon receiving the tragic news of her beloved father’s death.

My recollections of my childhood trace their way back to my grandfather’s house with its tall mango tree and the wide lawn full of different varieties of plants that bore conspicuously coloured flowers. I used to keep playing with my cousins the entire day there, oblivious of the scorching sun or the heavy rain. Grandpa would place his chair under the cool shade of the mango tree and enjoy our follies and mischiefs. He would also warn us against the scolding session of our mothers if we were on the verge of getting into a fight. I used to enjoy the fact that he belongs to our ‘party’, he would always team up with us against the wrath of our angry mothers.

When we were exhausted after continuously playing whole day long, we would sit in a circle around grandpa’s chair in the afternoon. Then one of us would ask him to tell us about his earlier life and his experience in military service. He would tell us that how he got orphaned when he was barely six years old and was dependent on his relatives who then raised him up. He then joined the army after his education was completed. His eyes sparkled as he recounted his tales to us.

It is all still crystal clear in my mind like it was just yesterday when I sat in his feet with my arms tucked onto my knees and listening to him intently. He told us how he had faced so much as he took part in a war. He enlightened us with the terrors and horrors of war and described the struggles that were involved for survival. It all seemed to be playing like a movie in front of our eyes as he had an eloquent way of narrating his stories.

We all grew up and got involved into our own lives with busy, hectic schedules of studies and hung out around with friends in the spare time. I myself had evolved into someone who typifies the common teenagers. I had less time for family and was more concerned with my own study pressures and social gatherings. I had almost no time to spare to sit and chat with grandpa. Although I felt bad about it, I did not practically do anything to rectify it. Then something happened. It was an incident that opened my eyes to the blessing that God had bestowed upon me in the form of grandparents.

My grandmother passed away a year before my grandfather’s death. I was close to her as well and was deeply saddened by her tragic demise. Her departure from this world taught me one thing: our time with our loved ones is limited. It is upon us to make the most out of it. That day, something inside me urged me to change. That moment, I made myself a promise.

I started taking some time out for grandpa; I used to sit with him even if there was nothing but silence filling the gap between us. We would also talk often, about my childhood and how time flew on and changed. But there was something else I did; something that I am glad that I did. I was extremely sorry for my negligence towards grandpa but felt quite shy and embarrassed to talk about it directly with him. Therefore, I found a solution. I wrote him an apology letter, telling him how much I loved him and how dear he was to me.

He was over the moon; his face shone with excitement and pure affection when he told me how he adored my letter. He kept the letter safe along with his other personal belongings and mentioned it every time we met and talked. I could not be any more delighted for I had been the source of happiness.

This life is transitory and temporary; the feelings that we share and the time we spare for each other is everlasting. Grandpa’s death was indeed a source of grief and sorrow for me. However, it provided me with a note of satisfaction that I made him a happy person and mended my connection with him that was damaged. It was nothing less than elation, a felicity that I still cherish and will continue to relish for the rest of my life.

No Regrets

I always wanted to live a life devoid of any regrets. This, however, proved to be an uphill task. Being human, we are always presented with hard choices and difficult decisions. In most of the cases, we end up repenting our wrong decisions. This is how life goes; it gives us a lot to be tested for and leaves us with uncountable experiences.

One such huge task is making the decision about one’s education and career. It is something of immense significance and should be dealt with due seriousness. This decision is the one that lays the groundwork for our future. Not all of us are fortunate enough to be guided through this important process properly and therefore, end up making terribly wrong decisions that would affect us throughout our lives.

I went through such a trial when I was faced with the decision of choosing a major for my college. The happiness of securing good marks and being able to get into any college of my desire dissolved in front of the weight of the choice of the major subject for my future studies. There was nothing that mattered more, other than to find the answer to that question.

I turned to my family for help. “Father, what do you want me to be?” I asked him simply. “Whatever you want to be, it’s totally your choice”, he said. That is not much help; I thought to myself and sought aid from my brother. “Go with the medical studies, it’s what is in mainstream nowadays”, he remarked. I voiced doubts about my lack of ability to cram the syllabus which is pretty much the basic requirement of a medical student to make it through their examinations. “Don’t worry; you’ll do just fine, you are so bright”, was all that he chose to say in my response.

Fate has its own way of presenting us with things that we have never even dreamed of. I took the entry test but failed to clear it. Consequently, I was once again standing on the zero stage, unable to make a decision. “Go for natural sciences”, advised my brother again. I protested again, telling him that it was kind of hard for me to concentrate and capture the concepts of science subjects. “You’ll do just fine, don’t you worry” was all he said to lock the matter.

I got admitted into a prestigious institute known for its long history of producing fine professionals in every field. I was happy and proud for being able to make it there. However, this joy was short-lived too. As if the burden and crushing pressure of the hectic routine was not enough, I was met with the problem of lack of comprehension regarding most of my subjects.  No matter how hard I concentrated or focused, I just could not get what the teacher was talking about. I seemed to be the only one with this problem, which was a proof of the fact that the problem was within me, not with the teacher.

The next challenging task was passing the examination. Regardless of the effort or the hard work I put in the preparation, I was unable to retain anything in my mind for long. I was finding it extremely difficult to prepare for the final assessment. I felt like it was almost impossible to pass the examinations at all. Being on the top or achieving a distinction from the rest of my fellows seemed like a far-fetched idea.

Such miserable was my situation during my whole program. I would keep crying whenever there was a test or exam and complained about the injustice that my brother had done by sending me for that degree. My family could understand my frustration and asked me to pull back from the program. It was however, against my ‘honour’ of excellent academic record to take such a step. So I simply kept moving on with it, working hard for the quizzes and exams and somehow making it through them every time.

Time flies on no matter how life is going. My time at the college came to an end as well and I graduated out of there. I was presented with the same uncertainty and indecision about my higher studies. A much advised and most reasonable choice was to pursue the same major for advanced studies. I, being the victim of its brutalities, refused to study at all if such case was to be imposed on me.

During my graduation, I had found out my passion; I was not meant to be a scientist. I was inclined towards arts and literature. I liked to keep writing at length about nothing in particular but everything in general. Whatever I wrote was much acknowledged and appreciated by my friends and acquaintances to such an extent that they even began to ask me to write for them. This meant so much to me; it was an achievement in its own.

This was however, unacceptable to my family. “With such a reputed degree such as yours, you can do wonders in your field”, my mother said, trying to talk me into some sense. “But I don’t want to pursue it as a career; this is not what I like. This was what you guys imposed on me and was not my own decision.” I’m glad I took a stand that day and applied for a degree program in literature.

I still remember the day I told my family that I have got admission in the new university and am going to follow my dream of becoming a writer one day. They were utterly displeased; my father even termed it as ‘a reverse gear’ to my education and career. I was disheartened upon such a cold reaction but I took it upon me to change it with my results. It was easier said than done; I burnt midnight oil and spent hours at length, preparing notes and assignments. I was rewarded with the result that I had topped my entire session. This was only secondary to what elation was brought to me by the look in my parents’ eyes. I could see how proud I had made them and that was a goal I had always aimed to achieve.

Life is an excellent teacher and what I learnt from this achievement was that if you have found your passion, never let it go. You just have to cling on to it and put your faith into yourself. It is a hard step reaching a decision regarding certain things in your life. You have to be strong, believe in yourself and to follow your heart to lead a life that has no regrets.