A CHAPBOOK BY THE MEMBERS OF
BY CHANCHAL KUMAR
Babasaheb is waiting for his Visa (A Dedication)
I'm thinking of the man behind the icon
Of the fight before the victory
Of the child before the legend
I'm trying to understand a seeker's life in retrospect:
A man rocking away in his wicker chair
Donning his Mayfair dinner jacket
Learning to play the violin,
The polyglot, the bodhisattva,
Whose speech was like the firing of pistol shots
"The most hated man in india"
The implacable realist who loved to read,
Who liked to paint.
From the facts of his life I try to glean
A fistful of inspiration, an ounce of verve and make
a monument of love. What garden did you tend
That the flowers from its boughs
Are still blooming, fragrant in the morning air?
How am I supposed to repay the debt
That accumulates like fine dew in January?
Who am I if not a pulse in your shadow,
A twinkle of your eternal starlight?
Let the turmoil of words around you cease
So that I can say with pride-
You are my history, my today and
All the days I am yet to see.
I try to interpret the messages from when we first met
To predict where it is that we will find ourselves at the beginning of dawn
I don't discover many conceits except that maybe
you are the clay bird-bath my old landlord once
Placed at the corner of the terrace wall & forgot all about it
(For pigeons to cool themselves and drink from)
I guess someone created you to watch over dilapidated medieval
The queerest patron saint of k-pop and chai-points in the nooks of vijaynagar
Sometimes we walk till we reach the edge of our worlds
And there's nowhere left to go
Each person must either be a prison or an island
Always there exists a casus belli
The slightest hint of a century-old rain.
Blue flowers have sprouted quietly from the spots where our bodies have
You can't talk about poverty/poetry, you can only live it
I draw concentric circles to mark my possessions
You never admit to being in places other than your home.
I'm reading a poem titled "You haven't texted since Saturday"
And there's a line in it that goes "I'm sorry language is a ship that goes down
while you're building it."
I realize all this time I've been trying to build a ship that floats instead
So I can tell you things
Like it just rained here
And I wish you soaked leaves and dripping pavements too,
Wherever you are.
It doesn't help that you don't trust social networking sites
Your stubbornness kind of makes me proud too
But then we're left with an empty vessel
It's okay if language is a failed attempt
But I have to keep on building boats with oars
That I hope the wind will carry to the shore,
An SOS graffiti on its side
To seek help from unknown tribes.
In the introduction to Sartre’s Nausea
The writer asserts that Camus was more religious than Sartre
Which made me think
It is true that being religious is
More than just counting beads on a rosary
Or offering prayers five times a day
Religion can also be meant to describe
Being in awe of tomorrow,
waiting for a new day
To believe that no apocalypse will hit us just yet, just today
Religion could be more than
what our grandmothers practised with elan, perhaps
Or different from what our grandfathers
Hunched over a holy book
A friendly circular stone to prevent its cover
from fluttering in the breeze, would describe
Religion can also be meant to say that
I expect to see you return
I pray to see us reenact those sessions that we had
Beside the parking lot again,
I with a cigarette, you moving your hand
To capture a wandering sentiment.
l'art pour l'art
After the writers' meeting
We headed to the metro
I had said how my art feels inadequate
to capture daily inhuman reality
You replied, one must go on nevertheless,
Trudge through shitty work before being
Able to produce something worthwhile
We didn't have time,
There was a boy selling tea
Bhaiya, chai le lo,
A wild desperation in his glassy eyes
I kept thinking about
And ignored his cries.
Note:The poem “Babasaheb is waiting for his Visa” first appeared in Fulcrum-
the poetry and aesthetics journal, “For Shirin” in Sunflower Collective, and “In
the introduction to Sartre’s Nausea” in Hamilton Stone Review.
BY PRIYANKA KAPOOR
in open air,
and I am disposed off
Largely, a can of vacuum,
and breaking down to the point
that when you’re knocking at a certain door,
begging for alms,
you’re not even standing there–
for you’ve committed a crime against yourself
and you cannot exist because
a. you exist when what you want is yours & it is not now
b. you exist when you no longer have the want & it is not now.
And so I am always in a limbo
staring into a space
The house that has come to be
They brought mortar and then mud tiles,
facing the wild growth overhead
and I sat with a little bit of my wild tamed,
it was very unlike me.
They brought paint in winters,
a deafening white,
but the city haze took over
and it became a rusted armor
that one puts on instead of sweaters,
because that is what we always do–
we fight cold with cold.
I sat in my room
but they had come in and replaced the walls,
a faint feeling of memory still lingered–
the decay and the stagnancy
which no paint can soften out.
A floodgate to love.
Hands holding hearts
1. with intense creases holding a cerebral heart
2. with sea lines and a heart sleeping on the shore;
semi-permanent lines, that is,
but the ocean walks in a regular routine.
1. clenching at the fish-scaled heart
There is an ineptitude
in excess of feelings
that devour all the words,
until they are encountered by a large door
painted with a medieval-mourning,
clothed in a monk-brown;
it is really not strange
for me to be deeply in love
and to be found at this gate,
it is a segue
by disbelief in yet a higher altitude,
by no higher altitude altogether,
as if Meaning,
eternally slipped away from the mouth of the language.
2 Po m
BY ARPAN NAITHANI
WHEN AUTUMN HAD COME NOTHING COMING APART AT THE SEAMS
I knew The metropolis
autumn had arrived was teeming
as an ache, with
the walls of your lips. isles of longing,
You were staring and lost to the others,
at some abstract art in the mazy currents
that others had lavished of the sea of thought
with pedantic praise.
The howls and screams
Just observe, silently reside
the brutality of the brushwork. on the cusp of the lips
Oh, but in such good taste. of good old pleasantries.
The tears, For now,
you knew would never come nothing
out and play, coming apart at the seams.
within your skin, The 3 am wind
just like rustles
when you were nine, the infant leaves,
and couldn't save and my heart flutters
your sandcastle for once,
from the sea's siege. to remind me
of the flock of seagulls
The seeds you swallowed that never returned,
had slept through the summer, in the wake
and sprouted into sadness. of the perennial winter
You'd left the name
of your lost lover Or was it
to rust, the other way round?
on the back
of a fallen leaf, The raindrops start falling
as some kind of applause
and watched time for yet another
eat train of thought.
into an earnest promise
of eternity. For now,
Entry #7, coming apart at the seams.
Healthy defense mechanisms, ***
Death by poetry.
लखे नी से
BY ANANT PUNDIR
1-न म ही था म शायद,
जसको तुमने उस रात कंु डी बंद करके लखा था।
पछले साल क डायरी के आ ख़री प म,
छु पा दया था जसको तुमन अलमारी के नचले दराज़ म,
चादर और परु ाने कपड़ के फ़ म ल टा आ,
न म ही था म।
2-अधं ेर-े रौशनी के पर,े
कु छ तो है जो चहक रहा ह।ै
गुमसुम उदास सा सपना,
सीलन सा य महक रहा ह?ै
3-तमु एक सोच हो..
पनप गए, तो अपना लगूं ा,
गमु गए, तो भलु ा ंगा।
मडं राती सी,
सकु चाती सी,
पलक झपक तराती सी,
गलहरी सी ह मेरी वा हश
5-तुम याद आते हो ब त,
आकाश म वाद से,
बादल म इराद से,
तुम, हां तुम, याद आते हो ब त।
Whe Eac Me l is a Mil n u
BY BALDEEP KAUR GREWAL
The night I turned 20, I brought Neruda home. Under the covers, he told me that
eating alone feels like a chain of fishhooks trailing from one's heart. I paused to
count how many I had accumulated thus far but retreated quickly at the sight of
silent harpoons that made it difficult to breathe.
Reaching out is like sitting down to a fancy dinner and not knowing which fork to
use. I would rather go hungry than make a fool of myself. I have reached an age
now when the ingredients of my meals are younger than I am, even that tortoise I
treated myself to last week. I eat with a paternal instinct, admonishing the rice
grains when they slip off a spoon held by a shaking hand. I have nothing to say
to the world that passes me by; my food takes up all my attention. Later, I drift
into sleep before memory can upset my digestion.
I remember the night I realized that breakups get worse with age. After a certain
point, you never quite come back. He had just walked out of my front door for the
last time, leaving a bowl of soup from the Chinese place down the street as
closure. I removed the tin foil that covered the bowl half-expecting to see chunks
of my heart floating in it. Throughout the short 6 months that we had been
together, I realized, I had crumbled into our moments, our meals like dry bread. I
wonder if he misses waking up with croutons in his hair.
Youth taught me to pity the old people who ate alone in diners, always in a booth
by the window. I thought I was whole, I did not know better.
The Kha an t e Sha
BY DEEPTY VICTOR
Love seems far when fear is too much in one’s head.
Do you like picnics?
Every child yearns for this day.
But can Robin enjoy the day like normal children do?
What is the fear due to which happiness is unable to touch Robin?
Is it the fear of his step mother or his father’s who scolded him for the slightest
Let’s try to peep into a child’s fear, and the steps he takes to avoid the
The winter season was bidding goodbye to the Earth. Robin of class 7 was
happy about the picnic. He had lost all his happy days after his mother’s death.
His father handed him his mother’s shawl (maroon colored with handmade
embroidery) for the journey.
Friends said,“Robin, after years we found you smiling. It’s so pleasant to see
you this way.”
Robin, with his head down, smiled a little, and said nothing.
After hours of travelling, the children reached Silao in Nalanda part of Bihar.
Robin, who loved sweets, talked about Khaja - the most famous sweet made
by halwais here. After exploring and purchasing the sweet, everyone returned.
While everything seemed fine, Robin felt he was missing something. Khaja
was in his hand but what was he missing?
It was his mother’s shawl that his father gave him!
Robin who had been happy for a whole day after years, suddenly stood still
with no smile. Looking around at their friends, Rajesh asked,“What happened
With tears in his eyes, Robin said,“I...I lost my mother’s shawl that my father
gave me. Now everyone is going to scold me. What shall I do…I don’t want
any more scolding. I’m tired of how I’m treated by my step – mother and my
Then in a low voice he requested Rajesh,“Please take these sweets from me.
Now I can’t take my favorite khaja for my beloved father. He will scold me even
more for losing the shawl and wasting money on sweets”
Rajesh snatched the sweets, gave a sly smile, and said,“Sorry Robin it’s your
mistake, tell your fathers that you lost both Khaja and the shawl.”
The day was now overpowered by fear! The years of sadness returned! The
precious smile again got lost! One is left with only harsh reality and tears!
It was Robin’s first, and last picnic ever!!!!
A SERIALIZED-FICTION BLOG
BY APOORVA SAINI
1.मधुमालती का खानदान
वसै े तो मधमु ालती और का मकान अलवर शहर क एक तीखी सी ढलान वाली गली के
बीच -बीच खड़ा ह,ै पर घर के सभी नहायती-साधारण सद य घर म न रह कर अपनी-
अपनी धनु म रहते ह। नसदं ेह गणु पु तनै ी ह।ै दादा जी छोटा क ा पहन के बाज़ार
नकल जाते ह। दाद जी कु े को देने वाली रोट खा लेती ह। पापा थोड़े शराबी से ह।
म मी को रात को ट .वी देखे बना न द नह आती। छोटे भाई टकू को शाम के पाचँ
बजे बाद शहर के सारे म र नशाना बना लेते ह। ताऊजी को आज भी इस नयाँ म
अ ाई नज़र आती है। ताईजी रोते ए को हसँ ा और ह ते ए को ला देती ह।
ताऊजी-ताईजी का बटे ा चेतक तीन साल से छत वाले कमरे म बंद होकर कोई नौकरी
ढंूढ़ रहा ह।ै चते क क मच-ज़बान बहन राधा क शाद होने वाली ह।ै खुद मधमु ालती ने
तो पड़ोस के लड़को से दो ती कर रखी ह।ै और दो दन बाद इन धु नय म धु न
मधुमालती क बुआ अपने अफ़सर प त के साथ राखी के उपल य पर यहाँ पधार रही
चाशनी से भरी ता बे क एक परात म गरम-गरम गुलाब जामनु डुबक मार रहे ह।
चावल क खीर ठं डी होने के लए ज म रख द गई ह।ै मगंू -दाल के लड् काँच क
बन म भरे पड़े ह। मठाइय क महक से मधुमालती के दादाजी के मन क चहक इतनी
बढ़ ई है क जब सोने से पहले उ ह ने आगं न म रखे मटके को खोल के देखा- तो उ ह
पानी म चाँद भी नाचता नज़र आया। दरअसल दादाजी का रसोई म जाना स त मना है:
बतन से उफ़नते सक म वे कई बार नाक सडु कते पकड़े जा चकु े ह। इसी कारण वश,
देर रात तक पढ़ता चते क आज कई बार मु करायेगा। उसके कमरे क खड़क से रसोई
का दरवाज़ा साफ़ दखाई देता है और योहार से पहले वाली रात को दादाजी का चाँद
नचईया हो जाता है
3.बआु -फू फ़ा का जोड़ा
मधमु ालती क गीता बआु पछले बीस साल से सरकारी बक म मैनजे र, और उनके प त
इनकम टै स वभाग म सहायक अ धकारी ह। जतना बड़ा इस जोड़े का ओहदा है उतनी
ही ल बी इसक नाक भी ह,ै जो कई बार अ े खासे बनते ए काम के बीच आ जाती
है। उदाहरण के तौर पर ये बात ही ले ली जये क चते क जो बचपन से ही प कार बनना
चाहता था आज अपने ानी बुआ-फ़ू फ़ा के जोड़े क वजह से देश भर के सरकारी एं स
ए ज़ाम नकालने क को शश म बला हो रहा ह।ै ानी जोड़ा घर के ब ारा जतना
नापसदं कया जाता ह,ै उनका इकलौता बेटा ुव सबका उतना ही लाडला है। राधा तो
अपने सगे भाई चते क से यादा वु को अपना भाई मानती है इस लए बुआ- फू फ़ा को
वु के बना देख उसका सारा मडू उखड़ गया। उसे यादा सदमा ये भी लगा क राखी
वाले दन ुव ने वाट्सएप करके भी नह बताया क वो नह आ रहा ह।ै दोपहर म जब
ताईजी और मधुमालती क म मी अपन-े अपने भाइय को राखी बांधने नकल ग तो
ानी जोड़े ने परू े दो घंटे राधा को ये समझाया क उसक शाद के लए हरे क जगह
लाल रंग का लहंगा सही चुनाव य रहगे ा। अपनी भड़ास नकालने के लए राधा ने भी
मधुमालती और टकू के साथ मलके अपने यारे बुआ-फू फ़ा को शाम क चाय म सात-
आठ जलु ाब क गो लयाँ पलाकर खुशी-खुशी वदा कया।
4.पसं ारी क गली
घटं ा-घर से मनं ी के बढ़ क ओर जाती ई पसं ारी क गली म जो सबसे पुरानी कान ह,ै
वो मधमु ालती औरो क है। दादाजी ने कभी साठ के दशक म हाथ के बने पापड़ और
घर के पसे मसाल से ापार चालू कया था। पछले कई साल से ताऊजी ने सारा
कामकाज सँभाल रखा ह,ै पर सभी नए-परु ाने ाहक के लए काउंटर पर मलु ायम सी
मु कान लके र बठै े ए दादजी ही कान के असली मा लक और ड अ बैसडे र ह। अगर
आप जाने माने एम. डी. एच मसाल के ी धरमपाल गुलाट जी क छ व म दादाजी
को सोच रहे ह तो सही ही सोच रहे ह, बस उस कद काठ म एक व तु ड जोड़
ली जये और चाह तो पजामा-कु ता हटा कर एक छोटा सतू ी क ा एवं गमछा भी पहना
ली जय।े और पावती माता क तरह इस दादाजी पी गणेश क सरं चना कर लने े के
बाद अब ये जान ली जये क इनक कान म और या- या मलता ह।ै एक तरफ
पापड़ और मसाल के पीछे-पीछे सारी दाल, आटा, चीनी आ द राशन का सामान साल-
दर-साल द वार म बने खाचँ को सजाता चला आ रहा ह,ै वह सरी ओर समय के
साथ-साथ पूरी तरह से यह जानना अस व हो गया क कौन सा सामान कहां, कै से
और कौन बनाता ह।ै इस लए अब टा यनू ऑइल, टा पक टॉयलटे लीनर, ट स साबनु ,
टॉनवीटा जसै ी न जाने हज़ार खाओ- पयो-फको टाइप क चीज़ के ड ब से ये कान
फू ली जा रही ह।ै और यंू क अलवर भारत देश का एक शहर है तो ये तो आप जानते
ही ह गे क ऐसी सभी कान के आगे झमू ते ऐ से बोड एक ही गीत रोते ह — "हमारे
यहाँ पजू ा-पाठ क पूरी साम ी और सभी कार के ाई ू ट्स मलते ह"।
5.सबके चदं न भईया
अगर हद भाषा एक च पल होती तो आज उसका सबसे घसा आ श द होता 'भईया'।
खुद सोचकर दे खये क आपने वयं अपने आज तक के जीवन काल म इस श द को
कतना र दा आ है। भईया श द एक ऐसा जा ई 'स बोधन' बन गया है जो कसी भी
वा य म कह भी, कभी भी, कतनी ही बार, और कसी को भी चेपा जा सकता ह।ै इसी
वजह से पचपन वष य च दन जी, जो पछले तीस बरस से मधमु ालती औरो क कान म
सहायक का काम कर रहे ह, वो दादाजी से लके र छोटे टकु तक घर के सभी सद य के
लए च दन भईया ह। खुद च दन जी के हसाब से इस श द का कोप इतना भारी है क
कान पर कभी कोई खरीददार उनक उ देख कर उ ह अंकल भी बोलता आ आता है
तो सामान बतान,े बंधवान,े और ले जाने क या म एक-दो बार तो उनको अपना भईया
बना कर ही जाता है।
Read the entire story at apoorvasaini.tumblr.com
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BY PREETI NANGAL
(TRIGGER WARNING: SEXUAL VIOLENCE)
It was the second day
They unlocked the door and stepped in. The room had no furniture and
the only window was barred with planks of wood obstructing every grain
of light. A finger flicked a switch and the muck covered bulb filled the room
with an arrogant flash.
A woman was lying in a corner. Spending the entire day in dark, this was
an unwelcome intrusion. The light hurt her eyes. She recoiled and
covered her face with her hands. The three men encircled her ravaged
body as one of them pulled her by her arm like an overused rag doll. She
was in a trance of pain. The darkness had exhausted her and she had no
will left to resist.
Throwing the empty bottle of alcohol aside, one of the men started
groping her body when a young boy rushed in.
“Here,” he said in a frail tone handing another bottle to one of the men.
The boy looked down. The man crouched beside him was his uncle.
Despite being past middle age, his lust seemed unquenchable. But the
boy dared not show his abhorrence lest he would be homeless again after
a few nights of shelter.
While one corner of the room was drowned in groans, the boy sat in
another corner trying his best to maintain distance from the sounds and
the scene. He tried to keep his eyes off it but it did not help. The recurrent
image from his past shattered in his young memory and spread around
him like spikes suspended in thick air. If it was day or night, he did not
remember; it did not even matter. What mattered was the movement.
His father lay like an animal between his mother’s legs riding like a wild
dog; just like the men in front of his eyes. He did not know what was
happening then. He had barely learnt to hold the stub of a pencil in his
hand. But the manner in which his mother’s saree was pulled up and her
blouse was stripped open, he felt something was not right.
His feeling of aversion towards his father was strong and more than once
did he think of throwing his chappals at him to aid his mother. But he
never dared. His father was a masculine man with a heavy body and dark
beard. He could beat anyone till they died, the boy grew up thinking.
Since he left home six years back, every man he lived with wanted to
sleep with a woman every day. He could not understand why, and it had
not been long since he could. As his body was changing, he was
becoming used to a certain kind of smell. He was never proud of how he
looked. Girls would see through him if at all he managed to meet eyes of
one. His father called him a bastard who could not imagine to have
spawned a son so lanky with skin like tattered blanket.
The boy’s eyes fell on the men in the room. The circle seemed to have
reached its completion for his uncle was about to take his turn again,
when he stopped, mid-way, and looked at his distant nephew. As soon
as their eyes met, the loner was summoned with a nod. After some
deliberation, the young boy lifted his body, and in a manner of awkward
walking, stepped up to the scene of action.
The corner smelt of something familiar. He saw patches of blood on the
floor and a trail of it still dripping from the woman’s body. He had seen
her yesterday and realised that today she was less alive.
“Your turn,” his uncle said.
The boy looked at him and looked on. He knew what his uncle meant.
He looked down again and felt himself going numb. That is when his
uncle patted on his back suggesting that nothing could go wrong. After a
moment, the boy bent down, opening the button of his loose jeans.
All that while he thrusted himself, the only image he had on his mind was
of his father lying on top of his mother. He had coveted a body like his
father’s for long where a mere look at one’s physique could induce both
fear and awe but he could not attain it. He had failed; he was weak and a
woman, his mates said.
In an attempt to prove them wrong, he held the throat of the woman
pinned under him like his vendetta had been directed at someone else.
He held the frail neck tighter with each passing moment and let it go only
when he could hold it no longer under the spell of shivers sent through
As he lay lost in the ecstasy, and the woman lay immobile, the three
men looked on with gaped mouths.
About First Readers Group
First Readers Group started in 2018 based on the idea that writing as an act is an
isolated activity and writers and poets often fall victim to it. As much as quietude
informs creative practise, a systemic support system is essential to nurture the
creative streak in the long run. This is the basis for the creation of the
#firstreadersgroup - to support each other’s creative endeavors when one is not yet
willing to share it with the faceless critical world. This group is meant to nurture the
creative process and the output, as well as the person behind the creations.
First Readers Group meets every month to discuss each member’s writing process
along with their writing. We had our first meeting in November 2018 and have met
You can follow us on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtag: #firstreadersgroup
About the writers
Chanchal Kumar is from Jharkhand and currently lives in Delhi. His poems and
articles have appeared in Round Table India, Sunflower Collective, Hamilton Stone
Review and other journals.
Priyanka Kapoor is currently working at the writing centre for Vedica Scholar's
Programme for Women. Her poems have been published in Hakara Journal and
Young Voice and Verse Poetry magazine. She was also shortlisted for The R L
Poetry award in 2017.
Arpan Naithani has a Masters degree in English Literature from Delhi University.
He's currently working part-time, and of late trying to use the rest of his time writing
fiction and poetry. He's interested in the ways of the metropolis, urban isolation,
human solipsism and the debilitating effects of modernity on mental health.
Anant Pundir is an entertainment journalist and movie buff from Meerut.His writing
features themes concerning human emotions such as love, loss and life. He mostly
writes non-fiction. He has written story books teaching entrepreneurship skills at
government schools in Bihar. You can find him on Instagram @pundiranant
Baldeep Grewal teaches English Literature at the University of Wuerzburg. The only
reason she writes is to get out of writing her PhD thesis.
Deepty Victor is an educationist, illustrator, story writer and researcher with the
British Council. She holds a Master’s degree in Education from Ambedkar University,
Delhi, in English from IGNOU and in Fine Arts from Paracheen Kala Kendra.
Apoorva Saini is the founder/editor of the short-fiction webzine 'The Bilingual
Window'. She writes fiction in both Hindi and English, and is currently working on her
Preeti Nangal graduated from Ambedkar University, Delhi. She did her Master's in
Literary Art: Creative Writing. Preeti is a freelance writer and is currently working on
her first novel, a young adult coming of age fiction. She was shortlisted for iwrite
2019 organised by Jaipur Literature Festival. She can be reached on Instagram
Design&Layout: Apoorva Saini
Illustration: Deepty Victor
Proofreading: Baldeep & Chanchal