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                                                                                  A bouquet of steel flowers

Some people revered her as their ‘mother’ while some others worshipped her as a ‘goddess’. Millions drank from her. Many breathed her in. She had pleaded with them to stop but nobody listened. Which mother would want her children to swallow poison? It was not her fault. The only mistake was her love for travelling. In the snow mountains in the far north, where she had taken birth, everything had been pristine. She was pure and free like a spring bird. Having abandoned the protection offered by her home, she was on her own. Men had looted her to the very last drop. She would have given them everything they sought if they had let her live. Instead, they kept on feeding her poison, tearing down her womb gradually. Men often found ways to thrust steel into her wrinkled breasts. Limping and crawling, she somehow reached the gates of this famed city, where poets and kings had adored her once. The city had a multitude of celebrations, some of them even dedicated to her. She knew very well what awaited her, but fate was unstoppable. She took a deep breath and looked ahead for one last time. The forts and palaces of her beloved city were glittering in festive colours. As she crossed the gates, the dark poison of unbearable stench started gushing in from all sides. She closed her eyes, and cold darkness descended on her. She lay motionless even as fireworks painted the night sky. Her still waters reflected the shadows of a towering steel bridge and the fleeting motors. Powerful machines showered giant sparks on the metal poles rising from her breasts, giving a red glow to the surrounding night. She shed no tears, for she was dead by then.

                                                                                  In the graveyard of an empire

The desert wind was blowing across the evening sky, lifting dust and dead leaves from the parched ground. The emperor shut his eyes. He didn’t want to watch the specks of grass and worthless grains of sand flying freely in the saffron sky. Everything around him was on the move. He too dreamed of such freedom but had long since abandoned any hope of walking away. A century had been eclipsed since the majesty, who belonged to a castle thousands of miles away, arrived on this land of unheard languages and untasted spices. Summer winds, monsoon showers and Himalayan chill had worn out his stony face. Of late, he had become a jealous watcher of young couples passionately kissing under the shadow of his towering figure. He was tired of merely standing as a clown to the grandchildren of his erstwhile subjects. He hated it when kids made fun of his royal attire. They didn’t seem to realise that every soul from the east to west had bowed in front of him in his youthful days. Having gulped down the poison of power at a very young age, the majesty could never accept that he became a useless object. There was even a time when he had found solace in the belief that his empire might be thriving in other parts of the world. Eventually, he was disillusioned when no one from the empire paid him a visit for decades. Knowing well that he couldn’t even shake a bird off his head, the emperor had accepted his fate with a resigned look. Often, the majesty remembered the prophecy that whoever built fortresses on this land would be perished along with their empires. Left with no more desires, he probably contemplated the path of Buddha. As the parting sun painted the western sky in crimson, the emperor wished for an early night, so that he could open his eyes and stop seeing.

                                                                                  A corrupted memory

The looming tower stood amid the thick jungle, radiating its presence in all directions. The ground lay intoxicated by darkness. Ear-piercing cries of peafowls echoed from all corners when Memory-Maker stepped on the dew-laden grass. He watched the towering object with awe. A cigarette burned in his hand, venting plumes of white smoke into the icy air. The light from the tower reflected in the eyes of Memory-Maker. He dreamed of creating a new memory from that moment. Unmindful of the chill, his eyes, ears and nostrils started forming an image of the tower rising to the night sky. He had heard umpteen stories about it –imaginative tales. Memory-Maker always wondered how everyone made stories that fit their own beliefs. He wanted not a story but a memory of that night. He was about to complete the memory when the grass started moving. Awakened from the dream, Memory-Maker saw a snake crawling towards him. It hissed and started a story. Memory-Maker knew the problem with such stories; they poisoned even the most beautiful memories. But the snake was unstoppable, and its story was fearsome. It told about the predators that roamed the ground around the tower. It warned against making them a part of the memory. Memory-Maker stood helpless, for the ground belonged to the snake. His memory now corrupted, Memory-Maker walked out with a sunken head. He wished he could complete the memory without remembering the story.