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Pooja Agarwal

Pooja Agarwal

Beauty and the Beast

She had grown up being told
that she was a beauty
and that she would be
quite a dish when she grows old
and that she will attract men
like honey attracts flies
and flame, moths.

She had grown up being told
that her dreamy beauty
would get her a prince
swooning over her
as naturally as
a well-guarded treasure
attracts thieves.

She had grown up being told
that beauty would ensure
love, status, and nobility
and that the day she finds
that one man, it would be
the unfolding of her story.

She had grown up being told
that it was all written in heaven
by a golden quill
having a jewelled feather
and that all she had to do
was to wait for that
one prince charming
to carry her off
into the realm of
pink clouds and sweet ether.

And when she grew up
she found him,
she felt that her search was fulfilled
and she eagerly yielded to him
as easily as a chunk of butter
yields to a hot knife's cut

But it wasn't long before she realized
that her prince wasn't so charming
and that he had a fierce temper

And it wasn't long before she realized
that her man was capable of emotions
far more complex than love
and that her pink clouds
were often lined by an eerie green.

And it wasn't long before she realized
that touch could be grotesque
and feeling unclean,
and that her man could get
more violent than rain-storm,
and darker than night.

She wonders today
how come they never told her
that a fairy-tale is incomplete
without a beast.

Red-riding Hood

She was dressed
in a bright glittery red
to mark the occasion

Her face was made up
her eyes mascaraed
and her lips glistened
a bright glittery red

And she sat
in front of the fire
her hands shook nervously
she looked askew tentatively
to the man sitting beside her
as the embers glowed
a bright glittery red

This man was now her husband
a stranger yesterday, a mate today
she would have to
yield, submit, and surrender
her soul, her mind, her body
like a dead animal
surrenders to a butcher
he will prey upon her
like a moose is preyed upon
by the big ferocious wolf
till his touch makes
her body yield
a bright glittery red.


He said he loved her hair ...

he said he loved her hair,
loved its fragrance
when freshly washed
loved the way
it fell upon her face
covering one eye,
loved the way
she weaved white blossoms
into its lustrous length,
and loved the way it fell upon her hips
like a cascading waterfall
when he unclipped them.

He said he loved her hair ...

he said he loved her hair,
he said the dark tresses
contained innumerable secrets
that he wished to discover
like an explorer
deciphering a lost language

He said he loved her hair ...

he said he loved her hair,
he said her hair was like mystery
enchanting him, alluring him
drawing him to her, and teasing him
like an unsolved puzzle
teases a precocious mind

He said he loved her hair ...

he said he loved her hair,
And the other day
when he got mad at her
he held her by the hair
pulled it
till the roots ached,
and called her
a seducing whore.

Sleeping Beauty

Once upon a time . . .
there was a she
who got up every morning
and travelled miles
to earn a good amount
for her family.

And then along came he
he said she needn't work
that it doesn't suit her
that she is born to be
a delicate princess
and not a daily earner
he said all she has to do
is be his totally
and he will provide
her an easy life
marked with comforts

And thus he wooed her
and thus she got wooed
and thus they came together
in an economic union of two

He did provide her and her family
a pay-check every month
that fulfilled all their needs,
and showered upon her
expensive gifts and jewellery

And thus she was transformed
into a princess of sorts
who lavished under his 'love'
while he provided her all comforts

But soon she realized how she has been
merely confined in the name of love
and she yearned to get out once again
to smell that fresh sweet air called freedom

But he stopped her ...
told her it was not to be
that the arrangement had been made
and that she had to play her part happily

He said she could perhaps join a ladies kitty
to get out of the house once in a while
and today, as she dressed up for her
once-a-month sojourn to the local cafe,
she felt as useless as a sleeping beauty.

Snow White

Pure as driven snow
pure as driven snow
wanted a beautiful damsel
who is pure as driven snow

'Bride required for a handsome mba
earning in six figures abroad',
the newspaper ad declared.
'Dowry not required',
it announced graciously
'wanted simply a beautiful damsel
for a handsome young mba'.

A match was fixed,
a lavish celebration followed
she was flown away by him
to that foreign land of tall willows

On a cold sultry december
she alighted the plane
dressed in fur and wool
he took her to his place
and gently took off the layers
of fur, wool, and her
until he reached the core

But after that initial moment
of intimate encounter
he simply turned his back
upon her and lit a cigarette
for he had had discovered in
that one moment
that she was not white enough.


One fine day she was told
that she has been betrothed,
to a handsome man
from faraway land

He will take her away
to a new glittery world
of love, dreams, and hope.
he will sweep her off her feet,
and life will unfold afresh, agleam.

They told her so . . .
told her it was the beginning
of a happily ever-after
and that hitherto life would be
fun, joy, romance, and laughter.

She received their words
as passively as
an earthen goblet receives water
seeping it in, in its every pore.

And when she met him
it was like love at first sight,
she had been it seemed waiting
for someone like him
to walk into her life.

He showered upon her
roses and chocolates,
and there were golden moments
of hurried hugs and stolen kisses.

And then one fine day
with fire and sundry relatives
as witnesses. . .
they were bound in a knot . . .

How precious were those initial months
those moments . . .
of exploration and discovery
a new life,
a new body.

If moments could be defined in colour
those really were a blushing pink
like that of a rose,
and just as fragrant
and just as velvety.

It was much later though
when she discovered the thorns,
but they weren't as sharp
they were dull . . .
moments of indifference
moments of irritation
moments of familiarity.

She thought she could substitute
dull moments with sparkling diamonds
and designer bags that come
with crystal handles

But she was wrong . . .
substitutions don't fill
the lack
they merely cover it up
like a white clean bandage
covers a gory sore.

And her life became
layers of bandage
until it was
and she was trapped
in her own fairy-tale.



Charanjeet Kaur: Editorial

Bill Ashcroft: In Coversation with Sayan Dey
Shanta Gokhale: In Discussion with Sayan Dey
Shashi Deshpande: In a Chat with Ananya Sarkar

Shikoh Mohsin Mirza: Svetlana Alxievich

Literary Articles
Debabrata Sardar: Tracing the Transition
Manjinder Kaur Wratch: 1984 and Amandeep Sandhu’s Roll of Honour
Manzoor Ahmad Najar: Heemal Nagrai
Pharmenash Ch Marak & Dwijen Sharma: Pastoral Modes in Ruskin Bond
Subhra Roy: Naga Identity through Myth and Magic Realism

Book Reviews
Ananya Sarkar – ‘Before We Visit the Goddess’
Kalyanee Rajan – ‘The Glass Bead Curtain’
Smitha Madanan – ‘The Vegetarian’
Sruti Md – ‘A Symphony of Chance Encounters’
U Atreya Sarma – ‘Syamala Dandakam’

Ambika Ananth – Editorial Note
Anoop Sharma
Debasis Tripathy
Dev Dutt
Ishmeet Kaur Chaudhry
Jibrael Jos
Malavika S Udayan
Malsawmi Jacob
Pooja Agarwal
Sagar Mal Gupta
Sanam Sharma
Tejasvi Saxena
Vihang Naik
Vivek Sharma

U Atreya Sarma – Editorial Musings
Bhanumati Mishra – ‘A Raging Goddess’
Bosco Propócio Afonso: ‘Memories of Margarida’
Enakshi Biswas – ‘The Slap’
Muhammad Faizan Fuzail – ‘The Girl in Hijab’
Shweta Tiwari – ‘An indelible journey’
Shyamasri Maji – ‘The Nettle Leaves’
Sushant Dhar – ‘The Lost Home’
Suyash S – ‘The Crazy Stalker’
Tuhin Harit – ‘The Time Machine’

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