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THE

PER FEC T
DR UG
C H A I T A N Y A S A I N I

P A K S H I P U B L I C A T I O N
First published in papaerback 2018 by Chaitanya Saini

Third edition in 2018 by Chaitanya Saini

ISBN : 978-93-5300-451-4

Copyright © Chaitanya Saini 2018

The rights of Chaitanya Saini to be identified as the author of this work has
been asserted by him in accordance with the copyright, designs and patents
act, 1988.

This book has been self-published by author Chaitanya Saini.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations,


places, events and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination
or as used factiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead,
events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored


in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by
any means without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person
who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to
criminal prosecution and civil claims.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The journey began with one step, but as I progressed it turned into
hundreds. And while I was inside my isolated universe, working on the
storyline, the Cosmic Mind was prepping its beloved celestial children it
would throw my way. They turned this journey from a lonesome trek into
an exciting expedition.
Jacqueline Moon (jwmoon427@gmail.com), my deeply adored
editor. If I could keep her to myself then I would, but that’s unfair to her.
Jackie’s proficiency in grammar and editing skills are exceptional.
Kejal Sarvaiya (sarvaiyakejal@gmail.com), a brilliant photographer
and a great friend. Kejal’s advice has always made its way towards the
betterment of the novel. It is heartwarming to see someone devoting her
personal time towards somebody else’s personal aspiration.
RaeRae (akirajazzilpaglinawan@gmail.com), my knight in shimmering
armor. Rae is my book cover designer. I was glad to finally meet a person
who shared my color perception and always managed to deliver in
stipulated time.
And then there is my cherished Penny, whose delicate hands held
this baby when it was in the embryonic stage and unkown to the outside
world.Her lucid perception and wisdom has made the novel, what it is
today. I am not disclosing her email address, because obviously, I wish to
keep her for myself. ;)
Last but not the least, my parents who has been supporitve of such
unorthodox work accompanied by 2019 Batch of Miranda House, Delhi
University whose zeal has accelerated your serendipitous encounter with
this book.
Table of Contents

1. From Zygote to Embryo 1


2. The Voyage Begins 21
3. Progressing the Path 35
4. Odyssey’s Monotony 55
5. Embryo to Foetus 71
6. Foetus Grows a Penis 89
7. Kismet or Karma? 113
8. The Abysmal Aunt 165
9. Perfect Drug Preparation I 185
10 Perfect Drug Preparation II 209
11. Foetus to Infancy 253
12. Playtime! 279
13. At Zenith 345
14. The Meltdown 379
15. Eluding to Solitude 401
Epilogue 439
Be inwardly humble, outwardly unbendable.

Sri Yukteswar Giri


From Zygote to Embryo
The interviewer appeared stern, and with his grey beard covering
a major portion of his mouth and upper lips completely, it was
hard to speculate on what he was saying. This uncertainty was
accompanied by the fact that Ananya was being interviewed for
the most prestigious college for science in India: St. Stephen’s.
Therefore, his nerves weren’t calm even for one second; there was
too much at stake.
St. Stephen’s was probably the only college that required filling
out a separate form, even after filling out the Delhi University Form,
followed by the rigorous interview process afterwards. Ananya, a
bright student since childhood, came from a conservative family in
Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. His father taught business studies and accounts
in a school.
He’d hoped for his son to follow a similar path and learn from his
enormous pool of knowledge, yet at the same time he had encouraged
him to follow his passion. Mr. Prateek was taken aback when his son
chose science after tenth standard, but his son surprised everyone—
especially his teachers. When he succeeded in school, not only did
Ananya manage to top the class, but he also scored the highest in
physics and chemistry.
But all of that was history now, and in the present he was competing
with countless candidates like him. He was aware of the fact that he had
passed the cut-off just at borderline grades, and he desperately hoped that
this interviewer saw his immense interest in physics.

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It had been just five minutes since the interview had started, and
he was already sweating profusely. The room appeared to be at least
fifteen feet in height, and the ceiling fan rotated at such a pace that
it seemed as if with each rotation it grew more fatigued and weary.
Ananya thought it would be rude if he pulled out his handkerchief
to wipe away his sweat, so he remained motionless, like an andro-
humanoid robot. Ananya, being a confident child, was prepared for
the worst; however, he was not prepared for the fate to come, which
would be even worse than he’d imagined.
There happened to be two interviewers there, and both appeared to
be ingenious in the field of physics. After the formal introductions and
exchange of smiles, the unthinkable happened. While one interviewer
was asking basic questions on physics, the other was scanning the
form that had been filled out by Ananya. Ananya had been unable to
form coherent sentences in English from the beginning, and when the
interviewer pointed out that he had spelled ‘college’ as ‘colledge’, he
stuttered trying to give a plausible explanation. He tried to break the
tension with a pun, but it failed to bring a smile on anybody’s face.
Still, he remained calm, and hoped he still might get a loose delivery
to hit a six.
When he was asked what Coulomb’s Law was, he replied, “It
states that voltage is directly proportional to current, and in the form of
an equation it can be understood as V equals IR, where R is a constant
for resistance.”
The interviewer raised his voice and replied, “I asked for
Coulomb’s Law, not Ohm’s Law!”
Ananya was dumbstruck; he was certain he’d heard “Ohm’s
Law,” and not the other way around, but he was not in the position
or place to argue. He apologized immediately, and replied with the
universal definition of Coulomb’s Law.
The interviewers inferred that the child was getting nervous;
hence, they tried to loosen him up, and asked, “Do you sing?”

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Ananya was still recovering from the severe blow to his self-
confidence he’d just received, and now, here was another punch. He
possessed a deep-throated, husky voice, and was well- acquainted with
the fact that singing wasn’t his forte. For a moment he thought about
rapping instead, but he didn’t want to appear too cool for the school.
For a split second, he even thought he was being mocked, but upon
examining the facial expressions of the professors, he comprehended
that they were just trying to be helpful.
Ananya’s head bowed down for a moment. Then he answered
by lifting his head (but avoiding eye contact), and began singing in a
high-pitched voice, the song All Rise. He stopped abruptly, and said
politely, “I am afraid I can’t—I have never been much of a singer.”
The interviewers then asked, “What are your hobbies, son?”
Ananya stated the most obvious, textbook answer, “reading,
writing, and traveling, sir.”
The interviewers were aware that if a student was sitting in front
of them, he possessed the essential academic skills. But they were
looking for the quintessential X-factor that separated a St. Stephen’s
scholar from the rest. Though their intuitions conveyed that Ananya
was a deserving candidate, their assessments were starting to become
contrary to their assumptions. The interviewer who was primarily
interacting with Ananya said, “Okay, final question. Listen carefully.”
He dropped a pencil from a point in mid-air and said, “Newton’s
third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and
opposite reaction, and since this law is universal, please explain where
the reaction force is acting here.” Ananya took a moment to absorb all
this—the last thing he wanted was to hear something incorrectly again
and reply with something entirely unrelated.
When pause had lingered long enough, the interviewer again
picked up the pencil from the desk, lifted it to the height of his
forehead, and dropped it once more. He said, “Tell me, boy.”

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Ananya’s mind went blank; he just couldn’t think logically.
It was as if the neurons in his brain refused to cooperate. Then he
realized it was better to say something than to stay silent. He said with
a gasp, “I guess I am not qualified enough to know the answer to this
little riddle.” Both the interviewers shared a laugh at that one, and in
response, Ananya reciprocated with a smile.
The interviewers then said, “That will be all.”
Ananya thanked them for their time and left the room with a
meek smile—one that was begging for a seat in this college. When
he’d exited the room, he wiped the sweat from his face and caught
hold of his breath. He was glad that the interview was finally over.
While he was walking in the corridor, his pace was slower than usual
because he was replaying the whole interview again in his head. He
had a hard time digesting the fact that he’d blown it completely,
and he soon realized that he’d literally told them that he wasn’t a
deserving candidate.
The walk through the corridor seemed endless; he just didn’t
want to face his father with such disappointing news. He specifically
remembered the pains his family took—especially his father—to
provide him what he needed so that one day he could be a part of
something bigger than himself. He remembered vividly the countless
tuitions his father had to provide, which had resulted in his late return
many nights. He’d worked with every inch of his body just to gather
enough money to make his son’s college fund adequate. Ananya
could recall how his mother had saved every penny by haggling with
vendors in the vegetable market, just so he could understand the value
of a single rupee, and realize how hard it was to earn a living. His
eyes became moist thinking about all this, and he decided to report a
different version of events to his father.
When Prateek saw Ananya approaching him, his chest swelled
with pride. He was confident in Ananya’s abilities, more than Ananya
was confident in himself. He knew very well that children like Ananya
were rare—they were highly goal-oriented, and regardless of whether

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he got admitted to St. Stephen’s or not, he knew Ananya was going to
make his life a success.
When Ananya was at an arm’s length from his father, Prateek
asked in the way a concerned Indian parent asks—with hope in his
eyes and tenderness in his voice—“How did it go?”
And like a typical student masking his agony behind a fake smile, he
replied, “It went fine, Dad.” But he just couldn’t conjure any exultation in
his voice, and said those words in the most sterile manner. It was as if he
could lie only with his mouth, not with his heart.
Prateek acknowledged his reply and patted his shoulder with his
palm, saying, “Son, it is all right. You did your best.”
Ananya, in his own head, responded, “That is the thing I regret
not doing, Dad.”
During the journey to the metro station, Prateek tried to initiate
a conversation, while Ananya only responded with short phrases and
nods. When they got off the rickshaw, they were suddenly confronted
by a beggar. Ananya held unflinching eye contact with him for
a fraction of a second, as if telling him, “We are in the same boat,
brother, just begging for different things.” Prateek shooed away the
repulsive creature, but Ananya kept looking at him, trying to make
himself feel better by seeing that beggar in pain.
It was Ananya’s nature. If he felt bad, he wanted to make himself
feel worse—worse to the extent that he’d hit rock bottom, and from
there on, the only way to go would be up. He put on his earphones,
started his preset playlist, and closed his eyes.
When the bass hit his eardrums, his mind drifted to his childhood
memories. When other children his age used to worship professional
wrestlers, he would marvel at the work done in the field of physics by
the likes of Marie Curie and J.C. Bose. It all had seemed like a distant
dream, to become a person of that stature, whose degree of influence
rippled through generations. He could go to any other mediocre
college and graduate with a degree in honors-level physics, but if there

5
was one thing he detested in life, it was mediocrity. His gaze shifted to
the dashboard, which displayed that the next stop was Malviya Nagar.
He woke his father from his semi-slumber and they made their way
towards his aunt’s home.
Ananya’s aunt Pallavi was Prateek’s sister. She was a person
of benign disposition; having been blessed by three wonderful and
charming daughters, she couldn’t have asked for more—except
perhaps a son, too, but public opinion had been divided on that subject.
Pallavi’s three daughters had nicknames such as “Chinki,” who was
the eldest at age twelve, “Minki,” in the middle, age nine, and the
youngest devil, “Guddu,” who was five. Ananya sometimes wondered
what had made Aunt Pallavi break the rhythm. She was going well
with Chinki and Minki; couldn’t she have gone with Rinki, Dimpy,
or even Kinky? Guddu kind of destroyed the pattern, and in a literal
sense, too. If both Minki and Chinki were the angels Afriel and Ariel,
then Guddu was Beelzebub. Her only weakness was chocolate. If one
possessed chocolate, then that person would receive the merciful side
of the little Satan.
Ananya knew very well that if there was anything that could
cheer him up, it was the smiles on his sisters’ faces. He was the single
child of his parents, and hence festivals like Raksha Bandhan brought
more joy than coming home of Rama or Divine love between Radha
and Krishna. He had purchased a chocolate for the little she-devil, and
knew very well when to use it. Just about the time when both Ananya
and Prateek were about to enter the home, Guddu, who was hiding
behind the curtain of the main gate, surprised them by shrieking at
the top of her lungs. Though almost all of the adults had grown used
to this little routine of hers, they still acted surprised on purpose in
order to see the joy brimming on her face. Few knew that Guddu was
selective about the people whom she frightened, because she did so
only to those she cared about deeply.
When Ananya saw how jubilant Guddu was to see her elder cousin-
brother, Ananya lifted her up in his arms, twisted and turned her like a

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teddy bear, and tickled her until her tummy hurt, waiting to let her go until
the beast begged for mercy. He sat himself down in a chair and placed her
in his lap, and said, “I have got a surprise for you.”
Just like the adults had grown a fondness towards the playfulness
of Guddu, she too had grown used to the idea that whenever an adult
mentioned the word surprise in a statement—especially her cousin-
brother—it most certainly meant chocolate. Still, she acted innocuous
on purpose because she loved to see the joy in the eyes of the person
who witnessed her acting capriciously.
When Ananya took the chocolate out of his pocket, he noticed
how the facial expression of his sister changed from happy to
ecstatic, how her pupils dilated, how her body language changed
from dominant to submissive. Before handing her the chocolate, he
asked her for his reward and shifted his left cheek forward. Guddu,
placed a peck on Ananya’s cheek without any complaint, imparting
some moisture. A similar fate was received by the right cheek as
well. Ananya then brought his forehead to the level of her lips;
Guddu grabbed hold of Ananya’s head with both of her Lilliputian
hands and kissed it with all the godliness in her. Ananya then gave
the treasure for which she had worked so hard. As soon as Guddu
caught hold of the chocolate, she got off Ananya’s lap with a sense
of urgency, as if it were a pan raised to a temperature of a thousand
degrees. Ananya didn’t mind that at all, and was glad to have been
blessed with such a sister. He cherished how the moisture bestowed
by her left a tingling sensation while it evaporated.
He had started feeling a bit better, but true happiness still eluded
him; hence, he waited for his other two sisters to arrive. He was hungry
and in need of affection like a hurt warrior ravaged in the battlefield.
With nothing to do, he decided to have lunch with his aunt and dad.
As usual, feeding Guddu was proving to be a task—and with
her mouth sweetened by chocolate, she refused to let curry soil her
taste buds. Like an ideal mother, Pallavi made it her mission to feed
her daughter, but as the saying goes, one can take a horse to water
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but cannot make him drink. The idiom would have had reached more
masses if it had been constructed in the image of Guddu.
The process of feeding began with narration of flash fiction stories,
which acted as a distraction. For an infant, however, the whole world
around her is the biggest distraction, those words of mystification
barely made an impact. So ensued the threat of slaps, accompanied
by heightening the fear of a ‘boogeyman’ whose sole objective was to
entrap children who didn’t finish their food.
Guddu was stirred only to a certain extent, enabling sporadic
nourishment, but Pallavi wasn’t satisfied with that. She assumed
that Guddu was prolonging the process on purpose, which resulted
in her stuffing a spoonful of curry-smeared rice into Guddu’s mouth.
Whether it was her disdain for curry or a natural gag reflex, Guddu
vomited what she had eaten.
Pallavi didn’t like Guddu’s code of conduct one bit; she felt
embarrassed in front of her brother, and it didn’t help that she was,
as they say, surfing the red tidal wave that week. This resulted in
immediate contact between Pallavi’s flat palm and Guddu’s tender
cheek, and what ensued was pretty obvious. She cried with such force
that she would have woken the dead from their dormancy.
Ananya felt betrayed by his intuition. Just like night followed day
and autumn followed summer, he’d had a hunch that this pretty face,
which was the only reason he had to smile, would have to meet a sad end.
He’d felt a thought lurking in the back of his head that all that happiness
would be neutralized soon. Though he had dismissed that thought before
it germinated from a seed to a tree, it had all been in vain.
Pallavi took Guddu to her room, leaving her lunch behind; she
struggled to keep her quiet by burying Guddu’s head in her bosom. Ananya
was hearing his favorite sister’s voice descending from loud moans to
barely discernable squeaking, which cast his soul into torment.
He decided it was best to focus his mind somewhere else. After
his meal, he headed for the bedroom and buried his head in Crime and

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Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. When he approached the end of
a chapter and the clock hands were in unison at three, he heard two
distinct voices in the background which lifted his spirits instantly. His
other two sisters Chinki and Minki were back from school. He rushed
to the gate to meet them and picked them up simultaneously, sealing
their faces with kisses. Both reciprocated generously and even bit his
cheek while planting the last peck.
Pallavi came running in response to the commotion and asked
them to stay quiet, gesturing on the way because she had achieved the
difficult task of putting Guddu to sleep. The cousins chatted as if they
were meeting after years spent apart, and Ananya seemed to forget his
sorrow in their mesmerizing eyes and the zeal of their voices. Both of
them started dictating their wish list for Raksha Bandhan, but he barely
listened; rather, he marveled at their innocence and incorruptibility.
Ananya excused himself when the conversation began heading
towards his interview, saying, “Little angels, I may have to leave you
two alone, because I have an interview for honors-level chemistry
tomorrow at St. Stephen’s.” The sagacious sisters bade him goodbye
and started with their meal.

Ananya was feeling a bit upbeat, so he proceeded towards opening his


Chemistry NCERT book and let his mind wander amongst reactions
and interactions. Unlike physics, at which he acquired skills with
much effort, chemistry came naturally to him. He was apt at solving
equations in thin air, and deriving compounds from reactants was his
favorite pastime.
Yet chemistry never sparked his curiosity, probably because he
applied little effort and got better results. Though he was fascinated
by how chemicals interacted at the molecular level, and how the
displacement of electrons shaped the whole reaction, it never was
enough to bind his attention the way physics did. Both subjects were

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like two typical women in college that a freshman would come across:
one is easygoing and befriends you quickly, but the possibility of
intercourse with her isn’t exciting; the other is the girl who inflames
the hearts of every kid in town, and has been chased by many before,
but always remains elusive.
Ananya tried to focus on his chemistry textbook, but his mind
refused to cooperate. It flashed a scene from the past to ascertain that he
didn’t need to study. He had been writing his board exam for chemistry
earlier that year, and whenever he’d come across a multiple-choice
question, he had been so tempted to write down both answers along
with a subtext saying, “Check question according to your preference.”
The late Shri Dr. Rajendra Prasad, India’s first president, used to do
that as a child, giving an open challenge to the teacher. He would say,
“You gave me a choice; now I am giving you one in return.”
Ananya’s attention went back and forth, and when his eyes finally
rested on the periodic table, he started wondering how Mendeleev had
arranged them in that particular order. How did Kekulé discover that
benzene was in the shape of a ring at a time when the microscope was
a distant dream? It was enough for him to gather some respect for
chemists, but not enough to be equated with the level of physicists.
The only exception to the rule was Marie Curie, who was awarded the
Nobel Prize in both fields.
Ananya grew tired of this struggle; he closed the book and
went to check up on his little pixie. He entered her room with the
utmost caution, placing his feet with precision upon the floor which
was strewn with toys. He walked in a manner similar to the way a
soldier does on land that has been lain with mines, but the moment
he saw her elegant face dreaming, he accidently stepped on a squeaky
duck. Slowly, he started removing his foot from the squished toy, and
soon realized the sound emitted would have been less repulsive if
he had taken his foot off instantly. Luckily, Guddu was still building
sandcastles in her sleep. Ananya sat on the edge of the bed witnessing
her peaceful breathing. He observed her drool at the edge of her lips

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and a dried curry stain on the other side of her face; he couldn’t stop
himself from picking up a towel nearby to wipe it off. Themoment
he was done, Guddu woke up. She slowly opened her eyes while
yawning with the little mouth of hers. Ananya realized he had done
the unthinkable, so he put a finger to his lips to signal her to stay quiet
with absolute seriousness on his face. Guddu, in return, got up and
returned the gesture with impeccable innocence.
Ananya sniggered watching her mimic him; kids always look for
an opportunity to do crazy stuff. They gained pride in transforming an
elder’s expression from dead-serious to hilarious. Ananya didn’t want
to bring his aunt’s rage on both of them; hence he quietly took Guddu
into the hallway, where his other sisters were watching television.
Guddu bade goodbye to them, which was a cue for Ananya to take her
out for a walk. She locked her fingers in Ananya’s hand and started
heading towards the main door; though it appeared that Ananya was
taking Guddu out for a stroll, the reality was much different.
Both brother and sister were walking down the streets of Malviya
Nagar while witnessing life in the most surreal manner. He enjoyed
looking at aunties bargaining with fruit vendors, while the children
who were with them tried hard to run away from their clutches. He
observed how fanatic Delhi people were about cuisine; in a single
extensive and unbroken view, he could see all varieties of dishes at
once. He bent low near Guddu’s face and asked her, “What do you
think is best here?”Guddu replied by pointing her finger to a lady
dressed in hot pants. Ananya plucked her cheek hard until it became
pomegranate-red, saying, “You are one naughty child.” He felt
ashamed because Guddu might have pointed at that particular woman
in the first place because he had been checking her out quite brazenly.
They had moved a few steps ahead when a cotton candy seller,
ringing his bell so as to make kids conscious of his presence, moved
past them. Guddu started hopping in excitement and words came in
haphazard form from her mouth. Ananya ordered some for her, and
purchased some cotton candy for himself, as well. They both gorged

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on that spun sugar and acquired pink moustaches by the time they
were done with it. They preferred retaining the pink streak on their
upper lips, and started heading home. He did not want to disappoint
his other sisters; hence, he bought some dim sums, noodles, tofu, and,
finally, more dim sums for them.
They soon reached home, and Pallavi scolded Ananya for not
informing either his dad or her that they both had gone outside for
an excursion. Guddu got hold of her brother’s leg and beseeched her
mother, saying, “Please don’t scold Bhaiya, mommy.” Pallavi was
about to respond in her stern tone when Minki and Chinki came in and
snatched the polythene bags containing their edibles. This sublimed
the gravity of the situation. They both went to the kitchen and brought
out food served on plates and in bowls; by that time, Prateek had
woken as well, and everybody started having their evening snack.
Chinki later told Pallavi, “Bhaiya had informed me that he was
taking Guddu out for a walk. Since you were paying reverence towards
deities, he didn’t feel it was appropriate to disturb you then.” Pallavi
hugged her little Buddha with the spatula in one hand, and thanked her
for that vital piece of information.
The rest of the evening passed in the blink of an eye, with Chinki
and Pallavi in the kitchen preparing dinner, Minki and Guddu in
front of television, and Prateek and Ananya buried in newspaper and
chemistry textbook respectively. Ananya smelled the spices from his
bedroom and tried to guess what dish his aunt must be making. He
started working on his reactions and relevant development in the field
of chemistry, when his mind came up with the analogy that cooking
was like chemistry. While forming compounds in a chemistry lab, one
ought to keep items at a particular temperature. Also, substances are
converted from one form to another to create the ultimate by-product.
Finally, the call for dinner came, and Ananya left without any second
thoughts whatsoever.
Everyone sat at the dining table. Ananya’s eyes sparkled with joy
when he saw his favorite sabzi: paneer and mushrooms prepared in

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tomato gravy, justly supplemented by lentils. Guddu was so engrossed
in eating that she required no help from her mother, and everyone
exchanged smiles when they saw her eating with such dedication.
Ananya had just eaten a single chapatti when Pallavi inquired, “I
completely forgot—how did your interview go, Ananya?”
Ananya by now had become saturated with his failure, and he replied,
“It went fine, but not as good as your paneer and mushroom sabzi.”
Everyone cackled upon hearing Ananya’s laconic reply, but soon,
Prateek asked as a concerned father, “But what happened? It is unlike
you to screw up an interview.” “It is not like that, Dad. I did answer
some questions correctly, but I expected better from myself.”
Prateek encouraged his son by saying, “Don’t worry, boy, you
have one more opportunity at the chemistry interview tomorrow.”
Ananya nodded his head in affirmation and completed rest of the
sentence in his head: “Everybody knows how many physicists the
world remembers compared to the number of chemists.”
Pallavi interrupted Ananya’s thought flow by saying, “You should
try your best to get into St. Stephen’s; there is a distant relative of
mine whose son graduated this year in honors-level physics and got a
whopping package of over ten lacs.”
That was it. That was the final nail in the coffin. The pain that
filled the vessel to the brim overflowed after listening to those words.
His stomach turned like a knot and refused to cooperate with the
incoming food. He replied with moist eyes, “I shall try my best, Aunt.”
Ananya’s mind went into a conundrum like before and started
questioning the reality of things. Why do parents never understand that
comparing children is a bad idea in the first place, Ananya thought.
If they thought that it served as motivation then they were gravely
wrong. If they think it serves as a push, then I’m sorry, but you don’t
push a person who is already on his knees and wounded.
Just like no two snowflakes are alike, Ananya wondered, how
could they expect both to bloom the same way? The food became

13
tasteless and he couldn’t eat anymore. He gulped down his sorrow,
thanked his aunt for the dinner with a smile on his face—like a
McCain simile, burning inside while getting deep fried. He apologized
for leaving the food, explaining that he had to study late at night, and
it was hard to study with a full stomach.
Ananya went to the room that was given temporarily to him by his
aunt, but his loneliness didn’t leave him. He felt sick to his stomach,
and ultimately went to the bathroom and puked what he had eaten. He
had some water and lay on the bed. While watching the fan rotate, his
mind again went back in time to the interview—and specifically to
the question asked to him in the end. Just like consciousness appears
at the crown chakra, and a drop of water from the sky, journeying
miles, drops on a leaf, the answer appeared in his mind. It seemed only
natural: if we understand pencil and earth as a combined system of
mass, then, since Earth is massive, their collective center of mass lies
inside the earth, and the gravitational pull acts on both. But since the
pencil is lightweight, it appears to fall, while on the other hand, upon
the massive earth, there is barely any effect.
He sat on the edge of the bed and buried his face in his hands.
His upbeat mood just took a U-turn, and he couldn’t do anything about
it. Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder and arose to see who was
there. There was Chinki standing in front of him, holding custard in
her hands. She wasn’t intimidated by him; she noticed her brother’s
bloodshot eyes and did what she was best at doing: showering people
with compassion. She sat beside him and raised a spoonful of custard
towards Ananya’s mouth.
Ananya, like a two-year-old child, moved his face to another
side, but when Chinki said, “Bhaiya, please, for me,” he moved his
face towards her and opened his mouth. The moment that cold custard
made contact with his tongue, tears rolled from his eyes. Chinki took
a handkerchief from her pocket and wiped off her elder brother’s eyes,
and fed him one more spoonful of custard. He gulped it one go and
asked for more, and she fed him again. She consoled him, saying, “I

14
am going to pray tomorrow for your success, Bhaiya.” Upon hearing
his sister’s wise words, he smiled his broadest; seeing her brother
smile genuinely, moisture was summoned into Chinki’s left eye. She
caught hold of her brother’s hand and pointed to her rakhi amongst the
others, and said, “I tied this for a reason. Don’t let me down—you are
my strength, not my weakness.”
Ananya kissed Chinki’s forehead and said, “Don’t worry, dear.
I shan’t disappoint you.” He took the custard tray from her hand and
said, “Now go, your brother has got work to do.” Chinki got up from
his bed, wished him all the best, and left.
Ananya summoned his strength and decided it was enough with the
whining. The damage had been done. He didn’t want to sugarcoat the
reality—he knew honors-level physics was no longer an option, and guilt
wasn’t going to serve any purpose. It was only going to hold him back.
Honors-level chemistry was his last chance to beat mediocrity, and he
didn’t want to leave any stone unturned for the same.
He revised the whole syllabus from head to toe and made sure
he didn’t leave room for any doubt. When he was done, the clock
was showing 1:30 a.m., and he thought it was wise to give his body
some necessary rest. He hoped his ears would back him this time as he
turned off the lights. Ananya played Om Mani Padme Hum on loop on
his phone and covered himself with the blanket. He tried sleeping, but
the excitement of tomorrow kept him awake. He twisted and turned,
but sleep remained distant from him. He knew that if he didn’t sleep
properly, things might go awry the following morning, and finally he
had to do what he detested doing at that point. In order to bring down
his energy level and calm his mind, he had to jerk himself off to be
able to sleep.
Ananya woke up in the morning with resolve in his heart that
today he was going to unleash himself. He was going to showcase
the gem he truly was. He entered the shower and began washing off
all the malice with a single thought reverberating in his mind, which
screamed, “No more holding back.”
15
After bathing, Ananya performed his ritual of fiercely staring in
the mirror and having a telepathic conversation with his reflection.
When he got out of his room, he was surprised to see his father ready;
perhaps it was an important day for Prateek as well. They swiftly
had breakfast, and before leaving, he prayed in front of the temple,
requesting, “God, please don’t pour lava from the sky today. The rest
I can handle.”
Prateek and Ananya entered the metro but instead of putting on his
earphones, Ananya closed his eyes and began focusing on the power of his
ear drums. He could make out distinctly what two girls who were sitting
in front of him were whispering, and could also listen comfortably to what
some boys were commenting on near the edge of his seat. Looking at
them and the content of both, he regretted listening.
They got out of the university metro station, and Ananya’s eyes
crossed the same beggar, but a different thought emerged instead. He
wasn’t going to beg; rather, he would acquire what was truly his. They
boarded a rickshaw and noticed that, like them, several parent and offspring
combinations were heading to their own destinations. A lot of students
had their heads buried in course books, but Ananya had a better option.
He put on his earphones and started playing Lose Yourself by Eminem on
loop, and no sooner had he reached the end of the song twice that they
reached the gate of St. Stephen’s. As they entered the gate, Ananya felt
a surge of energy in his being, and proceeded to walk towards the door
through which the road to his future was going to be decided.
He touched his father’s feet, sought his blessings, and went to the
designated spot where he was asked to sit by the counselor. He waited
patiently for the interviewers and sat on the cold steel bench with his
palms joined together in the form of namaste, which rubbed the tip
of his fingers on his lower lip. It was like how the Joker waited for
Batman for the ultimate showdown.
Ananya’s mind was growing restless, wondering when he would
get the opportunity to go inside and prove his mettle. He laughed when
he noticed that sunrays showered through the windows in the usual

16
merciless manner, deducing that the Universe was far too impersonal
to care about the happiness or misery of flesh and blood creatures on
upon this big ball of dirt. His radical mindset was one of the prime
things he was proud of; he knew very well there was little to no reason
to be afraid of God, when we ourselves were composed of the same
vital force. The only possible emotion was of admiration for allowing
humans to journey with such an awe-inspiring vessel.
His philosophical thoughts were broken when he heard his name
called out. He saw the previous candidate walking out of the interview
room, and was glad to see his dejected face, but now it was his turn to
face the consequences.
Ananya walked right in and was pleased to note that the ceiling fan
rotated with more intensity than its previous counterpart. He wished
his interviewers good morning and stood by the seat until asked to sit
down; he always did that, as it helped to put him on a lower pedestal
and deduce humility upfront.
Ananya introduced himself. “Hi, my name is Ananya. I am from
Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. I recently topped in my school with ninety-
four percent and scored ninety-five in chemistry. My family members
include Mr. Prateek, my father, who is a teacher for secondary classes
in the field of commerce, and my mother is a housewife. I wish to
thank you for the opportunity of letting me appear for a seat in your
esteemed college.”
The interviewers were old in age, somewhere between the age of
Ananya’s grandfather and father. Upon his conventional reply, they
asked, “Why do you want to do honors-level chemistry?”
He paused for a millisecond, reviewed the answer in his head, and
then spoke something else entirely. Ananya said, “Same reason you
are here.” He quickly followed with warmth in his voice, “Molecules
and atoms speak to me in a language that cannot be put into words.
I want people to view chemistry as a subject of curiosity when they
meet me, and with your resources and my abilities, I believe we can
achieve that feat.”
17
The interviewers nodded in approval and began with their usual
round of Q & A. They asked, “What compound is used in cell phone
batteries?”
“Lithium ions are used, sir.”
The interviewer, with a malevolent smile, followed with, “Why?”
Ananya ran the image of the periodic table through the
projector of his mind. He knew that the majority of answers could be
assimilated just by knowing the exact position of the element in the
periodic table. He replied that lithium ions, after losing an electron,
had the innermost shell filled, hence giving them inert stability.
The interviewer seemed somewhat satisfied with the reply, but his
curiosity wasn’t curbed.
He asked Ananya to draw the structure of acetophenone, and Ananya
drew it in a matter of seconds. When interviewer saw the structure, he
smiled, looking at Ananya, and Ananya reflected the smile with similar
intensity. The second interviewer, who was getting overshadowed by his
partner, asked, “Do you know who discovered benzene ring structure?”
Ananya replied like an obedient student, “It was August Kekulé, sir.”
He followed up, “Could you enlighten us about how he came up
with ring structure?”
Ananya took a deep breath. He knew he didn’t know the answer;
he remembered only the part when his teacher was telling the dream
of Kekulé, and he had been lost in his own daydreaming. He replied to
the interviewer, “It was a dream, sir.”
The interviewer nudged further, “Dream being?”
Ananya deployed his wit to save him from repeating the catastrophe.
He said with complete disdain in his voice, “I am having sleepless nights
since I cleared St. Stephen’s cut-off, and you require knowing the dreams
of others—quite ironic.” Both interviewers laughed listening to the
comment of Ananya, and they then proceeded with the interview, asking
an elementary question of chemistry, which Ananya pretended to recall
with difficulty but answered with absolute accuracy.
18
The interviewers then asked a few conversion questions which
happened to be Ananya’s home turf. He practically derived compounds
in the air using his finger. When asked to use pen and paper, he promptly
replied, “They make me slow, sir” While answering conversions, he
even gave alternate pathways to derive the same compound with
added subtext, saying, “If you were bored on a Sunday evening and
felt a bit delirious, you could derive the compounds with such catalyst
and reduction techniques as well”.
Ananya was unstoppable; at one point, the interviewers were
sitting back and just watching him talk with eagerness in his eyes and
fierceness in his voice. After the initial ice was broken, he talked as
if was on a date and wanted to get into lady’s pants at any cost. The
interviewers, after being convinced that in front of them sat a person
of immense caliber and diligence, asked the most obvious question
from the textbook: “What are your hobbies?” At that point they were
more curious to know what Ananya had to say than to analyze him.
Ananya swayed his face to the other side as if asked to talk about
his past relationships, and replied, “I don’t know, sir. I grow interested in
something, get totally wrapped up by its mystery, and when that object of
desire grows monotonous, I ultimately quit it and move on to something
else entirely. For instance, I really liked playing bongos a while ago, but
then I got bored and starting learning to cook. Do you know how much
cooking and chemistry are similar? It’s mind boggling.”
Both interviewers smiled, looking at Ananya with an indication
of satisfaction and upliftment of their mood. Out of formality, they
asked, “Would you like to ask us something?”
Ananya wanted to dance out of joy; he was getting goosebumps
just by sitting there, but he nipped his happiness in the bud, waiting
for an epic closure to this interview. He asked them, “How has your
journey been in St. Stephen’s so far?”
Both interviewers started telling of their experience and expressed
it with intensity. Ananya nodded as if he was listening to a terrific tale
from his grandparents, though in reality, he was simply fabricating
19
compassion. He knew fairly well that if requested to ask a question,
one should definitely ask one, and the nature of the question ought to
be such that it made the other person feel better about his job. When
both were done speaking, Ananya thanked them for their time and
said, “It would be an honor to work under your guidance, sir.”
The interviewer replied, “Honor for you, and amusing for us.”
Ananya’s smile reflected the genuine happiness in his heart upon
hearing this, and he walked out of the room with his chest swelling
with pride and his eyes moist with joy.. His pace reflected confidence
when he arrived in the vision of his father. Prateek could make out
from a distance that his son has proved his caliber. For probably the
first time, Ananya aimed for his father’s chest instead of his feet, so as
to hug him and say everything without uttering a word. Through that
embrace he conveyed, “I shall rise to be a man beyond your wildest
dreams; I shall earn the sort of grandeur that people will address you
by my name.”
His eyes were wet but he didn’t shed a tear, for he didn’t want to
appear feeble in front of his father.
Both of them walked off of the campus, and Ananya looked back
at the college for the last time, speaking with the voice in his head,
“See you soon, pal.” The experience reminded him of a quote he’d
heard about always aiming for the moon, because even if you miss,
you will land amongst the stars.

20
The Voyage Begins
The father and son boarded the metro resembling a pair of joy crackers,
a couple of comedians, who bore an expression that could inspire
happiness in anyone. The joy dripped from their faces like water
dripping from a glacier on a hot summer day. It was so pious, so pure.
The celebration brought bliss for everyone, even for the beggar
who crossed their path on purpose and received some cold cash for his
late night dinner and morning high. Prateek’s phone rang constantly,
and it appeared that everyone from his contacts was calling. Ananya
was glad that in the metro, due to feeble signal strength, the call routine
was interrupted, but Prateek wasn’t the kind of person who could be
defeated so easily by such a minor hiccup. He quickly befriended a
person who also had come to university for his daughter’s admission.
Ananya wanted to bury his face in the ground like an ostrich so as to
save himself from the embarrassment. He wasn’t used to such words of
praise and flattery, especially from his father. He talked to the stranger’s
daughter, but that was mainly to distract his mind from the profuse praise.
The girl had secured admission in Miranda House, commonly referred to
as the sorority of dexterity. He was glad to bid both of them goodbye once
they reached their destination, Malviya Nagar.
They made their way towards home and all Ananya was thinking
about was playing with his human-sized doll. He wanted to pluck
Guddu’s cheek till it turned crimson red, and tickle her till she implored
him to stop. The father-son duo entered the premises and went towards
their respective sisters; Prateek went towards Pallavi in the kitchen,

21
whereas Ananya made his way towards Guddu on the lawn. This sort
of emotional gratification probably ran in the blood, and was inherited
by Ananya with no aberration.
Ananya charged towards Guddu. Hearing her name called in high
pitched voice, Guddu came running to her brother. When Ananya had
come in close proximity to his sister, he lifted her up and orbited her
around him like she was Earth to his sun, only one that pulsated with
life and vitality throughout his entire solar system. He placed her in his
arms and asked about her day, to which Guddu replied in a dramatic
tone, “Just playing and avoiding to get beaten.”
Ananya put her down. He knelt to her height and said, “You know,
your bhaiya had a fabulous day today. He fought with the boogeyman
and beat him.”
Guddu’s face beamed and she replied, “You really did?”
“Yes, my love. He tried his best to escape in the shadows, but
I brought him into the light, punched him to his face, kicked him
in the groin and only left when he promised me he shall never lay
hands on you again.” When Ananya uttered the word ‘hands,’ he
advanced his fingers towards Guddu’s ticklish points, progressing
towards the laughter where she writhed in joy and tried to run away
from him.
Ananya pulled Guddu into his arms once more and asked, “Don’t
you want your surprise?”
Guddu’s pupils dilated as soon she heard those words. She nodded
incessantly until Ananya pointed to his cheek. She lunged forward,
but instead of placing a peck, she licked her brother’s cheek. Ananya,
dumbfounded, wiped his cheek and saw a mischievous smile emerging
on Guddu’s face. He knew this gesture only reflected her deep-seated
affection for him. Hence, he gave the chocolate nonetheless.
Ananya, still dissatisfied with his consolation prize, asked her
for another kiss on his cheek. This time, however, he was watching
her through his peripheral vision, and pulled back as soon as he saw

22
Guddu sticking her tongue out. He gave her the eye—the kind elders
gave to children—but that was ineffective against her. He ultimately
had to make his peace that a peck was a distant dream today. Ananya
took her to the house with Guddu firmly placed in his arms. When he
began ascending the stairs, out of nowhere, he received a kiss on the
cheek that faced Guddu. Now, whether that was a trick from her, so
as to present another cheek to her and then lace it with saliva, or she
wanted to please her elder brother, Ananya didn’t want to know. He
was happy with his singleton kiss.
Pallavi was surprised to find Prateek in the kitchen—apart from
brewing tea and spilling ghee, Prateek’s skill set was limited there.
She straightaway asked, “Need anything, Bhaiya?”
“I shall have tea in a while, but not now.” He paused, and then
said, “You know, Ananya’s interview went pretty well today.”
“Really?”
“Yes! He had that look he gets on his face when he is certain of
his accomplishment.”
Pallavi, knowing her nephew’s ingrained traits, now faced
Prateek with arousing curiosity. She first complimented her brother
for his son’s success and then said, “If that is so, then Ananya shall
stay with us when his college begins.”
Prateek tensed his eyebrows and replied “That is highly
improbable; he shall be staying near the university campus, as his
studies and research might cause him to return at irregular hours.” His
reasoning was built on the timeless principle that nothing should be
taken from the sister once she is married—no form of favor or any sort
of assistance—but he framed the argument by underlying Ananya’s
interest nonetheless.
Pallavi, retorted, “I shall talk to Ananya and see to it.”
Prateek saw that Pallavi hadn’t changed a bit. She saw his family
as part of her family only—an extension, perhaps. His mind, too,
began twirling the thread of time, thinking of when his sister was little;
23
despite being delirious, she’d always had her heart in the right place,
even when her hormones would drive her in the wrong direction.
Pallavi commanded her brother, “Now get out of my way. I have
to prepare a feast on behalf of my nephew’s success.” He wanted to
place a gentle, warm kiss on the forehead of his sister, but realizing
that he had grown too old for that kind of gesture and upon hearing
Ananya and Guddu approaching, he went out of the kitchen.
Ananya had shared the news of his undeniable selection with a
few of his school friends, and felt a distinct satisfaction upon their
sincere congratulation. He waited patiently with a growing sense of
urgency for his other two sisters, and stared at the corrupt clock which
refused to go any faster.
When the needles were in unison at three, the doorbell rang.
Ananya leaped off of the comfortable bean bag to open the door, and
welcomed them as if they were princesses and all the preparation was
being done solely to please them. His upbeat expression was evident;
hence, both asked what the occasion was.
When Ananya refused to speak a word, Pallavi explained to them
that Ananya had aced the interview. Hearing that, they came hopping
from the kitchen and began dancing along to the unpersuasive
background music of an advertisement on the television. They were
joined by their brother, and they held each other’s hands and started
skipping in a circle. Watching her siblings having a celebratory time,
Guddu too jumped off the sofa and tried to join the excitement. When
she was refused entry into the cult of adults, her face elicited an
expression which was to be soon followed by a torrent of tears and
high shrill noise that could crack a wine glass.
Seeing that, all three of them brought her inside in the circle, and
Guddu swiftly transformed her expression from pathetic to ecstatic.
She started screaming at the top of her lungs, thinking the boogeyman
was no more. Hearing the commotion, Pallavi entered the living area
and inquired, “What is happening?”

24
Guddu shrieked “Boogeyman is no more!”
Pallavi, unable to understand her slurry tone with its strong
undercurrent of energy, asked once more, “What?” But now she
noticed a chocolate in one hand of her daughter, which she leaped to
take away. Guddu hid behind her brother as if telling him, “You saved
me from the boogeyman; now save me from the boogeywoman.”
Ananya requested of Pallavi, “Let it be, Aunt.”
Pallavi, with maternal concern in her voice said, “No. She will
lose all her milk teeth before she learns to hold the spoon properly.”
Ananya entreated her, “Please, Bua. This is my day; let it be.”
Pallavi felt helpless. She took Chinki to the kitchen to have her
help with the cooking. Ananya then commented, “For all you know,
Aunt, Minki could become a dentist and save you a lot of money and
Guddu some teeth.” Ananya gave Guddu one more chocolate when
Pallavi had her back turned, and the Satan in infancy didn’t twitch a
muscle to turn her mother back around to see.
On such a short notice, few people could make it, which included
Prateek’s brother, his mother, and his childhood friend, Mr. Karthik.
The guest list fell short in comparison to the extent of cuisine on
the menu. Pallavi had been in the kitchen since Prateek gave her the
news; she didn’t even sit once. She was disappointed, though, that her
husband couldn’t be part of the feast. Though gregarious by nature,
Pallavi’s husband, Rajesh, was a workaholic.
The evening approached, and so did the makeover of the living
area. It became more pleasant in appearance and fragrance every
second, with cousins having fun while cleaning and redecorating it.
Ananya and Minki took full advantage of Guddu’s absorption in the
television and proceeded with agreement. Minki was the most naive
of the three; she was so gullible that if one took her for a stroll and
returned with rocket fuel strapped to her back, she wouldn’t complain.
She could be recruited by the Taliban and she wouldn’t utter a word.
She was like a cow born in human embodiment.
25
Ananya’s nostrils quivered with the risen dust particles floating
along with the spices traveling from the kitchen. He ran towards the
kitchen in a motion similar to Jerry when he smelled the cheese. His
pupils dilated when he saw the kitchen slab full of dishes. His eyes
landed on the starters, and progressed their way upwards. The starters
contained spring rolls, cottage cheese balls, and his most loved dish,
mozzarella gobi koftas with sweet potato raita. He began looking
for the main course, when Minki too made way in his direction and
rested herself on the other side of the door frame. Unbeknownst to
Ananya, Guddu also sneaked from the sofa and began witnessing the
mouthwatering delicacies.
Guddu went hopping in between them and ran towards her
favorite: walnut brownies, which had just been placed there by Chinki,
fresh from the oven. Watching her sprint, Ananya’s mind grew blank—
he couldn’t think how to react. He could only save himself and Minki
as this tornado headed towards the nuclear reactor (which didn’t much
like being disturbed while metamorphosing things). But the collision
happened, leading to a radioactive spill over the slab. Raita progressed
across it with the viscous texture it possessed, dripping with the
glutinous property it was blessed with. Though Guddu had succeeded
in procuring the brownies, she couldn’t execute their journey from her
hand to her mouth. She was straightaway taken to her room and locked
in by Pallavi. Guddu cried for a while, but it soon subsided; maybe she
got tired, or perhaps she’d started feeding on her consolation prize.
The clock struck eight, and the arrival of guests commenced.
The first visitors were Mr. Karthik and his two sons, Ajay and Samay.
After a few moments of contentment, Ananya’s grandmother entered
as well, along with her beloved son, Sanjay, and his wife. The vibe of
the place swiftly shifted from libertinism to totalitarianism because
under the presence of the grand lady, nobody acted mischievous—not
even Guddu.
Ananya immediately leaped for his grandma’s feet and received
her blessings, and she gave him a side-hug to exhibit her innate

26
maternal love. He greeted his uncle and aunt with namaste. Ananya
held little regard for customs and rituals, but wishing namaste and
touching elders’ feet were ingrained in him. He did not do them out
of social convention, but because he knew the purpose behind them.
Namaste, for him meant, “I humbly bow down and acknowledge
the true you, your true self behind the physical framework, and as I
look at you, I see that true you through your eyes and let you see me.”
Touching feet was mainly done to acquire positive energy from the
elders and since people’s major energy outlet was their feet, this trivial
tradition made sense.
Guddu had been freed from her house arrest, and she straightaway
went to Ananya, probably in hopes of some more of those cocoa
derivatives, or maybe she simply wanted to be loved without being
judged. Ananya, unfortunately, was engaged with his grandma,
who had begun with an anecdote which never seemed to reach the
conclusion. His relief came through the starters, which he tasted one by
one. The starters wrapped up and so did the uneventful story. Ananya’s
grandma, out of nowhere, concluded that he should be beware of vile
women, that they entangle simple guys like him in their web of deceit
and lies. Ananya, on the contrary, desired to be with a girl, just like
other youngsters of his age. His proclivity, however, was aimed at
walking beside a girl who was a hotter woman trapped inside a hot
body, a partner in crime, perhaps—someone who could understand his
sordid inclinations.
The dinner ensued, excluding Sanjay’s wife, Reshu, and Pallavi.
The table was bedecked with paneer butter masala, spinach paneer,
vegetable biryani, and last but not the least, Prateek’s favorite, dal
makhani. Everyone began filling their ceramic plates with their choice
of cooked vegetables and waited for the naan, the flatbread utilized
to eat the assorted vegetables on the plate. Prateek relished in having
chutney with dal makhani. He promptly asked, or rather, ordered for
the same, but unfortunately in the rush to prepare all the cuisines,
Pallavi forgot to make it. Being a loving sister, though, she interrupted

27
what she was doing and began plucking the herbs to prepare the
essential condiment.
Within minutes, naans arrived with chutney and salad to
accompany them. Everybody began gorging on the food and didn’t
quit until a significant portion of their tummies were full. Mr. Karthik
broke the deafening silence by congratulating Ananya. Ananya took
a moment to push down the mashed meal first, and then thanked his
uncle. He observed how his sons had their heads bowed—the sort of
expression made when a person felt directionless and wanted to avoid
any form of questioning.
Ananya felt good at how he had been absolved of the mental
strain, the pressure of which they exhibited all symptoms. He even
delighted at the thought that when Mr. Karthik returned home, he
might be quoted as an example in front of his children, and the mere
thought increased Ananya’s appetite for success. Sanjay, who had
been quiet since he’d arrived and generally spoke little, finally uttered,
“It isn’t confirmed yet, right?”
The skeptic continued, “All of this celebration could prove to be
frivolous.”
Ananya didn’t want his father to respond to such a pessimistic
thought, and quickly retorted, “I never leave things to chance, Uncle.”
Prateek supplemented the argument, saying, “I have complete
faith in my son’s intelligence,” and beamed at Sanjay.
Ananya corrected his father so as to put to rest all this disbeliever
talk. He said, “It is not the intelligence, Dad. It is the smartness that
succeeds one in an interview, and smartness isn’t borrowed from
books. It is gained through self-sufficiency and discipline.” He gave
a fierce look to his uncle, forcing him to focus on his food. Sanjay
was very well aware of the fact that Ananya was a bright child, and
questioning his wit and genius was like questioning the characteristic
genome of the entire family.

28
The dinner resumed with a pace slower than before. Ananya’s
grandma ate with much trepidation, and Guddu was being fed by
Ananya, giving Pallavi space and liberty. The dinner was complete
and well-received by the guests, and now it was the turn for the ladies
of the house to eat. Ananya cleaned the dining table and chopped a
few raw vegetables to make the salad appear sufficient. He presented
Pallavi and his aunt with the salad and other essentials that were
missing or exhausted from the table. Both ladies were moved by this
gesture of his, since it said so much with so little.
Pallavi asked Ananya, or rather, dictated to him, “Ananya, you
are going to stay with us after your college begins?” Ananya looked
at Prateek like an innocent lamb looking for direction, and the father
produced a stern gaze in return.
The exchange of glances was interrupted when Pallavi retorted,
“Why are you looking at your father? I asked you, not him.” She
continued further when Ananya took longer to answer. “I already
talked with him. He doesn’t have any objection.”
Ananya sensed it was a trap, sugar-coated with her affection. He
responded congenially, “Aunt, I am myself uncertain how long studies
and research will keep me occupied.”
Pallavi pressed on, saying, “Don’t worry. In your first year, you
won’t have much burden.”
Ananya stared at Guddu and then at his bloated tummy, and
figured out the apt argument. He complied, “All right, Aunt, I shall
stay for the first year, and then I shall have to move out to augment my
course studies.”
Pallavi readily agreed; she got more than she’d bargained for,
but Prateek was a bit flabbergasted with this decision. He tried to
reflect his disapproval but it only got buried in the excitement of the
atmosphere. The happiest of all was Guddu. She couldn’t believe what
she just heard, and she asked Ananya to confirm it in her mellow, yet
inquisitive voice, “Are you going to live with us, Bhaiya?”

29
Ananya simply nodded and Eskimo-kissed his little sister.
Guddu, in response, wrapped her arms around her brother and
hugged him tightly as if he himself was made of cocoa. Soon,
dessert was served, and everyone was preoccupied with curbing the
craving of his or her sweet tooth except Ananya’s grandma, because
she had none. The feast wrapped up quickly and everybody left,
and while others made their way towards their bedrooms, Pallavi
proceeded to the kitchen.

The day eventually arrived when Ananya had to bid goodbye to


his family members and go seek higher studies. On his way to St.
Stephen’s, he became nostalgic and started recalling the life he had
just left behind. He started thinking of his mother, who had filled his
travel bag with all sorts of delicacies—so much that it had required
someone to sit on top of it, so as to be able to zip it properly. He fondly
remembered how she conveyed her profound emotional attachment
through the moisture in her eyes when she departed from him at
railway station.
But what Ananya remembered distinctly was his conversation
with Prateek, on the day before boarding the train. The father looked
straight into his son’s eyes and expressed his anxiety, saying, “You
are not going to stay young forever, son. Go live your dream, but
remember, never confuse your dreams with goals. Enjoyment and
amusement are only relished properly when they are earned, not
purchased. Use your discretion to the best.”
Prateek emphasized those last words, which conveyed the
panic of every Indian parent. Their typical sense of dread arose
from the overprotective clout they formed around their children,
expecting them to learn not just from their mistakes but from
everybody else’s, as well.
Ananya reached the college gate and entered with immense
trepidation. It was the middle of July and monsoon season hadn’t
30
smiled upon Delhi yet. Although the sky was paid a visit by water-
bearing clouds, they left like an unwelcome guest, without showering
the denizens with their blessings. He was sweating, from the heat
outside but even more from the turmoil inside. The reason for his
emotional turbulence was his doubt of whether he would be accepted
in the culture of St. Stephen’s.
He had worn a simple set of garments—black jeans which had
the color reduced from Z-black to graphite, and a V-neck T-shirt of the
milder shade of vermillion. He carried a backpack with essentials such
as a pen, notebook, the prospectus of St. Stephen’s, and his selection
letter, which he loved dearly. That letter was his only strength; it was
all that fueled courage within him.
While walking around the college, he noticed the exuberant
architecture of the campus. He brushed his fingers on the foundation
pillars, which held the esteemed cross in midair. During his interview,
he hadn’t noticed how sophisticatedly the campus was designed and how
spacious the lush gardens were for scholars to interact and invent theories.
The corridors stretched to the furthest extent the eyes could
see, and sometimes diverged into a branch or two. The college was
composed of red bricks, and at the bottom, up to the level of average
human height, the structure had a rock-like exterior. Ananya had his
money bet that behind that rocky facade were more red bricks. Though
the building was composed of this brick-red shade, the stone gave it
the overall appearance of an elegant and refined college, where getting
admission was pure luck unless one was born under the shelter of
Jesus Christ.
The element that captured Ananya’s attention the most was the
enriched lawn in the front. He was drawn towards the gardener who was
dedicatedly absorbed in his work of trimming the bushes despite the
sweltering heat. It didn’t matter to him whether the sun smiled or beamed
out of sheer arrogance; the gardener was lost in his own world. The lawn
pretty much surrounded the college, and deviated into some blind spots
for lovebirds, or into playground areas for the sports society.
31
Ananya was wandering around the campus, looking at pretty
faces and checking out pleasant peaches with prominent clefts, when
his churning stomach and parched throat compelled him to look for
the college cafeteria. He looked at his watch, and there was still time
before his orientation began. He asked a traditionally-robed girl for
directions, the kind who look more downward than straight ahead
while walking. She seemed uninspiring on the surface—not repulsive,
though. But an artist wouldn’t pick her as his muse to stir his dormant
potential from slumber.
For this reason only, Ananya asked her, because he didn’t want
inaccurate directions from the seniors, and prove to be a plaything
to amuse them. But when she spoke, the girl did so with utmost self-
assurance and confidence ingrained in her voice; it would have piqued
the curiosity of anybody. He thanked her and proceeded towards the
café. He was glad that when the route went awry, the aroma of spices
and snacks guided him. The moment he stepped inside, his eyes began
scanning the place for a good seat, and his mind progressed, analyzing
the options of what would stimulate his taste buds while at the same
time giving him a few of the essential nutrients.
Ananya, with his breakfast, sat in a spot which secluded him from
the café, yet at the same time provided an overview of the whole area.
He was glad to see that estrogen was well balanced with testosterone,
and was very much keen to get to know a few females during his time
in college.
He sipped the last droplets of orange juice, stuffed what was left
of his omelet into his mouth, and made his way towards the orientation
hall. Now, whether it was the meal or his comfort level progressing,
he commenced into the crowd and began blending right in. He
could feel an intuition, perhaps, that he would be entertained and
embraced by this crowd. His mind soon transcended from reality and
started fantasizing that the college was like Hogwarts, with precise
geometrical architecture and a rich, abundant garden, where he had
come to learn wizardry with magic potions and spirits.

32
When Ananya reached the auditorium, he was stupefied to
notice that there were hundreds of students like him—probably from
a middle-class background, but certainly in possession of skills and
abilities of a higher order. Ananya walked along the aisle to read
everybody’s faces; some students were involved in indistinct chatter,
while some were excited just to be there, and many of them were
glued to their smartphones. None, however, possessed the passion and
vigor that Ananya owned. He was less excited and more driven by the
curves and turns of this journey. He desired excellence and was ready
to pay any price for it in terms of his hard work.
He sat somewhere on the edge of the fourth row, placed his head
on the back of the seat, and drifted off to a mini-slumber. His nap got
interrupted by the roaring applause generated from the conventional
lamp lighting ceremony, which commemorated the expansion of the
St. Stephen’s family. The orientation had started with the most obvious
note where a speaker, a person in his mid-fifties, announced himself
acoustically, accompanied by a few guests.
The orientation proceeded further with the introduction of
professors and lecturers. Now, this is unusual, Ananya thought. We all
have had to give an introduction of ourselves in our classes from time
immemorial, and now it’s time for some payback.
The lecturers and professors bored the audience more with every
tick of the second hand, and Ananya’s field of vision brimmed slowly
yet steadily. He was lulled into a beautiful, transcendental sleep that
was going be his companion in the near future. In his lucid dreaming
state, Ananya began reminiscing about the most treasured gem of his
memory—the celebration that was brought on the day he returned
from St. Stephen’s upon acing the interview.
He woke up, having missed a major chunk of the ceremony,
and the last segment was taking place. The speaker talked about the
history of St. Stephen’s and the esteemed alumni of the same. Ananya
was astounded to know how this college had played a pivotal role
in intersecting the paths of Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi,
33
Sarojini Naidu, and many more freedom fighters. He was stunned to
realize the number of alumni the college possessed; people like Shashi
Tharoor, Khushwant Singh, and Barkha Dutt were the only faces he
could recognize amongst the hundreds, probably thousands. Ananya
made a pact with himself that day that he too would be identified
among them, and be witnessed as a person of significant importance.
But would that attitude be retained for his studies as well? That was
the question whose answer Ananya himself didn’t know.

34
Progressing the Path
When Ananya came out of the orientation, he felt he could conquer the
world with the palm of his hand. He yearned to leave a legacy, a story
behind him. He desired that years after he was gone, people would
remember him for his wit and his contribution towards science. The
most important thing he wanted to leave was an indelible impression
upon this world, a mark of his identity that would forever reverberate
as his lineage.
He was glad to have met people who shared the similar
interests, but unfortunately, with less intensity. He met many
but retained two: Akshay and Kanika. Ananya was never fond of
gathering a crowd around him; he believed a friend circle ought to
be small, but worthy.
Akshay resided in Faridabad, Uttar Pradesh. He hailed from
a simple middle-class background, and had evident goals in life
which included getting admission in a prestigious college—which
had been achieved. Securing a well-paying job and marrying a
gorgeous girl were the only things left. Akshay had a rectangular
face with a prominent jaw line, and had a pair of eyes that
resembled a gecko’s.
Kanika or more commonly referred to as Kank, hailed from the
same city as Ananya, Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh. She possessed great hair
which curled just at the edge of her shoulder blades. She had eyes that
she never bothered to open fully. Ananya described her as ‘half-baked.’
It was a term of endearment from his side, but Kanika was averse to this
nickname—hence, making him use it more than he should.
35
Ananya and Akshay sat adjacent to each other during the
orientation, and hence two out of the Three Musketeers were already
obtained. While they were on their way towards the subway, they
happened to run into Kanika, who dropped her metro card and
continued to walk like a pretentious mother punishing her stubborn
child. This led to the conglomeration of three students with similar
backgrounds, dissimilar tastes, and poles-apart ambitions.
Their metro journey ensued with the sharing of their interview
experiences. Akshay described his as the most agonizing time of his
life. The hot and humid temperature of the interview room had risen
the moment he’d stepped in, he explained. Also, he’d cursed those
chicken chili potatoes he’d eaten from a street vendor the previous
night, as his stomach had churned like a furnace and the orifice of his
alimentary canal pleaded for release. Both Ananya and Kanika held
their stomach while laughing, and laughed harder when they saw the
pain in the eyes of Akshay while he narrated the story.
Akshay continued, “I somehow managed to hold it, but that
prick wouldn’t end the goddamn interview. Despite me answering all
the questions, he somehow drifted to his experience as a student at
St. Stephen’s. I retraced my anal cavity and prayed to God for this
interview to end.”
By then, Ananya was sitting on the floor with his hand over
his stomach and begging him to stop. Ananya instantly grew an
admiration for this particular characteristic of Akshay. He didn’t mind
being vulnerable, which was so contrary to himself.
When Kanika began talking about her interview, Ananya was
glad that it was devoid of any sort of toilet humor. Kanika’s interview
revealed to him that she nurtured a passion and was blessed with a skill
that blew him totally. When Ananya refused to let go of the idea that
she painted, Kanika was forced to reveal her minimal, yet memorable
artwork through snapshots. Ananya endowed her work with words
of beauty and praise, and didn’t stop until he saw the summoning of
crimson red on her cheeks.

36
Now it was Ananya’s turn to state his interview experience.
He didn’t tell about his initial physics failure, but straightaway
began narrating his chemistry interview apprehensively. Both his
new acquaintances listened to it with enrapt attention. Ananya only
mentioned the highlights of the interview, because he didn’t want
his peers to supplement his ego. He was glad to have befriended
such humble people who were getting accustomed to his nature so
quickly and didn’t mind his occasional outburst of energy. They didn’t
recognize that the energy emerged from his deep-seated need to rise
above all, to be insanely awesome. Ananya, too, never cared to explain
his goal of life because he never let people into his inner circle. Even
his closest relatives and family members stood at the periphery; only
he and his thoughts filled that space.
The musketeers separated at Rajiv Chowk metro station, and
proceeded to their homes, but exchanged phone numbers and made
an unspoken promise to meet before their session started tomorrow.
Ananya made his way towards the lair of his angelic beast, who was
waiting to bite him, or more accurately, to nibble. She wanted to lace
him with her saliva, or rather, drench him with it, and desired the
companionship of her vassal above all.
The moment Ananya stepped inside the house; it seemed to
trigger a response from Guddu. She came running with a tumbler of
cold water and dropped a fraction of it with her unsteady pace. Ananya
took hold of the glass and gulped it down in a flash. He was so rapid
in this activity that sips of water were discernable in his throat, yet he
was still parched. Hence, he went to the kitchen. He ran into Pallavi,
who asked him about his day. Ananya, unlike at other times, was at this
moment quite vocal in expressing his state of mind. He described the
major turns of events, including napping during orientation, making
new friends, and exchanging a glance with head-turners.
Pallavi teased him, “Focus on studies—girls dig intelligence, not
indigence.”

37
Ananya blushed at such a stark comment, and with his head bowed
down, he left the kitchen. On reaching the living area, he exclaimed,
“Aunt, prepare a glass of sweet lemonade for me.”
Guddu followed suit and said, “One for me as well, Ma.”
Guddu, out of habit, asked for her surprise, to which Ananya had
no reply this time. Ananya had not purchased any chocolate. However,
it wasn’t in his ability to say no to her. Ananya breathed a sigh of relief
when he was able to distract Guddu with her cartoon companions.
That breath was only ephemeral, though, because as soon as Pallavi
arrived, even before handing Ananya the tumbler, she switched off the
television and scolded Guddu for staring at the screen since morning.
Hence, Guddu rebounded to her earlier state and began inspecting
Ananya’s pockets for any sort of protrusion.
Ananya had to confess that he didn’t bring any chocolate because
the hot temperature would have turned a chocolate slab into a chocolate
paste, but Guddu was in no mood to listen. She even didn’t notice her
tumbler filled with sweet lemonade and droplets of condensed water
vapor around it, which she liked playing with.
Ananya sensed the edge of the cliff upon which Guddu was
standing. He had seen how drastically her expression could change,
resulting in bringing Pallavi to action. He gulped down the chilled
lemonade similarly to the way he’d drunk the water earlier. Afflicted
with brain freeze, he proceeded towards Guddu’s room, announcing
that he was going to play with her dollhouse, but in reality, he just
wanted to avert a catastrophe.
Hearing that, Guddu came running towards her dollhouse. She
completely forgot about the chocolate, and snatched her Barbie from her
brother’s hand. She spoke with an air of patronization, “This is how you
comb Barbie’s hair.” Ananya, like a pup, listened mutely and nodded.
Guddu asked Ananya to look away, to which Ananya asked why,
resulting in Guddu making a face like she was talking to a wall. She
retorted, “I have to change the clothes of Hermione.” Ananya, hearing

38
the name of her doll for the first time, formed a quick question in his
head but he saved it for later.
Ananya was staring at a wall and regretting why he had used this
as a distraction. He asked, “Can I look now?”
“Wait.”
Five minutes passed. Ananya asked with exasperation, “How
about now?”
Guddu snapped, “Would you wait!”
Ten minutes passed, and Ananya lost the hope of getting his
name called. He rested his head on the wall and began slipping into
a mini-slumber. Guddu tapped on her brother’s shoulder to signal
that she was done. Ananya looked at the doll and was stupefied
to notice that Guddu’s sense of color and composition was way
beyond her years. She had tied Barbie’s hair in an elaborate crown
braid with precise pleats which gave her the look of a princess, and
the dress without an iota of doubt, was magnificent. He felt proud
that one more family member shared the gene for aesthetically
pleasant things.
Ananya asked the question that he had pinned in his head. “Where
is Ron?”
“Ron who?”
Ananya expounded, “He is the boyfriend of Hermione, and future
husband as well.”
Guddu shrugged her shoulders as if she’d just heard the name for
the first time. Upon noticing such aloofness from her, he asked “How
did you come up with name ‘Hermione?’”
Guddu went to another corner of her room. She picked up a book
on Greek mythology and handed it to her brother. Ananya first scanned
the cover and then looked at Guddu in utter astonishment. Ananya
flipped through the book and discovered the reason for Guddu’s
fondness. It contained a picturesque description of Greek gods—and

39
Hermione, being the daughter of Menelaus and Helen, had a whole
chapter dedicated to her, eventuating her name as the heading.
But what surprised Ananya was that Guddu just knew the basic
alphabet; how could she read and pronounce Hermione so distinctly?
It puzzled him greatly. Guddu took hold of the book, flicked through
the pages, and showed him the words that intrigued her. He helped
her read words like Zeus and Poseidon, whose pronunciation was
instantly internalized by Guddu.
Ananya kept her occupied until the time his other two sisters
arrived. The moment Guddu heard her sisters come in, she skedaddled
towards them, relieving Ananya of the responsibility. Guddu knew
fairly well that her sisters would certainly watch television, and she
wouldn’t miss that opportune moment for anything.
Ananya interacted with Chinki and Minki, and listened to the
unadulterated rendition of theirs with rapt attention. He noticed how
Chinki’s eyes grew bright whenever she talked of arts and crafts, and
how Minki magically filled with life whenever she talked of science.
He could assess his sisters’ interests, but didn’t feel like mentioning
them to Pallavi, for the fear of jinxing them. Ananya’s eyelids were
beginning to overlap, and noticing Minki yawning boosted his
intention for an evening nap.
Ananya entered the room, switched on the AC, wrapped himself
in the blanket and let go of his restrained horses to fantasia. He woke
up at half-past six, and after an enormous yawn, progressed towards
the living area. He was astonished to see his sisters still there, but
was relieved to know that they too had slept and given themselves
a break from frying their brain cells. When his weariness refused to
depart, he proceeded towards the kitchen. Since Pallavi was busy, he
started preparing tea by himself, but the queen of the kitchen noticed
this through the corner of her eye. She poured in some cardamom and
ginger and directed him to add more milk.
Pallavi asked Ananya to go outside, and said, “See if Guddu is
sitting too close to the television.”
40
Ananya picked Guddu and brought her to a more comfortable
distance from the screen; though she resisted, he persisted and
triumphed. Meanwhile, Pallavi arrived. The instant she put down the
tray, she picked up the remote and began flicking through channels for
her daily soap series. The troublesome trio knew very well how fond
their mother was for the seven o’clock show, which caused them to
proceed to their rooms and do their homework, except Guddu, who
had no homework whatsoever.
Guddu just needed a distraction for her overactive mind. She picked
up a cookie and began nibbling on it like it was the last cookie on this
planet; in the pursuit of it she dropped some crumbs on the sofa. Ananya
didn’t want to bother his aunt with such a minute mistake, and hence he
saved Guddu’s ass once more by picking up those tiny morsels.
After finishing the hot beverage, Ananya retired to his room and
spent his time revising chemistry notes so as to appear precocious in front
of his peers, while texting his newly formed friends—Kanika in particular.
Kanika was enrolled in honors-level economics, whereas Akshay and
Ananya were enrolled in chemistry. Hence, they talked about everything
except their studies, though they still would have talked about everything
except studies even if they had been in the same course.
They both confessed that they were excited for tomorrow. Ananya
excitedly asked Kanika “What color shall I wear tomorrow?”
Kanika, with a little deliberation, replied, “White.”
“Why white?”
“Because it signifies immaculateness of character; plus, no
one would wear white and it would go along with your name which
unmistakably states, ‘unique; unlike anybody.”
Ananya, in return, replied with a series of emoticons to convey his
deeply-felt gratitude, and bade her bye since it was time for dinner. He
ended the conversation with a promise to meet tomorrow before their
session started. Dinner progressed with pulses and lady fingers, and ended
with cream custard. Ananya liked his slightly inflated tummy and caressed
41
it slightly, but made sure nobody looked at him. He then advanced to his
room and began preparing for tomorrow. He ironed his clothes, which
included a white T-shirt and indigo-blue colored jeans. He even shaved, in
order to really personify the meaning of immaculate.
Ananya woke up abruptly, due to the unforeseen transformation
of his fanciful dream to a nightmare. When he saw his wristwatch,
he rushed through his morning cleansing ritual and donned the white
and blue combination. He sprayed on some deodorant and proceeded
towards the living area.
Guddu was having her breakfast, but due to shortage of time, Ananya
had to skip the appetizing meal. He had just opened the main door when
Guddu screamed his name. He turned back and asked, “What?”
To this, Guddu simply pointed to her cheek. He came back and
placed a peck followed by a long lick as a way of giving her a taste
of her own medicine; then he darted through the door. Guddu wiped
her cheek, but didn’t run after him because she knew that the gazelle
would come to the tigress eventually.
Ananya was glad to meet Akshay in the metro itself. Kanika,
on the other hand, didn’t respond. Her phone was unreachable, and
two ticks devoid of blue shade over his messages boiled his blood.
He wasn’t attracted to Kanika, but something about her personality
aroused his curiosity. There was a hint of sadness in her eyes perhaps,
or probably it was her way of expressing her emotions through art.
Both reached the college within just minutes of nine a.m. Ananya
inquired “Did you talk to Kank?”
“Yeah! She said she has her class at nine, and she will catch us later.”
Ananya inwardly cursed himself, and took Akshay to the café
in the desperate and despondent hope of meeting some beauty with
brains. When he reached the cafeteria, he expected a typical Bollywood
movie setting, where he would have a seat readily available, and
through the corner of his eye would check out women. The reality was
starkly different.

42
The rush inside the café was massive. All the wicker chairs were
occupied, and some friendly people sat at the table which was at the
level of those chairs. Akshay and Ananya both moved stealthily in
fear that someone might push a plate of food against their clothes—
especially Ananya, who wore that dazzling white T-shirt as if he were
starring in some subliminal advertising for a detergent.
Akshay bought soup and Ananya an omelet and lemonade, and
both proceeded towards the garden in expectation of some relief and
fresh air. Ananya began gorging on his half-cooked omelet. While
sipping the lemonade, he reviewed the day in his head. It had started
on the wrong foot, but it would proceed according to his will now.
He gulped down the last chunk of omelet and drank the lemonade.
He watched Akshay who, for no reason had purchased soup in this
evident oven-like weather. Ananya laughed diabolically in his head
when he noticed Akshay blowing over the soup and sipping it like
it was some fine wine, and noticed how his large eyes became even
larger every time he took a sip, because each time he did, his spirit
animal transitioned from gecko to owl.
Ananya, unable to contain himself, inquired, “Why did you
purchase soup, for Christ’s sake?”
Akshay paused for the hot tomato gravy to go down, and spoke
with utter disappointment, “I didn’t order soup, bro.”
“What?”
“Yeah! I told that nincompoop to give me a butterscotch ice
cream scoop.”
Ananya laughed pretty hard—not like the last time, but just a
tiny bit diluted. He took the soup from Akshay’s hand, threw it in the
garbage, and spoke with that innate air of self-assurance, “No need to
punish yourself. Come on! Let us proceed to our lecture room.”
They began making their way towards the lecture room. Ananya
was focused to the extent that he saw nothing besides the hallway
receding when he progressed forward. The duo entered the classroom.

43
They weren’t surprised to notice that it had an historic aura. The
room had a decent height of at least ten feet, and the windows were
quite appropriate for ventilation. The desks and chairs, which filled
the entire room were going to be inherited to them by the seniors.
They were completely made out of wood, not like today’s desks
which are made of steel and then superficially coated with cheap
plywood or fiberboard. Those seats possessed character, had a story
to tell of their endless journey at St. Stephen’s. Ananya glided his
fingers across the desks as he proceeded towards the back of the
room, and stopped the moment he sensed that the wood resonated
with his frequency.
“We are going to sit here. Don’t worry, the classes are going to
change periodically.”
“Yeah, bro!Seems good to me.”
They sat at the bench and slowly the class began to fill. Soon
the most awaited person—the lecturer, Mr. Kumar, arrived. He was a
person in his early fifties with spectacles resting at the lower edge of
his nose, accompanied by an unkempt beard. He seemed salubrious as
he welcomed the students that were late, and shared the fact that he
would be teaching physical chemistry.
Mr. Kumar began with the obvious approach to break the ice:
an introduction from students. Ananya had grown weary of this
tiresome routine, and wanted to do it a bit differently this time.
He first observed how everybody stated their name, their school,
their place of origin, and unnecessary info that even they wouldn’t
remember telling in the first place. He noticed, too, that this batch
was endowed with some pretty faces, and hopefully not afflicted
with petty brains. For Ananya, eroticism meant more on the lines
of intellectual stimulation; perhaps an intellectual erection was
what he desired most deeply. When Mr. Kumar addressed Ananya,
he stood with his air of certitude and self-confidence and spoke
in his languid manner, “Hello, sir, my name is Ananya. I am an
extraordinary cosmic being encased in this casket of a less-ordinary

44
human being, which was created in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh and had
been journeying the galaxy since then.”
The students and professor remained still, as if what they’d
heard was spoken in Klingon. When Ananya presented a smile which
reflected less arrogance and more witticism, his professor replied, “I
haven’t heard such an amusing introduction since… forever.”
The whole class erupted with the laughter they had been holding
in since Ananya spoke, as they didn’t want to offend their professor on
the first day. While Ananya simply beamed at him.
The professor, whose curiosity towards this particular student had
been aroused, asked, “How much do you like physical chemistry?”
“Not much,” replied Ananya with an impassive voice.
“Do not worry, we shall change that.”
The lecture finished with stories and anecdotes from Mr. Kumar.
As they moved out of the classroom and into the hallway, Ananya
was interrupted by a girl with a feeble structure and bones peeking
out at the edges of her body. Though she owned the body of a ten-
year-old boy, she spoke with intensity that more than compensated for
her fragile structure. Her eyes shone with devotion and worship when
she spoke to Ananya, and confessed that his was the most creative
introduction she had heard.
The girl’s name was Ritika, and Ananya quickly sensed that she was
completely mesmerized by him. He made a statement in his usual placid
manner, and she giggled like she was being tickled with a feather. Ananya
then noticed she had two extra incisors, and commented, “You must be
really good with opening beer bottles.” That was it, she began hitting him
playfully with her premature hands, to which Ananya smiled and said, “I
am going to the café, wish to join?”
She beamed like a Red Riding Hood who just saw her grandma’s
house, and began progressing with Ananya and Akshay. This time,
they found a place to sit and the three of them began talking over
coffee. Really, it was two of them talking, while Akshay listened
45
with enrapt attention. Ananya was having a nice time, but he missed
Kanika; hence, he asked, “Where is Kank?”
Akshay said, “She is not responding, bro.”
Ritika then excused herself for the ladies’ washroom and said that
she would meet them in the classroom.
Ananya sipped on his coffee and breathed a sigh of relief when
she left. Akshay perceived that, and inquired, “What happened?” He
looked after her and continued, “I think she was pretty cute.”
“Yeah!Cute for a ten-year-old boy.”
Listening to Ananya’s reply, Akshay chuckled, which soon
transformed into roaring laughter. Ananya then explained to Akshay,
“Bro, she is crazy, but just not my kind of crazy.”
Their next lecture was in inorganic chemistry, which began soon
after Batman & Robin entered. The professor seemed stern, and had
them sit in the front row. The professor’s name was Mr. Mishra, and
seemed full of himself. He didn’t bother asking the students their
names, and just sat in the chair and began conversing as if he were
sitting in a garden amongst his friends. He didn’t teach—just spoke
of the legacies and legends of St. Stephen’s. Everybody laughed in
response, while Ananya, on the other hand, was perturbed by his
insolence and lack of professionalism.
After the lecture, everybody proceeded towards the mess hall
for their budgetary meal. Ananya’s mind was twirling with options
of women he would like to run into, but his heart ached for his
undiscovered partner in crime, longed for the companionship of
Kanika, and craved to make fun of Ritika. They reached the mess
hall just in time, before the queue got any bigger. Ananya was lost in
his thoughts, while Akshay was trying to contact Kanika, but her cell
was switched off. Just then, luckily, they both saw Kanika and she
recognized them by Ananya’s dazzling white T-shirt.
All three of them sat at a table which was spacious enough for
six people, but they couldn’t have cared less; they met as if they were
46
childhood friends. Akshay interacted with Kanika, asking about her
day and everything, but Ananya was quiet. He had his head buried
in his plate and was searching for lentil seeds in his watery pulses,
reflecting his dissatisfaction over her absence earlier.
When Kanika couldn’t take anymore, asked Ananya, “Are you
okay?”
Ananya tersely replied, “Yes!” and continued with his scrounging.
Kanika apologized to him, saying, “I am sorry, yaar. I only came
to know this morning about the timing of my class, and my phone was
already low on battery.”
Ananya wasn’t satisfied with her apology, and began killing
her with silence. Kanika perceived that he considered her a good
friend because he’d followed her fashion advice precisely, although
just a little too brightly. She extended her arm and placed her
palm on Ananya’s, and said, “Sorry,” in the mellowest tone of her
melodious voice. Her warm gesture touched Ananya. He finally
landed a lentil seed on his spoon, sipped his aggression and pulses
down his throat, and looked at Kanika with affection in his eyes.
He replied, “I am not mad at you, I am just trying to figure out a
way to get rid of this girl, Ritika.” It was a reason he formulated in
just enough time.
Kanika, with utter astonishment, asked “Who’s Ritika?”
Akshay explained the whole incident, from Ananya’s introduction
to Ritika’s refusal to leave Ananya, leading to quick outbursts of
laughter from everyone. When Akshay was done with his detailed
description, Kanika flashed a whimsical expression at Ananya.
Ananya bowed his head and blushed, while his friends
couldn’t stop grinning. The trio proceeded to their class after the
meal. Ananya and Akshay sat in the middle row of the classroom,
which was supposed to be for three students, but since they
preferred their comfort above all, they didn’t think twice before
sitting there.

47
The class filled with the usual faces, and everybody began
speculating who would teach them organic chemistry. Then a lady
with an exquisite figure entered. Though her face was not endowed
with chiseled features, her figure was simply marvelous. Every
pore of her body oozed with desire and temptation; her voluptuous
figure dripped with sensuality and carnal pleasures. It was like
God himself went on a vacation to carve that piece of beauty. Her
name was Miss Gauri. She was strict by nature, which only added
fierceness to her charm and charisma. Straightaway, she began
teaching organic.
Ananya laughed to himself, realizing that her name meant
“white.” A smile unconsciously formed at the edge of his lips, thinking
that his favorite subject was being taught by, now, his favorite teacher,
who was organically enhanced in the best possible way. The lecture
ended, which every male in the class regretted, but looked forward to
the next class with even more eagerness.
The Three Musketeers reassembled and Ananya was glad he
wasn’t being followed by his pursuant. Kanika teased him, “Come on!
I want to meet Ritika.”
“Shut up and keep walking,” Ananya said with a facetious, dry
tone.
Both laughed at the misery of Ananya and walked with him. They
reached the metro station, boarded the metro, shared their various
episodes of fun and frolic nature, and bade each other goodbye when
they separated at the interchanging metro station.
Ananya reached his beloved interim home, and the moment he
stepped his foot inside, he was rammed by the wicked one who came
running with her arms wide open. Ananya descended and placed
himself on his knees, welcoming her hug with all the love he could
muster. She hugged him as if Ananya had just returned from war with
all his limbs intact, and whispered, “Bhaiya, I am glad you are back.”

48
Guddu instantly took Ananya to her doll house and handed him
over her ‘Hermione,’ and said, “Today, you groom her.” Ananya was
glad to have been risen to the level that he could hold Guddu’s second
most cherished possession—first being him, of course. Though Ananya
wanted to freshen up, Guddu was just too pretty and loveable to be
ignored. Wearing her emotions on her sleeve, being so vulnerable,
made him want even more to take care of her. No matter how much
one cared about such a child, it was still insignificant compared to the
look in their eyes when they met yours.
Ananya picked up the tiny comb and began running it through
Hermione’s hair, with Guddu breathing down on his neck and making
sure her petite princess was being treated properly.
Ananya started doing what he did best. He separated the Barbie’s
hair into two halves, and began working on one side—or rather, pretended
to work, and directed Guddu to work on the other half. He was glad that
Guddu was definite in making braids. He was able to imitate them in
no time, giving the Barbie a notorious expression with her fabricated
cheekbones and two braids at opposite ends. He gave the doll to Guddu
and said, “Now it is your turn.” Guddu got hold of the doll while Ananya
made his way towards the washroom to relieve himself.
When Ananya returned, he was surprised to find Hermione dressed.
He sat beside Guddu and noticed that she had dressed her in a school dress
with a white shirt above, a miniskirt below with red and black checks.
With those braids, the outfit gave the Barbie the sinfully adorable look of
a Catholic schoolgirl on the verge of breaking her vows. Ananya quickly
interrupted his malevolent thought process and realized he was sitting
with his little sister. He hugged her from the side and placed a kiss on her
head, which appeared to Guddu that he was expressing his gratitude for
her achievement. In reality, however, he was thanking the Universe that
his own little Barbie was far away from all this malice of mind, and would
pay any price to keep her forever like that.
The day ensued with the usual coming of his sisters from school,
Pallavi overworking herself in the kitchen, and Ananya formulating
49
ways to keep himself occupied, while saving Guddu from meeting
an awful fate. He had dinner, which was undoubtedly blessed with
the right proportion of spices, and which filled his tummy but not
the craving of his tongue. He slept with the promise of a better and
brighter day, but fate had something else in store for him.
Ananya made haste towards the metro station, and fortunately
met both Akshay and Kanika in the metro itself. All three of them
reached the college and approached the café with zeal in their eyes
and parchedness in their throats. They got their seats and initiated
their conversation, which was filled with laughter and joy over sweet
lemonade. Ananya had just gotten up to throw away the soiled tumbler
when he was bustled by his fervent devotee.
Ananya returned to the table with Ritika, making him slowly
drown in his seat like he was a candle subjected to intense heat.
Kanika welcomed her warmly and both girls began interacting with
occasional interruption from the masculine end. As Ritika was sitting
close to Ananya, she began exhibiting signs of intimidation by the close
proximity of the opposite sex, especially the one who infused estrogen
into her blood more than usual. While interacting with Ananya, her
eyes drifted to his lips occasionally. She grabbed his bicep frequently
whenever a pun brimmed up in the conversation, and placed her hand
on his arm sporadically—sometimes letting it stay there a little longer,
as if a tigress was marking her territory.
The two ladies went to the washroom, and Ananya finally could
speak without any inhibition. “I wonder what they talk about when we
are not present.”
“I bet it wouldn’t be much different from what we witnessed just
now,” Akshay replied.
Ananya and Akshay fist-bumped to reflect their approval, and
finished the rest of their lime soda. Kanika appeared the moment they
were done and sat where Ritika had been sitting. She began mimicking
her, to which Ananya sharply replied, “Quit it.”

50
Both laughed their hearts out when they noticed Ananya’s
expression change from ecstatic to pathetic in a jiff. Kanika replied, “I
found her pretty cute, you know.”
Akshay promptly followed, “Cute for a ten-year-old boy.”
Upon hearing his words echoing back to him, Ananya again fist
bumped Akshay, to which Kanika retorted, “This isn’t fair, guys.”
Ananya responded, “And it is fair for you to mimic her?”
“I mean you are leading her on.”
Ananya replied congenially, “I am not leading her on, I am trying
to pull back with the best of my abilities. She is interpreting that I am
playing coy. I can’t do anything about it.”
Akshay this time bro-fisted Ananya, and Kanika, upon feeling
that she had lost the cause, bade them goodbye and proceeded to her
class. Soon Ananya and Akshay went to class as well, and sat on the
bench where they had sat on the first day. Fortunately, the first lecture
was in organic chemistry. Ananya had worn a sky-blue shade T-shirt,
and wondered if it could be mistaken as white by some.
Miss Gauri made her way towards the front of the class and
wrote a reaction on the blackboard, which was truly a puzzle, since the
catalyst was absent and that reaction wouldn’t occur even if one spent
the whole day staring at the test tube. The whole class began raising
their hands as if they were in nursery school and chocolates were being
distributed. When Akshay raised his hand, Ananya pulled it down
immediately, and the suit was followed by Ritika as well.
When Gauri announced the answer, the duo smiled at each
other over the ignorance of the class. Gauri wrote another equation.
Ananya sensed that it was no puzzle and required paper and pen
combined with above-average knowledge of aldehyde and ketones.
He worked his way around atoms and molecules and wrote what
he felt would be produced as the output. He then started looking

51
at Gauri and began losing his mind in her elegant beauty. Gauri
hadn’t tied her hair back that day; hence, it rested just at the bottom
of her spine and curled at the end. It was followed by the generous
curve of her gorgeous ass.
Gauri broke Ananya’s transcendental journey by arriving at his
seat. She looked at his register and said, “Good,” in a voice just
loud enough for Ananya’s ears to perceive so that the whole class
could stay busy storming their brains. She left by saying, “Help
your friend.”
The moment she turned around and made way towards the
blackboard, Ananya’s eyes were glued to her rear. He began tilting
his head sideways to observe that it looked breathtaking from every
angle. The wind casually fluttered the bottom of her kurta, giving
Ananya a restrained view of the gluteus maximus. Akshay too began
looking with eyes wide open, so wide that Ananya could perceive it
in his peripheral vision. He buried his head in his notebook without
disturbing his view of the scenic beauty. He told Akshay through this
gesture that he hadn’t earned the right to observe a cougar strolling in
her natural habitat.
Ananya resumed his contact with reality and consumed his
desire within himself. The lecture ended on a smooth note, with
Gauri announcing that they would have a sessional exam in two
weeks, causing every student to gape at one other. When the same
announcement was made by other lecturers, the students were petrified
regarding the needed preparation. Though their professors assured
them that the majority of the curriculum circumscribed around twelfth
standard chemistry, nobody could be consoled besides the Sherlock
and Watson of their batch, who just wanted to imbibe the experience
and energy of their cryptic college.
The rest of the day’s college session went like a sinusoidal wave
with crests and troughs. The only new addition was of chemistry
laboratory, where Ananya breathed in the aroma of chemicals and
reactants like he was in a botany garden filled with roses and jasmines.

52
The students were grouped in pairs and unfortunately, the
masculine mates were separated. Ananya was paired with Pragati, a
sweet little gal who was pretty serious about her days at St. Stephen’s,
and Ananya did everything in his power to humor her, to bring forth a
chuckle from her at least. Most of the time, his efforts were not in vain.
One time, Ananya put the usual reactants and a peculiar additive
in a test tube to produce hydrogen sulfide, which had a repulsive
odor like that of a rotten egg. As soon as the rotten egg smell became
prominent, he said, “Sorry, that wasn’t me.”
Pragati simply smiled, knowing where the pun was directed, and
continued. Though Ananya wasn’t attracted to Pragati, her association
always calmed his nerves. It was like meditation personified. Hence,
he reciprocated the gesture in the most delightful way possible.
The lab assistant, Mr. Prakash,, was soon spellbound by Ananya’s
enthusiasm. Sometimes he just called on Ananya to demonstrate things
for everybody, such as to show how a reaction is supposed to be done.
Ananya began harboring a fondness for this routine, which
included playing with chemicals at college and then playing with
his Barbie at home. The bonding between the Three Musketeers
grew stronger and stood the test of time, especially during the
examinations—the essential period when everybody scurries like a rat
into their burrow and in the fit for survival forget that they are humans.
The examination time was rather a favorite for Ananya. Firstly,
he studied just enough to get decent grades and somehow ended with
above average marks. Secondly, Akshay had a strong hold on techniques
that were meant to learn S-, P-, and F-block elements’ reactions, which
was Ananya’s only weak area. Also, Akshay’s incognizance regarding
organic was more than supplemented by Ananya’s endeavors. Hence,
they sort of filled each other’s figurative holes.

53
54
Odyssey’s Monotony
When the first semester ended, everybody was overjoyed by the
fact that they would spend time leisurely at home, but Ananya
was the happiest of all. He hadn’t seen his parents since he left
for Delhi; though he talked daily with both of them, their warmth
eluded him. He left for Bareilly with moisture in the eyes of his
little pixie, and the throat of his aunt choked with emotions. He
consoled his only sisters that he would be back before they could
pronounce “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” While Chinki
was amazed at what she’d heard, Minki maintained her usual dry
expression. Guddu drew her eyebrows together and didn’t utter a
word, as if making a resolve.
Ananya’s six-hour journey was the longest in his life. He met
a person to engage with. The conversation began with the declining
tiger population, and escalated to the terrible political situation in the
country. It was humorous that nobody wished to get his or her hands
dirty, but at the same time never hesitated to take a moral high ground
and criticize everything and everybody.
Ananya reached his home, and upon opening the door, saw his
mother waiting for him with eyes filled with tears of union and pain of
separation. They embraced, but Ananya couldn’t maintain eye contact
with her, because that would have resulted in summoning the moisture
in his eyes as well.
For the rest of the vacation, he was treated like a prince who had
just returned from exile. Ananya’s only request was that nothing be

55
brought from the market and his meals to be solely prepared in the
home. Despite that, Prateek occasionally brought home snacks, and
often took his family out for lavish feasts.
As the days progressed, his favorite pastime of observing wildlife
frolicking in their natural habitat began to bore him. He started
helping his mother with the daily chores, especially with edibles, but
his journey to the kitchen always concluded with him experimenting
a bit too much with spices. He started missing the adrenaline rush he
received in college, and later in his aunt’s home while being assailed
by the beaming demon. Ananya felt the longing, the kind his sisters
must have felt when he bereft them of their only brother. Ananya’s
mind twirled with the possibility of staying at his aunt’s residence
for the rest of the college term, and began looking for the opportune
moment to ask about the same.
The whole family went to their all-time favorite restaurant on the
night before Ananya’s scheduled departure for Delhi. Though it was
located in a less renowned area of Bareilly, the restaurant managed to
seduce people from all places and sects of the town.
The family soon began gorging on their individual favorite meals.
While Sudha, Ananya’s mother, preferred the supreme deluxe thali,
Prateek had his heart set on onion masala dosa with extra pepper.
Ananya relished in the joy of soybean kebab with thin flatbread, which
was far thinner than an ordinary chapati.
Ananya noticed a bit of a smudge on the side of Prateek’s
mouth; he knew fairly well that this was an indication of him having
a good time. Ananya never liked beating around the bush. Hence, he
straightaway asked, “Dad, can I stay with Pallavi bua for the rest of
the college term?”
Prateek took a moment to absorb this, and replied tersely, “Talk
to your mother.” Ananya looked at his mother with an exasperated
expression and arms extended sideways, to which Sudha retorted,
“We shall talk about this later.”

56
Ananya brought his eyebrows together in unison in response,
like a child who was denied his favorite candy. He didn’t like it one
bit when he was tossed around like a volleyball amongst his family’s
decisions, and waited for his parents to play good cop, bad cop. He
rushed through the dinner and waited impatiently to drive the new
Maruti Suzuki Dzire to vent out his frustration.
The instant the vehicle hit an empty patch of road, Ananya let
go of the restraint on his foot and looked at the street lights leaving a
stream of a lingering image. As usual, the set of peculiar habits kicked
in when the speedometer touched a hundred kilometers per hour. Sudha
started humming Om Namah Shivaya, which was less along the lines
of chanting and more like reciting. Prateek, who was sitting adjacent
to Ananya, spoke frequently his overused phrase, “Easy, there kiddo,”
which oscillated with the stability of the car and was at its peak when
Ananya drove past a speed breaker and refused to accede to it.
As expected, Sudha’s voice rose and scolded Ananya for driving
so fast. Ananya drew a smile at the corner of his mouth and continued
giving his tribute to Paul Walker. Sudha eventually picked up the
cause of her son’s discontent when Ananya cruised through a traffic
light when it had already turned from green to orange—and was about
to proceed with another color change. She replied, “If you are upset
about the earlier decision regarding your stay in Delhi, then your
father is the right person to talk to.”
Ananya knew this game of passing the pillow would still continue
further; hence, he preferred not to decelerate and pretended not to
listen. Prateek retorted, “How am I responsible when you make all the
decisions of the house?”
Upon this stark comment, the blame game of both parents ensued,
which only boiled Ananya’s blood further. His parents were arguing
about who should argue with Ananya. In response, Ananya entered his
transcendental state, which spiked the speed in the process. The trance
in which Ananya had been completely absorbed was broken when he
noticed a dilapidated stray dog crossing the road, eventuating him to
57
decelerate frantically. The sudden fall in speed moved both parents
inches away from their seats, and probably shifted some sense into
their brain as well.
Prateek grasped the obvious displeasure emanating from his son
and replied by placing his palm on his shoulder. “Look, Ananya, it is
part of our culture. When the girl is married, then as a brother, one
is endowed with certain obligations which entail keeping her happy
and avoiding any sort of economic strain. Would you like if Guddu or
Chinki after marriage insist on the presence of you or your offspring
for such an elongated period?”
Ananya understood what his father was implying, and being
a persuasive person, he had purposefully mentioned Chinki and
Guddu in the argument to subconsciously bias him. Though the
reason stemmed from the stigma of prevalent society, he conceded
nonetheless, and resumed driving at an adequate pace to show his
consent. Prateek then, with the intention of teasing him or just getting
the weight off his chest, said, “Your mother was even disapproving of
your stay for the coming semester, and here you are planning for your
future excursion.”
Ananya had already yielded, and with their locality approaching,
he preferred to stay sagacious—but not his parents, who always
gratified themselves with harsh verbal exchanges and continued even
after the argument with Ananya was given rest.
Ananya had his train scheduled for the early morning the
following day. Sudha, a woman who was the epitome of dignity, got
up in the wee hours of the winter morning to prepare a meal for her
child’s diminutive journey. Ananya woke when his journey’s food had
been prepared and was in the process of being wrapped.
Ananya proceeded towards the bathroom with half-opened
eyes and thought to what extent Kank’s eyes would be open, if his
were to this extent on this chilled morning. He showered and donned
some warm garments. He prayed in front of the little temple of his
house, and unlike others would, he didn’t ask for the strength to face
58
challenges. He prayed for protection for his mother and father while
he was away, and for enhancement for his challenges to the degree that
it stimulated him.
Prateek woke when Ananya came out of the bathroom. After
taking his morning tea and expelling the mondo duke, Prateek was
as ready as ever, and began yelling about why everyone wasn’t ready
in order to shift the fault to the other side. Luckily, he didn’t have to
wait long, and Ananya and Sudha proceeded to the car, destined for
the railway station.
They reached the station, and Sudha went with Ananya to drop
him at his berth, while Prateek stayed in car that sat under the ‘No
Parking’ sign. The mother-son duo boarded the train, and Sudha
didn’t leave until Ananya was settled and had his luggage locked in
the underneath compartment. She interacted with a few passengers to
ascertain that this quintessential part of her was in the right company.
Finally, when the train was nudged from what seemed to be an endless
slumber. Sudha hugged Ananya, and the moisture dripped from her
eyes this time. Ananya revealed his heartfelt emotions too; he allowed
eye contact with his mother to linger longer than usual, and in this
manner not only reciprocated his sentiments but also conveyed that
he would protect the vessel she created and the being inside the vessel
she had composed.

Ananya repacked his essentials when Delhi was about to arrive. He


was glad that the weather had become bearable due to winter, but he
didn’t know that if Delhi’s winter was not worse than summer, it was
no walk in the park, either. He reached the station, booked a cab, and
left for his aunt’s home.
When Ananya got to the house, he was welcomed by his aunt, not
as a guest but as a family member. She prepared tea for Ananya and
asked about her lovable brother and his less likable bride. Ananya had
noticed a pattern—sisters and sisters-in-law never got along, even if
59
they were warm and congenial by nature. They somehow brought the
other’s cynical side out in their presence, and this little information
was the foundation of a copious number of television series in India.
Ananya spent the rest of the evening relaxing and unpacking. He
felt sad to think that this was his last semester in this house, but became
joyous thinking that he could visit his aunt and sisters on weekends.
He went to Chinki’s room, his wise little Buddha. He sat beside her,
but didn’t feel entitled to disturb from her homework. Chinki was
solving a mathematics problem. She acknowledged the presence of
her brother with a ‘hi’, and continued brainstorming.
When Chinki felt incompetent to derive the solution, she handed
the notebook to Ananya and excused herself from the room. Ananya
saw the incorrect solution and discovered the concealed thorn that was
prickling his little sister. Meanwhile, Chinki brought Guddu in, and
said “Okay, Guddu! Just like we practiced.”
Guddu filled her lungs with air as if preparing to speak on a mic.
Without a pause, she said, “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.”
Ananya was distracted by the math problem, and hence asked,
“What?”
“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” Guddu screamed again.
An arc formed across Ananya’s lips, the arc that had eluded him
since he boarded the train. He asked again, “What?” but this time with
anticipation in his eyes.
Guddu screamed once more, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”
Ananya’s eyes grew moist upon realizing that his sister had gone to
the extent of pronouncing a nonsensical word, and probably one of the
longest in the English language, with utmost accuracy and diligence.
Guddu then said to Ananya something to which he had no reply.
She said, “Now, never leave us, Bhaiya.”
Ananya hugged her so tight that even air couldn’t pass between
them, and pushed back his tears. Chinki, witnessing such a tumultuous
flow of emotions, took her notebook, and staring down at the
60
impertinent problem said, “I also helped her, Bhaiya.”
Ananya hugged her as well, and while placing a peck on each of
their foreheads, said, “Of course you did!” It pained Ananya thinking
how much he loved his sisters; though Minki was not part of that
moment, he loved her dearly too.
During dinner, Ananya sat with his extended family and enjoyed
the meal. Later, he took his sisters to an ice cream joint which was
famous for its brownie sundaes. He bought one for each of them, and
watched them gobble down the frozen milk laced with chocolate. It
is a common notion that ice cream tastes good in the summer, but the
joy of eating ice cream in winter is altogether different. He wondered
that the kind of delight he was witnessing, watching these apples of
his eyes slurping and munching, must be similar to the kind his father
witnessed when he took him for a feast.
Ananya helped Guddu in finishing her sundae. Doing that, he
reminisced about his mother, who used to eat his leftovers when he
was a kid. He took his sisters home and bade them good night, but
stayed at the bedside of Guddu till she fell asleep. Then he proceeded
towards his bed with less exhaustion from the journey and more
dejection, since he had to face the sullen faces of his professors.
Ananya resumed his daily routine with the addition of winter
garments, and met his college buddies in the metro. He inwardly envied
them for the fact that they could stay at home while attending college.
Akshay had his home in Faridabad, which was far, but metro made
it easier, and Kanika stayed at her aunt’s house (that is, her mother’s
sister), and was supposed to stay for the rest of the college term.
Ananya talked about his train journey, and the surprise from his
precocious sisters, and then teased Kanika, “Were you able to see the
world around you when you woke up?”
Kanika hit him with the palm of her hand in a way that reflected
mischief mixed with madness. Ananya then spoke that which had been
on the tip of his tongue since morning: “You know, I fail to see why

61
there ought to be discrimination in the way a girl is treated when she
enters adulthood and later takes her marriage vows. How can she be
considered just a mere fragment of the family where she was raised,
and not considered an extension of the same?”
Akshay and Kanika agreed with his point and consoled Ananya
when he told them that he was supposed to leave his aunt’s home after this
semester. The trio boarded the rickshaw after their metro ride concluded.
The rickshaw puller was just wrapped in a shawl, and Ananya, despite
being encased like a mummy, was chattering his teeth. There had been no
sign of sunlight since the morning, and to add to the plight there was fog
adulterated with dust particles, making it impossible to see or to breathe.
The three amigos entered the college with their hands stuffed in their
jackets and their shoulders slouched to prevent air passing through the
sides of their necks, or anywhere else, for that matter. They proceeded
to their respective classrooms, and the boys waited for their new lecturer
in physical chemistry. Ananya and Akshay were involved in indistinct
chatter when Ananya noticed Ritika. She somehow looked more anorexic
than before. She wore a distinct jacket of carrot-orange and pale white,
with black horizontal stripes, which were going to become her identity
mark for the rest of the semester. It was going to help Ananya change the
direction of his stroll from a considerable distance.
Ritika waved towards Ananya with a smile that revealed her
extra incisors pointing in different directions. Ananya reciprocated the
gesture and wondered that perhaps it was those incisors that made her
look somewhat like a Teletubby—adorable, yet creepy. She was about
to reduce the distance between them, when Ananya was saved by his
latest physical chemistry teacher, Mr. Katyal.
The lecturer was in his early sixties, with grey hair pretty much
everywhere where there were hair follicles except his mustache, which
refused to part with the last strands of black hair on his body.
He gave an overview of the topics and then said something which
shook everybody to the core. He said, “I shall be teaching you organic
chemistry as well, since Miss Gauri is on maternity leave.”
62
Ananya was hurt beyond repair. He began collecting pieces of his
broken and shattered heart. He had been aware that Gauri was engaged
by the time she was teaching his class, but the notion of her being on
maternity leave pushed his mind deep into the vortex of overthinking,
where his mind whirled with the images of Gauri writhing in the arms
of her husband, being forced to get into positions despite her denial,
and satisfying the morbid fantasies of that sordid fucker, who probably
impregnated her so that his friends didn’t stare at her alluring assets.
Fortuitously, a cold breeze blew which disrupted this vitriolic
chain of thought. It made Ananya realize that it was futile to think
along those lines. He waited for the next lecture of inorganic chemistry
in the expectation that he might receive some consolation; destiny,
however, had something else in mind.
The bell rang, followed by dispersion of class which filled again
with anticipation but was soon squelched. Inorganic was taken by Mr.
Mishra only, who taught them last semester, too. Ananya wanted to beat
his head with his bare hands. if Mr. Katyal had taught inorganic, that still
would have been better than him. Mr. Mishra was more of a jester than a
professional lecturer who came to a college, collected a salary, and had
his fun. What pained Ananya was the fact that he failed to see anybody
beyond himself. His association with his mortal vessel was so immense
that departing this life would come across as a severe blow to his inflated
ego, built upon his transient journey as a human being.
The class dispersed like mice let loose on a cheesecake factory.
The scenario not only applied to Ananya’s batch of students, but for all
classrooms due to lunch hour. The three mischievous mice found their
way, though, and scurried through the cafeteria, where the final nail in
Ananya’s happiness coffin was driven in. The three mice were blind
that they were being followed, and Ananya recognized that tri-colored
jacket before anybody could even comprehend what had happened.
Ritika was warmly welcomed by Kanika, and sat adjacent to her
this time. The two ladies began speaking softly, while Akshay watched
them with his gecko eyes, but Ananya solely focused on the food.
63
Ritika pulled up her sleeve and showed her the tattoo that she’d gotten
recently. It was a beautiful fairy with her wings open. There was a
mysterious gaze in the fairy’s eyes as her arms rested on her waist.
Everyone at the table complimented the tattoo except Ananya, who
simply nodded, making Ritika inquire, “Why are you so cheesed off?”
Akshay replied instead of Ananya, “Because Mrs. Gauri is pregnant.”
Kanika began laughing so hard that she coughed and had to sip
some water to relieve herself. That little bit of surprise brought a smile
across Ananya’s face, and he finally spoke.
“It’s not just Gauri; she is just the tip of the iceberg,” he winked
at Ritika while speaking. “I have been wondering what we will do
after three years—well, two and a half years, to be precise—upon
completion of college. Either we would be bound to pursue our
master’s, or research under some scientist. Doesn’t that scare you?”
The other three didn’t share the similar kind of invigorating
passion that Ananya did, and looked at him as if waiting for him to
complete his thought.
“I mean, some of you might look forward to the idea, but think
about it critically. If students sitting at the other table have similar
future goals, then what makes us unique?”
“So you are saying that we quit college and do some start-up kind
of thing,” remarked Kanika.
“No! I mean you, for instance, could pursue your artistry passion,”
Ananya said to her.
Kanika sniggered as if she was not hearing that for the first time.
Ananya continued, “You are still safe half-baked. It is me who
is royally and brutally fucked. My mistress, my love, my mother, my
brother, everything is chemistry, and I can’t do anything about it; I just
have to wait for the inevitable rat trap to which we are all headed.”
And concurrently he banged his fist on the table.
Akshay asked politely, “What is the problem with a master’s, bro?”

64
Ananya retorted, “The problem is that what they teach is sterile
and stale. The problem is our education system after primary becomes
shackles which tighten with every progression up the ladder of
education.I understand being part of the most prestigious college of
the country, and I must be an utter fool to think that anything better
could come in place of it, but it is not what could substitute instead
of this, but what will come after this that’s the reason of my dismay.”
By now, Kanika and Akshay had sensed the basis of Ananya’s
agitation, and Ritika, who had always been in awe of his audacity, was
thrilled to hear such a mindset.
The rest of the lunch progressed with a brief discussion on the
thread of thought initiated by Ananya. After lunch was the class of
organic, where both buddies slipped in and out of sleep during the
whole lecture, presumably due to the heavy food, or maybe because
Mr. Katyal spoke with such fervor in his voice that could tranquilize
an elephant. They both waited for a while for Kanika to finish her
lecture, and changed their temporary point of stay when they noticed
the same tri-colored jacket increasing in size and reducing in distance.
Kanika arrived, and the three stooges left for their homes. On the
way, she told Ananya, “I thought about what you said; I think I am
going to give some serious time and energy to the canvas.”
In response, Ananya beamed at her for understanding his perspective.
Ananya reached home in no time, and was welcomed by Guddu
as usual, but this time even her tiny hands failed to stimulate his mind.
His intuitive personality had seen the maze out of which he couldn’t
figure his way out. He feigned happiness and joined with his angelic
beast in her typical leisure activities. Ananya involved himself in
tasks to prevent his brain from pushing itself into the vortex at whose
precipice he was standing. He spent the major chunk of his time
with Minki, understanding the chaos behind the calmness, and soon
discovered that his middle sister was the most uncomplicated of all.
Her naiveté was what Ananya cherished most about her. How badly
he longed that, like her, he too could be oblivious and stay under the
shade of ignorance.
65
Ananya’s self-absorption was disrupted when Pallavi announced
that her husband, Rajesh, was coming home. The joy on her face was
similar to the sun who just came to shine fully after a distasteful solar
eclipse. Ananya was glad that he would be able to converse with one
of the most revered business tycoons, and break bread with him. He
began helping his aunt by chopping vegetables for the preparation of
Rajesh’s favorite: puree of brinjal.
While cutting vegetables, Ananya’s mind started wondering
how his aunt and mother could do the same set of activities over and
over again for years. The novelty of an activity being overcome by
monotony was crude and cruel. Ananya disliked mediocrity, but even
above that, he despised sinking into a pattern of activities. He slowly
began realizing the reason behind the loneliness of his aunt, and the
frustration behind the faces of his professors. He sensed the boredom
that had seeped into their bones, which had become so engraved
in their bloodstream that nothing could liberate them besides some
temporary distraction.
Rajesh arrived and the first thing he did after freshening up was
engage himself with his daughters. Ananya was observing him for the
first time since he had gotten back to his aunt’s house, and wasn’t aware
how long his uncle had been gone. The thoughts of infidelity crept into
his insidious mind, but he dismissed them rapidly when he saw Minki
on the right side of him, Chinki on the left, and Guddu in his lap. He
noticed how receptive he was to his daughters, and entertained each
one’s expression. Guddu seemed to have forgotten about the presence
of Ananya when she saw her old man, and didn’t leave his side, just
like a joey always stays inside the pouch of the mother kangaroo.
When the time for dinner arrived, Rajesh sat in front of Ananya,
surrounded by his kittens. Rajesh was more than happy to see his favorite
dish from the hands of his beloved wife. Ananya was mesmerized by
his humble manner; nowhere did it reflect that he demanded being
served just because he brought food to the table and Pallavi was a
mere housewife. Ananya was intimidated by his presence, and felt

66
small in front of his achievement. The table contained everyone except
Pallavi, who was still engaged in the kitchen to prepare fresh chapatis
especially for her husband, and everyone else.
Rajesh casually asked Ananya, “How is college going on?”
“It is going fine, Uncle.”
To continue the conversation, Ananya asked, “How is the business
coming through?”
“Oh! More than fine. If the deal is closed and pulled through, the
profit will be in six digits.”
“Congratulations in advance, Uncle.”
“Thank you, son.”
“What is the nature of your business precisely?”
Rajesh giggled hearing that, and replied, “The whole night might
seem inadequate in explaining to you the nature of my work, but I can
tell you this: I happen to have a diverse portfolio. My money is invested
and reinvested in places that sometimes even I am unaware of.” Rajesh
continued, “I wish to know more about your college; I mean, I never went
to one. They must teach some valuable skills, right?”
Rajesh had touched where it hurt, and Ananya, who desired an
above average pair of ears to sympathize with his situation got more
than he bargained for. He sniggered hearing Rajesh and replied, “Yes!
They do teach skills, but I am afraid I am inept for them.”
“How so?”
“Uncle, what good would it do if hundreds and thousands of
scholars were trained in the same domain, and were in the pursuit to
be the cog in someone else’s wheel, a mere constructor of someone
else’s dream?”
Rajesh interrupted, saying, “Exactly what I thought when I
finished high school. I never wanted to do a mere nine to six job,
spending my life either in expecting the government to introduce a
pay commission or be at the mercy of my manager. I just didn’t want
67
to create wealth—I wanted to create massive wealth, so immense that
when people hit their forties, and they are deciding which insurance
policy to put money in, which stock to purchase, I would have retired.”
And I wish to leave a legacy, Ananya thought.
“The reason you don’t see me much is because I am working
while I still can, so that these little devils can have a life that I was
deprived of,” Rajesh said as he caressed the back of Guddu’s head. He
continued, “You really ought to decide what you are after, Ananya.”
Legacy, Uncle! My indelible mark on the world.
Ananya wanted to vent out his frustration, but words seemed to elude
him. He finally spoke, “Do you know about the cosmic calendar, Uncle?”
“No, tell me about it.”
“If we map 13.7 billion years of the universe’s journey down
to one year, then accordingly, the big bang occurred in January, our
solar system was formed in August, the first life on Earth in the form
of unicellular organism happened in September, and right now, when
we are on the precipice of human evolution, the date now is December
thirty-first at midnight.”
“Huh,” Rajesh spoke as if he understood mildly what he’d just
heard, but failed to see the point.
“Let me conclude, Uncle. According to this scale, human life is
just a blip in cosmic evolution. Some people propound this thought
that if our life is so insignificant, then why worry? Just journey through
it while having a gala time. But I don’t share the same opinion. If our
life is just a mere blip, then it is our responsibility to be the captain of
this ship and sail through life living in a magnificent way.”
Ananya finally put the nail into his argument by saying, “You
know Albert Einstein, Uncle; his contribution to the field of science
shall be remembered till the end of the time humans walk on this
planet. Now, I know I am not part of his league, but I wish to leave my
impression on the world and be remembered at least twice the time
period of my lifetime, after my life.”
68
Rajesh absorbed the profound meaning behind Ananya’s explanation
and said, “Then college is the last place where you ought to be.”
Ananya chuckled listening to his uncle’s response, and retorted,
“Maybe.”
The dinner ended, and both adults proceeded to their bedrooms,
to ponder over their individual dilemmas. If one was wondering how
his life would change if his business deal was executed, then the other
scrutinized the current state of his life.
Ananya twisted and turned, curled like a fetus, but his agitated
mind couldn’t rest. He somehow slipped into a shallow slumber which
got broken frequently by a mosquito that bit less and buzzed more.
Ananya woke with a headache, but preferred going to college instead.
He reached the college by himself since he had arrived late, and met
Akshay in the classroom and Kanika later at lunch, but during the whole
course of the day he was bereft of his natural vigor and charisma. In
his mind, Ananya continuously struggled with ideas to seek novelty,
because academics weren’t going to stimulate his intellect anymore.
The lawn of St. Stephen’s began shedding the essential elegance
it held. The trees began parting with their leaves and fruits, which
had made them look so magnificent and alluring. The bushes started
drying out due to the absence of sunlight, and the shrubs transformed
into dried sticks, when they once had possessed flowers of utmost
beauty and fragrance.
The monotony began spreading into the system of Ananya like a
cancer. He couldn’t quit college, that was certain; but the banality was
working like a two-edged sword. Firstly, it made him anxious about
his future, and secondly it made him see all other things in the same
shade of grey. His company, comprised of minimal yet memorable
people, also refused to persuade him to look beyond his misery, and
his intellect further delved into seeking a pattern in everything. The
similar nature of the conversation between his friends, the occasional
college exams attempting to instill fear, the dynamism of his sweet
sister, the unique yet unvarying proportion of spices in his dinner, and
69
sleeping with the relentless hope in heart that something would turn
up to break the strands of complacency which tightened like a noose
around his neck.

70
Embryo to Foetus
Ananya’s quest to seek freshness in his dull life introduced him to two
major social gatherings, only one of which was truly major, though.
One was the Chemistry Society of St. Stephen’s, and the other, the
Model United Nations. Chemistry Society was a gathering of all
the college nerds whose idea of joy emanated from memorizing the
elongated names of outstretched molecules. If Ananya was passionate,
then they were obsessed. Ananya got to know later that some professors
who organized events in Chemistry Society were either department
heads or were supposed to teach them in the final year, and many
students enrolled for this reason only. Ananya didn’t like going to that
gathering one bit. The only good thing he liked about the society was
that the professors held events based on suggestions from students;
plus, Ritika wasn’t part of the society.
Model United Nations, on the other hand, was a different dish
altogether. Model United Nations were delegate conferences that
simulated the actual workings of the United Nations. Every participant
represented a delegate from an individual country, and depending on
the nature of the agenda, debate would commence.
Ananya’s first MUN was at Hindu College, and was a revelation.
He observed how students spoke with zeal and prepared logically
sound arguments. In his first MUN, he barely spoke but listened
intently. He noticed one more thing: that there were different sects of
students attending a MUN. There was one who actually came for the
conference, to whom it didn’t matter if they won or lost. Second was

71
the kind to whom MUN was an excuse to look elegant and regal. And
then there was the last kind, who relished in either passing chits of
outdated humor or asking out a crumpet for coffee.
Ananya’s interest in MUNs grew exponentially. In his third
conference, he began arguing successfully, to the level of professionals
whose pocket money was acquired from prize money. Ananya began
to unearth his social skills that he thought didn’t exist. His power of
conviction was immensely fascinating; he prepared the resolution
with real-life suggestions and managed to get support for the same
through his newly discovered competency of lobbying.
A MUN of any college held certain committees; for instance,
there was the UN Human Rights Council, UN General Assembly,
UN Economic and Social Council, and the most touted, UN Security
Council. The UNSC was a different ball game. If the tussle in other
committees was who would get major support for their resolution, then
here the resolution was at the mercy of veto power of the ‘fabulous’
five countries. In the bid to have an authentic experience of the same,
Ananya participated in the UNSC committee of a MUN at Hansraj
College. The agenda was the USSR war against Afghanistan, and the
fun bit was that the debate wasn’t in real time; it was dated back to 1980
when the USSR had just invaded Afghanistan. Hence, all the facts and
data after a particular date in 1980 were considered invalid.
The conference lasted for three full days, with Ananya being the
delegate of Saudi Arabia, an observer nation just like Afghanistan and Iran
in the committee. An observer nation was one with whom the issue was
concerned, but who was denied the right to vote. Hilarious, right? Every
committee was headed by a chairperson, and the UNSC was headed by a
blooming blossom from Assam, who had been an inspiration for Ananya’s
surging enthusiasm in MUN. She was ball of pure white light who brushed
everybody who crossed her path. She wore a nose pin accompanied by a
fanciful mole that resided between that nose and the most cherished curve
of her body—those luscious lips.

72
She was highly knowledgeable about the functioning of the UN,
and possessed exceptional oratory skills. Her name was Tannishhtha
or Tanisha or Tanishka perhaps, because Ananya always used to be so
spellbound in her presence that her name was the last thing on his mind.
After the committee wrapped up, Tanishka spoke about each
delegate’s pros and cons, and couldn’t stop smiling while describing
Ananya’s impeccable dress as a typical sheik of Saudi Arabia the other
day.
After that, she shared an important piece of information. She stated
that India was offered a permanent seat in the UNSC under the leadership
of Pandit Nehru. She continued further by noticing that everyone was
absorbing information like a sponge, and said “In the fifties, first it was the
USA who offered us permanent membership. and then it was the USSR a
few years later. While the US offer was to bend the UN in the early stages
of the cold war, the USSR too had some insidious interests at heart. It
might appear that Nehru sacrificed national interest in refusing, but you
are very well aware how many countries have been obliterated in fighting
the proxy war between these two.”
The committee dispersed with something to think about, and
approached the arena where the closing ceremony was supposed to occur.
The moment finally arrived when Tannishtha brought those supple lips
near the microphone and was about to announce the winners, while
Ananya was more envious of the mic than of his competitors.
The first position went to the USSR, and the second was bagged by
France. Before announcing the third position, she spoke fervently that
she’d had the most difficult time in choosing the delegate deserving third
place. Then, with a dramatic pause, she said, “Unfortunately, the delegate
of Afghanistan beat the delegate of Saudi Arabia by a mere two points.”
Ananya buried his head in his arms and felt the world around him
crumble. He was about to sink in his pool of sorrow, but Tannishhtha
arrived to prevent that. She explained to him that the delegate of
Afghanistan had years of experience in MUN, and Ananya had given him
his toughest fight in a long time.
73
Ananya’s spirits lifted instantly. Hence, he asked if she would like
to go out for drinks with him, but she politely declined. He again tried
to persuade her by saying that the drinks didn’t have to be alcoholic in
nature; she grinned and confessed that she had plans.
Ananya’s attempt to beat banality seemed somewhat successful.
He made a good many friends at MUN, but none could replace the
special spot occupied by Akshay and Kanika. He started brimming
again with the bliss and contentment that had recently begun to shrink..
Ananya’s favorite pastime in college was still in the chemistry
laboratory in the company of Mr. Prakash, who, despite being a middle
aged man, was very much in touch with his virility. Ananya frequently
stayed a little late after lab ended to converse with him, and was
overjoyed with his enthusiasm towards the science of matter. Their
bonding grew strong with the tide of time, and so did the jealousy of
Ananya’s peers towards him. The blockheads were totally dependent
upon Mr. Prakash’s demonstration, from the extent of pouring a
chemical into a test tube to even lighting the Bunsen burner.
Sometimes Ananya excused himself from the company of his
endeared friends to hang out with the temporary distractions that
he met in MUNs, but each of them lacked what Ananya essentially
craved, which was somebody to excite his scholar side, to give him
an intellectual erection, perhaps. He needed someone with whom his
affair didn’t start with physical cuddling, but rather with the kind of
conversation he longed for. He wanted to hang out badly with his
chairperson from the Hansraj MUN, but she had a vast social circle
and Ananya just stood at the periphery of it.
Ananya directed his focus to the most awaited event of the
university: the MUN at Miranda House. The conference was
proclaimed as a must-attend affair. The damsels from the sorority
of dexterity did everything in their power to give delegates not just
some clichéd conference, but rather an opulent colloquium. The girls
adorned the conference halls and corridors with handmade floral
designs—intricate paper-made creatures revealing the coveted art of

74
origami, which was innate to Miranda. If somebody was not pleased
with those lifelike creatures, then there were nightingales with whom
a casual conversation could infuse life into those paper projections.
Ananya was in the UN General Assembly, and his cherished
chairperson was in UNSC once again. He was glad, though, because
in this brief period, she had become such a good ‘bad distraction’ for
him. Ananya’s committee’s agenda was inhuman acts in Syria. Ananya
portrayed a delegate of a neighboring country, Lebanon. It was a
country who itself had been pulled into a conflicting state due to the
presence of different religious and ethnic sects, and held precarious
relations with Syria, which was on the brink of a civil war.
While attending the committee, Ananya for the first time felt
that the skewed sex ratio in India was hearsay. He felt elevated and
enchanted by the presence of the varied levels of estrogen around him,
and felt aligned with his masculinity like never before. The majority
of the young ladies were dressed in ethnic wear, just the way Ananya
liked them. A hot Indian figure ornately dressed to reveal less and
conceal more, and in this process of concealment, they revealed their
much-needed manly attention through their eyes and gestures.
Ananya got to meet a fabulous lady who was part of the conference
staff. She skedaddled through the conference whenever there was a
chit raised and never let fatigue reflect on her face. Her name was
Bharti and she talked with everybody with empathy emanating from
her kindred spirit. She left a person only when he or she was adorned
with a smile.
Ananya conversed with her and with few of his fellow delegates
during tea break, and talked about everything except the conference.
By now, Ananya had begun to evolve into a person which was his ideal
self. A person who wasn’t afraid to put forth his perspective, a man who
didn’t like to beat around the bush and wasn’t afraid of rejection while
confessing his obvious attraction. His transformation was attributed to
his refusal to compromise with the given circumstance, and his effort
to use everything in his power to beat boredom.
75
The first day of the conference ended with joy and glee on
everybody’s faces. Ananya showcased the gem he had become due to
the strain and pressure he self-imposed. He left for home with some
fun-loving feminine company. When he reached the house, his mind
still wandered amongst the newly generated Mirandian memories.
The second day of the conference started on a mellow tone with
everybody looking forward to the tea break so as to come out of their
awake-yet-dreamy state. Ananya didn’t get a chance to speak until
the tea break, and like him, a lot of delegates were deprived of this
privilege as well. He formulated a strategy which was executed pretty
neatly. He began relying on chits, and the recent association with Bharti
helped to deliver them into the right hands. Nevertheless, he didn’t
stop raising his placard, and when the opportunity presented itself he
made sure his terse sentences were laced with facts and innuendos.
The moment arrived for which everyone was waiting. The closing
ceremony began with introductory performances by certain students.
Everybody clapped hard, perhaps less for their brilliant performance
and more for welcoming the chairpersons of the individual committees.
Coincidently, Ananya’s assembly was going to be announced first.
Ananya sat at the edge of his seat with his nails being nibbled by his
teeth. He had done everything in his power; every muscle and bone of
his body had worked in unison. Apart from the delegate of Syria and
the US, there wasn’t a single soul who stood in Ananya’s way.
The first prize was announced, and it went to the delegate of
Syria; no surprise there. The second was about to be announced, and
Ananya began consoling himself that he would make his peace with
third as well. He closed his eyes and prepared for the worst, but the
phrase he least expected came; it was him!
Ananya had secured the second position, and nobody could have
assessed the joy he felt during that moment. While going towards the
stage, the pace and the volume of applause increased every second.
Steadily, Ananya got up on the stage and received his much-eluded
prize. From the stage, he witnessed the audience in complete awe of

76
him, making the whole episode imprinted upon Ananya’s memory
until eternity.
After the Miranda MUN, Ananya’s interest unfortunately,
descended, and the conferences later failed to pique his curiosity.
The conferences were either composed of stale agendas, or possessed
chairpersons who harbored prejudice towards the people they knew in
the committee. Even if Ananya could ignore such vile conduct, there
was something beyond at play. Similar to the endless loop of identical
iteration of his time at St. Stephen’s, which had seemed intriguing at
first but later refused to incite a novel thought, this MUN affair was
going down that rabbit hole only.
Ananya was glad of one thing, though. Miranda introduced
him to Bharti. Bharti, being a foodaholic, introduced Ananya to
unexplored yet exotic places which served luscious cuisines. Like the
cafeteria in Delhi School of Economics, which served mutton dosa
(yes, you heard it right). Ananya also supplemented Bharti’s need
for conversation with questions related to man, universe, and God.
Bharti, though, could only lend a pair of ears to these notions, whereas
Ananya craved a tongue, too, to question his formulated opinions and
later give a much-needed tussle.
Upon the suggestion of his professors and the assured company
of Akshay, Ananya partook in the Chemistry Society so as to introduce
an aberration into his routine. The appointed professor declared that
the annual fest of the Chemistry Society was going to be held in a
week; it was referred to as Resonance. The professor asked that if
somebody wanted to organize an event, they should propose it now or
hold their silence forever. Ananya chuckled upon hearing the presence
of mind of his lecturer, with whom he never had the chance to interact.
The collection of nerds and nymphs tied their tongues tight as if
asked about their deepest, darkest fetishes. Ananya couldn’t stand the
abominable lull, and spoke the first thing that came to his mind. “Sir,
How about a discussion on whether detergents are cleansing less and
ruining more?” I mean, it is one of most overlooked facts, and the

77
hazards and reparation required could be enormous. Maybe stains are
not that good after all.”
Now it was the professor’s turn to chuckle. His laughter brought
wrinkles at the edges of his mouth, revealing his age but his passion
for the subject as well. He jotted down the name of Ananya and his
accomplice, Akshay. Soon, the sheep followed where the herd was
heading and everyone began coming up with ideas for the annual
fest, amongst which some were appealing, but some were utterly
ridiculous, as well.
Resonance was scheduled for Saturday, just when Ananya
was supposed to attend a conference at Lady Shri Ram College of
Commerce. If Miranda House was the sorority of dexterity, then
LSR was the sorority of notoriety. The girls there were smart and
straightforward, and didn’t hesitate in making men realize their place in
the world. The college was also famous for being infamous, and rumor
had it that a major sect of women there were “bi-curiously curious,”
which Ananya wanted to ascertain for himself. Ananya had barely met
any girls from LSR, but still didn’t feel like indulging in chasing after
his elusive unicorn, with whom he would go on adventures and who
would be his partner in crime. By now, he had made peace that such
woman existed only in novels and movies, or resided on some other
part of the planet that was inaccessible to him.
Ananya’s scheduled discussion at Resonance was advancing, and
so was his dilemma of whether to attend it or give wings to his fantasies
by going to LSR. His MUN circle (made up mostly of females) urged
him persistently to go to the LSR conference with them. Even Akshay
motivated him that if he went to the conference, he would handle the
debate single-handedly, whereas Ananya had himself squelched the
search for his muse and wasn’t inclined to set in motion the same set
of events by attending the conference.
On the day before the fest, he submerged himself in the preparation
of the event as a final attempt to seek novelty. When Ananya reached
home, he was once again blessed with the opportunity to converse
with his uncle.
78
Rajesh revealed to Ananya that it was through him Guddu had
inherited the book about Greek gods and goddesses, but also shared his
utter bafflement at the fact that she, with little to no help from him, had
picked and pronounced the word ‘Hermione’ with precision. Ananya,
too, confessed that she was far ahead of her peers in the matters of
both intelligence and manipulation, to which the uncle-nephew duo
chuckled simultaneously.
Ananya’s debate topic was discussed at his aunt’s home with
less digression and more assertion. Ananya enlightened everyone in
the house that detergents might be harmful to the aquatic life in the
sea and lakes, and was glad to receive questions from the children
department. Ananya walked peacefully to the his bedroom under the
impression that he was well prepared for the next day, but if there was
one thing certain about the Universe, it was unpredictability.

For the occasion, Ananya was dressed in his usual attire of jeans
and a T-shirt, but this time his T-shirt was anything but normal; it
sported a bright, lime-green color with a Chinese collar, followed
by his special occasion scent: Eternity by Calvin Klein. He met his
friends in the metro, and the first thing he received from Kanika was
not a welcome or “hi,” but rather an outstretched compliment which
only subsided when Ananya blushed like a teenage girl.
Seems like the scent is working, thought Ananya.
They reached the college and both made the list of the speakers
who were supposed to speak on the topic. Unlike other events, this
one didn’t deal with any prize or accolade; it was simply a symposium
which invited people to speak their minds.
Ananya initiated the event, and when the fest was halfway towards
its completion, his college mates had organized contests along the lines
of quizzes, treasure hunts buried in the complexity of equations, and
stand-up comic miscarriages built upon the chemistry of humans and

79
matter. At that point, Ananya truly regretted his decision of attending
the fest, and wished he had the superpower of teleportation. He got
so bored that he contemplated that even in normal circumstances, he
would still wish for the power of teleportation.
Ananya started the event by taking over the podium; he welcomed
his guest of honor, followed by recognizing his esteemed college
professors for blessing them with their presence. He spoke with an
air of self-confidence that had become innate to his personality; his
manner of speaking was impassive, yet he emphasized words that
required stress. Without further ado, he started the debate with an
introductory speech, and then invited the speakers to the podium.
There were, in total, ten speakers, and until the seventh speaker,
almost everyone spoke about the same thing with little modification.
They each spewed the audience with their verbal diarrhea, though
some even delved into the minute details of molecular interaction with
water, but that instantly drew a yawn on the face of the chief guest
of honor. The arena was the same one in which Ananya’s orientation
had taken place, only this time the hall was half-filled to capacity and
lacked severely in terms of enthusiasm.
Then the eighth speaker made her way towards the stage while
Ananya had his head buried in the list. He realized that this was an
utter disaster, and his curiosity about LSR girls’ predilections would
remain unexplored.
A mellifluous voice from the stage made its way towards him.
When he looked up, he was astonished to see a girl who was filled with
life in this deserted debate; she spoke with a voice of sternness laced
with warmth. She wore a jet-black tank top, which suited her pale, yet
fair skin tone, and wore ethnic earrings whose intricate design was
obscure, though enigmatic. His gaze mounted on her bare neck, which
only possessed a pendant, or an amulet perhaps, which very stealthily
slipped inside her top and was lost somewhere in the company of those
doves of innocent love. Her hair was diligently dressed in a classic old
ponytail with a twist, falling amongst the braids which rested on the

80
left side of her frame. Her braids slightly caressed one dove, and made
the other messenger of peace seethe with jealousy; the cherry on the
cake was achieved by the appropriate placement of that decorative
dot, the bindi, just between her eyebrows.
She spoke with concern and an occasional touch of sarcasm, saying,
“Maybe detergents are really good cleansing agents; not only do they
wipe out the malice from our clothes, but also eliminate the essential
aquatic life through their excessive phosphate content. A similar situation
was faced by Canada long ago, but in their scenario, the problem was
limited to lakes and ponds. Here in our country, where a majority of the
population depends on underground water, what would happen if it got
polluted? Perhaps stains are not good after all.”
Ananya was enthralled when he heard his words echo back
to him. He saw the list and committed the name ‘Anushree’ to his
memory. Akshay looked at him with his larger than life eyes, and
both brothers from another mother exchanged smiles. The smile
conveyed more than words could have expressed, and soon Ananya
was taken hold by the urge to write something in admiration of the
thing of beauty in front of him. He began scribbling on the back of
the list with sentences that sometimes rhymed, and most of the time
expressed his heartfelt emotions. Ananya was not much of a writer;
rather, he was an occasional scribbler who only wrote when he was
overcome by a strong impulse which required immediate unleashing.
He hadn’t written in a long time, apart from writing something for
Mrs. Gauri during her lecture—which was spiked with words that
could be deemed inappropriate.
Ananya got lost in his trance-like state, in which his mind was
surrounded by an admirable depiction of Anushree. He looked for
words that revealed his eager desire to be with her. He didn’t notice
when the last two speakers delivered their words, and were followed
by the keynote speaker with his concluding remarks. When Akshay
nudged Ananya to alert him that his fleeting fantasy was going out of
the hall, he made haste towards her like a butterfly impatient to get out
of the cocoon.
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Anushree had entered the corridor, and Ananya noticed that the
weather somehow appeared pleasant, as if she brought the spring
season along with her. Ananya saw the distance between both of
them reducing, and looked at her posterior, which made a fanciful
figure eight. He laughed at his own pun, since she had been the eighth
speaker, and then wondered if she could be his soul sister, his co-
conspirator, his criminal participator?
There was only one way to figure that out, and that was to talk
to her. He needed to give her a glimpse of the side that he had locked
away from the world and only revealed in fragments. She was out of
his league, that was for sure, but Ananya couldn’t let her go when she
was so within his reach. His keen power of perception noticed that
between her tank top and denim blue jeans, the little rift at her waist
revealed her skin, which was inked with a mysterious figure. Ananya
tilted his head sideways to see if he could derive what the figure was,
but it was a futile attempt.
Ananya increased his pace, and when he was aligned parallel
to her, he faced her, making her conscious of his presence. Both
stood facing each other, and Ananya couldn’t utter a word. He was
spellbound by her gaze; this person looked directly into his soul. He
observed the intricate design of her iridescent earrings that hung from
those tempting earlobes. Their shape appeared to be of the wing of
a fairy or butterfly, and they changed color between sea-green and
golden upon interacting with sunlight. The sinister shade of red she
wore on those luscious lips was constantly eroding Ananya of his
mental peace.
Ananya finally spoke with a bit of hesitation, “That was some
good compilation of words you put out there.”
He extended his arm for a handshake and introduced himself.
“Hi, I am Ananya. It was I who organized the debate.”
The girl, who was still veiled in her pleasant mannerisms, beamed
at him and replied, “Yes, I know.”

82
“How do you know me?”
“I am doing a bachelor’s of science in chemistry from Miranda, and
I was present in the UNGA committee that was held a few weeks ago.”
Ananya’s thought process got stunted and he was surprised
beyond belief. He reviewed the whole episode in his head in a matter
of nanoseconds and wondered how such a charming young lady could
have eluded him.
Ananya, with the intention to appear cool and calm, said, “So you
liked what you saw? Is that why you are here?”
Anushree giggled with ladylike charm and said, “No. I have a
friend in the chemistry department here who had organized an event.
Since she was occupied with her event preparation, I thought about
killing some time.”
Ananya spoke with certitude in his voice as if he’d caught her lie.
“Of course, you did.”
Both grinned at each other, but with nothing to say further, Anushree
progressed forward and Ananya was left stranded where she had stood.
He was anything but satisfied; he enjoyed the rush he felt in his veins,
and how his heart beat so fast that he could feel the throbbing all over
himself. He had broken the ice between them by making her laugh, and
was a bit intimidated by the next step he had in his mind. His fear of
rejection blended with the predilection for passion. It froze him, and his
brain slipped into the infinite loop of overthinking. With every second
he spent analyzing, she was getting farther away. The moment Anushree
was at the distance that her little tattoo had made an appearance, Ananya
couldn’t restrain himself anymore and shrieked, “Anushree!”
Anushree turned back with amazement, wondering what sorcery
possessed Ananya. He made his way towards her, every muscle in his
body reverberating with uneasiness. He went near to her and spoke
almost in a whisper, “I think you dropped something.”
Scent ought to work now.

83
Ananya handed her the paper on which he had crafted his
emotions to the best of his ability. Anushree, with no idea of the
torrent of commotion that was making its way towards her, held the
paper and began the interpretation of verbs and adjectives written in
her praise.
Neither do you know me nor I know you
But I wish to
Your personality has inflamed a solar flare
A flare that has consumed me with despair
The feature that roused me most is your luxuriant hair
It is the grace of God to witness those intertwined locks
Tied in the most elaborate knots
To see them caress the side of your face
It makes the blood warm in my veins
When you push a strand or two behind the ear
It makes all the worldly miseries disappear

I acknowledge the curiosity evoked in me for you


For if you desire the same
A smile intended for me will do
You appeared so stern yet fueled with passion
That I was compelled to advance without caution
There were times when I looked at you and questioned myself
Does this human being deserve to be my inspiration?
For whom I shall weave words with my emotions?
I was perturbed, perplexed, crushed with confusion
Yet I still couldn’t find an explanation
Because the answer is within you
For if you smile even once, I was right
For if you smile looking at me reading this
You consider me worthy to be on your right.

84
Anushree’s gaze had reached the end lines and the impartation
of butterflies from Ananya’s heart to her abdomen had been achieved.
Heaviness in her breathing, dilation of her pupils, and a slight shiver in
the hands that held the poem were perceptible. Ananya’s panic partially
subdued and he sensed his words had pierced the armor she had adorned,
yet he still stood on precarious ground, wondering if his words might have
done more damage than good. Because Anushree hadn’t smiled yet.
Anushree suddenly turned the page, which seemed as if she was
expecting more, but was met with disappointment when she saw the
list of the speakers with her name underlined several times. Then she
turned the sheet of paper over once more as if searching for something.
Ananya was forced to ask in a suppressed tone, “What are you
looking for?”
Anushree pushed back a ringlet behind her ear, indicating her
anxiety, and said without interrupting her stare on the paper, “I can’t
read the last line; my name has been underlined too many times just
behind it, resulting in rupturing the surface.”
“You consider me worthy…”
“What’s after that?”
Anushree then raised her head and stared into the eyes of Ananya
to see the depth of meaning of the verse in his eyes. Ananya in response
gazed unflinchingly towards her, revealing his longing which was
more than what his words reflected.
“Yeah, I was having trouble with what rhymes with locks; as a
result, I might have highlighted your name unconsciously. By the way,
not a lot of words do, you know.”
He beamed at Anushree in the expectation that she would reflect
the expression, but he received just a feeble smile, not the whole arc
he desired.
He continued further, “That is the gist of it. Do you consider me
worthy?”

85
He extended his hand to take away the poem, but Anushree
pulled it back as if for that moment it was her most prized possession,
her reward for an outstanding speech at the debate—and, obviously,
for looking so elegant.
“Give it back. Let me read it you!” Ananya said with disdain in
his voice, laced with humor—his favorite weapon.
Anushree refused to let him read as if her fort was not ready to
be assailed one more time, and she radiated the gracious smile that
Ananya was deprived of until now; the crescent moon that was carved
on that chiseled sculpture by him and especially for him. Ananya had
been waiting for Anushree to display her anxiety, her need for his
company—and that visceral reaction was all he desired.
Anushree spoke to handle the damage control. “I get the gist of it.”
They both continued to stare at one another with a deafening
silence between them, yet with each passing moment they were
shedding the cloak of shyness. Ananya, when he felt absolutely certain
that the lady in black with a mysterious tattoo had been overwhelmed
by his words, said, “Do you want to grab a cup of coffee? Coffee
doesn’t have to be Irish, just so you know.”
Anushree laughed and conceded to the proposal. Ananya, moved by
the rush of adrenaline in his veins, went a step further. He locked his left
hand in a curve, signaling her to put her right arm there and walk beside
him, with Ananya being on Anushree’s right side. Anushree was indeed
overwhelmed but hadn’t surrendered completely; her fort might have
been invaded, but the commander-in-chief was very much alive.
She spoke with sternness minced with warmth while smirking at
Ananya. “I think it is a little too early for that.”
Ananya didn’t take the temporary disapproval as rejection and
complied. They both started walking beside each other through the
lawn, on the concrete pavement which led towards the exit of the
college. Ananya couldn’t believe what had just happened. That the
stale society of his would introduce him to such a vivacious person

86
was something he hadn’t foreseen. Anushree was, no doubt, a pristine
soul, and the mark of the black ink indicated that there was some dark
disposition residing in her character that Ananya wanted to relate to as
soon as possible.
While walking, Ananya for the first time noticed the sprinklers
on his college’s lawn and was more than happy that they rotated. It
resulted in the two of them having to constrict the space between
each other, eventuating to occasional brushing up between the sides
of their frame. In his mind, Ananya thanked the gardener and thought
of bribing him for next time. He noticed that the sprinklers produced
irregular rainbows just a bit above the surface of the grass. He turned
his face towards Anushree, whose height was so appropriate that her
ears were at the level of Ananya’s mouth. He spoke in almost a whisper,
aligning his mouth with her ear while holding back the temptation to
toy with that erogenous earlobe. “Do you see that?”
He smelled her for the first time, and whether it was her
pheromones or his overactive mind, it was a sort of fragrance he had
never experienced before. Anushree acknowledged the dispersion of
light and continued walking without minding the frequent caressing
of their arms.
They both left the college and continued walking until the arisen
dust particles playing in the dispersed white light calmed, settling on
the grass blades before progressing into the unknown. The two were
totally unaware of the journey that lay in store for them. The water
soon would be sublimed by the heat, dematerializing the rainbows,
and at almost the same moment, both tender, yet raw youngsters,
would be evanescing into the oblivion.

87
88
Foetus Grows a Penis
Akshay was curious to the hilt to unearth the details of Ananya’s
rendezvous with his newly acquired feminine companion. The moment
he saw Ananya at college, (since he couldn’t meet Akshay earlier due
to a “prior engagement with a fellow Mirandian” (obviously her)), he
welcomed his confidant with a crooked smile. The sort of expression
which conveyed that a transgression had been carried out, and only he
was aware of his mortal sin.
Both made their way towards the class, but before Akshay had the
chance to confront Ananya, he was bustled by Ritika. For the first time,
Akshay was disappointed to see that dietarily-deficient disciple. On the
other hand, Ananya was glad to meet her, and likewise note the expression
of exasperation on Akshay’s face. Ananya noticed that the girl’s bony
structure rendered her chiseled face with heightened expressions, whose
invocation relied on phrases coming out of his own mouth.
He led her onto to a two-seated bench, totally ignoring Akshay,
who was fuming with anger. Ananya, while sitting there, winked at
him, indicating that he would have to wait a bit longer to hear his
terrific tale. Akshay soon realized why Ananya’s feet had disobeyed,
because Ritika that day had donned a tangerine-orange colored kurta
accompanied by a black bindi and sangria-red lipstick. Her simple,
yet sophisticated dress complimented her, and she had unconsciously
enrobed herself along the lines of Ananya’s sexual proclivity.
Mr. Katyal had just begun taking attendance, thus giving time for
Ananya to gaze at his ‘feeble’ fetish. He became enchanted at how her

89
lipstick, upon interaction with sunlight, glossed with all the luster it
could muster. The mascara she had put only added to the plight of
Ananya. She handed a spare bindi to him, saying, “Keep it safe—I
might need it later.”
Ananya held that circular disc and put it in his novel, The God
of Small Things, and laughed at his own joke upon the coincidental
correlation of title, bindi, and his acquaintance. He wanted to intertwine
her fingers with his so badly that for a moment, he felt like his hand
had been afflicted by alien hand syndrome. He exercised discretion,
however, and resumed tickling Ritika’s funny bones. In response,
Ritika proceeded with a transient caress with her palm on his forearm,
and pinched him whenever Ananya reminded her of her possible
appearance as Gollum in the Indian version of The Lord of the Rings.
The lecture ended with Akshay sulking in a corner, deprived of the
tale and the company of his comrade, but Ananya wasn’t done yet. He
continued walking with Ritika and signaled Akshay to join him. Akshay
advanced and joined the association on Ananya’s left side, as his right side
was already seized by the creature of Ananya’s temporary delight.
They met Kanika in the café, and her eyes beamed to the fullest
upon seeing Ananya. Akshay had told her about their predictable
debate with an unexpected turn, and when she’d heard Anushree’s
description, she too had been bitten by the bug of curiosity.
Kanika greeted Ritika with her usual enthusiasm, and through her
animated gestures revealed to Ananya that she badly wanted to hear about
the evasive creature of his dreams. Ananya acted ignorant to all the signs
and kept the ball of stale conversation rolling. When Kanika couldn’t take
it anymore, she bluntly asked, “So, how did your debate at Resonance go,
or shall I ask about the exchange of words after the debate?”
Ananya sensed that he was cornered, and had no choice but to fill
in the exotic details that he himself was excited to tell at that point—
and in the process, reveal his romantic tale to Ritika as well.

90
I didn’t know that we both would hit it off. I was more
anxious after I transgressed the college than I was inside the
premises. I asked her if she had attended a conference outside
Delhi. When she acceded, I was glad that we could talk about
something besides her bewitching beauty. We both were
walking sideways, totally unaware in what direction we were
headed, when she blew me away with the information that
she had recently attended a MUN in Istanbul. My eyeballs
came out of their shell just as much Akshay’s are right now. I
could sense there was something unique about her; she carried
an imprint that could not be acquired by being Orthodox. I
wanted to hear her so badly that I retreated into my cocoon the
moment she started talking.
She told me that her uncle lived in Istanbul, and though
she had gone there to meet him, she fortuitously attended
a MUN conference on the same weekend just to beat the
boredom. That was the first time she made me laugh. Though
I giggled like a little girl, I still held my ground and paid
attention to every word uttered from her mouth.
She stated my name for the first time, saying, “You know
what, Ananya? I won.”
When she uttered my name, I had never been as envious of
the nature of language, which can be so skillfully employed. That
precious parting of those rose petal lips can taste the words, but to
whom they are directed shall be eluded of their company.
She shared the reason to which even I agreed that in India
the MUN scenario was much different. People didn’t come to
debate; rather, they came to argue about who shall bag the prize.
Now, it was my turn to tell the tale about my first and last
MUN outside Delhi. Even you guys know how much begging
and nagging I had to perform so as to attend a conference at
BITS Pilani. I shared with her an anecdote that I haven’t even
told you guys.
91
After describing the monotonous details of the campus
and the predictable nature of the committees, I told her that I
witnessed a girl acting as an anchor for the opening ceremony
who spoke with immense and extensive floridity. The places
in which her superfluous charm failed, she deployed her
phony accent, which was really unbearable. Later, when the
conference ended, I and she happened to cross each other’s
paths, and she did not know what to say when I punched
her with the statement, “Where did you grow up?” “In India
only—in Bombay, to be precise. Why do you ask?”
“Because your accent certainly isn’t from here.”
She looked at me with an expression that could not
be put into words. Let me tell you guys, I have never been
more proud of my mischievous remarks than I was with her,
because of the way Anushree laughed. I intend to make her
laugh like that all day and all night, every single moment.
When she insisted that I must be joking, I removed the iota
of doubt with a touch of flattery, saying, “I am speaking the
truth, Anushree. Listening to how facetious her tone was and
how melodious yours is, I don’t think I need to lie.”
She blushed earnestly, and the appearance of strawberry-
pink on her pale cheeks was like a drop of red wine in pearl-
white batter, like a drop of blood on parchment paper, like the
way a sinking sun paints the sky with a tiger-red hue.
We changed our course of direction and began circling
around the park that has the graffiti. We both picked our
favorites; her favorite was the image of Lord Shiva with
his third eye beaming to cause chaos; I picked mine, which
featured the Buddha in his eternal, peaceful state.
She then asked me, “What is your religious inclination?”
I replied, “Agnostic.”
When I asked her, she answered, “Atheist.”

92
I was intrigued that she’d touched a topic upon which I
craved to connect with someone.
Without her mentioning anything further, I added, “I
think the purpose of the existence of different religions is to
have different cultures.”
She grinned, saying, “That is an interesting thought.”
I resumed. “Yeah. Think about how ordinary the world
would look if all countries had the same culture as India.”
She laughed, and though I badly wanted to freeze that
expression of her, I wanted to witness the brain behind that
beauty as well.
“Think it over, Anushree. Every culture has its own path
of connecting with the Universe, which is termed as religion
nowadays, and the beauty of life is that we can choose the
path that pleases our heart the most or create our own way.
Unfortunately, though, we don’t treat ourselves to be born in
a certain culture. We do treat ourselves to be born in a certain
religion. The path to progress—one might say ‘salvation’—
will only be possible when we acknowledge our culture and
choose the religion we wish to follow, which is truly the path
to God.”
Anushree said, “I couldn’t agree with you more,” and
radiated at me with her smile.
But we weren’t done yet. Our curiosity on theology
continued to entwine us like two celestial bodies being pulled
towards each other through their mutual attraction.
We both had marked St. Stephen’s twice and Miranda
House once on our uninterrupted course. Then, with the
intention of ending our first tryst on a high note, I feigned
fatigue and proposed to leave her at the Miranda House, with
which she complied without hesitation.

93
We were walking towards Miranda, when out of nowhere
she came up with this startling observation:
“You know, Hinduism is primarily divided into Vaishnava
and Shaivism worshippers (that is, Lord Vishnu and his
reincarnations versus Lord Shiva and his forms), but those
bird-brains forget that in Ramayana, Lord Rama worships
Shiva to bless him to build Rama’s Bridge, while at the same
time, we witness images of Lord Rama being worshipped by
Lord Hanuman (that is, the avatar of Lord Shiva).This loop
stands for the fact that all this positive energy is one. Which
can be termed as Creator, Universe or Cosmic Mind.”
I grinned at her and responded, “Of which we are divine
descendants.”
We both stared at each other unflinchingly, with the
crescent moon-shapes on our faces to convey our heartfelt
affection. Her gaze seemed to look directly into my soul, and
I was bound to break the silence by asking, “Who is your
favorite divine personality, Rama or Ravana?”
“Ravana,” she answered.
My eyes glowed with more sunshine than they reflected.
Her nonconformist reply piqued my curiosity. I asked her
why, in order to measure the extent of her eccentricity.
“No girl would like to go out with a guy for whom she
has to jump in a fire to prove her faith. Besides, I find it kind
of romantic that a king lost his kingdom, and later his life, in
order to affirm his worth and love.”
I chuckled listening to her unorthodox explanation, and
beamed at her broadly to the extent my lips could take. But
unfortunately, Miranda House came, and with heartache, I
was forced to bid her goodbye.
The moment I was about to turn and head in my direction
with those pleasant memories, she gave me. She called my
94
name in that cuckoo voice of hers; her voice pierced every pore
of my body and felt like a natural sweetener to my eardrums.
She still donned that smile which was soon going to be my
strength and my weakness. I retracted the two footsteps which
had separated me from her and asked, “What happened?”
With a smirk on her face, she said, “Aren’t you going to
ask for my number?”
I bowed down and stared at my feet, and waited to gain
my composure to formulate a befitting reply.
“Do you blame me?”
“When I was so mesmerized by your presence that we
traversed my college twice and yours thrice.”
“Twice,” she corrected.
“You see what I mean now?”
She giggled in her liberated, yet veiled-with-shyness
manner. I was looking at her like a puppy whose life goal was
to be caressed by those palms with which she concealed her
mouth while laughing. We exchanged numbers, and when I
was certain she had entered the sorority, I partly hopped my
way back to the campus.

The ambience of the café had changed significantly when Ananya’s


narration of his first encounter wrapped up. Other scholars had left for
their classes, and the table at which his three spectators were seated
showed varied gestures. Akshay’s eyes, for the first time, appeared
dim—it reflected fulfillment of his appetite, whereas Kanika’s wide
eyes suggested that she’d had her pill for cheap thrills. However, the
most noteworthy inversion of expression was on the face of Ritika. It
appeared that her face had lost all luster, and her mascara was on the
verge of mixing with her tears. She pushed back her pain while sipping
the ‘hot coffee’ turned cold, and when she found it was impossible to
95
hold back, she excused herself, saying she had to try to get attendance
for the lecture she’d just missed.
Kanika gave Ananya the enlarged-eye look when Ritika left.
Ananya, still residing in his mental imagery, asked, “What?”
Kanika retorted, “You know very well what. You know she likes
you, and what you did was unpleasant.”
Ananya came back to reality, and while looking at Kanika, with a
smirk on his face, said, “My friend, ladies can be classified broadly into
three categories. The first, in which you reside, is the circle of close
friends—the kind of person that you want around yourself, and don’t
mind apologizing to for the misunderstandings that inevitably creep
in between. The second is the category of temporary distractions, but
transcendental in nature; I introduced to you to this just now. And the
final one is of just plain dull distractions—the entities in your path put
forth by maya (that is, illusion) just to lead you astray.”
Akshay, being completely absorbed by the essence of the
statement, bro-fisted Ananya and adorned the moment with his newly
acquired phrase, “Dawg!My man!”
Kanika retorted, “Yeah, you are a dog.”
Ananya countered, “Woof woof!”
Kanika chuckled, not just upon hearing Ananya’s humorous
reply, but also due to her overflow of the happiness upon realizing
that she was a dear friend to him. Nonetheless, she detested how
unconsciously Ananya had hurt Ritika.
From that day onwards, Ritika started maintaining her distance
from Ananya. Though deep down she was overwhelmed with emotions
whenever he skirted on her periphery, she always kept her self-respect
intact and didn’t succumb to the occasional digression of hormones.
Ananya, on the other hand, was living the life he had been
deprived of since he joined St. Stephen’s. At college, he would count
in reverse to the time when the lectures would conclude and he would
be able to spend time with his muse. Ananya wasn’t aware of the knot
96
Anushree was unwinding within him. She seemed to not only capture
his imagination, but also launched his ingenuity with greater zeal. His
grades remained the same, as he wasn’t intrigued by the acquisition of
information but rather the attainment of knowledge, which he did in
the presence of Mr. Prakash.
Ananya, with his relentless attitude, soon transcended his fellow
mates. Though he always tried to invite Akshay into the charm of
chemicals, Akshay resigned and preferred minimal interaction.
Mr. Prakash was impressed by Ananya’s proficiency; therefore, he
suggested that he do a project under his mentorship instead of pursuing
an elective course in the upcoming semester.
Ananya was going to meet Anushree that day. This was probably
going to be their second proper date since their initial interaction at the
college compound, but in between then and now there had been a few
cursory meetings as well. For instance, there would be an interaction
in the metro, or they would run into each other at Maggi Point. It
was funny, though, that when a person became part of your planetary
system, his trajectory would be often traversed by you.
Sadly, Kanika and Akshay too were free at Ananya’s scheduled
departure that day. The Three Musketeers left the college, but upon
seeing Miranda, Ananya simply said, “Make yourself scarce.”
Kanika teased him, “We would also like to meet Anushree, to see
if she lives up to the reputation you have built in our imagination.”
Ananya couldn’t depart from his witticism and replied, “And
show her that I have a sleepy sloth and a gecko for friends?”
Meanwhile, Anushree came out from the college, and Ananya
naturally began moving in the direction of her essence the moment he
noticed her presence. His friends noticed that Ananya was going towards
her like a bee buzzes towards a flower. Ananya greeted her, while his
buddies stood at the other end of the road watching him interacting.
Kanika taken by impulse, said, “Let’s go; we’ll see how he
responds.”

97
Ananya had his back facing them, so he was completely unaware
of the tsunami approaching the shore. When both were at an arm’s
length, Akshay slapped Ananya’s back and with his broad smile and
widened eyes said, “Where have you been, buddy? My eyes were sore
to see you”.
Yeah, a bit too sore, I think.
Ananya was burning with rage inside, but sensing that there
was no escape, he introduced his friends, saying, “Meet Akshay and
Half-Baked.”
Anushree giggled instantly, and watching her reveal those
crystal-white teeth pacified Ananya’s anger. She had worn a jet-
black Pink Floyd T-shirt – the one with the much-revered prism that
dispersed white light and sky-blue jeans. Her face radiated with glee
and happiness, which was further intensified by her flamingo-pink
lipstick and her elaborate chignon, which tied her hair perfectly and
left a strand or two to rest upon her shoulder blade.
Kanika and Akshay in that moment realized that the description
Ananya had given fell short in describing the enchantment of her
elegance. Kanika introduced herself by extending her hand, and
was soon followed by Akshay. Ananya was happy when he saw that
Anushree got along well with his friends, and soon all four started
talking as they proceeded toward a cafeteria on Hudson Lane.
Anushree was enjoying these newly-acquired acquaintances, and
blended in with them almost instantly. She told them a few crucial
things related to her upbringing, like being born in India but having
no recollection of it, and soon being shifted to Uganda, where the
major part of her childhood took place. After which, she related, she
had stayed in two European nations while travelling back and forth
between them, then had moved on to Turkey, and finally landed again
in India for her undergrad education.
Ananya retorted with a smirk, “So you stayed in Europe. No
wonder—it reflects in your personality.”

98
In response, Anushree blinked her eyes and smiled, revealing the
affection she harbored for him. Before the order arrived, Anushree
excused herself for the washroom, and was followed by Kanika.
Akshay nearly jumped down Ananya’s throat for not introducing him
to Anushree, but Ananya’s mind was elsewhere. He wondered what
the two women were talking about. He was curious about the ways of
women when they were away from men.
Anushree and Kanika soon arrived back at the table, and so did
their order. They all gorged themselves on dim sums and tandoori
momos, with chocolate-filled momos for dessert. They left the table
with empty plates and full tummies. There was a tiny smudge of
chocolate left on the edge of Anushree’s mouth, which Ananya
desperately wanted to clean with his own mouth; however, Kanika
promptly cleaned the smudge away with a napkin, and Ananya again
surged with anger. While the girls had been gone, Ananya had told
Akshay to make up an excuse to leave him and Anushree alone.
They all walked out of the café, and Akshay kept the promise
he’d made. He offered some puzzling excuse for needing to leave,
at which Ananya almost sniggered. Making Kanika understand his
reason for leaving was tough, but it was achieved with a little effort.
Hence, the soon-to-be lovebirds were left by themselves.
In Anushree’s presence, Ananya donned a shy personality, as if
the last thing on the planet he desired was to upset her – especially if
he were the reason behind it. He spoke in an undertone, “Did you like
what you read?”
“Yeah, I absolutely loved it. I mean, I really liked the weaving of
your words.”
Ananya grinned, recognizing that his writing had penetrated
beneath her pale, polished skin. Anushree reflected the emotion
with similar intensity. He said, “There is one more limerick I have
composed for your admiration, but this time I am going to recite it
instead of making you read.”

99
Anushree masking her mirth with her hands, said, “I have an
idea. Follow me.”
She continued walking, but faster than her usual pace. Ananya
grew more curious every moment about what she had in mind and
where were they headed. They traversed several streets and finally
reached an entrance with a sign that announced: Kamala Nehru Ridge.
Ananya had been in Delhi for quite some time, but it had never
occurred to him that such a pristine and virgin patch of natural beauty
existed so near the campus. He was enthralled as he noticed species
of birds he hadn’t seen before. The companions reduced their pace
because of the unsteady path ahead and also to absorb the natural
essence that lay at every footstep. Anushree seemed to reverberate
with the beauty that was in every atom of the surroundings, whereas
Ananya was smiling in his head; she would have no idea what hit her
after relaying his incendiary words.
When the precarious path ended, out of it emerged a beautiful
scenic vision, where a miniature arched bridge overlaid a placid lake.
Though the spring season hadn’t arrived, the place still looked raw and
unadulterated from the city in which it was nestled. Anushree’s eyes
shone with happiness and she pointed at the bridge, as if to say we shall
sit there. Ananya, by now, had been mesmerized by the atmosphere,
and proceeded by throwing caution to the wind; but in the back of his
head, a voice incessantly nagged that reeked of pessimism, putting
forth questions like, what if the words I choose are too fierce? What if
she doesn’t like it?
They both reached the bridge and sat at the edge of it while
dangling their legs, and they looked at the spot where, a few
moments ago, they had spotted the secluded, yet spectacularly
picturesque abode.
When they had both had regained their breath, Anushree said,
“So, tell me what have you weaved with your wool of words this time.”
Ananya’s heart throbbed, just the way it had when he’d met her
for the first time. He responded, “I simply call it The Walk.”
100
“The walk I took with you that day blew my mind
The walk I took with you that day slowed the time
Knowing you had been an experience
Knowing you more had been an adventure
The curve that forms at the corners of your lips is a sight to behold
The dimple on the cheeks soon accompanied is pure gold
...that walk blew my mind
...that walk slowed the time
A talk with you seemed like you have figured it all out
It made me want to close my eyes and listen to you all the time
Your voice is melodious
Your manner of speaking is harmonious
Every word that you speak is adorned with beauty
Listening to them is pure ecstasy
...that walk blew my mind
...that walk slowed the time
You are like this little ball of light traversing through the galaxy
Having her own aura of tranquility
You are one of the most intoxicating beings I’ve had the chance to meet
Making me wonder how in this cruel world someone could be so sweet

It’s hard to describe what a compelling combination you are


But easy to realize what a sonorous soul you are
The simple yet surreal manner in which you braid your hair
Makes my heart shriek in despair
For to describe the way they beguile me
Words haven’t been created that shall agree
There are times when I look at you
And I wish to shatter every constraint to be with you
But soon I realize I have promises and commitments that I can’t dismiss
So dear, I might have to give this thing of beauty amiss
..that walk blew my mind
..that walk slowed the time”
101
Ananya’s hands were shivering the whole time he recited the
poem, and at times, his voice also quivered. When he was done, he
thought he had blown it. He was never this nervous and self-conscious,
but noticing Anushree told a different story. She buried her face in her
hands while her cheeks flushed with blood, warmed through Ananya’s
words. When Ananya saw she was vulnerable, his intention to act
mischievous grew stronger. He spoke, “It was too much, right?”
When Anushree didn’t respond, he uttered, “I thought so.”
He balled up the paper and extended his arm to throw it away.
The moment Anushree noticed that, she shrieked at the top of her
voice, “No! It is completely fine.”
“Just fine?”
“I mean, it is divine. No one has written for me in this manner.
Happy?” Anushree spoke while feigning anger.
“Not just happy – fairly merry, rather.”
Ananya, while handling the ball of rhymes, looked deep into her
eyes and saw that the veil she put on for the world had been lifted. Her
eyes revealed her unsoiled soul, the part of her that she kept locked
away from the world, just the way Ananya had once done. He handed
her the poised, yet pierced, verse and told her, “Kanika gave me a hand
with the title, but rest of the work is solely my creation.”
Anushree, in her defenseless stance, spoke, “I know.”
She continued, “I envy you, Ananya. You have got such good
friends. They accept you for who you are and express empathy,
without being judgmental.”
“Why do you say so? You must have a vast social circle as well.”
Anushree immediately chuckled, as if it were an alien idea for her.
She said, “My global footprint has left a stamp on my personality which
repels women and attracts men – and mostly the perverted kind.”
Ananya responded, “I hope I don’t fall into the latter category.”
Anushree giggled and said, “If you were in that category, would
I have brought you into my palace of peace?”

102
“Fair enough,” he replied, and joined in a laughter riot with her.
“Nevertheless, if anything or anybody were to bother you, to
deprive you of your mental peace or invert that fascinating smile, you
would know where to find to me.”
Ananya extended his arm and opened his palm as a gesture to
solidify their friendship. Anushree, in response, grasped his hand, and
he clutched her fingers around his like snakes in mating season.
Ananya continued, “…me, Kanika and Akshay.”
He had left the statement incomplete on purpose, in order to
sense the depth of her feelings towards him. He had never felt this
exhilarated, as that was the first direct physical contact between them.
Imparting the warmth of both his palm and his words was more than
he had imagined. He wasn’t aware that the veil Anushree had lifted
had been raised from his side as well.
Anushree stretched her arms and breathed in the fresh air that
was infused with the fragrance of lilies and lotuses, as well as with
Ananya’s masculine scent. She had by now grown fond of this
newly-formed companionship, and felt a sudden urge to heighten the
happiness she experienced.
She asked while exhaling, “Would you like to get high?”
Ananya wasn’t sure what he heard, so he asked to confirm. “What?”
Before Ananya could react further or Anushree could respond, she
pulled a joint from her entwined hair. From a distance, nobody could tell
that those luxurious locks had held between themselves something so
intoxicating and illicit. Ananya, whose knowledge of such substances was
null, took a moment to absorb what had just happened.
Anushree, while placing the tip of the joint between her pair of
rosebud lips, asked, “You got a light?”
“What?” he said, and then answered, “I am afraid not. I don’t smoke.”
Anushree chortled, saying, “Neither do I; I just like to get high,”
and winked at Ananya.

103
Anushree handed him the joint, and took the amulet from her
neck, which was buried in her bosom. Meanwhile, Ananya held
that curious thing and revolved it around his fingertips. He tried to
assimilate an idea, but failed. He asked, “What is that, Anushree?”
Anushree held a locket, upon which there was a peace symbol
engraved. The color of the amulet was of medallion-gold alloyed with
obsidian black. Anushree took out a biconvex lens from the intriguing
casing, and took the joint from Ananya’s hand. She was glad that
from an arm’s distance, a direct beam of sunlight was illuminating the
surroundings.
Anushree took the lens in one hand and the doobie in the other,
and with obvious difficulty, adjusted the tip of the reefer cigarette at
the focal point. She looked at Ananya and in a stern tone commanded,
“Care to help?”
Ananya, who had until now been consuming the whole experience
with silence, got up and asked, “What do you want me to hold?”
Anushree laughed and replied, “Lens.”
Ananya sat beside her and held the lens at the edges. He confessed,
“You know, physics was my favorite subject in high school, and judging
by the nature of this lens’ curvature, you ought to come closer to me.”
Anushree sensed the insinuated idea, and graciously smirked.
Eventually, the distance between the lens and the joint was reduced,
and subsequently the distance between both of them, as well. They
both were sitting like primary school children who wanted to test the
latest thing they learned in their science class; the power of sunlight
when focused could burn paper, except this time, it was a rolling paper.
They both sat still. Ananya didn’t move the lens an inch, whereas
Anushree was maneuvering the joint millimeters back and forth. This
time Ananya scolded her, “Would you quit it?”
Anushree, like an innocent lamb, said, “But it isn’t burning.”
“It takes time and perseverance”.

104
Anushree held the rolled Kush and was still, but after few
minutes she grew tired and placed her head on Ananya’s shoulder.
Ananya’s joy increased significantly, and deep down he wished the
little imbecile never to be lit. He felt inebriated without even taking
a puff. Anushree’s zeal started fizzling out, and her smile became flat
and steadily started reverting. With dejection, she said, “This is not
going to light. Let’s go.”
Ananya, who could stand everything but distress on that pretty
face said, “Wait.”
He went down the bridge and came back with some twigs and
strands of dry grass. He placed them in a heap and started focusing the
lens. He said, “This ought to do it.”
“You are a genius, my friend,” remarked Anushree.
Ananya corrected her, “Not genius—just aware.”
This time their persistence paid off. The heap started emitting
smoke, and soon the little blaze intensified into an inferno. Anushree,
without wasting a moment, quickly lit the grass with the grass and took
a few deep drags to allow the fire to uniformly consume the handmade
cig. Ananya stubbed the fire, and they resumed sitting at their original
place, only with interchanged positions.
“It smells funny; you didn’t tell me what it is.”
Anushree snickered, and, mildly afflicted by the high, said, “It is
cannabis.”
Ananya couldn’t conjure up a memory in which his path crossed
this curious cannabis, and he remained puzzled. He noticed how the
stream of smoke poured from the tip of the joint and made fantasy
figures with the occasional disturbance of the wind. Whenever
Anushree took a puff, the end of Mary Jane transformed from cherry-
red to marigold-orange, and the way she expelled the smoke was a
sight to behold. Her lips protruded in a pout which ejected the stream
of smoke in a fashion that made it look like she was filling air with
a cannabis cloud. Every time she exhaled, she lifted her head a few

105
degrees and let out that marijuana air that had filled her lungs to the
brim. Sometimes she released the air too soon, and other times she
held it for a while, exchanging glances with Ananya, filling the bowl
of smoke as leisurely as possible.
Ananya was sitting quietly while Anushree, who was halfway
through her joint, soon began to be afflicted by the obvious symptom
of chattering. At first, her talks were trivial – mostly about the
encompassing nature around them – but then she diverged to a more
vulnerable issue about her childhood in Uganda.
“You know, Ananya. During my formative years, I witnessed a
fair share of violence and brutality.”
Ananya responded swiftly, “You don’t have to talk about if you
don’t want to.”
Anushree, sensing the gentlemanlike mannerism, laughed and
said, “I mean, I didn’t witness it upon me—rather, around me.”
“Okay, please continue then,” Ananya replied, wondering what
he’d said that made her giggle.
“The political situation is still highly unstable in Uganda, and it
had been since independence. You know, when I was in the nursery,
where children are supposed to be shielded from all this hatred and
destruction. There were moments when I had to leave my drawings
because the bomb raid alarm used to go off, and we all had to scrounge
into the bunker in the basement. And when we returned, I never felt
even remotely inclined to complete the sketch. I was glad that before
the situation got any worse, Dad’s contract ended and we had to move
to Brussels in Belgium.”
Anushree continued with her puffing process while Ananya, who
didn’t know how to respond, resisted the urge to put his arm around
her so as to comfort her. The doobie was half of its earlier size, and
had a few puffs left in it.
Ananya said, “I guess sometimes things are part of a bigger
scheme. Think of it this way: for you to get here, you had to go that
106
place. Sometimes we have to witness chaos in order to measure the
price of peace.” Ananya waved his hand to the ubiquitous beauty
surrounding them.
“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” remarked Anushree.
Ananya asked her, “Do you believe in kismet?”
“Um, yes.”
“Then how do you define karma?” inquired Ananya.
“All we children of God have free will, and it is at our discretion
the way we choose to exercise it. But how it is my fault to witness
those atrocities?” questioned Anushree.
“It isn’t; and neither is the fault of the denizens of Uganda,”
retorted Ananya. “Look at this way. Our Earth is one big, extended
family, where the karma of one affects the other, and hence, we shape
the destiny of our planet. If we selfishly pursue our goal, then we either
are bound to meet some resistance or cause a disturbance.
“It is not your fault, and you needn’t blame yourself, Anushree. I
am just glad you have attained contentment now.” While saying these
words, Ananya placed his hand around her fist which held the joint
between her fingers. Anushree was more than just happy because of
the cannabis-induced high. She lifted her hand, opened her fist, and
offered Ananya the luxury of the spliff.
Ananya held the extinguishing cigarette, smelling it from a
distance and said, “It smells funky.”
He returned the cigarette without taking a single puff, and
Anushree was touched by the fact that he valued his principles beyond
anything. Anushree took the final drag and composed an expression
that showcased her distaste of burnt bud. She squelched the roach and
said, “I enjoy your company, Ananya. I would appreciate if you don’t
share this little recreational activity of mine with anybody. Not even
with Kanika and Akshay.” Ananya nodded, and Anushree continued,
“You see, people judge those who smoke cannabis—especially girls.

107
Do you have any idea how many pairs of eyes goggle at me when I
purchase rolling paper?” Anushree said with emphasis, while at the
same time, pushing her eyeballs out of their sockets.
It was now Ananya’s turn to chortle upon witnessing the red hue
in her eyes and cheeks at the same time. He spoke with calmness,
“You invited me to your palace of peace. You needn’t say more.”
Anushree smiled at Ananya; in response to this, Ananya beamed
at her. They both lifted themselves from the spot and soon they were
out of the ridge and in search of a fast food outlet because Anushree
was afflicted with the munchies.
They first came across McDonald’s, which Anushree dismissed
instantly, saying, “The McD’s clown creeps me out.”
Ananya looked at the inanimate imbecile sitting on the bench,
and made a mental note of it. They both then stumbled upon a new
café on campus, which only Ananya had tried (credits to his friend
Bharti).After the meal wrapped up, they both made their way to their
respective homes. Ananya proceeded toward Malviya Nagar, and
Anushree to Janakpuri. Ananya was warmly welcomed by his sister,
Guddu, and at the other end of town, Anushree was well-received by
her younger and only sibling, Mira.
If Ananya was mesmerized by today’s incident, then Anushree
was no less enthralled. They both were taken hostage by their younger
siblings. If Ananya’s younger one were waiting for admission to
pre-nursery, then Anushree’s awaited the cut-off list of the colleges.
Hence, both spent their leisurely time in the company and stories of
their elder siblings. They envied the freedom that their elder siblings
owned, and probably, the elder ones would trade their freedom for a
return to the innocence encased in the eyes of their kin.
Guddu took Ananya to her doll house, and Ananya altered the set
course of events by introducing the book of Greek mythology during
the playtime—not only to enhance his sister’s vocabulary, but also to
catch a whiff of a word or two for his next rhyming composition.

108
Anushree, on the other hand, disrupted the alliance between her
sister and her books. Though a bright student, Mira was always filled
with the fear of not internalizing her potential, and probably it was this
fear which left her debilitated. Despite their mild differences, Mira
was Anushree’s most credible confidant.
Anushree took her to the drawing room with her favorite beverage,
black coffee. Her eyes had regained their natural white tone, but her
persona still felt the impact of the THC in her veins. Their living room
was decorated with different items from the places where they had
stayed or visited, and they gave an enigmatic aura to the home. If
there were multi-colored masks from Uganda, then there were also
paintings from Brussels; and to accompany them, there were souvenirs
from Cyprus. Adding the cherry to the cake were Turkish relics. The
placement of each artifact was precise and they each complemented
one another, enhancing the mystique of the place.

“You know, Mira, I didn’t tell you. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you,
but if I can’t tell my little sister, then who could I tell? You
remember that I went to St. Stephen’s last week to attend a
chemistry conference? Now, don’t roll your eyes as if this was
the first time you were hearing this. I met this guy – or, more
accurately, he met me. I saw him first in the Miranda House
MUN, though we didn’t talk. But our meeting in St. Stephen’s
was less accidental and more serendipitous. Now, if you roll
your eyes upon hearing about the MUN, I will punch you in
the face.”
Mira responded, “Ha, no. I remember your description of
the Miranda MUN quite vividly.”
“Good.”
“Is this the guy you said was running around the
committee like his pants were on fire?”

109
“ Ha ha, yes.”
“All right,” Mira smirked at her elder sister.
“You know, he did the most charming gesture one could
do for a woman,” said Anushree.
“What?” inquired Mira, her eyes filled with curiosity.
“He found the cure for our periodic problem?”
Anushree laughed. “No; had he found that, I would have
married him.”
“Listen now! Has anybody ever written for you? It is a
beautiful feeling, Mira. The first time I met him, I had a hunch
that he was drawn to me like a moth to a flame, and as much
I reveled in the notion of witnessing him burn, I am afraid he
was carrying embers himself. Here, read it.”
Anushree handed her the first poem Ananya wrote.
Mira asked, “What is that end line?”
“It says, ‘Worthy to be on your right.’ Even I couldn’t read
it the first time. Fool! He underlined my name so many times
that it shredded the paper. But the moment I was done with
reading his poetry, I couldn’t help but marvel at his beautiful
selection of words and the connection between phrases.
The words were poised with the apt amount of passion and
devotion. It felt like being gifted a rose only that it won’t get
diminished with time and it holds an eternal essence.” 
“You don’t have to be an Einstein to figure out that he
likes you,” remarked Mira.
“Yes, I agree with you. You know, today I hung out with
his friends. I got to know other people’s impression of him, and
it turns out that he is pretty smart, too. You know the debate in
which he presented me with this verse was organized by him?
And not to mention, the first time I saw him, he was runner-up
in the MUN.” Anushree paused, looking at her sister. “Stop
yawning, or I will bitch slap you.”

110
Mira responded, “Ha ha, it is so easy to get under your
skin, sister. Continue.”
“Today, we went to Kamla Nehru Ridge together. Poor
guy was deprived of that nature’s nest for so long. He behaved
himself, despite having the full ability to force himself upon
me, and then he read me this.”
Anushree handed her sister The Walk.
Mira, after reading the poem, gave some conscientious
thought and said, “I think he truly, madly, deeply likes you.”
“You figure that now? Einstein’s pet parrot Bibo figured
it out before you,” remarked Anushree.
“Maybe he even lov–”
“Stop it! Mira, don’t ruin this for me. I find that to be the
most overused and misused phrase of this century.”
“Alright, Di. But the major question is, do you like him?”
Anushree answered, “I don’t know, Mira; I like his
company for sure. I admire the way he makes me feel as a
woman. I adore the fact that he observes those intricate details
that are normally overlooked. I relish in our conversations
that transcend this scrupulous society and crumbling culture.
Mom and Dad won’t return until late. Right?”
“Yes, you got that right.”
“You know the best part that won me over today?”
Anushree asked while lighting another rolled-up reefer
cigarette from her reserved stash.
“What?”
“He didn’t smoke up just because a pretty lady beside
him was getting high. He held his ground; he stood by his set
of beliefs. That impressed me the most.” She passed the joint
after filling her lungs with the requisite amount of smoke.

111
Mira looked around to ascertain that they were the only
two in the home, and that the main door was locked, and took
a deep drag of the medicine which was acupuncture for the
brain but a puncture for the lungs.
“Pretty lady, huh? Don’t flatter yourself, Di,” teased Mira.
Anushree came around to her sister, wrapped her arms
around her neck, and comically choked her. Then she placed a
peck on her sister’s cheek while taking the spliff.
Mira said with an austere expression, “So I presume he knows.”
“Yes, he does.” Though not entirely.

112
Kismet or Karma?
Ananya was ecstatic to have become part of Anushree’s inner circle,
where she shared her most cherished and vulnerable moments from her
childhood, accompanied by disclosing her immense affection for cannabis.
Ananya researched the substance and for a moment was taken aback that
it was referred as ganja in the country and had gotten bad press.
Yet, he still maintained his equivocal opinion on the matter
and didn’t succumb to the temptation of joining Anushree in putting
up the smoke screen, so to speak. The delightful routine involving
the oscillation of emotions was soon overshadowed with the clouds
of gloom of the upcoming examination. Everybody was forced to
work for their grades, but Ananya was still struggling to focus in the
classroom. His mind rebelled and refused to cooperate when there was
a much more pleasant object to focus upon.
Ananya would sit in the library with his friends and jostle the
thoughts of Anushree out of his head by bringing expressionless
equations into the picture. Every time he tried to push back images,
Anushree appeared in his prefrontal cortex much more vigorously. He
began to feel more exhausted than his counterparts, and when exams
were just a fortnight away, he gave in to his impulses and yielded to
the temptation of calling his ambitious acquaintance.
He called her and she responded before he could say a word.
“Hey! Long time no see. Too absorbed in scoring good grades?”
Ananya demurely laughed, and replied, “No, not at all. Just
building the castle, bit by bit, day by day. What about you?”
113
“I haven’t even started.”
Ananya teased, “So you say.”
She grasped the sarcasm and laughed out loud, while Ananya
beamed, knowing that he’d caused that effect.
Ananya, who had been abrading the thought through unceasing
thinking, finally asked her, “How about we study together?”
Anushree paused for a transient moment which seemed everlasting
to Ananya. He waited for her to utter a word as a prisoner hung his ears
upon the words of his judgment.
“Yeah!Fine by me.”
Ananya felt his weight reduced by a ton with her affirmative
reply. He chuckled under his breath upon inferring that she sounded
eager for his association.
Quit playing games, mind, he said to his brain.
Anushree inquired, “So where shall we meet?”
“Central library.”
“Okay, we shall meet tomorrow, and I shall let you know the
timing earlier in the day.”
Ananya hadn’t anticipated that it would be this easy, but now
the toughest part lay ahead—formulating a reason to escape from his
amazing friends.
At the decided time, Ananya was unfortunately caught up with
Akshay and Kanika. He knew that if he said he wanted to leave early,
that desire would be seconded by Akshay; if he said he was going to
meet Anushree, he would be pursued by Kanika. When his brain ran
out of excuses, the realization dawned upon him that lying to them was
probably not the best idea. He whispered in Akshay’s ear his dilemma,
and left abruptly after utilizing the phrase ‘bro code,’ to which Akshay
had to concede.
Ananya left his college premises like a Red Riding Hood and
rushed toward the Central Library like a Road Runner. He checked his

114
watch—he was twenty minutes late. He entered the establishment and
swiftly made his way towards Anushree.
She spoke with sternness, “You are late.”
“I apologize. Without your company, the sun beamed at me out of
sheer arrogance. I am glad I didn’t dissolve.”
Anushree smiled, at which Ananya relaxed. His partial exhaustion
was lessened there, and when he sat beside her and smelled the air
laced with her perfume and pheromones, the rest of weariness left
him as well. He breathed deeply for a few moments so that the neural
firings in his cerebral cortex would register the peculiar pattern and
tag it as ‘Anushree.’
Anushree had tied her hair in a chignon, resulting in Ananya
having to peak at the detailed nest of her hair. She asked, “What are
you doing?”
Ananya replied, “Wondering if you still brought that rolled
curious cannabis with you.”
Anushree hit him with her hand and hissed, “Shut up!”
They both opened their reference books and began looking at
chemistry of matter, although there was a much bigger equation at
play: chemistry of human emotions. Ananya didn’t want to reveal
his prowess at organic chemistry, for he wasn’t truly there to study.
Rather, he was there to learn about the extraordinary creature who held
the capacity to cause a chemical imbalance in his brain, just through
acknowledging satisfaction in his association.
Ananya’s heart beat steadily, but it throbbed with intensity. He
smiled at the wonder of the Cosmic Mind, that if he was wearing a
T-shirt of magenta hue, then she was wearing a sangria shade. If she
was storming her brain over the reactions, then the reflection of it was
assaulting heartache in him. If Anushree unconsciously pushed back
that notorious ringlet behind her ear, then Ananya consciously cringed
in his space upon noticing the defeat of all nature’s wonders with her
natural charisma.
115
Anushree asked, “Why is phenol a stronger acid than ethanol?”
Ananya replied, “The lone pair (What I was) on the Oxygen
atom gets delocalized due to the resonance effect (Where I met you),
hence making the O-H bond weaker (What I am now) in comparison
to ethanol.”
Anushree resumed busting her brain cells in the book, while
Ananya continued scanning her vivid expressions. He soon realized
that the little knowledge he acquired amongst his friends became
meager in the companionship of Anushree, but at least he relished
every second spent and had peace of mind, of which he was deprived
for a long time.
Anushree again inquired, “Why is ortho-nitrophenol more acidic
than ortho-methoxyphenol?”
“The nitro group is electron-withdrawing in nature, Anushree
(Depriver of my contentment).Due to its close presence (Currently
where you are) to the O-H bond, it makes the loss of the proton
(Loss of my core) easier, and the O-nirophenoxide ion formed after
the loss of proton is stabilized (By only you) by resonance (Where it
all started).”
Anushree interrupted him, saying that answer was just like
the previous one. To this, Ananya sniggered, drawing the parallel
of how similar the reply to both questions was in his context. The
rest of the session continued in a similar fashion, with occasional
trouble counterfeited by Ananya. He gained a peculiar gratification
in observing the drawing of lines on her forehead and him being the
reason for her relaxation.
Such sessions continued with little to no variation. Ananya was
sometimes successful in memorizing a page or two, but soon Anushree
tormented him with her teasing remarks, making him forget even
that. With exams a few days away, reality dawned on him that if he
failed, not only would he be subjected to criticism from his family, but
Anushree’s friendship would have deluded him as well.

116
After college, he initiated a routine in which he ran towards the
metro station like a prisoner who just escaped from his cell, because
he knew if Anushree called him before he left, she would ask, “Why
haven’t you come yet?”
Just like his mind, his limbs would revolt as well. But the
only thought that consoled him was that for her long and extended
company, he was betraying the ephemeral yet ethereal pleasure
upfront. Luckily, Anushree called every time he was inside the
metro, and he excused himself by bringing his troublesome cousins
in as a defense.
The exams dawned upon everyone like a solar eclipse—first
partially and then fully blocking the light of life. Ananya didn’t call
Anushree during the entire period because he was aware of how
vitriolic that ball of fire was for his calm composure. He had to refrain
himself from even asking her the results of the particular exams,
because a giggle from her and an inevitable meeting later would leave
him in ruins.
When he was about to write his final exam, he made the resolve
that after the exam he would definitely call her. His mind was so
engrossed in thoughts of her that after writing ‘An,’ he almost wrote
‘Anushree’ instead of his own name. He aligned his mind and resumed
his inscription on the paper with an imploring composition of words
dedicated to deduce good marks from his professors. He wondered
whether, from a distance, his writing might give the false impression
of a heartbeat on an ER machine, but he resumed nonetheless and
made sure to put some fragments of knowledge in between to establish
equilibrium between lunacy and ingenuity.
The moment the exam ended, he rushed to the café and while
gobbling down the food to fuel up the furnace, he called Anushree.
He waited for her to pick up and held his breath until the last ring; she
didn’t answer.
He waited impatiently, watching the minute digits change on
his phone screen. He was forced to order a mango milkshake to set
117
the affairs of his stomach in order. Just when he took a big gulp of
the shake, his pants vibrated; he had been never so sure that it was
Anushree calling him back.
Ananya looked at the screen and made her wait, less for him
to push down the liquefied mango, and more for her to feel the pang
of separation.
He finally picked up and said, “Hi, Anushree!”
“Hi!”
“Could you meet up?”
“Yeah, how did the exam go?” she asked.
“Talk to me about anything but that.”
“All right. Did you know that alcohol is the perfect solvent? It
dissolves all sorts of problems.”
Anushree and Ananya both sniggered, and Anushree said, “I have
a better solution.”
“Of course you do!” remarked Ananya.
“Meet me at the graffiti wall in five,” replied Anushree
Ananya left the café. When he was about to reach the edge of
the graffiti wall, Anushree saw him from a distance and pointed to a
nearby small patch of nature. There was a shack there that provided
evening snacks and drinks.
Though the spot was no comparison to Kamla Nehru Ridge, the
placidity in the ambience echoed the place with peace. When they had
sat comfortably, Anushree took out the doobie, and since this time she
had a lighter, she blazed one end while puffing at the other.
Ananya exclaimed, “Anushree, there are people here!”
Anushree, seeming totally ignorant of the remark, waved at
the shack owner with the hand which held the joint and ordered two
mango milkshakes. The owner smiled in response and gestured that he
would bring it quick.

118
Ananya was flabbergasted by the compliance of the keeper,
coinciding with the attitude of Anushree, suggesting as if weed was
legal everywhere.
“Mango enhances the high, you see.”
Ananya, after researching cannabis and some of its distant
cousins, was compelled to ask her, “How many kinds of drugs you
have tried?”
Anushree chuckled; she took a deep drag, made a cannabis cloud,
and replied, “Does it matter?”
“Um,” murmured Ananya.
“Because if it doesn’t, then what it the point in asking? And if it
does, then I probably shouldn’t tell you.”
Anushree winked at Ananya, to which he bowed down his head
in embarrassment. To make him feel better, she asked, “Have you
written something for me?”
Ananya brought his face up and beamed at her with the thought
that he still held the dice, but he responded “I am afraid. I didn’t get
the time.”
“You are pretty good at writing poetry. Maybe you should take
writing seriously.”
Ananya swiftly retorted, “Only if you choose to be my muse.”
Anushree amusingly hit him with the pointy end of her sandal,
and Ananya absorbed the pain with pleasure. Meanwhile, the errand
boy brought the mango shake topped with cherries and cream. Ananya
laughed in his head over the choice he’d made earlier, while Anushree
took several gulps of the refreshment with her recreational potion.
Anushree finished her drink at the same time the joint went out
and just as Ananya was about to take a subsequent sip. She asked him
to listen to something with her. She took out her phone and put the
audio splitter in the jack plug. In it she inserted her earphones at one
end and asked Ananya to give her, his headset as well.

119
Ananya took out his earphones, which were entangled as if they
were in the process of consummating. Anushree gave him the “eye”
while unwinding them, which Ananya tried to escape by hiding behind
the mug from which he sipped. She plugged it in and threw earplugs
towards Ananya.
“What is the song’s name?”
“Shh.., listen first.”
Ananya, an obedient student, adhered to her command and put
forth the earphones.
The song began with a sitar, which then transcended into
progressive beats. The beats held their rhythm, yet at the same time
varied with the occasional rise in pace. Ananya focused on the track
and passed the drink towards the lady upon sensing her parched throat.
They both exchanged sips alternatively while the song progressed.
Ananya had never been acquainted with this sort of genre. He was
fond of hearing hip hop, R & B, and rap, but this was growing on him.
Soon he, too, joined Anushree in a subtle yet prominent up and down
head movement, and exchanged glances to signify their accession.
When the music ended, Anushree asked with expectation in her eyes,
“How was it?”
“It was good, apart from the explicit cannabis reference. What is
the track called?”
“Shiva’s India.”
They both proceeded towards the metro station. Ananya felt
slightly heightened in awareness just through the music, and was
glad Anushree introduced him to such a different shade of life. While
they were on their way, he requested that they walk on the lane where
McD’s was situated—pleaded, rather.
When they both passed in front of the restaurant, he pointed at the
creepy clown. Anushree saw that someone had drawn a pair of balls
accompanied by a penis on the left cheek of the sculpture, with the tip
of the penis jerking off, and droplets covering the front portion of the

120
face. There was a supervisor or two standing there, analyzing whether
to wash it off or do away with the tarnished mascot completely.
Anushree laughed while holding her stomach; accompanied by
the high induced by cannabis, her giggle lingered longer than usual.
She could not stop herself—she held Ananya’s arm to keep herself
from falling, and still held it while she walked a few paces. At that
moment she realized that if she was a civilized hippie, then Ananya
was an unrestrained nomad. Ananya teased her, “Someone is kind to
you, my friend.”
Anushree beamed brightly, to which Ananya also responded with
the broadest smile he could bring forth on his face. They both agreed
to meet soon, irrespective of the vacation that lay ahead. Ananya made
a promise to himself that he would reduce his stay at his hometown
since Anushree had said she would be leaving for the holiday in a
fortnight and would return in a week.
Ananya left for his home, bidding farewell to his dear relatives.
While leaving, however, he assured them that in spite of living near the
campus, he would visit them on weekends. He whispered in Guddu’s
ear, “No need to remember that tongue twister anymore.” In return, he
was rewarded with an affectionate hug and kiss.
This was probably the first time Ananya was excited to leave
home even before reaching it; the thought that he would have his
own place which could be attended by Anushree filled his mind with
harmonious yet ominous ideas. He spent his day learning skills of the
kitchen with the distant dream of Anushree wrapped up in the bed
sheet and him preparing the breakfast.
When Anushree called, and her delicate yet directed voice turned
that flicker of passion into a flare. She said she had to come to the
college to check the cutoff list in Miranda for her sister, and at the
same time wanted to see that clown. Ananya booked his ticket for
return and insisted that his mother not come to the station; he knew
very well that irrespective of the journey, whenever she would notice
this slice of her soul go away, it would torment her, which would cause
him pain as well.
121

Ananya reached Delhi two days prior to Anushree’s arrival, which
gave him sufficient time to circulate creative juices in his sibling’s
formative years and perform his artistry upon that sodomitic sculpture.
On the day of the reunion, Ananya reached at the agreed spot before
the scheduled time. He waited with his metaphoric sword forged from
his incipient ability of being a wordsmith.
Ananya was a bit skeptical when a foreign figure waved at him,
but was soon speckled with awe and wonder. When he looked closely,
he realized it was Anushree. She had worn a flannel shirt with white
and black checks that was open at the front, and underneath she wore a
raven-black camisole. But that wasn’t the part that left Ananya gaping
for more. The lady in black had cut her hair short. Though Ananya
liked her long, wavering hair, the short style only became concentrated
in its effect. Her chiseled face became more vivid in expression. She
seemed a bit thinner, but Ananya dismissed the thought, figuring that
it must be the hairstyle. It was purgatory the way those erogenous
earlobes played hide and seek in that hair, which ended just inches
above the nape of her neck.
Anushree hard adorned a mulberry shade upon her lips that
Ananya desperately wanted to wipe away while tantalizing his taste
buds with the glowing lip gloss. They both headed towards the
Miranda House, with every guy gazing at him with envy and every
gal, upon seeing Anushree, seething with jealousy.
Anushree excused herself when they reached the main gate.
Ananya watched her go into the wilderness, deserting him to his
solitude. But she did grant his eyes some spice to the senses. Her
ethnic handbag caressed her waist, which ornately curved down into
the most erotic contour. It could put a whole peach orchard to shame,
yet the only arc that could emerge victorious would be her benign
smile. Its curvature was so elaborately etched that it would render

122
a man salivating, for those flexed muscles were one of a kind and
couldn’t be defined. Her waist and rear end were still causing chaos
by slightly revealing the tattoo, which, being perpetual in nature, was
incessantly cradling the cup of Ananya’s curiosity.
Anushree returned with dejection on her face, and they both
proceeded to the shacks. Ananya made a resolve to acquit her from that
anguish, and history had been testimony of the fact that the Universe
has always bowed down to the men with firm intentions. Hence, they
both returned from the shacks with Ananya shimmering with shyness
and Anushree gleaming with redness, accompanied by a piece of
paper clutched between her fingertips. They both proceeded towards
the metro station but there was a difference in the expression donned
by each of them. For the first time, Ananya displayed demureness,
whereas Anushree constantly acted caddish.
Anushree reached home, but her grin was displaced by sorrow for
her sister. Her face dripped of the pain, but still, joy lurked somewhere
in her lips. It just needed a spark to ignite. Mira confronted her sister,
“Did you see the list? The goddamn site is still down.”
Anushree had no option but to break her blood buddy’s heart with the
truth. She lit the doobie and handed it to her sister just after a single puff.
Mira drew the laced air to poise her mind, and spoke when she sensed a
peculiar notoriety in her sister’s eyes. “So, did you meet him?”
Anushree gleamed with happiness the moment her vulnerable
vein was touched and outpoured what she had been containing with
enormous effort.
“I was disappointed to find out that, despite your hard
work, you failed to make it to the first list. At the same time,
I was agitated over that bloody reservation which gave undue
advantage to some ingrates who viewed their caste as privilege
and reservation as their right. But watching Ananya look at
me with calmness and tranquility assured me that everything
was going to be all right. We proceeded towards the shack—
never have I ever wanted to get high so bad, Mira. I could very
123
well perceive the uneasiness in Ananya, which reflected how
badly he wanted to cheer me up, but I retained my expression
in the hope that he would come up with something novel to
lift my spirits.”
“He said, ‘I became acquainted with more tracks like
Shiva’s India. Would you like to listen?’
“I straightaway denied. I wanted him to try harder, to
utilize his best weapon—the beautiful power of his words that
I was impatiently waiting to be assailed with. But alas, my
dilemma was that I couldn’t say that out loud.
“He was figuring out what to say when he pulled out a
piece of paper almost at the same time, I took out the cannabis
cigarette. The sadistic prick noticed that I was about to blaze,
hence he began putting back that paper, saying, ‘You desire
that rolling paper more than this paper; I don’t mind, continue.’
“I was caught, Mira. He had me on all fours—figuratively
speaking, of course. I had no option but give up my pride. I
reached out to his arm, and pressed it enough to warm the
blood in his veins so that later he could warm mine, and I said,
‘I am in a bad mood, Ananya. You will have to forgive me.’
“‘I understand, Anushree,’ he said to me while placing
his palm on my hand—that opportunist bloke, I thought.
“’It might help if only you would share,’ he said.
“‘You know what would help, Ananya?’ I replied.
“He beamed at me like the first time he saw me. It was so
innocuous, yet underlined with immense passion. He took out
the paper as if my reply was the only signal he needed. I had
never felt my heart throbbing so bad. I was both skeptical and
indefensible. The kind of battle that was going to ensue, I had
already surrendered to it.
“He then began reciting the composition of his words
that I never wanted to end. Here is what he’d written:

124
“O dear one! For your name is Anushree
You are truly a goddess to this devotee
You are the flame that I couldn’t foresee
The flare which had truly set me free
I wish to be the flute to the godliness in you
To be so close yet not impure you
I wish to be the cloud of sky of which you are the sun
Playing a little mischief with Earth where we both belong

“It’s hard to describe how I feel when you are near


My heart pounds so fast that even you could hear
My voice shrills, my veins vibrate with these cheap thrills
For it is you with whom this deep black hole could be filled
The most captivating form of your hair is that one big knot
Where very conveniently you place that rolled pot
It breaks my heart to see that bud between those pair of lips
For they are meant to talk and sometimes give a gentle kiss

“But now you have cut those lengthy strands


And in the process have only made every strand withstand
They tease me with that tempting nape of your neck
Accompanied by your marvelous curvaceous back
In the midst of that alluring ink
I yearn to break every set precinct

“Every word of his was like molten gold that calmed my


spirit. Every time his words made contact with my eardrums,
my resolve to smoke lessened. But my curiosity regarding the
last stanza heightened. He looked at me with the expectation of
exaltation and asked, ‘I couldn’t come up with an appropriate
title, but I find “Anushree” quite befitting. What do you think?’

125
“I giggled like a little girl who had just received her
Christmas candies and replied, ‘You couldn’t be more apt.’
“Now it was his time to appear shy. I asked him, ‘You
must have written the rest before, except the last stanza. When
did you write that down?’
“‘While you were away, I had nothing but to inculcate
the charm that I had just been injected with.’
“That was the sweetest thing he’d said, apart from the
poem, of course, and I just wanted to reward him so bad. I
bent forward while he was writing the title. I moved closer
to him and whispered, ‘I have one more tattoo that is not so
readily visible,’ and placed a kiss on his cheek. He looked at
me with wonder, and slowly returned to his timid shell which
I had grown to like.
“He wiped his cheek and retorted, ‘I understand if you
like my work, but you don’t need to put dew on my cheek.’
“I laughed like I never have before, at least in his
company, and then it made me think that he purposefully said
that to cheer me up. But nonetheless, he was still acting coy;
perhaps that peck was responsible. I took out my journal and
began sketching some creature from fantasia land. Ananya
looked at me with curiosity and asked, ‘So what is the tattoo?’
“I cackled again. I was touched the way he was trying to
tickle every funny bone of mine. I responded, ‘It is Mojo Jojo.’
“‘Mojo what?’ he asked me.”
Meanwhile, the spliff had reduced to a few puffs, and
Mira looked at her sister in amazement. She was so engrossed
in the storytelling that Mira had to take away the miniature
joint by herself.
“‘Mojo Jojo is the most prominent villain of the
Powerpuff girls, and also their co-creator—unlike the popular
perception that Professor Utonium created them.’

126
“‘Didn’t you see the cartoon in childhood?’ I asked.
“Ananya then made an expression like he was struck by
lightning and said, ‘I don’t believe you. I want to see it for myself.’
“I slapped his shoulder playfully. When he sensed that
my jovial nature was back on track, he asked, ‘So what
happened, Anushree?’
“I expressed my displeasure at the soaring-high cutoff of
honors-level economics, and at you not being able to make it,
accompanied by my frustration towards reservation. He took
a moment to absorb this and said, ‘I too have my reservations
against reservation, Anushree.’
“He continued, ‘You know, there is a particular notion
that you might find interesting. If you imagine God as a human
being, then the head portion rightly belongs to Brahmins for
their dealing with knowledge. The chest and arms, meant
for defense, justly belong to Kshatriyas, the warrior clan.
The stomach corresponds to nourishment, which falls in the
lap of Vaishyas, the business class, who is responsible for
the workings of the world. Last, but not least, is the portion
below our belly, our excreta system whose smooth operation
is necessary for the proper functioning of the aforementioned
organs; hence, the laborer class, Shudras. But listen, a bit
more intently now—when a person is born, he is born through
those sexual organs that are below the belt only; hence every
human is born ignorant—as in Shudra. It is only through your
karma that your caste is decided.’
“I was startled by his astute observation, and so greatly
wanted to dampen his other cheek as well. But then he broke
my trance by saying, ‘Let us go; we have to pay a visit to an old
friend.’ We started walking towards the metro station by taking
a detour in the direction of our intriguing sculpture. Ananya this
time had drawn the phallus and his companions on both cheeks,
leaving no room for misinterpretation—like there was any before.
127
Then Smarty Pants took me by surprise, by saying, ‘You know,
suddenly I feel parched in my throat, or maybe it is my cheek, or
the perhaps the lips are dreadfully dry.’
“I sensed the insinuated meaning, Mira. I punched him
in the tummy but somehow I felt my blow was a bit fierce.
He suddenly stopped and cringed while placing his hands on
his stomach. I genuinely felt bad, and since we’d eaten a fair
share of snacks at the shack, I was concerned. I came down
to his level—he was still looking down. I started apologizing
but he wouldn’t look up. Then, almost taken by an impulse,
I wrapped my palms across his face and placed a peck on
the other cheek. I again apologized but he wouldn’t look at
me. I forcefully brought his eyes to mine and asked, ‘Did I
hit that hard?’
“He nodded and replied, ‘Not to mention, you placed the
ointment on the wrong spot.’ I grinned, to which he responded
congenially, ‘Don’t worry, the misplaced medicine has started
working.’
“He got up, and we both started walking to the station.
And now here I am sitting with you.”
Mira thought for a moment, and with some deep contemplation
said, “Either you like him or you are the reason for finishing my
tampons, not mom, who I baselessly blamed today.”
Anushree smirked and said, “What if it is both?”
Mira hit her sister with a pillow she was holding and said, “You
are going to fill my reserve stock now.”

When Ananya reached home, he was already high by the mild release
of oxytocin. He was so elevated in his thoughts that he didn’t realize
it when he stepped in cow dung. He only became aware when he had
soiled the floor. This led to the dismantling of his air castles, but also
128
gave way to a resolve that he would now find a place for accommodation
that would be along the lines of a one-bedroom apartment.
Later that day, Ananya scrounged the north campus in search
for a place where reality could cease and give way to his dreams. He
needed a place he could call his lair, which could be visited by his
lioness in night and day, a place which offered the luxury of comfort,
yet at the same time went easy on the pocket. He stumbled upon such
a residence, which was located on less crowded area of Kamala Nagar.
The rent was a bit extravagant, but the image of Anushree wrapped in
his bed sheet only served to distort his judgment.
The place was built in a distinctive manner. Upon entry, the
apartment building opened up to a common gallery. On the ground
floor, there were three doors leading off the gallery to individual
apartments; Ananya’s was last. His apartment had a small kitchen with
the essentials. He asked in metaphors and symbolism whether it was
all right to bring a girl, to which the landlord simply retorted, “With
consent, sure.”
He booked the place and told the owner that he would move by
the beginning of the next month, when his semester would commence.
Ananya had been poised with visions of Anushree accompanied
by fictitious figures of smoke. He sometimes thought about smoking
pot with her, but dismissed it and decided to relinquish her bad habit
instead. He observed a change in himself: his cynicism had given way
to compassion. Though his critical thinking was very much a part of
his personality, he was becoming more thoughtful and helpful to the
people around him. If that was the effect of a peck on the cheek, he
wondered, then what devastation would a real kiss bring—or what
catastrophe would intercourse cause?
The semester began on Monday with a fresh start to the week,
but a stale continuation to the already enlisted course. Anushree and
Ananya had planned to meet once again, and since today’s studies
were going to be insignificant, they had agreed to ditch college and
deliberate on the lessons of life.
129
When Ananya was about to leave, he was confronted by Kanika.
One could not dispute her argument—she complained that not only
was Ananya depriving them of Anushree’s company, but they had
been even devoid of his as well. Ananya held Kanika’s shoulders,
looked into her eyes, and said, “Kanika, I understand your frustration,
but please sympathize with me. My association with Anushree had
transcended from robust rapport to enigmatic intimacy. I beg you to
consider my case and let me go.”
Kanika was touched by Ananya’s warmth in expression. She
asked, “Do you lov—”
Ananya immediately interrupted her and waved his hand in such
a motion as to put a break on her train of thought, and said, “Love is
just a four-letter word, abused by incompetents, and inadequate. I am
rather inclined towards the platonic altitude for which our relationship
has the potential to rise.”
Ananya bade them goodbye and proceeded in the direction of his
beloved while staring at the sky. Today, unfortunately, there was not
even a single cloud to play mischief with that ball of fire. He tapped
on his jeans pocket twice so as to reassure himself, and closed his
eyes to picture what Anushree could have worn today. If at one point
he thought of her concealed in an Eskimo outfit, then the vision was
quickly followed by a revealing bikini, which would introduce him to
the Mojo Jojo’s partner in crime. But all his expectations were swept
away when Anushree’s graceful gaze met him. He was moved to the
extent that the accursed four-letter word made an inaugural appearance
in his head.
Anushree had worn a white tunic embroidered with a salmon-
pink floral and intricate geometric pattern. The kurta ended just near
her thighs, encasing that classy ink over her jet-black jeans. Though
it concealed Ananya’s most cherished spot, the ridge between her
waist and the base it revealed much more. The loose collar of the tunic
exposed her neck, which curved at the edges like that of a swan. Her
earrings were composed of peacock’s feathers, enabling them to play

130
with the air upon their wish. Her spotless face had one more thing
besides that obvious upward arc; between the windows to her soul had
placed the decorative dot, the bindi. It was making Ananya go mad,
and the little sanity he had left was getting constantly corroded by the
flamingo-pink shade of her sparkling lip gloss.
He was hypnotized by her sheer elegance and utmost simplicity.
He was benumbed of any sensation after such a massive firing of
neurons in his prefrontal cortical area. He just watched her in wonder,
and felt the hair on his arms rise just with the thought of a romantic
rendezvous with her in seclusion. They both proceeded towards that
virgin patch of backwoods, which was last visited by them when
they were comprehending the concentration of sunlight. Along
the way, Anushree was trying to make conversation, while Ananya
simply conceded and nodded. He couldn’t put forth any resistance or
argument, because his fort had been assailed now. If Anushree had
suggested jumping over a cliff, he at least would have stood on the
edge with her. He was poised by what his eyes had witnessed and
his brain’s most notable interest, and couldn’t disengage from the
turbulence that reverberated beneath the skin.
They both were walking at a steady pace, with the distance between
their side frames occasionally reducing to zero; this subliminal form
of intimacy might have ignited their imagination earlier, but now they
desired to be engulfed by this fire entirely. Anushree’s nervousness
was evident in the frequent pushing back of the hair ringlets behind
her ear, even if they were already behind, whereas Ananya’s jitters
were inscribed all over his face. Anushree finally broke the deafening
silence, saying, “You know, I had a weird dream last night. I was a
butterfly roaming in the garden looking for ripe flowers.”
And then there are my weird dreams, which are dominated by
you, Ananya thought.
“Do you know what it means?”
Apart from the fact that your saccharine-secreting flower is right
beside you? Nope.
131
Ananya shook his head in negation and responded with a
congenial smile. Anushree then continued, “Have you ever thought
about whether, if upon sleeping, our spiritual self gives wings to our
natural expression in the rightful Universe where we belong? What if
that is reality, and this is a mere dream?”
If this is a dream, then it is certainly more charming than reality.
Ananya courteously consented, and Anushree continued upon
her chain of thought by again pushing back the already-pushed ringlet.
“Think it over. What if this human body is a mere vessel to extol us
from planetary consciousness to cosmic consciousness, and dreams
are just a slit in the space between, to give us a glimpse of our home?”
Ananya once again nodded like a mute lamb, to which Anushree
retorted, “Why are you so distracted today?”
Ananya had been barely holding his emotions in, blurted “You
blame me? Did you see the mirror before coming out?”
Anushree guffawed at his impeccable wit, and pushed him away
with her arm. Ananya came forth to the position more quickly than
he had strayed from it, and said, “If I have to sum up your proposed
philosophy in a sentence, it would be similar to something I read once:
‘We aren’t human beings on a spiritual journey, but rather spiritual
beings on a human journey.’” The to-be lovebirds looked at each other
in consent of their opinions and acknowledgment of their emotions.
They entered the Kamala Nehru Ridge and began scrounging for a
shrouded place almost unconsciously. Both victims of their habits
drifted from the familiar course and went deep in the woods with the
solace of each other’s company. They both proceeded with caution
into the uncharted territory, yet moved ahead with recklessness to
materialize their passion.
He certainly likes me—that is why he is being undeniably
quiet today. He is absorbing all the intricate details of my
appearance; I am afraid that it is making me self-conscious,
but this fear is a bit different in expression. I am somehow
looking forward to the mutation of this emotion into something
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secure and safe. But I am still afraid that he expects more of
me, and I won’t be able to live up to the benchmark he has set
for me. Gosh! Where are we headed, I just hope we remember
our way back.
God! Anushree, if only you could see how my brain
responds when near its favorite chemical stimulus. Your
simple yet surreal appearance is causing chaos in my head.
The reason I am awfully quiet today is because I am afraid
that my words might reveal much more than they intend to. I
am afraid you might perceive me as needy and desperate, but
I am greedy, Anushree. Greedy just for you, greedy for our
skin to brush against one another, eager for your opulent lips
to whisper in my ear, yearning for you to utter, “Where is my
poem, dear?”
When both had become tepidly tired, they noticed on their left
an old oak tree whose widespread canopy was the ideal umbrella of
nature. Both almost instantaneously pointed and started moving in
that direction. Upon reaching the shade of the leaf blades, they felt
the much-needed drop in temperature and noticed the magnificence
over their heads where sunlight escaped from the little rifts between
the leaves. They sat and breathed in the cool air and welcomed the
tranquility of the ambience under the shadow. The tiny droplets of
perspiration were getting evaporated, except the ones shared by one
other between the enduring contact of their shoulders.
Ananya finally broke the silence and said, “So, you wanted to
come here? What do you want to do next?” He extended his arms
to yawn, but with the intention of putting one around Anushree’s
shoulder; he retracted it while sensing the sheer stupidity of his gesture.
“Just talk. I find this place peaceful.”
Phew! I am glad that nervousness has been released
from my system. It was clouding my thinking. I just hope he
has prepared something for me again that propels me forward
whenever I am feeling low.
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God! Why do I feel more nervous than ever? The fact
that with every passing moment we are arriving closer to the
inevitable interaction between my words and her is drenching
me with cold sweat. If only she could see in my eyes how
madly I desire her.
They began talking about frivolous issues—rather, Anushree
just talked and Ananya listened. His eyes, after devoted attention to
her face, often deviated to acclimatize themselves after being filled
to the brim with beauty. In reality, he was biding his time to gather
courage for the moment when his words would make an appearance
in this play crafted by angels. When he sensed that the conversation
was about to become predictable, he said, “Why aren’t you smoking
pot today?”
“Maybe because I have grown a liking to your paper more than
that rolling paper.”
Ananya blushed and bowed down his head. It was the only push he
needed from the cliff, the only iota of interest he required from her. He
extended his leg to take out the wrinkled piece of paper, and with much
difficulty of concealing it from Anushree, he prepared for the strike.

O, Lord! I think he is going to be more excellent than before.

O, Lord! I am afraid her reward might render me more helpless


than before, and now you bring clouds. Great!

“Your effect on me is like Morphine


Overwhelming me with tides of Endorphin
Or like the illicit capsule of Quaalude
Discharging me of melancholy and uplifting my mood
Or perhaps a tab of Ecstasy
Sending me into a world of profound sensuality

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Or maybe a drop of LSD
Where your visions move me to an unprecedented degree
Or maybe you are a line of Cocaine
Incessantly discharging dopamine in my brain
Or perhaps sparkling flakes of Crystal Meth
Raising my excitation with every breath

“You are this Heroin-enriched needle


Which when pierced liberates me from all this upheaval
You are the thrill of the Krokodil
A toxic cocktail broiling me from within
You are my curing Codeine
Capable of clearing this sinuous of carnal Sin
You are so like your curious Cannabis
Calming me with effervescing touch of your lips
You are the speck of Angel Dust
Dissociating me from reality with your every touch
You are the divine Ayahuasca brew
Anointed with sole transcendental aspects of you

“Alcohol is mere water to sedate the senses


A drop of you is inebriating enough to drop my defenses
For you are the most intoxicating being ever to be known
Perhaps the most invigorating to speak the human tone
But you are none of the drugs mentioned behind
For my dear, you are one of a kind
A drug in human form
The perfect drug that defies all norms
The one whom I seek with the benediction
The perfect drug responsible for my addiction.”

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Anushree had buried her head in her knees and had her arms
locked around them. The perfect moment in the poem in which she
was enraptured to this level was difficult to tell, but the moment
Ananya was done, he felt his heart on the verge of explosion. The
silence of serenity appeared to him as the kind in a graveyard. But he
absorbed the stillness with patience, and noticed that a peacock feather
earring was stuck in her hair. He entangled it with his fingers, and with
the sporadic touch of her earlobes, a shiver was sent down his spine.
Now he desired his “opium” more than ever. He blew air into her
ear shell and then at the earring to observe the fluttering of the feather,
and whispered, “What do you think?” “I haven’t given it any name as
such, but I like ‘Perfect Drug.’’”
Anushree, who had been quiet until now, probably due to the
sudden arousal, raised her head. Her face had been flushed with blood
and her eyes were dilated and diluted at the same time. It was obvious
to the eyes that she’d just attained something of a mini-orgasm just
through the words. She finally spoke with a bit of stuttering, “Um, I
think it is wonderful.”
Her voice had been enervated and her eyes reflected complete
surrender. Ananya looked deep into her soul through her eyes, and
he saw his reflection staring back at him. He smiled at her, indicating
his deep-seated affection, to which Anushree in response beamed like
the rising sun. He involuntarily raised his hand and pushed the strand
behind her ear which obstructed the divine view, and instead of taking
his hand back, he let it rest at her jawline while relaxing it at her cheek
and neck simultaneously. Anushree, too, was consumed with the fire
of desire. She turned her lips towards the palm and placed a kiss on the
hand, and resumed staring back at Ananya uninterruptedly.
Ananya didn’t realize when the distance between their fleshy
protrusions reduced; he only realized when both had moved close to
the degree that the recognition of female essence caused tumescence
in his pants. He felt the activity of his virility, and lunged a bit further
till he smelled the fear in his prey. He waited for a fraction of a second,

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gaped at God’s marvelous creation, and with eyes closed and lips
partly open, plunged ahead.
The caress of the lips finally happened. Ananya, besides being an
amateur, was consistent and persistent. He was equally supplemented
by Anushree who soon intertwined her fingers in his hair and clutched
them intermittently. The perfect drug had entered his system, and he
became afflicted with addiction sooner than he’d thought. The sweet
strawberry taste of her lip gloss entered from his taste buds to his
bloodstream. Every time they kissed, his brain released hormones that
heightened his awareness. He could hear bees buzzing around him, he
could discreetly differentiate the chirping of the sparrow and singing
of the cuckoo. He could also hear the wind rustling through the blades
of grass. He even felt the warmth of the dappled sunlight on his skin.
Ananya’s one hand rested on her neck, while occasionally fondling
her earlobes and caressing the nape of her neck. He wanted his other
hand to explore Anushree’s anatomy, but he genuinely felt he wasn’t
qualified for that.
The kiss subsided with minimal yet memorable tongue action and
both of them gave each other memories for a lifetime. They retracted
more slowly than they’d advanced, and both could see in each other’s
eyes their affectionate reflection. They remained quiet to let the
excitation settle in and gain their composure. Nobody said anything
lest to besmirch the beauty with word’s waterless cruelty.
When silence had lingered long enough, Ananya got up, dusted
off his jeans, and extended his hand for Anushree to get up. She held
that hand with hope in her eyes. He placed a peck on her hand like a
nobleman. They both walked through the woods with no sound except
the crunching of leaves beneath their feet, accompanied by occasional
whooping of monkeys.
Ananya stopped at the intersection from which they had taken
the path least traveled, and from the distance he could see that arched
bridge, where they had sat before. He wondered that though the
perfect drug had been introduced to his veins now, the drug’s craving
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had been inculcated from that day forth. Anushree stood by him and
stared at the bridge with him, while intentionally brushing her fingers
against his. Ananya, whose appetite for affection still hadn’t been
satiated, grabbed her hand and intertwined his fingers around hers like
dreadlocks of an Aghori sadhu. Both graciously grinned at each other
and resumed walking.
Ananya felt himself to be the creator of the world in which he was
wandering. He felt the wind obeying him, the landscape compliantly
bowing before him. He looked at the bickering tribe of monkeys, and
seemed to pacify them just with his stare; hence, he calmed the throbbing
of his ‘heartbeat.’. When they got out of the ridge, they weren’t the same
people who had gone in earlier. Their personalities had witnessed a
transmutation and borrowed an essence one from the other.
Ananya bade her goodbye with a heavy heart, but just as Anushree
was leaving, she called to him and asked, “Won’t you give me the
prescription for my perfect drug?”
He placed the crumpled paper in her hand, and instantly placed
a peck on the bindi that resided on the middle of her forehead. Both
gleamed at each other while Ananya tried to steal fleeting touches of
her fingers by holding the paper as long as possible. His mind was still
intoxicated by her presence, and didn’t want his orgasmic, organic
stimulant to leave him so soon.
He had the option of attending the last lecture, but chose to
proceed towards his one-room setup. He didn’t tell Anushree that he
had moved out of his aunt’s home and had been staying by himself,
as the last thing he wanted was to appear needy and lecherous when
being slow and steady was so rewarding. He threw his bag in one
corner and himself on the bed and lay there watching the fan twirl,
like a junkie who just intravenously injected himself with heroin. He
began rewinding the cassette of the incident of his first kiss, playing it
again and again, while frequently pausing at the most cherished part.
He eventually got up when he felt parched; his mind was still so above
in the clouds that even the odorless water to him tasted sweet.

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He returned to his paralyzed posture and resumed reminiscing
about the taste of Anushree’s lips on his. He took out his phone and
began an indistinct chatter with the image of Anushree. He curbed
the urge to text her, as he was going to meet her tomorrow and this
temporary pang of separation was only adding fuel to this conflagrating
fire. He didn’t realize when he slept, and had to make haste for the
college the following morning.
He went to college with an enhanced sense of well-being. His face
owned warmth in expression and lips parched by that impression. This
time he confronted Kanika and Akshay and made them sit and listen
to his terrific tale. He began dictating his tête-à-tête with sometimes
overt and other times obscure details. He noticed the enlargement
of Kanika’s eyes and the dropping of Akshay’s jaw. He described to
them his first experience at the ridge, accompanied by a few lingering
ephemeral moments from his previous visit—but kept his promise of
not disclosing Anushree’s pot proclivity. He beat around the bush a
few times and said that yesterday he had written something piercingly
fierce for which he had been rewarded handsomely.
Kanika, with eagerness in her eyes, interrupted the narration of
events, “So, did you guys kiss?”
Ananya chortled and disgorged some of the mango shake that he
was drinking. He continued laughing a bit more when he realized the
significance of mango in his prior meetings with Anushree.
“I don’t kiss and tell, Kanika.”
He looked at Akshay and said, “But, I am also not the kind who
is going to fuck and shut up about it.”
He grinned at his brother from another mother and fist-bumped
him. Kanika, who was obviously flabbergasted by this reaction,
retorted, “You are such a dog!”
“Woof woof,” replied Ananya.
Both boys began sniggering and Kanika too joined them in the
laughter riot. She then asked, “When are we meeting again with your lady
love?” Ananya said, “Anytime soon. Wait, let me call her right now.”

139
Ananya unlocked his phone’s screen while bringing forth the
figure of Anushree in his mind, but at the same time pushing her
digital impression into the background. He called her once, and then
once again, but she didn’t pick up. He deferred the expectation of his
friends by saying, “She must be attending her lecture.”
Ananya might have postponed the curiosity of his friends, but
his inquisitiveness had only begun. He was aware of Anushree’s
lecture timing, and knew she ought to be available then—unless it
was the tough time of the month for her. He brought the computerized
image of her back to the front of the screen, while the eagerness for
her voice transmuted into concern and settled at the back of his head.
He resumed his day with that anxiety constantly whispering all kinds
of horrid things in his head. He sat in the lectures, but instead of the
affection of yesterday, dejection engulfed him. He was glad, though,
that chemistry lab was scheduled next, and he had nothing besides that
on the schedule.
He hoped that he would be able to rid himself of his uneasiness.
Hence, with his incredible enthusiasm for chemicals, he paid little
heed to the instructions and charged ahead like a raging bull. He was
still partnered with Pragati and despite her magnanimous mannerism,
he couldn’t calm himself and constantly tried to fight his fear with
impeccable focus.
Just at the moment when the experiment required utmost caution
and precision, he lost his focus and poured some corrosive agent on
Pragati’s hand. He took the test tube from her and the part of the acid
that fell in the test tube caused unanticipated effervescence which led
to the spilling of the solution on his fingers as well. He immediately
threw away the test tube in the sink and joined Pragati in washing
hands.It pained him considerably, so there was no telling how much
it must be hurting her, but she kept her benign smile. She assured
Ananya that she was fine, but the worry for Anushree was now
accompanied by guilt towards Pragati. He stopped the experiment
there and then, and due to his special privileges earned from Mr.

140
Prakash, he wasn’t asked to proceed further; nor was he scolded, for
that matter. He consoled Pragati of his ignorance but she retorted that
if he ever complained about it then she would pour the acid all over
him. That bit of dark humor cheered Ananya. Though that smile might
have appeared naturally, it almost turned upside down instinctively.
He missed Anushree now more than ever. He called her once more,
but the abhorrent, ill omen was still there—her phone was switched
off. He excused himself from the laboratory and made haste towards
Miranda House.
He rushed through the lawns, sprinted his way past the pathway
and dashed out of the traffic jam. When he reached Miranda, his heart
was pumping blood at full throttle to his strained nerves, but calmness
could be procured only from his daily drug dose. He observed faces
of girls coming out of the college—some new, some renowned—but
he just wanted to see the particular one that was currently the cause
of his chaos.
Unfortunately, he didn’t know any of her friends. Hence, he stood
there defying nature. The sun changed its position, the wind changed
direction, but he didn’t budge. The little worry had transformed into
a massive monster which consumed him every second and deprived
him of mental peace. He called her again, but her phone was still
turned off. He talked to the security guard, and in his fear-stricken
stammering voice he described her to him; the guard assured him that
she hadn’t come to college. He still waited in the desperate hope that
he had a better chance of seeing her here than anywhere else; but when
the frequency of girls reduced to nil, with a heavy heart he made his
way towards his apartment.
He dropped her a text asking of her whereabouts, and
proceeded to his room. He was less exhausted from the marathon
he’d just run than he was drained from the continuous hammering
of his thought processes. He lay on his bed, wondering what could
have happened to her—or even worse, what if she never wanted to
see him again?

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He looked at the fan rotating just like yesterday, but today his
mind was uneasy. He twirled the possibilities of Anushree’s reasons
for not responding. Was she behaving like this towards just him or to
everybody? He’d left things on such a positive note yesterday; she
seemed happy in his company—rather ecstatic, even. Then why?
What if she had fallen victim to some nefarious intentions? This
thought bugged him more than anything. He was well aware how
female-unfriendly Delhi was, and the thought of Anushree witnessing
any form of suffering made him sick to his stomach. He fidgeted in
his bed all night, twisted and turned, and curled like a foetus, but
sleep eluded him. He dropped one more text to Anushree at around
four in the morning, closed his eyes, and fell into a mini-slumber. He
woke up abruptly from a horrific nightmare, and the first thing he did
upon waking was to check his message inbox. His blood boiled to the
same temperature of yesterday when he saw a single tick on his sent
messages. He proceeded to the college; the aggression of yesterday
had given way to dejection now. He felt helpless; he didn’t know any
of her friends and he obviously couldn’t enter her college. He felt
debilitated, like a fish that, just removed from the water, was entirely
vulnerable in the hands of a person.
He was soon bustled by his friends. Akshay hugged him from behind,
but he stayed numb from the pain. He turned and drew a fake smile, which
his companion instantly grasped. Akshay asked, “What happened?”
“Nothing, man,” said Ananya, while avoiding eye contact.
“Have you guys progressed from spooning to forking your meat?
I would suggest condiments with it,” remarked Kanika.
Akshay and Kanika exchanged a high-five upon the intended
innuendo, but when they noticed that the expression of Ananya
remained unchanged, they inquired again, “What happened?”
“Nothing.It’s fine!” retorted Ananya.
Kanika came forward. Being an artist by nature, she happened
to be highly susceptible to variations of emotions. She said, “Ananya,

142
you might not have noticed, but you are wearing the same shirt from
yesterday. Would you please tell what is wrong? We might be able
to offer some help.” She placed her hand on Ananya’s to sense the
fluctuation of his feelings.
Meanwhile, Akshay, who too was bothered by Ananya’s
unequivocal sorrowful expression, came forward and placed his hand
on his shoulder. He asked, “Everything fine, man? Tell us if something
is bothering you.”
The initial touch of Kanika brought the pain back to the surface,
and the subsequent warm contact from Akshay transformed the pain
into tears. He stole a glance at them and walked away without even
uttering a word. He went to the washroom, washed his face multiple
times, and saw the pain that was pertinent through his eyes. He resumed
his daily routine with dejection in his eyes and apathy in his heart. He
met his friends intermittently, but his usual charm and charisma were
submerged in the ocean of grief.

In his mind, ‘where’ had been substituted with ‘why.’ He was consumed
by the question, “Why was she behaving like this?” If she even faintly
cared for him, then she would tell him about her whereabouts unless she
wasn’t in the position to contact him. This response to his hypothetical
questionnaire caused turbulence in his already-troubled mind. To relieve
himself of this conundrum, he just wished to see her once in robust health;
he wouldn’t even bother her if that is what she desired.
He ditched his friends. He didn’t attend his last lecture, and went to
look for his heroin-enriched needle in the haystack. He left the college
with a skewed proportion of determination and delirium. Instead of
sprinting to Miranda House, he moved with a steady pace—not just
because he had other places in mind to look for her, but because he
was aware that any form of spirited response from his side would push
him over the edge. He walked calmly with his every sense dedicatedly
working to catch a whiff of her essence. His eyes stared ahead into

143
the oblivion to look for her existence; if his ears perked upon voices
that moderately suggested of her presence, then his nostrils certainly
quivered with the falsified fragrance of her.
He talked to the security guard, and when he realized his lack
of enthusiasm wasn’t helping him. He moved across the road and
began waiting for his muse. He waited patiently with a keen sense
of urgency; his eyes gave him hollow hope whenever they spotted a
Pink Floyd T-shirt coming out with a fair face, or a close cousin of that
fanciful kurta. When the flickering flame of hope began dimming, he
acted desperately and tried talking to a few girls about Anushree; this
was not fruitful.
He resumed his quest and went to look for her in her favorite
restaurants and cafés. By now, his steady pace was overcome by a
uniform swiftness in his steps, accompanied by distortion in his
thinking. He paid a visit to those tea shops and cigarette sellers where
they had occasionally gone, but it wasn’t rewarding. His throat might
have been parched from the continuous questioning and scorching
heat, but his soul yearned for that other sort of monsoon cloud more
than ever.
He began moving with anguish towards his apartment when an
idea came to him like a thunderstorm. He had looked for her in all the
obvious places, but how could he forget her most cherished place?
He changed his direction and dashed like a dart towards Kamala
Nehru Ridge. He quickened his pace whenever his mind started framing
logical conclusions of her prolonged absence. He wondered that the
place must be infested by petty thieves and molesters, and the thought
of her receiving a scratch made him wish to wage a war against the
Universe. He reached the entry of the recreational biodiversity park,
and rushed inside like a sex-crazed opium fiend hunting for his daily
dose.
With every step he advanced inside, his anxiety and grief paralyzed
him more. The anxiety came from the thought of finding her in an
incapacitated condition, and the grief from not finding her till now.
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The paths they both earlier traversed precariously were now perilously
passed by Ananya. He screamed “Anushree!” several times, but there
was no reply. He even fell on the shriveled leaves a few times, but
that didn’t deter his resolve. He saw the bridge from the distance and
sensing the placidity of it, moved towards the old oak tree.
His mind had begun causing havoc now; the sweet memories
that were earlier composed through those passages were now being
superseded by the panic that he was feeling in his every vein for being
deprived of his metaphoric morphine. As he progressed towards the
tree, though his feet moved forward, his mind moved back in time.
He was aware that he was moving to the place of his first kiss and his
brain began interpreting the events and telling him that his first kiss
would be the last. When he reached the oak tree finally, grief won over
the anxiety.
Anushree wasn’t there. The oak tree, in its magnificence, swayed
with the wind as if nothing had happened. Ananya was exhausted and
mentally drained by now. He sat at the spot earlier inhabited by him
and looked at the grass which had been pressed beneath Anushree. He
felt the grass mocking him, as if whispering that he did it, he was the
cause of it all. Ananya vehemently uprooted the grass on that spot and
began punching the earth like a crybaby craving to be held.
Maybe the grass is right. Maybe I am indeed the cause of all this
mayhem.
He unconsciously shoved the grass into his pocket, pushed back
his tears, and began walking out of the ridge. When his mind had
calmed to natural working frequency, he noticed a pulsating pain at
his elbow. He noticed that in his pursuit of his elusive unicorn, he had
bruised himself.
He reached his room and lay down on the bed with an empty
stomach piercing like a blunt knife while he writhed in the pain of
heart and mind. He rewound the tape of his fairy tale in the projector of
his mind, and cherished the moment of their mutual air concealment.
On purpose, he put that thought on hold, and brought the pain of
145
bereavement to the forefront instead. He wanted to balance the pain
with pleasure, but it only added to the gravity and intensity of his
ache. His eyes became moist, but he held the tears in like earlier. He
then realized there was a bulge in his pocket. He inserted his hand and
laughed at himself for stuffing his pocket with that irrelevant grass.
But that grass was no mediocre grass; it was blessed by Anushree.
That was the closest thing to a relic he had of her. He turned to the left
side of the bed while lying there; he extended his left arm to study
that conventional grass, and began an indistinct chatter with the grass
blades whose conclusion had blamed him for all the misery. He let the
grass sift through his fingers, allowing a single strand to remain, which
he held tightly in his palm as an instrument of devotion. Through that
devotional instrument, Ananya began to pray.
He prayed to the Almighty to absolve him of this pain, he begged
him to relieve him of this devouring separation, he bribed the Creator
to bless him one last time with her presence, he tried to entice God
with austerity—when suddenly, a mosquito came buzzing in.
The mosquito sat on a plumped vein in his forearm and pierced
into it. He observed how keenly that mosquito was engaged in draining
him. He wished for the bug to drain all the blood from his body, and
just leave his skeleton. Or, if just fulfilling her appetite, then leave
behind some of that deranged dope derivative for him as a substitute
so that he could rise above this sea of sadness. The mosquito had her
dinner and left Ananya, depriving of a minuscule amount of blood
and leaving a soft red bump. Somehow he felt better; that selfless act
made him feel better about himself. He made a truce with God that
he would bestow random acts of kindness which would not please
him, or otherwise those selfless acts would become selfish. That little
itching red bump gave him less worrisome sleep and a notion to sway
the decision of the Universe.
He began the next day with no expectation of Anushree, but only
dedication to see her once. The lectures bored him as usual, and he
avoided the company of his comrades to prevent being asked about

146
her. While in his lectures, he formulated a few ideas which could be
classified under ‘Selfless acts of Kindness.’
He included feeding stray dogs, giving alms to beggars, and
going to temple so as to remind himself and God of their arrangement;
it would be a part of his routine. He even opened windows at night
to let mosquitoes in, so that God could respond more quickly to his
fanaticism. He spent his money profusely over poor pathetic creatures,
and let his skin become ruined from the incessant mosquito bites. He
continued this routine for three straight days with impeccable accuracy,
and God did hold his side of the bargain—well, sort of.
Kanika and Akshay had been worried sick. For the past four days,
they had been seeing fleeting images of Ananya, and a suggestion
of any sort of social gathering was frowned upon by him. Kanika,
being the sagacious one, interpreted quickly that the reason for such a
drastic shift in his personality was due to Anushree. In their ephemeral
interactions, she mentioned Anushree on purpose to see Ananya’s
reaction and it grieved her to see his face become white as a sheet.
She decided to investigate the matter further and included Akshay
in her bid to beat the madness. They utilized the empty slot between
their lectures and proceeded towards the sorority of dexterity, with a
mindset to return with something conclusive.
Kanika entered the Miranda premises, while Akshay waited
outside for his accomplice. She looked around and with much difficulty
stumbled upon the class that accommodated Anushree. She waited for
the lecture to wrap up, and when she finally got the opportunity to
interact with Anushree’s fellow mates, she was astounded to find that
Anushree was more of an asocial person; Kanika couldn’t find a single
person who cared about her unexpected prolonged absence.
She was beginning to connect the dots to Ananya’s distress.
She approached the administration department to put an end to her
snooping, while at the same time to provide closure to Ananya. First,
she inquired politely via her cover story about the current whereabouts
of Anushree, but when she realized that being nice wasn’t helping her,
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she assumed the role of the devil’s advocate. The person in charge that
held family records was a middle-aged man with typical male-pattern
baldness at the crown. It could be easily assumed that he would have
a child around Kanika’s age. She bent close to him and almost in a
whispery tone said, “Sir, I need to reach out to Anushree immediately.
There might be a threat to her life. Last we talked, she disclosed to me
that there was an admirer, a stalker of her, and now I am afraid that
something harsh might have happened to her.”
The admin head looked at Kanika with perplexity and then looked
out the window at Akshay. He then inquired, “Is that him?”
Kanika nodded and suppressed her smirk while watching
Akshay pick his nose. The admin appeared concerned, but sensing the
fabricated sincerity in Kanika’s eyes, he gave her Anushree’s landline
number. Kanika almost erupted with joy while saving the digits in her
phone.
The old man then asked, “Do you want me to knock some sense
into him?”
Kanika looked at Akshay who was analyzing the dried snot on
the tip of his finger like it was some precious gemstone. She could
barely hold her grin back, but responded congenially nonetheless, “I
will handle this one, though if need be, I shall let you know.”
She moved out from the confines of the admin department, and
the first thing she did was call up Anushree’s residence. She waited for
Anushree to pick up the call, or for that matter, for anybody to do so.
Finally, when the anticipation was about to give in, someone picked
up at the other end.
“Hello?”
“Hi! Is this Anushree?”
“Nope.Mira, her younger sister. Could I ask whom I am talking
to?”
“Payal, her classmate. It is about her attendance, ”Kanika lied.

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“Yeah. She hasn’t been well lately.”
After an indefinite pause, Kanika broke the silence. “Could you
at least tell me when she will be back?”
“Um, never. She is going back to Turkey tomorrow.”
The moment Kanika heard this she seethed with anger and
disconnected the call. Her mind was raging with fury. She couldn’t
believe what she just heard. She stormed out of the college and caught
Akshay hooked with his nose unexpectedly.
That soulless bitch doesn’t want to talk to her lover boy, fine by
me! Kanika was thinking.
She said, “I got the intel. Now it is up to you to bring that libertine
amongst us.”
Akshay guffawed as if she was judging his social skills, and
responded, “Don’t you worry about that, but what’s the headline?”
“That, I shall tell you later.”
Akshay grimaced in response like he was a mere sidekick, not an
equal partner in the extraction of intelligence.
The three friends again gathered as they had during earlier times,
but with different objectives altogether. Ananya was anxious to go and
continue his austere activities; his ceaseless endeavors had left him
with little to no money for the rest of the month, and the charitable
nights spent with mosquitoes had left a narrow line of red bumps near
the right sideburn of his face. Akshay was restless to hear about the
info for which he had to fight tooth and claw to bring Ananya into
Kanika’s presence. Kanika, on the other hand, was contemplating how
to reveal the information; she obviously couldn’t tell Ananya that she
had been to Miranda House.
There was pin-drop silence at the table, with Akshay waiting for
Kanika, Ananya waiting to be released from this metaphoric cage, and
Kanika looking for the opportune moment to launch the missile. She
looked at the edge of Ananya’s face which was pertinently red, and

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raised her hand to comfort him. Ananya immediately flicked her hand
away like a wounded infant does to a doctor with a syringe. That was
the only push over the cliff she needed.
Kanika sternly said, “Your glamour girl is leaving the country
tomorrow and going to…” She paused.“ What’s the name of the
country which resembles a bird that’s cooked for Thanksgiving
dinner?” she asked while looking at Akshay.
Ananya was doodling with his food and was on his way to put the
fork coiled with noodles in his mouth, when the words from Kanika
paused him. He held the fork in mid-air and stared unflinchingly at
Kanika.
Ananya replied, “It is Turkey; continue.”
At that point, he didn’t care how Kanika got the info or whether
it was true or a forgery. He was just relieved to hear about Anushree.
Kanika passed over a chit with Anushree’s home phone number
and said, “Here is her landline number—feel free to contact her.”
Ananya put down the fork and held the strip of paper the way
Gollum held the Ring in The Lord of the Rings; it was instantly his
most cherished possession—after that strand of grass, of course. The
pain started appearing on the surface once more. He believed every
word Kanika said, but just couldn’t believe why Anushree had behaved
so impetuously.
He soon got lost in his chamber of sorrow, where he forgot the
world around him, and his mind engaged in making him feel worse. He
held the paper tightly in his hands and uttered. “Thank you” with his
throat choked with emotions and his eyes filled with saline solution.
Both his friends quickly comprehended that Ananya needed some
alone time to reorganize his priorities, and got up from their seats.
Kanika said, “Think of it as a favor from one friend to another,”
and placed her palm on his shoulder as a sign both of her departure and
her assurance. The gesture was followed by Akshay, who accompanied
the expression with a sheepish smile.
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Ananya got hold of his hand and said, “Stay.”
Akshay looked at him and felt an insurmountable amount of
affection towards his grief. Kanika, who was waiting for such a sign
from Ananya, sat on her seat before Akshay could sit. Ananya was
happy about the fact that somebody genuinely cared for him and went
to unimaginable lengths to deprive him of his pain with their selfless
deeds. He began dictating stories of his and Anushree’s adventures
garnished with his usual zeal, which he feigned for their sake.
He told them about his artwork on that perverted mascot, about
their rendezvous at the ridge and all the other fables to relieve them of
worry, but his emotions got the better of him, and he began describing
his last congregation with utmost detail as if reliving that incident
through his spoken words. He confessed that they’d kissed and that
it was the most outstanding experience in his conventional life so far.
He soon submerged in his own ocean of emotions and realized that his
friends might get anxious to see him quiet once more.
He replied congenially, “I am glad that you brought peace to my
mind, but hey, there are more fish in the ocean than ever came out it.”
Akshay chuckled at the intended innuendo, and witnessing a
glimpse of the old Ananya, said, “Yo, Dawg! That’s what I have been
missing.”
Both friends bro-fisted like always, and Ananya looked at Kanika
for her distinct reply, but both preferred staying quiet and exchanged
affection through their glances. When Kanika was lulled into this false
security that Ananya had come out of his sorrowful shell, she asked,
“Will you call her?”
Ananya, smitten by the seriousness of the question, took a
moment to absorb it. While scrutinizing the single tick of his countless
messages, he said, “If she wanted to talk, she would have by now. I am
not going to put my self-respect on the line to agree to her conformity.”
Kanika smiled upon hearing the reply, although Ananya was
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the surface, though. The three friends soon departed, while Ananya
moved towards his abode. On the way, he held that paper tightly with
a question constantly nagging him, saying, “Why did she never tell me
about leaving?”
His path got interrupted by a dog and a beggar, both of whom
had become acquainted with Ananya in the past few days. He fed
the dog instinctively, but stopped from nurturing the beggar with
his benefaction. He gazed piercingly at the habit-ridden hobo as if
telling him that he could feed himself, but the dog couldn’t. He passed
through the temple and gave a puzzled expression to the sculpture
residing there, saying, “Thank you,” in the most sterile tone possible.
He was done with pleasing everybody and wanted to make himself
happy. Ananya noticed a couple passing by, completely engaged with
each other just like he and Anushree used to be. That was the final
straw, all that was needed to kick off the avalanche’s onslaught. The
desolation and dejection from which he had dissociated with much
difficulty now returned fiercely.
Ananya had touched the light in paradise, tasted the forbidden
fruit in heaven. It was just an accidental and serendipitous alignment
of stars that he’d met her, and the constellations had been thrown
into discord now. It was a harsh slap from God for being a bit more
happy than the chest could contain, to dream of a union that was partly
penned by the eternal infants.
He reached the room, laid on the bed and began twisting that strip
of paper between his fingers. He was looking at the digits so intently
that he instantly memorized them. He was fighting the urge to call her.
The anxiety for her safety had been substituted by his urgent need for
comfort, but then he recalled his own words spoken to Kanika and still
once more checked his inbox but no attempt had been made from her
side to reach out to him. This distorted his thinking pattern. He crushed
the paper, threw it into a corner and curled like a foetus fighting for its
life, while the digits roamed around in the projector of his mind. He
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squelch his self-esteem, yet she was the only ointment who could do
the healing.
Due to his conflicting mental state, his body began to settle in
paranoia. He felt the aura of happiness being lifted, the blessing in
disguise leaving him. He felt his half-read memoir of erotica was going
to be forgotten in the eons of time. The initial words from Kanika
echoed in his mind and froze his heart; he didn’t know how to respond
to the cruel joke of the Cosmic Mind.
He just wished the Universe to give him a time transition from
here to anywhere. He became a nuisance to himself. The impressions
left by her, the sentiments aroused by her, the senses stimulated by her,
now revolted against him for depriving them of their essential additive
to which he was now addicted.
He needed his white vertical line badly, to witness the grandiose
euphoria once more, to let the dopamine perform jumping jacks in
his brain and reward him with those positive vibes. His craving for
codeine was more than ever, as that sorrowful sputum constricted his
breath; he desired elation and immediate cessation from the doleful
cough. He wanted his Quaalude pill to slip him into that heavenly
hypnotic interlude which was relished by his past self but was severely
deprived to the present one.
He required his crucial caramel candy, the smack he truly lacked
to alleviate the pain and calm the strain. He was anxious for his
ecstasy, the pill that elicited empathy and evoked in him profound
sensuality, but alas, was no more in his destiny. He longed for the
magic of lysergic, the dot of the blot which rendered an overpowering
hallucination followed by an overwhelming sensation, but was now
bereft of the inspiration. He needed the needle of deranged dope
to uplift his spirits, to make him feel blissful and beautiful but his
transcendental contentment had met with retrenchment.
His medicinal marijuana, which treated his sentimental seizure,
that cheap thrill now placed him on a steep hill of dependency and
dissociation from reality. His divine brew that altered his perception of
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time and space had abandoned him to an isolated place, hence abruptly
ending his entheogenic experience. His exhilarating elixir of life which
was sedation to his senses, a mere drop of which slurred his speech
and gave a kick that he couldn’t resist, which led to a blackout that he
desperately wanted to get out. His scintillating crystal which filled him
with dynamism and hedonism, the absence of which steadily pushed
him into pessimism and stealthily drove him to nihilism. He looked at
the rotating fan and wondered if it would hurt more if it came down or
if he came down with it.
He stubbed the desire by proclaiming to himself that if she
felt even a fraction of the pain of departure, then she would reach
out to him; after all, it was she who snipped the string of love and
affection through which they were attached. He recalled his three
kittens and realized he missed them more than ever. At least there
were some individuals who reciprocated his affection with intensity.
Subsequently, the flare of his optimism enkindled when he became
aware that tomorrow was Saturday, and he would go to his aunt’s
home at any cost. He slept, or rather, closed his eyes to witness a new
morning.
He woke up abruptly, packed his essentials and left for his aunt’s
home. The moment he stepped into the bounds of his earlier abode,
the shrilling voices in the background, the subtle smell of the spices,
mixed with the scolding of Pallavi calmed his nerves. His healing
began instantly as he had to utilize less energy to keep futile thoughts
about Anushree at bay.
He greeted his aunt and simultaneously peeked into the cooking
pot, and upon noticing his favorite mushroom, sabzi, he reflected his
enthusiasm. He noticed a change in the vibe of his home. Chinki and
Minki were engaged in watching the television, while Guddu was
nowhere to be seen. He checked her doll house, but no luck. He went
to Chinki’s room and saw Guddu engrossed in scribbling some digits
on paper. He quietly went near her and whispered in her ear, “What
are you doing?”

154
Guddu responded while shushing him, “Don’t disturb me, teacher
has given me a lot of homework.”
He impetuously asked, “How come you have homework? You
don’t go to school.”
Guddu gave him an extravagant expression that was self-sufficient
enough for him to back off. She engaged in her work once more, but
remarked, “I am admitted to Greenwich school now.”
Ananya was helpless at this point, and was coerced to use the
most potent weapon in his arsenal. He took out a chocolate whose
wrapper whispered in an insidious tone while brushing against the
edges of his jeans, and said, “Fine, I shall have to find somebody else
to whom to give this chocolate.”
Guddu rose from her seat and resumed her usual posture with
craving eyes and a salivating mouth. Upon noticing that, Ananya sat
on his knees and put forth his cheek, but said with sternness while
feigning anger, “No licking this time.”
Guddu placed a peck on Ananya’s cheek. The effervescing
moisture quickly took him to his time with Anushree. His blood boiled
again and his mind went to war against him, but gladly Guddu placed
another peck on his other cheek, which obliterated the vitriolic thought
process before it took hold of him. She showed him her new textbooks
and intriguing storybooks while nibbling on the chocolate. She hadn’t
changed a bit, Ananya noted, because while flipping the pages, she left
chocolate smudges at the edges of a few.
Ananya, who was completely absorbed by the display of her
zeal, suggested that they go to her doll house. Guddu consented and
reflected her innocuous yet notorious smile that Ananya was dying to
witness. They proceeded to the little playhouse of Hermione and her
friends, and Guddu soon was engrossed in combing her favorite gal’s
hair.
Ananya sat there, still, watching his little archangel. He became
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155
an activity that pleased her. It filled him with joy to witness her
completely attuned with herself. This simple act was inspiring Ananya
every second, and he hoped for it to rub off on him. He was asked—
moreover, compelled—to do the hairdressing of Barbie’s sibling. The
moment her enhanced hair touched his palm, his mind again went to
the endless conundrum, but luckily, a glance from his delightful imp
saved him. The rest of the day was spent in the routine activities with
Ananya surrounding either his close cousins or around his affectionate
aunt. He constantly engaged himself in some sort of physical activity
so that the mechanical nature of mind would calm the emotional
commotion. He helped his aunt in preparing the dinner, and joined
later with full force in the annihilation of the same. He hadn’t had
such a sumptuous meal in a long time, hence paving his way towards
the bed. He felt the soft fabric of the bed sheet under him, and the
warm and cozy comfort of the blanket over him. He instantly slipped
into a deep slumber, which was going to be his first uninterrupted,
harmonious sleep since the separation.
He woke up with a peaceful mental state that he had been deprived
of for too long. His happiness momentarily took a dip upon realizing
that tomorrow he would have to go to college, where this revived
tranquility would be tested. He washed his face, and while looking
in the mirror, he realized how hard it was for someone to smile on
his own; when in the company of loved ones, a smile rather appeared
naturally. He made haste towards the breakfast table in expectation
of repeating yesterday’s magic. Everyone had eaten breakfast except
Chinki, who had just started. She looked at the grilled sandwich with
disdain as if just the sight of it tied the knot tighter in her stomach.
Ananya, on the other hand, grabbed the sub and began gorging on it
like a hungry monkey.
He asked, “Why aren’t you having your sandwich?”
Chinki retorted, “Mom forgot to remove cucumber slices from
mine.”

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Ananya responded congenially, “I don’t like cucumber in my
sub either, but that doesn’t give me license to look down upon such a
luscious meal.” Ananya took another big bite from his sub, which was
now almost finished.
Chinki frowned as if she liked neither the scolding nor the
sandwich. Ananya explained to her that she should understand
from the perspective of her mother; she conceded, and despite the
distasteful cucumber, she consumed what was on her plate. Later in
the day, Chinki became curious as to what was life like in college.
She wondered whether, unlike her school, it offered freedom and
exemption from rules.
She asked, “How are things in college, Bhaiya?”
Ananya responded sternly, “It is fine.”
Chinki’s already evoked curiosity was now provoked further. She
insisted, “Tell me more, Bhaiya.”
Ananya, whose college experience until now had been laced with
the raspberry romantic shade that he didn’t want to recall, erupted,
“College is the worst place one can be in. You will be coerced into
doing things you don’t want to, meet people you get fond of and—”
He stopped himself when he realized that he was progressing on
the lines of scarring his fragile Bambi. He wanted to undo the damage
done, or at least perform some form of reparation, but his mental peace
had become a mess again. Plus, the innocuous expression of Chinki
intensified the guilt. He straightaway went to his room. He lay on the
bed and was about to resume the recurrent pattern of abrading the old
wounds, when suddenly he heard a knock.
Ananya unlocked the door and paved the way for the house’s little
wise Buddha. She sat on the bed, and Ananya instantly grasped the
seriousness in her demeanor; hence, he sat beside her. He remained quiet
as if waiting for his impending punishment and his much-needed lesson
of therapy. Yet, he couldn’t handle the deafening silence. He burst one last
time and apologized for his erratic behavior in a steadfast tone.

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Chinki replied calmly: “I am not upset, Bhaiya. Just worried.”
Ananya questioned, “Worried about me? But why?”
“I noticed a few things yesterday. For instance, your unusual
quietness and sudden eruptions of enthusiasm upon something only
remotely funny. I wanted to come to you last night and ask if you were
happy in your new place, but you were asleep like a log. Then at the
breakfast table, you were eating so voraciously that it was obvious
to the eyes that you were highly strung; that was followed by the
uncalled-for scolding, and later accompanied by the unanticipated
outburst.” Chinki placed her hand on his and asked, “Are you happy
there, Bhaiya?”Ananya felt numb upon listening to his sister’s
astonishingly astute observation, but for the first time, he felt he was
becoming numb emotionally from a different cause. He knew deep
down that his detoxification had been initiated, and it was just a matter
of time now for the body to flush out the undiluted drug. He relived
her tense expression by saying, “I am all right, my love. Just a bit
drained from the inept college activities.”
Chinki stared uninterruptedly as if ascertaining the statement and
sensing whether it was laced with lies. Ananya put forth his palm to
her cheek and said, “I am sorry for shouting at you. You see, college
is not that bad a place, but it isn’t a picnic either. Your life revolves
around assignments and exams, and it can be difficult for one to truly
experience the joy of life. We have to take the road less traveled into
the woods, which at times, in the beginning, is laid with roses—but
then leaves you in the middle of thorns.”
Chinki said, “I understand your pain, Bhaiya.”
Only if you truly did, my morning sunshine.
Chinki further said, “You have to understand that circumstances
might not always be favorable, but it is the human himself who is
responsible for his own sorrow. The way he interprets things, the way
he translates the outcome. After all, misery maybe part of history, but
that doesn’t mean it has to narrate the rest of the story as well. Our
madam taught us that, you know.”
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Chinki spoke as if that notion was a cornerstone of her philosophy.
The last words of her monologue stuck to Ananya’s subconscious. He
assured her that everything was in order and that she ought to focus
on her studies. With the objective to change the topic, he asked her,
“When did you learn to observe so much?”
Chinki laughed out loud and said, “I have a keen interest in
psychology and my teacher encourages it by providing me with all
sorts of books.”
Ananya blessed her head with his palm and said, “I wish that you
get what you seek.”
“And I pray you get what you desire, Bhaiya.” Chinki hugged
him while uttering these words.
She left the room leaving Ananya in contentment. The wound
of bereavement was being cured through the homemade salve. His
outer shell was still weak, though, and any sort of brute force would
obliterate his barely-acquired mental peace. The scar would eventually
fade with time, but what he truly needed was something to focus all
his energies upon. His first sessional exam was around the corner, and
this was the ideal time to delve into books and forget all of this like a
beautiful, ethereal dream.
He went to the college the following day with the determination
of distracting his brain, and the dedication to absolve the ache. He went
to the library and buried his head in the books. He opened his organic
chemistry textbook and couldn’t help but reminisce of the time spent
with Anushree. Those pages still mildly mentioned her presence and
tepidly touched over the memory of the warm hands that flipped them.
He pushed thoughts of Anushree from the front of his mind to
back, and began studying, but unfortunately, since he had commanded
his brain to not focus upon Anushree, with every frail moment his
mind took him back to time spent with her in the Central Library. His
exhaustion grew when his mind began creating the insidious loop of
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He got up from his seat and proceeded towards the college
lawns. He got absorbed in the natural beauty and the occasional wind
that delicately pushed back his hair. He roamed around the campus,
contemplating life goals when suddenly he saw the sprinklers working
their wonder. They again managed to form a rainbow, even with
seemingly insufficient sunlight. His archived memories, which had
been contaminated with the venom of her affection, flashed up over
the projector of his mind.
Ananya again felt helpless and defenseless. The only chapter
he yearned to read was of Anushree. He wanted to read her varied
reactions and scribble about her expressions. He couldn’t figure out
the remedy he needed; the only ointment could not be conceived, and
the homemade salve would have to wait. His dissatisfaction could
only be treated by chemistry of humans or of matter, and since he
was through with the first, he wanted to devote all his time to the
latter.
He had one more lecture and because of his failed attempts at
focusing, he craved a change. He went to the lecture and joined Akshay
in relieving the pain. The lecturer and Ananya exchanged glances
for the first time. The new lecturer’s name was Vinay, and he wasn’t
distracted by pupils’ irrelevant indiscretions. He was only concerned
with teaching and making sure the silence was observed during that.
Ananya, after a long while, was able to focus intermittently. Vinay
advised a different book on organic chemistry that Ananya jotted
down immediately.
The lecture ended and Ananya, feeling positive once again,
made his way towards the library. He resumed the topic from the
book that seldom, yet consistently, reminded him of his lady love. He
tried concentrating, but it didn’t help—the book was cursed, or rather
blessed, with Anushree’s spirit. In anguish, he rose from the chair and
moved towards the librarian for the book recommended by Professor
Vinay. He proceeded in the direction, and with eagerness in his heart
and swiftness in his footsteps, ventured amongst the innumerable

160
racks that held an incessant number of books. He got distracted by
some feminine presence and his neck disobeyed due to his ‘peach
proclivity’ and he stared at the captivating sight till a buzzing sound
broke his meditation.
The fly had entered into the confines of his ear shell, giving
Ananya a nice jolt. In the process of scooting away from the fly, he
deviated from his set path and ended up in the maze of shelves. He
could have retracted and resumed from the point where the aberration
set in, but he was soon enraptured by the scenic beauty of a ray of
sun bestowing the Tyndall effect over the dust particles. He paused
near the window and, utterly absorbed by the ethereal elegance of
the particles, began waving his hand amongst them. He remembered
his childhood in an instant, and was glad that at least there was one
memory that was not infected by Anushree.
He looked at the shelf onto which the sunlight fell—rather, at
the specific rack upon which it concluded. He began scanning the
books through the covers when suddenly his eyes halted at an onyx-
black, hardbound book which was concealed very stealthily amongst
its cousins. The book was small in dimensions in comparison to its
counterparts. He took out the book and blew away the dust, which
rushed adrenaline into already lickety-split moving particles. He
opened the book and comprehended quickly that it belonged to a
primeval era. The pocket inside the front cover contained a card which
included years written by hand, rather than printed by library stamp.
He wasn’t surprised at why the book wasn’t indexed in the library, as it
was entitled Psychedelic Chemistry, by Michael Valentine Smith. The
book was concealed so neatly that the only way it could have gotten
somebody’s eyes was as if it wanted to be read, and moreover, drew
one towards itself. He read a few lines inscribed on pale yellow pages,
and promptly brought the book to his desk.
He opened it once more and began reading intently the lines that
currently held his attention more than anything else. The book gently
expounded that drugs weren’t some chemical substances ingested to

161
amuse oneself. They occupied a thin gray area, where they faced a
stark conflict between current circumstance and the ancient culture. If
the current society was hell-bent on classifying all of them in the same
grade, then an aged civilization always picked the favorites amongst
them and urged the authorities to place them in a different section
altogether.
He read further and became informed that almost every naturally-
occurring mind-altering substance could produce an offensive
reaction to someone. He laughed in his own head, wondering that
peanut allergies alone had caused death in hundreds; yearly. He
read the next line that stated that excessive or prolonged use could
induce an unpleasant response, which Ananya skipped totally and
went ahead. He realized that certain drugs like alcohol, and opiates
and their derivatives, placed a stigma over psychedelics because of
their unrelenting contribution to addiction, and eventually, cessation
of life.
He was perplexed that certain opiate derivatives were a miserable
attempt in human healing, and once were a part of a doctor’s prescription
pad. Even certain current prescription drugs were addictive in nature.
And nicotine, the major component of tobacco, was highly toxic. It
baffled him that pure nicotine was poisonous to that extent that it
could kill, and yet it was sold over the counters in its diluted form
as cigarettes. He read the next line that stated that Psychedelics were
relatively safe and non-toxic; the keyword was “relatively.”
The seed of curiosity had been sown when he’d researched about
consciousness-altering substances in the bid to compose Perfect Drug
for Anushree, but now that seed was being nurtured for the first time
and, most importantly, it gave him a relief as during the whole time,
he not for once pondered over her.
Ananya looked around the library to ascertain that no one was
keeping eyes on him; he kept the black book amongst his and made
his way towards the exit. Before he could step out of the confines of
the library, the librarian called his name.

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He froze with fear as if Hermione had caught Harry Potter trying
her underpants on. He looked around with trepidation but was relieved
when she asked him to arrange his chair before leaving.
Anushree’s unexpected abandonment raised many questions in
Ananya’s mind, but the procurement of the black book answered a
few of them. Yet, at the same time, it raised many others, as well. He
often wondered whether the departure of Anushree happened for some
reason, and now he pondered whether it was for this moment. He
reflected deeply at times whether her separation was something he had
induced, but now he wondered whether she was just a shade of a tree,
a pit stop in the Grand Prix of progression of his personality which
prepped him to reach the finish line unlike anyone. But undoubtedly
the question that preoccupied him was whether his kismet had led him
to that secluded spot, or was his karma to be part of history? And in the
process, would it leave a legacy through an instrument with immense
potential?

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164
The Abysmal Aunt
Ananya proceeded to his room with just one determination—to read,
to internalize the Psychedelic Chemistry. It became crystal-clear to
him that the ambition he brought in his heart when he entered through
the gates of St. Stephen’s was now going to be effectuated by the book
neatly concealed between his textbooks. The book not just promised
him transcendental distraction, but it also proffered an unbiased
perspective on mind-altering substances.
He turned page after page while barely blinking his eyes, but the
more his curiosity got curbed, the further it intensified. He inferred
instantly that narcotics were something that were best kept at bay,
though his inquisitiveness always directed him to the high acquired by
heroin. He was amazed that being high on heroin was an experience
that could only be put into words by a junkie. The closest he could
relate was that the rush of the drug was so intense and enormous
that even running the fingers on the skin was a sensual experience—
realizing the fact that it was such a bliss to just be alive, or perhaps a
falsified experience of the dissolution of the ego.
Ananya’s main degree of focus remained around synthetic
and organic psychedelics. He found out that synthetic psychoactive
substances opened the door for filtration and purification, which was
essential in obtaining the desired effect of the drug.
He soon formulated a distinct perception of the influence of
psychedelics. He termed them as vehicles of consciousness, with the
senses as horses controlled by the mind and the passenger as the soul.
But the chariot was the substance. This notion was obviously derived
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from religious texts, but it made the understanding of “funkadelics”
much simpler. The all-powerful chariot could propel one into space
or drive one into a wasteland, but it was run by the senses only. Most
drugs drove those horses out of control, and he detested that. He
even formulated a pyramid structure dividing them into three levels:
Subconscious, Substance, and Setting. The Subconscious was the most
important factor, whose current state determined the influence of the
substance. The Setting, despite being at the bottom, played a crucial
role in influencing the trip to fantasyland, but with another essential
ingredient: Substance kept both intact and prompted a response based
on its innate molecular structure.
He read further and tried to understand Anushree’s avid association
with cannabis. He was surprised that cannabis was the sole substance
that was partially legal in the whole world, as if grown on some
different soil and terrain made it legitimate within the confines of the
law. He was astounded that the herb was part of the early civilizations
of China and Egypt, and was part of certain Hindu Scriptures as well.
He sniggered when he read the next paragraph, which stated that
George Washington was amongst the initial cultivators of the plant in
the West; no wonder the dollar bill was green. But what truly tickled
him was the fact that the US Constitution was inscribed on paper made
from hemp.
He delved further into the book, where the chemical structure
of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) fascinated him. He read each word
intently, to the extent that a three-dimensional image of molecular
interaction was being constructed in his head.
After researching a bit on THCA (tetrahydrocannabinolic acid)
and discovering the mechanism for extraction and distillation of
the same from common grass, he proceeded towards LSD (lysergic
acid diethylamide).This was the drug that was solely responsible for
the alternate culture movement in the West in the seventies, which
was first recreationally used, and then abused. The hallucinogenic
substances held a much greater potential than just merely amusing

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one’s optical senses via distorting vivid impressionable images—at
least, that is what Ananya felt.
He got introduced to other members of the hallucinogen house:
mescaline, muscimol and certain isoxazole derivatives. It was
psilocybin, however, that particularly piqued his curiosity. He was
amazed that the cousins of his favorite sabzi could be so powerful
that they could induce hallucinations. There were only a few species
of mushrooms that were psychoactive in nature, but they essentially
contained psilocybin and psilocin.
He later learned that every member of the hallucinogen family
was cross-tolerant with one another meaning that after ingesting,
for instance, lysergic acid, it would be worthless to take in any other
hallucinogenic substance. This was where cannabis was different.
Despite rendering the similar effects of self-reflection and creativity
like its other brothers, it was not cross-tolerant—probably because it
performed alleviation in the mental faculties devoid of any sort of
visual transformation.
The sun was about to sink, and there was a perceptible change
in the environment, but Ananya was glued to his book. He detached
his unwavering eye contact once for the compulsory loo break, yet
during that time, too, he couldn’t stop thinking about those mystical
molecules. He wanted to know more; hence, he advanced further
without inhibition. He was surprised, or rather, astounded by what the
book later revealed to him.
The “soma” drink mentioned in the Rig Veda happened to be the
most revered drink in Hinduism. It had been a mystery as to what the
major constituent of the drink ought to be, that the consumption of it
revealed light, or perhaps the discovery of God within. But the Vedas
always had an unusual way of revealing things. The ninth mandala of
the Rig Veda made extensive references to the cow as the harbinger
of the soma, and it made complete sense that a psychoactive breed of
mushroom psilocybe cubensis, grew in cow pastures and chiefly on
cow dung and manure.
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He closed the book, the moment the read that line. He had gained
enough information to question the ways of his surrounding society.
He rejected the current norms, but highly revered the ancient rituals—
especially the ones the Vedas dictated, which were the oldest Sanskrit
literature, while also being the first and foremost pillar of Hinduism.
He lay on the bed, contemplating persisting world problems while
the color of the natural light changed its shade from apricot-orange to
sapphire-blue, and eventually even devoid of any color at all. He was
brooding over a notion that, despite our technological advancements,
we greatly lacked the basic skills of preserving the planet, and were
corrupted by our enduring consumerism.
He was getting distracted by the low moaning noise of his
stomach, but that didn’t stray him from the path. He kept wondering
whether all the troubles and trauma generated and witnessed by
humanity could be put under one umbrella, or perhaps under the
shade of a wide mushroom cap. It was universal that one or the other
human was afflicted with some form of moral insufficiency which was
unfamiliar to the person, and due to the absence of self-effacement
had, on a comprehensive scale, given birth to a global demented state
of consciousness.
Ananya was glad that his mind had found a rewarding food for
thought with which to sustain itself. He got up from the bed and went
to a local economical food joint to calm his grumbling tummy. It went
unnoticed to him that he was engaged in a thought process that wasn’t
related to Anushree at all. He was very happy for the knowledge, but at
the same time, an incipient dissatisfaction started to appear along the
lines of how to materialize it. He finished his dinner and progressed
to his one-room setup, which he had especially purchased for his lady
love and which unfortunately hadn’t been blessed by her presence.
Ananya lay on the bed and probably had the soundest sleep since
his unforeseen separation from the divine vine. He woke up with
a peaceful mental state and proceeded to the college, since he had
promised Akshay of his presence at breakfast.

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The charm of his personality and the glow on his face were slowly
making an appearance. He welcomed his companions with the benign
smile that was part of his identity. He looked down at his clothes to
make sure that he wasn’t wearing the same ones from yesterday, and
beamed at his friends, at which Kanika giggled and Akshay laughed
wholeheartedly. They swiftly ordered, for they had to steer away to
their lecture rooms to continue their education deprived of edification.
Ananya spoke what he had been brooding over, “Do you know
when pot was made illegal in the Indian subcontinent?”
Akshay, in utter astonishment, replied, “Pot?”
“Pot, cannabis, ganja, weed, marijuana! Get it now?” Ananya
answered.
Akshay nodded his head in agreement. Kanika was quiet,
though—probably because she was absorbing the first oration from
her favorite friend in a long while.
Ananya took a moment to calm his nerves, then spoke, “It was
1985, not very long ago.”
Kanika replied, “Yes, It was due to the NDPS Act.”
Ananya and Akshay gaped at Kanika with their mouths wide
open. They didn’t even hear the call from the counter that their meal
had been prepared. Kanika sheepishly smiled and got up to bring the
dishes that contained the “fascinating” cuisine. The other two were
waiting eagerly for Kanika to continue, while she, with her hands full,
approached the table like a child running a lemon race.
She went on, “A few of my elder cousins, after smoking reefer,
used to go all philosophical on me. They are sharp-minded people,
but neatly-packed rebels as well, you see. They pointed out that it
was the ripple effect of “Western Disturbance.” When LSD came into
existence in the seventies, it was just a matter of time for it to appear
on the streets and cause chaos.”
Ananya replied instinctively, “It was Rajiv Gandhi’s government
during that time, you know.”
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Kanika retorted, “Are you complimenting his decision, or
sarcastically making a point?”
Ananya guffawed, but spoke with serenity, “I am just saying
that under no circumstances should marijuana be classified as a hard
substance. You see, India didn’t have a drug problem before then, but
when a new generation of youngsters appeared, to whom cannabis
was a mere medium to sedate the senses, then they willfully gave in
to much harsher and addiction-prone drugs after tolerance with weed
kicked in. Did you know that cannabis is even less addictive than the
caffeine in your coffee?”
Kanika reciprocated graciously, “That I didn’t know.”
Akshay, for the first time, broke his silence by asking, “So, did
you smoke some with your cousins?”
Kanika replied, “Nope! Although sometimes I enjoy bhang on
Holi and other occasions.”
Ananya lambasted her, “No wonder you appear to always be in a
lucid state, miss pretty Half-Baked.”
The Three Musketeers laughed like old times and continued
gorging on their nominally nurturing breakfast. They ended their meal
quicker than their conversation lasted, and progressed towards their
individual classes.
Professor Vinay engaged in his usual discourse of propounding a
chapter of organic, while Ananya stayed entwined in his own thoughts.
The professor was up to halfway completion of the lecture when the
incessant bickering from a student directed the attention of class away
from him. Vinay, in his solemn disposition while suppressing his
anger, quietly asked the student to move out of the class.
The student, while walking away, murmured something that was
only audible to him, but when he left, Vinay had lost his focus. He
roamed around the classroom and initiated a monologue for the first
time, since he felt that the scholars ought to hear his perspective.

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He said, “You know, guys, I never told you this, but I am from St.
Stephen’s as well—but just during my grad days. I was not intrigued
by what lay ahead in front of me; rather, it was what occurred outside
the confines of the classroom that interested me. I didn’t utilize the
opportunity that knocked on my doorstep.”
“You see, I wanted to be a physicist very badly, but then I got
into honors-level chemistry, and thus I never reconciled the decision
that was consciously made by me. The years spent at St. Stephen’s
offered me plenty of room for experimentation. I could have created
an innovative insecticide to prevent the dwindling population of
honeybees, or perhaps created a drug that worked on a nanoparticle
level to provide treatment for diseases that are incurable still.
“It is true that college is a time to explore oneself, to embark upon
the journey of self-discovery, but this expedition requires some tools
and equipment to expedite the process of fulfillment. Plus, it never
hurts to study, unless you are seated upon a prickly seat.”
The whole class erupted into a precisely timed chuckling except
the grin from Ananya. He grasped the intended inspiration laced with
sarcasm, and maintained his stolid expression, which reflected that he
was contemplating something of profound nature. Vinay swayed his
head sideways in response to everybody’s naiveté and resumed his
symbolic scribbling on the blackboard.
Ananya realized two things that day. The first was that true
motivation was a strange thing. It could come from a completely
unrelated person, and the context in which it was delivered and
received would be starkly different. The second realization that
dawned upon him like the appearance of the light in the crown chakra
was that, in his bid to wage war on the crisis of consciousness, which
was reflected in the current civilizations’ muteness on the receding
glaciers of Antarctica and conversation of Amazon forests to pastures,
the nations’ obsession over military spending when more people were
dying of hunger than by missiles, the overcrowded planet’s extent of
fanaticism with fossil fuels that could singlehandedly alter the value
171
of the currency of a country, the ceaseless evolution of microbes,
accompanied by the persistent transition of weather patterns—to
counteract them all, Ananya was going to pick a weapon, or, rather,
synthesize one, as a matter of fact. He would utilize the knowledge he
had at present, to the best of his ability, and in the process, hopefully
liberate the world while offering today’s addiction-ridden youth a
prospect to transcend via a drug which was entheogenic to the core.
He was fueled with the fire to create a drug that would awake the
divine within, while enabling the person to witness godliness in others
as well. He wanted to obliterate the perception that had been passed on
to him as a child, which dictated his association with a mortal identity,
and instead embrace his true personality, which emanated from the
quintessential celestial soul.
Ananya’s perfect drug had been discovered, but then absolved, in
the acerbic solution of time. His perfect drug was fundamentally built
out of the light which dispersed a sparkling glow wherever it went.
But to counteract that, he was going to synthesize his own perfect
drug dedicated to enlighten, to edify, and awaken the slumbering
subconscious within.
Ananya’s resolve only grew stronger with every passing second.
He was bound to hold himself within the confines of the college, for
his attendance was running short. During the lectures, though, he was
tempted to take out the book of kaleidoscopic substances and read it
thoroughly once again, in order to ascertain the methods of extraction.
He went on his usual tea break with his companions; earlier, he had
been urged on by the need to saturate his senses with his identified
“perfect drug.” This was now replaced by the urgency to invent his
own.
Ananya reached his room, threw his bag in a corner, and picked
up The Psychedelic Chemistry. He brought his eyes to the extraction
of THCA from cannabis grass, and further, decarboxylation to reduce
it to THC. This was the main component responsible for inducing the
alleviated state. He noted the types of equipment and the essential

172
chemicals needed for reduction, of which benzene was going to prove
a bit tricky to acquire. His acquaintance with Mr. Prakash, the lab
assistant, was going to be helpful, but to what extent even he wasn’t
aware.
He then lunged towards the next vital ingredient of his perfect
drug. The extraction of psilocybin from psilocybecubensis appeared a
seemingly easy task. But here, he was met with a major impediment,
as well; he had to procure anhydrous ethyl alcohol for the extraction
and crystallization of psilocybin from mushrooms.
Ananya was going to include just these two elongated molecules
to form his ideal compound, as picking another member from the
hallucinogenic family wasn’t going to lead anywhere—and the only
non-hallucinogenic member that had been recognized as one of the
five sacred plants in Atharva Veda didn’t make him think twice. Plus,
it reminded him of his first sensual experience via the mere presence
of that mysterious molecule.
Ananya had to procure the crucial raw materials first, and for
that, he would have to pay a visit to the Abysmal Aunt once more.
He had gone to this petrifying peddler with Anushree when she had
to score some cannabis, and the experience was still vivid in his
imagination. Her sunken, skeletal figure, coated with layers of fat and
years of obesity, was something nobody could ignore. No one knew
her real name; hence, everyone addressed her as ‘Aunty,’ and behind
her back as the Abysmal Aunt, since she provided excellent pot and
psychedelics. At the same time, the nickname served to ridicule her
hopelessly severe structure. Ananya’s mind again started wandering
with the slightest indication of Anushree, but he brought it to the
present and prevented further diversion. By now he had become a bit
proficient in handling his thought processes, and all credit went to that
little black book.
Ananya proceeded with the rest of the day with only one
thought reverberating in his head—he would have to formulate a
way to influence Mr. Prakash. Even after his sumptuous dinner, he
173
was still unsuccessful. He pondered that writing poetry for a woman
was probably much easier than fabricating a lie whose magnitude of
modification attained, till now, was that upon being asked why he
required benzene, his simple reply was that he needed it.
Ananya slept soundly and was inwardly glad that his brain had
stopped scraping those neurons together—which he had delightfully
tagged as ‘Anushree’ and were on their way to create a new neural
pathway to elicit happiness and reward accolades. He woke up and
resumed the routine, and proceeded towards college. The lecture of
Professor Vinay, the subsequent lectures, and conversations with his
friends passed like a feature film being fast-forwarded.
Ananya’s decisive moment finally appeared, when he proceeded
into the confines of the laboratory. The list of needed equipment
and chemicals reverberated in his pocket with the intensity of his
heartbeat. He knew that conversing so soon might do more damage
than good; hence, he indulged himself towards the fulfillment of his
assigned experiment. He maintained his calmness and composure,
while occasionally teasing his lab companion with surreal, flirtatious
remarks.
Pragati retorted, “Be steady—I can handle these fierce words, but
not that fiery chemical again.”
It was enough to lighten the mood, yet at the same time make a
grown man blush. Ananya wrapped up the experiment at his natural
pace and advanced towards the goal for which he was least prepared.
Ananya came into the periphery of Mr. Prakash, and told him that he
had finished the experiment. The lab assistant gave a benign smile,
which Ananya perceived as a welcoming gaze, and sat opposite him,
with a table between both.
Prakash looked at the college compound then grazed his eyes to
the set of students currently in the laboratory, who were experimenting
as if a kindergarten was drawing with a crayon for the first time. With a
contorted look, he expressed to his least loathsome student, “Ananya,
you might think I am getting old, but I have a fair reason to believe
174
that along with these brick red walls that are steadily withering, the
quality of students is also deteriorating.”
Ananya preferred going along with the flow. He simply asked,
“May I ask from where this skepticism is brimming, sir?”
It was the first time Mr. Prakash had been addressed as ‘sir’ by
Ananya. Hopefully, Ananya thought, the flattery would go unnoticed
yet still do the work.
He answered, “Look around you. The students aren’t curious
about science anymore. They study with an objective now. They
perceive themselves still as students, not scholars.”
Ananya was absorbing his words like an entertained audience
with rapt attention—probably for his own selfish goal, or perhaps
out of the sheer respect for the person with whom he could relate the
most in the college. He just said, “I concur,” and preferred his body
language display the assertiveness.
Prakash continued, “Your age’s obsession with instant gratification
not only puts a hindrance in experiencing life as a whole, but it also
abhors you to look ahead, as your indulgence with steep satisfaction
becomes career-determining.”
Ananya concluded once more that this problem was a reflection
of a crisis in consciousness, and strengthened his resolve further.
When Ananya noticed moisture in the eyes of his professor, he took
a shot in the dark and said, “You mentioned once that you were in St.
Stephen’s. How were things then?”
Prakash gave him a sheepish smile and began narrating his
undergrad days enrolled in honors-level chemistry. He expounded
further about his times spent in the cafeteria, how girls only wore
traditional dress then, and now they mostly wore Western clothing.
He mentioned imperative information—that he was enrolled in ‘95.
Ananya lost his track of thought as soon as he heard his year of
undergraduate studies, because, in his little black book, the pocket
that usually contained a stamped card instead held a sheet of paper,
upon which the last year mentioned was 1997.
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Ananya stared at the face of his laboratory apprentice for a long
moment, and wondered whether he could have a significant interest in
psychoactive substances as well.
Prakash then said, “But I had to leave college in the second year.”
Ananya inquired, “Why?”
Prakash responded congenially, “Um, personal aspirations, you
see.”
Both chuckled at the simple yet effective banter. Ananya
recognized that he was entering into the warm social circle of his lab
assistant with little resistance; hence, he proceeded further. He asked,
“Sir, I fail to understand why a handful of students who graduated
from here choose this place to build their careers.”
Twice! He was going to strike the hammer anytime now.
Prakash responded, “Perhaps these red slab walls call you back,
or maybe the retirement plans are quite enticing.”
Both grinned at each other and Ananya instinctively—or perhaps
purposefully—took the semi-wrinkled piece of paper from his pocket
and pushed it towards his lab helper and waited for the inevitable to
occur.
Prakash’s expression changed from exuberance to sternness. His
eyebrows drew together in unison, and the wrinkled forehead lines
made their appearance more prominent. With careful consideration, he
said, “The equipment is fine, but why do you need benzene?”
Ananya’s trepidation that was underneath the surface finally
gushed out, and the anxiety increased tenfold, but he held his ground.
He took a deep breath and said, “Yes, I require them to do a project
that you once suggested, under your guidance.”
“I remember that; I understand the usage of anhydrous ethyl
alcohol so that there is no water residue left, but benzene is highly
flammable. What do you need it for?”

176
Ananya took a moment to ponder, long enough to arrive with a
good reply but not so long that Mr. Prakash grew suspicious of his
ulterior motive. He simply said, “To fulfill some personal aspirations,
sir.”
Prakash laughed so hard upon hearing the reply that a few
students looked in his direction, but Ananya just let out a chortle. The
reason for his joy was going to be whether or not Prakash accepted or
rejected his request, as there wouldn’t be a perfect drug without the
ideal laboratory.
Prakash finally spoke “All right. Your requirements will be
rendered, but on one condition: that you shall work within the college’s
stipulated working hours and provide me a report on your progress
weekly.”
Ananya emitted a submissive smile to signify that it was a very
small price to pay, to procure his entheogen. After all, good things in
life never came easy.
Prakash followed, “Since you would be working under me and I
would be acting as your mentor, you need to tell me the topic of your
analysis.”
Ananya’s blood froze momentarily in his veins. He hadn’t
anticipated this, and he certainly couldn’t retract at that point. He
looked behind Mr. Prakash at the shelf containing chemicals, and
spoke before the silence became unsettling. “It deals with non-toxic
surface sterilization, plus shrub preservation involving tincture and
essence extraction.”
Ananya desperately hoped that his lab apprentice bought that;
hence, he maintained the serious look on his face that he feigned
on purpose. Prakash didn’t have as firm a grip over the language as
Ananya and his colleagues did. It was once even pointed out to him by
Ananya that the particular color is not addressed as “red wine” shade,
but rather “wine red,” which he’d absorbed like a sponge.

177
Prakash smiled graciously and said, “Terrific. You shall have
your necessary ingredients in a week or two.”
Ananya rose from his seat, shook his hand, and conjured the
broadest smile he could muster. He left the lab and breathed in the
freshness of freedom that he just had been presented with. The only
portion of the list that still wasn’t procured was going to be secured
from the Abysmal Aunt. The notion of Mr. Prakash’s involvement in
psychedelics somewhat lingered in his mind, but he eventually gave
it a rest by countering that his lab assistant was a bit too “vanilla” for
mind-bending substances.
Ananya proceeded with the tedious college activities, looking
forward to the day when he would see the chemistry laboratory
augmented with the desired apparatus. He glanced at the area inside
the lab through the window pane for a week after his conversation
with Mr. Prakash.
The fateful day arrived, and coincidentally it was synchronous
to Ananya’s lab timing. His eyes glowed in the similar fashion that a
child’s eye gleams upon receiving a remote-controlled Formula One
car. He grazed his fingers upon the remarkably spotless yet questionably
shaped beakers and flasks. He thanked his newly acquired mentor, and
then resumed his daily analysis. Ananya was excited, but he controlled
himself and only released his happiness in occasional outbursts of
energy—which everyone was used to, but never figured out the reason
why. Well, if they couldn’t find it at that point, then they certainly were
clueless now.
The moment Ananya was done for the day, he steadfastly moved
towards his apartment and lay on the bed, wondering if he would have
progressed along these chains of events if Anushree hadn’t introduced
a distinct shade into the palette of his life. Would he still harbor
inquisitiveness towards psychedelics in general? He didn’t know the
answer, and neither did he want to. He wanted to discover the answer
that not only absolved his pain but raised him above the nominal
troubles that came from mediocrity.

178
Ananya slipped into a mini-slumber, and despite his resistance
otherwise, his eyes became heavier, and warm peaceful sleep
tranquilized him. When he had entered his lucid dreaming state, he
witnessed one more knot of his subconscious unwinding.
He witnessed a false awakening in his aunt’s home with a phone
call from Anushree.
She earnestly called him to the university area and, sensing her
zealousness mixed with seriousness, he didn’t question her. Ananya
left the home as quickly as possible, and never did he feel the metro
move so slowly. The moment he stepped out of the university metro
station, he called her, but she didn’t pick up. He called her once more,
but she still didn’t pick up. It boiled the blood in his veins; he began
strolling while continuously cursing her for building his anticipation
and not delivering to it. Anushree called him after a decent ten to
fifteen minutes, and the moment he heard her soothing voice, all his
resentment vaporized. She asked him about his whereabouts and
they decided to meet near Miranda. He moved ahead—or rather,
accelerated—to the destined spot, and now he had to wait again.
Damn, Anushree! It isn’t fair the way you unwittingly exercise
control over me.
Ananya was glad at least that the weather favored him. The
sun was about to sink, while painting the whole sky with tangerine-
orange, and the wind was merciful with an occasional cool breeze. He
was staring into the oblivion when a figure emerged from the distance.
Somebody was driving a moped and swiftly coming towards him. He
tried to scrutinize the face, but due to the traffic lights illuminating
from behind, it was not possible. When the moped was only a few feet
away, the crescent moon appeared on his face because even if he still
didn’t recognize that face, he would recognize that Pink Floyd T-shirt
anywhere.
Anushree stopped and asked him to hop on immediately. She had
worn a helmet over her head, which concealed her beautiful features,
but her casual dressing was still breathtaking. Beneath that prism
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dispersion tee, she had worn ink-black hot pants. It was beautiful to
watch the utmost contrast where her hot pants ended and her pale
white skin started. Ananya, on the other hand, had worn a horizontally
stripped, cloud-gray polo shirt and a matching light-shade cream
white capri.
Anushree raced the moped into the university territory, with
Ananya barely holding in his excitement. He was glad, though, that he
was successful in restraining it since Anushree was inches in front of
him. The slight tingling sensation caused by the brushing of Ananya’s
naked knees with Anushree’s bare thighs was something that was
received and welcomed by both. The trivial touch gave air to the
flare that was already burning intensely. Being a male, Ananya was
apparently more sensitive towards such fleeting amorous gestures.
Hence, he had to distract his mind.
He said, “Where did you get this scooty from?”
Anushree gleefully replied, “I borrowed it from a friend.”
“Quite a modest friend you have got if you ask me.”
Anushree responded in a terse phrase that wasn’t audible to
Ananya. He asked again, to which she replied once more, but due
to the gushing wind past their ears, he still wasn’t able to hear her
properly. He knew a conversation on a moped would be hard, but the
wind made it even harder. Then an idea struck him—what if he turned
the wind to his advantage?
He held Anushree’s helmet and took it off her head, and since
they were far from the main road, there was no risk of running into a
cop. He then said, “Guess we won’t need that now.”
Anushree congenially replied, “Thank you for that.”
“Now, that I heard.”
After the removal of that safety device, Ananya’s nostrils were hit
by the sweet seducing fragrance of her. Anushree’s narcotizing innate
essence was laced with her favored jasmine-extract conditioner; it

180
wasn’t like she needed it, but that simple embellishing act left him
powerless. Her short hair barely reached his cheeks, so he purposefully
arched his back and extended his face so that her concise hair could
caress him in the most evident and arousing manner possible. He
wanted to nuzzle his nose on the side of her face, just like the king of
the jungle does to his lioness; that implied his animalistic passion and
his humane affection.
He breathed in deeply the ambrosial air that filtered through her
hair, and reached a naturally-induced alleviated state just through his
sense of smell. He had his eyes closed when a notorious strand entered
his nasal cavity, making him sneeze unexpectedly.
Anushree asked in high pitched voice, “You all right?”
“Yeah, just a dust allergy.”
Anushree’s face was glowing, which was most certainly acquired
by the rush of the blood under her skin, which in turn was incited by
the thrill of the speed. She sounded ecstatic, as if she had been missing
this moment for a long time, and Ananya hoped that it wasn’t just the
moped that induced such elation in her expression.
He asked, “Can I ride?”
She straightly rejected the notion. “I can’t. It is just too much
fun.”
Ananya made a sour face, but didn’t complain, because even his
poetry didn’t elicit that kind of response in her. His heart throbbed a
bit more furiously whenever Anushree bounced over a speed breaker
or two, and especially when she didn’t respond harmoniously to the
incoming traffic.
Ananya was bathing in his consolation prize with his eyes closed;
well, it was certainly more than consolation when he was rewarded
with the most cherishable present.
Anushree said, “You know, things would have been way different
had we met earlier.”

181
The sentence may have been spoken in the excitement of the
moment, but it carried the vigor and delivered the much-needed release
of tension from both ends. The slightest mention, a mere indication
that she was desirous of his company for a longer period, was enough
to send him to space, but now she wholeheartedly confessed.
Ananya, overwhelmed, simply beamed and replied, “I know—
we would have a good number of anecdotes to tell then.”
Anushree then took a left and proceed towards a lesser-known
locality in Kamala Nagar, but Ananya certainly didn’t mind that.He
was still enthralled by what he’d just heard, and was least curious about
where he went. He instinctively placed his palms on her shoulders,
which was not in slightest bit disapproved by Anushree. He felt the
warm texture of her skin even over the fabric, and now desired to
place his chin upon her shoulder near the nape of her neck and avenge
his peck on the cheeks. Alas, that could not be fulfilled.
Anushree ventured onto a street where people looked at them both
with curiosity, since it wasn’t a daily affair for them to witness such
an inverted placement of boy and girl. Ananya slightly cursed himself
for his delay due to being indecisive. They got down from the two-
wheeler in front of a house that only seemed nominal in appearance.
Ananya, while suppressing his anger from the mood spoiler,
asked, “Where are we?”
Anushree replied, “We are at the house of my peddler. My stash
is about to end, you see.”
Ananya quickly retorted, “Had we met earlier we would have a
fair set of stories dealing with you securing your stash.”
Anushree hit him with the edge of her elbow upon his response,
and they both climbed up the stairs to the Abysmal Aunt’s house. She
warned him to talk to her by staring directly into her eyes and not
anywhere else. Ananya was about to ask why when the weed vendor
opened the door and he got the answer himself. They both proceeded
into the home and while passing through the gallery, he noticed a

182
frame in which the Abysmal Aunt had her photo from her younger
days. She’d looked like a fairly attractive woman, and though one
could argue that she probably inherited her obesity, she was once a
lovely, slim, trim girl with a chiseled face, capable of elucidating a
million expressions.
Ananya woke up abruptly when the lucid dream became a bit too
harsh to witness. The perplexity again surrounded him as the vision
rendered was less along the lines of a dream and moreover another
adored memory. His subconscious had taken unfair advantage of
his slumbering state, and projected a memory that he didn’t want to
recall—not just because it made him think of her, but because it was
the sole memento that compelled his hands to pen down the poem that
revolved around Anushree’s shadowy, yet kaleidoscopic, way of life.
It was a poem that weaved his words with her idiosyncrasies, a poem
that was penned with purity and raised to perfection.
He laughed at the Universe’s elaborate play when he looked
outside and the climate was in semblance with the weather of that
day—moreover, of what he’d just witnessed in his dream. He
moved out of his room and proceeded to procure his fundamental
constituents. While walking, every time the cold breeze patted his
cheeks and pattered his hair, his mind fired up the old neurons that
carried those delightful memories. He couldn’t put up much of a fight
since he was still vulnerable; hence, he let go of the reins and gave
in. He was absorbed in his dreamy state, with earphones plugged in,
and by simply recalling the memoir, he was able to traverse the way
towards the Abysmal Aunt.
Ananya knocked on the same clay-brown door, and upon its
unlocking, he noticed for the first time that the Abysmal Aunt’s frame
was probably wider than the frame of the door itself. He followed her,
or rather was overshadowed by her presence, and his eyes were again
clutched by the youthful photo of the Aunt which he had witnessed
earlier in his mental facilities.

183
He asked the Abysmal Aunt for her best cannabis strain, also
for mushrooms of the psilocybe cubensis species. The lady in the
oversized gown had a problem understanding the latter request, but
when he described the traits of the species, she brought him the desired
kaleidoscopic caps, accompanied by the helpful herb. The mushrooms
were dried for longevity, but the parakeet-green buds were sealed in
a packet that held a little moisture. He suppressed his laughter the
moment he held those ‘shrooms, as they were the only substance that
had been missed when he was penning the poem The Perfect Drug,
and hopefully now, with the presence of it, he would procure what he
needed.
Ananya paid the desired amount, put the purchased items in his
pocket, and left the confines of her house. He was relieved only when
he had walked a few paces and was certain that no one was following
him. He pressed the raw drugs over the surface of his pants and broadly
grinned, wondering that the saga for the creation of creator’s sweet
confectionary had just started. The fusion of a mystical yet futuristic
substance was about to ensue. The synthesis of the ultimate perfect
drug had just begun.

184
Perfect Drug Preparation I
Ananya spent the night browsing the internet, confirming his methods
of extraction, reduction, and crystallization. He didn’t want to leave
any room for doubt and wanted to approach with techniques that
were tested and tried. His approach was a three-step process and the
fascinating thing was that nobody had ever ventured into the territory
in which the properties of nature’s two remarkably potent substances
were amalgamated to form something extraordinary. The first step
involved crystallization of the ‘shrooms, the second was reduction of
THC from cannabis, and the last step, about which even he was a bit
skeptical, was the extent of attenuation of those crystals in the THC-
rich solution. The risky step was entirely his brainchild, but if he’d
learned one thing about chemistry, it was that much like the chemistry
of humans, that of matter was difficult to predict unless the reagents
were reacted in the optimum environment.
He was immensely excited, and therefore, even after he was
absolutely certain of his direction, he couldn’t stop tapping the
keyboard. He glanced at his watch where that victorious ‘V’ reaffirmed
his faith that it was indeed two o’clock. He went to bed, but much like
the night preceding his chemistry interview, he couldn’t sleep. He put
on some mellow music, but that grew weary soon; his hands, out of
compulsion, went under the blanket, and he was obliged to jerk off
to release the anxiety. He felt proud of himself, as moments before
achieving the big O, he was not looking forward to the fragmented
moment of heavenly joy, but rather the pleasant interlude that his body
needed badly.
185
Ananya woke up, but unfortunately had just five minutes to spare
before his lecture. He saw his cell phone with three missed calls from
Akshay and two from Kanika, but there was no point in calling them
back now. He couldn’t recall when he’d pressed the snooze button
so incessantly and unconsciously that it had finally given up. He
raced towards the college, but only a few steps outside the building,
he realized he’d forgotten the “stuff” by the bedside. He went to his
room again, stuffed his pocket with the substances, put on some more
deodorant, and sprinted back.
The moment Ananya entered the college compound, he was
already fifteen minutes late, but he proceeded to the lecture room
nonetheless. After all, it was hope upon which the whole world
hinged, especially the triumph of his supposed surreal substance.
He reached the lecture room and exchanged a glance with the
lecturer. Both looked at each other with bewilderment, but Ananya
was luckily directed to the empty bench in the front row, which he
accepted graciously.
The lecture continued for another uninterrupted fifteen minutes,
when the lecturer had to leave in between to attend a matter of critical
nature. The whole class erupted in rapture like they were waiting for
this moment since they were born, and it was true, since the joy of
conversing during the lectures was something that money couldn’t
buy and the cafeteria couldn’t supply. Since Ananya was devoid of
Akshay’s company, during the entire time span, he kept revising the
equations of synthesis in his head that he was going to materialize
soon.
The lecturer came back, but only to collect his belongings and
left with the deeply adored phrase, “Attendance to all.”
Ananya cursed him under his breath and said, “Can’t believe I
ran a marathon around the university for that git.”
Ananya went to the back bench to pick up Akshay, and after
taking him, they left for the cafeteria to meet Kanika. Today, Akshay
had donned an impassive expression, but Ananya was way too self-
186
absorbed to notice that. They met Kank on the way, and the trio entered
the cafeteria together.
Since Akshay was sitting closest to the counter, he was asked to
place the order, and when he finally sat down, he said, “I am not going
back to bring edibles now.”
Upon sensing his fatigue, Ananya volunteered that he would go.
Akshay retorted, “You better.”
Ananya became aware of the detachment from his masculine
mate; hence, he asked with compassion, “What happened, brother?”
Akshay took out his phone, which had the screen fractured, put it
on the table and said, “This happened.”
Ananya held the phone in his hand, put it in the center of the
table and said with the utmost seriousness, “Let’s have two minutes of
silence for the untimely demise of Akshay’s cell phone.”
Kanika sniggered, followed by a chortle from Akshay. Ananya
sensed the mood has lightened; hence, he continued, “Until yesterday,
it was fine like a wine, altering brightness in response to light, object
of your delight.”
“So how did this mishap occur?”
Akshay sarcastically remarked while suppressing his laughter, “It
happened because of you, mister.”
“How so?”
“I called you to ask what time you would meet me at college, but
when I looked up as the metro approached, the rush pushed towards it,
making the cell phone slip from my hand and I guess you can predict
rest.”
Ananya tried to console Akshay with his distinct approach. “See
this as an opportunity to live without technology. I think our lives
have been saturated with technology so much that it has become hard
to appreciate the little things in life. For instance, the birds picking up
twigs and making a nest in these edges, how much distance a grain has
187
to travel to be on our plate—and more importantly it is necessary to
look around, rather than merely just swipe left or right.”
He even shared his little episode from last night, when he had
gotten stuck in the recurring loop of tapping the keys and getting
absorbed by whatever flashed upon the screen, subtracting the
substances and minus the masturbation.
Akshay, completely unyielding, reached out for Ananya’s phone,
but Ananya picked it up before he could and said, “No worries, I
exercise discretion,” and winked at him. He got up to bring dishes
containing food for everybody, and the meal got snuffed off of the
plates in the time proportionate to the period it took to bring them to
the table. The reason was obvious—that was the only time when none
of them were engaged in the meaningless tapping of the screen. It was
sad, though, that in such advanced age, when people ought to play
God to the gadget, they were being enslaved by the CPU.
The Three Musketeers bade each other goodbye with a promise
to meet later during the day. Ananya, on the other hand, couldn’t wait
for the following lecture to start, as the next slot on his schedule was
chemistry laboratory. Ananya sat in the lecture and was continuously
revising the first of his three steps in the process, which involved
crystallization of the ‘shrooms, and he had to pretty much adhere to
just the first one since the appearance of crystals took several hours.
Ananya entered the confines of the laboratory and instantly felt a
sense of euphoria coating an aura around him. He felt the raw material
sealed in a plastic bag protruding the fabrics of his pants one last time,
and proceeded for permission from Mr. Prakash to begin the synthesis.
He was granted approval to work in a secluded corner, which was for
the benefit of others and him as well.
Ananya waited for his classmates to indulge themselves with
chemicals, and the lab apprentice to gaze out the window, and then
he stealthy took out the mushrooms. They were simple in appearance,
but starkly different in deliverance. He began pulverizing them into as
fine particles as he could get, though he soon realized that this stale
188
process would have been achieved with less noise and a quicker pace
in his apartment. He grew tired of the activity, but that didn’t deter
his determination. When the required powder-like particles were
obtained, he looked at his watch and was startled that it had taken him
an hour to do the most basic of activities.
He then proceeded with putting those flakes into a beaker with
anhydrous ethyl alcohol solution, and heating it with boiling water—
since even an amateur knew that alcohol boiled much quicker than
water, and placing it directly over the flame was equivalent to signing
a calamitous covenant with the devil. The mixture required impeccable
attention and constant stirring to prevent any sticking at the base. He
was interrupted by Pragati and Ritika and then later by Akshay but he
talked to all with his eyes glued to that slurry, slimy solution.
Ananya’s class left and another came in, but he remained in
his position and didn’t budge from stirring the hot composition. Mr.
Prakash felt compelled to pay a visit to Ananya’s table, not because he
was the mentor, but since Ananya’s dedication was invigorating.
Ananya was so absorbed in his zone that even his peripheral
vision didn’t warn him. He only became conscious of the apprentice’s
appearance when asked about the status of the analysis. His heart
skipped a beat and the foremost thing he did was to check the counter
for anything remotely pointing towards psychedelics. He assured
Prakash that everything was going as planned, and requested to not
disturb him unless he asked otherwise. Prakash respected his request,
as while dealing with chemicals, the last things anyone wanted were
spills and flames.
From that moment on, Ananya became aware that working in
the laboratory wasn’t a walk in the park. He realized that what he
was doing could be deemed a violation of ethics, but he continued
nonetheless, as the mushrooms had metamorphosed into that gooey
solution. The next step was the removal of the impurities with a
vacuum-powered filtering funnel. He collected the filtered liquid
separately, and diluted the concoction left behind with ethyl alcohol.
189
Then he resumed the heating of the viscous liquid once more. The
hands of the clock had shifted by a considerable angle, and the class
following his had been replaced by another. His legs began to ache,
accompanied by a slight vaporization of his concentration, but every
time that happened, he brought his mind back to reality and reminded
himself why he’d started this in the first place.
When the needle of focus began pointing towards Anushree,
Ananya decided it was best to take a mini-break. He switched off the
Bunsen burner and let the moderately warm water do the job till he
relaxed his nerves and filled his troubling tummy. He knew that Kanika
must be having her lecture now, and Akshay was unreachable; hence,
he proceeded towards the cafeteria in search of a satisfying meal and
gratifying company. His eyes finally struck the structure that couldn’t
be ignored. It was Ritika having her cold coffee with a straw, while
carefully protecting her lips that were anointed with bubblegum pink.
Ananya automatically drew towards the table near that sinister
shade, or perhaps near that perilous pout. Ritika’s upper lip was
symmetrically curved, and the lower one was fairly fleshed. If her
body’s circulatory and digestive system had their differences on other
organs, then they worked in unison to keep those bad boys beefed up
and bright. He took a long route by first ordering something and then
placing himself at the table in front of her. It was probably the first
time his glance had lingered over her lips. Likewise, her gaze also
rested over Ananya’s lips long enough to notice, but whenever her
glance glided, the fabric of his pants inflated.
Ritika’s eyes glowed the moment they recognized the presence of
Ananya. After the anticipated introduction and predictable conversation
initiator, she leaped to the question that had been nagging her.
“Where were you for so many days? I thought you left the
college,” she said with warmth in her voice.
Ananya responded, “Was going through some major life
contemplation.”

190
Ritika inquired, “And what was your conclusion?”
Ananya struck back, “That a moment of indulgence in your
company is a revelation.”
Ritika giggled at the flirtatious remark, and with the intention to
change topic, inquired, “What were you doing in the laboratory earlier
today?”
Ananya was at the edge, but still gave a calculated reply. “I am
doing a project under the mentorship of Mr. Prakash.”
Before Ritika could ask further, he got up from his seat and
brought noodles over for himself. He began gorging upon it like a
hungry bear. He said with his mouth full, “This is probably the best
noodles I’ve had here.”
Ritika chuckled at Ananya’s innocuous response, and Ananya
again began gazing at those luscious lips. He broke his transitory
trance himself and said, “So as I said, I am doing a project under Mr.
Prakash.”
Ritika inquired further, “Yeah, but what is it about?”
Ananya was aware of the consequences, yet he proceeded
nonetheless. He paused the noodle-coiled fork in mid-air, and with a
wry smile replied, “To conjure the ultimate entheogen.”
“What?”
He corrected himself when some food had fueled some sense into
him, and rephrased, saying, “Devising a drug for medication.”
She meddled ahead. “To treat what, exactly?”
Ananya knew he was cornered, but the price to tease Ritika was
too great to refuse. He congenially replied, “To clear the mind of
unnecessary noise and turmoil.”
“The sort Vinay was discussing that day.”
Ananya guffawed and, almost choking on his noodles, retorted,
“Yeah, something along those lines.”

191
He checked his watch—the water must have become lukewarm
by now, he thought, and any further delay would mean starting the
whole process once again. He gobbled down the remaining noodles
and bade Ritika goodbye, even though he wanted to stay and ridicule
her further and observe her ceaseless devotion towards him. He
wouldn’t compromise on his work, however.
Ananya went back to the laboratory and resumed boiling, filtration,
dilution and the obvious repetition. He had crushed every inch of the
mushrooms he’d purchased, since he didn’t want to compromise on
the potency of the derivative, yet at the same time, he was anxious
that his first consciousness-expanding journey might reach Pluto when
he was just aiming for the moon. By now the sun had displaced itself
to the other hemisphere of the planet, and Ananya too was virtually
done. He had collected the filtrate in an elongated glass vessel and was
filtering for the last time.
Mr. Prakash, sensing a student working so dedicatedly for such a
long time, was undeniably impressed. He called Ananya’s name from
a distance and said, “Hey! I am leaving, but you carry on. I am leaving
the keys. Lock the doors and leave the keys downstairs.”
Ananya bade him goodbye and resumed with his synthesis. When
he had finally collected all the filtered liquid, the last step—at which
nature had to supersede Ananya—was the evaporation of alcohol. He
put the liquid into a vessel with a broad boundary, covered it with foil
and cut many slits into it, lest anything should fall in. He had to place
the beaker in a concealed, yet airy place to speed up the evaporation.
He chose the opposite end of a window on top of a cupboard, which
he felt fulfilled the necessities. He carefully climbed up on a stool and
placed the beaker there, and then pushed it as far to the back as he
could.
Ananya, being a thoughtful pupil, washed all the beakers and
replaced everything the way it was supposed to be. After all, he didn’t
want to leave any clue that would lead to him or his dear vegetables.
He picked the keys, reassured himself of the presence of cannabis in

192
his pocket, and went outside the lab to lock it. He was fastening the
lock when an idea struck him like a bolt of lightning.
What if I made a copy of this key? he thought. After all, reduction
of cannabis was something that he couldn’t do in broad daylight.
He picked out a singleton key from keychain, which fortunately
was not discernable. He looked at the coveted beaker in the corner one
last time, and resumed walking downstairs. He was surprised to find
Ritika around at this hour, and upon asking, she turned the question
towards him.
Ananya insisted that since he asked first, she ought to answer
before him. She confessed that she didn’t realize that time had flown
away in the library, and when she was leaving, Mr. Prakash asked her
to check up on him to see if everything was in order. Ananya drew
his eyebrows together in unison, as this was unlike Mr. Prakash. His
thoughts strayed along the lines that Ritika might be sugar-coating a
lie in place of ardently pursuing him—literally.
Ananya dropped the keys off to Mr. Bhatia. He and Ritika both
left the college bounds and went on their individual pathways. Ananya
was glad that he’d taken a major step towards the achievement of
his goal. He went back to his room, picked up his essentials, left
the other “stuff,” and packed up some unwashed laundry. He was
beaming brightly, as where he was headed was a tiny reward for his
accomplishment.
He reached his aunt’s home and the first thing he did was place
a chocolate in the palm of his delightful devil. He went ahead to meet
his other two kittens and both seemed equally ecstatic to receive their
brother. All of them talked for a while about their spent week, and
Ananya proposed the idea of taking them somewhere for the weekend.
The trinity received the notion with joy, and began suggesting places
themselves out loud. At that point, Ananya felt that his proposition
might have been a mistake.

193
Upon listening to the commotion, Pallavi came forth from the
kitchen—a place where she had spent a major portion of her life for
the children, those entities that occupied a major chunk of her time
now. She became conscious of Ananya’s presence only then, and
asked, “What would you like for dinner?”
Ananya warmly responded, “Anything that you shall make with
love.”
Pallavi placed her hands on her sides and teased, “So you are
saying that I don’t cook with affection.”
Ananya quickly corrected himself. “I mean you always cook
meals with love, but today you can cook anything for your liking.”
Pallavi smiled. “I was messing with you. Don’t worry.”
Ananya then went to the most pleasant place of all – his bed. Both
his body and mind needed a nap desperately; hence, he reclined from
vertical to horizontal, and within moments his eyelids overlapped. He
woke up with a peaceful mental state, the kind that was only induced
when one slept under the shadow of his loved ones.
He refreshed himself and checked the clock; there was still an
hour before dinner. He picked a magazine and then a newspaper to
kill the time, but at the back of his head, all he could think was how
his infant crystals must be evolving. Then he recalled that he had to
generate a copy of the key. He informed Aunt Pallavi that he was going
out and would be back before dinner, to which Pallavi conceded.
Ananya raced down the street, since by now most of the shops
had begun closing, but fortuitously he stumbled upon a key maker on
the road. He gave him the key, and in response, the merchant asked
him to wait. He noticed the same newspaper that he was reading
earlier lying by the vendor’s side, and while he waited, he attempted
to start a conversation with the merchant with political clout. As the
conversation progressed, Ananya was amazed to hear his unequivocal
perspective; his curiosity got nudged further, and he asked, “How
come you know all this?”

194
The key maker sheepishly smiled, and replied, “Sahab, in the
morning I read the newspaper, then during lunch I read the same,
and then later at night I review once more what I learned in the day.
Preparing for a government job, you see.”
Ananya realized two things at that moment: First, that necessity
wasn’t the mother of invention, dissatisfaction was—refusal to accept
the circumstances with which one was presented. It was the necessary
fuel that ignited one’s mind and propelled him forward. Second, that
everyone felt that his or her pain was enormous unless he met someone
who had faced a much greater adversary and agony. In the meantime,
his identical key had been made.
Ananya thanked him and said, “May the force be with you.”
The key maker became puzzled and inquired, “Kya Sahab?
(What?)”
Ananya self-corrected and replied, “All the best, I mean.”
Ananya reached home just in time for dinner. He was tempted
to pull off the lids and see what had been cooked, but he once again
exercised restraint and went to wash his hands while his sisters arranged
plates and salad for everyone. He came over and tried to discern the
cooked vegetables by their smells, but his hunger and salivation kept
biasing his decision. He sat at one end of the dining table, and waited
impatiently for Chinki to pour sabzi.
Chinki poured masala-smeared mushrooms into the bowl, and
Ananya erupted with joy. “I knew it!”
Pallavi gracefully smiled and replied, “I cooked one thing of your
liking and another of mine.”
Meanwhile, Chinki served some curry and rice, but Ananya
adored even that. He somehow suppressed his amusement when he
soon realized that major portion of his day was spent around those
plump umbrellas, and it was no wonder that with every bite he took,
the vision from his preparation flashed before his eyes. He was
joyously gorging upon his meal and profoundly marveling at his day
195
when Guddu blurted out while her jaw was still in munching motion,
“Mom, Bhaiya is going to take us out this weekend to someplace nice.
How about the children’s park at India Gate?”
Pallavi had been annoyed with Guddu since morning. She
straightaway raised her finger to her lips, but when Guddu didn’t quiet
down, she was forced to use the power of truth to smite away her
smile.
She said, “You can’t go this weekend. The air conditioning repair
person is going to come, and I might have to go the vegetable market
anytime now.”
It has been said that words don’t have the power to hurt, that it
is the way one speaks. This was one of those times when a simple
coherent sentence said in the most sterile tone hurt in proportion to a
slap.
Guddu opened her mouth for a big roar and held the air in her
lungs before dispatching it towards her vocal chords, displaying the
momentary calm in the ocean before calamity occurred. Ananya didn’t
want the lady who cooked such marvelous dinner to spoil her mood;
hence, he promptly got up before Guddu shrieked.
Ananya picked her up and buried her face in his chest, and did the
best damage control he could. He tried to console her but she wanted
the price of her tears paid in a promise. Ananya eventually said to her
to not worry, and he would take all three of them to the children’s
park next week. He even looked at Pallavi for confirmation and when
she consented, Guddu’s whining automatically subsided as if her ears
were hinged upon every syllable uttered by her mother.
Everybody resumed dinner, which was followed by the journeys
towards individual bedrooms. Everyone fell asleep instantly besides
Ananya, who was staring at the ceiling, pondering the colors of those
crystals. Would they be shining white or pale yellow? He slept soundly
with the promise of the upcoming Monday, and wondered who the
hell hated Mondays.

196
The upcoming day advanced in a predictable manner. He was
participative in the similar caring and concerning manner to his aunt,
and the affectionate and loving way to his close cousins. The day
following that, Sunday, was also spent in the same unvarying form—
or maybe, since Ananya so desperately looked ahead for the day to
wrap up, everything failed to pique his curiosity.
The most awaited day arrived, and Ananya was more ready than
ever. He initiated the Monday morning with a luscious breakfast from
Pallavi, followed by paying a visit to his room to pick up the cannabis.
He proceeded to the college, and his state of mind was more charged
and less concerned; he was empowered to achieve what only had
been talked of in science committee, and had been only dreamt by
visionaries.
Ananya proceeded with day’s schedule similarly to the way he’d
spent the weekend with his aunt. Since he had to experiment with
those recreational leaves and didn’t have chemistry lab that day, he
was bound to work after Mr. Prakash had left the college.

During a casual conversation with Akshay and Kanika, he was


asked about the topic of his research. Ananya gave them a puzzling
answer—the kind he’d given to Mr. Prakash, since there was no point
in including them in his fantasies. Just like an important date with
Anushree was preceded by outing propositions from his friends, this
day was no different. Akshay suggested going out, but Ananya got
lucky since he’d brought up the project as an excuse. This, however,
was where he got entangled in his own lie.
Kanika asked, “You can come and meet us after college is over.
We don’t always have to leave, you know.”
Ananya, on the contrary, was all right with leaving, but not with
the time after college, at least not today. He formulated an escape plan
in just enough time. He said, “Ritika and I are going out after college.
Don’t draw any conclusions—it was her idea!”
197
Both his friends laughed wholeheartedly about how much
Ananya didn’t want to associate himself with her. He too joined them
in the laughter, since sometimes expressions elucidated by dear ones
are funnier than the irony of the situation.
The following lecture was with Professor Vinay, where almost
every student focused willingly. They faced minimal internal resistance
and reflected the enthusiasm with which Vinay taught.
The lecture soon subsided, and he asked them to continue further
since their inorganic teacher hadn’t arrived. Everyone conceded to the
proposal, but a question emerged from the corner inquiring, “Would
we get two attendances, sir?”
Professor Vinay laughed at the student’s ignorance, and responded
in affirmative. The professor played around a bit longer with the marker
and the alleged atomic interaction amongst molecules. He made sure
that every student’s mind traversed parallel to his and learned at the
same pace; he intended to deliver. The instant he saw students lagging,
he slowed his speed, but when they still couldn’t catch up, he was forced
to wrap up sooner. Ananya checked his watch. There was still about an
hour until college ended and the laboratory would be available. Hence,
he proceeded towards the library without being noticed by anyone.
Ananya bade his time in the library and found himself unable to
focus his energies on a single item. His feet urged him to move in
the direction whose window of opportunity hadn’t been opened yet.
After spending a decent forty minutes rummaging through a lifestyle
magazine, he gathered his courage and went to check the laboratory
availability status.
Ananya paused a few paces before the laboratory door frame and
bent forward to see if there was any sort of commotion inside the lab.
The atmosphere inside the laboratory was quiet, but the door was still
unlocked. He turned away lest anybody called to him. He had walked
a few paces when he heard a familiar voice call his name. It was Mr.
Prakash!
Crap, No perfect drug preparation today, he thought.
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Mr. Prakash talked with him casually and asked a few questions
about his analysis. He was walking down the corridor when he
confessed that he’d forgotten his suitcase, and most important, the key
to the lab. He asked Ananya to bring both and to lock the lab on his
way out. Ananya went inside the botanical garden that stimulated his
olfactory organs. He didn’t see the suitcase at first, or the keys, but
looked at the top of the cupboard and breathed a sigh of relief. He
picked up the lab apprentice’s belongings, thrust the borrowed key on
the keyring, and locked the door that he was going to unlock again in
a matter of minutes.
Mr. Prakash took hold of his suitcase and asked him to drop the
keys downstairs to Mr. Bhatia. Prakash proceeded on his way, and
Ananya towards library to pick up a reference book that he’d left in his
hurry, but he detoured to Mr. Bhatia first. Ananya picked up his book
in the library and was surprised to find Ritika. She gave her a welcome
‘hi’, to which he bade a goodbye in return; it was probably the most
diminutive conversation, but still worthy to hold memory of, at least
from one end.
Ananya went to the laboratory, stealthily unlocked the door with
his duplicate key, and thanked that benign key maker the moment he
set foot on his home turf. He just closed the door, as locking himself
in was probably not the best idea while dealing with lethal chemicals.
The first thing he did was get on the stool and examine the extent of
crystallization. He looked at the beaker and smiled insidiously that
no one had touched it, since he had aligned the conical portion of
it towards the vertex to account for the drastic measure of someone
smart stumbling upon it and then leaving the beaker there on purpose.
He brought the beaker down and held it against the sunlight;
he was mesmerized to see amber-colored crystals formed all around
the beaker, and every sharpened corner of them refracted light in a
different direction. The crystals were of different size and luminosity—
some were the dimension of a nail, while others were like sand grains.
Some of those golden grains shone uniformly, while others scintillated

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effulgently. It was an emotional moment for him to witness the
partial success of a product that held the key to his rejuvenation and
subsequent salvation. The grin on his face didn’t leave him till he
extracted those crystals and put them into a vial. Then he neatly placed
it in refrigerator, and labeled it TPD-0001.
Ananya, with confidence and caution, proceeded to those
cannabis leaves. He held them in the palm of his hand and they
still smelled funny, the way they did when Anushree bombarded
his nostrils during their first meeting. He sieved them into fine
particles and removed the unnecessary stems and seeds. When the
herb had transformed into a powdery existence, he went ahead with
the processes of soaking and filtering. He utilized dilute sulfuric
acid to acidify the filtrate. Until then, the process was analogous
to what he’d done with mushrooms and required little to no risk
management, but the next step was something that he was well aware
was a precarious one. To decarboxylate the extract, to derive THC
from THCA, he had to boil the extract in benzene for a few hours.
Ananya utilized the double boiler technique, in which he placed the
flammable fluid-filled beaker over the top of boiling water bowl,
which was ultimately over the Bunsen burner flame. However,
sensing the time constraint, he preferred a bigger and brighter flame,
which meant even more attention towards slightest variation in the
beaker. He was staring intently at the cannabis solution, but soon
transcended from the reality around him. He began seeing that extract
as the only reminder of the sole lady who had brought liberation
into his life. He began picturing the elongated molecular structure of
THC, where every bond represented their interactions and incidents.
That ring of benzene awakened some deeply cherished memories
in him. Benzene was sweet-smelling by nature; the presence of it gave
petroleum products the peculiar smell that was witnessed around petrol
stations. The aromatic attribute took him back in time to when he was
riding on the moped with Anushree. The delicate smell of the fuel,
fused with her essence, was still fresh in his memory. The aromaticity
was contributed by another property called resonance, which caused
200
cyclization and stability of the compound, much like the chemistry
event at St. Stephen’s of the same name. Resonance had brought
stability and strength into his life as well. He’d never pondered until
now the reason he’d picked cannabis as the fundamental constituent of
his perfect drug; it was probably because of the widely acknowledged
therapeutic effect, or perhaps he wanted to borrow a constituent from
his original perfect drug.
Ananya broke his self-induced trance when the memory-infused
molecules became a bit overbearing for him, and also when his mind
had again initiated the lightning-fast display of nostalgic moments. He
knew fairly well that this train of thought was destined to wreck; hence,
he pulled the breaks himself. He lifted his head to alter his thinking
pattern, and he noticed the names of a few students, accompanied by
their enrollment numbers, on the blackboard. He was emotionally
vulnerable when he was kicked in the groin by fate, as the last four
digits of a distinct enrollment number were identical to first digits of
Anushree’s landline number.
He immediately fidgeted as the monstrous cauldron of darkness
made an appearance. His most lonesome night reappeared, and the pain
of bereavement abraded old wounds. The inner turmoil rebounded,
and his mind went blank for a short, yet sour period of time, and the
manifestation of it was witnessed by the shuddering of his arms and
eyes. He convulsed from the involuntary muscle contraction, and
didn’t have time to comprehend that he was stirring benzene in the
beaker, making the contents shake to an unprecedented extent.
Ananya had miscalculated the heat from the flame and had
grossly underestimated the boiling temperature of benzene. While
reminiscing about his adorable addiction, it had totally slipped from
his mind that much of benzene had transmuted to vapors; being heavier
than air, it settled at the bottom. His eyes were glued to the set-in-
motion solution, but it was too late—the commotion was skirting on
the periphery of the beaker when it finally yielded to gravity and the
unthinkable occurred.

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The explosion was so massive that he lost consciousness
immediately. The force propelled him towards the wall, where Ananya
lay motionless. The last thing he remembered before the sky went dark
was the moment he closed his eyes, since that was the only shield he
could put on. He heard a thundering roar—the kind one heard moments
before being struck down by lightning—which followed the similar
insurmountable agony that rendered him unconscious. Similar to the
way night-vision goggles become frenzied upon intense illumination,
the inward skin of his eyelids glowed with a fierce white aura before
the same impregnable pain knocked him out.
Ananya gained fleeting consciousness as he was being escorted
to the medical emergency on a stretcher by Mr. Bhatia with another
helpful human. She was a woman whose scent he could recall, but
not yet relate to; she was behind him, and so he couldn’t tell exactly
who she was. He regained awareness once more when the wound on
his forearm was being treated, and that was the first time he saw the
injury. He looked at his feet and was glad that they were completely
all right, as any damage to them could have left him debilitated to take
advantage of an enormous number of erotic positions.
He heard a suppressed weeping in the background, and he bet his
money that it was the same woman who escorted him. He still couldn’t
see the face emanating that low moaning cry, as he was constantly
being blocked by the doctor. The doctor acquainted him with the fact
that his parents had been informed, and he shouldn’t worry as his cuts
and bruises had been well medicated.
There goes the dream to synthesize the perfect drug down the
drain, he thought.
Ananya raised himself a little to thank the doctor, but was put
back to rest by him. The doctor, in the most exuberant expression
akin to Bollywood cliché, said, “Don’t thank me. Thank the girl who
informed the authorities at the right time.”
He displaced himself from Ananya’s line of sight and let
him see his savior. Ananya saw that chiseled face which not only
202
saved his life, but revered him deeply as well. It was no one other than
Ritika, who was wiping her tears with a napkin, and in the process had
smeared some mascara as well. The doctor advised some precaution
and the left the room, leaving Ritika and Ananya all by themselves.
Ritika came and sat on the edge of the bed, and spoke with a
voice that had obviously just cried, “I was so scared. I heard a loud
noise and came running in the direction. I saw fumes coming from the
laboratory, and you were bleeding so profusely.”
Ananya, who was mildly high from the administered anesthesia,
responded, “Don’t lie to me, Ritika. You were stalking me, right?”
Ritika started hitting Ananya on the chest with her baby hands, to
which Ananya groaned in pain, leading to an immediate apology from
her side, upon which Ananya chuckled. She started ascending from
her position when Ananya held her hand to stop. His manly hand held
those skinny, skeletal fingers, which had just given him the gift of life.
Ananya apologized for his behavior and said, “I was trying
to lighten the mood.”
Ananya laughed at his joke, as that little bit of anesthesia was still
overwhelming for him, but this time Ritika too smiled. His palm was
fondling those fragile fingers when he began comparing his pinky to
her middle finger, and he said, “I don’t know whether it is the medicinal
morphine, but is my pinky the same size of your largest finger?”
Ritika chuckled, wondering whether Ananya was indeed not in
complete control of his mental faculties. Ananya’s gaze drifted from
her eyes to her lips, which weren’t painted with any shade but just
laced with a lip gloss that reflected the natural taffy pink of her lips
dazzlingly. Ananya had never been attracted to her until then; the
reason now was probably her noble act, added by the influence of
opiate in his blood—and that obvious fleshy taffy pink.
Ananya barely murmured something, to which Ritika brought
herself closer, and when she was in the audible proximity, he
reaffirmed, “I need some water.”

203
Ritika brought the vessel to the edge of his mouth and began
pouring it slightly. Ananya, with his operational arm, held the glass
over her hand and increased the pace of draining. He let go of the
vessel when the water was extinguished, but his “thirst” still wasn’t
quenched.
Ananya climbed his gaze from her lips to her eyes, and again
murmured, to which Ritika had to bow down once more. He said,
“The strawberry lip gloss you have worn. Is it as delicious as it looks?”
Ritika smiled sheepishly, yet responded to the flirt, “Depends on
the standard set by your preceding strawberries.”
Ananya retorted with his cunning smile, “Well, there is only one
way to find out.”
Ananya bent forward towards those luscious lips and reduced his
pace when he was halfway there, to give her time to comprehend and
cover her side of the air passage. Ritika was frozen the moment Ananya
proceeded, but she too leaped ahead and they ultimately enclosed the
air in between them with the romantic seal.
This is the most gratifying strawberry ever, he concluded.
He resumed tantalizing his taste buds with the pores that were
present on his lips. He first outlined the periphery of her pleasure
protrusions and let the taste of the sweet fruit sink in. When the lip
varnish had completely vanished from her lips, he pushed his hand to
the back of her head and held that discernable skull, while his tongue
skirted the dimensions of her mouth, he retracted momentarily to catch
his breath; Ritika’s eyes were full of desire and she lunged forward to
nibble on the forbidden fruit that she had been denied for so long.
The excitation in the veins upon witnessing her enthusiasm
directed the blood flow down to the groin area, and a tent began to
erect upon the white bed sheet in which Ananya was enveloped. Soon
the battle of the tongues ensued, in which both sides put up a great
defense, but each one badly wanted to be conquered. Ritika broke
the kiss to witness passion in Ananya’s eyes, while he indicated her

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to look down below. Ritika turned to look and giggled like a little
girl, while at the same time bit her lower lip. She mounted herself on
Ananya’s abdomen, and accidentally placed her pointy knee on his
wounded arm, leading to Ananya to shriek in pain—and that was it,
he was awake.
Ananya was lying on his back, which obviously hurt like every
atom of his body. The first thing he saw was that accursed broken
beaker, whose fragments were stuck in his forearm. He lifted his
head to view his frame, and was glad his other arm was completely
fine—though its identical twin was smeared with blood. He placed
his head where it was before, and felt his face with the functional
hand to check for any cuts and bruises. Luckily, he had none. He lay
there motionless, wondering what he had done to deserve this. In the
stabbing and piercing pain of those shards, he wanted to have some
self-reflection. He questioned the Universe why it had used such a
harsh stick to punish him. What was his mistake?
The hurricane of doubts brimmed to the surface, forcing him to
think. Why did she leave him? Did nice guys always finish last? Was
his life always going to be like this, jumping from one catastrophe to
another?
This time he didn’t pause the tornado of turmoil. He let it beam
whatever it deemed fit upon the projector of his mind. His brain
conjured all sorts of sorrow and misery, but when that didn’t have an
effect then his intellect put forward an image that instantly brought
tears to his eyes—his three little kittens. They would have cried till
their eyes went dry if something deadly had happened to him. He
would have deprived them of their elder brother just because of his
ambition. He’d never wept because of Anushree or because of his
physics failure, but tears started rolling down his eyes; after all, blood
was thicker than water. He summoned all the pain in his heart and let
it drain through the saline solution of his eyes.
When the pandemonium had rendered him numb, and the
tears had lifted away some sorrow, he wondered why he had that
205
particular dream. Maybe on some level he was touched by the genuine
compassion bestowed by Ritika. This was no time to stay ensnared in
his emotional conundrum, though. He had a wound to sterilize and a
lab to clean before anyone came and asked too many questions. He
noticed his watch with the fractured dial which showed the time of
explosion: 5:45. He quickly checked his cell phone and the time then
was 6:30.He was furious that he had been unconscious for forty-five
minutes; plus, the lucid dream had been interrupted at the wrong point.
Ananya washed the wound under tap water to expel the
unnecessary chemicals that might have poured there. Some glass
pieces went away with the flow, but a few stayed, which he had to
pull away. The result of it wasn’t very appeasing; his jaw muscles
tightened and he emitted a low-pitched grunting sound that implied
his body wanted this torture to end. However, this was just a teaser—
he had to sterilize the wound, too.
Ananya turned off the tap and breathed deeply for a few minutes
to calm his mind, and he prepared for the inevitable. He was well aware
of the potency and efficacy of sterilization, but didn’t have firsthand
experience of such; he had utilized Dettol and some commercial
sterilizers before, but never the godfather of all—hydrogen peroxide.
He picked up the bottle containing the essential chemical, and as a
test, poured it over the smallest scraped segment. It burned like hell.
He puffed his face with air as if breathing for a marathon, but he knew
that a lot of ground was still to be covered.
Ananya placed a handkerchief in his mouth so as to suppress
the groan, and held the neck of the bottle while counting in reverse
to prolong the initiation. He closed his eyes and poured the holy
water that was supposed to wipe away all the diabolic pathogens. He
clenched the handkerchief between his teeth as if it held the formula
for his perfect psychedelic drug. He equated the pain to being bitten
by a million red ants on an open flesh wound that was sprinkled with
sugar for them to have a party.

206
He read somewhere that physical pain, at times, purified the
human being. This one, however, certainly scarred him to the soul.
He was thinking that since he’d poured it once, it would hurt less than
before, since the nerves must have been worn out from the unexpected
agitation. But nope, it hurt the same—or perhaps a bit more, since he
was dreading the impending doom. The sting made his hand squeeze
the glass bottle so hard that he felt it might break, and then he would
have to pour sterilizing solution on it as well. He realized one thing in
that moment: that all his emotional and mental pain lost their meaning
during that intense physical suffering.
After the second time, he just had one thought—to get it over
with. He was going to pour hydrogen peroxide one last time, and
prayed to God that all parasites would die—otherwise, he would.
He screeched once more but that was all; he had transformed after
the last drop of hydrogen peroxide. There are two kinds of pain—
the physical pain that only bears suffering, and the kind that not only
changes you, but changes the definition of pain itself. Ananya had felt
the transcendental nature of pain that day.
After that, Ananya put on some ointment from the first aid kit and
initiated the lab cleansing with his single arm. He picked up the pieces
of broken beaker and disposed of them in a neatly tied polyethylene
bag to avoid any suspicion. He began cleaning the affected area with
a sanitizing solution, and used it in a bit more amount than necessary
to obscure the malodorous stench. He went outside the lab and came
back again to ascertain that it was truly imperceptible that the lab
had almost claimed a life. He double checked the beakers and their
knobs, placed that detestable burner where it had been, and with that
enrollment number taunting him, he locked the lab with his key and
left.
The college had become completely empty by then. There wasn’t
a single soul left except for the guard at the gate, who recognized
Ananya by face but didn’t complain of his presence at such unusual
hour—though he certainly grew curious upon seeing Ananya’s left

207
arm wrapped up in a handkerchief. Ananya reached his apartment and
threw himself on the bed, and all he wished was to sleep, and to wake
only when his body told him to. Alas, sweet slumber remained aloof
from him. The pain would continuously inject the syringes of stings
all over his arm, and he couldn’t do a thing about it. He squirmed in
pain, but the war between medication and laceration continued. He
extended his arm just like last time, but now prayed for the absence of
mosquito. He felt a prickling pain under his left ear while lying in that
position, which grew significantly the moment friction intensified. He
reached the spot with his palm and was astounded that a minuscule
piece of glass was stuck on his neck under the ear. He pulled it out and
a globule of blood followed.
Ananya’s threshold of pain had increased; hence, that little speck
was more like a poke. Yet he still sterilized it, and resumed his effort
at sleeping.
Ananya woke up in evening and was glad that the pain was
bearable, although it was still not viewable. He rubbed his eyes to wake
up completely, but then he felt something odd. He went to look in the
mirror to reaffirm his suspicion, and he couldn’t have been more right.
The blast had burned the edges of his eyebrows and some hair above
his forehead as well. Luckily, the hair was burnt only at their edges
and it wasn’t discernable unless one were to look with a magnifying
glass, but he knew what had caused it. Had the beaker been shaken a
bit more, the consequences would have certainly shaken his world.

No more pursuing the perfect drug, he decided.

208
Perfect Drug Preparation II
Ananya visited a local doctor who prescribed him some antibiotics
and anti-inflammatory pills, but he restrained himself to taking just
the antibiotics; he wanted that pain to leave a lasting lesson. He
had made peace with his life. Now, no matter what may happen, he
would not take this gift of life for granted. He was going to accept
the designated path set by destiny and follow it without complaining.
Whatever curveball the Universe threw in his direction, he was going
to welcome it.
Ananya stayed in his room for the rest of the day, relaxing and
deriving happiness from simple joys of life. He talked with his mother
and father, but just like typical Indian parents, they questioned first:
Was everything all right? Why was he calling at such an odd hour?
Only after the assurance that everything was fine (like hell it was),
they commenced with normal conversation. He then called his aunt,
but was disappointed that since his sisters had gone to school, he
couldn’t talk to them.
Ananya then called his two true friends, whose combined missed
calls on his cell phone were in the double digits. He first received
words of abuse laced with affection, and then a discussion of his
absence at college. Ananya assured them that he’d just had a mild
fever, and would return to college in a day or two. He wanted to talk
to them a bit more, but they had lectures to attend and so had to cut off
the call. Before disconnecting, however, Kanika teased him by saying,
“Ritika is just around the corner—would you like to talk to her? I bet
she could miss her lecture for you.”
209
Ananya bade her goodbye and disconnected the call before she
could do it; he couldn’t deny that blood had rushed to his cheeks—
and down below, as well—upon Kanika mentioning Ritika’s name.
After all, the dream had left a sort of an indelible impression. He took
his meds and tried to sleep in the bid to continue the dream where
it had left off, and then he realized that he could materialize it into
reality. But the wounds from his previous romantic rendezvous were
still fresh—both the literal and metaphorical ones; hence, he pinned
his hope on that fanciful vision, and slept.
Ananya woke up with a feeling of uneasiness, and fatigue still
lingering. It was around dusk now, and the consequence of skipping
a meal was becoming sharper. He proceeded towards the market with
his wound concealed to the best of his ability. Gorging on his meal
still wasn’t satisfying, as the medicines had already started screwing
with his taste buds, but he still didn’t object to it. He returned to his
room and slipped into a hypnotic nap that his body needed and his soul
required.
The next morning, Ananya got up feeling a bit better, but the
absence of ambition set off a whirlpool of emptiness spinning within
him. He didn’t like this emotion of hollowness one bit. Hence, he
began studying for his sessional once again. After becoming tired and
hungry at the same time, he fed his stomach plus his wound, and soon
slipped into that peaceful interlude. When night arrived, Ananya was
badgered by his friends to come to college, or they would come to
his apartment. Ananya couldn’t decline the advance on his castle, let
alone deny it politely. He was bound to come to the college, and hoped
his long-sleeved shirt would protect his unspoken bluff.
He awakened with a heavy head and checked his wound. Though
it had dried, the encrustation was yet to begin. He bandaged his arm to
prevent further injury to the already-damaged flesh, and very sleekly
put on an azure-blue long-sleeved cotton shirt. He pushed himself
outside, and prayed for his survival in the Delhi heat with his extensive
clothing and a bandage underneath.

210
Ananya met his zealous friends in the cafeteria, and was glad
to be the reason behind their joy. But today one thing was different:
Ananya was bereft of his innate energy outbursts. He was unusually
calm—quiet, even. They engaged in frivolous conversations over
coffee, but Ananya’s participation consisted of head nods and radio-
button responses.
Akshay, who was least used to this side of Ananya’s character,
boldly asked, “Why are you so quiet?”
Kanika followed, “Has someone died?”
Yes. A part of me, he replied mentally.
His friends erupted into laughter, but Ananya smiled sheepishly
and faked a response. “Just drained due to fever.”
When the clock hands pointed themselves into loathsome
alignment, they bade each other goodbye. Ananya and Akshay
proceeded towards inorganic chemistry, where Ananya focused
intently on his least favorite subject. Despite the occasional mood
swing attributed to the medicines, or by his attempt at a swift change
in his personality, he continued to endure his misery.
Ananya was welcoming this boredom with open arms, but he was yet
to embrace it. He had suppressed his ambition, but he was yet to squelch
it. He still wanted to do great things in life, but the lesson he’d learned
had taught him to go with the flow. Of course, one of his cornerstone
beliefs had always been that only dead fish went with the flow.
The way his wound was shielded, similarly he had encased his
enthusiasm and dynamism, and proceeded with his restrained living.
He consoled himself that this was his approach to enter adulthood.
Much like elders, who smothered their desires as part of growing
up, he too was refraining from giving the steering wheel to the
gratification-seeking, ambitious monkey. He was wary of coming
in close proximity to Ritika, as some fragments of that dream still
lingered in his memory, but what he dreaded even more was attending
chemistry laboratory that day.

211
Ananya entered the lab with caution, and wondered if Mr. Prakash
was aware of his chemical calamity. He pretended to be ignorant
and began his curriculum-ordained routine reactions with his lab
companion. He progressed with the aforementioned experiment, and
was glad that this time the board didn’t contain any token of emotional
turbulence. Due to his previous fierce encounter, or perhaps his newly
acquired reservations, Ananya was laser-focused upon the ongoing
transformation to the extent that he didn’t even notice the new earrings
worn by Pragati, supplemented by an enticing scent.
Pragati was surprised by Ananya’s unusual quietness. She longed
for his precise chemistry puns. When she couldn’t endure the deafening
silence, she blurted out, “Either it is hydrogen sulfide, or somebody just
farted.”
Ananya barely gave a response, but Pragati continued, “Have you
ever wondered whether if an emperor farted, it would be called noble
gas?”
Ananya still didn’t offer a change in expression, and continued
with his experimentation, depriving her of a pat on the back for her
feeble attempt at humor. When Ananya turned off the Bunsen burner
and seemed slightly more available, Pragati hit him with another
arrow from her quiver. She said, “You know, it happens often that my
chemistry jokes fail to get a reaction.”
Ananya drew a smirk at the edge of his lips, feeling that the
earnest attempt deserved a reply—not to mention he, too, was tempted
and desired a flash from the past of his old self. He turned towards
her, and upon noticing the periodic table chart behind her, said, “I like
chemistry jokes, but only periodically.”
Pragati beamed instantly, and in response Ananya, too, reflected
the expression. He had calmed momentarily, when Prakash called on
him. Ananya wasn’t prepared for that, but neither had he been for the
indelible impression on his arm and the resulting lasting lesson upon
his mind. He proceeded towards the professor, and the welcoming grin
on his lab apprentice’s face reduced his tension significantly.
212
Mr. Prakash asked Ananya to sit in front of him, and with curiosity
coated with vitality, asked the nature of Ananya’s research and his
level of accomplishment up until now. Ananya held Prakash’s gaze
and replied with absolute self-disdain, “I think I will go on with the
normal semester and discontinue the current undertaking.”
Prakash, for a split-second, filled in the shoes of Akshay with his
enlarged-eyeball expression. He asked, “Why?”
Ananya inhaled deeply and let out a sigh as a prelude to his
already-prepared proclamation. He responded, “I have hit a major
barrier—a dead-end, actually. I don’t think I can proceed further.”
Prakash didn’t anticipate this response from his favorite student.
In an attempt to cheer him up, he said, “I saw your crystals in freezer.
I must say it was a good decision to pick anhydrous ethyl alcohol for
crystallization. What do you intend to use them for?”
Ananya had completely forgotten about those sparkling flakes
when he’d sprinted from the laboratory last time. His blood froze, his
mind went blank, and with his palms sweating and wound throbbing,
he couldn’t think of a logical explanation. He had barely uttered a
phrase when Prakash interrupted him.
With the intention to respect Ananya’s privacy and at the same
time give a boost to his inner strength, Prakash said, “It is all right; you
don’t have to tell the precise nature of your personal aspiration. But
you just have to remember one vital thing. Failure is a mere outcome,
a sign that the output wasn’t satisfactory. It can either be viewed as a
stepping stone to success or a rock blocking the road.”
That was the first time since the accident that somebody’s words
had made it past Ananya’s defenses. His slumbering ambition was
nudged; still, he knew fairly well where it would lead. His quest to
create a weapon against the crisis on consciousness had sabotaged
him, and retrieving his life by the skin of his teeth was an experience
he neither wanted to recall nor relive.
Ananya still congenially replied, “I shall ponder over it, sir.”

213
Ananya got up to resume his experiment, lest Prakash were to tilt
the needle of curiosity towards those crystals again. He had just turned
when the lab apprentice called out to him and said, “One more thing.”
“I noticed that you don’t wear a lab coat or necessary safety gear
while working; well, neither does anyone in your class. It is necessary
and highly recommended.”
Ananya turned one last time to thank Mr. Prakash for his concern.
The lab assistant raised his palms to emphasize his point and said,
“Once burnt, twice shy.”
Ananya sniggered and went on his way to resume the remaining
analysis. While performing the experiment and even afterwards, he
unceasingly contemplated over his lab assistant’s last words. His
conclusion remained unchanged—he was the cause of his own sorrow.
Ananya had initially blamed the Universe for his misery, but
had he treaded a bit more carefully—and worn safety gear, for that
matter—he could be completely fine now. It was too late, though; he
wasn’t going to alter his set course designed by the higher authority.
But what if the upper administration wants me to follow the path
of aberration? he thought.
Even if the Universe wants me, I won’t, he concluded.
Ananya proceeded towards his apartment with the slightly uneasy
feeling of being devoid of a purpose, accompanied by a suggestion
constantly urging him, pushing him to make the same mistake once
more with a little alteration. He fed himself, tended his wound and
looked at it intensely while thinking of his three little Teletubbies. He
coerced himself to sleep, and looked forward to tomorrow, when he
would make his way to his cubs’ den.

Ananya woke up with a renewed sense of positivity. He packed all


the necessary items for the weekend visit. He also squeezed in his

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unwashed laundry, and even felt the need to include the ones he was
wearing underneath, since they had seen better days. He checked his
wound before leaving, which had full scab growth but was still sensitive
to the touch. He went ahead to his aunt’s home, with the expectation of
a satisfying breakfast, an afternoon nap, and a sumptuous lunch, but
the Universe had something else in mind.
Pallavi was serving freshly-cooked white sauce pasta to all her
four children; she treated Ananya as her own and tended to his needs
equally well. Ananya indulged in gluttony, with the frequent closing
of eyelids whenever the “foodgasm” was a bit too intense to handle.
His trance was broken by Guddu, Minki, and Chinki, who followed
each other’s statements, and reminded him of his promise.
Guddu said, “Bhaiya, we are all set for today’s excursion to the
children’s park.”
Minki excitedly exclaimed, “Mommy said she would cook us a
nice picnic meal.”
Chinki then insisted, “Bhaiya, please convince her to come as
well. It won’t be the same without her.”
There goes my afternoon nap, Ananya thought. At least I ought to
do some damage control.
Ananya picked up the cutlery, which shone so brightly that it
could easily be misunderstood as the silverware set out before the
initiation of a feast. He went into the kitchen to put the dishes in the
sink, and thanked his aunt for such a generous and fulfilling breakfast.
Pallavi blushed and received the compliment with humility.
Ananya teased, “So, what shall tickle our taste buds in the picnic
today?”
Pallavi sniggered and responded, “Pav bhaji.”
Ananya, for a split second, became absorbed by the thought of
his favorite snack, which was comprised of thick gravy made from
mashed vegetables, and sprinkled with coriander leaves and lemon. It

215
was served with soft, fluffy bread that was cooked with butter. It was
an Indian snack that could even make the native gods envious. He
blurted, “And…”
Pallavi laughed, “I could make you coleslaw sandwiches as well,
but it would take time.”
Ananya corrected himself, saying, “I was looking for something
along the lines of your companionship accompanying our lunch. Pav
bhaji would be tasteless without you.”
Pallavi smiled but declined by saying that she would be tired
after cooking and hence would prefer to rest instead. Ananya knew
that handling all three of them would be challenge for him, so he
proceeded by offering a helping hand with the food. Ananya was able
to utilize his injured hand by now; he could easily hold things and pass
them on. Only the wound on his forearm was a cause of worry, as it
was going to heal at its own pace. The process of the transformation
of raw vegetables into a delicious, mouthwatering, nutrient-enriched
meal happened faster with his assistance, and both he and Pallavi were
then free to spend time on their individual activities. Ananya engaged
in dumping his soiled clothes in washing machine, whereas Pallavi
marched towards her bedroom to have a power nap—after all, the
mother, too, wanted to witness her kids beaming with joy.
Ananya with his aunt and three immensely excited nieces
proceeded towards the children’s park that was situated near India
Gate in Central Delhi. They were seated comfortably in Rajesh’s
Skoda Octavia, and Ananya was having a delightful time driving the
sedan. The moment the car entered into the periphery of the children’s
park, all three of the girls started jumping on their seats, pointing at
the various swings they would try first, and the rides they wouldn’t
miss for sure.
Since Guddu could stand completely on the seat, she started
utilizing the springs underneath it. She held Ananya’s shoulders from
the back to urge him to drive faster and lead them to their heaven
sooner. Ananya tried to console her, and Pallavi tried to exert her
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elder influence, but her placement adjacent to Ananya hindered the
impact of her words. Just as both adults had intuited, but were afraid to
mention lest to make it real, Guddu took a big leap and made contact
with car’s roof. The loud thud was followed by Guddu’s shrieking,
and Pallavi was forced to bring the child into her arms to soothe her
weeping. The instant the car stopped in front of the children’s park,
all three of them ejected like pilots whose jets had just caught fire, but
Pallavi’s blaring voice admonishing caution reached their ears before
they reached the gate. She demanded that they stay together at all
costs, and asked Ananya to keep an eye on them.
Ananya reassured his aunt, and then all four ran towards the
paradise park. Pallavi, with all the edibles, proceeded towards the
sitting area for elders. Ananya let his gratification monkey out so as to
play with his three cuddly chimps. All the playground equipment was
designated for children’s use, but that didn’t deter Ananya’s resolve
to enjoy it; he followed his sisters to every slide and swing, and made
sure that his aunt was visible from a distance.
Ananya was there for them when they were attempting athletic,
gymnastic movements at the jungle gym. He thrust them forward
on the swings like a brother propels his younger siblings in life. He
spun Guddu on the tire swing, and spun her again to reflect how his
happiness revolved around her. He waited on the other end of the slide
for each to come down one by one, so that momentum pushed them
into his arms where his tickling fingers awaited them.
The lot reached the sandbox, where Ananya too joined in. He
engaged in his favorite childhood activity—building a mountain and
burrowing out a tunnel underneath for a train. Engaging in that simple
activity worked as a catalyst in the reaction whose sole output was to
enhance his sense of wellbeing.
When the tunnel was built (with little to no help from his
spirited sisters), he tried calling them over to witness his mediocre
construction, but they were busy in building in their own skyscraper.
Ananya saw how efficiently they had utilized everything around them;
217
an idle bucket had been used to build the base of castle, and a damaged
tumbler to build towers over it. They were now in the process of
building a gate for the entrance. Ananya engaged in helping them
and tried his best to live up to their expectations by crafting windows
and concrete pattern with the pointy end of a crooked pen. The three
were absorbed in getting the entrance right, while Ananya got lost in
his thoughts while he drew an identical pattern all over the fabricated
walls. He again began contemplating the suggestion of Mr. Prakash,
but still couldn’t come to terms with what to place on the opposite
end of that seesaw. He had to balance the enormous risk involved.
He thought about deploying safety gear, but being surrounded by his
sweet cupcakes instantly brought moisture to his eyes.
The girls were done, and to an extent, so was Ananya. He partially
buried the pen over the tower to give the castle a more realistic appeal.
It was then that his sisters turned and saw the mountain, and asked,
“What is it?”
Embarrassed, Ananya replied, “It is mountain over a tunnel. I
wanted to build tracks as well, but then the tiles on your castle walls
wouldn’t be there.”
Guddu bent down and began looking into one end of the tunnel;
meanwhile, Ananya went to the other end, put his arm inside it, and pushed
it towards her. In a deep, booming voice, he said, “Time for tickling.”
Guddu recoiled, but then Ananya pulled his arm out and just
smiled at her insidiously, letting her know of his plans. He realized
soon, though, that the sandbox was a small area, and in the pursuit,
they both might step over each other’s creations. Hence, he let go of
the idea—but then came up with something truly incredible. He pulled
a piece of candy out of his pocket and crushed it into tiny pieces. He
poured some of it over a colony of big black ants in the corner, and
made a line of itsy-bitsy sweets leading up to his tunnel. From there, it
went on to the princess’ castle, where he poured all the rest; it was sort
of an ant treasure hunt, a reward for travelling so far and entertaining
them along the way.

218
The ants became conscious of the candy instantly, and began
fervently pursuing the abrupt blessing. The navigator ant went ahead,
and behind it others followed. Slowly, a continuous stream of those
black dots began traversing the prescribed path. They entered the
cavernous tunnel with no concern for the future, but just following
the food trail with the faint hope that they would make their way back
home. They were surprised when the trail entered another concave
hollow portal, which led them to an unexpected end—but a generous
bounty. The navigator ant checked once more to see whether someone
from higher up on the food chain was there, and upon confirming there
was not, began the necessary course of action.
The girl gang was observing intently this intricate display of
nature, when Guddu suddenly dropped some sand over the ants to
interrupt the flow. Ananya put her at halt immediately, but the ants
didn’t interrupt their feast. They simply continued their journey along
an alternate path. Ananya was just about to scold Guddu for her
insolence when he too was bitten by the bug of bewilderment, having
seen the buried ants dig themselves out on their own and become
reunited with the stream of sustenance.
After their live telecast of the Discovery Channel, the girls
proceeded towards a peculiar playground ride—a vertical, curled
caterpillar, with the tail at the bottom and the mouth over the top to
engulf the crusader. The caterpillar was no ordinary kind; it was almost
as high as a two-story building. Seeing the top required a steep angle
of elevation. The caterpillar was an olive green tunnel that twisted and
turned like the wire of an old telephone. Naturally, all three implored
Ananya to let them trip on that adrenaline-surging ride, and Ananya
had no option but to concede.
The troublesome trio reached the top in no time, and momentarily
got lost in the view from above. Chinki noticed her mother engaged in
conversation with some other parent and Ananya looking at her with
concern. She felt the wind gusting through her hair and didn’t feel
like getting down at all. However, when the other kids insisted, she

219
plunged ahead and ejected out of the tail, her expression composed of
euphoria and elation.
Minki followed suit. For the first time, her face that usually
bestowed a calm expression held a look which reflected exuberance
and courageousness. Ananya hugged her to acknowledge her brave
attempt and successful execution of the same. He then looked
earnestly at the empty tunnel and prepared his fingers for the invasion,
but instead of Guddu, some other child appeared, and then another. He
looked up and saw Guddu tightly clutching the pole and dreading the
rapid ride.
Ananya tried to encourage her, but it was useless; then Chinki said
something that had an immediate effect. Her mellow voice rose to travel
the distance. It held a strong, motivating undertone that shook Ananya to
the core. Once more, words enflamed with vigor had come from the least
expected source, setting fire to his counterfeit peace of mind.
She commanded, “Guddu, if you start something, then see it to
the end or don’t start at all.”
Ananya had been absorbed in his own castles in the air after
the trip from the sandbox and was constantly being pestered by the
thoughts of giving it one more try; he had been torn between his
resolution and somebody’s recommendation, but not anymore. He
was dreading that his progression might repeat history and lead to
another unfortunate encounter, but like that ant, he needed to push
away the dust of his fears and insecurities that clouded his judgment.
It became clear to him that if he didn’t utilize the opportunity that was
propelling him from the inside out, then he would indefinitely have to
stay in the gray area of regret and anxiety, where Guddu stood frozen
at the moment, massaging her head from the pain of the past. The
pain that had earlier put a lid on his aspiration had now transformed
to give a breath of fresh air to his ambition. If previously the reason to
procure the perfect drug was to fill the void left by Anushree, then the
pain—infused with the present motivation—propelled him to pursue
the perfect drug to give meaning to his own existence.

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Ananya breathed in deeply to embrace the relentless ambition
once again, and in a moment of impulse climbed up the ladder to the
caterpillar, giving no heed to the people around. He saw his little pixie
was scared, but at the same time wanted to witness the thrill of the
ride. Ananya took hold of her, placed her in his arms and dived into the
caterpillar without a thought. Guddu welcomed her brother’s support
and the continuous twists and turns that were followed by concentric
circles. She held Ananya tightly, and unconsciously pressed hard on
the wounded arm. She shrieked with joy, and her voice was joined by
Ananya’s as well, as a sign of the return of his renewed self.
Ananya, out of habit, tickled Guddu during the ride—but due to
the constricted space, she moved, causing a bruise on the hand where
it already hurt. Both stepped out of the tunnel having conquered their
individual fears. It was then that Chinki noticed a spot of blood on
her elder brother’s arm, encased in a long-sleeved shirt. She wanted
to question Ananya regarding the same, but felt she ought to save it
for another moment. The fabulous four, with their empty tummies and
filled with exhaustion, moved towards Pallavi to seal the day with a
sumptuous meal.
Guddu, gleefully hopping on her toes, was ahead of them all.
As soon as she reached Pallavi, she began describing the day’s
experiences with heightened gestures and highlighted phrases of her
vocabulary. Pallavi was also glad, since she’d gotten to interact with
different parents and take a break from her normal routine.
They all proceeded to an open grass field, where there were
families like them enjoying moments of peace. The girls helped
Ananya in spreading the Mickey Mouse bed sheet over the grass to
act as a barrier between the feast of the ants and the picnic of theirs.
Chinki again noticed that red blot had enlarged, which Ananya had
futilely tried to conceal with a fold. They all placed themselves in
a circle with rumbling stomachs and drooling mouths. When Pallavi
opened the tiffin, all four smiled zealously while the insects around
seethed with jealousy.

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They passed each other disposable plates, which were soon filled
with purée of pure delight, accompanied by fluffy buns coated with
butter. Everyone was becoming satiated with the reinvigorating effect
of the lunch, when Chinki couldn’t take it anymore. She asked, “What
happened on your arm, Bhaiya?”
Everyone’s eyes shoot towards the red patch on Ananya’s arm,
and the guy who was most enjoying the meal was hit when he was
most vulnerable. Fortunately, he was chewing at that moment, which
gave him enough time to counterfeit a response.
Ananya replied, “It’s nothing. I just scraped my arm on one of the
caterpillars’ antennae. Quite pointy, prickly antennae of transmission
they are.”
Since everybody was gorging generously, none took heed of the
neatly packed lie, but Chinki made a mental note. The stomachs were
soon filled, but the cravings were not curbed. To squash them properly,
everyone approached the ice cream vendor outside the park, and all
four of them began palpating their palates while they faced the park,
recalling the day well spent. Ananya, however, was contemplating
something else entirely.
Ananya brought the Octavia from the parking lot. The kittens
fell asleep instantly, while Pallavi hummed tunes of old-time songs on
the radio. Ananya, on the other hand, was constantly thinking about
making the best of his days at home, and saw that he indeed needed to
tend his wound as soon as possible.
After entering the house, the first thing Ananya did was check
the extent of the damage. He examined the wound and saw that
the incrustation was chipped partially; he put some ointment on it
and bandaged it immediately. He was scrounging his bag for meds
when his hand struck pure gold—he hadn’t realized he’d placed The
Psychedelic Chemistry in the bag. He reached the conclusion that he
must have kept the book in the bag in order to return it to the library;
now, he was glad of his unconscious impulse and unfulfilled conscious
decision.
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Ananya promptly began studying for a relatively safe method to
procure THC, and settled for the one that involved olivetol and trans-
p-menthadienol. Though there were others through which synthesis
could be achieved more quickly, his focus had now shifted from being
swift to being safe. He was absorbed in the finer details of the synthesis
when Chinki arrived abruptly. She was rubbing her eyes when she
walked in, signifying that she’d just woken up moments ago. Ananya
slid the book aside and welcomed her with a warm smile.
Chinki handed her brother some ointment and said, “Bhaiya,
please put this on your wound.”
Ananya graciously took the tube and responded, “Thank you so
much.”
“Can I see it?”
“Don’t worry; I have already dressed the wound.”
Chinki studied his hand and noticed the little marks that were
around the dressing and had healed before the main injury. She
naturally inquired, “I never saw them before. When did this happen?”
Ananya didn’t have a choice. He fabricated another lie to protect
his wise Buddha, and soon diverted the conversation to the present
day’s amusement. Being a child, Chinki was vulnerable to such
pleasant times; hence, her focus shifted immediately. Soon, a piercing
voice from Pallavi made its way towards Ananya’s room, calling for
Chinki. It resulted in her jumping from the bed and making her way
out of the room.
Ananya called her name and said with a broad smile, “Thank
you.”
Chinki corrected, “But you thanked me already.”
Ananya responded, “I know.”
This one is not for the ointment, he telepathically replied.
Ananya put the medicine on his bed stand and picked up the black
book with a tighter resolve to protect his mortal vessel. He resumed

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studying the process and began estimating the time it would take to
derive THC. It was going to take more than a day, since derivation
of olivetol and trans-p-menthadienol was time-consuming, and the
arrangement of other reagents wasn’t like purchasing a lollipop from
a candy shop. The rest of the day was spent with little enthusiasm;
even Pallavi was tired. Hence, she cooked a simple meal of pulses and
chapati which was still consumed generously.
The last day of Ananya’s weekend stay was requited by a visit
from Rajesh. Everyone was ecstatic to receive him and the house once
again broke into a mini celebration. Pallavi seemed to shed away all
her weariness and even Ananya forgot he had a wound to conceal.
Rajesh had brought some tempting baked goods from his recent
abroad visit including a countless number of colored aluminum foil-
wrapped chocolate chips and coins.
Ananya, too, dived into the sinister indulgence with his sisters,
and after a fair sugar rush, all engaged in a running game called
Chiclets—which wasn’t ironic at all. The evening passed with this
hullabaloo, and when dinner time arrived, as usual, Pallavi didn’t leave
any stone unturned in reflecting her affection through her preparation
of plentiful cuisines. Ananya, at one point, went to the kitchen to help
his aunt, but came out again blushing, having walked in on Rajesh and
Pallavi sharing an intimate moment.
The dinner was devoured quickly, with everyone sliding down in
their chairs. Rajesh opened the button of his pants to make room for
dessert, while Ananya smiled that he had chosen to wear sympathetic
sweatpants. Rajesh’s favorite, vanilla custard minced with raisins and
crushed cardamom seed, was served. It paved the way for a dinner
conversation that was actually occurring during dessert.
“I read more about your cosmic calendar. It is an interesting
concept.”
Ananya amusingly replied, “And I drove your Skoda Octavia. It
is an appealing entity.”

224
Both shared a heartfelt laugh, and Rajesh expressed his doubt. “I
hope it came back in the pristine condition it had gone.”
Ananya teased, “Yes, Uncle—your car is my car. I treated it the
way I would have my latest sedan.”
“So am I to assume that our last conversation led to some positive
outcome, and celebrations are in order?”
Ananya chortled, and said while stealing a glance at Chinki, “A
bit early for celebration, but yes, the course of ascent has been taken.
You see, Uncle, failure is just an outcome; it doesn’t have to become
the only reality.” Ananya echoed Mr. Prakash’s words, resonating with
his own ambition.
“I couldn’t agree with you more. I failed twelve times in setting
up my business; it was only in the thirteenth attempt that I was
successful,” Rajesh said, reaffirming his faith in Ananya.
Ananya amusingly retorted, “Which brings me to this question
once more—what is the nature of your business, Uncle?”
Rajesh adjourned the conversation with a chuckle and assured
Ananya that the intricate details of his profession would be revealed
next time, to which Ananya slyly smiled. He knew that by then, he
himself would have devised a compound worth millions. As the
conciliation between his hesitation and ambition had been achieved,
an undeniable intuition that an accomplishment was waiting to be
unearthed gave him pleasant sleep.
Ananya woke up with no help from the alarm clock, and after an
extravagant breakfast, left home with a tiffin in his hand, a smile on
his face, and a purpose in his heart. He had prepared a list of the extra
ingredients he was going to need, and was prepared for any excuse
that he would need to provide. He entered the college compound and
straightaway went to the chemistry laboratory, where he saw Mr.
Prakash engrossed in a book of chemistry the way a child would be
absorbed in a graphically enriched story book.

225
Mr. Prakash smiled and asked whether Ananya would like to
continue his research, to which Ananya simply handed him the list
and replied tersely that he would like these items. Prakash beamed
upon reading the list and, sensing the certitude in Ananya, graciously
complied. He didn’t ask any questions whatsoever. Ananya was
surprised about the unforeseen assent, but thanked the lab assistant for
his support nonetheless.
Ananya was glad that one checkpoint had been achieved, but
the following one was going to be a bit tricky. Derivation of olivetol
involved lichen, and acquiring it required him to go that infamous
ridge. He skipped his following lecture and made his way towards
the woods where a single step had changed the lane of his life. He
again traversed the path that he had earlier walked upon, but this
time he wasn’t distracted by sweet, soothing interactions of the past.
He had stopped accentuating the long, lost rush of hormones in his
veins, and stayed on his purpose. He was focused upon looking for the
desired lichen, the decipherment of which he was entirely relying on
internet images. He saw a few trees where the expected raw reagent
was present, but they were tarnished in one way or the other, and he
yearned for excellence for his perfect drug. Ananya then recalled
where he could find the ideal untouched item. He altered the direction
of his limbs and began proceeding in the direction of that old oak tree,
which nurtured several species under its huge leafy umbrella—and
retained some cherished memories, as well.
Ananya reached the section where, from a distance, that oak tree
fluttered in accordance to the wind. Ananya, while approaching it,
wondered for a moment that if that tree could actually comprehend
human emotions, then it would split its sides laughing, knowing he was
better off being a tree than a human being. Ananya’s blood naturally
warmed when he came into close proximity of that tree, but he didn’t
let it boil. He saw the incessant lichen resting at the bark, so he took
some for himself—leaving a bit to grow for some future entheogen
enthusiast. He saw the spot where he’d uprooted grass last time and

226
noticed that it was as good as before, as if nothing had happened.
He drew Mother Nature’s necessary conclusion that time heals every
wound, and it is the nature of life to proceed and move ahead.
Ananya walked away from the oak tree while his mind tried
conjuring up those heavenly images—despite knowing that the end
result wouldn’t be good for him. After displacing a comfortable
distance, he turned back to the tree that now appeared deserted and
isolated. He beamed one more time, giving in to the fancies of the
stubborn child, and expressed gratitude for the delightful memory in
the wild.
Ananya trudged back to the college with that lichen encased in
an airtight container. He entered the laboratory and began with the
precursor reactant synthesis straightaway. He trod with caution, and as
a preventive measure, looked at the blackboard, just to be on the safe
side. He was entirely absorbed in his experimentation when somebody
tapped on his shoulder from behind. Even to that, he gave no heed,
then that wicked hand pulled his hair. Ananya was forced to break his
concentration. He turned with his “reduce to ash” gaze, but his fury
subsided when, in response, the person was pouring embers from his
own eyes.
Akshay was extremely displeased, and his enlarged eyes looked
even more frightening when they were instilled with anger. With a
sterile tone, he asked, “Will we see you at lunch?”
Ananya looked at his workspace and, seeing that the lichens had
done their work and the other reagent was also in the process of getting
synthesized, he nodded. Akshay’s expression didn’t change, though.
Ananya checked his watch and looked around; his class had been inside
the laboratory for the past fifteen minutes and he’d just realized that
now. He felt a bit guilty for his self-absorption, but proud nonetheless.
He again engaged in the procurement of trans-p-menthadienol, and
didn’t pause until the process was nearing completion. He heard some
commotion in the background, but he knew it was best ignored. He
heard a voice calling out his name, and predictably, it was Mr. Prakash.
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“Ananya, I am off to lunch. Latch the lab’s door while you are
gone.”
Ananya saw the clock, wiped the sweat from his forehead, and
began cleaning the beakers as quickly as possible.
Time really flies when one does something with passion and
devotion, he thought.
He labeled both of the crucial chemicals, closed the lab, and
dashed to the cafeteria. He was expecting a call from either one of his
friends when his pants vibrated. He replied forthwith, “I am on my
way, and I have got a surprise for you guys, as well.”
Kanika retorted, “You better.”
Ananya reached the cafeteria huffing and puffing, and sat in
front of his only friends with a semi-circle of sweat around his neck.
The expression of both didn’t alter, and Ananya straightaway began
pleading his case. He tried to load all the blame on lab assistant, poor
cellular network, and the upcoming sessional, but he still couldn’t
evoke pity from his friends. He was forced to use his nuclear weapon,
which was Pallavi’s packed lunch. The moment he opened it, both
quivered their nostrils instinctively. Kanika and Akshay grabbed the
opportunity to suffuse their taste buds with Pallavi Aunt’s food, with
which just two of their senses had been acquainted until now. They’d
had eyes to imagine and ears to hear, but the other three senses had
been deprived of an intimate experience.
Akshay and Kanika were gobbling down the food, while Ananya
was quietly trying to get a piece or two of chapati, like a lion feasting
while a fox struggled to take a bite from her own loot. The lunch
wrapped up soon, and Ananya most certainly didn’t have more than
half a chapati, but he was still content as the expression on the faces in
front of him reflected fulfillment and forgiveness.
Akshay asked, “What are you doing that’s keeping you so
engaged?”

228
Ananya replied promptly “There are two rules of success, my
friend. First: never tell everything to everyone.” Ananya paused for a
split-second, exchanged glance with Kanika, and added , “That’s all I
have to say.”
Akshay smiled curtly, to which Ananya smiled broadly. He
was aware that Ananya’s ambition was something that he never
compromised.
Kanika inquired, “But you just stated one rule.”
Ananya retorted, “You really do personify the term ‘half-baked,’
don’t you?”
Akshay and Ananya burst into laughter, followed by a high-five,
and then the three amigos commenced their routine interaction with
the occasional tease and appease, concluded by their journey towards
classroom
While he attended the last lecture physically, he was mentally
present back in the laboratory. The fierceness of his enthusiasm
charred his concentration, and after a few failed attempts, he gave in
to his fancies. He began wondering what he would do after the lecture
ended and came up with the ideal homework.
The moment the lecture ended, Ananya wrapped up his things,
bid goodbye to Akshay, and left for the Abysmal Aunt’s neighborhood.
Within minutes, he was in the taboo street. He noticed partially nude
children observing everything around them, accompanied by a few
malignant men sitting in a circle and burning something over foil. It
was painful for anyone to see a child getting nurtured in such an erratic
environment. He was glad that the Aunt’s home appeared and there
weren’t any emotionally electrifying objects in the vicinity as before.
When he entered her home, his eyes again betrayed him. They lingered
longer than they should have at that youthful photo that appeared to be
the shriveled version of the current Abysmal Aunt.
Anaya was sitting on the sofa when the Aunt came up with the
sealed sachet containing cannabis. She handed him over the packet

229
and Ananya gave her the money; in a moment of madness, with no
regard to Anushree’s warning, he asked, “Is that you in the photo?”
Ananya knew he’d said his words loudly enough. He didn’t get a
response, however, as if the Aunt hadn’t heard him. He took that as a
cue and made to leave the apartment.
Then she said, “That girl died a long time ago.”
Ananya paused for a second to reflect that he acknowledged
her response, and proceeded nevertheless. He didn’t understand the
meaning of her statement at all, but neither did he bother abrading the
old wounds of her. After all, he knew how much such injuries hurt. He
made his way towards Daryaganj, where an old chemical store was
supposed to contain the last item on his list. His stomach had started
grumbling while he was on his way to the store, but he refrained
from getting anything to eat. In the pre-monsoon season of Delhi, the
last thing he wanted was an acute case of diarrhea, interrupting his
experiment’s flow with his own outflow.
Ananya purchased a hazmat suit, but while checking for any
perforations, like a typical Delhite he asked if it was available in
another color. The shopkeeper straightway declined and Ananya had
to keep the lemon-yellow suit.
Even if he had it, the way he said that, he would keep it for
himself, Ananya thought.
Ananya’s stomach was churning incessantly at that point, and
he was forced to head to the local market of Delhi Gate, where he
stumbled upon a clean dining place. After feeding like a hungry bear,
Ananya made his way back to the same route through which he’d just
come. It was then that he noticed a Kali Mata temple with a grandiose
statue of Lord Shiva over the top. He recalled his mother’s words,
about how essential it was to seek the blessing of a higher power, and
so he advanced inside the temple. He joined his hands in the typical
namaste stance, bowed his head, and began praying.

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O Lord! I don’t blame you for the previous mishap, but if it was
a sign to discontinue the set path then please let me know, or if, O
Cosmic Mind! If you assist my ambition, then become my guiding light
for this journey that I have embarked upon.
Ananya left the temple premises with some prasad (that is,
sweet religious offerings) and looked at the magnificent figure of
Lord Shiva once more. If earlier the sculpture appeared cold and
distant, then it now certainly seemed to scrutinize every move of
his. He looked carefully and was surprised that the Lord’s consort,
Nandi, wasn’t visible. However, he didn’t brood over it, since the
statue was merely a constructed image of a deity who glowed from
eternal light within.
When Ananya reached his room, he was already tired, and sleep
enveloped him the moment he was enwrapped in the blanket. Ananya
woke in a pleasant state, the way nature intended man to wake up
before the cell phone invasion. He dressed quickly, arranged the
contents of his bag, and upon a moment of impulse let the hazmat suit
and cannabis sachet stay in it. They were more useful with him than
simply lying around in his room. He reached the college and engaged
in the conventional cycle of events but when the laboratory session
arrived, he breathed in deeply the strong odor of chemicals the moment
he set foot in his habitat. He got involved in his experimentation, while
exchanging warm affectionate banter with his lab partner, when out of
the blue he heard his name called out by the lab assistant.
Ananya made his way towards Mr. Prakash sat with his typical
upbeat attitude, whereas the apprentice appeared to be smirking, as if
he were concealing a surprise from Ananya.
Prakash pointed to the shelf and said, “There are your required
reagents.”
Ananya gaped for a moment, and when he couldn’t reply, Prakash
placed the words in his mouth. “Not all chemicals are needed to be
ordered—some are already present in our repository.”

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Ananya thanked him from the bottom of his heart and went to his
work bench to continue the analysis, while in his head he had initiated
a different kind of reaction altogether. He wondered whether he could
continue the rest of synthesis after the day’s schedule ended, and
since he had the key to the laboratory, plus the safety gear in place, he
couldn’t find any reason to postpone.
Ananya desperately waited for the St. Stephen’s clock tower to
strike five, but he didn’t let his eagerness turn to impatience. When the
clock hands were in unison at four, a slight excitement began rushing
adrenaline through his veins, but he didn’t let that blur his vision. He
waited inside the library like a sprinter who kept an ear out for the
gunshot. At the stipulated hour, he reached the laboratory, where the
beautiful sight of a locked door awaited him. He unlocked it in an
instant.
Ananya placed all the required reagents on the counter and
cocooned himself within the hazmat suit. Since he was wearing the
suit for the first time, he wasn’t anticipating the level of warmth
inside the protective coating, but being in Delhi’s heat for more than
a year had made him accustomed to such harsh conditions. Ignoring
the slight claustrophobia induced by the gas mask, and with the same
unwavering focus of yesterday, he initiated the procedure to derive
THC right away. He had prepared for all sorts of aberrations in the
reaction, yet he’d failed to keep one peculiar interaction in mind.
He was in the middle of synthesis while dealing with sodium
bicarbonate, when a sudden sharp itch on the wound paralyzed his
hand. It is a well-established fact that sensitivity towards pain can be
borne for a few moments, but an unforeseen itch requires immediate
relief. Due to the oven-like condition inside the suit, Ananya was
saturated with sweat, and it was only natural for those salty beads to
form a stream and seep onto the scab portion, pestering the festered
wound.
Ananya put the reagents down delicately, and swiftly brought his
hands up to unzip the suit and let his hand breathe fresh air while

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wiping away the sweat. He continued the paused reaction after
securing the hazmat suit once again, but this time he wore it just over
his undergarments. He cursed himself for not thinking of it before, but
was glad that another chemical catastrophe was averted.
Ananya proceeded with his undivided attention once more, and
didn’t reduce his pace until he had to treat the devised mixture with
petroleum ether. Recalling his previous unsavory chemical interaction
in a flash, he trod with caution and was amazed at one alteration—last
time, the need to sedate his senses made him impatient, but at the
current hour he was calm as an ocean. The probable cause in such
diametrical shift was his source of motivation.
He went through the final step with precision, and didn’t let any
regret—or for that matter, a droplet of sweat—prove lethal. Ananya
was at last done, and he held the beaker that contained the purest
product, a concoction expelled of all contamination and adulteration.
He held in his hand the pious THC liquid and poured a fraction of
the obtained solution to react with those shimmering crystals of pure
psilocybin; the step wasn’t mentioned in the black book, so he was
entirely relying on his intuition and comprehensive knowledge of
chemicals.
Ananya emerged out of the hazmat suit like a banana being
gradually peeled. He wrapped up the safety gear, which had almost
achieved the opposite purpose it intended to. Subsequently, he took
hold of the miniature beaker that contained the distinct proportion
of two of the most potent, mind-bending psychedelic substances in
existence. He drew a sample in a test tube and was on the verge of
pouring it down the hatch when his consciousness questioned him,
what was he doing? Hadn’t he learnt his lesson yet?
The face of his jubilant father flashed before his eyes. The
joyful face of Guddu upon pronouncing the longest word in English
literature beamed on the screen of his mind, and eventually so did all
the people who loved him more than he did himself. He was glad the
vessel didn’t make contact with the rim of his mouth, and to make
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sure that what he was going to drink was harmless—well, relatively
harmless, anyway—he poured some over a plant to make sure what he
had in his hand wasn’t poisonous. He kept some to test it on a much
more vivacious creature.
He kept everything in place, tagged his first batch of perfect drug
as TPD-001, poured it into an air tight container, and neatly placed
it adjacent to those shining crystals. The crystals were glad to finally
have a neighbor with some common shared beliefs. Ananya moved
out of the lab the way he came in, and began proceeding towards the
college compound, when something drew a smile at the edge of his
lips.
The college compound was plagued—rather, played upon—by
the presence of a beaver-brown cat, which was in the habit of tasting
and teasing everything and everybody. She was marked with amber-
colored stripes and possessed a pair of hypnotic blue eyes. If some
people detested her pervasive presence, then others certainly adored
her palm-licking and tail-swinging. But despite the authorities’
innumerable attempts to drive her out, she came over the other side
of the wall. It seemed like she was more aware of ways to get into St.
Stephen’s than a regular high school student.
The cat was right now sipping her favorite beverage—milk poured
into a bowl by the benign gardener. Ananya proceeded towards the cat
and drained the colorless, perhaps odorless, liquid into the milk. The
cat still lapped her tongue without variation and proceeded in receding
the level of milk. Ananya couldn’t pause to watch her amusing activity,
lest he be twice noticed by the guard at such an unusual hour. Ananya
turned once more to look at the cat. He sincerely hoped she survived
the ordeal since there wasn’t any way to determine the potency of the
substance, but his perception would have been changed remarkably
had he seen how swiftly the pupils of the cute kitty dilated.
Ananya reached his room and waited for the morning sun more
than anyone. He reviewed the whole procedure once again, in order to
be utterly sure that at no point he digressed from the set path. When

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he couldn’t find out any flaw, he assured himself that the true power of
the substance had only been deferred, not declined.
Ananya proceeded the next day with a sense of urgency and
enthusiasm that he hadn’t experienced even on his admission day. The
moment he stepped inside the confines of his college, his eyes began
searching for that innocuous pair of elliptic blue eyes. He preoccupied
himself with the predictable progression of the day, with a sporadic
alteration through his companionship, but after witnessing the plant
functioning properly, he yearned to see the pretty kitty more than ever.
With the day’s end approaching, his hope began to fade—and more
than the failure of his product, a subtle guilt began gnawing him to the
bones. He was on his way to ask the gardener if he had entombed a
curious, cunning creature when his legs felt the brushing of a slender
body. Ananya looked down and in the most charming tone, she uttered
up to him, “Meow.”
Ananya was happy, less for the success of his substance and more
for the survival of the cat. As if waiting for a sign, he instantly brought
some of the enchanting elixir from the lab when no one was around,
and proceeded towards his apartment, where he was going to lose
consciousness in order to gain awareness. He was also glad that the
cat didn’t exhibit any undesirable aggressive behavior, and finally he
could treat himself as the human guinea pig.
He reached his room, locked himself in, and sat on the warm
mattress. He stared at his own creation in his hand, and like a
responsible chemist, he wrote down the time of ingestion as 4:42 p.m.
and the quantity as two hundred fifty milligrams. Then he drained the
transcendence serum down his throat.
Here goes nothing.

Ananya didn’t feel anything for a moment; he circumvented his


tongue around his mouth and earnestly tried to frame a taste of the
solution, but it indeed was flavorless. He waited for something to
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happen, staring at his watch, but still, nothing. He then saw a mouse
moving from the edge of his door towards the cupboard in front of
him. It made him wonder—if the door was locked from inside, how
was that even possible?
He was certain that the scurrying brown stain was a mouse,
even though he hadn’t heard a squeal. Then, however, there followed
another splotch, this one of electric indigo, germinating from the
same point. It was elevated a bit and it subsided as it approached the
cupboard. It was quickly followed by lavender, then apple-red; next
was marigold-orange, swiftly accompanied by lime-green and topped
by fuchsia-pink.
It is happening…I can’t believe this is finally happening!
Ananya sat there, rested his back on the bed’s wooden frame,
placed his head on the wall, and began observing the illustrious display
opposite him. The stream of colors soon formed a whirlpool, which
began picking up speed. It transformed into a vortex, leading Ananya
to clutch the bed sheet tightly to prepare for the journey ahead. The
colors began interacting with themselves to form new shades, which
in turn reacted further to give birth to unique hues. Soon the shades
were accompanied by a melodious sound like that made by piano
keys, and then the Beethoven music progressed until the experience
became so overwhelming for Ananya that he had to close his eyes to
shun the engaging entheogen encounter.
Next time proceed with a lesser dose. Check!
In the darkness befallen by his eyelids, he still wasn’t left by
himself; the drug had just started unraveling and was yet to show its
true colors. The colors didn’t quit but only transformed into more
luminescent variants. The peacock-green mutated to chartreuse-green,
the fuchsia shade to hot pink, tangerine-orange to solar-flare orange,
and the most pertinent, sapphire-blue to fluorescent blue. He began
enjoying the roller coaster ride in the darkness with flying colors, but
again the heightened experience submerged his senses and he had to
open his eyes to come out of it.
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Upon observing the reality at present, he felt his veins rejuvenated
with an unconventional vitality. He sensed he was being swept by a
wave of eternal calmness. His soul seemed to have bathed in the holy
water of tranquility, as if the veil in front of his eyes had been lifted,
even if temporarily so. The chariot of consciousness had set its course
towards the stars and in the process, the passenger and the chariot
rider had unified into a singular entity, to illuminate the Partha with
a simple experience called awareness. Ananya wasn’t prepared for
the upcoming progression in the trip, which was going to leave an
indelible impression on his memory.
Ananya noticed a human entity standing in the corner, but
when he looked carefully from bottom to top he was shocked to see
himself. His heart began pounding frantically at his first out-of-body
experience. He observed the clothing and recognized immediately
that it belonged to the day of his admission into St. Stephen’s. He
looked in a different corner and saw his succeeding entity, where he
was enjoying time with his sisters. He retracted to the previous corner,
but the individual had been replaced by him when he was hurt in the
lab and bleeding profusely. He turned to the other corner and was
surprised to see himself from a few moments ago with the cuddlesome
cat. His subconscious began firing all his childhood images upon the
wall, and soon it dawned on him like a drop of dew upon a blade
of grass, like Einstein’s reaction upon discovering relativity, that all
of Ananya’s life he had responded to external stimuli. The ceaseless
uninterrupted interaction from outside had compelled him to identify
himself with the ever-decaying vessel of his body, eventually leading
him to assimilate an identity which was labeled for the world as
Ananya.
With the resolve to pursue elevated ideals rather than stale ideas,
Ananya went out of the room. He stepped onto the street around the time
of dusk, and was instantly mesmerized by the magical transformation
from daylight to darkness. He began walking on the sidewalk, which
was surrounded by lush green trees on either side. With the sinking

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sun came the occasional cool breeze, and it instantly sent Ananya to
the peak of his heavenly excursion.
He was stupefied when the encompassing nature began interacting
in the most congenial manner possible. He glanced ahead and felt
the cool breeze breathing freshness and awareness into every living
organism, including himself. He let the vehicle of consciousness take
him wherever it intended, and pretty soon that vision of interaction
evolved into a magnificent synchronization of energy and spirit.
He felt one hemisphere of Earth sleeping while the other being
awakened. The planet continued the endless exercise of revolving on
her axis. Ananya sincerely hoped that her strenuous movement was
reciprocated by her caretakers. He looked around and comprehended
that all matter was condensed energy vibrating at a frequency of the
bigger organism, Earth. It wasn’t a notion propounded by spiritual
gurus or read somewhere in a book; rather, it was a well-framed,
logical conclusion acquired from the current state of his being.
Ananya proceeded towards the shack. He sat amid the nature,
where he was sparingly disturbed by his own giggles and the
whispering from daffodils, which seemed to be plotting against him.
He looked over at the groundskeeper and found himself unable to
hold in his sniggering as the bougainvillea creeper seemed to extend
her thorny vines toward his neck, planning to slit the man’s wrists
and subsequently suffocate him as revenge for chopping her without
permission.
Ananya broke his delusional trip when it got out of hand, and
proceeded to his room. The hallucinations subsided, and he realized
two things after his tour to fantasyland. While being high on the
supposed perfect drug, he was either going to contemplate man, God,
and whatnot, or he was going to laugh like a baby at the most frivolous
idiosyncrasies surrounding him. He entered the relevant information
in his log and was astounded that he had been in the heightened
awareness state for about four hours, and still felt the lingering effect
of induced serenity. His log ended with:

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…And the perfect drug was thus created and gave birth to the
personality of its creator.
Ananya promptly slipped into a deep hypnotic sleep, where
another journey awaited him. He witnessed a peculiar dream in
which he was walking through an abundantly dense forest. The
vegetation was so tightly packed that he had trouble walking, which
eventuated in scraping his wound from an extended branch. He
shrieked in pain and at almost the same time heard a mournful cry
from an animal. He rushed in the direction of the distressful sound,
when suddenly the passage became less narrow and more familiar.
But before comprehending any further, he noticed a calf with one
limb entangled in vines, bleeding a fair amount due to the prickly
thorns. Ananya immediately liberated the mammal from his agony,
and upon his release, he stared into Ananya’s eyes for a short period
of time and then ran away into the wilderness. Ananya felt an unusual
connection with the baby cow, and hence he chased him, but couldn’t
keep up.
Ananya woke up with an enhanced sense of wellbeing, and was
surprised to remember the fine details of his vivid dream. He didn’t
ponder over it, but at the back of his head this unresolved mystery
remained. He started the day with a renewed vigor, where his only
goal was to do everything differently—but the authorization essence
of the college prevented him. He eagerly waited for the last slot of
his time table, which was occupied by chemistry laboratory, and even
more anxiously for the opportune moment after.
The moment finally arrived for which Ananya had penned down
the time of ingestion once again, at a dose of two hundred milligrams.
He placed his head on the wall, and just like yesterday waited for his
subconscious to unwind. The similar motion of colors and unfolding
of emotions occurred, and it was then Ananya realized that he wanted
to follow the footsteps of his uncle Rajesh. Like him, he desired to be
revered for being wealthy and successful, but the only difference was
he wanted to build his castle upon his competency in chemicals.

239
He went outside to experience common life with an unconventional
perspective, with an enthusiasm to unearth the obvious to the eyes’
innovation. He was walking on the same boulevard, witnessing the
smooth transition of colors during dusk, when it dawned upon him.
Were humans utilizing the efficiency of solar energy to the fullest?
The current photosensitive devices were flat slabs that, if installed
in one place, would stay stationary for eternity. He figured that if they
could move in accordance to the sun, much like the sunflower, then
they would generate more electricity. He was thrilled at his discovery
and resumed his strolling while contemplating, but unlike yesterday
he wasn’t rewarded with any profound spiritual revelation. Hence, he
rejoiced in his compensation and amused himself in the cheap thrills
of hallucination and cachinnation.
Ananya conjectured that despite the sun running out of hydrogen
and getting colder every minute, it was causing the Earth to get warmer
every second. He sniggered at his own corollary and increased his
pace towards the apartment. He reached his room intending to fill the
log with relevant bits of information, but almost on an impulse typed
“Sunflower solar panel” into his internet search engine and pressed
the enter key.
Ananya wanted to ascertain that he was the first person to come
up with that innovative solution, but his heart sunk deep when the
first link directed him to the site of a company that had materialized
it already. Ananya started feeling dejected; he began pondering that
the whole recreational episode had been an utter waste and blamed
the limited dose for the same. He slept with the hope to untangle the
mysterious dream, but when he woke up he had no recollection of any
fanciful visions.
Ananya was disappointed and looked forward to the end of
the day before the day had even begun. He sat in the classroom, but
all he could think about was what the quantity of the dose should
be in today’s session. When he acquired an ambiguous answer, he
began wondering about coming to college after sipping the serum.

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It was too risky to be that vulnerable in front of everyone, though;
plus, the dynamic environment might traumatize him. Even during
his conversations with his friends, he thought about making money
from selling the so-called “perfect drug,” but it was just a controlled
proportion of two psychedelic compounds and wouldn’t fetch much.
Besides, who would he sell it to?
Ananya was finally done for the day. His synthesized solution
was stored in an airtight container and placed neatly in his bag. He
was leaving the college compound when he was confronted by the
capricious cat. The cat uttered a welcoming meow and started walking
parallel to Ananya in her calm stealthy stride. Ananya was so engrossed
in his thoughts that he kept walking forward and the cat kept catching
up. When he finally passed through the gate, the cat peered her head
through the grille and delivered her final meow, as if bidding him
goodbye and imploring him for more of that magical milk.
Ananya promptly got down to business; he opened his log and
wrote down the time of intake, but his hands paused before inputting
the quantity. His intuition made him record three hundred fifty
milligrams. He closed the log and gulped down the enchanting elixir
like a troubled teenager who’d just reached the legal drinking age
and had her first legal shot of vodka. Ananya twirled his tongue in
his mouth as if anticipating dissatisfaction, and upon a moment of
impulse changed the intake quantity to four hundred milligrams. He
poured another fifty down his throat and quickly went to his bed. He
placed a pillow in his lap and prepared to watch the movie in which he
was the director as well the actor.
Ananya was continuously checking his watch and the time for
the drug to kick in seemed to endure until eternity. His fingers were
constantly tapping the dial like an audience who was worn out by the
ceaseless credits and wanted the movie to begin. Ananya chuckled
upon thinking that bringing popcorn next time wouldn’t be a bad
idea; the simple giggle soon escalated to a hysterical laughter, and
the peaceful state began to sink into his subconscious. He liked how

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uniquely the serum was blending with his blood. With every passing
second, his senses were losing touch with reality and thus entering the
transcendental state of tranquility.
Ananya’s heart was already beating harder than average since he
had taken the substance within minutes of entering the confines of his
room, so now his central circulatory system pulsated so loudly that
he could hear the rhythmic beating just sitting there. Unfortunately
for him, that was just the beginning of his paranoia. He had totally
forgotten his own deduction of the pyramid structure comprising the
three levels of Subconscious, Substance, and Setting.
From the beginning of the day he was aggressive and impatient,
and to add fuel to the fire, he had already ingested a considerable
amount of the pacifying potion. The moment Ananya inferred that he
had taken twice the quantity of potion from yesterday, the placating
effect quickly turned to panicky. He kept a hand on his heart to induce
calmness, but the hallucinatory journey had just begun.
The plaster on the walls started crumbling and soon the walls
themselves collapsed. He seemed to have entered into a void where
he was surrounded by darkness, only accompanied by tiny specks of
light, much like stars. Ananya was aware of this asymmetry; hence, to
counter the effect, he evoked the most euphoric memory of his—the
first kiss. The darkness soon incorporated his first sensual experience
in the middle of the room, but still maintained its ubiquitous presence
all around it. The experience swiftly intensified when the sensual
vulnerability made the image of Ananya reach out for the concealed
parts under Anushree’s tunic, leading to moaning from both ends
and ultimately exultation from Ananya. Despite the fact that Ananya
wasn’t calm, he was still enjoying the mirage of what could be and
would have been. His subconscious, however, had something else in
mind, so to speak.
Ananya’s worst fear was instantly projected in a hologram-like
image, in which he saw Anushree wrestling romantically in the arms
of a more attractive and wittier guy. This was his deep-seated horror—

242
that she had left for Turkey unexpectedly for someone else. The
thought of an old romance being rekindled in Anushree through the
spark of his own passion,that she had breathed in fire once more with
the assistance of Ananya’s poems started strangling him through vivid
imagery. Ananya immediately closed his eyes before the frightful
visions scraped the old wounds further, but in the stark darkness
behind his eyelids he still wasn’t left alone.
The creepy clown that Ananya had defaced now appeared to seek
revenge, but with its sharpened colors and heightened expressions
it appeared even more terrifying. Ananya tried to nib the virulent
thought there and then, but the vicious clown seemed to breathe with
a life of its own. The evil jester took hold of Ananya’s most cherished
possession: Guddu. He proffered her a Happy Meal with a miniature
version of himself as a toy, which engulfed her the moment she was
about to take a bite of the burger. The experience had transcended
from overwhelming to overpowering; hence, he opened his eyes to
check his wristwatch and assess the time remaining before the peak
power of the drug would unravel. It was upon looking at the watch that
his heart beat so fast that he felt it might explode. The watch seemed to
have melted, with clocks hands on either side, and also his hand was
dissolving like a candle. The paranoia had started progressing, and
Ananya could do nothing but assure himself that this all would pass
away. But his hysteria intensified further when he looked ahead and
the same clown—with his face enlarged to the dimensions of the room
and adorned with a wicked smile—said, “I’m lovin’ it.”
Ananya sprinted out of the room before the experience scarred
him for life. The excursion into the subconscious had tripped from bad
to worse, but it still wasn’t the end. He was aware that the troublesome
tonic was going to hit him with full force and he didn’t want to be alone
when that happened. Ananya looked at his hands, which still were
melting like polar ice in Delhi’s heat, and the droplets of them were
leaving a trail. He couldn’t afford to look back, though, lest the clown
were following him. He observed the same beggar that he had refused

243
alms a while ago; his expression changed now from discernable dullness
to evident evil; his eye sockets became dark and were accompanied by
the hollowness of his mouth, and his simple squeal sounded like a
mournful howl. He distracted himself by looking at the transition of
colors during dusk, which had never disappointed him, but now it all
appeared as an actualization of Vincent Van Gogh paintings, in which
objects appeared to be swirling with different shades, and boisterous in
their interactions with one another. The people around, too, appeared
to be afflicted by the same wax-liquidation phenomenon. Their happy
grins appeared eerie, and if their expressions were dull, then they
seemed grim and dreary. This led to the superimposition of a distinct
reality, which Ananya had never before witnessed and of which he
wasn’t growing a fondness one bit.
The road on which he was running in the futile attempt to escape
(but couldn’t, since he was the reason for it all) suggested empty
patches which made him look like an utter fool to the people around.
He hopped around on the smooth road as if avoiding some invisible
trap. The concocted existence at last became so overbearing that the
path upon which he was running couldn’t be related to the physical
world anymore. The fear had entrenched itself within him so deeply
that Ananya began to believe this was how world truly looked after the
sheath of civility had been skinned; the world was a dark and dingy
place beneath the veil of tranquility.
Ananya had reached the stretch where the Faculty of Management
Studies was located, when he heard a ritual bell resonating from a
distance, signifying that the aarti was taking place. He followed the
sound, and soon reached the temple of Lord Hanuman. The enormous
temple bell was continuously being struck by the secondary pundit,
whereas the elder one was circling a tray containing a lamp burning
with a ghee-soaked wick. Ananya stood amongst the devotees and
focused entirely on the harmonious positive vibrations from the
temple bell. He listened intently to every mantra being expressed with
intensity. It was his last attempt to turn the trip around by balancing
the sturdy base of his prism of dispersion, the one called Setting.
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The gong escalated in its chiming, accompanied by the progression
of hymn-chanting, which was concluded by a loud uproar from all the
devotees. Ananya felt a ticklish vibration all over his skin when the
worship subsided; he was engrossed in the abruptly-acquired peace
that his trance was broken by the pundit, who offered him prasad. He
crushed and squished the sweet in his jaws, and let the sugary syrup
travel down his parched throat. He went inside the temple, and the
peaceful pulsation sunk in through the pores of his skin and touched
his soul. By now the hallucinations had subsided, but still they could
return any moment due to the drastic quantity of the dose.
Ananya sat on the warm, mahogany-red carpet. He placed his
head on the foundation pillar of the temple and closed his eyes to bathe
in the placidity of the environment. He focused on the intermittent
ringing of the temple bell and subsequent jingling of its diminutive
cousins. The mellifluous sound seemed to gain a melodic rhythm, and
it was complemented by a smirk on Ananya’s face upon speculating
that Lord Hanuman was in fact another embodiment of Lord Shiva. He
directed his concentration at the auspicious vibrations whose soothing
frequency lulled him into a mini-slumber.
Ananya’s heightened state was still at work, despite his being
unconscious. It led him to witness the dream that he desperately
wanted to view, and then later to be able to review it again. In his
lucid dream, He stood at the same intersection with a mild recollection
that he had been there before. He approached the injured calf with a
cautious mind, and upon releasing him, he chased the animal with full
force. He didn’t mind the elongated branches hitting him in the face,
didn’t flinch if a stem or two scraped his wound; his attention did
stray when he saw something to which he could relate with absolute
certainty.
I knew this place was familiar, I knew it!
Ananya, through his peripheral vision, realized that it was none
other than that old oak tree. The physique of that tree was so intricately
etched in his mind that if he had to identify it with his closed eyes, he
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could. The calf took advantage of Ananya’s distraction, and ran deep
into the woods; Ananya woke up when clinking of the bells ceased.
He noticed that the temple had almost emptied due to the late
hour, and there were two children playing with each other while their
parents were immersed in the devotion. They were exploring the
vastness and emptiness of the temple when their gaze settled on the
temple bell. Ananya had gained alertness by then, but the hallucinatory
effect, though gentle, still lingered. He noticed the children playing
and grasped that whenever they laughed merrily, a white ball of
light, situated at the solar plexus, intensified in its appearance as if it
reverberated because of their innocuous giggles.
Ananya’s intellect draw the inference that the widely-perceived
notion that children are like God was read backward; it was God
whose conception was like children. They are pure, undefiled, and full
of innocence, and so they reflect everything graciously. That is why
the phrase exists that if one seeks something from the bottom of his
heart, then the Universe bows in front of him.
Ananya picked up those balls of pure white light, who were
ceaselessly trying to touch the gong—these children who carried
more godliness than the lifeless, stony sculpture up front. The kids
gleefully rang the bell until both their hands and Ananya’s ears hurt.
The mother of the children quickly turned up and took them away, for
fear of Ananya being a pedophile. In response, Ananya left the temple,
stopping to chime the bell at the gate, symbolizing a simple thank-you.
He was walking towards his daily economical dinner when a
realization hit him. There was a fine line between use and abuse, and
in his quest to seek light, to gain incredible insight, he’d overstepped
the boundary and surpassed the radius of security. He tried to decipher
the dream further, but it was hopeless; it had been interrupted before
he could make any confirmed conclusions. While having his dinner,
Ananya was still contemplating the day’s episode. Was it a sign that he
should give up the futile attempt to beat mediocrity? He had expected
the recreational experience to be more profound, but he didn’t have

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a standard to compare it with. Were all hallucinatory and transitory
experiences supposed to be like this?
Ananya found himself in a dilemma. He didn’t devise the perfect
drug in order to laugh at something remotely funny or to intensely
visualize something that appeared banal otherwise. Still, the startling
wisdom he was gaining through direct experience with the creation
constantly nudged him to sip the transcendence serum so he could
unravel the functioning of the world and the workings of the Universe.
He reached his room and recorded the experience in the log with the
most precise description, along with his current state of confusion.
The log ended thusly:
…I wish there was a path that could teach me the simple chapter
of how to ascend in life. I yearn for an uncomplicated journey on
how to seek light; I desire a yardstick that can differentiate black
from white; I am putting up a fight, but after tonight, I am afraid this
approach might need a rewrite.
Ananya buried his face in the pillow, and in the hope for a better
tomorrow, he slept. But in his unconscious state, his subconscious
didn’t leave him. The dream about the young, energetic calf again
clouded his imagination, and while his mind was recreating the
illusion, it was at the same time anticipating the end.
Ananya continued the fanciful vision just as earlier, and even this
time, when his wound got abraded, the calf shrieked almost instantly.
He, like earlier, freed the calf from the restraints, and after their
courteous glance, both raced in the same direction. Ananya, this time,
instead of running behind the calf was running with him. He saw the
oak tree passing by in his peripheral vision and continued the sprint
against the calf. He was running out of breath, but the calf still seemed
calm, as if his reason to run was more significant than Ananya’s reason
to follow. Ananya started losing his pace and the calf’s continuous
momentum pushed his little legs forward and further in the race.
Soon, Ananya was entirely relying on the rear bone structure with the
swinging tail as an indicator.
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The calf got ahead and Ananya soon lost sight of him. He was
agitated and badly wanted to unearth the destination of this revelation.
The infusion of dissatisfaction and curiosity led him to attempt
something bizarre. He extended his wounded hand to be struck by
stems and tree branches; though he physically felt the pain, he also
heard the mournful cry from the calf, and this confirmed his suspicion.
The calf was his spiritual self, his ethereal identity, his sparkling spirit.
Ananya was aware that his injury would leave a scar, but he hadn’t
anticipated that it would leave an enduring mark on his celestial soul
as well. He inflicted the pain once, twice, and countless times until
he was sure he was venturing in the right direction. This processed
persisted until he entered an open field where the calf was at last
visible.
Ananya followed the calf stealthily, lest he alert him of his
presence. He noticed a cow grazing at the edge of an open field; it
was feeding on a peculiar bush—a lush green shrub, moreover. The
calf immediately hopped towards the elder one; no doubt she was his
mother and was engaged in nurturing him. The scene was immensely
elegant, with the mother feeding and the baby boy suckling the essence
of his life. Ananya stood there, motionless, watching nature’s most
profound sentiment: motherhood intertwined with childhood, both of
them delivering and receiving affection in a miraculous manner. The
cow looked once at Ananya, and continued grazing at the bush, whose
vine portion appeared to light up with its own luminosity. He looked at
the shrub with curiosity, and the distinct leaf structure was imprinted
in his head.
Ananya woke up with a detailed recollection of his dream, but
his rational mind couldn’t comprehend what it meant. He cursed his
subconscious for interacting with him in symbolism and made his
way towards St. Stephen’s with the dilemma carried forward from
last night. He was also contemplating whether his approach towards
higher consciousness was legitimate or not. He couldn’t arrive with a
conclusion with either of them, and hence proceeded to the cafeteria.

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Ananya wanted to visit the Garden of Eden once again, but it was
pointless unless he was certain he was going to taste the forbidden
fruit of consciousness. He sensed something was lacking, but couldn’t
put it into words, and accompanied by last night’s exotic illusion, his
vision was more blurred than ever. Ananya didn’t want to waste a
second debating on what to eat. He brought some refreshment and
some freshly squeezed orange juice, while the other two amigos were
still on their way.
Akshay and Kanika together entered the café. They exchanged
pleasantries with Ananya and sat at the table; it was then that Ananya
noticed that Kanika had adorned a raven-black top, had straightened
her hair, and was bespeckled with a mauve shade on her lips. All this
gave her the look of a gothic girl, and the half-sleepy eyes didn’t help
her cause at all. Ananya’s direction swiftly shifted from Kanika’s
fashion faux pas towards Akshay, who had worn a golden yellow
T-shirt and was bedecked with a tilak, symbolizing his newly acquired
fascination for devotion.
Ananya remarked, “I understand examinations are near, but that
doesn’t mean you have to succumb to fear. That is the final resort for
results day.”
Akshay congenially replied, “It is not about that, bro. Going to
temple once a week is part of my routine.”
Ananya responded, “You know, Lord Krishna through the
Bhagwad Gita said, ‘In Kali Yuga, we all will be so distant from our
spiritual plane that there will be no point to pursue him via meditation
or mantras. Hence, the only ideal approach is devotion.’”
“I couldn’t agree with you more.”
Kanika breached the brief scripture discourse and retorted,
“Don’t think I am questioning your faith, Akshay, but I cannot coerce
myself to sings songs of admiration, serenade the Supreme Being with
words laced with flattery, and chant hymns concealing my insecurities
and anxiety. It’s just not my cup of tea.”

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Ananya, who was still susceptible after last night, countered, “It
is not like that all, Kanika. People worship the Creator not because of
compulsion, but compassion. And,” he continued, “Even if they are
worshiping God with fear, then perhaps they are engaged in immoral
ways and in that case they ought to be afraid.”
Kanika quickly reframed her argument. “I am not against
worship, Ananya. I admire true devotion; I am struck with awe when
saints achieve unmatched feats through their ascetic, austere ways.
All I am implying is that I cannot conform myself to such a path.
I would rather invoke godliness in me than bow before a supposed
human embodiment of the Cosmic Mind.”
That is precisely what I have been trying to achieve, thought
Ananya.
Kanika expounded further, “For instance, there is tantra yoga to
expand awareness.”
Ananya and Akshay froze for a moment when they heard the
word “tantra”, which literally translated to unrestrained sex.
Kanika chuckled and continued, “I guess I never told you that my
mother was an erotic sculptor.”
Ananya’s mouth widened and Akshay’s eyes expanded upon the
hearing those words.
“You should have seen my home during my childhood; it was
stuffed with naked imagery and models.”
Now, Ananya’s eyes and Akshay’s mouth broadened.
“Mom had to give away most of them when I was in the second
grade; I drew a naked lady dancing in art class, you see.”
By now both guys had air stuck in their lungs as if the Almighty
had hit pause.
Kanika relieved them of the sudden sexual tension, saying, “I am
kidding.” She grinned at them. “Just that last part, though. You should
come to my home sometime.”

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Both gentlemen sipped their beverages and lowered the unforeseen
incineration in their hearts. Kanika took a small bite from her samosa and
laughed hard in her head. She recalled the conversation with her mother
who once said, “If you slip the word erotic or naked into a conversation,
men’s expressions will change faster than your taste in clothes.”
Kanika continued the conversation from the point of deviation.
“Another way I perceive to seek God is by following karma yoga—by
leading an honorable, virtuous life or by simply snipping away all
attachment through discretion. You know, walking upon the path of
renunciation.”
“Or one could create his own path that hadn’t been walked
before,” Ananya blurted out.
Though surprised, Kanika agreed, and so did Akshay—but
Ananya still hadn’t acquired the answer to his question. His moral
code incessantly questioned the righteousness of his method, which
was further entwined in the intricacies of his dream, making Ananya
witness a different kind of conundrum altogether.
Noticing the clock hands progress, Kanika took out her tiffin and
unwrapped the paratha for everyone. Akshay was still a bit shaken by
his vivid imagination, and asked, “Did your mom cook it?”
Kanika teased, “Nope, my aunt. They are blood sisters. Just so
you know,” and winked at him.
Ananya momentarily broke from his confusion and retorted,
“You haven’t even finished your samosa yet. Why are you taking out
the paratha, too?”
“I have a stomach infection. I can’t consume big bites, or
otherwise it will cause indigestion.”
Ananya, who had just placed a piece of that stuffed bread in
his mouth became partially paralyzed. Even though his mouth was
salivating, he couldn’t chew; his rational mind had conjectured a
speculation of the dilemma of his dream, and perhaps the answer to
his confusion, as well.
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He asked Kanika again, “What did you say?”
Kanika repeated, “Stomach infection.”
Ananya urged her, “No, after that!”
Kanika, with a puzzled face, replied, “It causes indigestion.”
Ananya thrust his body back into the chair, still contemplating the
intersection of his baffling dream and the solution to the unpredictability
of his ego-evaporation solvent. He sipped the last droplets of tangerine
juice to push down the partly masticated food, and liberated his fingers
to scrounge though the notes in his phone to confirm his deduction. He
raced his eyes to the molecular structure of psilocybin, and couldn’t
believe the basic fact that was staring right back at him.
I knew my gut feeling was telling something was amiss. I just knew
it, Ananya spoke in his mind—or so he thought. In his excitement,
without realizing it, he’d blurted it out loud.
Both friends turned towards Ananya with inquiring expressions.
Meanwhile, he got up from his seat, came in between them both,
wrapped his arms around their necks, and thanked them for everything.
He darted out of the café, hopping like Archimedes would have upon
shouting “Eureka” after discovering buoyancy. Well, it was certainly
his own “eureka” moment.
They noticed Ananya still hopping his way to the college
compound, and then heard a mild “Yoo-hoo,” as Ananya stopped to
lend a lingering caress to a cute kitty. The cat followed him when
he hopped away. She peered through the gate after him, and while
bidding a goodbye encased in her meow, she was saying, “We both
were waiting for this moment, weren’t we?”
Kanika asked, “What just happened? Did I say something funny?”
“No, I think our dear friend just had an epiphany,” answered
Akshay.
“Something massive, I am afraid, “Akshay said under his breath.

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Foetus to Infancy
Ananya kept running towards the ridge and didn’t let minor
inconveniences like fatigue and probable failure deter his decision to
give it one last try. If the speculated assertion was inaccurate, then he
was to continue with his menial existence, and he would have done
that anyway. But if he was correct, then it would open an aperture of
opportunities that had never been witnessed by mankind.
The only mental image revolving in his mind was the structure
of psilocybin; from a chemist’s point of view, it was nothing more
than 4-phosphoryloxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine, and it was the last
portion of the psilocybin that made him break out in a cold sweat. N,
N-dimethyltryptamine was the chemical structure of DMT, the main
constituent of the ayahuasca drink. Ayahuasca had been widely used
in shaman culture, and still reserved immense popularity amongst
Amazon tribes, parts of Peru, and Brazil. The psychoactive brew,
due to its divine invocation characteristic, was used for therapeutic
purposes and happened to be a key element in certain rituals built
upon spiritualistic healing. If the constituents of the ayahuasca drink
were to be segregated, then DMT alone would be touted as the key
ingredient. It was even nicknamed by some entheogen enthusiasts as
the “spirit molecule,” since it was a naturally-occurring chemical in
every living thing.
DMT had been known to decalcify the pineal gland, or, in simple
terms, to open the third eye. It had been revered as the most powerful
hallucinogen on the planet, but couldn’t be ingested without an

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accomplice. To discover that very thing, Ananya was running fast as
lightning. He was certain that his dream had indicated a revelation of
that substance; for it, though, he would have to reach the spot where his
fantasy resided. He kept progressing into the woods with uncertainty,
and let his curiosity and intuition guide him.
He slowed his pace as the density of the vegetation increased,
but try as he might, he couldn’t relate a single patch of greenery to
that which he’d witnessed in his dream. All Ananya was relying upon
was his memory of the distance past the oak tree and his faith in the
Cosmic Mind, which had assisted him earlier in the embodiment of the
cow. He walked without a pause for an hour, but when the appearance
of that open grass field still seemed bleak, his slight uneasiness began
transforming into anxiety. He had traveled so far ahead that neither
the horns from cars outside nor the screeching of monkeys inside
accompanied him in the solitude. Gradually, that pervading peace
began to erode, and he started worrying about how he would make his
way back home.
Ananya proceeded to rest under the shade of a tree whose leaves
where shaped liked hearts and which had aerial roots covering its
bark. With a relaxed mind, he wondered how he would make his way
to the divine plant which he could only describe visually. He did have
one weapon that had always helped him, and hopefully would guide
him once again. The cool air had calmed his mind and hence rested
the turbulence in his subconscious. The Setting couldn’t be more
appropriate, as he was sitting within the cloak of a sacred fig tree.
Luckily, some of the sublime substance was still kept air-locked in
his bag.
Ananya sipped the enchanting elixir, which he had in just
sufficient quantity. Though he couldn’t measure the exact amount,
the size of the gulps going down his throat assured him that his
subconscious wouldn’t pull this trip down to hell again. He closed
his eyes and solely focused upon relaxing his breathing, which he’d
learned during his time in the temple. His concentration drifted to the

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chirping of birds, the rustling of the leaves, and the rifted sunlight
warming the patches of his skin, but he engaged in keeping his breath
nonchalant and natural.
With all the corners of prism balanced, it was ready to disperse
light like never before. The calm effect induced by the Setting, his
coerced, conscious action creating stillness in his Subconscious, and
obviously, the surreal Substance, slipped him into a partial drowsy
state. Here, in his lucid dream state, he was conscious that his mind
had yet not attained complete sleep, but every atom of his body had
become motionless, as if they had their own biological clock and were
dozing off.
Ananya’s tranquility was disturbed by the sensation that he
was being sniffed by an animal; he grew conscious of its presence,
and opened his eyes to realize that it was the same calf staring at
him intently, as if waiting for him to get up and follow. He looked
around at the ambience, and the fern-green of the flora had been
substituted by a fluorescent shade, making the calf appear brighter
and whiter. The slight touch from the muzzle of the calf on the nose
of Ananya reinvigorated his body with renewed energy, and to fulfill
the expectancy in the eyes of his spiritual self, without much ado, he
started following his ethereal identity.
The calf led Ananya placidly through the twisting, turning woods.
Ananya, too, proved his mettle and imprinted all the turns in his mind
by the peculiar change in vegetation, or perhaps by an odd type of
bark.
This is a lucid dream that I shall remember until the end of time,
Ananya told himself.
He didn’t get distracted by the iridescent display of flowers,
which seemed to interact with one another through pollen exchange
in a stream of colors. One thing Ananya couldn’t help but notice,
however, was his wound; he hadn’t had to utilize it once, unlike last
time. He looked at it and was surprised to see now that a scar resided
there, a result of the scab’s natural shedding.
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By now, the turns had subsided and the calf moved in a straight
line. Ananya was expecting that, like last time, he would witness the
elder cow and both of the animals would engage in their affectionate
moment, but upon entering the open grassland, neither the calf hopped
nor the elder appeared anywhere the calf was headed.
The calf maintained his invariable stride and soon reached the
place where the peculiar plant grew which was going to be the third
constituent of Ananya’s transcendental serum, but instead of feeding
on the shrub or at least stopping near the bush, the calf still moved
ahead through the plant kingdom and progressed deep into the forest.
Ananya was glad to reach the point that held the possibility of
divergence into a different reality. He was certain of the structure
of the shrub that was witnessed in his previous dream, and carried
forward without alteration in his current fanciful vision. He was going
to remember the journey that led him there more than he did his name.
Ananya caressed those leaves to express his affection, and held the
vine that was the essential characteristic of being the co-conspirator
of the DMT compound. He looked at the calf, who still steadily
progressed, but almost at the instant Ananya held the stem, the calf
paused and looked straight back at Ananya. It was as if he was telling
him through his benign expression that there would be no turning back
once Ananya took that path, and at all times he would be required to
exercise discretion.
Ananya made a mental note of the power he held in his hand, and
continued marveling at the plant whose chemical nature was to inhibit
monoamine oxidase, the enzyme that prevented ingestion of DMT into
the system. He was eager to wake up, utilize the checkpoints that he’d
made mentally, and get hold of the divine vine in real life. He looked
in the direction in which the calf had progressed and was shocked
to notice that he still stared unflinchingly at him. This time Ananya,
too, looked deep into the eyes of the embodiment of his sparkling
spirit, and tried to decipher the gravity of the silent message. The calf
then turned and progressed once again on its journey, and Ananya was

256
left confused as to what subtle caution the calf was prepping him.
At that point, Ananya badly wanted to break out of his lucid dream,
and wanted to hold that heavenly herb for real, but then something
unexpected occurred. Ananya’s pants vibrated and he realized that it
was his cell phone.
That’s odd, receiving a phone call in a dream. What other message
am I supposed to perceive today?
“Hello?”
“Hi.”
The voice at the other end asked, “Where are you?”
Ananya replied with certitude, “Where I am supposed to be—
where I should have been long ago.”
“Ananya, this is Akshay speaking. Where are you? You left so
abruptly and haven’t even arrived at lectures. You all right?”
Ananya felt his world shaken in that moment; adrenaline surged
through his veins and he came out of his hypnagogic state. After
comprehending the words from Akshay, it didn’t take him a split-
second to decide that everything had actually happened in real time.
Though induced by the powerful hallucination from the substance,
every aspect of that heavenly experience was as physically authentic
as the stem of the plant he held in his hand. When he analyzed further,
the conclusion, he reached pulled the rug out from under his feet.
His spiritual self-embodiment in a calf form had appeared for
real; though nowhere to be seen now, it had introduced him to the
entity he earnestly desired. Yet it had let go with a fair warning in the
end.
When Akshay asked the same question again, only then did it
break Ananya’s self-induced trance. He replied that he would be back
in an hour or so and disconnected the call. Ananya stood motionless
while thoughts traversed his brain at lightning speed. The first thing
he did was to note the GPS coordinates. Then he carefully plucked

257
those vines, placed them neatly in his bag, and proceeded to the path
from which he had just come. While traveling back, he couldn’t stop
marveling at another intricate illusion of the Universe, and realized
one important thing: the solution to all problems were inside. All one
had to do was direct his attention inwards and ask the right question.
By the time Ananya reached the college, there was just one lecture
left, but he attended nonetheless to assure his friends that everything
was all right and that the reason for his sudden excitement would be
revealed soon. Ananya’s eyes were glued to the clock, which refused
to move any faster. He didn’t let his eagerness turn to impatience, but
at the same time, the elation in emotions was too great to keep hidden.
To divert his mind, he began pondering at his scar and contemplating
the question,Were some physical injuries capable of influencing the
metaphysical?
Ananya followed his routine in which he waited in the library
for the whole college to become empty and later bring out his wicked
genius to play. While in the library, he studied the method of extracting
the inhibitor reagent from the vines with the guidance of Psychedelic
Chemistry. Though it appeared to be as easy as brewing tea from the
perspective of a skilled chemist, his main concern was how much of
each of the three compounds should be present in the serum to give
him the elevated edge.
He went forth towards the laboratory as soon the clock struck five;
he unlocked the abode to the creation of his captivating compound,
and after donning the yellow hazmat suit proceeded straightaway
to the synthesis. He began extraction of THC and the monoamine
oxidase (MAO) inhibitor simultaneously, much like a housewife
who, prepared a meal for a gathering of guests, engaged her cooking
skills on either stove and let her expert hands work naturally. Though
Ananya had concurrent reactions proceeding, he had an individual
thread of thought dedicated to each.
Ananya didn’t realize when his focus had brought him to the
end of the concoction. He paused to witness the miracle he’d just

258
achieved. He stood and experienced the overwhelming feeling of
creating something pure and pious from something raw and coarse,
much like the act of procreation, in which virtuous life was conceived
from what some perceived as a virulent act of sin. He again began
pondering over the question of proportion between the compounds,
and even after thorough contemplation he couldn’t arrive at a singular
certain conclusion.
He ultimately created two variants. In the first one he kept the
concentration of all the three compounds constant at about thirty-three
percent, but in the second version he kept the THC at fifty percent and
divided the rest of the solution equally between psilocybin and the
MAO inhibitor. He took both samples with him, and came up with
an ingenious idea as to how to choose between them. He locked the
door and left the laboratory cleaner than it was before, and proceeded
towards the capricious cat.
Ananya proceeded towards the college compound for his
experimental guinea pig, but the cat was nowhere to be found. He
assured himself that she must be fondling with a tomcat, and hence
he ventured towards his apartment, stubbing his craving to taste the
improvised transcendental serum first. The moment he stepped inside
his room, he dropped on the bed and slept like a log, as the fatigue
caused by the constant running and unwavering focus had left him
drained.
He woke up early in the morning and tried hard to recall if he
had witnessed a dream of a peculiar nature during the night, but it
proved unsuccessful. Ananya’s growling stomach didn’t let him think
straight for one moment, and the instant he was done brushing his
teeth, they were ready to be soiled more than ever. He went outside
to a street vendor, where he was served a Mexican omelet in Indian
style. He gobbled it down and while sipping his tea, he remembered
that yesterday’s experiment had only been partially completed and he
required an opinion from Miss Kitty. He purchased some milk and
hoped the cuddlesome cat hadn’t had her breakfast yet.

259
Ananya went towards the college with both samples tightly
packed and the purchased milk neatly wrapped. He entered the
premises and whistled for the pussycat. He heard a feeble meow from
the lawn and progressed immediately to the source. The cute kitty
was behind a tree and had just awoken. Ananya immediately borrowed
two bowls from the gardener, while the capricious cat rubbed her eyes
with her paws to fully awaken to the reality that she was being served
before even enticing someone with her adorable acts. He poured the
milk, followed by the funkadelic fluid. Ananya distanced himself to
observe the reaction of this most expressive animal. He wondered why
he’d chosen a cat instead of a dog or a rat to be the animal tester,
but he promptly deduced that he was right in choosing the cat, as it
happened to be the most dramatic mammal in expressing its behavior
and emotions.
The cat scrutinized the two bowls that appeared placid but
contained the variation of mysterious milk that she had craved for a
long time. The elliptical pupils analyzed which pacifying potion would
expand them wide. She erected her tail, licked her paws, and gave
every sign that she was deciding which milk to lap, while utilizing her
impeccable intuition and keen sense of perception.
The cat finally began splashing her tongue in the milk that
contained THC at fifty percent. Ananya was glad that she had finally
selected an option, and she waved her tail while sipping, indicating that
she didn’t regret the decision.But then a thought occurred to Ananya.
What if after finishing the milk from one bowl, she approached the
other?
He waited for the cat to lick the periphery of the bowl, and
bade his time for her subsequent reaction. He wanted to ascertain the
clairvoyance capability of the cat—for which cats were highly revered,
not only in the animal kingdom but in the human world, as well. After
all, Egyptians had worshipped their species for a reason.
The cat stealthily approached Ananya, completely ignoring the
other bowl, and uttered a “thank you” wrapped in her meow.

260
He threw away the milk in the other bowl, caressed the head of
the cuddly cat, and said, “Don’t you go dying on me.”
The cat uttered her unequivocal mew as if telling him, “Don’t
worry, I’ve got nine lives.”
Ananya attended his lectures, while intermittently focusing and
occasionally stealing glances to the lawn, much like a kindergarten
kid. He progressed through the predictable day and didn’t let
the fear of upcoming exams distract him from his most awaited
achievement. Even when Ananya was engaged in his favorite
pastime amongst chemicals in the company of Mr. Prakash, he
still couldn’t stop thinking about the outcome of his improvised
enchanting elixir.
When Ananya couldn’t take any more, he involved Kanika and
Akshay in his madness by formulating an excuse along the lines of a
vivid dream in which his dead grandma had asked him to feed a cat
with brown fur. They agreed to help him, since they too wanted to
cuddle with Miss Kitty. Ananya was glad to have two more pairs of
eyes to look for those elliptical pupils, and soon all three dispersed in
different directions to fulfill the wish of Ananya’s grandma, who was
very much alive.
Ananya ventured to the same spot, and when he reached the back
of that tree, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The whimsical whiskered
creature was seated in a complacent pose, much like the higher order of
their cat family, like a lioness watching the life go by and anticipating
the events that would cross her path. Ananya’s first reaction was of
immense relief, but he sensed a peculiar certitude emanating from her.
He called for his friends, and as soon as they arrived he stepped back
for them to engage with her, leaving him to observe them.
Ananya keenly observed the playful acts between his friends and
his notorious companion, and upon careful inspection, he realized that
his friends weren’t playing with the cat but instead she was toying
with them. She was being proactive instead of reactive, and just by
sitting in her smug posture she was influencing them without their
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knowledge.. His self-absorption got broken when Kanika asked, “Are
you going to feed her not?”
Ananya instantly drained the rest of the milk he brought, devoid
of any funkadelic whatsoever—which was the only thing that was
able to elicit a spontaneous reaction from her. She sensed that the milk
wasn’t magical at all; hence, she uttered her doleful meow, to which
Ananya smirked. She didn’t taste the milk; and sat at the same spot
with the unchanged pose.
Ananya somehow held back his laughter and said, “Let’s go. She
might not be feeling hungry at the moment.”
Kanika and Akshay got up and began to leave with Ananya, and
he looked back once as if telling her telepathically, “Due to your innate
psychic ability, only you and the Creator will know how profoundly
you must be tripping.”
When Ananya realized that he was almost off the college
premises, he made a grieving expression accompanied by a hand on
his tummy, indicating that he needed immediate expulsion. His friends
said that they would wait, but Ananya retorted, “This isn’t the first
time this morning.”
Kanika chuckled upon hearing his laconic reply, whereas Akshay
grimaced. It was at that point that Akshay became suspicious of
Ananya’s odd habits over the past few days. He didn’t comment, but
he made a mental note of the same. Ananya, on the other hand, rushed
towards the laboratory, as he was more curious about what he was
going to pour down his alimentary canal than discharge from his body.
He unlocked the lab and without any delay, prepared the serum of apt
concentration that was supposed to eject the psychonaut in him right
through the ceiling of human consciousness.
Ananya was finally done, and after fighting the urge to instantly
sip some serum, he put everything in order. Upon placing the liquid
of liberation in an airtight container, he locked the doors and left. He
entered the lawn where he was hustled by his cherished companion—

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the cat didn’t leave Ananya’s side until he addressed her, and despite
the communication barrier, he was able to relate the message, “That’s
enough traveling through space for today,” just through his gaze.
The moment Ananya stepped out of the college bounds, he had
two options: either he could go to his room and begin the entheogen
excursion, or he could go to the sacred fig tree that yesterday played a
pivotal role in helping him acquire those vines. The sun was about to
sink in an hour, though, and the eccentric reaction from the cat made
him want to drink the fluid of freedom more than ever. He wanted
to designate Safety as the essential element of Setting, but there was
nothing safer than Sanctity.

Ananya picked up his pace in the direction of the ridge, and self-
inflected déjà vu by going down the same path strewn with dried
leaves and fallen flowers. He welcomed the twists and turns, and
within minutes was under the canopy of that deciduous tree. He circled
around it to make sure there wasn’t a colony of ants or any lower-level
organisms, and then sat beneath that lush, green umbrella.
He calmed his thoughts—which took a while, since excitation
for the enhanced elixir constantly eroded his peace of mind. When his
intuition indicated that he was physically and mentally ready for the
trip amongst the stars, he sipped the visceral liquid in order to liberate
himself from his menial existence. He skirted his tongue around his
mouth, and the taste this time had changed from flavorless to slightly
bitter; he hoped the experience wouldn’t drift along the same lines,
too.
Ananya immersed himself entirely in the surroundings, which
reverberated with peace and tranquility. He focused on the cool breeze
and the sunlight that had reduced in its intensity, yet continually
illuminated everything. He sat motionless, conscious only of his
casual breathing, and waited for the power of the drug to unravel. He
was excited yet patient; he was keen but calm.
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The ambience started transforming, with the sun’s rays tilting
further, approaching to brighten the other hemisphere and marooning
the current one with an unspoken promise to reappear. He suddenly
felt a tickling sensation on his lower leg, but held back the impulse
to immediately wipe away whatever was creating it. He waited for
the cause of the minor distress to make an appearance. He saw that a
lonely ant had strayed from her path; she sought solace through her
struggle amongst his curled collection of leg hair in the bid to reach
her far-away home. She managed to get on top of Ananya’s knee,
and sensing the unusual pulsating elevation underneath, she got back
down and made her way into the twigs.
After the ant, a wasp came buzzing behind Ananya’s ear. But
instead of becoming enveloped by unjustified fear, he remained
still and upon his action, the wasp, too, reacted in accordance to the
placidity of the environment. Despite his perilous interaction with
a hornet in childhood, Ananya didn’t let panic take root; the wasp,
upon sensing the peaceful, positive vibration, went his way. It was
then that a realization dawned upon him, laced with the influence
of his liberation liquid and smeared with the immediate inference.
Neither the ant nor the wasp bestowed any annoyance because his
mind was aligned with the frequency of the Universal vibration that
reverberated in every being. The melliferous beating of aum that
resonated within every creature. It was Ananya’s first connection to
the level of consciousness that was buried underneath the cloak of
physical awareness. His calibration with cosmic consciousness was
acquired through pacifying the hasty nature of his mind and delving
deeper into human conscience, which revealed an elementary insight
about the purpose of mankind.
The aim of human life, after transgressing numerous lower-level
organisms, wasn’t the accumulation of sense-gratification objects or
the forging of a billion-dollar empire to leave a legacy. It was rather
to connect with everyone on that fundamental harmonic frequency; to
realize aum and associate with all through that life-affirming pulsation.

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He noticed his watch with its needles progressing, and
accordingly so was the serum in his bloodstream; he perceived the
monotonous nature of the sun, which involved shifting across the sky,
and the predictable disposition of the clock, which adjudged reality
based on its uniform numerical markings. His piquant observation
caused another realization to dawn: that it was one’s thinking that
influenced eternal time and space, through his or her decisions. The
human mind didn’t think in units of time and space, but rather through
vivid imagery and magnitude of thoughts, hence enabling a person to
manifest a reality through infinite cosmic possibilities. Time and space
bowed to make reality come true for the person whose actions were
brought together from the ideal blend of the virility of one’s emotions
and the strength of his or her self-generated thoughts.
Ananya may have been born many years ago, but this was the
moment for his psychological rebirth. He had arrived in the form of an
infant, but now was the time for his inner child to come out and play.
Though he had been given the gift of life, it was at the present moment
he felt truly alive. He had until now only experienced things through
his logic and reasoning. This was the first time that his divine light was
removing the veil over the daylight of ignorance, and welcoming the
night of innocence.
As Ananya went deeper into his consciousness, all sorts of
emotions started churning to the surface. He saw his first laugh, his
first cry, his first kiss; he felt his first heartbreak—but he did one thing
differently this time. Instead of involving himself, he observed those
waves of commotion from a distance like sitting on pavement and
watching traffic move, then he had another epiphany. He realized that
creation was dualistic in nature. The feelings of pleasure and pain, of
happiness and sadness, were the prime weapons of illusion whose only
purpose was to bind the human mind. They camouflaged themselves so
discreetly into achievement and disappointment that a human being’s
yearning to attain the peak of one unwittingly gravitated him towards
the vulnerability of the other.

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Due to this constant push and pull, every person on the planet
was coerced to engage in a divine dance of which the Universe was
the sole audience. The cosmic cosplay was so elaborately etched by
the maya that people identified their exterior as their true being and
their imagination as an extension of themselves. This renewed self
taught him how intricately all people were connected to one divine
Mind, and how ornately the Universal Consciousness manifested and
experienced itself at the same time. Ananya realized that all humanity
happened to be one consciousness—just experiencing it subjectively.
The sun had sunk and the leftover light in the sky was swiftly
being absorbed by the darkness. Ananya hadn’t observed any vivid
hallucinations yet. He had just gone through a profound metaphysical
experience by simply sitting under a tree, which had led to the rebirth
of some personalities and the subsequent birth of certain religions.
He progressed his way out of the ridge, as he didn’t want the
hallucinations to peak with reality becoming more obscured every
minute. He fortunately got out of the ridge at the right time, but was
out of breath almost immediately. He proceeded towards the shack,
where his parched throat urged to have coconut water, but with an
agitated mind he began to have flippant visions. Though his fort of
peace was well-preserved, it was being assaulted by external paltry
disturbances, much like the human soul, which sought to shine amid
the material dust that constantly shrouded the divine.
Ananya sat, and upon calming his breath to the prior extent, he
ordered. The emaciated attendant brought the semi-spherical ball of
water and went on his way to serve other customers. Ananya began
sipping the electrolyte-rich liquid; he closed his eyes on the last sip
and opened them with rejuvenation and a renewed vision. He removed
the straw and stuck his finger into the shell to check for any cream on
the internal edge. His eyes grew bright upon confirmation of the same.
The server reappeared at Ananya’s gesture, but disappeared
when he didn’t utter a single word. Ananya had acquired momentary
awareness through the earlier version of the perfect drug, but the

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current rendition aided him to attain a level of consciousness, though
transitory, that not only realized God in him but enabled him to see the
godliness in others quite literally.
Ananya was stunned at the discovery he’d just made. He was
watchful for the intensified, profound visions to appear, but what he
didn’t anticipate was that they all would work together in unison,
that they all would align themselves so congenially. The encircling
environment highlighted the colors, but when he saw a human being,
the person revealed himself without uttering a single syllable.
Every human being is composed of seven chakras; these swirling
wheels of energy are vital centers that are located along the spine.
Though they are considered as the fundamental links between the
physical plane and astral plane, their prime purpose is to channel the
basic life force in the individual. They are much like little pools of
water that are filled along the way of a creek, consequently lessening
its intensity and bringing control over its velocity. These seven chakras,
with their distinct names, have a specific color which complements
their workings and harmonic influences over the human body. It is
the compilation of these colors that forms an aura, a field of energy
emanating from the being that is invisible to everyone. However, it
was perceptible to Ananya.
He noticed that each color had enveloped the person and radiated
with vibrations, similar to strings disturbed on a harp, or more
precisely, a line of ripples after a pebble was dropped in a pond. The
waves followed each other in complete synchronization of their distant
cousin, the rainbow, which too shared the similar distribution of color
to the chakras, from the crown chakra with violet to the root chakra
with red. He was astonished by this realization, that he had actualized
the idiom of seeing somebody’s true colors.
He conjured that associating with a person now was the easiest
thing he ever had to do, since every being vibrated on a frequency—a
frequency that resonated in accordance to the caliber of a person’s
character, his ego. Sensing them through the varied pattern of energy
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revealed the mental state of a person before even he was entirely aware
of the commotion in his mind. The person’s addiction or affliction, his
tendencies and traits, were revealed whether he wanted to tell them or
not.
Ananya called the attendant once more. To test the efficiency of
his divine drink, he asked, “Bhaiya, please remove the cream from the
inner shell.”
The server, with disdain, disapproved, saying that they didn’t
perform such services. Ananya scrutinized his energy pattern, which
indicated a strong garnet-red at the root chakra, signifying his strong
attachment for survival, but a feeble sky-blue shade of the third eye
chakra, reflecting his lack of intuition and wisdom.
Ananya looked past the helper and saw half-opened shells at
the other corner of the shack, but instead of becoming agitated, he
simply beamed and said, “I see you have provided such services to the
consumers before me. Your nature of work is like God, who continues
to serve us through green vegetation and clear air, but that doesn’t
make him our servant but rather a provider of his resources, just like
you. But he doesn’t exercise prejudice to whom he serves. Would
you?”
The worker stood awestruck upon hearing the brief spiritual
discourse interweaved with his folly. He immediately took the empty
coconut from Ananya’s hands, and despite other customers screaming
for their orders, he didn’t stop until he had skimmed all the cream, and
presented it to Ananya.
Ananya relished in the mushy munching of the delicate cream, and
after finishing, got up from his seat to throw the empty shell away. He
observed a peculiar thing about the people sitting around. He noticed
that at each table, there was a unique unification between their aura
of color distribution; a couple reflected absolute harmony between
their sacral and heart chakras, reflecting their dynamic chemistry and
love. Near their table, a pair of scholars with unkempt beards showed
coordination between their crown and third eye chakras, symbolizing
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connections between their spirituality and wisdom. He noticed a
group of entrepreneurs who were brainstorming ideas over a cup of
tea, and despite frequent dissonance, their energies of the throat and
solar plexus chakras aligned to reflect their conformity between their
self-expression and willpower.
Ananya had his beaker full for the time being, and since he didn’t
want to compromise his peaceful esoteric state, he skipped dinner and
advanced to his abode to pen down all the crucial bits of knowledge
he’d gained after the veil before his eyes was lifted. During the journey,
whenever a person or two passed through his gaze, they emitted that
colorful energy pattern, and being the sole person in the Universe to
detect the same, he laughed diabolically in his head at the power of the
substance neatly kept in his bag.
He reached his room, put his bag down carefully, and before his
fan reached its full velocity, Ananya held his log ready to input the
secured infinite intelligence:
…I couldn’t anticipate that a simple synthesized solution
composed of complex elongated molecules could transform human
consciousness to such an extent. Now, I truly understand the meaning
behind my dreams; they were all pointing towards this moment. They
all indicated that I should pursue the perfect proportion of my perfect
drug. Though the drug was created before, it is now that the drug is
perfected. The ultimate perfect drug, TPD (THC Psilocybin DMT).
That is what I shall call it.
I realized another thing. I saw that while I was communicating with
people, their energy field showed mild turbulence upon a conversation,
but if the emitted frequency was composed of love and peace, then they
naturally surrendered to the notion sugared with grace and bliss. And
if egotism had repressed the natural flow of chi in a person, then all I
had to was imitate the person’s afflicted energy band, and then getting
things done would be a walk in the park. These encircling energies
undoubtedly represented the character of the person, because the
colors assigned to every chakra were in accordance with their specific
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functioning, and even the psychology of colors indicated how different
hues affected every mood.
Violet (Sahasrara Chakra) affected creativity and spirituality,
indigo (Ajna Chakra) indicated intuition, blue (Vishuddha Chakra)
expressed truthfulness, green (Anahata Chakra) alleviated anxiety
and fostered harmony, yellow (Manipura Chakra) instilled positivity
and grit, orange (Svadhishthana Chakra) stimulated socialization
and sexual stimulation, and red (Muladhara Chakra) wrapped up
the whole rainbow and elicited protection and nourishment. Perhaps
that is why divine personalities in all religions are depicted with a
white halo in the background, to indicate that all their energy centers
worked in unanimity, and therefore, all colors unified to form white.
I believe I stand at a juncture between awareness and complete
cosmic consciousness, the position from whence I can clearly see
what debilitates human life, and up ahead, where the journey into the
stars is unfathomable. Like everyone, I too am tempted by the eternal
light, to become enlightened, but one yogi less on the Himalayas won’t
enfeeble the global consciousness. On the other hand, absence of an
entirely aware human being from society shall continue to degrade
it at a preexisting unprecedented pace. Hence, I make a promise to
myself that I shall deploy the power of the perfect drug for the benefit
of mankind, and imbibe all the positive influence in my personality.
I will not abuse the divine power and won’t take advantage of the
vulnerable ones.
I take a vow to utilize this spiritual resurrection to bring a finer
perspective to things, and pledge to make the world a better place in
which to survive and thrive. I look forward to the day when malice is
removed from people’s hearts, so that I can sell the perfect drug and
make millions—or wait, I guess I still can make millions.
Ananya closed his log and slept with the excitement of his
discovery and the enthusiasm of meeting his sisters tomorrow. The idea
to explore the power of the divine drink constantly drew a smile across
his face. He slept with the hope of another visit from his spiritual self,

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but was bereft of the same as his sparkling spirit had already conveyed
the precautionary message.
Ananya woke up and felt close to his inner godliness more than
ever. He engaged in his morning cleansing ritual, and without any
delay progressed to his aunt’s home to spend the weekend there, and
start it with a wholesome breakfast. While he was on his way, he called
his aunt to inform her that he was arriving, though the intention of his
call was really that he would have his early morning feast.
Pallavi swiftly engaged in her favorite hobby, but this time she
had one more reason to prepare a lavish breakfast. Like Ananya,
Rajesh too was spending the weekend at home. She was engrossed
in the preparation of matar kachori with mint chutney when she was
hustled by her husband. Rajesh, harnessing the extended sleeping time
of the kids, hugged his angelic wife from behind and placed a peck on
her cheek to recall the beginning days of their marriage.
Pallavi shyly smiled and put some damp flour on Rajesh’s muscular
jawline, but before their kitchen cuddling got any further, the doorbell rang,
bringing them both back to reality. Rajesh opened the door to welcome
Ananya. The close kin was thrilled to see his uncle, but straightaway went
to the kitchen to inquire what was being cooked.
Ananya insisted on helping his aunt, but she declined and asked
him to accompany his uncle in the living room. Despite the fact that
Ananya wasn’t high on his serum, he knew this much: in order to
extract valuable information, he would have to provide some bait in
the form of ego-stroking mixed with mischief.
Ananya pointed out, “Uncle, there is some flour on your face.”
Rajesh swiftly wiped away the powder and donned an expression
of embarrassment.
Ananya asked, “I saw the lemon-yellow Beetle in the garage,
Uncle. Am I to assume your deal went through?”
Ananya framed the argument along the lines of Rajesh’s passion
(business) and obsession (cars); hence, there was no way he was
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going to stay quiet. In response, Rajesh guffawed and conceded to the
assertion.
Ananya, sensing assent, advanced further. He asked with the
innocence of a child, yet laced with the edginess of a devil’s mind,
“Uncle, you promised me a while ago to tell me about the nature of
your business. I think it’s about time.”
Rajesh remarked, “The deal in which I triumphed was one of the
biggest highlights of my career. I acted as the intermediate negotiator
between the buyer and seller of a real estate property, and that car was
the present from the client, apart from my negotiation fees.”
Ananya’s jaw partly dropped, but he didn’t want to seem too
eager. He continued further, “You are an inspiration, Uncle. You also
said that you have a diverse portfolio.”
Rajesh, oblivious to the insinuated flattery, continued, “Yes.
You see, when I again started from scratch, on my thirteenth attempt,
even though I was exhausted, my resolve hadn’t weakened. I just had
discovered twelve ways that didn’t work—and guess what the nature
of my business that ultimately prospered was?”
Ananya remained mute and let his facial expression reflect
affirmation.. Rajesh, after a dramatic pause, took a coil of wire from
his pocket and placed it in the palm of Ananya.
Ananya exclaimed, “Copper?”
Rajesh added to his excitement. “Yes, copper. It is a brilliant
conductor of heat and electricity, and an economical element, too. You
know, approximately 1.2 million tons of copper were utilized by our
country in 2015, and since we are a developing economy, you can
expect that in the process of building smart cities and smarter devices,
this valuable element will witness even better days.”
While on the surface Ananya was speechless, deep down he
couldn’t stop marveling at his uncle’s astute observation. In the
meantime, Rajesh took the coil from Ananya’s hand, explaining that
the piece was lucky for him. He said, “Since then, I never looked back,
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Ananya. I kept progressing and diversified my skill set into real estate
and financial markets.”
“But let me tell you a secret that none of the financial gurus will
teach you. There are two things: active income and passive income.
The active one is generated when you are constantly engaged in the
activity, whereas the passive one keeps generating even when you
are asleep. That is the cornerstone of setting up a business. After you
come up with something new, you’ve got to have a strong team to help
you amass wealth in your absence.”
The information Ananya was receiving was pure gold, and with
his impeccable insight, he would utilize it to the edge of his ability.
Rajesh was going to delve into more from his experience, but both
men heard the sound of the draining of stuffed pooris in sweltering
oil, accompanied by the pleasant odor of coriander and mint chutney.
It interrupted their conversation and had them salivating—though
Rajesh salivated for one more reason.
Pallavi called Ananya to wake up the cuddly chimps. He
proceeded to their room and saw how carefree his sisters slept, and
became envious of such a devil-may-care attitude; he paused for
a moment to absorb the pertinent peace, but when the scent of the
luscious breakfast entered the room, he was forced to wake them up.
Minki and Chinki woke up with no difficulty, whereas Guddu still
tried to hold on to the blanket. When all three left the room, however,
she came running towards the living area and sat in the lap of her
father.
Pallavi arrived with fried pooris stuffed with mashed potatoes
and peas, but putting the hot dish down worked as a motion sensor,
causing her youngest daughter to jump from her father’s lap and run
towards the bathroom to join her sisters in brushing and flossing.
Meanwhile, Ananya and his uncle launched themselves into devouring
those kachoris, sometimes with chutney and other times with ketchup.
After a sumptuous breakfast, they proceeded to their individual
rooms for an after-meal nap and woke up around lunch. The feeling of
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being full hadn’t left them yet, and they were shocked to find Pallavi
still in the kitchen. Rajesh suggested to her that he take Ananya and
children for a ride in the Beetle, followed by an ice cream at India
Gate, but the real reason was to reward his beloved wife with some
rest.
Ananya felt a sense of accomplishment the moment he sat
beside his uncle in the car. His siblings sat behind, measuring the
strength of the springs and the suspension simultaneously. Everyone
was intoxicated by their joy on the way towards India Gate. Upon
noticing the children’s park, the kids began describing their exuberant
experience in their ecstatic, high-pitched voices. Ananya smirked
when he heard Guddu’s dilemma over the gigantic caterpillar—which
had been the moment of triumph for both of them.
They reached India Gate and refreshed themselves in the evening
breeze over a cone of frozen dessert. All stood at the Rajpath and
marveled at the exquisite architecture. The gate proudly arched over
the eternal light, which symbolized the ceaseless devotion of soldiers
to their soil. When the children had their second round of ice cream
while the men had their casual conversation, they went home with one
slight alteration—instead of hopping, now those notorious gnomes
were sleeping.
The children proceeded forthwith towards their room to build
their incomplete castles in the air, while Rajesh went to his room to
actualize his heartfelt affection. It was then that Ananya felt this was
the appropriate time to ingest the perfect drug and materialize the
purpose from which he had been deviated since morning. He sat in the
lotus posture and after calming his energy level; he sipped the same
two hundred fifty milligrams and waited for the illusion to unravel.
He was contemplating the memorial monument and wondering
how effortlessly some people had given their lives for their homeland.
He began pondering why all humans feared death, and promptly
concluded that it wasn’t death they were afraid of as much as ego
dissolution. The wealth and health they had gathered—they were

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simply frightened to lose it all. But whether a person liked it or not,
everyone had to let go of this vessel and its acquired honors at some
point. Once they did, the celestial light would again journey this Earth,
reassembling the atoms to construct a creature in alignment with the
leftover unfulfilled desires and fancied tendencies—unless it had
arisen from the delusion afflicted by illusion. Therefore, death wasn’t
the end; it was just a transformation.
Ananya proceeded to his sisters’ room after his epiphanic moment
subsided. While he was progressing, he passed by the closed door
of his aunt and uncle’s room. He was glad not to hear any moaning
noises coming from within; otherwise it would have scarred him for
life. He entered the baby-pink room that reverberated with varied
energy bands. He keenly observed that during sleep, although the aura
still surrounded the person, the harmonic frequency was lower than
when the person was conscious. Despite gaining a visceral vision, he
couldn’t foresee where his legs were heading, and he stepped on a toy,
unleashing its steady squeaky sound.
Guddu got up, followed by Minki and Chinki. Ananya tried to
put them back to sleep, but his efforts were in vain. He was successful
in keeping them quiet with the explanation that their parents were
sleeping(which was his safest substitute for romance). Guddu, after
a broad yawn, became engaged in her coloring book. Chinki began
completing her homework, while Minki opened a storybook from her
preplaced bookmark.
Ananya decided to scrutinize their energy fields to decipher what
made them so special, and his conclusion was mind-boggling. He saw
the glorifying colors around Guddu while she herself was highlighting
shades; he noticed a deep violet accompanying a beautiful azure blue,
signifying a spiritual seed steadily blooming into creativity and self-
expression. His graze then drifted towards Chinki and was equally
surprised to witness the serene hue of indigo, indicating her energetic
Ajna chakra, but was disappointed to notice a feeble daffodil-yellow
in her energy field.

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Ananya’s eyes almost popped out of his skull when he saw Minki.
She was absorbed in her book, unaware of the vibe she was emitting
in her surroundings. Ananya stood motionless when he saw that every
color of her energy band supplemented one another. None of them
was too intense or too feeble, as if she harbored the perfect balance
between her energy centers.
No wonder she remains calm all the time, Ananya thought.
Though his curiosity had been partially curbed, it became more
intensified in its progress. He stationed himself on the bed adjacent
to his youngest sister and looked at the cosmic spectacle. There was
pin-drop silence, but he knew that soon there would ensue a torrent
of commotion, which was acceptable in a room filled with people of
similar anatomy yet skewed hormones.
Ananya was absorbed in the artwork before him, like Guddu was.
She was picking the apt color from the palette and filling the pictures
with borderline accuracy. It seemed that though the cartoon fish and
his companion were sketched on paper, they were being filled in by a
bigger star composed of white light. The swiftness of Guddu in picking
the crayon made him recall his infantile days, before the material dust
had settled over his soul and soiled his dreams and aspirations. He
recognized that every human had to become completely immersed in
divine light, and later had to seek those moments of utmost ecstasy for
the rest of his life. That is, unless he realized that all he had to do was
look inward rather than seek that temporary, external gratification.
Chinki arose from her study table and snatched the pastel color
first, before taking the whole tray; during this process, a streak of
lime-green became engraved on the incomplete coloration. Though it
looked like a gigantic tick mark, it symbolized a grave error. Ananya
had seen the colors of Chinki’s aura alter as she had approached
Guddu. The fluctuation in her feeble yellow energy band had suddenly
arisen, displaying her possessiveness and jealousy. Upon snatching up
the worthless material object, the same dissonance was transferred to
Guddu’s tiger-orange color band, reflecting her sorrow and disdain.

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The disturbance further transferred to the last ruby-red band, symbolic
of her urgent need for connection and comfort. Ananya tried to
console her, but could only stub her sobbing in his chest and hoped
this moaning didn’t interrupt Rajesh during orgasm in mid-coitus. No
pun intended, Ananya thought, just irony.
Ananya was surprised at one particular observation: in spite of
this upheaval, Minki was calm as an ocean. Her energy distribution
didn’t change at all, as if she had blocked all disturbances from outside,
or perhaps had acquired immunity to daily turbulence. No matter the
circumstances, that is how I ought to keep my energy dispersion,
decided Ananya.
When Guddu pushed Ananya away, making her scream more
discernable, Pallavi came charging into their room with a disheveled
air, followed by Rajesh, adjusting his clothes with a pertinent out-of-
alignment heart chakra.
So she did interrupt, smirked Ananya inwardly.
Guddu, with her growling face, pointed towards the culprit, to
which Chinki starkly replied, “She always loses my stuff.”
Though Pallavi consoled her youngest daughter, this was
accompanied by scolding Chinki as well.
Rajesh sat beside Ananya while mother and daughter made
way towards the living area. At once, Ananya noticed that Rajesh’s
Manipura chakra wave shone sun-yellow. It outshined all the other
bands, which was symbolic of his indomitable will, the foundation of
his entrepreneurial mind.
Got to acquire this the most, Ananya noted.
Meanwhile, Pallavi had attained a temporary truce with Guddu
in exchange for chili cheese toast, and with that evening snack, the
family resumed its peaceful vibrations once more.
Rajesh started a conversation in an attempt to appear as a concerned
father. He asked Chinki, “Have you finished your homework?”

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Ananya had his gaze settled over his siblings. When Chinki
nodded, he perceived a cordial vibration in her field. Then Rajesh
directed his stare at Minki, whose energy bands exhibited the same
effect. But when Rajesh turned his eyes towards Guddu, shuddering
vibrations were observed upon her reply.
Ananya teased her, “You sure?”
Guddu’s assertive answer accompanied a commotion at her throat
chakra, making the color pattern in that region undergo an unexpected
shuddering.
She is lying; there is no doubt she is.
Ananya’s self-absorption was broken when Rajesh got a business
call, and he signaled everyone to stay quiet. The formal communication
appeared to be on the lines of boasting about one another’s resources,
and soon they began negotiating with each other over a business deal.
Rajesh described how he had leverage in the deal, while concealing the
hidden agenda. At the same time, he was trying to tilt the agreement to
his side. As a result, his Ajna chakra and throat chakra simultaneously
jittered with the same intensity as they did before with Guddu.
He is bluffing, being a hypocrite; that is what he is doing, inferred
Ananya.
Ananya proceeded to his room to pen down his most insightful
discoveries and perform the last task of the assessment—observe
himself.
He hadn’t seen his aura in action ever since he became conscious
of his cosmic power. He wanted to accept his strengths and work upon
his weaknesses. Ananya entered his room and while the fluorescent
tube light flickered as it turned on, he had his log book in one hand
and pen in the other. He was about to write down the vital pieces of
information, but when the room was completely illuminated, he saw
his image in the mirror. In utter astonishment, Ananya dropped his log
and blinked his eyes several times to ascertain what he was looking
at. Was it real?

278
Playtime!
Every cell in the human body is capable of generating electrical
signals by the transfer of sodium and potassium ions, but the basic
law of physics states that if there is an electric field in motion then
there ought to be a magnetic field as well. In the case of cells, this
is termed as the biomagnetic field. All cells in cooperation give rise
to a perfectly functional dynamic organism which is biomagnetic as
well as bioelectric in nature. These fields have their energy vortexes—
chakras—corresponding to each particular cellular region; but what if
some cells refused to participate?
The wound on Ananya’s left arm was healed, but the scar remained,
signifying that this certain inconsistency would remain forever. He
looked at his image intently, and the scar seemed to showcase a
peculiar kind of distortion, a sparkling space surrounding it. Unlike his
aura, which exhibited the colorful energy pattern, the askew ambience
around his forearm was erratic. It didn’t have any precise shade, but
gave the impression of a white acrylic paint, signifying the distorted
biomagnetic and electric fields in that cellular region. When Ananya
got closer to the mirror, the picture became clearer.
It appeared that through that crevice, his body’s life force
leaked into the ethereal plane. He didn’t let fear enter his root chakra,
reassuring himself that even if there was an opening, then it was outlet
as well inlet. If his spiritual energy truly escaped through that orifice,
then most certainly it was regenerated by his energy centers, hence
maintaining the balance at all times. He ultimately convinced himself

279
that his invincible ability was the combination of the elixir and his
injury, which connected his existing physical plane to the astral plane
and spiritual plane concurrently.
Faith happened to be one of the foundational pillars of mental
vigor; it was an intensified form of belief whose sole strength relied on
acceptance and subsequent conviction. Ananya had one more reason
to pursue this thought process as his enigmatic aura revealed a feeble
blonde yellow. Therefore, it seemed a befitting way to strengthen his
willpower.
He noted in his log about the vibrant Ajna chakra, which was
greatly supplemented by a navy blue band of his throat chakra. He was
impressed that his root chakra vibrated at a soothing low frequency,
reaffirming his belief that he had risen from the body’s basic need
to survive in order to thrive. However, he was still perturbed by the
volatile vibrations in the carrot-orange sacral chakra, which reflected
his longing for pleasure and instant gratification. Ananya further noted
the imperative observations, including identification of lying and
hidden hypocrisy, which were going to be his yardstick in identifying
those people with whom to associate. He self-recommended ways to
maintain balance between his energy centers. After all, all the power
would do more harm than good if he couldn’t keep himself calm.

The rest of the weekend was spent in little digression as Ananya


observed fundamental virtues and veiled vices. He had detected the
basic elements of happiness and learned what actions elicited what
sorts of reactions; he had ascertained what kinds of insecurities
surrounded people, and which particular malignancy blocked the life
force from flowing through the chakras.Instead of judging the person
upfront, though, he had utilized his observation to become a better
version of himself. He penned down every detailed characteristic
about human nature that he learned, and earnestly waited for college,
where he would put it all to test.
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Ananya left his aunt’s home early in the morning, and with a
heavy heart bid goodbye to his angelic army and the breakfast which
had just started climbing the ladder of its luscious transformation.
Pallavi shrieked at him to wait and have his morning meal, but her
nephew needed his morning high.
Ananya arrived huffing and puffing in his apartment with just
enough time for the duration of a television program, and initiated
his morning with a fresh start. He opened his bag and his eyes grew
bright and dim at the same time. He held the kaleidoscopic compound,
but there was just enough for today. He contemplated for a moment
whether to ingest it right now or wait until later, but there was a whole
new actuality longing to be perceived in a totally different light. Hence,
the moment his breathing calmed like before, he had his neurons ready
to fire once more.
He sipped the transcendental serum and in utter silence with
legs crossed, Ananya tried to listen to the vibrations emanating
from his body, wanting to realize the true potential of the perfect
drug. He focused intently on keeping his mind thoughtless, and as
it got emptier, he went deeper into the realm of the subconscious,
successfully blocking the commotion from the agitated environment.
He was able to listen to the feeble humming sound that appeared
beneath everything in creation, the cosmic sound that seemed to
envelop everything in existence.
The more Ananya focused, the finer the vibration of aum became,
which soothed his soul and subsequently brought more control. After
bathing himself in the eternal light and opening his eyes to witness
the esoteric cosmic delight, his intuition forewarned him that while
remaining harmonious to the surrounding he ought to remain cautious.
It told him to immerse himself in the illusion but to keep the strands
at all times in the palm of his hand. He walked out of his room with
the heart of an ascetic, owning an understanding that was absolutely
empathetic. In turn, this made his already-charismatic personality
immensely enigmatic.

281
With every step, his blood fused with the phenomenal fluid charged
his every vein. Soon, he transcended reality and began witnessing
a distinct level of morality. The moment he entered the premises of
St. Stephen’s, he detected a transparency of human emotions and
afflictions. He could clearly discern the elements of arrogance, envy,
vanity, and enmity. Yet the same people exhibited traits of compassion,
commitment, generosity, and humility. It appeared as if the whole
human race were fighting the same demon, just on a different level.
The human mind was finicky in nature; it was easily swayed by
waves of emotions. Only the well-sedimented rocks stood the test of
time, however. The person he noticed entirely at peace with himself
was the gardener; his energy pattern was in accordance with the
cosmic vibration, as if he treated himself as the hollow bamboo and
allowed life to flow through himself, to bestow its vivacity. Ananya
inadvertently began proceeding in his direction like a child to his
favorite candy. He wanted to know how the gardener had attained
such a massive feat by doing such meager work, but Ananya’s path
was cut off by his capricious companion.
The cuddlesome cat howled her beloved phrase while she waved
her tail. She stared at her casual entertainer in contentment, whereas
Ananya looked at her in utter astonishment. The only color coating the
cat was a deep indigo hue, which vibrated at such a soothing pace that
it gave the impression of her immaculate intuition and raised a thought
provoking question: was her species able to experience realities before
they actually occurred?
The Ajna chakra, which was solely responsible for this purpose
in humankind, had a peculiar way of working. Its symbol possessed
two petals facing in opposite directions, signifying manifested and un-
manifested existence. The capability of the human mind only enabled
it to speculate certain realities while experiencing the manifestation
with absolute novelty, but was a quiet cat able to comprehend all
possibilities, or perhaps in her elevated state, was she able to anticipate
the outcome and simply wait for the inevitable?

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This question troubled Ananya greatly, and he began caressing
the side of her face to relieve him of his confusion. Still, though, there
wasn’t any change in her radiating luminescent aura, just an alteration
in her expression; perhaps she knew that too. Just then, Ananya was
patted on his shoulder by his buddies. Though taken aback, he regained
his composure and began scrutinizing them as if trying to melt butter
through his laser-like gaze.
He observed the engulfing aura of his friends and the shades that
gave them their personalities a unique meaning. If Akshay’s frail red
band revealed his fear of survival, then Kanika’s heart chakra emitted
a moss green that signified an enduring sorrow. However, despite
their shortcomings, Akshay possessed an emerald-green hue vibrating
ecstatically, whereas Kanika had her Svadhishthana chakra vibrating
gleefully, symbolizing her artistic creativity. The Three Musketeers,
hearing the lecture bell, discontinued their frivolous, casual
conversation and proceeded towards their individual classrooms.
It was filled with glorious colors, and deep down those envelopes
of vibrant shades laid the perfect harmonic frequency of aum.
He turned towards the lecture room, and almost instantaneously
so did a girl whose sharp shoulder bone jabbed Ananya’s arm.
Without analyzing her vibrations waves or even looking at her, he was
absolutely certain who she was.
Ritika, with her feeble smile, said, “Hello!”
“Hi!”
They shook hands, but what had always gone unnoticed by
Ananya was observed now. He noticed that the warmth his palm left
on her hand transformed into a shiver which traveled to her central
energy band, reflecting how much love and compassion she harbored
for him, whereas the coldness of her skin sent a similar disturbance
to his sacral chakra, exhibiting how intensely he desired her. Despite
holding absolute power over mortals, he didn’t think it was wise to
pursue Ritika—not because she wasn’t worthy of love or because it

283
was unfair to take advantage of her feelings, but because this was
an opportunity to work upon his weaknesses, to subdue his need for
instant gratification.
In class, Ananya sat at the second to last bench, and parallel to
him, with a few students in between, was Ritika. He titled his head
and saw amongst those vibrant waves that her lower lip pulsated
at a throbbing frequency and breathed with a life of its own upon
interacting with sunlight. She sipped water while protecting her lip
gloss, and in her attempt to extinguish the flames of her heart, she
ignited more smoldering embers within someone who was not so far
away.
Ananya’s meditation was broken when Akshay entered, and
upon observing his companion, he noticed a peculiar irregularity in
his friend’s energy pattern. He saw an effervescence building on his
throat chakra, but instead of a release, it subsided and then built up
again with the same intensity, much like a sealed, shaken soda bottle.
He hadn’t recognized the strain in his energy vortex when he’d seen
him earlier, but in the absence of Kanika, it was quite prominent.
Is he hiding something from me?
Akshay, without any hesitation, sat adjacent to his comrade.
Ananya couldn’t conjure the reason for his distress. He analyzed the
possibilities, put all permutations in order, but couldn’t arrive at a
plausible cause for his dissonance.
He definitely wants to talk to me about something!
Wait! Is it possible that he knows?
Ananya said, throwing a dart in the dark, “You know, bro, I don’t
know how much you have studied, but I might flunk these sessionals.
That last day I was with you guys, after playing with the kitty, I had to
go back to the laboratory to complete my research.”
Ananya waited for Akshay’s reaction, and he was dumbstruck
when he noticed that his disturbance subsided, like the soda bottle had
finally opened.
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He followed me! Gosh, my excitement left me totally blindsided
that day! I am so glad I wasn’t wearing the hazmat suit, because then
the damage would have been irreparable and any explanation would
be totally inconceivable!
When Akshay unknowingly got the reply to his question, his
infallible inquisitiveness transformed into an enfeebled intrigue and
he asked, “But what are you working on?”
Ananya beamed and said, “That I can’t share, but what I can tell
you is I just have achieved a major milestone. Hence, today’s treat is
on me.”
Ananya patted Akshay’s shoulder while uttering the last phrase
so as to express the gravity of his gesture and swiftly switched the
topic. “By the way, how much you have studied?”
You dare not lie, now.
Akshay replied, “I did inorganic and relied on your prowess with
organic, just like last time.”
Ananya took a moment to absorb the truth, since after such a long
time he was now acquainted with reality. He shifted his gaze across
the classroom to ascertain the fact that everyone was afflicted with the
examination fever. He had attained answers to one subject, while his
peers pored over a dissimilar topic entirely.
Akshay confessed, “There are two books; I didn’t know where
to start.”
Upon hearing that, Ananya’s eyes emulated the nature of Akshay’s
own optical orbs. There were just two days until examinations, and
for a moment all of Ananya’s acquired realizations vaporized and he
felt isolated amongst his visualizations. But he held his ground; he
knew that the power he held in his veins was more capable than his
imagination. Meanwhile, Vinay entered the lecture room and everyone
looked at him for guidance and mercy.
After the formal exchange of pleasantries, the pupils engaged in
their moronic banter, which started with, “Sir, have you set the paper?”
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“No.”
Ananya smirked upon catching his lie, and admired how the
deluded scholars guided him. The students began picking topics one
by one in expectation, to note what their professor suggested, but all
Ananya had to do was pick up his pen only at what the lecturer’s
energies truly expressed. The whole lecture transformed into a tutorial
in which Vinay was answering questions, and by the time clock
signaled for intermission, Ananya’s notepad was full of topics from
the first book. He confidently said, “Don’t worry, Akshay. By the end
of the day, I shall have precisely what you need to study.”
They advanced towards the cafeteria and were lucky to sit
at the table at which Ananya had sat all by himself on the day of
orientation. He looked around, and one common conclusion he drew
by analyzing the crowd was that despite their different approaches
towards fulfillment, the veil of ignorance completely deluded them
in how to seek contentment. Almost everyone’s Ajna chakra severely
struggled in expression. It was as if the common plague from which
the generation suffered was the absence of a perspective built upon the
principle of ‘upliftment of thyself,’ rather than of entanglement.
He got up to purchase something light to eat and some fluids to
hydrate himself, so as to retain his elevated edge, but also bought the
best of what the café had to offer for Akshay. While he was bringing
back the snacks, Kanika had arrived and had been acquainted with
Ananya’s breakthrough. Hence, after putting the items on the table,
he progressed the same path once again for her. After all, how could
he say no to a friend who had brought peace to his mind when he had
needed it most?
Ananya also brought a cupcake, and when he put the dish in front
of Kanika, he ridiculed playfully, “Here’s a baked good for you, Miss
Hoity-toity Half-baked.”
Kanika hit Ananya playfully, and tried to extract some details
about his research, which he naturally avoided. He quickly deflected
towards her art interest, which had recently gained popularity among
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her male companions due to the nudity effect. Though Akshay wanted
to know about Ananya’s covert research, he lost sight ; with eyes wide
and bright and ears perked up, he was ready to listen to stories from
the feminine end. Ananya utilized his transparency weapon to the
minimum, since these were the people whom he loved with all his
heart—after his family and his sinister sisters, of course.
When the snacks had diminished and effect of the drug had
started subsiding, Ananya excused himself, saying that he must go to
Vinay to ask him some questions. Upon sensing the urgency of matter,
neither of his friends stopped him. Ananya proceeded towards the staff
room, while the co-conspirators continued chitchatting.
Kanika inquired, “So, what happened when you confronted him?”
Akshay responded congenially, “That is the interesting bit, I
didn’t. He himself confessed.”
Kanika, left absolutely flabbergasted, took a bite of her cupcake
to contemplate the unforeseen turn of events.
Ananya reached the staff room, and his eyes scanned it for
Professor Vinay. He couldn’t stop himself from scrutinizing the
energy pattern of his other lecturers. The common culprit that gnawed
at their peace of mind was just a succeeding band upwards to Ajna, the
crown chakra. Their distress, though dissimilar in manifestation, was
identical in its vibrations—and it stemmed from their attachments.
This revealed itself in the form of worry for their children’s education,
anxiety about payment of the mortgage, or perhaps the enticing
prospect of a raise or promotion.
Wow! Maya! You truly are the most incredible labyrinth, created
for the sole purpose to beguile. From childhood, you begin targeting
the senses and when the child matures, you allure him by materialistic
goals. But it seems like your maze isn’t complete, for you seek
contentment in our absolute entrapment.
Vinay came up to him from behind; he tapped on Ananya’s
shoulder and asked, “What are you doing here?”

287
“I have to discuss some questions, sir.”
Vinay retorted, “But I just resolved questions in your class.”
Ananya pleaded, “You did, sir, but still a few are left.”
Vinay was aware of Ananya’s prowess in organic chemistry, and
since he had heard his name in the casual conversation from other
teachers, he was intrigued by a face to face session with him.
Vinay conceded and asked Ananya to wait in an empty classroom.
Ananya gleefully moved towards the classroom, and upon Vinay’s
arrival, the usual discourse of anticipating his reaction and sensing
the sincere vibrations began. When the question session wrapped
up, Ananya could only laugh, thinking this was definitely the most
legitimate form of cheating.
Ananya then proceeded towards the chemistry lab, where another
surprise awaited him. He entered the laboratory and noticed Prakash
explaining some sort of procedure on the blackboard—that despised,
accursed blackboard.
When he paid attention, he realized that the lab apprentice
was explaining the format in which to fill in the answer sheet, since
chemistry practical was scheduled for that day. Though left numb for
a moment, Ananya recovered and recalled all the experiments that
they had gone over since the semester began. None gave him as much
trouble as his perfect drug preparation. The effect of the drug was on
the verge of wearing off, but before that, he had the opportunity to
analyze the energy bands of his revered chemistry assistant. He was
astounded that he observed the similar calm, cordial pattern as he did
in the case of the gardener. It wasn’t that they weren’t afflicted with
attachments or had figured their way around illusion but it appeared
that they had made peace with their lives.
Ananya engaged in the experiment, and as he was progressing
with the analysis, the influence of the serum was declining in his
bloodstream. At the moment one compound was synthesized, almost
instantaneously, the effect of the other was vaporized. He filled in

288
the answer sheet with the requisite steps of formation followed by a
conclusion, and took it to his cherished chemistry companion.
Prakash was happy to see Ananya as much as his student was
to receive him. Without wasting time, he went towards Ananya’s
workstation, and upon reaffirmation of the conclusion, he graded the
answer sheet and returned it to Ananya.
Both sat at the table, and Ananya noticed that he had been
awarded nineteen out of twenty. The end part of the nine curved at the
end, which resembled a smile, and that little arc appeared even more
amusing since Ananya was still mildly inebriated. He inquired, “Sir,
why did you cut one mark?”
Prakash teased him, “Poor handwriting.”
Ananya chuckled, and so did his lab apprentice. Ananya wasn’t
bothered about why he was awarded one mark less for his achievement.
Rather, he was instantly pestered by this notion: How could both
of them be so calm? If emotion meant energy in motion, then they
certainly channelized the flow upon their will.
Ananya blurted, “Sir, what is the secret to remaining calm?”
Prakash, taken aback by his student’s spiritual inclination, took
a moment to absorb the question, and asked, “Why sudden shift from
chemistry to theology?”
Ananya expressed his dilemma. “It isn’t like that; it’s that our
generation has trouble keeping our minds calm.”
Prakash graciously smiled and, sensing his favorite topic
starting at the other end, he said, “It is because you are accustomed to
indulgence. When you grow older, you will realize that abstinence is
the key to eternal bliss.”
He continued, “Every generated desire is an echo of an impression
imprinted upon us long ago, and the more you fulfill them, more
you rekindle the lost spark. Hence, it is imperative to live the life of
renunciation after a certain age, to let life go by and just be the carrier
of the divine light, which manifests both inside and outside.”
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Ananya induced the arc on his face much like the one on his
answer sheet, and excused himself. Though he esteemed Prakash’s
method for realizing the godliness inside, that didn’t belittle the
importance he had over his approach. He exited the laboratory
and proceeded towards the cafeteria for his first proper meal since
morning.
Ananya began gorging like a hungry canine that had fasted for
two days straight, and even after finishing a double-cheese grilled
sandwich, he longed for more. It was the first time he’d felt the
munchies, and from there the thought process swiftly escalated to a
beautiful, charming woman who, after smoking pot, stuffed herself
like an elephant. He was reminiscing about his cherished moments
with Anushree when Akshay came and broke his daydreaming.
Ananya distracted his mind promptly and said, “Let’s go to the
library. I have everything we need.”
Both proceeded towards the fortress of knowledge to save their
sinking ship. They weren’t concerned as to what value those equations
held in real life, but were only aware of their foremost application,
which was progressing further in the semester. Ananya handed Akshay
the topics and both strictly adhered to the limited confines of their
substantial syllabus.
Akshay continued studying the vital pieces of information while
Ananya faced a little bit of trouble. He felt drained from processing
the incessant bits of data emitted from everyone, and lethargic due to
the heavy, cheese-spattered sandwich consumed a little while ago. He
continued studying despite his body pulling him in the other direction,
and after an uninterrupted forty-five minutes, both went for a caffeine
break.
Ananya, deprived of his divine drink, felt powerless—like Karna
would have upon giving up his shield and shining earrings—and
alike him, he had his character and principles very much intact. The
realizations that had dawned upon him over the past few days had
entirely changed his perspective regarding how to perceive simple
290
happiness and handle major sorrow. They both wrapped up their mini-
tea time and once again proceeded towards the fortress of solitude,
but this time Ritika crossed their path. Ananya went on his way,
unaffected, because if there was one thing he had internalized, it was
that some excitations were less significant and more misleading, After
all, maya had laid some dull distractions to lead people astray.
They continued to storm their brains over the remaining chapters,
and fortunately were able to finish the organic portion before the clock
compelled them to leave the premises. Both were delighted like in
the earlier times when they’d reunited against a common enemy,
and decided to meet tomorrow at the same time to study inorganic
chemistry.
After the evening meal, upon reaching his room, he noted the log
with relevant observations and mentioned one curious bit at the end:
Would he have any withdrawal symptoms?
He slept with one instruction to his mind—instead of observing
others, now he had to observe himself. He woke up to the monotonous
routine, only with an alteration of introspection.
Ananya noticed an unusual calmness in his mannerisms, and
upon reaching the college, he retained his behavior—even if others
unconsciously nudged him to interact with a side of him that was
based on earthly existence.
The masculine mates progressed to the library, where they were
going to study inorganic and with the switching of the subject, the role
reversal between the tutor and student also occurred. Ananya marveled
at Akshay’s techniques, which made the cramming effortless. They
took a break just like yesterday, when they met their sole estrogen
companion.
When Kanika inquired about what took them so long, they
confessed that they’d been studying for the sessional, to which she
simply laughed. Akshay was perturbed by Kanika’s reaction; hence,
he said, “It’s true. As a matter of fact, I was teaching Ananya.”

291
Kanika couldn’t hold back her laughter at this point and continued
her chuckling, Akshay was infuriated at her reaction. Therefore, he
said, “If you don’t believe me, ask him.”
Kanika regained composure and asked Ananya for the accuracy
of Akshay’s argument, but being a true friend, Ananya teased him
further, saying, “I have no idea what he is talking about.”
Akshay changed the subject. “Why aren’t you studying, Kanika?”
Kanika replied, “I am sorry, I totally forgot. I might quit college
by the end of this semester.”
The men looked at her in wonder and exclaimed together, “Why?”
Kanika, with a hint of shyness, poured out, “My mother’s close
friend has an art gallery, and yesterday, when she came to our house,
she happened to stumble upon a few sketches of mine. She asked if
she could display them in an upcoming exhibition.”
Kanika’s eyes shone sparkling white while sharing the news; it
was probably the first time Ananya had noticed the complete curvature
of her eyes. Both were happy for her, but if one aligned himself with
her delight then the other was definitely jealous that she’d gotten
out of the prison before him. Ananya wasn’t sad for his dear friend’s
promising career, but was upset with himself that things were taking
more time than he had thought.
He encouraged her to keep painting even if she didn’t get the
desired feedback. The three amigos talked like old times, totally
oblivious to the clock hands. When Ananya sensed they were half an
hour past their tea break, he excused himself with Akshay, yet teased
Kanika with a final remark. “It would be great if you became an
artist—just don’t start eating paints like Van Gogh.”
They continued their study session, but Ananya was a bit
distraught; he couldn’t think of a way to internalize the immense
potential of a product which gave him the eyesight of the Almighty.
Soon, they ended the session, and promised to reconvene to study
physical chemistry the next day.
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The pair was walking through the compound when Akshay asked,
“Do you have any important topics for physical, too?”
Ananya wondered for a moment. He even felt inclined to utilize
the powerful perfect drug to achieve the same ends, but at the same
time felt it was a very shallow use of his substance. Hence, he said, “I
am afraid not.”
While Ananya was proceeding to his apartment, he conjectured
that some things were best left to fate, like his physical chemistry
exam. The real power of his enchanting elixir would reveal itself
naturally, too. Upon reaching his room, he opened the log and started
penning his observations:
Though I didn’t notice any signs of irritability or craving, I
certainly sensed some mood swings, as the body had been acquainted
with that level of vulnerability. And surprisingly I occasionally
perceived flashbacks of the helpful hallucinations. I so wish that effect
was permanent. But I guess I have to wait another day to see if there
are any noteworthy withdrawal symptoms.
Ananya initiated the next day with the mental outlook of the
previous day, and despite feeling incompetent, he was far from sensing
cowardliness in his attitude. He called Akshay early in the morning
and asked, “Is it possible to spend the whole day in the library?”
Akshay responded, “I too was thinking something along those
lines.”
Ananya chuckled upon hearing his own words echo back to him,
and raced towards the college library, where they started physical
chemistry from the beginning. They started at a leisurely pace by
giving importance to each statement of every paragraph, but doing
basic arithmetic they soon realized that if they progressed like this,
then they would just complete one chapter by the end of the day—two,
if they approached it individually.
They made the collaborative decision of narrowing their scope to
formulas and previous year assignments, while widening the confines

293
of their hope to possible negligence of the test administrator and mercy
of the Creator. After finishing a considerable amount of the syllabus
in a small amount of time, they proceeded towards the cafeteria to
give themselves a much-needed tea break. They contacted Kanika, but
unfortunately, her phone was unreachable. Therefore, they joined the
company of their classmates.
Ananya had been feeling a bit irksome since that morning. It was
hard to tell whether it was due to interruption in his sleep or because he
was coerced to jump through an academic hoop after he’d transcended
them all—or, perhaps, it was the first withdrawal symptom of his so-
called perfect drug.
He and Akshay shared the table with Hardik, a notorious element
of the class. Though being fairly good at chemistry, he was famous for
being infamous, and seized every opportunity to create a nuisance. The
table for four was shared by Hardik and his accomplice, a relationship
similar to that of Ananya and Akshay.
The chatter continued on a superficial level regarding preparation
for upcoming exams; meanwhile, the gossipmongers of the class
surrounded the table. Because Hardik was waiting for this opportunity,
he provoked Ananya, saying, “I heard you got the highest grade in
chemistry lab, Mr. Lickspittle.”
The surrounding crowd guffawed, excluding Ananya and Akshay.
Seems like there is a nickname of mine that I am not aware of,
Ananya thought.
Ananya rebutted him, “Do you kiss your mother with that
mouth?”
Hardik shouted, “What?”
Ananya smirked because, though his statement had referred to
his obscene language, it had been received as an incestuous pun.
Ananya corrected himself. “I mean, I wouldn’t want to hurt her
with that boneless piece of meat that bore you, just because your
flappy flesh went out of control, Mr. Flaccid-dick.”
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This time both amigos grinned and the crowd sniggered, waiting
for Hardik to make a comeback. In response he stood and approached
Ananya’s seat. Ananya had been longing for a battle royal since
morning. He got up from his seat and peered straight into his rival’s
eyes.
Hardik uttered some gibberish talk laced with abusive words, and
ended it with the phrase “ass- kisser.”
Ananya, though enraged to the hilt, kept his calm and said, “And
that’s what she said.”
The crowd chortled and Ananya wryly smiled, which boiled
Hardik’s blood even further. He was about to hit Ananya when Akshay
came in between them and reminded Hardik how strict their college
was in the terms of dealing with violence. Hardik went on his way
with his assistant, while Ananya departed with his accomplice. Though
they hadn’t broken into a fight, a seething anger in Ananya wanted to
serve Hardik’s skull on a platter to his family members.
He analyzed how he could be infuriated to such an extent that for
Hardik’s mild insolence, Ananya wanted him dead. He tried studying
with Akshay, but could only focus sporadically; this crankiness was
new to him, and he entirely blamed Hardik for it. He wrapped up the
syllabus in haste, bade Akshay goodbye, and proceeded to his room.
Ananya opened his log and began penning his observation that
despite having little to no craving to sip the transcendental serum, he
could be easily be provoked. He continued:
I don’t feel any shivering in my veins to gulp down the divine
drink, but I suppose the ethereal effect that rendered me susceptible
to nature’s wonders also made me vulnerable to one of nature’s
blunders—humans. I suppose from now on I have to be careful about
associating with people, since it is unfair for me to lose brain cells and
peace of mind simultaneously.
Ananya had his dinner and slept like a baby. The exam that was
scheduled the following morning, but in spite of his sharp analytical

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skills, he failed to make one astute observation about the cause of
his anger. It wasn’t vulnerability. Rather, it was dependability.
His concocted kaleidoscopic compound didn’t have physiological
withdrawal symptoms; it had psychological ones. He had experienced
absolute power by deciphering people below the surface of their
beings, and the taste of that supreme strength still lingered on
his lips. He couldn’t perceive during that heated argument that his
aggression shot to the moon because he was unable to determine his
opponent’s weakness. His yearning to influence had been met with
bitter disappointment, and since he couldn’t alter the consequences as
before, his hunger for power grew even more.
Ananya woke up late and had just fifteen minutes before the
examination was to begin. He rushed through his cleansing process,
dropping the major bathing step, yet was still five minutes late for the
exam.
The exam was in physical chemistry, and he started the paper
by eliminating questions based on what was slightly known, most
known, and entirely unknown. While he was progressing with the
scribbling activity, he was counting down the descending duration of
time until the union of his ethereal personality and his mortal identity.
He was done with the paper, or rather, the exam was through with him,
and he walked out of the hall like a wounded soldier in search of relief
for his thirst. But alas, the holy water couldn’t be procured so soon.
The trio reunited in the cafeteria, and Akshay began badgering
Ananya to discuss the exam. Ananya, though, refused to say, insisting
that there wasn’t any point in discussing the outcome of something
which had already been decided. He was keen to know about his
feminine friend who held the potential of becoming an admirable
artist. He asked Kanika to reveal pictures of her paintings; she naturally
declined, but when Akshay also insisted, she was bound to bow down.
Ananya was amazed to observe that her work had improved
exponentially since the first time he’d seen it, and his recently-
acquired subtle attention towards color made him marvel at her artistry

296
even more. However, one thought pestered him: there was a common
element of sorrow which endured in her work, and since Ananya had
noticed that as a hindering factor in her energy band, he couldn’t help
but ask her, “Why are all your paintings reflecting pain?”
Kanika, taken aback by the sudden astute observation, wasn’t
prepared to answer such a stark remark. She had speculated that
they would ask what had inspired her, or how much time it had
taken to complete a work of art, but she couldn’t unwind the coil of
her melancholy so soon. Hence, she said, “Prosperity and pleasure
reverberate in each creature differently, but pain is something that
pulsates in us concurrently. It is engraved in us from the beginning
of time, whether it is birth of a child or the blooming of a seed in a
concrete crevice.”
Ananya marveled at her wisdom, while Akshay took a moment
to absorb the intensity of her notion. They flicked their fingers across
her gallery until some well-built muscular men made appearance, and
then Ananya teased her, showing her the phone. “Did you make them,
too?”
The boys chuckled while Kanika snatched her phone in
embarrassment, and then the usual play of taunting and teasing
resumed. The Musketeers excused themselves, since there was
another exam the following day. Ananya proceeded to his abode with
the desire to alter his perception more than ever. He wasn’t feeling
angry, but rather helpless, since academics for the first time were an
impediment in his progress. He reached his room and began revising
the equations for inorganic, yet the only reaction he looked forward to
was from his enhanced organic psychedelic.
Ananya, with a distracted mind, gulped down the formulas and
techniques, and with the absolute determination of tearing the veil
of maya in immediate future, proceeded to dinner. While eating, he
pondered over ways to get acquainted with his elevated state, but there
wasn’t any way around the examinations. Later in the night, after
coercing himself to revise the syllabus one last time, he opened his log
297
and expressed his chronicle at length. He questioned himself whether
this eager need to rise was a reflection of withdrawal symptoms or just
a compelling desire to escape the current circumstances. Deep down,
however, unknown to his conscious mind, was his passion for power.
He craved the control over the plebeians that practically made him a
living god amongst them.
Happily, Ananya’s second exam started along with that of his
classmates. He progressed through the paper with confidence, but with
precarious focus; he yearned to unleash the force of his subconscious,
but was entangled in the strands of superficial knowledge. It is an
unwritten law in the life of a scholar that the moment he attempts to
concentrate on a particular topic, his mind comes up with ingenious
inventions never before witnessed by mankind. He swiftly derived the
analogy that the way students were given exams, every human was
being given an assessment in his own life.
Unlike the current scenario, each person had been handed a different
question paper. Some people had an objective questionnaire—those
who denied the presence of a Supreme Consciousness, and advanced
in life based on selecting a particular option (hence manifesting the
repercussions of their decisions).Then there were others who had to
write down the subjective exam, the kind who had to untie a knot, undo
an inconsistency in their personality to first realize that success and
failure were both illusions. Since everyone was evaluated uniquely,
for one to truly pass the exam with flying colors, one had to realize
that he was built in the image of the Creator, and his life was mere
divine expression of the same.
Ananya brought his mind back to reality, but it still retained its
surreal touch of spirituality. He was constantly wondering about the
aspect of life that he was yet to unveil with the power of his perfect
drug, and then it flashed upon his mind like lightning over a calm
sky—how could he forget the Abysmal Aunt? There was certainly
something that was eating her alive, and if he couldn’t use his power to
assist others, then what was the point of being so heavenly awesome?

298
Ananya proceeded to his room, and with calmness pervading his spirit,
he patiently waited for the next day, which would put an end to this
miserable journey. He slept soundly with the assurance that this exam
would be his last assessment in college.
Ananya entered the examination hall and smelled the fear-
stricken air. He walked towards Akshay and tried to calm his nerves,
but it proved unproductive. He, at last, asked, “Did you review the
topics you studied with me?”
With a frown, Akshay retorted, “Yes, Einstein. I didn’t get time
to delve into other areas. Therefore, I am grazing over them now for
the first and last time.”
Ananya walked towards his seat. He sat comfortably and closed
his eyes to center all his energies in the present and dust off the
commotion of the surroundings. It was then that a familiar voice hit
his eardrums, dissolving his peaceful state swiftly. The examination
supervisor was none other than Mr. Prakash.
An insidious idea instantly devised in Ananya’s head, and while
he smiled at his chemistry companion, he sniggered at the elaborate
play of the Universe, which had provided him the opportune moment
to meet the Abysmal Aunt today. The moment he got hold of the exam
paper, he was stunned to notice that each and every question was
borrowed from the portions of the syllabus which had been stealthily
extracted by him. He looked towards Akshay, who, with joined hands,
smiled like a father who had just been relieved of dowry.
Ananya acknowledged his thanks and raced his hand over the
answer sheet. The only resistance he was facing was between the tip of
his ballpoint pen and texture of the paper. He didn’t segregate questions
based on their difficulty level; rather, he proceeded sequentially to ease
the job of Professor Vinay. He looked at the clock and saw that twenty
minutes had passed, and he just had one question left which carried
three marks. He pondered it for a minute and decided just to leave it,
299
since it was better to score less and go unnoticed than score full marks
and become suspicious. He handed the answer sheet to Prakash with
forty minutes to spare, and sprinted towards his atomic interaction
arena. He wanted to utilize the circumstantial stringent conditions
imposed over Prakash and Akshay; hence, he promptly initiated the
precursor reaction that was going to ascend into a transcendental
interaction.
With eyes full of glee, and completely absorbed in the subsequent
transformation, Ananya’s craving for power and his curiosity towards
consciousness were steadily materializing the kaleidoscopic compound
which would demystify the hidden laws of the Universe and uncover
the obscure details of human nature. His eyes sparkled when he saw
the sunlight glistening through his phenomenal fluid, which soon was
going to disperse the light of human life into vibrant, vivid shades.
He checked his wristwatch, and with fifteen minutes to spare,
the curved edge of the test tube elicited the identical curvature over
his face. Therefore, he began reducing the distance between both with
every second, but the moment they made contact, his pants vibrated.
He put down the test tube with disdain and checked to see who had
disturbed him at such an auspicious hour.
Darn it! I taught him too much.
Ananya had two options: either he could bring the elongated glass
back up to his lips and embrace his true self, or pick up the phone and
delay his union. But despite being devoid of TPD, Ananya’s awareness
had ingrained in him that if a person desired a particular thing long
enough, then that vision would actualize itself—if not within the
stipulated timeline, then certainly in the near future.
Ananya answered the call and agreed to meet Akshay in five
minutes at the café, asking him to call Kanika, too. Meanwhile,
Ananya placed everything in order; he held on to the procured organic
psychedelic, and while putting back the scant distilled THC solution,
he realized that there was one concrete reason to meet the Abysmal
Aunt.
300
Contrary to the rapid pace at which he had entered the laboratory,
he took a slow stride to leave the premises. He walked towards the
cafeteria with the consciousness-expanding compound neatly placed
in his bag, and the moment he set foot inside, he was greeted with a
warm hug from Akshay.
There is no way I can acquire his level of encasing love and his
compassionate energy band.
Ananya was overwhelmed by how fervently Akshay spoke of
him. Seeing that his companion’s affection wasn’t a repayment for his
intelligence, but rather a humble expression of his faith in him, made
Ananya’s eyes well with tears.
Kanika listened eagerly to the tale of triumph, whereas Ananya
stayed mum, smiling on the surface because of the limited application
of his unrestrained ultimate drug. He didn’t express displeasure over
the suggestion of indulgence in the Hudson lane, and wholeheartedly
accompanied his sincere friends.
Ananya later bade goodbye to his companions and with a heavy
heart proceeded to his room. The enduring time spent with them made
him realize how easy it was to attach oneself, but equally difficult to
detach. Upon reaching the room, he sat in the sacred lotus posture,
calmed his breath, and slowed his thought process before sipping the
supernal serum. The moment his tongue lapped in the celestial solution,
his body was reinvigorated by the divine power it had been deprived
for so long. Before even arriving at the peak of his cosmic experience,
his mind had attained a heightened state of awareness, much like the
pleasure of foreplay worked as a prelude to the uplifting orgasm.
He remained still and let the droplets travel the throat and further
down below, where they atomized their existence in the bid to cut
through the veil of ignorance. He began observing with his gentle
mental state the cracked corner of his window pane, which passed the
light through its narrow slit and showcased those tiny particles in a
stream of limelight, much like the day when he had been introduced to
the immense pool of knowledge in the library.
301
As the serum progressed further into his veins, so did his ability
to introspect. He began associating the evident effect with the display
of a feature film in theatres, in which the light from the projector was
flashed upon the screen, and the brief drama was played over and over
again. It was like a cosmic cinema, whose shows were perpetually
played by humans as actors, but were directed by the Creator. But
upon having both a director and actors, the crucial question was: Who
was the audience in this eternal motion picture?
It is fairly easier to notice other’s faults than observe thyself; it
is part of human nature to scrutinize the acts of others while staying
entwined in one’s tendencies. But this is the point at which the story
takes a different turn; one ought to realize the importance of his or her
individual script—why are they endowed with that particular role—
and eventually anticipate the plot before the climax concludes.
Ananya absorbed like a sponge his prompt realization, and
internalized the unspoken truth that each person was born with a
purpose; hence, the only two important days were the day a person
took birth and the day his or her rebirth occurred with this awareness.
As Ananya’s feet advanced towards the Abysmal Aunt’s home,
so did the vivifying blood in his veins. While treading the same path
for probably the millionth time, he noticed a positive change in the
weather. The glaring sun had been eclipsed by water-bearing clouds
which brought a cool breeze, and after a long while—perhaps since
his separation from Anushree—a possibility of rainfall, as well. He
entered the Aunt’s street and almost immediately the dust-laced wind
gained momentum and hence temporarily deprived Ananya of any sort
of discerning ability.
He knocked on the clay-brown door and entered the multicolored
dimension with his revived vision. He didn’t decipher the Aunt
straightaway, since, as usual, his attention was diverted by the
innocuous image of the younger version of the bulky lady. For the first
time, he noticed a couple standing behind her in the picture, equally
delighted. There was a woman with a snow-white complexion wearing
a hijab next to a dusky-toned man.

302
As he advanced, he smelled the similar funky stench, the kind
he’d experienced around Anushree when she lit her doobie. The Aunt
walked in with her smoking pipe, leaving a stream of smoke behind
her from the burning cannabis. She moved around inside the premises
to bring Ananya’s once-cherished companion’s adored compound;
meanwhile, he sat on the couch and noticed the holy book of Islam
in front of him. With reverence, he held the Koran and opened it
randomly to curb his curiosity.
Ananya was distinctively picking his favorite stanzas when
the Aunt came back in, and perceiving an unexpected gesture from
a customer, sat in front of him and said, “This is one of the most
calamitous books in human history; imbibe the ideas carefully.”
Ananya, lost in the angelic interpretation of the poetic verses,
said, “I’m sorry?”
The Aunt put the raw cannabis into the burning chamber of the
pipe, and after inflating a reefer-enriched smoke balloon, expounded,
“Every religious text is subject to interpretation, and due to some
feeble-minded people and some with nefarious intentions, the majority
of the world has been divided between Islamophobics and Islamic
extremists—which are opposite sides of the same coin and equally
harmful in nature.”
While Ananya was listening to his peddler’s words of wisdom,
his eyes were scrutinizing the energy pattern coating the person under
the layers of fat. He saw a continual dissonance in her heart chakra,
which emitted a pickle-green shade as opposed to the lime green of
hemp in front. He sensed a deep-seated seed of unfulfillment, and with
his elevated intuition framed an opinion using a verse of the Koran.
“Humanity is but a single brotherhood. So, one ought to make peace
with their brethren. Koran verse forty-nine, ten.”
The Aunt’s voice became slightly moist and moderately enraged.
She rebuked, “Do you think when a terrorist picks up his rifle to
shoot in the name of Islam, or when a government anxiously attacks
the innocent, they have any idea of the messages about love and
compassion from this book?”
303
Ananya’s intuition was probing in the right direction; the Aunt
had been a victim of violence. He added, “Follow not the lusts of your
hearts, lest ye swerve, and if ye distort justice or decline to do justice,
verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do. Koran verse four,
one hundred thirty-five.”
The Abysmal Aunt lost her composure at that point. She shouted,
“What justice can Allah give to a girl whose parents were taken
away from her when she was just a teenager? What kind of judgment
can Allah provide for a girl who has to learn to make a living when
her education had only reached the extent of basic addition and
subtraction?”
Ananya noticed tears rolling down the Aunt’s eyes, and saw the
uniform dissonance pulsating vigorously, as if his words had been
directed at the harp of her heartache. He came close to the lady, put the
crushed cannabis leaves into the cavity of the pipe, and while handling
it, placed his other hand on her shoulder. He softly said, “So, the girl
in the photo frame is none but you.”
The weed vendor drained all her pain. She narrated her life
history; she told of how she had been born in Iraq with an Iraqi
mother and Indian father, but after subsequent wars stretching over
a decade, and the undesirable interference of a foreign nation, the
country was left in chaos and irreversible ruins. Aasia (for that was
the Abysmal Aunt’s name) was able to come to India with the help
of her father’s relatives upon the overthrow of the disputed dictator.
His downfall had been followed by the death of her parents at the
hands of insurgents.
Ananya noticed that while she was stating her experience, the
progression of those disharmonious vibrations reached a peak and
eventually subsided. The induced effect might have been permanent or
temporary, but it was an outcome of Ananya’s efforts nonetheless. He
picked up the parakeet-green sachet, and after handing her the money,
quoted the Koran once more. “Allah doesn’t burden a soul more than
it can afford. Koran verse two, two hundred eighty-six.”

304
Aasia sheepishly smiled. She took the sachet from Ananya’s hand,
and again went inside the room. She brought back a pack containing
brighter green buds with hues of purple in them, and said, “Thank
you.”
Ananya cheerfully took hold of the pack and proceeded out of her
apartment. He began contemplating the whole episode, and realized that
if he directed his attention to a person’s deep-rooted discontentment—
if he responded harmoniously to what an individual sought eagerly—
then it would naturally give him power over their decision making.
He could tilt their regained sense of well-being to his advantage, and
the person would instinctively concede in compliance. All he had to
do was unearth the subtle expressions of their displeasure, and after
striking the right string on the harp, he could play any sort of music he
desired. This proved to be another arrow in the quiver that augmented
his strength, which in turn gave him unlimited power at his fingertips
through the liberation liquid over his lips.
The street had become damp with drizzling, and with the apt
placement of clouds, the effect was soon amplified. Ananya pushed
the sealed sachet deeper into his pockets and picked up his pace, but
the rain had an edge over him and he was forced to take shelter and
observe the nature’s beloved recreational activity. He observed the
illustrious display of colors whenever those heavenly drops interacted
with every breathing baby of Mother Nature, and felt the earth beneath
him breathing calmly, much like the revered exercise of pranayama.
Rainfall pumped a fresh life force into every vein with each droplet.
He noticed a drain clogged with plastic products and immediately
felt distressed, since like that blocked duct, Earth’s respiration was
hindered by millions of tons of that synthetic compound. It was
purgatory for Mother to have such impudent children that for their
temporal needs they made her suffer eternally. They unwittingly choked
her of all the life-affirming nutrients, and her persistent decaying
ability was ineffective against the most resistant of compounds. He
wondered whether things would have been much simpler if Earth could

305
decompose plastic as well, and then a corresponding idea appeared in
his head, followed by a smile. He walked in the rain, carefree, with the
intention to research on the discovered concept, while he bathed in the
revitalizing beads of water.
The moment Ananya reached the room, he engaged in surfing
cyberspace. He was glad that his acquired notion was researched only
to an extent, which gave him a scope for further experimentation and
enhancement. He visualized the pathway upon which to proceed, and
waited for the next day when he would put it all to the test.
The day after the examination was the most adored day for
everyone; each student became overjoyed with the fact that a weight
had been lifted over their head—only to be put on later. The crowd
was displaced from library to cafeteria; the glances focused on
sterile text shifted to the opposite sex, but there was one scholar who
wasn’t bothered by the slightest change in the ambience. Ananya had
straightaway progressed towards the laboratory and engaged in the
synthesis of the first of two compounds, in hopes that he would rid the
world of the offensive plastic.
With yesterday’s guidance from the divine drink, Ananya
was able to proceed along the envisioned course and disrupted his
concentration only when his physical body demanded it. Akin to the
engagement witnessed by the time of procuring the perfect drug, this
time also he was entirely absorbed in the synthesis of the mythical
molecule.
Seeing Ananya involved once again to the hilt, Prakash said,
“College is about to wrap up. I am afraid I have to leave now.”
Ananya blurted, “Don’t worry, sir. I will lock the laboratory after
you.”
Ananya bit his tongue when those words left his mouth. He had
practically just said that he would lock the lab without any of the
apprentice’s assistance. But fortunately Prakash wasn’t bothered by
such a slip of the tongue and he countered, “When the key is with me,
how would you?”
306
He placed the keychain adjacent to Ananya and said: “Make sure
all the windows are locked, too; we don’t want a visit by the curious
cat.”
Ananya responded with a smile and bid him goodbye. He felt
embarrassed at that moment that he’d had to opt for the shallow path
earlier, while he got all the support he needed without asking. He didn’t
delve in self-pity, since it wasn’t a daily affair that Prakash would
leave the lab in his absence. Ananya continued creating a compound
with enhanced efficiency—the by-product of a naturally occurring
pathogen whose life’s goal was to feed on plastic.
With his impeccable intuition and keen concentration, he finally
materialized the quintessential component. He marveled at his creation
but didn’t ponder over it too much, since his favorite synthesis was yet
to begin. He swiftly reorganized his workstation and engaged in the
creation of his revered perfect drug.
He initiated the process to which even his hands had grown
accustomed, and synthesized the supernal serum in the fraction of the
time spent on it earlier. He took a portion with him while he kept the
rest in the refrigerator, securely placed and safely labeled where none
could guess the endless power of that odorless liquid.
Ananya reached his apartment huffing and puffing; firstly, he
emptied his bladder, and then he sat in the cross-legged posture to
empty his mind. He knew what he sought eagerly could only be
revealed by the transcendental imagination infused by a novel cosmic
realization; he sipped the enchanting elixir and waited for the drug to
transfuse his veins and subsequently lift the grand Universal veil.
Ananya’s mind drifted to the predictable nature of average
scholars, that how dependable their mental state was upon extrinsic
circumstances. They succumbed to the fear projected by the situation
and their ephemeral freedom was gripped by their yearning for
indulgence. On the contrary, he had conquered both. The fearless state
was acquired from his divine realizations and the triumph over instant
gratification through his continual discretion.
307
The current vulnerability laid in his Manipura chakra, which
could only be quenched by the resoluteness of his purpose. Ananya
had earlier deployed the power of faith in convincing himself that his
superconscious state was the combined result of his wound as well
as the conjured TPD. This power was further reiterated when he’d
visualized the first reagent of his plastic predator, and later materialized
it. Now for the second one—he gathered all his knowledge and
projected it over the screen of his mind. He began manipulating it
with his vivid imagination; hence, the elementary skill was about to
become fundamental now. He noted all the relevant bits in his log and
interrupted his self-induced trance only when he had concocted the
appropriate compound.
Ananya had been smitten by the idea of passive income, ever since
he heard about it from his uncle. It was just a matter of time before his
subconscious mind responded to the conscious mind’s craving. He had
come outside and was scanning the crowd when he noticed something
odd. The area around the university was populated by competitive
eatery joints, and unknown to them, their influence was limited due
to their stationary placement. An idea—though in its incipient stage—
made an appearance in his mind, and presented him with a plan that
could cause him to sail through the roaring competition.
Ananya smiled malevolently, thinking how unique he was in the
inception of yet another vision. He felt intoxicated with power over the
lifeforms that shared the same genetic code with him. He saw himself
as the next evolutionary step, and perceived his presence as a demigod
amongst commoners. Ananya became overwhelmed with the fact that
his understanding of the world was way ahead of that of his peers, and
hence the path for the prosperity of the planet must be followed either
with assertion or coercion.
Ananya went towards the shack, where he relished his taste buds
in coconut water, but directed the servant just through his gaze that
he would require the cream after relinquishing the energizing drink.
Ananya was paid a visit by some of his old acquaintances, of whom he
had little recollection, but they remembered him fondly.
308
I didn’t know my reputation would precede me in so early a stage
of my career, Ananya thought.
With the exchange of fleeting information, Ananya realized
that they were part of his Model United Nations Circle. They were
interacting casually when an individual threw a plastic tumbler on the
ground, as if it would take care of itself. Ananya’s exalted perception,
laced with unwavering control, didn’t budge him to spoon-feed the
basic environmental etiquettes; he just sharply retorted, “You know
what the dilemma of our present era is? We think we inherit Earth
from our ancestors instead of borrow it from the future generation.”
Ananya gazed at him piercingly, as if addressing his conscience
directly, and let the lingering silence accompany his strained eyebrows.
The person, taken aback, tried to steal away from his gaze, but
when the tumbler reverted in motion and touched his toe, he was bound
to get up and place it in the bin with its other soiled cousins. When
he sat again, Ananya sensed immense servility in his expression, and
the rest of the group aligned themselves towards him obsequiously as
well. The change wasn’t perceptible on the physical plane; rather, it
was astral plane over which Ananya had outright authority. Two quotes
from M.K. Gandhi flashed before Ananya’s mind which encapsulated
the whole episode. The first was, “Be the change you wish to see in the
word,” and the second, “The weight over conscience is the heaviest of
them all.”
And if I could place that enormous load, only to put it away by
myself later, then the person would forever be submissive toward me,
he conjured wickedly.
The conservation drifted towards the major troubles that plagued
the world which could be classified under the singular phenomenon of
the crisis of consciousness. The conversation transformed into a one-
man’s rapturous discourse, perceived by shining eyes, signifying how
highly Ananya was revered.
Ananya felt a bit drunk with power, yet pacified. He was
intoxicated by the complete control with which he could alter people’s
309
perceptions and change the flow of the Universe accordingly. At the
same time, he was satisfied by the understanding of his fellow mates,
who unconsciously calibrated themselves towards a peaceful living
aligned to the harmonious functioning of the cosmic consciousness.
Ananya excused himself when he felt that his ego had been stroked
enough. Upon reaching his room, he penned all his observations and
slept with excitement for the following day. He would have cherished
the dream of his spiritual self, but it seemed true what the Almighty
had cautioned beforehand—that his each and every decision would
mold his fate and the destiny of the planet concurrently.

Ananya proceeded towards the college, this time devoid of his supernal
serum. As a mark of mischief, however, he fed the compound cat some
of that fabulous fluid. The cat drank the mystical milk while waving
her tail, and uttered her one beloved phrase to bestow her gratitude. He
went to the class where his masculine companion awaited him, and he
had adorned a wicked grin. When Ananya came to know that results
of the organic exam were going to be announced, he also donned
the same expression; but in his case, it stemmed from foreseeing the
future.
Vinay entered the class; his body language expressed how deeply
dissatisfied he was with class’ performance. He separated the answer
sheet into two sets—one for those who had passed, and one for the
others who did not. He then initiated a monologue whose sole purpose
was to criticize student’s lifestyles rather than question their intellect.
Students who had become immune to such humiliation prayed their
hearts out for the favorable placement of their answer sheets.
Vinay started distributing the sheets in increasing order of marks,
and after finishing the “FAIL” set, proceeded towards the “PASS” set
with no alteration in his expression. The first copy delivered was of
Ritika, who breathed a sigh of relief, and Ananya, through the corner

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of his eye, scanned how subtly and sensually the curvature of her
perky breasts inflated and again relaxed.
The professor continued distributing copies, supplemented by
stark replies, and slowed down only when the last five copies were
left. He distributed the first three with terse positive remarks, and
then came Akshay’s turn. Vinay criticized him for his handwriting,
but congratulated him for scoring above his expectations. He then
picked Ananya’s copy up and showed it to everyone, saying that in
this manner should a paper be attempted. He bathed Ananya with
affirmative words, but in the end teased him that he hadn’t attempted
the last question, for at least then he would have been awarded some
marks.
Gosh! You are so naïve, sir, Ananya answered telepathically.
Akshay had earned five marks less than Ananya, and still he
scanned his companion’s copy as if he wanted to nullify that difference
as well. Ananya, sensing Akshay’s enthusiasm, whispered, “Don’t be
so ecstatic; next lecture is in physical.”
Vinay left the classroom to attend to a phone call, and meanwhile
every person from the “FAIL” set crowded around Ananya’s desk
to have a peek at his answer sheet. Ananya felt overwhelmed by the
control he had over others, and exploited the opportunity to tease the
most alluring ladies of the class. The professor came back soon and
scolded everyone for their childlike attitude, and then left abruptly
after collecting all the copies.
Ananya was about to continue the conversation with those
bewitching beauties when the physical chemistry lecturer arrived,
interrupting the future prospect of any physical interaction. The
professor relieved everyone that none of them had failed, though he
wasn’t satisfied by the class’ performance. The professor, too, had
arranged the copies in similar increasing order, as if humiliation was
part of the St. Stephen’s legacy. He began announcing the names of
students and their respective score, and first in line was Ananya, swiftly
followed by Akshay. The whole class erupted in laughter, while both

311
boys sheepishly smiled. After taking hold of his sheet, Ananya’s eyes
inadvertently progressed towards Ritika. She expressed her warmth,
but the moment he winked, her smile broadened—showcasing those
extra incisors.
He stubbed his need for sensual pleasure, and while his mate
scanned his copy to extract a few more marks, Ananya tightened his
resolve to not let the vital life force go down into lower-order chakras
and invite pain sugarcoated with pleasure. The lecture advanced
predictably whilst Ananya longed for his atomic interaction arena. He
sprang from his seat when the bell rang, but was at the same time
stopped by Akshay to wait for inorganic.
The pleading eyes and genuine friendship transformed Ananya’s
decision, and he stayed. Akshay smiled like a split watermelon, and
though it was unsettling to stare at it, it was wonderful to be in the
presence of the same. Fortunately, in the lecture of inorganic, the
amigos went unnoticed, and with above average marks, they gleefully
advanced towards cafeteria.
Both feasted like cavemen who had hunted an elephant after
days of starvation. Ananya felt inclined to discontinue the analysis for
that day, but his goal compelled him to rise from his seat and move
towards the laboratory, since any sort of enjoyment would have to be
purchased, not earned.
Ananya bid Akshay goodbye and winked at him, saying that
soon he would know all about his coveted research. The part I wish
to let him know, anyway, Ananya thought to himself. He entered the
confines of his elemental exploration, and straightaway proceeded
towards conjuring the second compound. He strictly followed the
commands of his subconscious mind, which had received guidance
from its infinite source. He didn’t take his eyes off the apparatus until
he became convinced that his envisioned path was being actualized.
Ananya only sensed the perceptible change in lab’s brightness
when evening was about to approach. He was on the verge of
synthesizing the compound when a hand landed on his shoulder,
startling him to the bone.

312
Ananya was glad that the catastrophe of the perfect drug
preparation wasn’t repeated. He inquired with agitation, “Is something
important, sir?”
Prakash, with firmness replied, “Yes.”
“Ananya, it has been quite a while since you became engaged
in your research. I have little to no idea what you are doing, and I am
afraid I must demand an explanation at this point.”
Ananya’s aggression dropped and adopted a pitiful expression.
He asked, “Sir, please, could you give me a few days? I promise I will
describe it to you in the most intricate detail.”
Prakash didn’t budge. “No. Do you know how many students
have applied for research under me because they feel this as an escape
from academics? I only offered it to you in the first place because I
was aware of your skill set and talent.”
“All right, sir. Just give me until the end of the day; then I shall
prove to you why you decided to present me with this incredible
opportunity.”
Prakash didn’t mind waiting for a few hours, and since Ananya
was a sincere student, he left quietly without any further disruption.
Ananya felt relieved, and laughed at the corollary that Prakash had
been kept in darkness for so long and soon was finally going to be
illuminated.
Ananya completed the rest of synthesis with no trouble, and
arranged both compounds in a temperature-controlled apparatus,
where they interacted with their arch enemy: plastic. Prakash was
gazing out the window when he heard approaching footsteps swiftly
accompanied by the brisk movement of the chair, and the moment he
gyrated his neck, Ananya was already sitting in front of him to fill his
cup of curiosity.
“Sir, you must know about ideonella sakaiensis, the recently
discovered bacteria that feeds on plastic.

313
Prakash responded tersely, “I am aware of it. Go on.”
Ananya sensed coldness for the first time from him, yet continued
nonetheless. Had he ingested the perfect drug, he would have sensed
a dissonance from Prakash arising from an accusation by some staff
members, who had noticed Ananya leaving the college at late hours.
Ananya proceeded calmly, “The action of the bacteria progresses
with two chemical enzymes, PETH_IDESA and MHETH_IDESA,
where it takes approximately six weeks for it to reduce the antagonistic
plastic into the environmentally-friendly monomers terephthalic acid
and ethylene glycol.”
Ananya took a brief dramatic pause and continued, “If we tweak
the action mechanism of these agents of elimination, then we can
enhance their workings and eradicate the plastic polymers in four or
maybe three weeks.”
Prakash’s eyes grew full of anticipation; he forgot the accusing
words of those detestable teachers and asked, “In how many weeks do
you propose to decompose the plastic?”
Ananya smiled slyly and said, “Two weeks.”
He passed the professor a paper on which he had written all
the reactions necessary to contrive the desired compounds. Prakash
was puzzled as to how and where Ananya had acquired this level of
accuracy; Ananya then asked Prakash to come with him.
Ananya had constructed an apparatus whose inside temperature
was kept at forty-five degrees Celsius. The interaction with MHETH_
IDESA could only begin when PETH_IDESA has done its work and
reduced the resistant plastic to the reaction intermediate: mono(2-
hydroxyethyl) terephthalic acid. Prakash’s eyes were glued to the
organized equipment; Ananya came near to him and whispered, “I
hope this justifies your decision to grant me permission to work under
your supervision.”
Prakash smiled like a star on the darkest night. He patted Ananya’s
back a few times until he gained the satisfaction of displacing him
314
from his position while reinstating his faith in him, and said, “I would
be looking at this apparatus more than I look out the window.”
Both men chuckled and discussed the formalities regarding the
successful execution of a breathtaking innovation. Prakash assured
him that he would get all the credit he deserved, and patted his back
once more to reflect his heartfelt enthusiasm. They left the lab while
the freshly conjured compounds worked tirelessly, and both stole a last
glance from laboratory’s window like a lover bereaved of his beloved.
They entered the college compound and Ananya directed their
gaze to lab’s window. He said, “Look, sir, I bet some students must
check you out while you gaze at them.”
Prakash guffawed; he stood at his observation spot and stared; he
got lost in his critical thinking, which was interrupted when he heard
that abominable meow. He saw that Ananya was caressing the cat,
who, in response, was purring.
Prakash began to shoo away the elliptical-eyed creature. He
seemed least satisfied with her presence and started shouting towards
the guard to drive her away for good.
“Calm down, sir she may be curious by nature, but she is docile
by character. She means no harm.”
Prakash countered, “You don’t know what mayhem she caused in
the laboratory the other day.”
Ananya chortled and replied, “I bet she has found what she was
looking for.”
He took Prakash towards the gate while the cat stood motionless
with a stiff posterior and beseeching eyes. She was probably asking for
another dose of the enchanting elixir, while at the same time warning
Ananya of the tightrope he was walking on, constantly striking balance
between insanity and ingenuity.
Ananya proceeded to his room. He laid on the bed and wondered
how this would change things around college. But beyond that, what

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he yearned to witness was a cleansing revolution which would dawn
the era of an aware society. He contemplated his approach of acquiring
passive income, and until now he had reached the notion of mobile
meal provision in the form of a food truck, with an added alteration
much like his plastic erodent. Still, he was displeased with himself.
Like the novelty of his two breathtaking discoveries, which
were never before witnessed by mankind, he longed for an absolute
monopoly in his business venture as well. There was not an iota
of doubt that after the introduction of food trucks, people would
altogether stop going to anchored outlets, and he ought to figure out a
way to turn their heads even then.
Ananya had noticed a peculiar flaw in the way society worked; it
always looked down upon people who preferred fresh companionship.
They had to opt for either bars or concerts, and both were underplayed
by a dynamic environment where things escalated swiftly. He wanted
to create a setting n which a person, though moved by his instinct, was
later able to exercise his rationale.
A vision began to form in his mind; he wanted to take care of the
needs of single people. With fatigue plaguing his conscious thinking,
unable to contemplate further, Ananya slipped into the promise of the
illustrious vision.
Ananya woke up at a time convenient enough to not only
accommodate his morning routine, but his morning high as well.
But like every funkadelic fanatic on the planet, he witnessed an
inner turmoil in which his reason and impulse fought one another
on the question of whether or not he should ride the vibrant wave
of vivifying colors. The turbulence paralyzed him temporarily, and
he couldn’t think straight at that moment. He ultimately succumbed
to the temptation, thinking that maybe his intuition wanted to reveal
something to him and that was why he felt so compelled to ingest the
perfect drug.
Ananya placed himself in the lotus posture. He gulped down the
liberation liquid and prepared himself for ephemeral salvation from
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this mortal association. The moment that phenomenal fluid diffused
into his veins, his mind went back to moments before in time, and his
introspection began to scrutinize his dilemma with divine intervention.
Unlike the old-fashioned concept that stated there were two
voices within humans, one of good and another of evil, in reality,
the voices weren’t good or evil per se; rather, they were the instant
pleasure seeker and the latent joy delver. Humans were driven by
desire; were there to be no desire, human existence and subsistence
would come under great peril. It was equally unethical if one were to
pick an option that in distant future sabotaged someone’s happiness
and freedom, and understandably appropriate if yielding to temptation
revealed a prosperous outcome.
Ananya proceeded to the college with nothing to expect, but
everything to inspect and introspect. He bumped into the cat but
denied her the supernal serum with which he was pulsating vibrantly.
He met Kanika and Akshay, and noticed the genuine summoning
of positive vibes in their encasing energies. He smiled like a Cheshire
cat and was waiting to be asked, but when none of his friends could
take the hint, he blurted out, “You know, my two true friends badly
wanted to know about my research, but it seems like they are not
interested anymore.”
They expressed their curiosity towards his research, which he
quenched by saying, “How great it would be if all the plastic in this
world could be decomposed in a matter of days.”
Now, both his mates exchanged an exasperated expression
and Ananya couldn’t help but chuckle. He continued, “Through my
research, I created two compounds whose consecutive reaction would
break down polyethylene terephthalate in two weeks.” He paused
for effect, and then went on, “I believe if further experimentation
is conducted in this field, then not only could those two weeks be
reduced, but other polymers of plastic could be annihilated with
similar efficiency.”

317
Akshay applauded Ananya’s achievement, while Kanika smiled
at him and said, “It is a privilege to be friends with you.”
Ananya beamed back and retorted, “I am honored to enjoy that
privilege.”
Kanika couldn’t stop grinning and asked what had been nagging
her for so long. “But why didn’t you confide in us the topic of your
research?”
Ananya breathed deeply and spoke calmly “Whenever a person is
doing something out of his comfort zone, he must never share unless
the success is imminent. You tell me, Kank. Have you shown us your
first drafts of artwork or revealed to us your most cherished creations?”
Kanika grew silent; she knew Ananya couldn’t be more accurate.
Ananya broke the tension. “Let’s go out and treat ourselves.”
The clock directed students to go to their respective classes, but
those Three Musketeers went on their own path. He took them to a
gem neatly concealed amongst more ostentatious food joints, which
had been introduced to him by the only Mirandian with whom he was
in touch now, Bharti.
The three amigos engaged in their age-old indulgence routine,
but Ananya couldn’t help but recall his previous night’s conundrum.
He looked all around the place, and there was once again not a single
soul who had come by himself. All the people were immersed in their
groups, isolated from each other and limited to the confines of their
social periphery. It was then, in his elevated state that it flashed upon
his mind like lightning over the calm sky, like enlightenment to a yogi.
The epiphanic moment revealed to him how he would provide enticing
cuisine with cherishing company in a manner never before witnessed
by the young generations.
After the meal, the trio proceeded to college—the chemistry
laboratory, to be precise. Ananya had promised to showcase his beloved
compounds at play, and while traversing the corridor, he hopped like a
kid on caffeine. He reached the laboratory and saw a crowd of elderly

318
people around the apparatus; he stopped before entering the lab while
Kanika and Akshay approached him.
Akshay unveiled to him that one of them was head of the chemistry
department, while the other was the dean. He was describing the other
two chemistry professors but Ananya recognized them instantly, since
they were the ones who had taken Ananya’s interview for chemistry
admission into St. Stephen’s. Ananya was scrutinizing their energy
bands and everyone was showering compassion except the chemistry
head, who was envious. Ananya noticed one peculiar thing as well: the
plastic bottle he had placed there for decomposition was diminishing
at a faster rate.
If it is going to disintegrate at this rate, then it will decompose
much sooner than two weeks, perhaps…
Ananya smiled diabolically and strode inside the laboratory like a
lion coming home to his den. He knew he had exceeded even his own
expectations and any mortal questioning his methods would be put to
test, against his own existence. He sauntered towards his victims and
upon bowing before all, he was ready to pulverize his prey’s ego. He
stealthily aligned the two professors to his cause, and with Prakash
continuously pouring on words of praise for him, he only had to speak
when Prakash couldn’t proceed.
The dean was a reticent person who was absorbing everything
like a sponge. He was making note of how cynical the head was
acting towards such an ingenious breakthrough, but being a person
of science, he couldn’t interrupt the questions of skepticism. When
Ananya couldn’t quench the head’s thirst for knowledge, he directed
his baseless arguments towards the other two professors, who chortled
on his hesitation. Ananya could sense how uneasy the chemistry head
was getting, which stemmed from his resisting the fact that a child
a fraction of his age could conjure a compound that could alter the
progress of a century.
The head uttered, “Besides the obvious outputs of your compound,
I believe it releases carbon dioxide as well; and since that is already
319
causing enough warming of the planet, I don’t think it would be
commercially viable, if that is the case.”
The elderly crowd at the periphery and the younger ones at
boundary stood still. It was a question which could only be answered
by Ananya. The boy in the limelight had been completely caught off
guard. He was aware that carbon dioxide would be released as a by-
product, but he couldn’t foresee that on an industrial scale this would
cause problems.
Ananya held his ground, breathed in deeply, and retorted, “I am
afraid you have forgotten, sir that a specific species has been created
to soak up this foul air which manifested on this planet long before
us, and I don’t think we should stop planting trees at any cost. On
the contrary, the disintegrated compounds of PET, ethylene glycol
and terephthalic acid, are derived from petroleum, and since we
would have them already, I think it would substantially reduce our
dependence on them. Hence, it would significantly lower the current
carbon emission.”
The dean became overjoyed with Ananya’s witty, yet insightful,
reply, and patted him on his shoulder to assure him that Ananya had
his full support. The dean talked and everyone listened in obeisance.
In the end, he concluded, “If your contrived compounds can reduce
this evasive plastic within two weeks, then we shall honor you in front
of the whole chemistry department.”
Ananya teased, “What if it is reduced way before then?”
The dean chuckled and retorted, “Then we shall accolade you in
front of the whole college.”
Ananya smiled as to how the dean himself initiated a college-
level event. All the professors walked out of the lab with Prakash,
while both of Ananya’s mates walked in and marveled at the precise
alignment of the apparatus.
Prakash walked in and said, “I have never seen our dean this
happy before.”

320
Ananya responded, “Nor have I seen you this happy, either, sir.”
While Kanika and Akshay were engrossed in the mystical
manipulation of molecules, Ananya approached Prakash and revealed
his observation. The apprentice was astonished to realize the enhanced
efficiency, and hence asked, “Why didn’t you tell me in front of
everyone?”
Ananya shyly responded, “I believe surprises are better than
promises; for all we know, the reaction might stop in between, and I
wouldn’t like someone to disgrace you because of me.”
Prakash marveled at his student’s maturity, and then politely
asked all of them to leave since a class had an examination. The
Three Musketeers, instead of proceeding to their classroom, preferred
ditching college for rest of the day, and proceeded out of the college
compound.
Since the weekend had arrived, Ananya was eager to go his aunt’s
home.When this state of mind was revealed, it was natural for it to
be augmented by Kanika and Akshay. After a little nagging, Ananya
conceded. Of all the people he knew, these two were the ones he
would most like to introduce to his family; also, it was wise for his
achievement to come from someone else’s mouth.
The effect of the drug had worn off partially, and Ananya was
thrilled for the mini-get-together. He had informed his Aunt that his
friends were coming, and she received the news of the early arrival of
him and his acquaintances merrily.

Pallavi graciously welcomed Ananya and the company; she asked


them to sit comfortably, and out of curiosity inquired, “What is the
occasion?”
Her question worked as the cue which launched arrows in praise
of Ananya’s innovation. Kanika and Akshay completed each other’s
sentences and described the day’s events in the most intricate detail.
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As the progression continued, Ananya buried his face in his hands,
while Pallavi’s smile expanded. When they were done, Pallavi,
standing by Ananya’s side, caressed the back of his head as a gesture
of her motherly affection.
She inquired, “What would you like?”
Ananya kept mum, but his friends knew their common craving,
and unanimously said, “Aunty, momos and samosas, please.”
Pallavi proceeded towards kitchen, while Guddu entered the living
room, massaging her eyes. Kanika was lured by the lovable Lucifer
and welcomed her into her lap; she began gossiping with Guddu while
the boys started flipping channels. The feminine company proceeded
to Guddu’s embryonic artwork, whereas the masculine mates stayed
in the living room and began to talk about their future endeavors.
Akshay asked, “So what’s your next innovation going to be?”
Ananya was about to answer when his phone rang. It was Prateek.
He promptly replied, “Hi, Dad.”
Prateek replied with his energetic response, “Congratulations,
Son, on your phenomenal innovation.”
Ananya got up from his seat and looked inside the kitchen, where
Pallavi was still earnestly engaged.
You are super sleek, Bua!
Despite the fact that Prateek had commerce in the background, he
grasped the essence of Ananya’s research and couldn’t stop marveling
at his son’s invention. Ananya grew quiet when he heard words of
unbridled praise from his father, and requested that he not share the
news until the outcome was positive.
Prateek reassured him, “Don’t worry, son. I have complete faith
in your abilities.”
And I have absolute confidence in my liberation liquid.
“Thanks, Dad, I shall make you proud once more.”

322
“I am already proud of you, Ananya. I have longed to be addressed
as ‘father of Ananya,’ and I have a hunch that the moment has arrived.”
Ananya’s eyes grew moist when he heard that. He changed the
topic to inquire about his mother and how his father was taking care of
his health, and finally bade him goodbye on the promise that he would
tell him the outcome of his experiment. Ananya attempted to resume
the conversation and asked Akshay to repeat himself.
Akshay reiterated, “Your next innovation?”
Ananya chuckled and said, “I advance in the direction projected
by my exalted perception whenever my subconscious bestows an
unusual benediction. Though, at the current moment, I am eagerly
interested in making some money.”
Ananya described to Akshay the glorious vision of the food
truck, which could be taken anywhere across the University based on
scheduled lunch breaks of the particular college, or perhaps sway the
truck in the direction where a crowd was arriving, so as to interrupt
the journey between their rote cafes and predictable meals. He even
confided in his companion as to why their meals on wheels would be
a rare affair.
Ananya spoke in almost a whisper, “Our mouth has two kinds
of receptors—mechanoreceptors and chemoreceptors. They both are
responsible for the production of saliva in our mouth. Now tell me,
how do you judge if a food is delicious or not?”
“By tasting it?”
Ananya chortled and explained, “Of course, but precisely,
it is due to the amount of saliva produced in the mouth. While the
mechanoreceptors would produce saliva by any sort of mechanical
movement, chemoreceptors would make the person drool by the
acidic content in the food. Indian snacks mostly have tomatoes, which
contain oxalic acid and you know very well that any dish garnished
with lemon or vinegar sets our taste buds craving for more.”

323
If Ananya was a living demigod, then Akshay was his most revered
devotee. He regarded Ananya’s opinion as credible as prophecy from
an oracle, and now craved to be part of his vision more than ever.
Ananya accepted his assistance, since plunging into business all
by himself was neither his inclination nor his uncle’s suggestion. They
discussed other minute intricacies regarding workforce and artistry
over the food truck; meanwhile, Kanika walked in with Guddu,
leaving them to solve just one problem out of two.
The discussion shifted towards the angelic beast, where Kanika
propounded how immensely talented his sister was, culminating in
Guddu running towards the bedroom due to her childish timidity. In
the meantime, Pallavi brought samosas and momos assorted with their
respective chutney, whose mesmerizing aroma brought her back.
All four dug their teeth in deep, while their tongues started titillating
themselves with different compositions of similar ingredients. Kanika
finally broke the deafening silence by shrieking, “Aunty! The samosas
are delicious—especially the chutney!”
Pallavi came running to receive her affirming feedback, and after
Kanika, the other two also poured out their heartfelt gratitude. Pallavi
commented, “I added some imli in the chutney to enhance the taste.”
Ananya responded, “Tamarind contains tartaric acid,” and
winked at his companion. Akshay bowed to reflect his concurrence,
to which the “half-baked” became fully aware, and inquired, “Did I
miss something?”
Akshay consoled her, “I’ll tell you later on the metro.”
The triad conversed and crunched together for a little while,
and soon, with a heavy heart and a promise to return, Kanika and
Akshay departed. In the subway, Akshay shared with Kanika,
Ananya’s forthcoming ambition and her intricate role in the same. She
received the news of the novel concept and her active participation
cheerfully, and expressed her curiosity at what could be Ananya’s next
innovation—which were Akshay’s thoughts, as well.

324
Ananya lunged into his bed, and feeling relieved over his mobile
meal cart, he started pondering over his immobile business venture.
He required a physical place but didn’t know where to start. Hence
he closed his eyes and preferred to reap the harvest of his current
achievement, and leave other things to the Universe to reveal them at
its own pace.
Ananya woke up in evening, when he was rewarded with the
presence of his other two sisters. The instant they were acquainted
with the nature of Ananya’s accomplishment, they began to tease him
with an impromptu skit, in which Chinki ran around the house with a
polyethylene bag around her head, being chased by Minki, who acted
as Ananya’s corrosive reagent. Guddu played Ananya himself, who
stood in the center and commanded her executioner to exterminate the
icky material.
They enacted their ennobled roles with sincerity, but Ananya put
an end to the play since polythene wrapped around the face wasn’t his
idea of fun. Guddu tried to charge her assassin on the original creator,
but when Minki came closer, he picked her up and tickled her all over.
Guddu noticed the peculiar expression on her brother’s face, which
was an indication that she was going to meet a similar fate; hence, she
dashed away but it was of no use.
The voices of giggling and cackling echoed through the whole
living room, and Ananya only stopped when his sister begged him to.
She rebounded to her innate innocence and said, “I asked Mum to play
Mother Earth, but she denied.”
Ananya placed a peck on her forehead and proceeded towards
Pallavi to inquire about the cuisine for dinner, and while there, he
came to know about the arrival of his uncle the following day. Dinner
was served in no time, and despite the presence of his favorite
mushroom sabzi, he contemplated the meeting with Rajesh, which
would indirectly be his first business meeting. He was well aware that
Rajesh wouldn’t participate if there wasn’t self-interest involved, and
only thing he could offer was his fanciful vision. It was then that his
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mind conjured the image of his phenomenal fluid, which elicited a
wicked smile on his face.

The morning was spent in a blur with delicious cuisine barely tempting
him into indulgence, and even the afternoon meal was spent likewise.
He asked Pallavi once again, to which he was reassured that his uncle
would arrive around dusk. Ananya wanted to sip the supernal serum,
and the instant he sensed the zeal in his aunt to prepare evening snacks,
he was certain that Rajesh was on his way.
He bolted his room, sat in cross-legged stance, and uncorked the
bottle which rewarded the mortal with the eyesight of the Almighty.
He took two gulps down his throat and was ready to explore the virtues
and exploit the vices of another human being. But this time, instead
of embarking on the journey of self-realization, he walked towards
the mirror to perceive his energetic aura. He saw the invariable
electric field around his scar and noticed the chakra vibrations, which,
compared to earlier were calm. Upon close observation, he noticed
the subtle coordination both fields had between each other, as if the
acquired ideas through the causal plane, and carried ahead to the astral
plane for manifestation.
Now I understand why I am receiving innovative ideas at a
quicker pace than before.
He heard the high-pitched voices of his sisters, which indicated
the arrival of Rajesh. He unlatched the door and sat on his bed to let
the drama unfold, in which his most potent weapon was going to be
his self-induced composure, apart from the operating chakras.
Chinki came running towards her brother, and the reason for it
had been revealed to him several times yesterday. He greeted his uncle
and noticed beneath his physical fatigue an underlying dissonance.
Rajesh congratulated him briefly and advanced to have a shower,
assuring him that he would be back to talk at length.

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Ananya’s heart started beating furiously, since the vibrations of
his Manipura chakra weren’t stronger than Rajesh’s, he could still be
easily swayed away from the fulfillment of his goal.
Unless I could align Rajesh’s interests alongside mine and make
him arrive at my conclusion through my subtle suggestions.
The detestable ten minutes seemed to last an eternity, and even
playing with his “Barbie” didn’t quicken the pace of the clock hands.
Rajesh returned after twenty minutes, and Ananya was on the edge to
talk, or moreover, to extract some intelligence.
The instant Rajesh sat, Guddu shifted from her brother’s lap to her
father’s, leaving Ananya alone and abandoned. Ananya noticed that
dissonance still breathed a life of its own, making Ananya perform the
biggest blunder in conversation—starting a discussion on a negative
note.
He inquired, “Uncle, you appear worried. Is everything all right?”
Rajesh replied, “Yes, couldn’t complain. You say so? Seems like
I am sitting in front of an innovator.”
Dammit! How am I supposed to proceed if he won’t accept his
own discord?
“It is nothing like that, Uncle. I believe true success can only be
achieved if one completes the circuit in the manner that he gives back
to Earth, corresponding to his true potential.”
I have to improvise and try a different technique.
He propounded, “Uncle, you know that of the 8.3 billion metric
tons of plastic that have been produced, only nine percent of it has
been recycled? I believe this shall put recycling in a new perspective.”
Ananya noticed how his words were stimulating his uncle’s Ajna
chakra; he who was once a novel thinker now longed for ingenuity.
“This shall make you rich.”
“Uncle, I am less interested in becoming rich and more inclined
in making the planet more sustainable.”
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Ananya continued to pour out his vision, which Rajesh absorbed
like a sponge. He discussed how essential was the survival of the planet
so the generation after them could live in harmony. Ananya winked at
Guddu while stating the last line, making the she-devil change her lap
placement once more.
At that point, Rajesh got slightly sentimental and said, “I too used
to think along the same lines, but then I got entangled in my own
survival, and then later responsibilities of the family happened.”
He concluded, “Now, my business is everything, Ananya. I
perform charitable services whenever possible, but I am afraid that
my disposition to view things in terms of money has become an
obsession.”
Rajesh’s dissonance started gradually rising while his Ajna chakra
was still stimulated. Ananya’s new approach had started contributing
results; now all he had to do was input an insidious suggestion.
“Uncle, it is all right. Your greatest wealth is right here in my
hands; everybody works hard for their children.”
“Yes. No doubt about that.”
Rajesh supplemented, “I couldn’t agree with you more. There is a
place I own near the university which is lent to a fast food outlet—and
they haven’t paid their rent for months. I intend to lease it someone
else.”
That’s it! Stay calm, Ananya! He will sense desperation sooner
than you think.
Ananya suggested otherwise, “Don’t sweat yourself, Uncle. They
will pay the rent. It is not the first time they are delaying?”
Rajesh retorted, “No, they always do like that. I am tired of them
now.”
I see. I see quite literally, Ananya thought wickedly.
Ananya shared his grand scheme in which he intended to serve
single people and proffer them delicious cuisine and compatible

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company. He stressed on how a table entitled to serve just two people
would fetch more revenue, and once again aroused Rajesh’s third eye
chakra with his innovative idea involving noble gases and people’s
predilection towards colors.
Rajesh, taken aback by the abrupt proposal, stayed mum for a
few moments and then remarked, “I thought you said you weren’t
interested in making money.”
Ananya quickly corrected himself, “I said I was less interested,
not ‘not interested at all.’”
Rajesh chuckled and accepted his proposal, and assured him that
if the restaurant asked for the extension one more time, he would ask
them to leave. Ananya inquired the name of the fast food joint so that
he could leave no room for doubt by eventually spreading the rumor
of how atrocious and unhygienic their food was.
Ananya immersed himself in the positive vibes of the home. He
engaged himself in dollhouse play with his sister, got involved with
the wisdom of Chinki, and lastly, observed Minki, to rub off some of
her energy balance ability. After a hefty dinner, Ananya slipped into
slumber more quickly than he thought he would, and woke up later
than he expected. He knew that he had missed the lecture; therefore,
he preferred to treat himself with Pallavi’s cooking. After a sumptuous
breakfast, he left his aunt’s home, only after placing a peck on his
good luck charm’s cheek.
Ananya entered the college and noticed a slight change in people’s
perception of him. Their gaze seemed to linger on him as if he had
become an overnight celebrity. He was congratulated by two of his
acquaintances whom he had met during orientation, and he grasped
instantly what was happening.
Like the fragrance of a flower that couldn’t be concealed, the
intoxicating incense of his talent had started to be revealed. The
ambience in the corridors was awe-inspiring, as everyone looked at
Ananya with reverence and admiration. He overheard the fleeting

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phrases between scholars which started with “Do you know,” and
ended with “I didn’t know someone could achieve that.”
Ananya picked up pace before those words of flattery made him
complacent, and proceeded towards the cafeteria where Akshay and
Kanika waited. The greasy subdivision, which always witnessed the
utmost agitation and commotion, stood at a standstill the moment
Ananya entered. There were a few sycophants and grovelers that
approached Ananya to congratulate him in person, but Ananya
detested that.
Until then, his two true friends had been silent and were watching
the whole spectacle with bewilderment. Ananya, in a steadfast tone,
said, “Don’t you two ever become like them.”
Though both were smitten by Ananya’s unanticipated grandeur,
they knew deep down he was the same old unparalleled Ananya.
They teased him, saying that if the college was so mesmerized by his
presence, then Ritika must be weak in the knees when she saw him.
Ananya blushed at their remarks, and deviated the conversation
to the food truck, which was going to be their first infantile investment.
He was surprised at the extent of research Akshay had done, which
involved how to purchase an apt vehicle, a projection of profits, USPs
of food items, the difference between the prices of street vendors
and restaurants, and a well-outlined business plan. It undoubtedly
overshadowed the fantasy image Kanika had sketched on a piece of
paper, which she had drawn on the metro on her way to the college.
They began discussing the intricacies of the business and agreed
to start only when Ananya received the grant for his research. Ananya
then pointed the needle of his curiosity towards Kanika, who, due to
embarrassment, had buried her face in hands and the crushed paper in
her pocket. She utilized her extensive imagination to lull away their
rational minds into the atmosphere of heightened perception, and
assured them that when she was done with her artwork, people would
recognize their meals on wheels from a distance.

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Ananya recommended that she must create designs keeping
the colors yellow, orange and red in mind. He was well aware how
essential they were in the stimulation of the senses, which had been
verified time and time again.
The Three Musketeers ventured towards the laboratory. Upon
reaching they saw Prakash gaping at the apparatus instead of looking
out the window. Ananya entered the temple which once was going
to be his tomb, and teased, “Your staring isn’t going to make the
disintegration go any quicker, sir.”
“You were right, Ananya. The rate of decomposition is much
faster.”
“Three more days, if my calculations are correct.”
Prakash rolled his eyes in a way typical of a person doing
arithmetic in his head and commented, “But that amounts to just one
week.”
Ananya sheepishly smiled and nodded, while Prakash came
and hugged his beloved scholar. He directed the other two pupils in
the room to gain inspiration from him. Then he abruptly broke the
embrace and said, “I must inform the dean about this.”
Prakash was about to leave when he was interrupted by Ananya,
who said, “Don’t forget to remind him of his promise as well, sir.”
Prakash chuckled and proceeded with them, and when he had
locked the lab, Ananya stole a fleeting glance through the door window
to the progeny of his perfect drug, and wondered what other surprises
lay ahead on his path.
Kanika and Akshay speculated about what the conversation could
be between Prakash, Ananya, and the dean, but they weren’t even
close to the actual level of admiration bestowed on their companion.
Ananya stayed silent during the discussion, while joyfully remaining
the hot topic of the college’s gossip. However, he expressed himself
fully when the dean contacted Prateek by phone.

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The dean inquired, “Am I speaking to the father of Ananya?”
Prateek replied, “Yes.”
“I think you ought to know that your son has made history.”
The parent and teacher exchanged words of appreciation for the
scholar, and then Dean handed the phone to Ananya.
Ananya squealed, “Hi, Papa.”
Prateek roared, “Didn’t I tell you I would be addressed as ‘father
of Ananya’ soon?”
Those words instantly brought moisture to Ananya’s eyes. He had
never been so proud of his accomplishment, and his throat was choked
with emotion. The only phrase he could utter was, “Thanks, Dad.”

Ananya met up with his company and walked along Hudson lane to
research items for the food truck while he contemplated what his next
innovation would be. The amigos went to every known and secluded
spot of the university and prepared a list of the food items that would
tantalize the taste buds of the students. Ananya asked them to leave
space for Aunt Pallavi’s prized dishes, and recommended that the
ingredients of every meal must be counseled by her as well. The
suggestion was well received on both ends and soon they parted to
their individual paths.
The following day, the infection of his fame had spread even
further. The faces of men reflected submission and expressions of
women suggested wickedness; at least, some certainly did. Despite his
full authority to walk through the campus like a lion in the wilderness,
he chose to attend his lecture with Akshay.
The students targeted their attention towards Ananya, as if he had
been promoted from student to lecturer in a day. His table became
crowded, and in the horde stood the face that he could never ignore.
Ritika tried her best to surpass the human boundary, while Ananya

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struggled with an inner turmoil of whether to invite her into his inner
circle. He didn’t feel guilty about the feeling of sensual desire for her,
but he felt embarrassed that this course of association was going to
leave her helpless and heartbroken. He wanted to taste the pudding of
pleasure, but a man with three sisters would never want the enraged
eye of the Universe to open before him; therefore, amongst that crowd,
the presence of and fascination over Ritika dissipated.
Vinay entered the lecture room and everyone dispersed. Being
completely aware of the current affair, he acted normal. When he was
about to submerge the class into the somber ocean of equations, a
student sitting in a corner jogged his memory.
Vinay hadn’t had a chance to interact with Ananya yet, and saw
this as the perfect opportunity to quench his curiosity. Hence, he asked,
“How did you arrive at this innovative idea, Ananya?”
Like you all could ever guess, Ananya mentally retorted.
He teased, “Lucid dreams in inorganic classes helped.”
The whole class erupted in laughter, and even Vinay smirked
slightly. The rest of the lecture continued with the conversation
between the eminent student and conventional lecturer, from which
the most benefit was acquired by the simplistic scholars around them.
After the lecture, Ananya walked into the corridor, and with every
footstep he sensed a different pair of eyes boring holes into him. It was
then that something flashed upon his mind that even his Ajna chakra
couldn’t foresee.
I won’t be able to procure perfect drug if my face has become
distinguishable.
He excused himself from Akshay and proceeded towards his
apartment on the pretext that he wasn’t feeling well. Actually, he
wanted to inquire about the quantity of his liberation liquid.
He reached his room and even before taking off his shoes, he
unzipped his bag and saw the amount of the perfect drug left. He was

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perturbed by the fact that it was just enough for two sessions, and he
didn’t know when he would get the opportunity to conceive more.
Ananya lay on his bed, wondering how he would accomplish
things without his all-powerful potion, and slipped into a mini-
slumber—which was quickly interrupted by the accursed cell phone.
But instead of an annoyance, Ananya was jubilant that it was his father
calling.
Prateek inquired, “Where are you, Beta?”
Ananya fibbed, “In college. What happened?”
Prateek replied, “All right; come to your aunt’s home after your
classes. It is something important.”
Ananya replied in affirmation and disconnected the call. He
sensed seriousness in his father’s tone, but as he was the object of
curiosity for everyone, he knew a surprise party was planned for him.
He, however, had another surprise in store for them. Instead of going
home after finishing his hours of college, he would go now.
He packed his essentials, along with the crucial compound and
proceeded towards Malviya Nagar. He entered the premises, but
instead of knocking on the door, he placed his ear over it, and the
nature of commotion inside made it clear that he was the cause of it.
He wanted to know whether his father was in the house or not, and
therefore he played one final trick.
He called Prateek, and upon hearing the initial “Hello” from
receiver—as well as from the other side of the door—he beamed. But
his mischief wasn’t done yet; he lied that he was hurt and wouldn’t be
able to make it.
Prateek, taken aback, said, “Stay where you are. We are coming.”
Before Ananya could inquire anything, Prateek disconnected the
call and even before he could gather his thoughts, he opened the door,
and the joy of catching each other’s bluff could readily be seen over
their faces.

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Ananya bent to touch his father’s feet, but Prateek stopped him
and hugged him there and then. It is said that when two hearts get
close, there is little need for verbal communication. Much is also said
by gestures and expressions, but the hearts bound by the invisible
umbilical cord of love, reunited once again in a warm embrace,
summoned moisture in both men’s eyes. Prateek mentally uttered, “I
am immensely proud of you, son.”
Ananya replied telepathically, “I shall make you so proud that
whole world shall address you as ‘father of Ananya.’”
The embrace seemed to last an eternity; Prateek still conversed
with him subconsciously, saying, “I always believed that you were
special, my son.”
Ananya unlocked the embrace by psychically saying, “Only if
you now knew how exceptional I have become, Papa.”
Sudha, Ananya’s mother, came running, and upon seeing both
father and son sharing an emotional, intimate moment, she herself
grew emotional and joined in the embracing act. With one hand over
his father’s shoulder and another over his mother’s, in that instant he
felt his complete Universe and world confined in one big hug.
Fortunately, Guddu showed up, and she shrieked in excitement
of Ananya’s arrival, which disrupted the flow of emotions. Ananya ran
after her and deflected to the kitchen, where preparation for tonight’s
feast was going on. He let the aroma take him into his envisioned
reality—where students would throng around his food truck to delight
their cravings.
When Ananya overheard his parents talking, he dashed in their
direction to inquire what they had planned for the evening. Prateek
intended to call all sorts of relatives, and one reason Ananya had
arrived early was to avoid that; he argued with his father that not only
it was unnecessary, but unjustified as well. With little confrontation,
both men reached a consensus that no relatives were going to be
allowed—just friends from either side. Hence, Ananya invited Akshay
and Kanika, whereas Prakash invited his dear friend, Mr. Kartik.
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Ananya’s cheerfulness knew no bounds at that moment; his
success had made everyone ecstatic and had achieved the purpose of
making Earth a better place. He looked at his parents, and with damp
eyes and a determined heart, vowed to himself that at that moment, his
plan of passive income was set in motion.
Dear Mother, you won’t have to do the household chores anymore.
And Papa, you won’t have to sweat blood to make ends meet.
Your exceptional child shall make you both witness the kind of
life that you were hesitant to even dream of.
Naturally, Kanika and Akshay arrived early, and after gorging
on delectable snacks—momos and samosas, they advanced to extract
intelligence for their food truck cuisines.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kartik appeared, and Ananya had to don the
countenance of a nobleman. He sensed skepticism from Kartik, but
Ananya welcomed that wholeheartedly since he preferred a critic
rather a servile flatterer.
The living room was filled with sounds of elders talking and
coated with voices of children shouting. In the cookery room, both
of the ladies were busy preparing the evening meal, and Kanika and
Akshay were very stealthily learning the secret ingredients of the
dishes. Ananya, though part of the living room arena, wanted to know
the ongoing implementation of his plan, and on the excuse to get a
drink of water, proceeded towards the kitchen.
He somehow held his laughter when he noticed how dedicatedly
his friends were engrossed in taking input. Kanika was asking the
relevant questions, and Akshay was noting down all significant and
even redundant bits.
Soon, dinner was served and the Three Musketeers had to take
three turns individually to put out all the dishes that were prepared.
There was biryani with all sorts of vegetables and flavored with
saffron, plain rice for someone who wanted to create a composition
unto his or her liking, Pallavi and Prateek’s favorites—rajma and dal

336
makhni respectively.There was aloo gobhi masala, and cottage cheese
and pea curry that could be relished with poori, chapati, or naan. Upon
special request of Kartik, the pomegranate raita was prepared, and
different shades of chutney decorated the table. Last but not least were
Ananya’s beloved matar mushrooms, laced with extra butter.
The men started devouring the dishes with respect to their
individual inclinations, while the ladies worked tirelessly to serve
warm chapatis and pooris.
Kartik inquired, “So what plans do you have after college?”
Ananya tersely responded, “Let’s see, Uncle. Nothing so far.”
Prateek supplemented his son. “I know he must have some trick
up his sleeve.”
Akshay interrupted, “Yes, Uncle. We have come up with an
innovative way to serve food on the campus.”
Prateek began to inquire further, but almost at the same instant,
Ananya gave him the evil eye, prohibiting Akshay to give a full
account of their business venture. Naturally, the adults sowed the seed
of doubt, and it was then that Akshay realized that how essential it was
to keep something private until the work spoke for itself.
The dinner wrapped up and the three amigos proceeded to
kitchen to return the favor while the women of the hour sat to dine
over lukewarm sabzis with freshly cooked chapatis. Kanika utilized
her incipient cooking skills while the other two became errand boys,
it was then Ananya realized the joy of serving others, he might have
eaten food before but it was now he felt the lingering after-effect of
a fulfilling meal. He looked around the room and upon noticing that
every person he cared about was happy because of him and for him,
made his heart swell with joy.
The dinner was followed by dessert, after which the guests began
to depart. Kanika and Akshay thanked Pallavi and Sudha for a lavish
feast, and while leaving winked at Ananya, as if to say, “Don’t forget
to come to college tomorrow.” Ananya couldn’t decipher the tease;
hence, he looked forward to the day ahead.
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On the subsequent day, Ananya had an extravagant breakfast and
left early. The moment he stepped inside the confines of the college,
he felt like a bride who had entered in-laws’ home for the first time,
who, without the slightest indication, was ready to be served with the
greatest enthusiasm. He was conscious that other scholars were aware
of his invention, but he couldn’t assimilate the immense affection that
he sensed so palpably.
Ah! I so wish I could sip my transcendental serum.
He walked into the cafeteria and tried to inquire about what was
going on from other two amigos, but they seemed to want to prolong
the suspense. He eventually changed the topic and asked, “What plans
do you have for today?”
Akshay remarked “Nothing as such. We were going to check
up on the meal van that we are supposed to hire—or, if possible,
purchase.”
“Let’s go, then.”
Akshay and Kanika exchanged glances along with their
malevolent smiles. They got up and advanced outside with Ananya,
when both diverted to a bulletin board (an obviously planned action)
and kept staring at it until Ananya followed them.
“What are you reading? I haven’t seen you looking at bulletin
boards from the beginning of time.”
Ananya murmured the information he read. “This is to inform
that…on the successful execution …under the guidance of Prakash…
in college auditorium…”
Ananya screamed, “Tomorrow?!”
His friends revealed to him that the notice had come yesterday,
and since he was unreachable, they had decided to tell him a little later.
Ananya, undoubtedly flabbergasted, didn’t know whether to be
angry or happy at the incident. He reached for his cell phone in order
to tell his parents, but Akshay consoled him that they had already told
them yesterday.
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He wrapped his arms around them both, and the gesture of
choking soon transformed to embrace. He finally uttered, “God must
have been in a funny mood when I met both of you.”
Akshay and Kanika reciprocated the hug by wrapping their arms
around their impetuous genius. Ananya, on the other hand, couldn’t
believe that his deeply cherished dream was going to be materialized,
that the stage upon which he had seen the names of alumni flash on
the day of his orientation was going to hold the celebration of his
success.
They proceeded out of the college and advanced to the location
suggested by Akshay. When they finally met the guy with the van,
Ananya was amazed at the tact exercised by Akshay. Despite not
committing to anything, he kept the owner hanging by a future
prospect. They later met a few other people, but couldn’t replace the
initial image in their minds of the massive truck that was ideal in terms
of their self-expression.
Ananya and Kanika insisted on the truck like a baby begging for
his beloved candy, promising that they would pay more, but Akshay
remained resolute and said, “He will come around.”
He continued, “Let’s go, as our ‘guest of honor’ has to prepare a
speech, as well.”
Ananya had completely forgotten about that, and while returning,
he pondered as to what inciting words he would put down, so as to
charge the whole auditorium to pursue their dreams like him. He came
up with certain motivating bits by the time he’d reached his room, but
the moment he looked at the pale wall, he knew the essential ingredient
he needed the most.
Ananya started the big day with utmost calmness and serenity,
and said to his parents that he would meet them there himself; time
had been a witness that a mother and a father could be responsible for
making a person nervous more easily than an auditorium filled with
strangers.

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The ceremony was scheduled for first thing in the morning
so that the scholars could resume their schedule. Ananya entered
the auditorium from the stage side and peeked at the crowd, which
surprised him by its sheer size. Apart from the first two rows, which
were reserved for professors and administration, the rest of the
amphitheater was filled to the capacity.
He had the speech prepared and was practicing the elocution
in front of the mirror. He was picking the right words to emphasize,
and accompanying them with his piercing gaze, but he still couldn’t
internalize his true potential. He was earnestly revising his lines in
the green room when he got hustled by his companions in an attempt
to shed his fear. He addressed them with his word composition, but
during that run-through, he stuttered a countless number of times.
Kanika consoled him that he was good, and even Akshay
exercised empathy, but Ananya knew that it was far from perfect.
Hence, he asked them to leave and locked the door. He uncorked the
bottle that had been waiting to be devoured.
He sipped the TPD, sat in front of the mirror and waited for
the veil of illusion to be perforated. He closed his eyes and began
breathing deeply while having a conversation with himself.
Why are you so nervous?
What are you afraid of?
Are you seriously anxious about those incompetents who don’t
have a clue how deeply interwoven their goals are around maya, or
are you concerned about making a mistake in front of people who love
you beyond belief?
And if they are happy for you, then they would simply be ecstatic
to see you on stage.
And regarding those biological puppets, let’s see how well they
fare against me.
Ananya opened his eyes and noticed all his energy bands working
in harmony. He proceeded towards the stage, where lecturers and his
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family members had filled the empty rows. He looked further and
noticed that his three cuddlesome kittens had also arrived. He didn’t let
emotions get the better of him, and directed his gaze at the audience,
who seemed to be lost in their own dissonance and breathed their
own individual insecurities. Ananya noticed how skewed everyone’s
encircling energies were, which intensified his confidence tenfold.
He waited for the dean to end his monologue and invite him
onto the stage, where he would initiate the speech for which every
single person in the auditorium was waiting. When his name was
finally announced, the hall reverberated with the sound of thunderous
clapping. Ananya steadily climbed the stage like a lion approaching
the highest rock to let everyone know who was the king. He took
a dramatic pause and, upon sensing the eagerness in the people,
unleashed himself.
“Honorable Dean, respected teachers, and my dear friends.
Some of you may be proud to see me here, some of you might be
even envious, but reality can’t be changed—only your perception of
it can. Similarly, we can’t ignore that the majority of our goods are
byproducts of plastic. Heck, the microphone in which I am speaking
is partly made of that offensive synthetic.”
The crowd sniggered and Ananya noticed that a significant
portion aligned their engulfing aura towards him.
“Our oceans have become a huge dumping area; it is awful to
watch a quarter of the world create so much waste that the sustenance
of the whole planet is in peril. It might come as a shock to all of you,
but a reputed journal has published that of the 8.3 billion metric tons
of plastic that have been produced so far, only a mere nine percent of
it has been recycled. So it is either incinerated, which releases toxic
gases, or left for nature to decompose, which shall be achieved by
the time we each journey this planet once more as humans. I know I
would.”
A bigger cheer was accompanied by a round of applause. Now
everyone was intently absorbed in what Ananya was saying.
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“Hence, I was urged to decompose this antagonistic material, and
with the help of my mentor, Mr. Prakash, I was able to achieve this feat
in a matter of just seven days. But my work isn’t done. I can’t save the
planet alone. Each one of us is born with an innate, special trait, which
some people refer to as passion, but I call ambition. Yet, sometimes
this virtue is entangled in ignorance and becomes a vice. It gives birth
to inventions and creations that are vitriolic in nature—with which we
all have been acquainted—but if we align our desire to ascend with
growth at the cost of a healthier planet instead of growth at all costs,
then our purpose to live an accomplished life shall be complete.”
Everybody began clapping emphatically while Ananya stood
still. To a normal person, the moment couldn’t be deciphered further,
but Ananya could see it all.
The whole auditorium reflected absolute reverence—apart from
a few dissonances, he saw the entire arena twinkle with diverse lights.
A desire emerged in which he wanted to see that effect over people, all
the way to the horizon. He yearned for the transformation of people’s
identities through his ideas, and wanted to see that happening until the
Earth bent and beyond.
He could discern clearly the exceptional sparkling of light that
occurred in the second row, and it was them whom he would carry
forward to witness the changing motion of the planet. The resonating
sound of the applause that still reverberated in his ears made him
desire the light that was cast upon him, to become a halo which would
signify that he was ahead of them all, and that his command must be
executed either by compassion or coercion.
Ananya’s enhanced form of self-confidence brought with it a
sense of conviction that his opinion was above all. Other people’s
notions meant little to him. This thought process brought immense
credence over his beliefs, which in return was undoubtedly going to
inflate his ego.
While everybody marveled at Ananya’s innovation, he gained
pride in the kaleidoscopic compound that reverberated in his veins at
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the moment. He had witnessed a teaser of the immense power he held
over mortals, and now craved to captivate the whole planet with it.
From that day onwards, his introspection stopped—which in turn
began to gnaw at his self-awareness. His ability to see his own flaws
was reduced, and the capability to exploit others’ weaknesses for a
comprehensive purpose started. The ideology that he was a puppet
dancing in this great cosmic drama remained, but the yearning to have
his own stage took form.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the corruption of his
humility had just begun.

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344
At Zenith
Ananya received a respectable sum for his invention, of which he
poured every penny into his infantile investment. The contributions
of Akshay and Kanika were minuscule in comparison, yet filled
with compassion. Akshay devoted all his time to the management
of resources for the meal van, while Kanika and Ananya frequently
consulted with each other regarding color composition and design
patterns.
With all the planning in place, two essential steps needed to be
taken immediately. The first was the acquisition of that mobile vehicle,
for which Akshay was supposed to go alone so as to belittle the truck
seller’s arrogance and subsequently the price. And secondly, hiring
the employees, for which Ananya needed more of that sublime serum
and to achieve that he was going to utilize his last session with utmost
certainty.
Both men left the café and proceeded to their individual
destinations, while Kanika stayed with her black coffee to scribble
on paper. The fever over Ananya’s fame had diminished, but not
extinguished. He needed the laboratory for himself, and for that, he
was going to influence Prakash with best of his ability through the
finest weapon in his artillery.
Ananya went inside the washroom and waited until everyone
got out, and, similar to the day of his commemoration, he sipped
the serum until the last drop, closed his eyes and calmed his nerves.
He leisurely opened his eyes to ascertain that his energy vortexes

345
were in alignment, and then advanced towards the laboratory with
determination fused with deception. He entered the lab and proceeded
straight towards the table.
Ananya greeted Prakash, “Hi, sir.”
“Hi, Ananya. Have you come to initiate another innovation?”
Ananya chuckled and let that arrow of admiration pass through
without any penetration. He scrutinized the aura of Prakash and
noticed a prominent dissonance around his throat chakra, which
reverberated with a feeble frequency of an arctic blue color. He knew
communication wasn’t Prakash’s strongest suit, but he had a suspicion
that the inappropriate workings of energy centers gave way to physical
ailments.
Ananya responded, “No, sir. I just wanted to check on how my
favorite chemistry teacher was doing.”
Prakash beamed back, “Couldn’t complain.”
Ananya ventured ahead, “I hope after the award ceremony, the
present breed of imbeciles doesn’t bother you much.”
Prakash laughed, which unexpectedly turned into a cough that
was prolonged enough that Ananya could fidget in his position and
observe the inflated vibrations around his throat Chakra.
I see.
“I have to shout at least seven times, regardless whether the class
is old or new—and this cough isn’t helping.”
Ananya subtly insinuated a suggestion. “Sir, you should look
after yourself. The students will arrive and leave, but your health will
stay with you forever.”
Prakash nodded, while Ananya seemed somewhat dissatisfied
with his attempt. He fibbed, “Sir, why do I notice a slight lump at the
edge of your neck.”
Prakash, alert, instinctively brushed his fingers over the supposed
spot. He naturally put to rest Ananya’s claim, but his scholar’s feigned
concern had gotten his thinking horses racing.
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Ananya recommended, “Sir, you ought to go on a mini-vacation,
and in the meanwhile check to see if there is any malignancy in the
lump.”
“Don’t worry, It is nothing. And by the way, I can’t leave the
laboratory with no substitute teacher to fill in my shoes.”
Ananya countered, “Sir, I would see the laboratory through your
eyes, just the way I have always done. I would make sure that the
requisite code of conduct is exercised, and take care of everything.”
Prakash guffawed and conceded to the advice by saying that he
would think about it. Ananya, though somewhat satisfied, realized
that there was no point in pushing further and hence began to proceed
outside the laboratory.
He had walked a few paces when Prakash shouted after him,
“The dean would never agree to this.”
Ananya, with a sly smile, said, “He has shown acceptance for
a more eccentric situation. I believe he wouldn’t find any flaw with
this.”
Upon receiving the grin of acknowledgment, Ananya resumed
progressing out of the lab, when he got a call from Akshay. He gave
Ananya the good news that the truck had been secured and had it
transferred for denting and painting. The trio couldn’t reassemble that
day, yet they resumed their individual work to materialize their unified
dream.
It took two days for Ananya’s suggestion to effectively sink into
Prakash. After that, he had the full authority to utilize the chemicals
upon his discretion. He had to be wary of classes that were supposed
to be arriving; hence, the only time he could procure the perfect drug
was on the pretext of arranging the lab at the end of the day.
When Ananya walked into the empty laboratory during the
college’s ending hours, he initiated the process of perfect drug creation.
After flawless coordination between his hands and thought processes,
he held the substance that had curbed his curiosity and had rewarded
him the capability to alter the course of history.
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Ananya didn’t waste time; the truck had been completely repaired
by then, and it now only waited for the graphics to be painted and
people who would cook and serve in it. He drank the divine drink and
progressed outside the college premises.
He observed the intricate web of maya that spun around every
human being, and the little self-reflection he had left reflected how
far ahead he was in the matters of existence and sustenance. He went
into a restaurant which was famous for Chinese cuisine, but unlike
other customers, he had eyes set on the cook rather than the cooked
food.
Ananya ordered dim sums and asked the manager in a terse tone
to present the chef. The manager naturally asked if something was
wrong, but Ananya didn’t budge. The manager had to vehemently
produce the chef, and Ananya began his subtle influence henceforth.
Ananya complimented him, “These are the most delicious dim
sums I have ever tasted.”
The chef replied, “Thank you, sir. Is there anything more you
would like?”
Ananya was analyzing his chakra behavior and noticed the bright
indigo hue emanating from the man’s Ajna chakra, which reflected his
visionary skills and impeccable intuition—just the essential ingredient
he wanted in his head chef.
“Your recruitment.”
Ananya explained every microscopic detail of his business
venture, and though during the conversation the chef’s Ajna chakra
vibrated at a faster frequency, it subsided. Instead, the garnet red of
his root chakra showed prominence, which echoed the cook’s need
for survival. Ananya tried to stimulate his strength, but eventually the
need to survive surmounted the quest to thrive.
Ananya had to leave that eatery joint with a heavy heart, but
progressed to another one with renewed zeal. This time the chef
showed promising vibrations of the solar plexus chakra, indicating the
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innate qualities of leadership and influence, but like the previous cook,
he too couldn’t trade what he could have for what he had already.
Ananya didn’t lose faith. He went to other places that he had in
mind and deployed every effort. When the effect of drug wore off,
failure began shrouding his vision; the element that bugged him the
most was the fact that everyone was concerned with their survival.
Ananya, however, had never internalized defeat and neither was he
going to this time. He pondered over a strategy so as to curb this
constraint and went towards his room with his stomach filled with
various delicacies.
Ananya lay on the bed and thought hard about a possible approach
when he noticed a stream of ants progressing at the edge of a window
frame. He concluded that working for survival was every creature’s
basic need, but looking at it a bit more carefully, he realized that all
ants worked to serve the queen. This gave him an incredible insight,
but for this idea he needed Kanika to dress in desirous colors. He
immediately contacted her and asked her to come to the college in her
sultriest dress. Kanika showed a bit of hesitation, but he convinced her
that it was all for a good cause.

Ananya woke up and ingested the TPD before leaving his room.
Unlike earlier, however, he didn’t sit in the sacred lotus posture, since
now he had acquired immunity to the experience of removal of the
veil. He rejoiced in the absolute vulnerability of human beings; he
relished in the fact that none had the slightest idea that they were
being manipulated into doing things that they wouldn’t normally do—
though those things weren’t contradictory to their nature, but were
certainly at the edge of their core beliefs.
He asked Kanika to meet him near Kamala Nagar and was glad
that she wore the kind of dress that could evoke desire even in a stone.
She had worn a candy-red loose top with slightly visible cleavage,
which perfectly accompanied her merlot-red lipstick, making her
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drowsy eyes immensely seductive. She had very stealthily left a braid
of hair resting at the back of her ear, which occasionally made an
appearance.
He expressed his difficulty to acquire A-grade chefs, and asked her
to follow his lead and be part of an impromptu play. They proceeded to
a different restaurant this time, and when the chef arrived at Ananya’s
request, he introduced himself as Kanika’s business associate, while
she remained calm.
Ananya wrapped up, “Our madam spent the initial days of her
college eating in your café, and would very much like you to be part
of our team.”
The chef said, “I would like to join, but you would have unsteady
income for first few months.”
Kanika spoke congenially, “Don’t worry, we will make sure that
you receive your salary on time.”
Ananya observed that the dissonance of the root chakra was
slightly reduced by the adjacent sacral chakra, which emitted positive
emotions and pleasure, just the way he had predicted. The calmness
rendered him vulnerable, making his decision tilt in a different
direction.
The chef, with little trouble, conceded and was appointed as
the second-in-command to the head chef. Ananya and Kanika then
proceeded to the restaurant in which Ananya had gone first the day
before, but this time instead of him giving the pitch, Kanika talked the
whole time.
The slight stimulation of the chef’s sacral chakra mellowed the
volatility of his root chakra, and surprisingly, with no external source
to influence the third eye chakra, it began to shine vividly—perhaps
due to yesterday’s conversation with Ananya.
Ananya sensed that the person wasn’t interested in money, but
rather the expansion of business, and hence he offered him a percentage
of the profits instead of a salary. The chef accepted immediately.
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The friends proceeded back towards the college with this fabulous
news, and after letting Akshay know of their achievement, all three
progressed to their truck which was about to be painted with dazzling
colors.
The truck was relatable in dimensions to a Force Tempo Traveller,
except with relatively more height and a slightly bigger wheelbase.
Ananya was glad that Akshay was proving to be Steve Wozniak to
his Steve Jobs; Akshay took care of even the minutest detail of the
product, while Ananya looked after the personal interaction domain,
while occasionally indulging in his own personal time for recreational
inspiration.
The agreed design contained the word “Cravings” on one side
of the truck, while the other side displayed an octopus with extended
tentacles over all the surfaces of the vehicle. They reached to the front
portion, the rear, and some even tried to grab the depicted elements of
indulgence. The background shade was going to be sunshine yellow,
with a crimson-red octopus painted over it, and the name inscribed on
it in black so that it could be identified from a distance.
The time arrived when all they had to do was wait for the truck
to be painted in their dream colors, while their cooks served their last
months at their respective jobs. The circumstance was accompanied
by Delhi University election fever, where college parties, backed by
national blocs, tried to exert influence over youth.
Ananya didn’t differentiate between a politician and a diaper—
they both ought to be changed regularly, but during their usage, they
must come in handy. A candidate smitten by Ananya’s influence, made
known through a mutual acquaintance, introduced himself and said
he was standing for the presidency and would like to seek Ananya’s
blessings.
At first, the candidate showered Ananya with innumerable
phrases of admiration, but Ananya knew what was coming his way,
and hence he was prepared.

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He said, “I assure you that in my presidency, more students will
emerge as innovators.” And then, at last he added, “So, would you put
in a good word for me amongst your crowd?”
All the while that Ananya was pretending to listen to him; he was
contemplating every factor that could hamper the success of his food
truck. One thing struck him that he couldn’t account for—the parking
of the meal van at their leisure and unto their own suitability.
Ananya replied, “I have total faith in your abilities; I don’t think
you require that.”
The candidate pleaded, “I know, but it would help if you were to
also believe in my capacity.”
Ananya then shared his forthcoming vision and said, “If I am
to believe in you, then you must be able to assure me that after you
are elected, the mobile food truck would be able to roam around the
campus without any restriction.”
The candidate laughed when he realized that he’d gotten caught
in the mesh of his own words, and conceded to Ananya’s proposal.
The next few days were spent in rigorous campaigning, which Ananya
utilized to put forward the horse he’d bet on. At the same time, he
worked to insinuate the rumor in people’s minds regarding the
unhygienic meal of the food joint he desired to acquire.
The day finally arrived when the Musketeers’ cherished dream
became alive, and with the success of Ananya’s candidate, there was
nobody stopping them from exerting their influence and their ability to
climb up the food chain. The menu was composed of dishes with the
extra ingredient of Aunt Pallavi’s affection and minced with the chef’s
expertise, personifying the name of the van with its delivery.
The young journalist from the campus newspaper captured a photo
and featured the food truck as an object of curiosity, their “meals on
wheels,” which quenched all their cravings. Ananya and team spread
joy wherever they went, and like with the ice cream vendor that came
through the streets, students began to throng around their cherished
van with the first ring of the bell.
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The voracious octopus was soon joined by the omniscient poster
of the periodic table, which rested inside the van as a relic to Ananya’s
reverence for chemicals. After all, they had given him all this. Or,
perhaps, the poster was Ananya’s equivalent of a black dot to keep the
evil eye away.
After the initial investment of Ananya was recuperated, then the
generous profit, less the salary of the chefs, was split equally amongst
the three amigos. Sometimes, Akshay sat at the cash counter to deal
with rush hours, but he didn’t mind since they had become financially
independent so early. Ananya, though, still coveted another invention
that would capture everybody’s imagination.
Weeks passed and the popularity of Cravings continued to rise.
Ananya sensed that moment as the right opportunity to acquire the
area that was used by the now-deserted food joint. He talked with
Rajesh, and with little resistance, he was offered the place at a nominal
price.
He hadn’t informed his family members about the food truck
investment, but since the success had been achieved, he couldn’t wait
to hear words of pride from his father. He called Prateek, and the other
end answered, “Hello, Beta.”
Ananya replied, “Hi, Papa, you can add one more laurel to your
son’s wall of fame.”
Prateek laughed. “What have you discovered this time, Son?”
Ananya gave a brief discourse of his investment, and at the end
he inquired about the account number to which to transfer money.
Prateek stayed quiet for a moment, and when Ananya didn’t hear
anything, he said, “Aren’t you proud of me, Papa?”
Prateek reaffirmed, “I am proud of you son—but why did you
become a businessman from an innovator?”
“For you, Dad. I don’t like you and mom working tirelessly
to make ends meet. I know I am capable of so much more, and if a
portion of it I can do for you guys, then that is my fortune.”
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Prateek, with moist eyes, replied, “Did you know who named
you?”
“Who?”
“Me, because the moment I held you in my arms, I knew you
were going to be different than anyone—and that’s how I raised you,
to be unique in every aspect.”
This time the moisture was summoned in Ananya’s eyes, and he
could only utter, “Thank you, Papa.”
Prateek retorted, “Now, no more business. Focus on your
inventions.”
Ananya chuckled “Just one more, Father. Then you won’t have to
lift a finger until the end of your days.”
Ananya vaporized his father’s fears, but didn’t tell of the business
deal between him and his uncle, so as to prevent any external influence.
He sensed that Prateek wanted to come to Delhi, but Ananya insisted
that he should only come to see him successful, and not before that.
Ananya spent the night contemplating the words of his father.
Deep down he truly wanted to do something novel to heal the planet,
but he was clueless where to begin. Hence, he decided to focus on the
present and let the inventions seek him.
The following day he proceeded to Malviya Nagar, so as to do
some paperwork with Rajesh; they spent hours discussing the details
of the terms, and on the condition of a certain token of profits, Rajesh
agreed to rent Ananya the place at a minimal fee. But Ananya’s concern
wasn’t that; he was worried that the design he had visualized would
take more capital than he had originally thought.
Ananya was aware of the potential of this business venture, and
if one voice told him to include Kanika and Akshay like earlier, then
another voice emphasized his self-sufficiency. The drunkenness of
power elicited through intoxication by the perfect drug didn’t allow him
to share profits in exchange for a few helping hands. He conjectured
that since a business had already been established, there wasn’t going
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to be a new problem that he hadn’t faced before, and regarding color
composition, he was going to rely on his acute perception of shades.
Ananya initiated his ritual of drawing out the chefs that were
ripe for the picking, but instead of taking Kanika, he took his head
chef—as well as his liberation liquid. Unlike previously, when they
yearned to pick chefs, this time the chefs volunteered due to the
success of Cravings. At the end of the day, Ananya held a list marked
with everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. If somebody’s creativity
impressed Ananya, then his fickleness for pleasure bugged him. If
someone had the required leadership qualities, then he severely lacked
the necessary vision.
Ananya somehow picked the second-in-command of the head
chef, and began humming a children’s counting rhyme to pick his
head chef, but then it flashed before his mind that the right person was
by his side all day long. He talked to his food truck head chef, and
proposed to him a bigger stake in profits, followed by a bigger kitchen
and the freedom to experiment with his main course.
Naturally, the head chef accepted, and Ananya picked the
befitting replacement from his list. He wanted to tell about all this to
Akshay and Kanika, but got engaged in the decoration and interior
design of the restaurant. He chose the purple shade for the ceiling,
to evoke eroticism, which transitioned to magenta at the walls to
induce passion. Instead of picking a few big light bulbs, he decided
to distribute countless small LED lights over the ceiling, to give the
impression of a sky in which reality had given way to fantasy. He
picked apricot orange as the shade of furniture to induce warmth and
friendliness, but the most intriguing thing wasn’t any of that. Ananya
had just kept tables meant for two people, yet admittance was for
singles.
The captivating chemistry bit that could only be the creation of
Ananya’s mind was the application of noble gases, such as argon,
helium, neon, and krypton. He knew that since the outermost shell of
the atoms of these gases were completely filled, they remained inert in
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nature; with the passage of an electric current, however, the electrons
gained energy and their movement caused the emission of photons,
creating the perception of light.
The main source of spending proved to be these noble gases’
screens, which were pre-placed between the tables, dividing them in
half. The screen was controlled by two buttons on the side of the pretty
lady and a single push-button on the side of the lad. These screens
were approximately the size of a sheet of printer paper, and were so
intricately designed that they contained three gas chambers. The control
over the first two were held by the girl, so that she could manipulate
the voltage and put forth the background color of the screen—and the
shade of the encasing heart as well. The single button on the side of the
boy projected an arrow within that pulsating heart, and propelled the
screen up in the air, gradually revealing the girl’s luscious lips, then
progressing to that noble nose, and finally uncovering the enchanting
eyes.
Ananya had realized during his journey with the perfect drug that
colors played an essential role in bringing people close. Even his time
with Anushree had left a lasting impression, making him realize the
essence of shades in their ephemeral romance. Hence, he was going
to intermingle the knowledge of the chemistries of both humans and
matter. The little play he wished to unfold was this: The moment a
man walked in, he would only be able to view the different hues of
pulsating hearts, and his own predilection for that shade would take
him there, rather than the alluring appearance of a woman, which
would tamper his decision..
After months of hard work, Ananya materialized his dream. He
even added a small plasma ball at each table to enhance the mood, and
small oil and clay lamps floating in a broad water vessel at the edge of
the entrance to induce positive vibes. He put up the sign of his café—
Connexion—with daffodil yellow as the color of the lettering, except
the letter “X,” which was lit in cherry red and was slightly bigger in
size, to subtly emphasize the element of sex.

356
With just days until the opening of Connexion, Ananya felt
compelled to disclose his coveted investment, and hence invited both
Akshay and Kanika to his café. The nervous jitters he was feeling
due concealing such big news led him to ingest the perfect drug, even
though all he had to do was tell the truth.
Both of his mates were surprised to see the empty café. They
inquired about what was happening, but Ananya didn’t utter a word.
He brought Kanika to a table and asked her to play with the buttons,
while he and Akshay stood at the other end, waiting to watch the
iridescent display of colors. As Kanika progressed with the buttons,
she began to understand the game she was playing. She transitioned
through colors and finally decided on a wine-red heart pulsating on
a lemon-yellow screen. She was immersing herself in the hypnotic
display when an arrow pierced that heart resulting the screen moving
upward, displaying her friends dripping with joy.
Ananya explained everything to them, and the pain it took for
him to materialize his vision. He admitted that due to his nature,
he felt he couldn’t reveal the plan to anyone, lest he besmirch the
manifestation of the idea. Still, Ananya held back the news of the pre-
decided departure of his head chef from the food truck.
Kanika expressed her cheerfulness through the immense
vibration of her heart chakra, but Akshay’s aura barely changed. She
congratulated Ananya, while Akshay praised him on the surface.
Akshay inquired, “But this isn’t an innovation, so why did you
have to keep it secret?”
Ananya had a hunch that he might be facing such a scenario;
hence, he evoked their sympathy by disclosing his conversation with
Prateek, and confessed his requirement for a perennial source of
income for his parents.
Akshay showed his consent, but he was still anything but satisfied.
When Ananya sensed their auras reflected mild subservience, he said,
“By the way, Mr. Sanjay will come here when the café opens, but
don’t worry, I have arranged for a different chef for the truck, as well.”
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Akshay teased, “Is that why you didn’t tell us about your café?”
Ananya saw a rise in the vibrations of Akshay’s throat chakra,
and understood that he was doubting his intentions. He said, “I wanted
to tell you before, but I got engaged in setting up the café. Don’t you
think that since I am asking for your permission that accounts for
something?”
Akshay tersely said, “You are not asking but imposing. Would
you be fine if both showed disagreement with your proposition?”
Ananya’s ego erupted. “Listen, it is because of me that you are
here. Had I never asked you to join in my business venture, you still
would be busting your head in books, and I believe I am entitled to a
little monopoly where I can shift around my staff.”
Akshay absorbed the anger but said only one thing. “And had I
never sat in our food truck then your café wouldn’t be here.”
He wished Ananya all the best for his future endeavor and walked
out of the cafe. Kanika was watching the whole drama with her eyes
open as wide as possible. The instant she grasped how quickly the
situation had escalated, she assured Ananya that she would talk to
Akshay, and after again praising him for his success, also left the café.
But the crack of distrust had crept in through crevice of disrespect
towards one another. One argued about why it was that he had been
kept in the darkness when he held blind faith in his savior; the other
asserted that anyone standing in the way of his vision would be treated
as fodder, and the person who had shown obedience once would bow
before him forever.
Ananya didn’t let such a minor inconvenience hold him back.
Ananya, without any resistance, acquired Sanjay as head chef, but
Akshay stopped sitting at Cravings. Though both remained partners
on paper, that tear had pushed them far apart.
Connexion, too, became the talk of the town, and soon word
spread that couples originated through this café were inseparable.
Ananya even kept a wall of fame, where the couple who met for the first

358
time shared their experience, and also the couples who found a worthy
partner through this café. Ananya had provided liberty for people to
sit alone, but tables were rarely used for that purpose. Ananya would
be awestruck whenever, from a particular angle, he saw several hearts
beating at the same pace with distinct colors. Hence, like the food van,
he was coerced into putting a concise image of the periodic table near
the counter to bestow his gratitude.
As promised, Prateek and Sudha arrived to celebrate the success
of their beloved child, but this time the celebration stretched to distant
relatives—even so that Ananya was meeting them for the first and
perhaps last time. Ananya’s yearning for company was partly rewarded
with the presence of Kanika, while the only existence of Akshay was
the bouquet and best wishes greeting card he sent.
Ananya encouraged her to pursue her dream like he had. They
talked a little over frivolous topics, and through her as a defense,
Ananya avoided any unnecessary social interaction.
Soon, Prateek and Sudha left Delhi for Europe; it was their
first international trip sponsored by Ananya. The joy he received by
summoning moisture in the eyes of his parents at the airport was the
only reward he needed for his business venture.
He engaged in his weary routine, where, with the start of the
day, he had to go Connexion to oversee its workings, and later to
Cravings, but the absence of a goal and a worthy distraction started
fueling dissatisfaction within him. He sometimes pondered whether
he would get a heart that resonated with his frequency, or an invention
that fired his brain cells. He had altogether stopped thinking over any
sort of business venture, and had aligned all his energies towards
the Supreme Consciousness to honor him with an idea that he could
interweave with his knowledge. The lotus of the crown chakra stayed
wide open for the divine drop; though his connection to the infinite
had been severed due to his own involvement with illusion, the desire
to do greater good still united him with the Universe.

359
The day arrived when an alluring female walked into the café,
but Ananya could only hear the sound of her stilettos. He followed the
sound, but the absence of any sort of color commotion on her screen
instantly anchored her place in Ananya’s mind. She stayed glued to
her book while intermittently ordering refreshments. Ananya couldn’t
take his eyes off the screen, which despite its emptiness, continuously
piqued his curiosity.
Minutes turned to hours, and Ananya’s patience began to grow
thin. He noticed when other men walked past her, she made them
linger their gazes. Ananya now needed to know the colors that aptly
described her. Hence, he gulped the liberation liquid and began
observing the coat of colors that she could not conceal.
The magnificent trinity of the Ajna, Visudha and Anahata
Chakras appeared in perfect coordination and identical frequency. The
fluorescent green, supplemented with peacock blue, coated by calm
indigo revealed her capacity for compassion, hunger for truth, and an
enhanced perception that could see beyond the physical world.
Ananya was becoming engrossed in the illustrious display of
colors, when the lady began to tamper with the provided shade. She
started playing with buttons and didn’t let a particular color stay for
long—which highlighted the mellow vibration of her sacral chakra,
indicating her capacity for joy and playfulness.
She was still playing with the buttons, when a brisk walk towards
her table accompanied an arrow at her metaphorical heart. With the
sliding of the screen, a face was unveiled to her that had happiness and
strength inscribed over it.
Ananya, on the other hand, had never been so keen for the
removal of the barrier. It titillated his emotions by revealing the
pretty lady’s erogenous zone, one piece after another. The screen first
disclosed her lustrous hair, which neatly encased the nape of her neck.
Then two teeth made a coveted appearance veiled between the petals
of insurmountable passion. The wedged nose temporarily gave some
relief, but its optical neighbors soon snatched that ephemeral peace
with their innocuous outlook, laced with a whimsical grin.
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Ananya inquired “Are you having a nice time, madam?”
The lady responded, “I must say, you have done fantastic work
with colors. The hues of the ambience, shades in the screen—how did
you come up with this?”
“A magician never reveals his trick, Miss.”
The woman in front of him giggled, which spontaneously got
Ananya’s heart throbbing. Her simple smile, followed by the laughter,
elicited a fond familiarity, as if he had been acquainted with her before.
“You know, the psychology of colors is my favorite topic,”
she told him. “Did you know that all of the colors of the rainbow
correspond to our seven chakras?”
This time Ananya chuckled, and answered in affirmative. He
tried hard to recall who she was but couldn’t arrive at a conclusive
answer.
Ananya expounded, “The chakras define who we are; each chakra
represents a tendency, and the only way to live happily is to strike a
balance between all these energy whirlpools.”
The lady replied, “There is one more function of these energy
vortexes. The center acts as a transformation warehouse, where they
can mutate negative energy to positive energy and vice versa. After
all, energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it just changes form.”
Though observing chakras on daily basis, Ananya had never
thought this way. He wanted to know the lady’s perspective further,
but at the same time, his thoughts nagged him.
Why do I get the feeling that I have met you before? As if this was
not the first time I was getting acquainted with your aura?
Ananya asked, “What would you do if you were granted the gift
to see everybody’s chakras at will?”
The lady took a moment, and then responded, “I would scrutinize
all the negative aspects of the person and suggest ways through which
they could improve and enhance their mental wellbeing.” She asked in
return, “What would you do?”
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Ananya laughed hard and said, “Let’s leave that for another
discussion.”
They talked a little more, and Ananya could only marvel at the
flawless blossoming of her third eye and throat chakras whenever she
spoke. He still couldn’t get rid of this hunch that she had come into his
life once before. Unfortunately, the time arrived when the lady had to
bid him goodbye and advance to her evening classes. Then it struck
Ananya that until now, he hadn’t asked her name.
He shouted from his seat “Hey! What’s your name?”
She replied, “Mira,” and went on her way.
The name didn’t conjure up any sort of image in Ananya’s
mind, but her personality did. He went to his counter, and while still
high on the divine drink, he contemplated her suggestion of energy
transformation while grazing his eyes over the periodic table. He was
humming the names of the elements when the lightning of epiphany
struck him.
How the hell did my eyes miss this?
It is said that the story of a person’s inner world is somewhere
written on the outside world. Ananya’s continual inner turmoil finally
transformed into an idea that he had been longing to receive. The
mind that was entirely aware of the energy crisis all over the planet,
and was at the present moment twirling thoughts around regarding
the transformation of energy, now realized the cleanest and relatively
safest fuel for energy generation: thorium.
Ananya detested the deranged state of consciousness of countries
which used uranium-235 as nuclear fuel, which concurrently was
used in nuclear weapons, as well. Due to nations’ innate fear, thorium
never got showcased in the limelight, and under the cloak of the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, every nation enhanced its nuclear
strength under the pretext of clean energy. Since thorium couldn’t be
weaponized, happened to be only mildly radioactive, and could be
easily transformed into the respective isotope of uranium, it captured
Ananya’s imagination entirely.
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He had read somewhere that the Indian peninsula was one of the
most abundant sources of thorium; thus, he couldn’t wait to go home,
sip on his precious serum, and contemplate how to materialize his
vision. During that moment, Ananya realized the essence of the theory
of relativity, as time spent with Mira had gone by in a blur, whereas the
clock hands now barely seemed to budge.
With the sinking sun, Ananya progressed to his home to light
the bulb of innovation once more. He reached his room, calmed his
agitated mind through the sacred lotus posture, and then, after gulping
TPD, he was ready to wage war on this crisis of consciousness.
Ananya surfed cyberspace and was astounded to know that
almost a third of the world’s thorium deposits were in India. It seemed
like he wasn’t the first to know, though—the progression of hyperlinks
revealed to him that illegal mining of thorium was causing a menace.
A little piece of info soothed his heart, which revealed that his fellow
countrymen had developed a fast breeder reactor.
Ananya’s inclination towards chemistry and his passion for
physics immersed him deeper into the fascinating working of the fast
breeder reactor, which was located in Kalpakkam, Chennai and just
needed the nod from the Department of Atomic Energy to operate
commercially. He was impressed at how the reactor produced more
fuel than it consumed by the process of a faster movement of neutrons;
hence the name “fast breeder.”
The reactor was called akshaya patra—the vessel with an
inexhaustible supply. His curiosity ensnared him further as he
wondered how a nuclear reaction could perform just at the edge of the
law of conservation of energy. A little probing revealed that the swifter
movement of neutrons was caused by liquid sodium, which served as
coolant. The moment he read that, his Ajna chakra began to vibrate
fiercely, as if his enhanced perception was trying to communicate
something to him.
Liquid sodium was condemned in the realm of chemicals due to
its explosive reaction when in contact with air or water, even at room
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temperature. But to counteract that, scientists had insulated pipes of
sodium with inert nitrogen. Some scientists argued that the containment
wasn’t strong enough, but Ananya’s intuition didn’t caution against
that. The most reactive element of the periodic table was constantly
stimulating his Ajna chakra, and when he read that sodium coolant’s
void coefficient was positive, that stimulation progressed towards
spiking.
This could contribute to the enhanced temperature coefficient
of reactivity, which in turn would dramatically increase the energy
production. Ananya realized that his elevated perception was signaling
here; thus, he swiftly initiated an alternative that would keep this
coefficient negative. He sipped the supernal serum once more, since
his first dose was about to wear off.
Around four in the morning, with his brain cells completely fried,
he held the solution to the problem he’d been acquainted with hours
ago. The solution was definitely going to turn the void coefficient
negative upon the requirement of less fissionable material with the
respect to the size of the core. Since Ananya had witnessed the aspects
of both innovator and businessman, he outlined a plan that again was
going to monopolize him.

In the morning, he contacted a private detective agency and ordered


them to fill him in about the illegal mining activity in Tamil Nadu and
its neighboring states. The agency delivered what it promised and in a
matter of days, he held the pinpoint location of thorium mines.
The next step of the plan was a twofold process. The first step
was to restore the bond with the ex-president of the DU elections, and
secondly, to acquire leverage over illegitimate miners.
Ananya brought the ex-president under his good graces by
rekindling in him the craving for power. He refueled the desire to
be on the upper order of the food chain, where his command could
become law and his virtues part of the students’ syllabi.
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Ananya then proceeded towards Tamil Nadu with great intentions
in his heart and a vast vision in his mind. With just an interpreter and
the bottle of his beloved drink, he proceeded to the infamous district
of Tamil Nadu, where the only law was of brute strength.
Upon reaching the place, he saw a large hose pumping water
at a great height, reflecting the unbearable extent of sand mining,
accompanied by the dilapidated condition of the miners. With the
guidance of the interpreter, Ananya advanced towards the master, the
person who was the cause of all this. The master appeared to be a
gluttonous pig with a golden chain hanging around his neck.
The master was referred to as “Dada,” and with dark skin coating
his body, he had even more compelling darkness covering his soul.
Ananya observed that the only prominent reverberations were of his
root and sacral chakras. Hence, he proceeded with a soft hand first and
tried to stimulate his heart chakra, to induce compassion.
Ananya addressed him as “Anna,” meaning big brother, and
inquired, “What measures have you taken to protect your employees?”
The master, with a mouth full of betel leaf infused with tobacco,
replied, “Are they children? They can take care of themselves.”
Ananya witnessed a bigger ego clash than he had in a long while,
and he was certainly taken aback. He trod lightly and asked, “What
do you do from the monazite sand that you mine?” Ananya knew that
monazite was a major component of thorium.
“That’s none of your business.”
This proved to be the only push that Ananya needed, and he said,
“You give me half of the monazite you have extracted, or all of it goes
to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.”
The interpreter looked at Ananya as if he had lost his sanity, but
Ananya nudged him to utter the exact words. When the interpreter
transferred the message, the overlord lost his cool and laughed
diabolically. He signaled his security person, who came forward with
a butcher’s knife, placing it against Ananya’s neck from behind.
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Ananya, while high on serum, for the first time felt fear for his
mortal frame. He very perceptibly felt commotion in his root chakra.
As seconds passed, he could feel that fear spreading from the base of
his spine all over his body, but he didn’t reflect that panic through his
eyes. He keenly looked into the eyes of that filthy monster and said,
“If a drop of my blood falls on the ground, I will set this whole place
on fire.”
When the despot sensed the intensity in Ananya’s eyes, he
wondered whether Ananya was a powerful person or a maniac. Hence,
he asked his personnel to move away from Ananya, and in an attempt
to mock him, he threw a fistful of monazite sand at him and said,
“That’s the only amount of monazite you are going to get.”
The retraction of the knife sliced Ananya’s skin slightly, making
a drop of blood fall. The egoistic prick in front of him laughed, but
Ananya only smiled, wondering that he had signed the warrant of his
own annihilation. The particles of sand gave him a concise idea of
what texture monazite held, and while leaving the quarry, he stuffed
his pocket with that rare powder that was going to pulverize a man’s
empire.
He was keen to avenge his disrespect and acquire leverage, while
at the same time liberate the miners. He was angry over the whole
incident, and especially the point at which he had been helpless—
but he didn’t let that aggression transform into frustration. Rather,
he channeled it towards the extraction of thorium from two pockets’
worth of monazite sand. The process took time, but it provided him to
conceptualize a plan through which a lesson needed to be taught and
whose moral would be further iterated.
One should never underestimate the power of a bribe in India,
and neither did Ananya here. He bribed a mine worker to tell him the
precise location of processed monazite sand, and on a moonless night,
he proceeded to pay his homage. He had reduced the collected sand
to the major part of the granule size of thorium, and a minor portion
of the powdery nature of the same. He didn’t face trouble in passing

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through security, since the personnel was intoxicated with alcohol;
upon reaching the warehouse, he surrounded it with a prominent streak
of thorium, while spraying the warehouse with a peculiar element. At
the end, he sprinkled the powder in a line to provide the initial push
for the dominos to fall.
Thorium had been known to react vigorously with air and the
lesser the size of the particle, the swifter the reaction. The house
of cards waited to be knocked down while Ananya reviewed his
decision, but he eventually decided that for a greater purpose, this was
necessary—though it benefited him first, before anyone else.
He brought his lips close to the white line and blew air over it,
and it instantly blazed into an inferno.
The fire, in the blink of an eye, engulfed the complete warehouse.
The security guards rubbed their eyes in response to the surge in heat
of their surroundings. People ran towards the direction of the flames,
while Ananya proceeded towards elevated ground where he could see
it all.
Just as he’d predicted, people started throwing water at the storage
unit, but as anticipated, Ananya’s peculiar element, cesium, handled
it. Cesium reacted vigorously with water, and the more water people
threw, the more it backfired. This time Ananya watched with a wicked
smile, and the appearance of the anxiety-ridden overlord soothed his
mind. He left, since all the monazite had become unfit after the carbon
and cesium interaction, but an important lesson had been taught: If
Ananya wanted something, he got it. Period.
Ananya didn’t pay that gluttonous pig a visit; rather, he preferred
his words to echo his message. From there, he proceeded to Andhra
Pradesh, but it seemed like his reputation had preceded him. With
just an interpreter to accompany him, he generated such fear that the
owner surrendered and accepted the proposal without complaint, as
did the other miners with whom Ananya met later.

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Ananya’s consciousness didn’t inflict guilt, since stealing from
thieves wasn’t an immoral act—and with the accumulation of the
required quantity of thorium, he was ready for his next step.
The ex-president of the DU still struggled for power while
playing as a pawn in Ananya’s game. He once more required campaign
money, and in exchange, Ananya asked for a meeting with a certain
esteemed member of parliament who had a shadowy background.
Ananya’s acquaintance agreed with little reluctance, but on the day of
the meeting, when he was excluded from the gathering, he realized the
befitting role of puppet he had played.
Ananya, while high on serum, looked at the vivid shades of the
politician in white. He noticed the dynamic animation of his Manipura
chakra, reflecting a craving for power, while his Ajna chakra stayed
entangled with illusion. Ananya first bathed the man in flattery, and
then concluded, “Sir, a year is left before the election. Like me, many
youth support your decision making. If something could be done to
add four years to your work, then I would be more than happy to do
it.”
The politician was aware of the game, and hence he sniggered,
“By what way do you intend to help?”
Ananya explained to him the energy outrage, the surging
prices of private power companies in response, and the alternative,
cheap source of nuclear energy. He tampered with his Ajna chakra
by providing a vision in which a low-cost production of energy was
possible, followed by the realistic application through the abundance
of thorium. Since his government was in power, he suggested the
power plant at Kalpakkam be utilized to start this year, so that by the
time of elections, the benefits could be reaped.
The politician sensed how he would benefit, yet proceeded with
discretion, saying, “So how can I help with that?”
Ananya answered, “I have some suggestions about design
improvement—and an abundant supply of thorium…”

368
Ananya bit his lip intentionally, and noticed the change in the
energies of the politician, which reflected his assent. The man still
proceeded with caution, saying, “What If I don’t approve your
proposition?”
Ananya calmly replied, “Then a politician who has much more
to gain would.”
The bureaucrat in white slyly smiled and extended his hand,
which Ananya shook graciously. Ananya held his side of the bargain
and didn’t proceed until he was granted a meeting with a scientist from
AERB. When the opportunity arrived, he confessed to the scientist
that under unfavorable circumstances, the reactivity coefficient could
prove to be catastrophic. The scientist appreciated Ananya’s concern,
but instead of welcoming the solution, he began to sublime Ananya’s
baseless fears.
The scientist ultimately discredited the suggestion, saying that
such a situation was unlikely to arise. Ananya was displeased with
the reckless attitude, and hence he divulged further and came to know
that the Department of Atomic Energy, whose responsibility it was to
approve the power plant, provided the wages for AERB—and nature
has it that no one bit the hand that fed it.
The approval from DAE arrived in a matter of weeks, and soon
the nuclear power plant at Kalpakkam began. The joy was pertinent on
everybody’s face, but Ananya’s concern couldn’t be shelved. He was
gaining money through his risky venture, but non-implementation of
his solution still bugged him. The dejection stemmed from the defeat
to his ego—or perhaps from an enhanced intuition that had never been
inaccurate.
Ananya had attained a level of success in a matter of months
that most people took decades to achieve. His name had become
synonymous with triumph, but that had made him stand at the top,
where there was no one to accompany him. His two amigos had drifted
far behind and beside him; he missed his days at St. Stephen’s equally
well. Nostalgia overpowered him one day, and he phoned Kanika.
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“Hello.”
Ananya teased, “Why do you sound low, Half-Baked? Sleeping?”
Kanika replied in the same tone, “No.”
“Then what happened?”
“It’s nothing.”
When Ananya inquired further, he came to know that she had
stopped painting due to the unsuccessful attempt at showcasing her
artwork. He encouraged her to paint and promised her that if she
didn’t find an art gallery by November then he would help her realize
her dream.
Ananya kept his promise and pulled a few strings to organize
Kanika’s artwork at the revered National Gallery of Modern Art, New
Delhi. Kanika held the exhibition in coordination with another artist
called Ayaan, who was equally talented as Kanika, but perhaps a little
less drowsy. Since that artist was a senior, he invited an elite crowd,
but Kanika’s work drew them towards itself nonetheless.
Ananya had been trying to meet someone with whom he could
celebrate the carnal pleasures of life, but in his elevated state, he
observed that every woman lacked one thing or the other, and the
interesting ones that he met, like Mira, left abruptly—much like
Anushree. At the present moment, he was high on the phenomenal
fluid, that compound which elicited supreme power, the greatest
aphrodisiac.
The power that had already intoxicated his sense of direction and
mental well-being made him think that if he could manipulate people
into making decisions, then he ought to utilize his strength to mold
the decision of a woman in terms of whom she would spend the night
with. He knew where he had to draw a line of his influence, but to
what extent, even he wasn’t aware.
Kanika had naturally invited Akshay, and the moment both
comrades faced each other, Ananya was momentarily frozen. He

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couldn’t find words in his extensive vocabulary to speak to his mate.
But as their feet progressed towards one another, he sensed that the
vibrations of Akshay’s heart chakra grew brighter and more vibrant.
He was extremely pleased to see that, and with an extended arm, he
extended himself to embrace him. The warm hug brought back old
memories and summoned moisture to both of the young men’s eyes,
indicating that they both had forgiven each other.
Kanika was glad that they had made peace, and when the hug had
lingered long enough, she teased, “Get a room, guys.”
Ananya felt reinvigorated upon meeting his masculine mate, and
the desire to get laid got interwoven with the eagerness to boast. He
asked them to watch while he made his way towards a woman who
was captivated by an artistic impression of a village woman carrying
an earthen pot at her hip. The woman in the painting had her back
faced, and so did the lady who was observing the work.
Ananya noticed her encasing aura and realized that she
reverberated with a soothing vibration of her heart chakra, which
emitted a calming lime green. The crown chakra emanated a smooth
lilac shade, which reflected the woman’s closeness to the Universe
and her connection with inner wisdom. He looked carefully and saw
that her sacral chakra emitted a honey-orange shade, reflecting that her
sexual energy was yet to be unleashed.
He stood by the side of the woman, and while looking at the
painting said, “I wonder if the face of the woman would be as
curvaceous as the earthen pot.”
The lady with a caramel skin tone giggled and replied, “But that
still wouldn’t be as curvy as her back.”
Ananya responded with a chuckle and shook the lady’s hand.
While exchanging a glance, the moment his eyes scanned her face,
he was filled with pain and pleasure simultaneously. The face of the
woman borrowed the innocence of a lamb, yet her eyes carried a
fierceness inherited from a tigress. Her hair was open and pulled in

371
front of her shoulder, which made it hard to look at her face. That
wasn’t the most tempting bit about the lady, however. She had a very
subtle depression onto her lower lip, a surreal cleavage that parted that
petal carrying life-affirming blood. The most mischievous part was
when that depression shifted to the bottom of her chin whenever she
laughed. But the thing that filled his heart with grief was the nuptial
thread just under that charming chin, signifying that she was taken.
“Hi, I am Vanya.”
Ananya was aware that the possibility of intercourse with her
was near to impossible, but he couldn’t detach himself from her
mesmerizing gaze. Her eyes peered into the soul, which she connected
with her inner wisdom, making her conquest even more tempting. He
talked with her a little more, and the line of morality started to blur.
The simple acts of pushing a ringlet behind her ear, and playing with
her wedding ring, made Ananya desire her even more.
Ananya was engaged in impressing the lady, who was at least a
decade older than he, when the artist whose painting hung there made
an appearance. He extended his hand to introduce himself, completely
sidetracking Ananya.
“Hi, I am Ayaan. I hope you are not having trouble deciphering
my work.”
“Absolutely not,” She replied.
Ananya countered, “I am curious what subtle meaning exists
behind a woman carrying earthen pot.”
The artist held his gaze fixed upon Vanya and said, “I have tried
to reveal the loneliness of woman. She carries so much weight with
herself. Social expectations, family responsibilities, and her intricate
part in rituals—but her longing for companionship cannot be easily
fulfilled, her yearning for pleasure cannot be satiated. If there is a race
that is truly built in the image of the divine, it is women.”
During the whole monologue, Ayaan kept looking at Vanya,
implying that a beautiful, married woman like her didn’t look right
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alone. He, at last, concluded, “That is why I didn’t portray her face,
for that delightful face could belong to anybody.”
He blinked his eyes while looking at Vanya, who shyly smiled
back. Ananya noticed that the artist’s sacral and heart chakras were
no match for his, and hence he proceeded back to his baseline. Kanika
and Akshay were gorging on starters when he arrived. They inquired,
“What happened?”
“Nothing. She is a bit too old for me.”
Kanika teased, “She seems age-appropriate to me.”
Ananya frowned and challenged her to point in the direction of
any painting of her choosing, and he would arrive with a girl—or her
phone number, at least. Kanika had been enjoying the day; hence, she
threw the bone in the opposite direction for Ananya to go and fetch it.
Ananya looked in the direction she pointed, and saw a woman
wearing a midnight-blue tussar silk saree blended with shade of taffy
pink, but the most arousing part wasn’t the shades of her saree or
the piquant vibrations of her chakras. Rather, it was her bare back,
where her shoulder blades played hide and seek in the backless blouse.
Despite being completely royal blue in color, it was held with a slim
thread and had hot pink cotton attached at the end, which Ananya
badly wanted to untangle.
Ananya approached her and was overjoyed when they started
conversing comfortably. The girl introduced herself, saying that she
worked with the media and had arrived on the invitation from Ayaan.
Her name was Divya, and she did justice to her name through the
brilliant vibrations of her heart chakra. She had a petite figure which
elucidated her expressions, accompanied by fleshy lips and perky
breasts. Their interaction progressed to a painting up front, which
showcased an animated impression of a girl with a tattered bra,
partially immersed in water, with eyes fully closed. She had a duck
sitting over her head, and her hair was transformed into a hand. It held
a thorn-stricken rose containing an eye.

373
Ananya played his usual banter of tease and appease, making
her giggle and it was then he noticed that she had an extra incisor.
The appearance of that auxiliary tooth instantly took him to his time
spent with Ritika, making him realize that she was everything Ritika
was, but also more. His sensual stimulation began to ascend, and he
decided that she ought to feel the same. Hence, he initiated stimulating
her sacral chakra and heart chakra alternately.
The ice of anonymity melted, and both began conversing as if
they were childhood friends. There wasn’t much difference in their
ages, but what Ananya immensely liked about her was the fact that
their thinking pattern was synchronous a lot of times. Soon they began
to argue why the animated creature was depicted with a tattered bra, to
which the girl said that it was symbolic for domestic violence, while
Ananya countered that this was a depiction of a post-apocalyptic
world where such things were common.
He teased her until her eyes seethed with facetious anger and then
he took her over to Kanika to rest her suspicion. Kanika first through
her gaze marveled at Ananya’s choice, and then explained to both of
them how incorrect they were in their interpretation. She expounded
that the girl symbolized every youth who, upon entering adulthood,
finds herself lost. The particular placement of the duck meant that the
person becomes bound to go with the flow, whereas the eye amongst
the thorns meant that the person was supposed to look from the
society’s perspective of wrong and right, while closing her eyes.
Divya was impressed by the fact that Ananya knew Kanika
personally and had a major role to play in setting up the exhibition.
She inquired, “What do you do for a living?”
Ananya guffawed and teased, “I feed the miserable and reunite
the broken-hearted.” Then he added, “I also intend to rid the planet of
every shred of plastic.”
Divya with enlarged eyes, said, “That was you?”
Ananya slowly filled her with his achievements, and noticed the
similar summoning of devotion that he had observed in Ritika. He
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took advantage of the opportunity and said, “I need to leave in about
fifteen minutes; would you like me to drop you anywhere?”
Divya teasing, said, “Connexion first. Afterward, my home.”
Ananya bade goodbye to his two true friends and gleefully took
her to the café. Since it was closing hours, no one was present except
the two of them. Ananya marveled at her as she adjusted her saree
while walking in front of him, and he was at the same time intrigued
by what would be the next pit stop of this journey.
He explained to her the function of the buttons, and asked her to
play accordingly. The damsel started having a fabulous time filling
the heart with different shades across from Ananya, who disrupted her
occasionally through pressing the buttons on his side, supplemented
by his hilarious expressions. The emotional gap between them reduced
even further, with her hitting Ananya facetiously, while he brought his
face closer to the screen every time it pulled up.
At one point, he pretended to sleep so as to make her wait, and
when she saw him snoring, she kicked his toe. Ananya gulped the pain
with pleasure. At that instant, he sensed the prominent vibration of
her sacral chakra overpowering all energy vortexes; therefore, he felt
inclined to proceed.
The next instant, when Divya began playing with the colors, he
pulled the screen up while keeping his face as close as possible. The
minute the barrier was removed, the lady was less taken aback and
rather more curious, and she stared intently in Ananya’s eyes.
Ananya sensed the anticipation in her eyes and the heaviness in
her breath; hence, he placed his hand under her chin and his lips over
hers. Divya welcomed those guests with fervor, and responded with
perceptible passion. The speed of time again changed, and despite the
significant advancement of the minute hands, they felt a longing for
further pleasure.
He noticed that kiss provoked the vibrations of her heart chakra,
which undoubtedly suggested that she had begun to harbor affection

375
towards him, but Ananya wanted something else. He didn’t desire
her emotional support—rather, a companion through whom he could
achieve the pinnacle of human pleasure. Hence, they both began
proceeding out of the café, but this time Ananya placed his palm over
her bare back, so as to guide her way—which instantly sent shivers
into her sacral chakra.
They proceeded to Divya’s house while refraining to speak
anything (with the sporadic interruption from Ananya asking for
direction). Through the corner of his eye, he observed her chakra
vibrations, and the instant her sacral chakra mellowed down, he
switched on some music to stimulate it back. Hence, at all times, he
made sure that by the time they reached her bed, she would want him
as badly as he yearned for her.
The cool breeze of December in Delhi kept both of them in need
of warmth. The moment her house arrived, she sneezed, to which
Ananya said, “Bless you.” He continued, “It is chilling out here;
would you like to share a cup of coffee?”
The girl was equally eager for Ananya’s company. Hence, she
conceded. But Ananya sensed how her sacral chakra again began to
pulsate fiercely. Therefore, while walking towards her house gate, he
brought his mouth close to her ear and whispered, “Perhaps later, I can
cloak you with a blanket and tuck you in.”
They both entered the house, where the lady in the saree asked
Ananya to sit while she changed. Ananya stopped her and asked her
to change later, and ordered her to sit while he prepared coffee for
both of them. He inquired about where everything was, and with little
trouble, prepared the beverage whose ingredients were going to keep
them awake all night.
Ananya brought the cups of coffee over on a serving tray, and
advanced her cup toward her with both hands cupped around the mug.
Divya held the cup, clasping Ananya’s hands with hers, and the best
way Ananya could respond was to move ahead and drain his romance
into the spot the coffee was going to pour.
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Ananya dug his face into hers, while her head became buried in
the soft cushion of the sofa. They both still held the cup containing the
coffee, but Ananya had something else in mind. He broke the kiss and
moved the mug towards her, making her sip a significant portion of the
hot beverage, and then resumed the lip lock to drink his own beverage
that had become even hotter.
Ananya put down the mug, held the girl in his arms, and took her
to the bedroom. By now her heart and sacral chakra vibrated intensely.
He put her down on the bed and, instead of kissing her again, he
proceeded to her back, which had been degrading his peace of mind
every second. He dug his teeth into her skin just to hear her moan, and
opened the knot with only his teeth. He followed this with enduring
pecks over all her energy centers.
The passionate night ensued in which the garments were
discarded one after another, as if a soul were changing bodies to reach
the exalted state of contentment. When both spirits had given away
every single veil and reached the state of absolute vulnerability, their
consummation arrived; it was a point which could be termed by some
as loss of virginity, but for Ananya, it was a gaining of innocence that
he had lost long ago.
The subtle observations helped him keep track of his culminating
orgasm, and align it accordingly to the buildup of climax in response
to his partner. The girl mounted Ananya, and his blood surged in the
opposite direction, rendering pleasure to both while leaving no space
for uncertainty, so to speak.
The moment arrived when their sacral chakras began to vibrate
the fiercest, and with the increase in pace, Ananya knew this was going
to be it. He held her back and gave the final push, and they liberated
each other from their earthly existence ephemerally, while submerging
their consciousness into the nectar of ecstasy. He noticed something
peculiar, though; he saw that the base of their spines emitted a fuchsia
pink which engulfed their auras and fused with one another to reflect
the union that had just happened.
377
The woman lay on Ananya and began to fall asleep, while he
stayed awake and looked at this girl with disheveled hair who was
dozing off at his arm—when his introspection was nudged into action.
He asked himself if it was right to physically engage with a woman
with whom he wasn’t emotionally attached. Was it right to use his gift
to subtly manipulate a person to get things done? Above everything
stood the lingering after-effect of an orgasm, which sedated this
thought process and lulled him to sleep.
He woke up to the sound of commotion, and upon opening his
eyes noticed Divya was getting ready for her occupation. Ananya
didn’t sense any regret in her action; hence, he proceeded calmly and
began to reel her into his arms for a quick morning session. However,
she resisted and said, “I have a morning presentation about the cyclone
that just came through.”
Ananya raised his eyebrows and inquired, “What?”
Divya switched on the television and said,” Chennai got hit by a
cyclone last night.”
She left and asked him to lock the door upon leaving, while
Ananya stayed numb with his Ajna chakra again vibrating furiously—
without the ingestion of phenomenal fluid this time.

378
The Meltdown
The reality that Ananya had never wanted to witness was on the path
of getting materialized, and there wasn’t a single thing he could do
about it except hope that in this typhoon of destruction, the lamp of
preservation remained lit.
The cyclone hadn’t reached Kalpakkam, where the nuclear
reactor resided, but it had caressed the shores of Tamil Nadu and was
yet to massage and embrace it with full intensity. He instinctively
contacted the scientist from AERB, who put rest to his doubts, saying
that the nuclear reactor was well-prepared for such a level of adversity.
Ananya walked out of Divya’s house while exchanging a glance
with the cups of coffee from last night. This was the second time fear
entered his root chakra, and it wasn’t going to dissipate from his body
anytime soon. He wasn’t concerned for his survival, or for that matter,
his investment, but rather that of the people who lived in Kalpakkam.
He knew very well that places which had met nuclear fatality were
turned into ghost towns, and human civilizations couldn’t thrive in
those areas for decades—or perhaps centuries.
He presented everything on the screen of his mind—the smooch
from Anushree, the coitus from last night, his story of success so
far, even the face of his innocent Barbie—but nothing could uplift
his mood, which hinged upon the laws of nature, to which even the
Creator and he were bound.
When the conundrum seemed a bit heavy to bear, he decided
to unburden himself with the liberation liquid, which had been his
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companion through thick and thin. He proceeded to his room, and
upon placing himself in the cross-legged posture, calmed his mind and
gulped the kaleidoscopic compound like an alcoholic trying to bury
his pain. Even though he didn’t exceed the quantity, the innate fear
that had taken root was yet to unravel.
With eyes closed, he let the drug take him higher by providing
the fuel for his enhanced perception. The dark space began to fill with
the image of a calm seashore, which was a prelude to the raging storm.
He was observing the movie without any attachment, when suddenly
the wind picked up its pace, and the coconut trees which were
flamboyantly expressing their vastness swayed in unison upon just a
whiff from the wind. The waves, which had crawled submissively to
land, now roared back. The scene from heaven quickly transformed to
a vision in hell, giving an overall impression that the ocean was angry
for snatching away his land and even wanted back what it had given
long ago.
Ananya’s breathing began to get heavier, but so did his curiosity.
He wanted to know whether this was a figment of his imagination or
if the prolonged use of the perfect drug had enabled him to see beyond
time and space. His gaze reached the place of human civilization.
Though the government had warned its denizens of the upcoming
disaster, they hadn’t provided alternatives to those whose sustenance
and existence relied on the sea.
He scanned numerous houses, and his gaze rested on a particular
one whose roof had been blown away. The family members sat
around their elder, who was restricted to bed, and were continuously
praying to their family deity. The youngest member was fighting with
the powerful wind to keep her teddy bear, but the wind proved too
ferocious compared to the little girl’s grip, and it took away her play
toy.
Instinctively, the girl ran after her beloved companion, freeing
herself from her mother’s clutches. Her mother shouted, “Mathangi,
wait!”

380
Ananya clenched his teeth, yet still didn’t open his eyes. He
proceeded to an abandoned restaurant, where he noticed a commotion.
Upon observing closer, he saw a man collecting food supplies from
the kitchen. The man was in tattered clothes and was so engrossed in
collecting supplies that he didn’t notice how close he was standing to
the window. The wicked wind once again showcased her strength by
gushing through that window pane, shattering the glass into a million
pieces. The force was so strong that almost every piece got stuck in his
body, and instead of glass shards, droplets of blood covered the floor.
The man’s mournful cry immediately broke Ananya’s concentration,
and his awareness was brought back to the confines of his room.
He went outside to calm his troubled mind, but nothing could
console him; the visions he’d just witnessed were so realistic that he
felt dissociated from reality. He proceeded towards the shack to have
some refreshment. But the moment Ananya held that natural vessel
containing its hydrating fluid, the doleful sounds began to echo in
his mind, and the more sips he took, the more intensified the voices
became.
Ananya’s sorrow was so peculiar that he couldn’t share it with
anybody, but like his intuition, he shelved it on the basis that it was just
an elaborate illusion of his mind. He was walking towards Connexion
when he got a call from Divya—which brought the turmoil of whether
to pick up her call or not. It was due to this reason that he detested
physical intimacy before emotional connection, because either she
was proposing a friendly get-together, or suggesting another intimate
encounter; at the current moment, Ananya had reservations against
both.
Ananya stayed indulged in his self-loathing and avoided any sort
of social interaction. He couldn’t sip the supernal serum, for he was
afraid that those horrific visions might reappear. The best distraction
he could offer himself was his aunt’s food in the company of the little
she-devil. Hence, he proceeded towards Malviya Nagar but gave a
call in advance to his aunt, since he craved her mystical masalas more
than ever.
381
Ananya’s compensation was paid through chole bhature, which
happened to be a revered Indian snack composed of spicy chickpeas
and fried bread. The fat and sugar craving induced because of stress
made Ananya gorge over the meal until his tummy was bloated, to the
extent that he felt his breathing was constricted. He then proceeded
to his second-most cherished activity—to relish in the food high by
dozing off indefinitely.
Ananya curled up like a fetus, and while reminiscing about the
amorous memories of the previous night, he immediately slipped
into slumber. When he woke up, the fatigue due to mental strain still
lingered. He got up from the bed, but couldn’t get rid of the sinking
feeling of a dead weight over his chest, which inhibited the summoning
of any sort of happiness.
He tried to dismiss his baseless fears, and joined Guddu in the
grooming of her Barbie. The clock hands progressed, and with them
so did the monotony of the activity. His mind pulled him in a different
direction, while his physical presence was aligned right there.
Fortuitously, Minki appeared and asked, “Bhaiya, could you help me
with my essay?”
“What’s the topic, sweetheart?”
“If you could see the future, what would you do?”
Ananya chuckled at the irony and asked her, “What would you do
if you could see the future?”
Minki rolled her eyes, and with her limited knowledge, replied,
“I would try to stop all natural calamities by informing the authorities
early. And identify the questions before the examination.”
“Natural disasters are outcomes of the laws of nature, to which
we all are bound; but securing grades and choosing which doll to play
with are results of man’s free will. Informing the authorities would
certainly help, but the calamity that disaster had decided to bring
cannot be avoided.” Minki was still listening, so he went on, “The
inevitable event would be discernable to just you, and the anticipation
would make you realize that this power is boom and bane both.”
382
Minki grasped her brother’s insight, while Ananya felt better
with his explanation that there was literally nothing he could do to
alter reality. Later, he began helping Pallavi in the kitchen and was
glad to know that Rajesh was coming home. It made him temporarily
forgot that a naked sword hung over Kalpakkam.
Rajesh arrived home with fatigue written all over his face, but the
appearance of his youngest child and bright nephew instantly fused
the spark of life in him. He congratulated Ananya for the palpable
success of the restaurant, and teased if he could acquire a prominent
share instead of the present one.
Ananya retorted, “If the café were to expand, then your significant
stake would make more sense, Uncle.”
Rajesh chuckled and asked, “So what is the next business venture
you have in mind?”
“None, Uncle. This is enough for the time being, and I want my
focus to stay on innovations and…”
At that moment, Guddu passed in front of them both, and Ananya
got tempted like a monkey with his favorite fruit.
“Tickling Guddu.”
Guddu began running while the notorious fingers made their
way for her; Rajesh started tuning in to the news channels. The game
of catch and escape continued around the living room and Ananya
seemed to have vaporized his worries. He caught hold of the angelic
beast and began twirling her the way she did her Barbie dolls.
The news channel began flashing images of the ruins caused by
the cyclone, which directed the gaze of all three towards the television.
Ananya got slightly turned on by seeing Divya presenting the news,
but the presence of Guddu in his lap immediately put a hold on that
luscious thought process. The presentation started displaying the
pictures of the debris, and Ananya unconsciously got involved in the
same. He began looking at the images intently in the bid to discard his
fear once and for all, when abruptly that abandoned restaurant made
383
an appearance. The panic once again roared back, but he was relieved
when there was no mention of any casualties. Since the news channels
had a tendency of demonstrating the clips on loop, he looked once
again and was shocked to see that, at the window pane, amongst some
broken glass, a stuffed brown figure was stuck. It was none other than
that teddy bear.
The appearance of that stuffed animal made him sick to his
stomach. All the joy surrounding him seemed meaningless. The
placement of Guddu on his lap began to make him feel claustrophobic.
He placed her adjacent to Rajesh and let the notion sink in that he
indeed possessed the eyes of Almighty, and he let this thought turn to
belief that he could actually see ahead in time.
But what annoyed him deeply was the fact that he was
helpless. He looked at the television screen, and in the buried
debris he could see life that celebrated over it. Troubled thoughts
started rummaging through his head, which began to make him
feel miserable. At that instant, the words of Mr. Prakash echoed
through his mind that the best way to live life was by renouncing
attachment—to detach from worldly pleasures. But soon, that video
clip was replaced by Divya’s presentation, and his pain demanded
a crucial need for pleasure.
It seemed as if that material attachment of anguish had pushed the
life force down to lower-order chakras, and Ananya felt a desperate
need for human compassion in the state of outright vulnerability. He
had an intense desire for consummation so as to get rid of the grief.
He immediately called Divya. Since her program was live, he
sensed a slight vibration in her movement, which instantly initiated
some wicked ideas in his mind. He thought to follow the path of the
glorified ones and embrace detachment, but he was far behind in
his sadhana—path to enlightenment—and the precise twitching of
Divya’s mouth, accompanied by the occasional appearance of her
vicious tongue, made him realize that sometimes the best way to
respond to a temptation was to yield to it.

384
Ananya waited for the following day with a sense of urgency for
her call, but when she didn’t call back, Ananya was bound to utilize
a much more efficient weapon from his arsenal. In the evening, he
proceeded to her home with a bouquet of flowers; before ringing the
bell, he gave her one more call.
Divya answered, “Hello?”
Ananya commanded, “Open the door.”
In front of his face, he held the bouquet of flowers, containing
flamingo-pink and hot-pink roses. She grabbed the bouquet, leaving
Ananya’s face without any concealment—which revealed his tongue-
twister gesture, just the way he had anticipated.
Divya giggled and inquired, “Why weren’t you picking up my
call?”
Ananya fibbed, “Occupied with work.”
Ananya was in great need for the exchange of some bodily fluids.
He proceeded inside and began to stimulate her for the same by saying,
“Can I have some coffee?”
Divya, without any perceptible change of expression went in the
kitchen. Ananya stared at her curvaceous ass, which tempted him to
lift her just through that rear side. Meanwhile, the lady in hot pants
brought the coffee and sat in front of Ananya while bending a little,
giving a fascinating view to Ananya from her sleeveless Superman
T-shirt.
“I was wondering if you would make me drink, you know, like
last time.”
Divya chuckled and said, “I was wondering if we could take
things slow.”
Ananya got cheesed off instantly, and went to the bathroom to
proceed the way he had earlier. He had a feeling that her need for
companionship might subjugate her need for flesh, hence he sipped
some TPD, looked himself in the eyes, and smiled malevolently,

385
wondering that during the course of the night, she might ask him to
take things “slow.”
As Ananya reentered the room, Divya asked him, “Did I say
something to upset you?”
Ananya sensed the prominent vibrations in her throat chakra, and
hence he smiled back and conceded, “Nope, I totally agree.”
On the contrary, Ananya understood the nature of gratification. It
was like a portal which once opened was difficult to close, and which
offered a perennial source of pleasure. He scrutinized her energetic
aura and sensed that she was indeed mildly turned on by his presence;
hence, he didn’t have to do much work.
Divya was sitting on the sofa with folded legs while Ananya
was figuring out a way for both of them to repeat history with their
compatible chemistry. Ananya sensed feebleness in her solar plexus
chakra, reflecting her doubts regarding her self-worth.
“I saw your presentation. I am compelled to say that you make
the news interesting.”
“Really?”
Ananya responded with a nod, while Divya came to his side of
the sofa and placed her head on the armrest of the furniture while
spreading her legs into Ananya’s lap. Ananya instantly widened his
legs so that she could have easy access to his crotch, just in case.
He commented, “Yeah. The cherry-red lipstick gave the
impression that you’d just had a human being for lunch.”
Divya knew she was in power, and hence struck her ankle lightly
over Ananya’s vulnerable spot while he groaned in pain.
He corrected himself, “I mean, the magenta jacket that you wore
over that ballet-slipper-pink top made you look extremely irresistible.”
Divya’s mood lightened up a bit, and she began moving her ankle
to and fro to express her gratitude, and said, “And?”

386
Ananya shifted once more and said, “I wished I could make love
to you there and then for the world to see how fascinating I find you.”
Divya caressed further over Ananya’s soft spot and he left out a
moan; he directed his gaze towards her and saw her solar plexus chakra
restored in order, but her sacral chakra still demanded stimulation. She
inquired further. “And?”
“I wondered what you wore below.”
Divya massaged Ananya’s groin further and said, “A black skirt.
Proceed.”
Ananya left out a huge gasp and was ready for the next step. He
knew very well that Divya was a dominating personality like him,
hence it was undesirable to force her for sex; rather, the best to way
influence her was to subconsciously suggest intercourse while making
it appear that she had control over him.
Ananya saw that her sacral chakra had started spiraling, which
was due to the vibrations of her Manipura chakra. He added, “You
remember, I called you during the presentation.”
“Yes.”
Ananya placed her phone at her pelvic region and dialed it, while
pressing it down with the same intensity with which she pressured her
ankle on him. He lastly said, “I wished it had vibrated at a different
location.”
The vibrations from the phone instantly started whirling her
sacral chakra, and she began responding by fondling Ananya’s loins
with increased intensity. She hadn’t anticipated that, but the bliss of
surprise was too great to bear, and the best way to respond to it was
absolute surrender.
Divya soon started writhing with pleasure like a fish taken out of
water. Due to constricted space and apt placement of her cell phone,
she couldn’t move much, and the only way to express her flexibility
was through her legs. The moment Ananya sensed that she was trying

387
to improvise by incorporating her toes, he helped her by unbuttoning
his pants.
Ananya’s sensual stimulation was piquing with the removal of
garments, and he too wanted to reciprocate, so instead of pulling down
her hot pants, he held the cellphone at the tip of his finger and began
circling it over the region which initiated the circle of life. The hot
pants with their flimsy texture were barely proving to be a barrier, and
when Ananya rotated the phone all over her nether region, he quickly
realized the absence of her underpants followed by the smoothness of
the turf.
He took hold of the mug in the other hand, sipped the coffee, and
bent towards his lady love while transferring the contents of his mouth
and imparted a caffeine-rich smooch. He said, “Your coffee tastes way
better than mine.”
After the kiss broke, they looked into each other’s eyes with the
desire to devour one another; hence, like before, Ananya lifted her up
in his arms and began to take her to the bedroom. However, despite all
the power in the world, he didn’t realize that his pants had fallen, which
constricted his movement. With Divya in his arms, he walked like he
was a participant in a bean bag race. He could have put her down and
then removed his pants, but that gesture appeared to interrupt the flow,
so he preferred not to. Divya laughed during the whole journey, and
sealed his face with kisses to indicate her heartfelt affection.
He put her down and resumed the fornication through relentless
sensual stimulation, paving the path for transient liberation as a
result of intense relaxation. He observed how her energy vortexes
began radiating effulgently, and as they progressed to the final stage
of consummation, Divya laid underneath Ananya while he clasped
her hands with his, and mounted her while peering into her eyes and
relishing in the fact that at the present moment, he was the sole source
of her happiness.
He kept his pace lethargic which was soon accompanied by a
push from Divya at his buttocks, while mumbling in her moaning
voice, “Faster, Ananya.”
388
Ananya teased her, “I thought you wanted things slow.”
Divya bit his lower lip and said, “Have you forgotten that I have
a disobedient tongue and an awful memory?”
Divya plunged her boneless organ into Ananya’s mouth, and
in that instant, she truly conquered her companion. Ananya began
reciprocating the favor in the most generous manner possible and soon
the room was filled with moaning noises from both, followed by an
encasing aura of taffy pink around them.
Ananya placed his head over Divya’s armpit and while resting
his cheek over her breast, he looked at her with beseeching eyes and
asked, “Do you think the cyclone will turn towards Kalpakkam?”
“No, dear, there is a slight possibility, but most probably it will
turn to the sea.”
Divya teased, “What did the cyclone say to the coconut tree?”
“What?”
Divya replied, “Hold onto your nuts, this isn’t no ordinary job. I
mean blowjob, no ordinary blowjob!”
Ananya chuckled less over the pun and more at Divya’s
stammering. In the end, he looked into her eyes, saw his affection-
infused reflection, and resumed dozing at nature’s most delicate
cushion. Divya stared at her promiscuous companion uninterruptedly,
while Ananya slept soundly in his euphoric state blended with the
intoxication of the surreal substance. The peak of pleasure had calmed
the effervescence of the lower-order chakras, aiding the serum to
transcend his awareness while expanding his consciousness.
Ananya once again woke up when Divya was getting ready, and
the first sight he witnessed was her bare buttocks being encased in
a flamingo-pink skirt, supplemented by a jacket of onyx black. He
embraced her from behind, saying, “It is unwise to start the day
without coffee.”

389
Divya charmingly declined the suggestion, yet placed a
compensatory peck on him which intensified to a smooch. She
departed by saying, “Don’t forget to watch my presentation today.”
“Only if you strategically place your phone.”
Divya giggled at the proposition and left, followed by
Ananya. He proceeded to his restaurant while walking under the
overwhelming shade of the moisture-ridden clouds accompanied by
the unpredictability of the wind. While strolling, he began recalling
the previous night’s intimate elements to the most intricate detail,
along with the memory of his dream which proved a bit too hazy to
remember. The only recollection he had was in the form of intuition
that it might rain today, accompanied by the possibility of Guddu
getting hurt.
Ananya engaged in the mundane activity of looking after the café,
while his mind still twirled with the possibility of the cyclone reaching
Kalpakkam. He deviated his mind with the worthy distractions upfront,
but by the end of the day, he looked forward to the discharge of his
fear more than anything.
He went to his aunt’s place, reaching the house when the sun had
sunk, with damp clouds roaring for their liberation. He tried hard to
recall his last night’s dream, but the attempt proved futile. Hence, to
ease his mind, his hand flipped the channels and paused over the live
feed from Divya, while his other palm rested over his phone.
He gave her a call while his eyes scrutinized her every move,
and waited earnestly for a change in her body language, but it seemed
like she had developed a resistance to his profane prank, as she barely
flinched. When the call was disconnected, he called her once more
and noticed how stealthily she brought her arm under the table and
rearranged the cell phone to a more suitable position.
In the crystal-clear screen, Ananya noticed the dilation of her
pupils while she tightly clenched the paper. Ananya toyed with her
reciprocation upon his will, and the singular moment when she bit her

390
lip set his imagination on fire. At that instant, Ananya experienced an
enormous passionate lust for his partner like he’d never felt before,
while at the same time commencing this thought: Could he alter reality
upon his will like pressing a button on his phone?
Unfortunately, Divya concluded the presentation, transferring the
program to the weather girl. Ananya’s lower chakras still breathed fire,
and though he could no longer linger over his object of entertainment,
the weather girl talking of precipitation all over the country soothed
his soul. She had just stated the uncertainty of the cyclone when
Guddu abruptly passed in front of the television screen. Her manner
of hopping worked as a bolt of lightning to his memory. He recalled
his dream. In a split-second, Guddu would become distracted from the
enlarged image of the country, while he would stay involved in the
magnified appearance of the alluring girl, leading Guddu to hit her toe
on the table, which would make her toenail chip away, which would
be followed by a torrent of tears and rain. It was hard to tell where
those two events connected, but they were certainly concurrent.
The instant Guddu got distracted, Ananya shrieked at the top of
his lungs so loudly that even Pallavi came running from the kitchen.
Naturally, the little Lucifer stopped and stared at her brother in wonder,
but Ananya, after directing the flow of the Universe to an alternate
pathway, waited to see whether rain would fall or not. He reassured
the concerns of his aunt, telling her that everything was fine and she
could continue her work in the kitchen.
Unbeknownst to Ananya, he had become a pivotal cell in the
organism called the Universe. If billions of years ago, this organism
was simple, composed of identical elements, then the only alteration
of today was its acquired complexity; yet it retained its timeless bond
with those essential units of life which reshaped its working. For
instance, an injured toe would debilitate one from walking; similarly
unknown to Ananya, he held the capacity to bend the whole organism
with his tenacity, with his intricate level of neural connection forever
remaining under the grand veil of the Universe.

391
Ananya waited for an hour, which stretched to two, and when
he couldn’t wait anymore, he stepped out of the bounds of his home
and gazed at the sky, which had gone empty without even sprinkling a
drop. In this way of defying all the scientific principles it earlier abided
by, the lesson he internalized was that he could mold reality upon his
will. All he needed was to find a key that triggered progression in a
different Universe, but this little knowledge acquired was nonetheless
dangerous in itself.
While having dinner, he got a call from Divya, and the war
between instant and latent gratification ensued. He knew fairly well
that if he picked up her call, it would be difficult to decline her. When
she called once again, refusing her defeat, he knew the opportunity
didn’t knock on the door daily.
He picked up the phone and she responded with, “Arrive at my
home within twenty minutes.” And disconnected the call without
listening to a word from Ananya.
Ananya sensed authority in her voice, which instantly turned him
on. He knew he didn’t require the kaleidoscopic compound at this
point; hence, he rushed through the dining and left his aunt’s home
on the pretext that there was some issue with management of the café.
He reached her home out of breath, and rang the bell while he
was still gasping. Divya opened the door and admonished him, “I said
twenty, not twenty-two.”
“It is just two minutes.”
Divya retorted, “Do you know how important two minutes in
television communication are?”
Ananya stayed mum like a lamb, while deep down marveled
that she wore the same dress now that she did in the newsroom. He
placed himself on the sofa and eagerly waited for the play to unfold.
She arrived with a long glass containing cold coffee and offered it to
Ananya.

392
The moment Ananya touched his lips to the rim of the vessel,
Divya placed a stiletto on his right thigh and pressed until she heard
a perceptible moan. She then said, “Do you have any idea how much
pain I was in when you were invariably ringing my cell.”
Ananya teased, “Pain, or pleasure?”
Divya slightly smirked while maintaining her sternness and said,
“Don’t push your luck, Mr. Ananya. You have no idea how costly
those two minutes are going to prove to be for you.”
Ananya took a sip and then said, “Sounds like fun.”
Divya, too, shared the cold beverage, with one foot on the ground
and the other aptly placed at Ananya’s thigh. Her playmate, on the
other hand, peered right into her, insinuating that he was prepped for
the journey on which she desired to take him.
Soon, the cold coffee diminished to nil, but failed to extinguish
the smoldering embers of passion within. The raw ice appeared at the
bottom of the glass; Divya took hold of a cube, and upon placing it in
her mouth, she drained the rest of them in Ananya’s briefs. Ananya let
a slight moan, which didn’t stimulate her enough; hence, she placed
the knee of the leg that rested at his thigh over the crotch and upon
grasping his sensation for release, she came in close proximity of his
lips.
She kissed him deeply while plunging the ice cube in his mouth,
and as Ananya tried to push it back, she responded by increasing the
pressure over her knee. She broke the kiss when she noticed utter
submission in her lover and said, “That’s your penalty for sixty
seconds.”
Ananya somehow held his insurmountable excitation and said, “I
am looking forward to the penance for the next sixty seconds.”
Divya smiled sinfully, took hold of Ananya’s hand, and led him
to the bedroom, while the vertical movement caused the subsequent
fall of ice cubes from his briefs as the two of them progressed for the
fulfillment of their common goal.
393
It was the first instant when both partners were dripping wet, and
the moment they entered the room, Divya ordered Ananya to lie down.
She checked her portable safe for the ice, and was surprised when not
a single cube was left. Ananya simply beamed, reflecting that he was
ready for his next punishment.
Divya advanced towards the kitchen and brought more frozen
cubes back with her. She first filled the vault and hoped the guardian
would let her know of any rebellion by his uprising, and then proceeded
to massage Ananya with those ice cubes by sliding them all over his
skin. She knew the apt positions at which men’s erogenous zones lie,
and hence she slid a chilled cube from his fingertips to his armpit until
he moaned and groaned simultaneously.
She let the cube stay there and took another from the vault,
while casually teasing the accomplices of the guardian, and from
there ascended towards the navel. She let it stay there until it filled
the shallow well with water, and then she progressed to the areola
region, making Ananya writhe in pleasure. It was in that moment that
Ananya realized the extent of restraint Divya must have faced when he
reinforced orgasm in her while sitting miles away.
“I am sorry for ceaselessly interrupting your work with calls.”
Divya was titillating the base of Ananya’s feet when she looked
up and smirked, “I am not.”
She resumed her playful tease until every ice cube from the
chamber was gone, and then approached Ananya to ultimately relieve
him with a kiss. Upon noticing a coffee mug at her bed stand, she said,
“A lot can happen over a cup of coffee.”
Ananya retorted, “A lot already has happened over coffee.” And
he raised his head to kiss her back.
Divya looked down when she sensed tumescence in his briefs.
She smiled wickedly at Ananya and said, “Looks like the forest ranger
is ready to go on safari.”
Ananya teased, “A wild ride, if I may.”
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The play swiftly escalated to the point where heaven and Earth,
time and space, pleasure and pain, death and life merged together into
one union—an eternal, limitless bliss. But unlike before, they both
slipped into a peaceful, hypnotic interlude induced by the sedative
effect that came from the pinnacle of pleasure.
When Ananya woke up, Divya had already left. He went towards
the fridge to get some fluid in his system when he saw her note saying,
“Thanks for last night. XOXO.”
He smiled at the note, and while sipping the packaged coconut
water, he reminded himself of today’s objective. He proceeded to his
apartment, and upon reaching it, locked the door and placed himself
in his beloved pose. He was under the presumption that his exalted
perception would perceive the reality which he could mold according
to his will, by discovering the key to unlocking a parallel Universe.
What he didn’t know was that he had preselected a different key by
celebrating the carnal pleasures of life, paving the way for an alternate
path for the Universe.
Ananya, with a calm mind, proceeded to drain the divine drink
down his throat, and focused all his energies at the center of his eyes
so as to stimulate the Ajna chakra to the fullest. He kept his breathing
calm, maintained his composure, and suspended his consciousness in
the serum of celestial strength.
The phenomenal fluid transfused his veins, and soon the
enchanting experience was perceived by the brain. Though the physical
eyes remained closed, the one that could observe the metaphysical
opened. His attention straightaway transcended to Kalpakkam, where
the strong winds blew and yet there weren’t any signs of catastrophe.
Ananya was focused when the wind in his vision evoked an image
from last night, when Divya blew air over his wet body. It swiftly
stimulated his Svadhishthana chakra, though he brought his mind
back, but the portal of pleasure had become accessible. He realigned
his mind to the designated scene, but the power of the perfect drug
was proving a little hard to handle. The constant pull of the life force
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from both ends—the sacral and third eye chakras—began distorting
his vision. This in turn stirred his anxiety, and to counter that, he
gently exhaled his fear and inhaled strength; but this time the odds
were stacked against Ananya.
To calm the mind, his awareness naturally drifted to the sensual
moments from the recent encounter, resulting the whirling of his sacral
chakra being intensified. This pulled down the vital force further,
hence destabilizing the working of the adjacent root chakra. Though
his anxiety subsided, the fear had been introduced into his prophetic
vision.
Ananya’s enhanced perception progressed to the site where
the nuclear reactor was situated, and, unfortunately, so did the
wind. He keenly observed the workings of the core reactor, but the
unpredictability of the gusts caught pace, leaving Ananya dumbstruck.
He tried to instill calmness into his vision, but it seemed like the
ferocity with which his sacral chakra had reverberated last night had
been manifested in the form of that cyclone. As he held that key,
the projected reality began to spin out of control—both literally and
figuratively.
Ananya anticipated that this turbulence would acquire a peak and
subside gradually, but little did he know that the fear that reverberated
beneath his breath was being materialized, and that the only way to
put an end to it was to break out of his self-induced trance. On the
contrary, he watched the weather, which deteriorated further with the
introduction of mist and parts of metal that flew all around the nuclear
facility.
Ananya’s insight indicated that this was going to be a turning
point; hence, he utilized all his strength to induce placidity in the
environment. He had forgotten, though, that peace was induced
through compassion, not coercion. The fragments of metal became
huge chunks, and they began revolving around the facility as if they
waited like predatory insects to attack a ripe crop. The moment the
thought projected in his mind that any sharp metal object might cause
some damage, the chaos ensued.

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The containment dome started to get pounded with metal pieces of
all shapes and sizes. It held its ground when the confronting compound
was of feeble strength, but when the identical element hammered,
then the containment dome began to give in. A slight aperture opened,
making way for compelling winds, leading the whole unit to glow
with the color red indicating an emergency like the garnet-red shade
of Ananya’s root chakra.
Perhaps this was the final sign; he could recognize it and put a
stop to his feeble attempts.
Ananya kept meditating for his utopian vision, and as a result the
winds now began to thrash over the reactor vault. Though insulated
with a safety vessel, in front lay the brute strength of nature which
had even reshaped the continents. A bulky steel rod, attracted through
gravity and propelled through powerful winds, hit directly at the roof
slab, which held all sorts of rotatable plugs, the essential Intermediate
Heat Exchange unit, and the quintessential primary sodium circuit.
Hence, the emergency heat transportation system was automatically
deployed, utilizing the secondary sodium circuit and steam water
circuit.
Everyone at the facility breathed a sigh of relief; even Ananya
calmed his nerves that a catastrophe had been averted. Yet he still
observed the arena to let this notion sink in, that a calamity was
prevented. But a few moments later, he noticed something peculiar.
The change in heat exchange unit wasn’t proving to be a befitting
alternative.
The inexhaustible vessel yearned to be fed promptly. Its voracious
appetite had been spoiled because of power-hungry individuals, and
was already working over its capacity. The positive sodium coefficient
that Ananya had pointed out acted as the culprit and began to raise the
temperature coefficient of reactivity in the core.
Both scientists and Ananya engaged to figure out a solution to this
problem. If one was confined by the limited application, then another
was restrained by the limits of his knowledge. Ananya again focused
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his energies towards positivity, but the fear had drilled its roots into his
subconscious, which introduced a flammable object at the vulnerable
spot of the reactor. Though the fire was contained immediately, the
secondary sodium circuit was put to rest.
This led to the displacement of the burden over the steam water
circuit, which, in the first place, wasn’t designed to handle that sort
of heat from the core reactor all by itself, and catalyzed rapid steam
production and increase in pressure. The overpressure caused a rupture
in the fuel channels and jammed the control rods, and the intense steam
spread completely to the churning vessel, causing a steam explosion
while releasing fission products into the atmosphere.
The nuclear explosion caused disruption in Ananya’s
concentration, and the instant his eyelids separated, so did his
connection to the Supreme Consciousness. The Cosmic Being which
thrived to survive, eliminated the cell that had become a nuisance and
reorganized itself to propagate the smooth functioning of existence.
Ananya was abandoned like an orphan left on the pavement, like
a devotee prohibited to have a glimpse of his deity, like a despondent
lover deprived of a reunion indefinitely, or perhaps like a newborn
denied the embrace of his mother. The detachment from the Universe
had landed him in an isolated space, where the guiding light was
replaced by a darkness which was accompanied by insurmountable
guilt from his failure to protect Kalpakkam.
Ananya lay on the bed, still inebriated with enchanting elixir.
His gaze rested on the vacant wall, which reflected the absence of
expression in his life. His physics failure had been turned into success,
the abandonment of Anushree had been dealt with, he’d perfected the
perfect drug; but despite being composed of supreme strength, he
couldn’t avert a disaster. He had failed miserably, and in response,
a tear appeared in his left eye. He pushed it back and proceeded to
Malviya Nagar.
Ananya reached Pallavi’s house and was ready to gorge on his
favorite meals when a cylindrical tumbler containing water reminded
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him of the reactor vessel. He could have explored his contacts in
AERB and shared his concerns, but pessimism had seeped deep within
his soul, and there wasn’t a thing that could make him feel better—
except one.
At a late hour, he called Divya but she didn’t pick up. Instead,
she responded with a text: “Meet me at station at eleven tomorrow
morning. Don’t be late.”
The last phrase brought all sorts of wicked ideas into Ananya’s
mind. He could barely sleep due to the dejection from today and the
excitation of the following day, but finally drifted off in a futile attempt
to clear his conscience by forgetting the vision like a bad dream.
He woke up with the intention to write on a clean slate. He raced
to Divya’s workplace with the rose bouquet neatly concealing his mark
of mischief. He had just reached her news station when he stopped to
marvel at the gigantic wall outside, composed of hundreds of LED
screens. He grinned diabolically when a news teaser featuring Divya
appeared, but that smile soon inverted with the tagline of Breaking
News.
Ananya’s heart began to throb wildly and the instant he read the
next sentence, the little lamp of joy was extinguished. The cyclone had
reached Kalpakkam, leading to an astounding nuclear explosion. He
wanted to absolve his consciousness of any blame; hence, he called
Divya immediately. She promptly replied, “A nuclear explosion just
occurred. Can’t talk now, will make up to you tonight.”
“Wait. Tell me what caused it.”
Divya haphazardly replied, “Even we don’t know—they are
saying it was maybe caused due to high-pressured steam.”
The cell phone slipped from Ananya’s hand, and he dropped the
bouquet as well. Though he was disappointed with the fact that today’s
news channels propagated less positivity and more negativity, this
was no time to be cynical. He peered straight at the million television
screens and absorbed the regret that he was the cause of it all. His

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crime was way bigger than anyone’s, and, analogous to the recipe of
the perfect drug, he had to keep this guilt with himself forever. He
internalized the fear in the eyes of children that were being evacuated,
he imbibed the horror of the extinction the civilization around the
plant was facing, and he drank in every detail to which he felt he was
solely responsible.
The channel flashed that four scientists had died on the spot due
to the explosion, and about thirty workers were in critical condition
due to radiation exposure. This piece of information instantly boiled
Ananya’s blood; he felt like strangling himself. The rage was so
intense that the eyes that once glared at others now glared red.
He picked up his cell phone, and now with a broken screen and
a shattered self-confidence, advanced away from the news station.
While his eyes were glued to the ground, his ears sensed the panic in
people who had relatives living in that region. The more fear-stricken
voices he heard, the more scared he began to feel himself.
He became afraid that his powers had driven out of control, and
felt like an acrobat who was suspended in air without the anchor point
and ground underneath. His focus drifted and he stumbled down onto
the road. His palm got slightly scraped and a bead of carmine-red fluid
appeared—the blood which he had spilled, the blood of the innocent
that he had killed.
He walked away into the oblivion, while the flowers of joy and
optimism were crushed by the motors of rationality and melancholy.
He was left with just one desire now—to acquire the peace of mind
which had been corroded and corrupted entirely.

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Eluding to Solitude
It had been three weeks since the nuclear explosion. Though the
channels had by now picked a different object to curb their curiosity,
Ananya still indulged in his isolation. He had snipped all connections
that united him with happiness, and accepted the life of seclusion,
where he deprived himself of joy from his loved ones. He had stopped
going to his aunt’s home, abandoned his friend circle, and didn’t even
welcome the idea of intimacy with Divya.
The catastrophe had been contained, and as per the disaster
management preparation, the area around Kalpakkam had been
sealed. Ananya’s intuition was correct, however—Kalpakkam and its
adjacent cities had turned to ghost towns, and though the casualties
through the explosion were limited, the abruptness of the evacuation
plan had caused major loss of life due to denial of critical care and the
surge in suicide because of panic.
Ananya’s attempt to acquire peace of mind hadn’t progressed
much. He had altogether stopped supervising Cravings and Connexion,
and spent most of the day roaming around the streets of the Delhi
University area, looking for the waterfall of bliss and contentment.
During these difficult times, his only companion, which had been his
supporting aid time and again, and upon which he pinned his hope for
liberation, was his divine drink.
It became a part of his routine that from early morning until
the effect of TPD subsided, he would stroll around the campus and
scrutinize the energy bands of every creature that crossed his path. It

401
was a search for an answer to his sorrow, a quest to extinguish the fire
that consumed him, a hunt for a way to heal himself.
By the time he would return to his room, he would be so
exhausted that after having dinner, he would straightaway go to
sleep. That deep slumber would be the only fraction of the day in
which the gnawing guilt would leave him in peace. But with the
progression of another day, the echoed voices and the vibrant vision
would retrace their steps.
The high acquired from surreal substance, though still revealing
controlled hallucinations, was deprived of the celestial realizations
that Ananya used to perceive due to his connection with Supreme
Consciousness. He observed how people rejoiced with the peculiar
vibrations of their chakras, but it progressed along the lines of illusion
which led to entrapment. Like them he, too, wished to welcome comfort
coated in ignorance, and contact Divya to resume their chemistry, but
her face reminded him of his flaws more than anything.
The Universe, though self-sustaining by nature but merciful by
character, had picked its favorite. It would rather work on its sincere
scholar than pick a newbie and start from ground zero. The forgiving
and forgetful Guru didn’t interfere with the grieving process, but when
it realized that suffering had left an indelible impression, it provided
guidance to its directionless infant with the help of its other celestial
child.
Like every day, Ananya was intoxicated with the supernal serum,
when upon his path, he stumbled upon his cherished meal van. He
noticed how his infantile investment had prospered, and felt proud
like a father upon his child’s accomplishment. The food truck was
crowded on all sides, when unexpectedly, a commotion occurred.
The person at the cash counter was quarrelling with a Tibetan
mendicant draped in a garnet-red robe, and by the nature of the
argument, it seemed that this feud was going to escalate. The hermit,
bound by his nature, was asking for forgiveness, whereas the worker
was pestering him for money for the lemonade he’d just had. The
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employee first slapped the monk, and that slight assertion of power
roused his latent sadistic streak to overpower the helpless man. He
began to beat the mendicant mercilessly—less to acquire the money
and more to extract the barbarous joy as his repayment.
Ananya intervened and pushed his employee away, while
extending his hand to help the hermit to rise. The worker, when he
realized which hands had propelled him, dug his eyes in the ground
and sat at the counter to give meaning to his life by ordering meals in
exchange for cash.
Ananya and the monk sat by the pavement. He gave him
a handkerchief to wipe away the blood from the eyebrows, and
meanwhile brought over two glasses of lemonade. While Ananya
was handling the citrus juice, the mendicant simply laughed and said,
“You know, sometimes the things that give us joy are the cause of our
suffering, as well.”
Ananya couldn’t understand the context or application of proverb
in his life; on the contrary, his curiosity was piqued when he observed
the energetic aura of the hermit, which still reflected peace. He asked,
“Don’t you wish to hit him back?”
“I yearn for a lot of things, and yes, hitting him back is one of
them, but what would that get me”
“Satisfaction.”
The hermit chuckled. He took a sip of his drink and said, “I believe
my dressing would indicate the place from where I come. When I was
a kid, my country was annexed by a powerful neighboring nation. By
that logic, I ought to become a suicide bomber to acquire liberation.”
Ananya stayed mum. He realized his lack of wisdom and simply
nodded. The monk continued, “A person must respond intuitively
rather than impulsively. You can’t deny that it was my fault to drink
the lemonade without paying, but it was his karma whether to let me
go or to beat me ruthlessly. Just like it was your karma whether to
show benevolence or not.”

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Ananya imbibed every word of the sage, and after a huge sip
asked, “How can a person correct his karma of the past?”
The hermit smiled and said, “That’s the tough part. You can’t.
That person might have relished in the act of beating me up, but later
tonight, if his conscience corrodes his peace of mind, then there is
nothing he can do about that.”
Ananya observed how effulgently the hermit’s crown and throat
chakras were glowing; therefore he stayed quiet while the hermit went
on, “Simply put, karma of the past affects the peace of mind of the
present, implying that the karma of your present would influence the
peace of mind of the future.”
“What is the best form of penance to absolve sins of the past?”
The monk took the last sip and with stern face replied,
“Forgiveness.”
Ananya argued, “Wouldn’t any form of austere activity help?”
“You tell me—would walking over a bed of nails relieve you of
the crime of stealing? Would standing on one leg in the Himalayas
absolve your youthful indiscretions?”
“Then would forgiveness from a priest do it?”
The hermit calmly replied, “Not from the priest. From yourself.”
He continued “Do you know who wrote Ramayana?”
“Valmiki”
The hermit said, “Yes. But do you know that he was a dacoit
before, which obviously means that he killed people on purpose?”
“Do you think that had he not forgiven himself, he would have
penned the greatest epic of Hinduism without internalizing the
divinity of the characters?” He paused and added, “Devotion is a
very powerful tool.”
“And so is introspection,” Ananya countered.
The monk chuckled and asked if he could keep the handkerchief,
to which Ananya complied. Both men got up and proceeded to their
404
individual destinations after temporarily influencing each other’s
journeys for the better.
Ananya paused at the meal van, and though he wanted to fire his
employee on the spot, he held his composure and responded wisely
instead. He said, “Ask for money first from those people whom you
find suspicious, but at no cost raise your hand.”
The worker, in submission, replied, “Yes, sir,” and resumed his
trivial job.
Ananya grabbed a sandwich and proceeded to his apartment. He
realized that at the current moment, his mental state may not be in
harmony, but his actions ought to be. While on his way, he took a
different turn and continued to walk upon the road less traveled. He
stumbled upon the graffiti wall and stood at the point where he and
Anushree stood at one time.
Ananya grazed his fingers upon the portrait of Lord Buddha, and
grew envious of his peaceful disposition. He turned to the other side
and noticed the artistic impression of Lord Shiva, and observed what
had been overlooked before—he saw that beneath that great sage was
the tiger, whose physical aspect of ferociousness symbolized fear for
survival, while at the top of the Lord, shone brightly the crescent moon
reflecting nirvana, profound awakening.
Ananya reached the room and immediately looked in the mirror
to identify his deficiencies. The synchronization between the spiritual
and astral plane had been disrupted, and to add to the plight, almost
every chakra emitted a dissonance that he had witnessed in others
but was now experiencing in himself. He vowed to alter his state of
being from bottom most chakra, and directed his attention at the root
chakra, which suggested fear for his loved ones from himself. He had
to take a leap of faith and reintroduce his loved ones back into his
life. But before that, he felt inclined to take a nap, and while drifting
off to sleep, he echoed the notion in his head innumerable times that
the Universe was highly unpredictable in nature, and the only reality
that was completely under his control was that which regarded his
405
existence. He kept repeating this statement until it permeated from his
conscious to the subconscious mind, and slept with a determination to
become a finer version of himself.
He woke up with a renewed purpose, and the first thing he did
was contact his friends and invite them home for dinner. They asked
what the occasion was.
Ananya teased, “Has there ever needed to be an occasion to revel
in your company and enjoy good food?”
Ananya informed his aunt that he was going to come today,
accompanied by his friends. He proceeded to his home without the
influence of his divine drink, and longed to manipulate reality without
being inebriated with the supposed funkadelic.
When Ananya reached the house, Pallavi, as usual, was occupied
in kitchen, whereas his close cousins began pulling Ananya in
individual directions towards their own objects of engagement. The
man of the hour, however, first proceeded to the kitchen to ascertain
what was being cooked.
He was surprised that Pallavi, on such short notice, was preparing
pav bhaji, and had already made the thick gravy composed of mashed
vegetables. She responded with a smile and asked Ananya to pass the
bowl for the purpose of coriander chutney. Ananya hadn’t anticipated
that the surreal smell of gravy would relieve his conflicting mental
state. He proceeded to the living room and resumed in timeless playful
activities with his sisters when the doorbell rang, suggesting the arrival
of his expected guests.
The urgency with which Guddu used to run for Ananya was
emulated by himself the instant Akshay and Kanika entered the
premises. Ananya launched himself over them, and the union of the
three amigos brought back old memories. At that point, it had been
two years since the inception of Cravings, which had propelled each
of them in a different direction. Kanika had become engaged in her
artistry more sincerely, and Akshay had started pursuing his master’s

406
from St. Stephen’s. Ananya, of course, was dealing with his quarter-
life crisis.
They began conversing, and the only alteration in conversation
was that the zeal to do something new had been displaced by the need
to acquire wealth. Kanika said, “I have been working hard so that my
paintings can be exhibited in elite galleries.”
Akshay added, “Even I am leaving no stone unturned to obtain
the highest package offered at the college.”
Ananya absorbed all of it and then poured out, “It is understandable
if you both are going the extra mile, but Kanika, when you pick your
hobby as work then there is a risk of molding your passion according
to people’s tastes. And Akshay, I would love to see you secure the
highest package, but don’t grow morose if you secure less than
average, because very little is required for our survival.”
“It is the predicament of our generation that the idea of success
is determined by the number of zeros in one’s salary. But that isn’t the
way to break out of the rat trap. The higher you climb the ladder of
achievement, more ensnared you get by the variety of cheese hanging
around.”
Akshay countered, “That is easy to say when you have two
business ventures thriving and prospering.”
Ananya retorted, “And yet I live in the same place that I used to
before, and apart from the watch on my hand and the Calvin Klein
scent, I am still the same. The purpose of those investments was to
take care of my parents’ needs even if I was gone—and my response
to the rat trap.”
He concluded, “As long as you yearn to survive, you will never
be able to thrive.”
The ending statement was an inaugural lesson to his friends
intended to dispense the Earthly attachment, to break free from the
degraded social norm, and consequently uproot the desire to look for
joy in material gain. He was about to propound more when Pallavi
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brought out the pav bhaji, whose enticing aroma instantly disrupted
everyone.
Ananya teased, “Now, that’s a trap that I can never get out of.”
Akshay and Kanika sniggered and launched themselves over the
fluffy buns cooked in ghee, and directed them at the gravy in which
butter floated like a paper boat during the rain. While consuming each
piece of that bread smeared in mashed vegetables, Ananya looked
around and felt what he had truly missed.
The smudge over Guddu’s face, the impeccable etiquette of
Chinki, the peculiar enlargement of Kanika’s eyes while eating—
every single bit elicited the happiness that he had deprived himself
of, but with that happiness there emerged the fear of losing them in
one go. It was then he realized that such fear was natural, and then the
words of the hermit appeared in his head.
“The things that give us joy are the cause of our suffering, as
well.”
The dissonance of Ananya’s root chakra slowly began to subside
with the affection of his loved ones, and every time they all shared a
humorous moment while eating, the fear in Ananya’s chakra began to
be substituted by stability.
Guddu was flipping through channels when she came across
Ananya’s favorite news channel, and Kanika asked her to pause.
Since Ananya’s back was facing the television, he didn’t realize until
the whole living room echoed with the provocative voice of Divya.
He lifted his head and looked around while Akshay and Kanika were
exchanging glances to display the successful execution of their gag.
But Ananya knew what the Universe was trying to convey to him.
He got up from his seat, took hold of the remote, and stood in front
of the television. He imbibed every detail of Divya’s face, and then
turned it off.
When he sat back down, Kanika inquired, “Are you not interested
in the news anymore?”
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Ananya retorted, “Not news, knowledge. That’s what piques my
curiosity right now.”
Ananya had yielded to temptation once, but now, next in line was
his sacral chakra, which had been his weakness from the beginning
and needed to be dealt with. He recalled the words of Mahatma
Gandhi that he read in childhood, that there was no point in removing
the object of desire as long as its longing existed, and Ananya had to
squelch that completely.
He proceeded with the rest of the night with a sense of urgency,
and as soon as his friends were gone and his sisters had been recited
their bedtime stories, he called Divya.
She promptly answered, “Hey, How are you?”
“I am all right. Could we meet up?”
“Tomorrow night would be fine.”
Ananya responded, “Okay,” in a tone that reflected he was about
to cut the call, but then Divya added, “I will make your favorite
beverage, just the way you like it.”
Ananya again replied, “Okay,” indicating his consent with
reluctance.
He lay on the bed and wondered: What if his body again
overpowered his rational mind? The conclusion pulled him in
two directions. If a side of him wanted to rise above this ocean of
gratification, then another wanted to stay drowned in the sea of bliss.
He couldn’t think properly, let alone sleep, and then he utilized the
least-used weapon of his artillery—introspection.
He sat in his lotus posture, and though devoid of the enchanting
elixir, he aligned his concentration towards the probable intercourse
and focused on the feelings it would generate after. He experienced
an intense attachment, as if that portal of pleasure tampered with the
control he held over reality. He felt that orgasmic joy which, though
ephemeral in nature, made his character vulnerable.

409
He opened his eyes and calmly walked towards the bed, where
he coerced himself to sleep without any fanciful visions of Divya. He
woke up with a renewed strength that he hadn’t felt in a long time, and
knew it was due to his introspection. He proceeded with the day with
little involvement, and questioned himself whether it was appropriate
to be inebriated with the perfect drug while engaging with Divya. His
ego compelled him to utilize it so as to acquire an edge over her, but his
self-reflection won, which stated that if he wanted to detach himself
from her, then it was fair for both of them to be on the same plane.
The disappearance of the sinking sun paved the way for the
appearance of shadowy clouds, which brought dusk to Earth’s surface
and Ananya to Divya’s doorstep. He tried to stay calm, but as her
footsteps approached, so did his nervousness. The instant Divya
opened the door, the candy-red shade of her one-piece, embellished
by the sangria red over her lips, instantly evoked Ananya’s passion,
and for a moment he forgot the purpose of his visit.
Divya invited him in and Ananya’s dilemma intensified as he
walked to the couch, which was a distinct reminder of their innumerable
sexcapades. He breathed deeply and utilized his introspection, while
Divya brought the cold beverage for them both that had always incited
flames.
Ananya observed the animalistic thirst that tried to overpower
his conscious thinking, and felt the fluctuation of his emotions which
peaked at a point and slowly diminished. He waited for Divya, and to
add to his plight, she sat beside him and warmly caressed his biceps to
tilt the conversation upon her desire.
Ananya took a sip to suppress the need of his libido, but the
caffeine-enriched drink only intensified his craving. He looked at her
and simply said, “How are you?”
Divya wrapped her arms around Ananya and entwined his fingers
with hers, and answered, “I am fine. You say how you are.”
Ananya looked her in the eyes and lied that he was fine. Then
Divya opened her other palm and showed him a dried petal. Ananya
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looked at the petal and recalled the event from when he’d meddled
with the powers of Supreme Consciousness. The desire for her flesh
was surmounted by his distress, and all the forgotten pain began to
appear on the surface.
Divya placed her head on his arm and said in a meek voice, “I
didn’t know you had arrived that day. It was my fortune that from the
bouquet that had been crushed under motor vehicles, a petal made its
way towards me when I was at a reception.”
She placed a peck on Ananya’s cheek and said, “Is there something
you want to share, dear?”
Ananya felt most vulnerable in that moment. He wanted to pour
his heart out regarding his perfect drug creation and his subsequent
annihilation. However, he didn’t go with instinct, but rather with his
intuition. He took a huge gulp of the cold coffee and said, “Where do
you think this relationship is going?”
Divya, while wiping the froth from her lips with her tongue said,
“Depends on where you want to take it.”
Ananya got aroused and he shifted a few inches to prevent
initiation of any impulse. He spoke calmly, yet sternly. “Divya, you
are a wonderful girl and I wouldn’t want to keep you in darkness.
I understand we have a flawless chemistry, but I am afraid I can’t
provide you with the emotional support that you desire. And just so
you know, there is no other woman.”
Divya taken aback, replied tersely, “What made you think I
desire emotional support from you? My self-worth doesn’t require
your remarks.”
Ananya shocked, stared at her in wonder and repeated with
emphasis, “Then where do you think this relationship is going?”
Divya understood the ambiguity that was left due to their
infrequent communication, and said, “Nowhere, dear. I perceived
us as adults engaged to celebrate the carnal pleasures of life upon
each other’s consent. A relationship which doesn’t bind anyone to
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anybody, a dangerous liaison where the line of pain and pleasure is
blurred.”
Divya then brought her lips close to Ananya’s ear and spoke in her
most seductive voice, “An affair where even the most banal beverage
becomes tempting, and where my coffee bean misses your whirling.”
Ananya sniggered upon the insinuated meaning. He looked
earnestly in her eyes and said, “I can proudly say that it is the finest
natural brew I ever tasted. But Divya, I have to go now. I cannot
continue on this path anymore.”
“Why?”
He looked deep into her eyes while maintaining a befitting distance
between the lips and said, “For the fear of my own attachment.”
Divya hugged him, and Ananya too embraced her back, and
when they broke the hug, each had a lipstick impression of froth over
the other’s cheek. Divya then said, “You want to do it one last time,
for old time’s sake?”
Ananya shyly resigned, saying, “It would be much harder to let
you go.”
He placed a final peck on Divya’s forehead and began to leave
when Divya said, “Don’t forget to wear the gas mask. The season of
smog is arriving in Delhi. I wouldn’t want you to lose your stamina
unnecessarily.”
Ananya slyly smiled and proceeded outward. The instant he
stepped out of the periphery of her home, he felt a surge of positivity in
himself. The refusal to respond to temptation pacified the commotion
of his sacral chakra, and he recalled the words of Prakash which said,
“Every generated desire is an echo of an impression imprinted long
ago, and the more you fulfil them, the more you get entangled in the
web of illusion.”
Ananya felt jubilant that he had broken free from the Creator’s
most intricate labyrinth, when a girl in skin-tight jeans passed in front
of him and his gaze followed her like her own shadow. When she
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moved out of his vision, it was then Ananya realized that his battle
with intimacy would forever endure, and his most potent weapon
besides introspection would be discretion. He walked towards the
metro station when the appearance of superfluous smoke from a car’s
exhaust echoed the words of Divya in his mind.
Delhi had indeed transformed into a city with perceptible air
pollution, and in the middle of the winter season, it was soon going
to coat itself with a blanket of smog. Ananya looked outside the
metro and was perturbed to see distinct automobiles that ran on the
same debased fuel. From a massive height, the vehicles appeared
like colorful, crawling beetles which ejected lethal waste into the
environment. It made Ananya wonder—could a cleaner fuel substitute
the enormous need for gasoline?
With conquest over his temptation, he proceeded with zeal to
the subject of his current innovation. He needed a distraction at the
present moment, some idea to engage him mentally and psychically.
He wanted to relive the experience of reception of suggestions from
the divine, and materialize it in a unique design.
Fuel worked on the principle of combustion, where hydrocarbons,
when burned in the supply of oxygen, released energy. The present
substitution provided to him by preceding innovators were ethanol
and hydrogen-based fuel. Hydrogen, due to its heightened reactivity,
wasn’t popular, and Ananya had his hands full with the most reactive
elements of periodic table.
Ethanol on the other hand, though extracted through a renewable
source, attained the same level of carbon emissions as conventional
fuel between its process of derivation and the liquefied fuel stage.
Ananya observed that in order to eliminate carbon emissions,
the best alternative was to dismiss the usage of hydrocarbons and
substitute them with a compound whose energy transformation
occurred stealthily yet strongly. This interest gripped him, and he
once again he initiated the quest for an ideal fuel that would pacify
all problems.
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Ananya’s mind, every waking moment, contemplated the notion
of a pure fuel with zero emissions and enormous energy. Unknown to
him, this manner of involvement began to smooth the disharmony of
his Manipura chakra, the particular chakra that had suffered most due
to his failure to save the nuclear facility, and which was symbolic of
willpower and mental strength.
He hired a manager to look after Connexion, and devoted all his
time to the careful manifestation of his recreational activity. He didn’t
mince medication with meditation, and exercised them at different
hours of the day. During daylight, after his morning meal, he would
acquire his morning high and proceed to peaceful areas of Delhi
University, where he would ponder over the exothermic reactions of
elements.
At night, when the intoxication of the perfect drug would wear
away, he would sit in his blissful lotus posture and observe his thoughts.
Though Ananya was proceeding cautiously and had his crown chakra
opened for the Supreme Consciousness to pour ideas, he didn’t know
that the connection to the Almighty had been severed and there wasn’t
a single invention on its way waiting to be unearthed.
The process continued for two whole weeks, and despite the
exercise of such a precise level of self-discipline, Ananya felt helpless.
He stood at the same place where he stood a fortnight ago, with the
only difference being that the knowledge of books had transferred to
his mind with no alteration and little subsequent transformation.
He consoled himself that failure was just a stepping stone, but
what disheartened him was the fact that he hadn’t progressed an inch.
This intensified his frustration tenfold, and with the beginning of
Monday morning, he felt inclined to introduce an aberration in his
daily routine.
After ingesting TPD, he proceeded to his cherished spot in
Kamala Nehru Ridge, in the warm place under the shade of the sacred
fig tree. He had resolved that at no cost was he going to meditate; he
just wanted to breathe in the cool breeze that rifted through the green
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leaves. He wanted to imbibe the energy that he had been devoid of,
and most importantly, he desired guidance from the divine, of which
he had been deprived for so long.
He arrived at the spot and almost at the same instant, so did the
occurrence of hallucinations. He looked carefully at the tree, which
had been a healer of body and soul and noticed that, unlike other trees
which emitted a particular shade from the color band, the peepal tree
just radiated white light.
He was attracted to it like a moth to a flame, like a sunflower
to welcoming sunshine, like a honeybee to a pollen-secreting flower.
He caressed its bark with his palm and rested his forehead upon it to
bestow his respect to a tree whose shade had given birth to infinite
divine personalities. He sat under it and let those positive vibes
permeate through his veins. The nerves that had already been infused
with the divine drink now reverberated with transcendental waves.
He looked at the sky through the aperture of the leaves, and slowly
the exhaustion from work sealed the slits through which he witnessed
reality. He rested his head on the bark and began breathing in the
tranquility while exhaling the anxiety. He yearned for his spiritual self
to become embodied in a calf and guide him through the tall marsh
grass of turbulence.
He drifted off to sleep, and the part of Supreme Spirit that echoed
life force in him awakened. A brief union between the celestial spirit
and its infinite counterpart occurred, which elicited a distinct dream.
He witnessed that he was lying under the tree and that all over his body
innumerable red ants crawled and walked away to their destination.
Despite being infamous for their aggression, the ants barely bit, and
Ananya too didn’t sense fear in their presence.
The fanciful vision didn’t last long, and Ananya woke up abruptly.
When he checked his wristwatch, he realized he had slept for just
twenty minutes, but the relief rendered was enormous. He checked
if he was indeed enveloped with ants, but was surprised to find not a
single member of that fierce army. He got up from his place, expressed
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gratitude towards the pious tree, and proceeded to his apartment, while
contemplating over the interpretation of his dream.
He was certain that it was only his ethereal identity that had this
time endowed a different earthly creature, and he pondered deeply
over the subtle, profound meaning encased in his dream. The instant
he stepped into his room, he utilized his rational mind through the
power of meditation, and contemplated firstly as to why the ants were
red instead of black. Through this thought process, he arrived at the
conclusion that their color and peaceful character were symbolic of
the fact that he had subjugated the need for intimacy and arisen out of
his fear of stability. He also inferred that his celestial soul, through the
basic nature of ants, was trying to convey that in his path to discovery,
he required patience and perseverance.
Ananya reiterated this message and calmed the agitation of his
mind once and for all. He resumed his nap session in the room which
had been interrupted earlier. He slept with the peace of mind that he
would discover his reagent, if not in the immediate then certainly in
the distant future. But little did he know that the dream had one more
interpretation. Alas, the absence of association with the Universe
debilitated him to perceive the vision in a different light. Since the ants
always lived together in colonies and worked as a team, the unheard
message from the Universe was that it was time for him to include
someone else as well in his quest to fight the demon of ignorance.
But nonetheless, the esoteric episode enhanced the working of
his Manipura chakra, and the practice of introspection became a habit
from that day forth. Ananya woke up around evening and proceeded
to his aunt’s home for dinner.
He stepped outside, and the moment he entered the empty road
that led towards the metro station, he was astounded to observe a dense
cloud of smoke all around him. He walked a bit further and realized
the smog didn’t surround him, but rather had engulfed the whole city.
From the window pane of the metro, he looked outside and was
amazed to realize the density of smog. He could see the halo effect
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created by street lights, and a bit further down, he could just barely
sense the movement of those accursed vehicles. This observation
strengthened his willpower further, therefore enhancing the working
of the Manipura chakra to the extent that if earlier this energy vortex
was weakest, then this time it was strongest.
Ananya reached his aunt’s home and was warmly welcomed,
as usual. The children stayed glued to the television and didn’t
acknowledge the presence of their close cousin until he cast his shadow
over the idiot box. He was surprised to know that their holidays were
extended due to smog making them prisoners in their own home.
He wanted to engage the angelic army on a sentimental level,
but his body demanded immediate rest. He raced through the dinner
and proceeded to his beloved bed with his cherished pillow. While
lying on the bed, he pondered over the studied equations and their
intermediate reactions, and later drifted to an unfamiliar destination.

Ananya woke up and began working on his ideal fuel at the start
of the day. While intoxicated with the ultimate drug, he was sitting
in the living room and contemplating the equations when he heard
a prolonged sound of coughing from Guddu whilst she was chasing
Chinki. He let go of the observation and resumed his work once more,
but was distracted again by the persistent cough. He inadvertently
looked towards her, and was perturbed to notice a considerable discord
at her throat chakra, and though the cough passed away, it still vibrated
at the discontinued frequency as before.
Ananya in the evening talked to his aunt regarding the doleful
cough. Pallavi shared her concern as well and asked Ananya to take
Guddu tomorrow for the checkup.
The brother and sister duo, with the dawn of new day, proceeded
to an esteemed hospital which was renowned to treat heart and lung
ailments. Ananya held Guddu’s hand tightly and traversed the maze of

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corridors, finally reaching the door where the doctor was supposedly
seated. Both waited at the bench with other patients, while Guddu
began to engage Ananya in some sort of playful activity.
Ananya tried to put an end to her unnecessary enthusiasm, but
she wouldn’t listen. She began making hilarious expressions to tease
her brother, when they both paused upon hearing a group of people
entering the corridor, sounding extremely mournful.
Two compound boys with a patient strapped to a mobile bed
were going towards the ward, while the kin were crying incessantly.
Ananya also noticed the symbol of radioactive adjacent to the bed
when Guddu’s turn came up and he couldn’t divulge further.
The doctor appeared jovial, and seeing Guddu, he began
entertaining the devil in disguise. Ananya told him Guddu’s symptoms
and provided the latest X-ray report of her lungs; the doctor scrutinized
the report and asked Guddu to inhale and exhale deeply while he
utilized his stethoscope. Guddu started puffing her cheeks and tried
to induce humor to the best of her ability, while the doctor remained
focused on the particular symptom.
He asked Guddu to sit by Ananya’s side, and said that she showed
symptoms of mild asthma. He prescribed some anti-inflammatory
syrup and breathing exercises. The moment Ananya heard the word
“asthma,” a red alert went off in his head, but the doctor rested all
his doubts, informing him that her condition wasn’t serious and the
abominable inhaler was far away.
Ananya, with a worried grin came out of the cabin and asked
Guddu to sit by the reception desk while he went to the loo. He gave
her the elder eye glance and warned her to not go anywhere. Guddu
beamed back at her brother as if insinuating that she was the creature
of her curiosity, so he’d better hurry before something intrigued her.
Ananya went to the washroom, and while his mind was entangled
between the connection of pertinent smog and Guddu’s condition,
those two compound boys turned up and began conversing about the
episode of which Ananya had seen a teaser.
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“You know, this is the third case of cancer this week.”
“And that too, due to radioactive exposure.”
“This patient was also from Tamil Nadu.”
“Only God knows what the hell happened in Kalpakkam.”
And so do I.
Ananya darted out of the washroom and straightaway took
Guddu home. During the journey, his mind revolved around the fact
that he was responsible for all this upheaval; hence, there was no way
he should celebrate happiness in his life.
The subsequent chakra after Manipura—Anahata, the heart
chakra—had been severely blocked by the intense guilt and sorrow
that he carried. Ananya’s heart chakra had also been hindered by the
reckless pursuit of world domination, followed by his innate self-
centered nature. The Universe, which had initiated a set of episodes
for the removal of the veil of vice from his chakras, had its eyes fixed
upon its spirited scholar, since no man had advanced ahead in life, if
the lessons of his past mistakes weren’t internalized.
Ananya recalled the words of the Tibetan monk and attempted to
forgive himself, but it seemed a hollow attempt since it wasn’t backed
by any action. He recalled the whole vision, and remembered fondly
that he was able to cease the meltdown, but the overcapacity of the
reactor proved a little hard to handle. The sharing of blame, though,
wasn’t enough to discharge from his heart all sorts of malignancies.
He desired an immediate action; he called Divya, and in a tone
devoid of passion suggested to her that she review the contamination
control methods adopted around Kalpakkam. He dropped a cue
regarding today’s observation in the hospital, which she instantly
picked up. She assured him that they would send a research team from
their own end, but Ananya couldn’t be consoled.
He knew fairly well that the place had been become uninhabitable
for all forms of organisms; hence, the only hope resided in the

419
radioactive waste management. Any response from Divya’s end was
going to take time, and he desired his peace of mind earnestly. He had
incorporated the message that his power was going to do more harm
than good since he hadn’t exercised the requisite control; therefore,
for the rest of his life, he vowed to practice discretion.
The uneasy feeling gnawed at his mental tranquility, and he
proceeded to the living room. He sat by his sisters to distract himself
of the unbearable agony, and changed the channel to Discovery, so as
to impart some positive influence over them.
A documentary was being telecasted about the atomic bomb
attack on Japan during World War II, and it straightaway reminded
Ananya of the recent nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. He pondered
what the state of the environment would be after such a long gap,
and wanted to regain his mental comfort by witnessing that life could
be rekindled after such a monstrous catastrophe. He smirked at the
fleeting thought that he could fulfill his fetish for Asians, but it was
swiftly discredited by his discretion.
Ananya packed his bags and bid goodbye to his family members.
Prateek insisted that he would drop him at the airport, but Ananya
resigned. Since it was his separation to solicitude, it wasn’t a place he
was going for vacation; rather, he was heading to a place to obtain his
peace of mind. He desired a change of ecosystem that would foster
positive vibes in him; hence, he didn’t think twice about his impulsive
decision.
The instant he boarded the flight, he was welcomed by a flight
attendant with Asiatic features and her simple smile set his pulse
racing. He was seated next to an equally appealing woman of Japanese
origin, but he let go of the temptation of conversing with her.
Ananya reached Tokyo after eight hours of journeying, and
his trip from the airport was marked by the iridescent display of
advertisements and enormous skyscrapers on the way, which evoked
a response in Ananya like a child on his first outing to Disneyland. He
checked into a hotel, where he spent the rest of the day dozing off.
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When he woke up early, around four, he looked out of the window,
and was surprised to see that a significant number of people had
started their day already. Everyone knew that the Japanese were work-
oriented, and this was the time for him to witness the same.
He concluded his morning cleansing ritual by six am and contacted
hotel staff to book him a cab for the town of Namie, the city adjacent
to Fukushima. The person at the reception desk looked puzzled, but
advanced as ordered. Ananya progressed to the set destination with
just one goal in mind—to witness genuine joy on people’s faces.
Ananya initiated a conversation with the driver, but the man’s lack
of proficiency in English proved to be a barrier. Hence, Ananya began
staring out the window, and was mesmerized by the perseverance
of humans, who had actualized a city in the lap of active volcanoes.
He pondered and realized that the Japanese way of life was greatly
influenced by their geography, which showed that life was fickle in
nature. Its existence would be wiped out at any second, but what
would remain would be culture and society; therefore, it was equally
important to reciprocate.
Ananya dozed off, and woke up when the driver halted at the entry
point of Namie. They went into the city, which had recently reopened
for its denizens after seven and a half years. Though it was still under
the influence of radiation, it gave him some peace that people had
returned to their hometown. He was relieved that life was making its
way back, but it still pained him to think that the desertion wasn’t
completely over. The dwellers were allowed inside for a brief period,
after which they had to leave their beloved birthplace and continue
living in another part of the country, like refugees.
Ananya asked the driver to take him to Fukushima, and he made
a face as if he had been asked to dictate his puberty experience.
Ananya insisted that they would only stay for a while, but still the
driver declined. Then Ananya’s Indian insight helped, and the driver
bowed to the rich color of the yen. The driver pressed the accelerator
pedal and progressed to the ghost town of Fukushima. He told Ananya
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that at no cost would they be allowed inside the twenty-kilometer red
zone area, and Ananya had to agree vehemently.
When another checkpoint appeared, the driver, with elaborate
gestures, explained to the guards that Ananya was an international
photographer. With little resistance, he convinced them. When the
gates opened, Ananya’s face gleamed like an underage child who was
allowed on a scary ride. They progressed ahead, and after an hour or
so, they stopped at the red zone, which was barred to everyone.
Ananya got out of the car and breathed in the radiation-rich air as
a penance. He looked at the present Fukushima, which was the future
of Kalpakkam, and progressed to a playground that was adjoining the
wall. He looked at the abandoned swing, broken crawl tube, a rusted
slide, a tilted merry-go-round. He cursed himself for not being more
careful and for causing all this mayhem on another side of the world.
He approached the red zone which was separated with wires and
roadblocks, and heard the scream of driver, shouting, “Come back.”
Ananya’s guilt had begun to come to the surface. He felt he had
been cursed with the power bestowed upon him, and for a fraction of
second he felt inclined to leap over the barrier and jump into the toxic
waste that lay kilometers ahead—if he could make it that far alive.
But then he felt something soft under his feet. He drew away his leg
and saw a tiny shoot, a small bud making its way through the concrete
crevice. He bent down and looked at it intently. It was certain that its
lifespan was only a few weeks, but it gave Ananya hope. It rekindled
his lamp of optimism that his curse was a blessing in disguise, and he
had to embrace it rather than try to escape it.
He caressed the sapling and then progressed to the driver with
determination mixed with a positive attitude. That little sprout had
sown the seed of hope that one day, he could control his power at his
will. Ananya wanted to heal himself first, and then the planet—and for
that, he needed to set up a laboratory for his extended stay in Japan.
Hence, he inquired of the driver, “What is the most peaceful place to
stay here?”

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The driver replied, “Okinawa.”
Since Ananya could not relate to the alien name, he simply nodded
while the driver tried to engage him. “Majority of the population there
is above one hundred years.”
That statement got Ananya’s thinking horses racing. He couldn’t
believe what he’d heard. In his country, if a person lived to eighty, it
was considered that he had lived a healthy life, but here, a segment of
the population was above one hundred. His hunch told him that there
was another reason besides a balanced diet for their healthy lifestyle.
Ananya reached the hotel and informed the receptionist of his
departure to Okinawa. The person again gave him a puzzled look.
Ananya spent the night wondering about this place which was filled
with octogenarians. He contemplated whether the city would be
conducive to his search for the ideal fuel, but what he felt certain about
was that he needed to learn a lasting lesson from the people residing
in that area.
Ananya took the morning flight to Okinawa, and happily sat at
the window seat. Despite the fact that the flight was filled with alluring
Asiatic faces, he was inclined to see the beauty outside—the small
patches of land surrounded by water were a heavenly vision, and the
only view that superseded this was when some islands had small lakes
inside them, giving them the look of an elaborately actualized painting
by the Almighty.
When the plane touched down at the airport, before Ananya
booked a cab, he was handed a pamphlet, which he stuffed in his
pocket without looking. He then advanced to a decent hotel, quickly