How do you spell love?

by Tina Das



I ask that the lights be switched off,
So that I can look at you in darkness,
And not be dazzled by the love
That you don’t feel for me.
I sigh and get back to where we started.


There is an unfamiliar smell
In clothes worn out of sheer necessity,
An abrasive touch to the bare skin
Securing a sensation unique,
To the one who owned them first.
At moments when you seem to clutch at shores,
Clinging to every scrap of hope thrown at you,
Someone asks if you would rather drown together,
And you let go-
Lose yourself in the unfamiliar smell,
Its more welcome than well coordinated attires.


How do you spell love?
How do you speak love?
Do you roll the word in your mouth
Like alcohol, savour like a connossieur
And whisper it out in your beloved’s ear?
Or, you fling it out like a ball of spit,
Not caring where it rests?
Or hold till passionate outburst is quietened,
And confess, you do.
We will probably get there, slowly,
Not like celebrated paintings,
Of messy hair and beautifully entangled limbs
But mild snoring, slightly open mouths
And eyes half rolled upwards,
Or we won’t.
How do you spell love, my love?
Maybe like this.


Image source:


Love in the Time of Hindu Mahasabha

by Rahul Sen


LaxmiBai was the ignitor, desire was the fuel, Facebook was the furnace. It all started with this mysterious profile of LaxmiBai creating an event page and sending invites over Facebook to attend a protest in front of the Hindu Mahasabha Bhawan at Mandir Marg against their diktat to forcefully marry off couples who are found celebrating on the streets, in the parks or other public spaces on Valentine’s Day. Their ire being, Indians blindly imitating and valourising a western import (much like homosexuality), they decided to choose ‘marriage’ as a weapon – for punishment, for torture, for disciplining. In a way, this act of the Hindu Mahasabha has somehow managed to fracture the apparent ‘sanctity’ of the Hindu marital institution by using it as a mode of retribution. This uncannily equates the Hindu Mahasabha’s political position with those myriad feminists who stand against ‘marriage’ and rant against the oppressiveness of the institution. Some of us, who identify as feminists, have been saying the same thing for all this while now, that marriage is oppressive, that marriage is an encumbrance, that marriage is debilitating!

It is in this hope that the protesters gathered in front of the Hindu Mahasabha Bhawan; to show solidarity because we share a similar sentiment on the idea of ‘marriage’. But we respected (pun intended) the Mahasabha’s decision; we reached there in our best of clothes – wearing sarees, lehengas, ghagras and kurtas – because we were to attend weddings and also to get wedded, to anyone and everyone! But things did not turn out well, as was expected. We were forcefully detained by the police, all 400 of us, at the Parliament Street police station. But what followed was spectacular and unprecedented. The detained protesters entered the police station like a baraat – singing, dancing, full of fun, frolic and mirth. The policemen were baffled and bewildered; what is this? Why are they doing this? Is this a protest? What are they protesting for? Probably some of them must have been thinking – why are they even arrested? There was a frown in all of their face; trying hard to comprehend what was going on. Some were amused, very amused for they got five hours of free entertainment – dancing, singing, music, recitals, poetry and performances.

‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ was a success. The right wingers were scared; very very scared; so scared that they ordered detention of a group of unarmed, peaceful protesters who had nothing else but free spirit at their disposal – a spirit and temperament that refuses to be chained by the moralist propriety of the Hindu Mahasabha! The protest has been successful in registering dissent through art and desire – a dissensus that embodied every song we sang, every step we danced, every poem we recited, every slogan we raised! Desire as a weapon for protest has not only been unprecedented but also unsettling; and this is precisely, what scared the Hindu Mahasabha and scares all those right wing outfits that stand against non-normative desire.

It started with the profile of LaxmiBai who has been the motivating factor behind organizing this event, this protest. Speculations have already been circulating in different quarters as to who the person is; is it a male or a female profile; is it any student? This anonymity has accentuated the anxiety of the opposition, the state, the right wingers because LaxmiBai can emerge out of nowhere; LaxmiBai can mobilize people – LaxmiBai is everywhere, from 377 to Kiss of Love, from Narmada Bachao to Gharwapsi, from Badaun to Soni Sori, from Irom Sharmila to Farmers’ suicide, from ‘Jal Jangal Zameen’ to Suddh Desi Romance – LaxmiBai or these LaxmiBais come up in unexpected numbers, from unexpected quarters. They beat, break, slap, tear, gnaw at the hegemony of the state, at the tentacles of the moral police, at every outfit that thrives of fanaticism, fundamentalism, communalism and oppression.


image credits: Nigar Khan

इन बेदिमाग़ कबूतरों का क्या है

by Prateeksha Pandey


-पटेल चेस्ट-

फोटोकॉपी की दुकानें सभी

लगती हैं फोटोकॉपी एक-दूसरे की

जब तक गिर न जाएँ थक कर सब शटर,

जब तक मशीनों की काली स्याही

दुकानदारों के अंगूठों से छूटकर

फ़ैल न जाए उफ़क तक.

यहाँ दिन सभी

निकलते जाते हैं मानों किसी मशीन के मुंह से



एक से

कुछ बिखरे बिखरे

और कुछ एक साथ करीने से स्टेपल किये हुए.



-हडसन लेन-


हर शाम

बातों के छल्ले

मुंह से निकल कर

खो जाते हैं

परांठों और चाउमीन का आर्डर दोहरा रहे लड़के की आवाज़ में.


हर शाम

छात्र नेताओं और भिखारियों को

अनदेखा करने लिए


ठहाके लगा लेते हैं लोग

और फिर लौटा ले जाते हैं निगाह

संजीदगी से

प्लेट और चम्मच की जुगलबंदी में.


एक सुबह

मकानमालकिन ने

खिड़कियाँ पोंछ रही लड़की का चिढ़ा हुआ मुंह देख कर कहा—

इन बेदिमाग़ कबूतरों का क्या है

जहां दाना लेकर बैठ जाएँ

वहीँ घर कर लेते हैं.



Flavoured cream

by Tina Das


She had spent hours looking for the right pair of panties in the open shops at Lajpat Nagar. The bras, mounted one on top of the other, with all sorts of laces and cup sizes and shapes, were an erotic dream in themselves. She just couldn’t figure out which colour to buy- the baby pink one with laces and tiny bows on each strap or the red one which would clearly only cover halves of her breasts. Just the thought of them on her made her feel horny. It had always been so- this absolute love of beautiful lingerie. She hated the cotton bras thrust on her as a young teenager-cotton, white, no-nonsense and ugly.

“Ouch”, she screamed in bewildered anger as someone stepped on her foot. She turned around to find herself face to face with a guy looking extremely apologetic. She looked at him, and well, frankly, he was quite good looking. Well, at least good looking guys stomp on my foot if nothing else, she thought .And just as she thought nothing was worse, a drop of his ice cream fell on her hurt toe. She was furious now. OK, even handsome guys can get irritating. She opened her mouth to scream but, to her utter surprise, he bent down and started wiping off the cream with a tissue.

She stood and stared as he slowly wiped it with a slight pressure of his thumb, sending dangerous spirals to her brain. OK, she thought, shit! Foot fetish.

He looked up with a smile that said it all- he knew just what he was doing and enjoying it too. It was utterly unreal- feeling like this in the middle of a crowded Delhi market. A rotund aunty ji nudged her and she returned to her senses with a jolt.

He had stood up and was still holding the napkin. “Do you want an ice cream?” he asked. “Anyway, I am going to get another one”. She agreed and they started towards the ice cream parlor. She watched him carefully- he was tall, almost as tall as she was and that was saying something. There weren’t many men who, surprisingly enough, were tall, near her. He turned back and caught her staring at him. She turned red and looked away. A smile and “what do you want to eat?” is all he asked. “Banana split “, she said.

He got one and they sat down. The tables were tiny and, since both of them were tall, their legs touched one another, as did their elbows. She began eating and noticed he hadn’t got any for himself, “Aren’t you eating anything?”

“Oh, I will. Something much tastier than ice cream. A bit later”

She froze, spoon suspended in mid air. Was it just her or were the words insanely suggestive? He looked back steadily and said, “Yes, I want you. I know this might sound creepy, but well, honestly, I do.”

She swallowed with difficulty. She should be angry with this stranger saying things like this. But she wasn’t. In fact, she felt her body responding, the slight wetness in the region between her legs making it pretty obvious.  She, however, said quite the opposite, “Who exactly do you think I am?” “A very attractive woman who is making my pants uncomfortable”, he said.

Well, that was it, she thought. She decided she should get up, but in trying to do so, he put out an arm to restrain her, and in that constrained space, his hand accidentally brushed against her left breast. She stopped, and made a decision. “OK. Fine. You want me, right? Let’s go”.

He stood up immediately and held her hand whispering, “Oh, you just made my day”.

They took an auto to his place. All she could really think of was, how crazy is this? But well, I am not a virgin nor with qualms about pre-marital sex. So, why not?

They reached soon enough. He opened the door to his flat and held the door open for her. As he locked them in, he took her by the wrist and pulled her close, kissing her. She stood still, unresponsive for about a second and then kissed him back with that primal instinct that tells you that you like someone, almost instinctively. Her vagina began throbbing, and let out its response in almost torrential bouts, soaking her fancy panties, as she felt him harden against her. He then stopped abruptly and started pulling her top over her head while she fumbled with the buttons of his shirt. Her lacy bra peeped out, holding her breasts in almost a flower encased offering. He stood back to look at them, whispering “delicious” and with a decisive snap opened it to reveal her breasts, nipples hardened like the tiny berries sold at roadside. He plunged his mouth onto them while she held his head. He bit a nipple slowly while his hand rubbed the other. He constantly squeezed her breasts, eliciting moans of pleasure. He was good- her mind dimly registered the thought as she realised that he was unbuttoning her jeans. He slipped it down and put his mouth at the centre of her wetness. This was just too much for her. He played around with his tongue expertly as she let out guttural sounds of pleasure. He looked up at her and, with his mouth full of her cum, said, “Didn’t I tell you I am going to have something much better than ice cream?”

She could only look on as he went back to putting his expert tongue and devastate her. Soon enough, she exploded in psychedelic colours and in streams, which he promptly lapped up. She was now desperate to touch him, to make him crazy. And she kneeled down, unzipped his jeans and tore his underwear in an attempt to put her mouth around six inches of pulsating flesh. She immediately took his entire length in her mouth, leading him to gasp in surprise. But that only jostled her to action as she worked at like her favourite flavour of lollipop, saliva streaming down the sides of her mouth. As she deep throated him, he held her head and pushed his penis in, deep, almost and yet not gagging her. She, who had never ventured to ever give a blow job, was thrilled and wanted more. He stopped her and made her stand up saying, “I need to save myself to go inside you too.” So saying he lifted one of her leg, wrapped it around him and put his penis inside her. She accommodated it inside her and held on to him as he banged away, in a tempo, thrusting deep inside. It went on for sometime before he turned her around and held her butt, entering her pussy from the back, causing her to scratch the wall in pleasure. He soon increased his rhythm, indicating that he was close to ejaculation and he did, as he pulled it out of her at the last moment.

She turned around, as he held her and kissed her again, whispering, “You are the one flavour I would not get tired of, if you let me”.

She nodded yes, yes, yes, as she again led his head to her breasts.


Image source:

Very Short Stories


by Rahul Sen
Loy won’t let his model preview his portrait until it’s finished. The model would come each day and bare herself on the sofa to strike a pose. The same pose was being struck days after days.

The gentle locks falling on her forehead, the soft bend of her neck, the rotundity of her well shaped breasts, were being intently gazed at by him. Part by part, within and without, observed with an impeccable vision and an instinctive intellect. But his hands seldom moved; it was only his pupils that rolled all over her body and seemed to swim within the reservoirs of her exceeding beauty.

Yet, one day, when out of sheer curiosity she went to the other side of the canvas in his absence, she found the canvas devoid of her figure, devoid of any human outline… It contained iridescent shades of hues – red, yellow, green, violent, orange – strokes that crisscrossed the white canvas to carve out a space of wonder that captures love and art in abstraction….


by Tina Das
We never hugged- we are scared of it. It never happened that success was celebrated with physical contact of any sort. We liked to be “dignified”. Funny, we were anyway a strange family- uh no, not strange, quaint sounds better.

It was the second year of my hostel- dad had decided to visit. He sat in the visitors room, stoic, or “dignified”. He saw two giggly girls hug and kiss each other and asked me, “Is it a new trend? This hugging business?”

I smiled and waved it away with a shrug.

The day I walked back with a battered face, courtesy a protest against rape. My mom screamed at me. She said it was not required- this drama of protest. I kept quiet- of course, she didn’t know I was also raped once, by the old man who claimed to be my uncle. Dad didn’t know, of course. He didn’t know till the day when his granddaughter was pawed by the same man and she ran to me for a big hug. We all hugged then, quaint family, we hugged too late.


by Prateeksha Pandey
ऑफिस में बैठे बैठे लाल टी-शर्ट वाले लड़के ने एक उदास कविता लिखी. फिर लोगों की वाहवाही पर एक खिन्न मुस्कान के साथ लैपटॉप का फ्लैप गिरा दिया. ठहाकों में बाकी दिन गुज़र गया. घर आकर बैग खोला तो वाहवाह करने वालों की फेहरिस्त में 15 नाम और जुड़ गए थे पर ठहाके गायब थे. ये ठहाके रोज़ कहाँ छूट जाते हैं? पर खिन्न मुस्कान तो अपनी ही है. फिर वो खाना खा कर दाहिनी करवट सो गया. सुबह उठा तो पिछली रात के खाने का स्वाद मुंह में पुरानी स्मृतियों की तरह बसा हुआ पाया. हर सुबह खिड़कियों से नयी उदासी चली आती है. आज फिर कुछ झूठे जुमलों और सच्ची कविताओं के औजारों से दिन को ठोक-पीट के बराबर करना होगा.


image source: unknown

In Response to Shenaz Treasurywala’s Open Letter

by Rahul Sen


Shenaz Treasurywala’s open letter to the prime minister and other ‘powerful and popular men’ in the country like Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Salman Khan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan et al has been circulating in the social media, generating sensation and lauding at different quarters. Apart from the sloppy sentimental politics that the letter tries to slap on the face of the readers, there is, probably, no single important point made in the whole text. The letter, in other words, is a patriarchal rant; reaffirming, reassuring and reinstating patriarchy and a structured epistemological oppression at different levels.

After my initial response on Facebook, I have been accused by someone as being a cynic, deliberately misreading the letter, seeing everything negatively and churning out wrong meanings out of it. This is true. My mind has been corrupted and tainted to see things crookedly and I will continue to vex and question other minds too till they are equally infectious. Let me take up each issue at one time and level my allegation against them, as I see it.

1. The letter is written to men who are ‘powerful’ in the eyes of Shenaz, to whom she makes an appeal – of ‘saving’ and ‘protecting’ women of the nation. How perfectly keeping in tune with the agenda of the present right-wing administration, of saving women into passivity, inaction and non-agency. The horrors of such a protectionist spiel imprison women in the name of empowerment.

2. In letter is naive and innocent in its assumption that women get raped ONLY by men. In Shenaz’s compulsory heterosexual world, lesbian rapes never happen. This further invisibilizes the number of same-sex rapes that happen, go unreported and shunted into silence.

3. In 2004, Dhananjoy Chatterjee was executed in West Bengal for raping a juvenile girl. It sparked a huge row over the validation of capital punishment then. But interestingly, did it stop rape in West Bengal? Does capital punishment at all help in preventing crime? Shenaz’s insistence and push for capital punishment is illogical, banal, non-sensical and pointless.

4. Shenaz, in her letter constantly refers to western outfits, skimpy clothes, miniskirts and pushes an argument that these cannot be the parameters of rape. While it is true up to a certain point, it makes a blind assumption that ONLY women who wear skimpy clothes are being raped. From the classist and elitist vantage of Shenaz, Kamduni or Badaun did never happen; or frighteningly, even if they have happened, they are too trivial to be taken into cognizance.

5. Shenaz’s position is not too different from the rabid rightists in her pro-censorship stance. Her call to ban Uber is beyond my comprehension. This shifts the attention from the individual (the rapist) to the organisation which has the dangerous potential of diluting the crime and the malaise.

6. The most disgusting point made in the letter is a conscious valourization of the US, where she feels ‘safe’ to wear short skirts; this seeming egalitarianism of the US in terms of its gender friendliness is a dangerous push of its imperialistic, hegemonic and exceptionalistic agenda; nothing different from the kind of homonationalism that the US propagates.


Feminism, apart from being a political stance has become a fashion statement. Everyone is a ‘feminist’ and a gender-activist these days trying to bring about equality and change. This, coupled with celebrity endorsements and support has given birth to kind of ‘pop feminism’ that is exclusivist, flawed, apolitical, masquerading as faux-liberal and faux-empowering. From Kalki Koechlin to Farhan Akhtar, Lady Gaga to Emma Watson, and now Shenaz Treasurywala – in the name of posing a threat to the status quo, feeds the trend. In the present day Indian context, where the Right has taken over every aspect of life; where media and society has heralded Modi as the ‘first feminist’, what we need to do foremost, is, resist such neoliberal rant and protectionist spiel and up the ante against the moral brigade trying to coax politics and sexuality, and the politics of sexuality.

To read Shenaz Treasurywala’s open letter, visit:

सब दुरुस्त है

by Prateeksha Pandey


बूढ़े दरख्तों के नीचे उग आये मशरूमों को देखकर

या आधी रात में रोते कुत्तों की आवाज़ से

चौंक उठती है

खिल उठती है स्याह फूलों सी.

उदासी तो

मन के पिछले कमरों में

माँ की तरह हलकी नींद सोती है.


(हिमांशी के लिए)

टूटे हुए रबड़ के पट्टे को
घिसे हुए तलवे में पेंचकस से घुसेड़कर
टाँके लगाएगा
और ऐसे सोलूसन से चिपकायेगा
कि चप्पल फिर नयी सी दिखेगी,
चल ही जायेगी हाँफते-घिसते
कुछ और महीनों तक.

मेरे और तुम्हारे बीच भी सब दुरुस्त है.

image courtesy: Stuti Bhattacharya

of memories and metaphors