Competition Winners

  CHILDREN – THE BEST

   THE WATERFALL

                       BY DIYA SHAH          11yrs

I am the waterfall.

I see… the mist, swirling, whirling, around

my body. Its like a soft blanket, protecting me from

the cold.

I see…my clear, blue, sparkling water, rushing

down happily to the pretty pool below.

Splashing with a little ker-plop! I see… all the

little animals rushing down from the mountain

side to get a drink of my clear, cool, bubbling

water. They say my water is the most wonderful

water in the world.

I hear… the wind whistling through trees

and mountains. Wrestling birds from their nests. The

wind howls and shrieks in the cold winter

weather. Nothing can defeat them. Not even me.

When the wind whips, it destroys  my perfect

pattern of water, taking me ages to rearrange.  I

hear… my own self roaring, singing, talking, to

anyone who comes by.

I myself admit, I am quite the chatterbox!

I hear… the trees singing along in the

rhythm of my waters.

Dancing long, long into the night.

Swaying gracefully, showing off new moves.

I touch… the smooth rock walls of the

mountains, sheltering me from the storm. They

hover over me, bending and curving. I touch…

the velvety skin of the mist, clinging to my

body. It sticks to me, in a good way, like a soft

new layer of snow. I touch… the grey rough

stone keeping me together. A part of me. It has

traveled with me all through these years.

He is like a nice bodyguard protecting me.

I taste… the silky, cold, smooth, mist falling

gently, slowly, majestically into my mouth.

Filling me up.

So sweet. I taste… the love all around me.

Hugging me like I am a soft fluffy blanket.

I taste… the wisdom from the mountains.

Old with age, but still young and beautiful.

Their wisdom surrounds me like a

safe, strong, sturdy wall.

I wonder… when will I be free from this

mountain? Free from these boulders holding me

together I am too scared to find out. Free to go

join that clear pool of water below me. So close,

but yet, so far.

I wonder… when will my time end? I have been

here so long, watching the world go by. When

will I finally wear away? Will I ever? I

wonder… what shall I do next? These droplets

are my life. I am nothing without them. What

would I be like if I ever left them?

I remember… my childhood. Just a little

sprinkle trickling down the mountain. Playing

with the chipmunks and birds. Those were the

good days.

I remember… when the sun used to shine.

Making rainbows. Making the water sparkle.

Making happiness. I remember… all my

brothers and sisters. They were the best of

friends.

Giggling and  laughing we would

play through the day.

Then, finally the dreaded day befell us.

The day all the mountains warned us about.

The day we all came together to

form a big waterfall.

Now it is just me.

I feel… lonely. I am alone. Just me.

Me and the silent hard boulders.

Me and the rocky mountains, lost in thought.

Me and the soft mysterious mist.

Me and the loneliness surrounding me.

I feel… the love. Love.

All around me.

Radiating from everything.

The trees, the animals, the mountains, and much

much more. They are nothing much, but lots to

me.

I feel… the happiness. Everywhere!

Extending throughout the land. Nothing else.

I am the waterfall.

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                                                           BEST STORY

                                               A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY

                                       By TEJUSVINI VARADACHARI    

       I woke up with a start.  I do not know what shook me up. There was a steady drizzle outside, I could see the early rays of the sun, straining to bring in light to the day. The last three days had seen a heavy downpour, with no respite. As was my habit, I prayed to the Sun God, and slipped in a little word for myself, I wanted a day filled with light and happiness; it was my birthday! If it seemed child-like for an adult woman to seem excited about her birthday, I did not care. On this very day, my parents had ‘found’ me, a month old baby near an old well. I valued this day and celebrated it for all three of us. My father always insists I was born for him. Indeed, my parents had prayed for a daughter for years. “ You were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, jet black hair, big, luminous brown eyes, and your spirit, even at that tender age, kicking your legs fiercely and crying loudly because you were hungry.” said my mother. Yes, I had spirit, I still have it, I think. But today, I had prayed for myself, prayed for a day with a sliver of sun light and a sliver of happiness.

       As I lay on my bed languidly, waiting for my spirit to show up, my trusted maid Nayana, who was like my sister, walked in briskly, and drew the curtain open.  “May this year bring you happiness, you definitely deserve it.” As she left my room, I finally got off my bed, and walked around my huge room, befitting a queen. I stood in front of my mirror, “ Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of us all?”.  I critically looked at myself – three children had not taken away from my beauty, I had a stunning figure, and my skin was translucent, clear and bright. I laughed out aloud, to my mirror, what a pitiful state I was in, praising and admiring myself !

       There was another person in my life who had once declared I was born for him.  He fell in love with me, at first sight. When I married him, I was on top of the world. Thrilled with his flattering attention and giddy with love, those were heady days. He loved me with a totality that was frightening yet fascinating. I was his friend, confidante and lover. Over time, he trusted me and valued my opinion enough to discuss his work with me.Very often, he would ask me advice and would give me enough freedom of thought and independence to express myself. I was one of the lucky ones, for none of my friends had the same freedom with their husbands. They were merely toys, to be played with and to procreate. I was special. At least, I thought I was. Few years into the marriage, I realised that I was indeed special, a special toy given  pride of place for my beauty, wit and intelligence- that was all.  Rumours I heard about him turned out to be true. His glad eye for women, his varied excuses, “I work hard for the good of the people who work for me, my Queen, you know me’. I used to hear stories, confront him, rage at him, till he would apologise and beg for forgiveness. “They mean nothing to me, you know that, you know me”, he would say.

       I cried to my parents. “Why me?  What if you had not picked me up, would I have suffered so much?” They bore it all, my accusations hurt them because they understood my grief, lived through my suffering, and yet always insisted on my status quo as the ‘all forgiving’ wife, the dutiful one. My mother would comfort me, “He loves you, madly, you know him. We are here to support you but your place is most important in his life.” Slowly, I began to accept the fact that my husband even through his philanderous ways, loved me. The truth was that he only loved me. I began to take pride in my love, he only loves me, he comes to me for advice, love, comfort, he still says I was made for him. It turned out that I had wilfully lied to myself out of a sense of false pride and ego.

       One fine day, Bhumi walked into my life or rather my husband brought her into my life. She was a complete stranger to me but my husband was totally infatuated by her. Bhumi ruined my life!  He felt tormented by her because she refused to acknowledge him or his love. Who would dare to refuse him, you might ask, a powerful man, known all over the world? Well, she was married! She did not want to have anything to do with him. In fact, she hated him. But her hatred did not help me. For the first time, my husband stopped coming to me. Her refusal stunned him into a phase of depression, deep unhappiness and violent rage against his fate, for conspiring against him. He started neglecting his work, his people. My ‘can do’ spirit woke up. I had to step in. I took over his work and his people. Slowly but surely, I gained their trust and they started coming to me for advice.  My husband continued to burn in his own hell of hate and lust. He would not accept any advice from me or his family. He shut himself out. This time, I knew I had lost him, after all, I knew him as well as I knew myself. He stopped coming to me.

       Today, on this special day, I find myself alone, talking to my mirror. Will he remember me, will he remember my birthday? Without realising it, I found myself thinking back to those years when my birthday was a national holiday, declared by my  husband. He would decorate our house, order the choicest of dishes for me, buy me expensive jewellery and clothes to last a lifetime. Memories of a lifetime, how ironic that sounds, it was all a lifetime away!  Will he remember, I thought to myself desperately? Please, dear God; my pride, my self- respect, my love, is at stake. Please let me have the pleasure of his love on this special day.

       Suddenly, I saw a strange sight at my window…a monkey, staring at me, intensely, almost like asking me a question.  Monkeys were very common at my window, prancing about on my balcony. But this one was different, his gaze was searching, and it seemed like a host of expressions crossed his face as he looked at me. Intrigued, I watched him, this strange animal, almost human like. I had heard from my house-help about a monkey that had entered my city last night, who seemed almost God like in his powers. As I approached him, he scampered away to the fragrant garden, beyond my palatial house, a garden built by my husband for Bhumi. . Ah well, back to my moody musings!

      The hustle of the household stirred me out of my morose state of mind. My parents came home, armed with gifts and love. My people enveloped me with attention and affection, my children and their families, delightfully entertained me with their lively anecdotes- what did I have to complain? I felt blessed to receive so much love. My mother whispered, “He will come, don’t worry, you know him.”

       I did not have any hope. It had been months since I had set my eyes on him. He was still obsessing over Bhumi and her rejection. Lucky woman, I thought bitterly. I had never met her, never wanted to meet her. My people told me I was prettier than her. That was enough for me, I thought, trying to act smug. But yet, on this special day, where was he?

       Close to evening, Nayana came rushing in, with great excitement. “He’s coming! He remembers!  I was told he has left for home.”  Yes, he was coming home to me! I could not believe it. Nayana was exuberant for me, on my behalf. “You have to get ready; you have not combed your hair, no jewellery. I am going to dress you up today. You have to look resplendent, like an apsara. Get ready to welcome him back to you!”

       Slowly, I began to comprehend the situation. My sliver of light for the day was on his way. A small frisson of doubt lingered, I knew him you see, more than anyone else in the world. As I got ready, my hands shivered, I truly loved him, I knew now, it was love that had kept me bound to him. I ran to the door. However, I didn’t hear him and that stopped me for a second, it was not like him, he was a boisterous, loud man, his emotions were an open book to all. As I opened the door, my face felt cold. As I stood there, all dressed up, he came in, looking bereft and shaken. He came towards me and hugged me, “I need you, Mandodari. I need your help.”  I froze in his arms, but he did not notice. He continued, in a defeated tone, “I need you, Mandodari. Why isn’t she accepting me? Sita’s rejection has driven me crazy. Mandodari, you have to help me, you go speak to her. Tell her about me, you know me! ”

       Raavan, my dear husband stood hugging me and weeping. Shocked and stunned, I saw Nayana from the corner of my eyes, walk away, also weeping silently.

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                                   BEST HUMOROUS ARTICLE

                        SUNDAY SURPRISE IN ‘WOODLANDS’

                                     By MURALI SUNDARAM

                                                     

        We were kids – ranging from six to ten years old. We had a cricket team in our colony, Shantinagar in Bangalore. I remember this Sunday morning when a cricket match had been scheduled with an “outside” team in the fields surrounding Kanteerava Stadium. The fields hosted many matches, mostly between kid teams, and in all sports. Cricket matches would often have footballers ‘mucking’ in, we would trip over the football chasing our cricket ball, and so on….

       Armed with our bats, and other little paraphernalia, our ‘team’ trudged off on foot from our homes to the field. Our matches, which began at 10am, usually lasted till a little after 3pm. There was no lunch break, since as good ‘Southies’ all of us would have had our ‘lunch’ at 9am and were guaranteed to have ‘tiffin’ waiting for us when we got home after the match. Our moms were “like that only”!! The usual ‘bata’ or ‘allowance’ showered on us for these games was four annas (25p, in today’s currency) – enough to get us a mango / guava / cucumber with the exceptional salt and chili mix, a pocketful of peanuts and a ‘crush’ in a marble top bottle.

       On this particular Sunday, however, the intensity of the match and its close finish made us forget to use our allowance during the break. Winning was our focus and in the end, we won. Tired, but happy, we trudged back homewards. On the way, we passed the famous Woodlands Hotel, a favourite of most of our families in those days. We had never been there alone, always with our parents. But today, we were already heroes, having beaten a more popular team. We had money in our pockets, and we were ready to step into adult territory. We dragged our bedraggled selves down the hotel driveway, 12 fairly dirty young boys, in shorts, “keds” (the sneakers of those days) and white-socks-turned-brown, bats, wickets, pads et al in tow. We gave the watchman on duty our most ‘superior’ looks when he tried to stop us to ask where we were going, saying “restaurant, where else?”.

       The ‘restaurant’ area comprised of three or four dining rooms, one leading into the other. The cashier usually sat near the door – I always believed that this strategic positioning was to nab the guys attempting to ‘fade’ before their bills came to them – but this was just my cop avatar playing its role. He smiled at us and gracefully advised us to go on to the last hall where, he said, there was enough space for the lot of us. We did, and promptly parked ourselves on wooden chairs in a row behind a row of wooden tables – almost like our school desks! Was this special area for kids?? There was no one else here. The hall’s supervisor came up to us and since I was the ‘lead’, I took it upon myself to find out what they could serve us, how much it would cost, and so on. Eventually we reached a consensus; we each could get two idlis and a vada, and a plain dosa for our four annas. So, that was our order (hey moms, we’ll still need our tiffins!!), and away he went happy to pass on this large order to the cooks and to the waiters who would bring the food out to us. We waited, famished, but happy about our foray into ‘adulthood’.

       The waiters brought in the food and while we set about demolishing the fare, a very stately gentleman, dressed in crisp white dhoti and shirt walked up to us and asked us who we were and what we were up to without our parents. We told him about who we were, where we stayed, and about the cricket match that we had just played. He asked us how we fared in the match and we told him we had won out on a very close finish. He smiled, congratulated us, and went away. A short while later, our waiter turned up again, with the rest of our order, and a plate with a Mysore-pak, and a badam-burfi for each of us. We told him we hadn’t ordered the sweets, but he said his ‘boss’ had told him to serve them to us. Well, we hesitated just a bit, wondering how we could pay for the extras, and then set about our demolition task eagerly. When we were done, I asked the waiter for our bill. He said the cashier would give it to us on the way out. The cashier had another surprise for us…”the ‘boss’ has said No Bill” he said. WOW!!  Such a grand feed, and the money still in our pockets; too good to be true. Wait till our parents hear about this. While the others made their way out, I turned to go back in when I saw the ‘Boss’ coming towards us. I thanked him and he said, “Come again …. when you win!!” WOW again!! What an ending to a good day!

       P.S. I found out the next day that all of us had wolfed down our tiffins after we got home!! The Woodlands fare had already been happily digested!

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                                                  BEST ARTICLE

                                     ART ON SUNDAY MORNINGS                                                                                                                  By BHANU RAMASWAMY

       I sit before the expanse of pure white canvas beside me. As I mix the paint up on my palette and deftly put the color on the stark blank, I think of my dear father. A gentle soul, an important person in my life, truly a mentor and inspiration for all my creative and artistic endeavours.

       As long back as I can remember, as a very little girl, I have always wanted to draw and paint. And as far back as I can remember too, my father has always encouraged me. Drawing out little apples and oranges that I could block with crayons, cutting up paper or sharpening pencil to draw my favourite animal or flower. Later, as my style and subjects matured, little strokes of advice, like how I  could add a brighter hue of orange to make my sunset more vivid. Or suggest that I add a tree here or a boat there to give my beach scene a better perspective.

       Our  Appa was no ordinary father. An intensely creative man himself, my sisters and I had the most delightful childhood thanks to his tremendous enthusiasm to do things differently. Now tell me, how many fathers will write out amusing little stories and plays for his children to enact with cousins and friends? Or make boring train journeys between Bangaloreand Madras more fun by inventing ingenious little games to play? It was this creative thinking that inspired us all, ever ready as he was to encourage us in whatever creative pursuits we indulged in, be it music, art or writing.

       I had just finished school and was ready for college. My secret dream was to study at the prestigious JJ school of Art in Bombay. Bangalore had no good art school in those days, and the Chitrakala Parishad was not the prestigious institute it is now. When I expressed my desire, Appa threw an instant fit. A Diploma in Commercial Art? That too in distant Bombay? No way! “ You can always keep art as a hobby forSunday mornings”, he said. His response did irk me a bit. Why was he trivialising something I was so passionate about? And how come Appa being who he is,  not understand that?

       So I enrolled at a local college to work on a ‘respectable ‘ college degree. Like all parents of those times, he perhaps felt a proper Arts or Science qualification would improve my chances of landing a good match someday! I won’t blame him really, he was simply going by the attitudes and values of his generation.

       Sensing my intense disappointment, Appa wanted to make up for it. After college hours I was encouraged to enrol at special art classes at a convent where he would diligently drop and pick me up. When I graduated from basic water colours to complex oil paintings, he assured me hands-on help in putting my kit together. Canvas was expensive, so he artfully worked out alternatives. He would buy hardboard and get carpenters to cut them to sizes I wanted. Then sit down and painstakingly sandpaper down the rough side to the required smoothness. Two coats of good enamel paint and viola! My board was ready for painting!

       Even as a painting neared completion, he was getting the next board ready. What size did I want to try the next one on? 12x 20 inches? Or why not be a little more ambitious and make one really large – 24 x 36 inches? Or he would call from the art material dealer, as he happened to be that side of town. Have you run out of any shade? Should I pick up  Chrome Yellow or Ultramarine Blue?

       All that I needed to indulge in my passion for painting was just there for me, no matter the cost.

       So there I was, happily painting away, between college classes, on holidays, even through Sunday mornings. He coaxed me to enter competitions and showed my paintings off with pride when an odd prize was won!

       Later marriage and domesticity and motherhood brought about additional responsibilities and changed priorities. My art sadly, had to go into a limbo. Appa was aghast! Why have I given up on my art? No time, Appa. I need to supervise the little ones’ homework. I need to keep up with the hectic demands of corporate social life. Housekeeping takes up so much time, it leaves me tired! “Stop making ridiculous excuses!” he thundered. I suspect Appa had this delusional belief that his daughter was going to give MF Hussain a run for his money!

       A little nudge here, some gentle bullying there and in time, out came my paints, palette, canvas and brushes. I was squeezing time whenever I could between busy schedules to sit by my easel. But never, never on Sunday mornings as that day was sacrosanct for my family and home. Portraits, Still life, Landscapes……the juices were flowing and Appa was happy!

       Soon the birds flew away to make their lives. As the empty nest syndrome hit me, my art too hit a low. Besides, sadly, Appa too was not around anymore to egg me on. But my grandsons soon arrived and when they came a visiting, I drew apples and oranges for them to block with color, just as Appa did.

       Now, no more excuses. I have all the time in the world to do nothing else but paint. But I’m only human and get on lazy mode sometimes. Nevertheless I just brush it aside and motivate myself. For I imagine that Appa must be looking from above to give me another gentle admonish. “What? Not painting? Not even this Sunday morning?”

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