Evoke : Expressions from 2021
In 2021, Mysticeti collaborated with six brilliant artists for inspiring our community of writers with their creations. We are happily overwhelmed to present a compilation of all verses and stories that our community wrote and shared with us. We believe these represent our collective expressions from the past year.
Expressions about experiencing mysticism and liberation inspired by this paining by Maira Bose
I SAW THE SEA AND BURIED IT WITH A WAVE by Aditi Sundan
I have lived on land my whole life, the mountains to be precise, deserted from the sandy shores of infinite beaches. I believed that any encounters I had with the sea were from my early childhood, existing only in second-hand memories handed down to me over and over until they were imprinted onto my brain. The imprint, as if a scene from a film, no subjectivity of my own, no emotional record of incidence, apart from a nostalgia that seemed appropriate but impersonal. Sometime during my second year of college, a buried memory came rushing back to me and broke through the continuity of what I had come to think of as my own memories. It happened during a class on Romanticism, where our Professor was talking about the ‘idea of sublimity’. I understood it as the depth of beauty and terror, the horror and might of how nature could be/make us feel.
My mind decided to escape from the classroom discourse, and take me back to the forgotten dark sand beaches of Daman. It had been a brief holiday tucked in between a longer trip across the region, so solitary, so unlike the handed-down memories of Bombay and Goa beaches with their festivities and crowds of people. This slice of an almost empty beach, almost as if behind a glass window, on arrival had seemed so far away, so strange, to my early-adolescent self. Every few hours, I had moved closer to the sea, paying little heed to warnings about it being alive, a creature, almost: how it could sneak up on me if I turned my back to it. I remember sitting on a rock a little far from where the waves were caressing the sand. Vaguely, the memory of the salty sea breeze and engulfing, warning, darkness made their way back to me.
Vividly, my gaze is now fixated on the horizon,
the impossibility of it,
and the possibilities of this endlessness.
The word unforgiving comes to my mind.
I had watched the sea rise, as the horror and draw of the glistening night climbed onto one another, swelling with new anxiety in my chest. I had been frozen in place, the wetness of the sea climbing further, the breeze, sharp against the receding warmth of my lungs. I had imagined the cries of the land dwellers, calling out as we had watched the sea come for me. As it continued to surge ahead, I had let the sea take me in its forbidden embrace. I had been knocked off my feet; the spell had been broken for a while.
I give into the ruthless stirrings of desire
to be engulfed by the darkness,
throw caution to the wind,
and submerge in the all-encompassing nothingness,
there, at the horizon.
The noise and swirls of white had reminded me about being gone for a while. Any sense of time had escaped me, and as I had rushed back to the shore, I remember looking for a search and rescue party.
And then I immediately retreat,
fearing this magnetism
that pulls me to this restlessness,
at the possibility of my own will.
Anticipating my parents’ anger and claims of worry, I had walked into the hotel lobby and spotted them getting ready to sit down for dinner. I had walked in, eyes darting towards the clock in the dining room. “Oh good! Where were you? And what do you want for dinner?”, my mother had asked, half looking at the menu. I had leaned over the table in an attempt to keep my semi-drenched clothes out of sight and answered, “Just looking around.”
BACK AND FORTH by Sristi Suman Ray
Late one night towards the dying end of November, we took all his things to throw into the ocean as a part of the ritual. We had been doing this for five years, every year since my grandfather died. As a part of the ritual, we place all his things and then position grandfather’s picture (a 6x4 inch black and white bust-shot in which he is wearing a white shirt and his usual black tie) in front of this display. I had never witnessed the end of this ritual and had always wondered what they did with his picture. Do they throw it out and frame a new one every year? To me, this seemed like an almost pathetic errand to schedule every year in November. Or maybe they keep the picture? If they keep it, then where does it stay? Do they keep it in their temple next to the other and lesser important gods (because I have never noticed his picture in the main part of the temple)? Do they keep it somewhere else – safe and hidden with a sense of sanctity? If so, do they keep it face down or up? Exactly how do they place him in their psyche - is he a loss that is so revered that his picture is kept face down? Or is he a somewhat sublime loss, and therefore beautiful, and part of the thread that has kept the family together?
We fill ourselves into my uncle’s car, sometimes two of us sit in the front (usually I share the seat with Tikidei, my older cousin), and we drive along the short stretch of road to the beach. It is a beautiful road, with small government offices and houses designed in the typical colonial style which still survives in some parts. The vegetation is tropical, and as we get closer to the ocean we see saltbush and sea oats summoning the sand. On a particularly humid day like today, we can smell the salt in the air, saturated and crustacean. As we drive further along the length of the beach the crematorium comes into sight - its humble spire sticking out from the top of smoke and ash-dust.
“They’ve installed electric burners now,” says my mother. My mother loves to talk about things in the news with certain people.
“Electric?” asked Tikidei. “How do they burn bodies with electricity?”
“Oh, it’s like a burner - there’s fire, you see…” my mother is impatient - she usually likes to discuss the matter instead of falling into the depths of definition.
“Yes, I heard. One of our neighbours,” my aunt begins to say, then turns to my other aunt and adds, “this man, you remember who drove you to what’s that place called…”
I was thinking about the crematorium and what it must be like. Women and kids are
usually not allowed to attend the last rites there. I had always imagined it to be a place without electricity – with the only light coming from the burning pyres, maybe three or five at a time. They said bodies burned one on top of the other during the pandemic. I could not imagine how electric burners, or whatever they are, would fit into the absurd, rather ridiculous drama of death and everything elaborate that comes after.
“I’m glad they’ve brought in those burners,” my mother said, her face resembling the pale colour of a lonely sky. I think she was talking about adapting our manner of suffering, as much as we adapt our manner of joy. You see, joy has not been amplified by our advancement as a species and neither has suffering become less solemn.
We drive past the crematorium and stop at a quiet stretch of the beach for the ritual. A few
fishermen are making their return to the shore, pulling their fishing boats behind them through the sand. They leave behind marks that look like french fries. In the distance, the moon looks weak, and against its light, a few shops are selling real and fake sea shells - their keepers are smoking bidis while watching the late-night news on YouTube.
After parking the car, we start walking towards the ocean, making our way through the sand just like circles of onion move in a bowl full of thick batter. Once we are knee-deep in water, they give me the bag full of his things.
“Throw it far and throw it with all your strength. Wait - wait for the moment the waves begin to return. Wait for a big one. It will go away as mightily as it comes,” said my uncle, bobbling my little cousin in his arms. To me, the waves seemed to be coming and going in a simultaneous rhythm. At the far end, close to the horizon some big ones were breaking upon the chest of the sea. And close by, some tiny ones were making small leaps, back and forth then forth and back. What is the motion? I thought to myself - how do I decide what the ocean is doing at any given point in time? Tumultuous waters. When I was younger, my father used to tell me something about the waves and how they were created by the moon. What was in front of me was not as easy as that theory. When must I throw? I have the strength, but is it enough to counter all other variables? Will the bag go away forever as we want (need) it to?
“Here, give it to me,” Tikidei said. She took the bag from me and launched it in the air. It went high. And far. The women laughed. There was a sense of secured finality in the act.
“Here. It is all coming back,” my uncle said pointing to the sand a few meters away.
A dozen broken pieces of coconut, charred, were pushed by tiny waves onto the sand. A few
spots of magenta and yellow were floating on the crests of the approaching waves.
“The flowers. The ocean won’t take anything; it will give everything back,” my uncle said.
Nobody said anything. We stood there, watching the waves give us back our things, piece by
piece. Something about it was devastating. I looked at my cousin, she was clicking pictures of the horizon.
“There’s a boat coming,” she said. The faint glimmer of synthetic sails was visible under the
moon. She clicked a beautiful picture.
“Can you see the bag?” she asked, zooming into the picture. I was curious. There it was – the black bag, with his newspapers and other things.
“Check if you can see the ash too,” my uncle said. My aunt laughed.
On our way back we bought a big tub of ice cream with jellies, nuts, brownie bits and syrup. The memory of that day is like a word cloud in my head. Some words appear bigger among the innumerable smaller ones.
The next day, we woke up in his house – without many marks of the things we had done yet probably a bit more grounded about our strangely destined relationships with each other and our shared losses. Same time next year, we would be here again – grown and changed, maybe with the same old jokes. We would be there, again, trying to throw his bag of remains and trying to play our little game with the ocean.
PERFORMING OBSERVERS by Vanshika Randev
On the port, we stand, facing the sea.
Watching, as ghost ships cross,
barely and briefly missing each other.
Watching, as the lighthouse guides them homeward,
rays reflecting, glimmering against the waves.
Watching unsuspecting men pass on rowboats,
so sure, they’d bypass the storm,
caught by surprise and swift, cruel urgency.
Watching, as shades of blue merge into each other.
As parts of ourselves part to give way for change,
splitting down the middle, parting at the seams.
Every song, story and dream,
crashing then collapsing, striking cliffs and the shore.
Old instincts, reflexes, habits making themselves known,
every now and again. Laying forgotten, dormant.
All a phantom blue. Lingering, demanding to be seen.
Moving towards the shore, sprawling against the sand,
only to be pulled back out, fading right past.
The grip over reality, only transitionary.
Watching waves sink and settle,
a constant, ever-evolving rhythm and hum.
White against blue against the dark undercurrents,
ripples cascading and building, thoughts replenishing.
An everlasting ebb and flow, an instrument of calm and chaos,
knowing this is how the story goes.
A powerful, resounding crescendo, colliding into itself.
Making more of whatever it was.
The crashing of the waves; the greatest of performances.
Demanding constant applause.
A quiet song, carried into the night.
And we watch. Knowing we constantly head seaward.
Watching, as it all fades to black.
Expressions about seeking hope and happiness inspired by this illustration by Preksha Sipani.
RECKONING by Bharti Bansal
yellow gaze of the setting sun
reminds me of the days
when the flowers wouldn't droop at the sight of me
i wonder if happiness is all glammed up
in the little corner of my heart
waiting for the train to arrive
and take me farther from this lonely world
and setting sun
teal blue sky
and violet eyes
Is it too much to ask for beauty?
i wonder if things when left alone
come back together like a lost cat to its home
it's still feral
this need to be happy
but tell me a sober way
where I don't run away
from striking realities
steel countenance of a monotonous life
i am afraid if I wait long enough
i might fade into nothingness
empty cans and unread books
vacant roads leading nowhere
Is it enough if dreams remain distant?
ghost of memories haunting at dusk
and me wondering things if touched become real
everything sleeps to the lullaby of silent sky
the pages of a half-read book
and the girl who wonders about her place in this sinful world
everything eventually comes to an end
the colorful skies
the lonely birdling
the pigmented dreams
the rebellious blue moon
and me, entranced and sad
like the little star falling and fulfilling wishes
WAITING IN SUNSET by Sridevi
she found freedom
in between the lines
by moving the pages
escaped into another world
where she can breathe freely
letting herself out to it
to reflect her soul back
from the mirror globe
being there felt like
being in a warm shell
a tiny world of its own
filled with yellow flowers
grasslands and orange sky
during the sunset
waiting for darkness to arrive
to sit in the carriage of lilies
and move away
HOPE by Yashika Doshi
Just when I'm about to give up on the night
and let my body fall into a state of being that barely resembles sleeping,
I am distracted.
It's an ironic experience:
getting distracted by you,
getting distracted by the idea of you.
This idea that there exists a tomorrow for us
which doesn't come with the fear of instability.
Where the shape of loss didn't come in the form of your outline shaped through a wall
and where the business of postponing love hasn't made us its clients,
and that's why you see
I still end up dreaming of that tomorrow.
Years from now,
when I'll think that I've exhausted all the topics there were to write about
all the memories there were to derive words from,
I'll come back to you.
I'll come back to you like the falling stars find their way back home,
like the waves of the sea curl up towards the shore only to go back again.
I'll come back to you as if there indeed, is a future written for us.
TEMPORARY FIX by Akunthita Gogoi
When I am sad,
I read out to myself.
I pull out unsent letters,
half-written poems, and
from my memory.
I read them like a mother
reads bedtime stories
to her not-so-sleepy child.
About a limping fox getting married
on a sun-kissed rainy day
and a sparrow dicing betel nuts
for the guests.
I chant creased words
locked inside faded envelopes
without a ‘from’ and a ‘to’, as if in a spell.
As hard as I try,
I sound nothing like you.
While you kill flowers by suffocating them
I kill my longing.
I’ve heard that the wind carries
one’s woes away if you ask it to.
Where’s the wind today?
I can only feel it in my hair.
I follow my shadow as the sun
beckons me to wait.
Maybe if I wait, they won’t let me go.
…I stop and turn.
I’ll let the sadness brew a little longer,
till it all evaporates.
A NEW START by Shruti Parwar
As I sat. Grey and lone. I asked myself
"Is this what life is?"
"Is it going to be this way forever?"
(Sigh, I close the book)
"NO." something inside me replied.
"Not if you want it to be"
"But how?" I asked.
Close your eyes…
Feel the warmth as the sun kisses your cheeks. Listen to the breeze as it tries to sing. Smile as the stray curls tickle your neck. See the beauty of infinite colours. Smell the sweet flowers as they bloom.
They come and go and come again.
As long you have them, you can always start anew.
AN EVENING IN THE VALLEY by Arya Jash
She could see the breeze before she felt it. The flowers on the far side of the field parted first, bending their colorful heads, and this movement came closer and closer to her, gently touching her shoulders. It blew past, ruffling the frills of her off-shoulder top, the edges of her beige skirt fluttered, and her hair was blown all over her face. She smiled, and with a shake of her head, threw her hair back into place. Her eyes were closed, enjoying the gentle warmth of the evening sun on her face. The book she was idly flipping through, was firmly bookmarked with her thumb. Ever since she’d come to the valley, she was…lighter. She was so far away from it all, from the city and the preying, hungry eyes which lurked there. There was no one watching her here, only the sun with its benevolent, sheltered gaze. The wind toyed with her, and the flowers of the plain brushed against her hand, a friendly, familiar touch. The scars on her left hand were almost gone, the only trace of an event that was a dull, nearly-forgotten memory. She was so much happier now. Opening her eyes, she watched the setting sun disappear behind the hills, giving out one last moment of light before giving over to the night. She started heading back towards her cottage. A sense of liberation washed over her as she broke into self-indulgent laughter, realizing she’d finally found peace.
Expressions about accepting loss and living in monotony inspired by Shashwat Bulusu's Winter Winter.
SHADOW by Vinita Agrawal
In the cold of your shadow
I feel the spasms of an ebbing life
the slow evaporation
of marrow from bones,
from the joints of togetherness.
Yesterday's grains lie bare and husked
winnowed in the winds, scattered like paper dots
My body presses upon your shadow
measures its grey length with sighs
It folds and unfolds upon itself
an origami creasing of existence
This shadow doesn't shorten at noon
nor does it lengthen at dusk
It grows in circles
like ripples of water
when hit by a stone
when shaken to the core.
MAKING MELANCHOLY SING by Ipshita Sur
The silhouettes of the bed
still fresh as dew drops on a sleek leaf.
My feet crouching, too let loose.
It's morning! It's morning again.
The morning accompanies the sunny glow
a new beginning - as said.
To me, it's the same.
The sane dissent into same.
My life's not seasonal, it's Antarctic winter -
where beams don't peak
and melancholy sings.
Memory fondles my mind
to a lane not usually taken
where a little miss runs on the snow.
She enjoys her small steps
as she plows her way
and lets the flakes touch her rosy cheeks.
Where is that little miss?
Miss, you are missed.
Now when you are gone
or might be trapped in a treasure box
on an island, the city won't guide to.
The city, its office,
with tall buildings and high expectations.
Just then, my alarm rings again
and I get out of bed with guilt.
I buried that little miss
And the comfy sun will never touch me again
It's always dark Antarctic winter here.
LUMINESQUE by Sujash Purna
the dead red leaves,
you ask me
to do this
a child inside
find out I can
these wings grow
around the dead
an obvious abductee
be like his wife
asks me why
death when I needed
in the midst of
asking to be let go
You see, my Love,
make our wings
our fingers tiptoe
fall .This tinkering
plunge of loud
what makes me so
in the midst of such
I reply in some
There’s another way
they tell me, leaving
a room with no
they don’t want me
you can see
someday. So they tiptoe
red drops, another
height they never
could brave someday
why I never grew to
I never learned about
hiding behind a silent altar
Here I am now
to take them away
around the dead
to some plastic
SISYPHUS by Sumyrah Khan
An involuntary mistake made
LOOP by Amarabati Bhattacharyya
i've been living
the exact same day for many many years
as if i’m stuck in an absurdist time loop
opening my eyes to 2pm sunlight
i begin with a fight
i must i must change my life
ending with one solitary compromise
tomorrow again i'll try
i've been suffering
with as they say
extreme existential dread
i'm only twenty plus three
but the pointlessness of life absorbs me
and i am entirely aware
before you struggle to remind me
that besides me all of humanity
for an answer - unreceived
AN INTERPRETATION OF WORDS IN WINTER WINTER by Doyel Chawla
Winter Winter: your facade to hide the autumn that went by
Why I love: a thought you can never find answers to
Maybe time I wasn't done: an everlasting feeling
Wonder how love we're waiting for: you hoped once
This day: your scream that hasn't been let out yet
& as this slow oboe goes about its odyssey in this porcelain Winterland: you go back to the fall to find answers
You twist: realisation confuses you
You rise: for once you think there is hope again
You fall: you are falling again
Winter winter is a long haul: you let out the scream
Expressions about coming-of-age and healing inspired by this playlist curated by A Humming Heart,
PANACEA by Mehuly Chakraborthy
You paint autumn,
In your tattered oeuvre, bruised and thin,
Sketching a broken silhouette with wearied pens,
Dwindling like dead lines in brittle folios,
Or perhaps, a dimming poet that once
Etched songs under grey banyan trees.
You tell me that
Blending soft pastels in dusk, heals.
That the little thorns that you bred,
Are now dried mulberry roses,
Shedding old novels, vintage and raw.
That you’re a renaissance of
Everything good, subtle.
Knitting slow proses of ephemeral quietude,
You remind me of round towering stairways,
That reside in yellowed terraces of wrinkled Calcutta lanes;
Dignified like the summer of old schooldays,
Of the first love note, that was wrapped in
A little bow, blooming with small poetries of innocence.
I’d then ask you to define, the sad papery stroke
That you keep marking, in different palettes,
Melding them with your fingertips, burnt…pained.
The one you do when your mother hugs you tight,
On rainy days, talking about honey cakes and crinkled diaries.
And like dawn, brimming amidst souls misplaced,
I'd know that you’ve re-read yourself,
The way you wanted,
Amidst azure tinted windowpanes,
Stitching the cracks with rainbow threads and Wordsworth,
Breathing and pausing like a tale that lasted good -
Knowing to exist, needlessly.
PEEKABOO by Shombuddha Majumdar
a quilt of dark grey clouds
the sun plays peekaboo
squeal, giggle, and shout
it's too cold for us
to be playing like little kids
neighbours looking in
LET ME KNOW BY TOMORROW IF POSSIBLE by Rajat Kindangan
melancholy words dancing to restful tunes
take me back to our nostalgic noons
when you'd serenade me
with your wistful melody
gently bringing forth longings
of nervous highs of adolescent love
and grounding wisdom from up above
and they all seem new to me
and they all still ring true to me
MY INNER SELF IS A PLANT by Ria Chauhan
How does a plant grow?
It sits on a window still
wishing for sunlight
getting none, sometimes some.
How does a plant grow?
By showing its best leaves for you
to know that you are alive today -
blood in your veins,
sunshine in your face.
And so you keep your worries aside
as you water the soil and trim the sides.
You step out to get it some sun
even when you don't have it enough.
How does a plant grow?
When you care for it even when
your own 'good days' are few
and it sits on a window still
POWER NAP by Stuti Sareen
aerial view of a street walked in
sudden focus on the snowman in Nyon
one knee buried in snow
on aimless walks around town
wishing to touch the spread of glitter
across the distant hill
as she stares at it from the parallel top
careless dips in the frozen green lake
as she focuses on the feeling of winter sun on her skin
climbing forbidden brick walls to empty her spray cans
as she continues roaming the empty streets at 3am
the sound of her alarm every morning
which is still mine now to remind
of that playful spirit
the confident walks
and thoughtless talks
When did I stop being free?
SKIN by Ishani Sengupta
it took a while
to get used to my strangeness
late summer blooms
and muted August light
while I drowned in rain
walking in Kandyland
maybe it was the bluegrass
or that dinner with wine
that I found I liked my skin
love may be the blue shift
but far beyond your blues now
how am I to explain
that I keep finding my own in me
not a flower child
but a forest girl
with purple leaves fluttering
on my city tabletop
Expressions about nostalgia and daydreaming inspired by this cloud doodle by Rohini Kejriwal.
LOOKING AT CLOUDS by Elizabeth Hasan
I have looked at clouds
from various windows,
rooms, hallways, and cities -
but none were as interesting
as what I used to see
from that classroom
hiding behind the trees.
We sat on the third floor
while the clouds hid
along the window grills,
playing peek-a-boo was their favorite, and
daydreaming was my thrill.
They were like water -
took the shape of my mind’s
fantasy, until the science teacher
bonked me on the head
and scolded, ‘They are made of water,
If they are made of water,
then tell me -
why, on gray-colored afternoons
they look like my grandma?
And why, on honey-colored evenings
the clouds look like samosa?
Why do they look like the boy
who ignored me on purpose?
Why do they look like the memories
I forgot cause of life’s rush?
For a long time, the clouds
were black, either passing by
or non-existent; even though
bright shone the blue sky.
For a long time,
clouds lost their meaning
even as I gazed afar.
But these days I can make out
an ice cream or a friend,
and I know
it’s not over yet, so far.
DISGUISE by Kamali Ganpathy
I trembled at the sight of dark cloudy skies but only later I realized they were bles'seal' in disguise
SEAL AWAY by Shreya Jain
i am floating in the sky
for the very first time
spreading my flippers
i don't need a slipper
the air is brushing my whiskers
the clouds make my silhouette
i am looking up and forward
no more baggage to carry around
RECEESSES by Rubica Kler
i see calm
you see an outline
i see hope
you see an eel perched on a cloud
i see a smile
you see a flat line
Disposition is a funny thing.
Where you see the sky
i see the recesses
of my mind.
Day 500: LESSONS, WORKING FROM HOME by Bani Jolly
My tired brain spends another morning sleeping through my alarm. As I rush through my morning ritual, I look up at the blue sky from my balcony and realise that I’ve missed a beautiful rainy morning. I feel a bit, well, blue. So, I decide to cling to one happy memory.
I’m ten years old and lounging on the grass with my two best friends. My hands are tucked behind my head and I’m staring at clouds while my mind is finding shapes where there seem to be none.
I decide to recreate this memory from my balcony. For a while, I see nothing but the blue sky and shapeless clouds. As I continue looking up, the chatter from the past few months begins to fade till I finally spot a playful seal smiling down at me - its silver outline akin to fluffy crochet.
Maybe if I stop being so ‘sky blind’, things might just turn out to be okay.
Breaking up with life by Neharika Gupta
The butterfly sings for you to wake up and dream of movement as pure as it is painful; with silvery inventions which master creation like a statue bursting forth with rain as pencilled-in prophecies erupt like fireworks in twenty-three new memories which are fragile; inquisitive; and hold themselves up against the sun.
Remembering that, the sky is jealous of the happiness of the eclipse – happy as fingertips reaching for the azure mind of the orange sky where shimmering salts give us space to understand its brightness; it is like expecting someone whose drops of laughter dream out loud for you; pirouetting across like dreams.
The flowers cast a shadow of blood and the lantern spins in the mirror while the calcite unites and the paper ball crumples and uncrumples in the soil; as tea bags of salt whitewash the room; the accuracy of the haunting giving way to shreds of thought like broken music dancing before your eyes.
Supposing… just suppose yellow melancholy raindrops in a second flash like ghosts do on reality; and shock us into believing our kisses are numbered – interrupting the love reverie of the owl in beat to the glory and colour of the stain on the landscape; of the inadequate skeletons of porcelain.
Discovery by Ria Chauhan
On the path of discovery
I look for a key.
Dipping into a pool for energy
only to find it replenished
with each touch from me.
How does this work?
Scrounging around, and
puddles keep on growing.
Now, they seem like the
perfect spot for growth.
So, I sit bare-feet.
Maybe answers are buried deep in -
each time I go looking outside
I somehow heal more from within.
And flowers bloom
where doubts once loomed
with each stroke of my hand
my mind eases down.
Don’t pick them it says,
they are just a part of you.
All of the blooms, and thorns too.
Bring some water to the pool instead
and surround yourself.
The answer sits besides you
quietly, as it always has.