Woes of Sympathy

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I go about the business of my life, shunned by those who hold their head high. Yes, the Proud. They don’t need me. Despite their dwindling numbers, they are still a reproach to Society. I’ve come a long way trying to help them find solace.

Solace, indeed.

Let me tell you how I tried. I touched Poverty, trying to obliterate her, she, who shivered in my presence while she cast her baleful eye on me. I held her close, too close for comfort, for long years, when the sun hid behind layers of frozen clouds. It was then that I became synonymous with the Poverty of the Spirit, who stalks among the living, touching those who cannot see beyond the confines of their cloistered lives.

I have been striving to be visible.

My presence struggles to be felt.

Have you ever been the victim of your circumstances? At least, perceived as one? That will be the shield that you need, for behind that, you can see me for what I am. I preen. I primp. And my twisted heart gladdens at the sight of your abject misery. I get a chance to show how noble I am, at your expense. I make people feel oh, so glad at their exalted circumstances. I make them feel gratified, important and eventually immensely magnanimous, at being able to help. I am condescending in all my concern, feigned or otherwise.

The truly Proud see me for what I am and walk away. They never look back preferring to shiver in their little hovels, living on air and water till their very eyes shine with an ethereal gleam only Death can recognize.

Their hunger becomes a light that consumes their being.

Have you ever been slapped hard in the face? Have you felt the shock reverberating along your jaw, angry tears, obliterating your vision. This is their expression when I approach them. I ignore that. I try to comfort with honeyed words that sound hollow, even to my ears, while I say all the right things.

They look at me and away, dismissing me in one look that deems me insignificant.

I try doggedly. I am spurned like the cur that I am.

I walk away in pretended disdain, angry, for I did extend a helping hand. I did try to uplift the downtrodden. I did try to be good. I think to myself, I’ve been lucky, truly blessed, oh please won’t you allow me to help you? Why don’t you accept my help?

Their eyes declare- Help? Never could stand the stuff. Distasteful. We cringe at your kind looks cast our way. Never could tolerate kindness. Especially when all we have left is our pride.

All I did was try to help.

Don’t, for all that we have left, is our pride.

Sympathy

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Head above Water

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I’ve always wanted the best view from my window.

This. Cascading water. The bustle that I could ignore. The peace.

An address that read- 24/7, Head above Water Retreat, Off the Road…

It was either this or the meds. Did I really have a choice?

I was asked where I would feel good.

It was either the mountains or water.

I loved the suspended animation the mountains could give me. But the gurgle of water soothed me.

Lofty mountains and all the chance of elevated escape, or drowning in the depths of inviting water?

I could not choose.

This little retreat that bridged the canal, perched rather precariously over the river, came into view just around the corner of the leafy lane.

To Let.

I figured out a way to get there.

Now the river sighs and gurgles under me and I am perched at a height, away from it all.

Blessed peace.

The water gushes under my haven and, with renewed energy, I marvel at the magnificent torrent that surges ahead.

The ducks paddle their placid way, pleasantly surprised by the bread I toss at them, accepting this manna from heaven.

Well, I am in Heaven.

[196 Words]

Thank you, Al, for hosting the Sunday Photo Fiction. Such a lovely platform to share stories on. Thank you, A Mixed bag for the intriguing photograph.

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The A-J Handbook of an Alienist.

A is for Alienist. Here comes the Alienist. Watch her as she dusts her framed diploma and gathers her tales of woe for the day. She walks the murky path of troubled souls and collects a few trophies along the way. Ah, this will add a glitter to the halo she has installed around her forehead, so she can be seen from outer space, even. A is for Abuse, that the Alienist deals with and reinforces.

The thing about abuse is that you get used to it. You accept it as part of your life. It becomes an inherent part of your soul. You set up yourself for it. You are conditioned by it. Active abuse shows itself on you, your bearing, your words and thoughts. You are a victim. You look like a victim and soon behave like one.

B is for broken. The Alienist thrives on the broken. She hunts them down. She’s developed special skills in identifying them. The broken inhabit the hidden nooks and corners when they don’t want to be seen and under extra hyperactive behaviour, when they feel the eyes of others devour them. Smiles moulded from plastic freeze on their faces and their eyes are sunk into hollow depths of despair. A murderous glint appears when you spy the espying Alienist. You are one among the truly broken.

C is for Coventry. Have you heard of this quaint old English term- Being sent to Coventry? A group of popular, active, privileged people, who have their bearings about them, vote to send an unsuitable member of their company to Coventry, for being different, having problems, and being the proverbial wet blanket. So nobody speaks to you, for you are in Coventry, you are shunned and ostracized. The Alienist thrives on Coventry. Coventry provides her with a major chunk of bread and butter she needs to put on the table. Many decades of research and psychological studies later, the Alienist states that this practice is cruel and detrimental to the individual, but does nothing about it in real life.

D is for desperation that sets in when you realize nobody is listening. Not even the Alienist, who is paid to do so. You muster the courage to speak to the officious Alienist who is as prejudiced as your peers and tries to convince you that what you are feeling is wrong. Any pedestrian healer of souls would know that the first step to healing is acceptance, both by the healer and the broken. But no, the Alienist is infallible in her opinion. Her veil of prejudice already exists, firmly attached in place.

E is for the eagerness with which the Alienist, in the avatar of the healer, is eager to point out that the world is nice and there are nice people out there. E is also for the eagerness you show in escaping to another zone unsullied by the presence of the formidable Alienist. E is also symbolic of the stupid grin you plaster on your face in case you get caught.

F is for the final futility of seeking help. The broken are now shattered to smithereens and come to the conclusion, that there is no point in speaking up. There really isn’t. Nobody wants to look at your point of view. The Alienist who has the world in the palm of her hands is quick to point out the other perspectives which have obviously escaped you. Now you’d rather amuse yourself banging your head against the wall and see the patterns that emerge.

G is for Good Lord. For God’s sake! There are many pleas for help, some strident, some barely audible, some masked under the veil of silence, smiles and even dignity. Dear Alienist, get off your high horse and lend an ear. You might be the reason for someone to want to continue to live. Don’t be the one to push someone off the narrow ledge they are barely walking on. It’s murder. Believe me it isn’t very much different.

H is for the delirious happiness dispensed by the Alienist. After a few sessions with her, things are better now, at least the pretence continues. For you realize things were better before she curled her tentacles around you and now you can’t extricate yourself anymore. You know you were happy when you were depressed and now you are desperate to get away, who cares about happiness? You could have created a happy world in your mind, instead of being driven up the wall!

I is for you, yes, the hidden, ignored, much-maligned I in you. If you are different, admit it to the Alienist, at least you stand a chance of being a specimen under someone else’s microscope, at least someone unlike her is going to spend time on you, serves you right, plucking your wings away from your body, removing your limbs systematically, cutting you open and poking into your entrails before formally validating your thoughts by giving them a collective noun and a prescription that makes you feel relieved and hopeful as you down your meds, day in and day out. At least you’re not judged any more for being the way you are.

J is for Jolly good show and it’s Just another day in the illustrious life and career of the Alienist. She pins you to the rest of her collection and her saga continues…another day another time, another place… Well, I’m sure you’ve had enough of her. Me too. Not going to Continue.

Pettifoggers Anonymous

Let’s face it. We are a critical lot.

I happened to appreciate an acquaintance in the presence of a few well-wishers. After a few minutes, in the lull of the conversation a well-meaning do-gooder sidled up to me and tried to set the record straight.

Actually, he…

The conversation grew intensely uncomfortable. I cast a pleading look at a friend who was oblivious to my hints.

But, we see, he should’ve…

Err, I need a refill.

And he could’ve…

Oh look, there’s…

And I would’ve…

I gave up. I zoned out and left for fresh air on the overcrowded balcony.

As I was saying, we are a critical lot. We don’t keep our opinions to ourselves. We’d be considered fools if we didn’t take the subtle and not so subtle hints. Don’t know what I mean? Just try ignoring the ‘truth’ slammed your way. See what I mean?

So, let’s wince, duck and try to change the subject because we’ve been brought up the right way, and a sudden unsheathing of claws always unnerved us. We have too much integrity to agree, leave alone add to the damned conversation. Let’s hem and haw and try to change the subject. It never works, till we get a brainwave and walk away to answer that urgent call, of the telephone or nature, depending on the proximity.

We truly are a critical lot. Ever ready to judge, condemn and dispense justice as if it were used tissues cast into the bin.

In no uncertain terms I state that I would love to be mistaken. Please prove me wrong. In the meantime I’m avoiding all my well-wishers. And slipping into a zen-like state. I suggest you do so too.

It’s Critical.

Divine charms

On a hillock I reside, removed from all inhabitation.

Steps hewn into granite lead you to me.

Your breath is tested, your feet calloused, as you strive to reach me.

I wait patiently, watching over you, from the innermost recesses of my sanctum sanctorum.

My vision pierces clear even through layers of fragrant sandalwood paste, lovingly smeared to appease me.

Appeased am I, indeed, for my love for you transcends everything, even my fury.

My claws receded and roar subsided, a long while ago.

I chose to be tame, putty in your hands.

Love overpowering is what you crave.

I am enamoured by your display of deep devotion.

Come to me.

The path is steep.

The road is lonely.

Fear not.

I shall watch over your every step.

For I am truly enamoured.

Truly blessed.

For you belong to me.

Enamored

Amma’s Congee

Pot story

An iron fence separated the park from the lakeside where a few villagers set up their makeshift tents. Living by the lake assured them a new life, the luxuries of, cooking, cleaning and maybe even bathing, when the guard looked the other way.

Amma, eighty years old, ever-present, self-appointed mother of the lot worked around houses, ingratiating herself to the security folk of the imposing mansions. When the maids swung haughtily down the road to dump trash from the kitchen, Amma would scavenge, marvelling at the waste of good food. Chopped stubs of onions, juicy flesh intact, baked potato still clinging to peel, good enough to eat. Green chilies and curry leaves thrown away untouched were salvaged by Amma who returned home with her loot, that eventually found salvation in the boiling pots.

After excruciatingly hard labour, returning home in the evening, tired and hungry eyes lit up at this welcome sight, aromas wafting to their pinched nostrils.The flavour of the congee was so comforting.

Amma grinned as she gathered the empty pots to scour.

[175 words]

Thank you, yarnspinner for the evocative photograph, I enjoyed writing a piece centred around it.

Thank you PJ for hosting the FFFAW challenge!

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Vinylanimation

The remnant of a bygone era, I am obsolete. Turned to stone. My songs silenced forever.

I was. A pliant lump shaped into flat discs turning concentric at the sameness of it all, the routine circles, ranging from the larger to the smaller, the potency of existence versus the necessity to live turned outward, searching for meaning.

I became. An expert at holding still, while the circles formed concentric with every turn. I strained and my life came full circle every time, the needle however slipped into another groove.

I watched. Fascinated how the narrow confines of my tiny grooves keep me in, my full throated angst held back, and the melodies, sung and unsung, an inconsequential part of something greater.

I existed. In carved grooves that I created, the needle my muse, as it moved from groove to groove, I played.

I stopped. A scratch and two jarred just a bit and then I stopped. Silence. I preferred silence to broken songs. The unfamiliar, even irregular rhythm of my heartbeat was preferable to throats scratched dry. The same fragmented song over and over again.

Meanwhile static crackles. My song still inhabits those grooves. How do I unravel my song? How do I emerge from those spaces I inhabit?

I wait. For one groove to progress to another.

I am. Here, trapped in vinyl.

I ask. For my turntable, so let’s take a spin if you can.

via Daily Prompt: Inhabit
Inhabit
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Common Ground

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A cramped space this. I need to stretch, feel the earth under my feet. A little less talk and a little more quiet.

Thriving in closed spaces, you’ve mastered the art of contorting yourself, being stashed away.

The air is mine own. My mind lifts off- a sailboat in flight, the air my water, the water grounding me and the earth a vast expanse of ocean I float on.

You and I see the same road.

You are intent; and I never really look.

When did I begin to speak a different language?

Your eyes unseeing, uncomprehending, a thousand miles away.

Your every word, every drawn breath, every expelled curse- so easy to understand, mired in the world.

I surged ahead, wanting nothing.

And yet, here we are.

You lead, your eyes on the road.

I follow. My eyes also on the road.

The darkness is complete till dawn breaks.

The sky bursts. Clouds scud across the palette. Tints shifting settling into a golden hue.

Let us stop here and confront each other in enforced silence.

After breakfast at this lovely place, things will seem a little less intense, our bellies warm with pancakes, omelettes, buttered toast and hot coffee.

[200 words]

Priceless Joy Thank you for hosting this challenge. I’ve missed your challenges, missed writing and it feels great to be back and alive once again. Footy and Foodie, thank you for the photograph.

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Immutable

temple

The streets unfold

I’m lost

In a maze

Of my making

 

In the unfamiliar

 

Tongues make no sense

Raucous static

 

I strive

To hear myself

 

A turn

Pockets of Faith

Concentrated prayer

The aura

Unmistakable

 

This is it

I’m home

In a strange land

 

Guided by You

I do not even question

 

The world is my shrine

I close my eyes

In total surrender

 

My Faith transcends

Everything

 

I learned long ago

No question

You know best

 

l am but a flame

Burning with the intensity of your fire

 

I know You

Have always known You

Myriad lifetimes

 

An ancient shrine

Of a long forgotten mystic

 

At the little chapel

You gazed at me

With so much compassion

My heart almost burst

 

I find You in every idol I see

 

Every stone

chant

song

flower

that blooms

 

In the people I meet

 

I now stand here

Before this shrine

And look up

To You

Yet again

 

You wait for me

All I need to do

Is close my eyes

 

Tuning in

I connect

 

Once again

 

[175 words]

This week’s photo prompt is provided by Singledust. Thank you Gina! Such a beautiful photograph! ❤

Thank you Priceless Joy for the lovely opportunity provided for this week’s writing prompt at  Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers !

Finally Felled

The walls came up.

Towers shot up.

Brick by brick.

Layer by layer.

 

Witness to slaughter and mutilation,

I stood,

the sickening creak and crash

everywhere

assaulting my spirit.

 

What was worse?

Waiting or watching?

 

Meanwhile, I grew tall and proud.

I shot branches into the blue.

I dug deep with my roots,

anchoring myself firmly

in the black depths of soil.

 

They walked to me with their motor tools

and the whirr heralded my glorious fall.

My turn.

Finally.

 

First my young limbs

fell, with gentle thuds

and a soothing rustle of leaves

like the whoosh of a shroud

as it falls gently,

shielding the body

from prying eyes.

 

Limbless, I waited.

 

Chips flew about

dents carved me.

The saw,

finally,

broke the stature

I so carefully cultivated.

 

I gave up.

Not without some noise though.

 

I fell.

A mighty crash.

The dust rose and blinded the sun.

 

My roots were pulled out

with the ruthless perseverance

and incompetence

of an intern dentist.

 

I bled, a bloodless sap.

Hewn into manageable chunks, I was taken away.

I didn’t look back.

 

A vagrant stump,

a distance away,

stubborn,

resilient,

soon shot

a few green leaves

into the air.

 

Surreptitiously.

 

[200 words]

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Thank you PJ for hosting this awesome challenge Flash Fiction for Aspiring Writers.

Thank you Shivangi Singh for the photograph!