Competition Entry #26 | Freedom to Dream: India at 70


ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry


The Freedom to Dream: India at 70
Ivy Bhattacharya, 20 years old, Vellore

A war had just ended.

India sat at the breakfast table, hunched over the morning newspaper, reading article after article full of death and drear and pointing fingers. The words rose in ragged sharp towers like sharks’ teeth and clamped down, chewing and tearing at the information, reducing it to a violent disarray of tangled decrees, angry constants and ill-meaning verbs.

Holes upon holes in the nets of journalists who had written these panic-mongering tales gaped open, and the words slipped through to spill out and choke India, sliding all over the table. The message read ‘Why wake up today? The world will eat you whole’.

The sky mimicked it – grey, overcast and threatening to rain – it swelled like rolls of dark velvet, hiding away the sun like a secret. So often it looked like this, India begin to wonder if the sun even existed, and whether warmth and beauty were but a myth.

With the shot-glass now empty and the smoke spent, India gathered up her things and headed out the door.

It was raining — not the sort you could ignore or put up an umbrella against. Oh no, it was the sort of damp drizzle that you didn’t notice was even there until you were soaked to the rattling bones and coughing dryly, everything sodden and wilting. It hung heavy in the air like mist, floating in and around her, sneaking into the folds and crevices of her skin and clothing, settling on her hair and laying down to rest on her neck.

India’s feet dragged all the way to the car, eyes bleary and still laden with sleep, her mouth pre-set into a stifled yawn. The briefcase was undoubtedly heavier than usual and today’s tasks swam in front of her eyes, unending, unrelenting. They piled like a great stack of letters from unknown people, each one needing to be opened and read thoroughly, thought about and addressed before actions could be put into motion; each one a tiresome effort, a congestion of energy that did not want to be spent. Without drive or purpose, without reward or achievement, except that it needed to be done.

Goalless. Soulless.

No light at the end of the tunnel: it stretched on infinitely, threatening to consume India and spit her out only after it had drained all life from her.

The car would not start. Of course it wouldn’t. It coughed and spluttered but would not burst to life. It sat there, pathetic in its attempts.

India’s long fingers curled into a resting cage around her barren, pale skull, taking the weight and splaying under the pressure. She tilted her head and peered out the window at the washed-out sky, disdain in her glazed eyes. She surveyed the long stretch of road — everything was sallow. The weather, her skin, the road, the driveway, all grey.

She thrust the key inside in one last attempt, and suddenly the car let out a low growl. Elated at this improvement, India drove off in her worn-out vehicle.

She reached her destination way past schedule, where Mr Society welcomed her inside with a sneer. Society, in his own opinion, was the best therapist India could ever afford. But, today was her 70th session and yet, still India couldn’t speak. Like always, she tried to find the right words, but couldn’t. What would she say? Where would she start? Why was she still stuck in such a mess? Why her?

The session ended one hour and ten minutes later, without a word.

India drove home in her same broken-down car. She crawled into her stiff and lonely bed to sleep for an unspecified amount of time. She could create infinity in her dreams.

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