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This City

By Iffat Sumaiya Mehzabeen

It was a long time ago, but I remember being out one night with my best friends. We stayed out till dawn. It was on nights like these that I can remember looking at their laughing faces and thinking: I'll be damned, but we did something right. Life threw its twists and turns and somehow, we survived; a little battered, a little bruised but together.

I couldn't tell you the specifics of that night, even if I wanted to. We were kids, and we were different. You don't notice it at once, when you change but one day, you wake up and you look at the mirror. Suddenly, there's a new person staring back at you. Sometimes, he's welcome. Other times you just wish he'd go back to whatever hole he'd crawled out of.

That night melted in with a hundred others - all inter-related, all important. But I couldn't tell you how we spent it all, or where we went. There was just this one moment that, I think, defined the rest of my life.

There were five of us, and we met up on the roof of a skyscraper where none of us lived or had ever been to. Now, this high rise wasn't exactly public property but my friends and I believed staunchly in that favourite old aphorism of the youth: no harm, no foul. It was a harmless game, really maybe one that could have taught us something, if we hadn't been so blind. The objective, we said, was to push our boundaries. Now, I realise it was to find out where they lay.

This building we were on - it crested the skyline, dominating the city's profile. It was almost evening when all of us managed to outsmart building security and make it to the roof. We were supposed to head off immediately but we got caught up, talking and joking until it got dark. I'll never know what made me look away from the group, but I did for an instant. And in that moment, I saw one of the most amazing things I've ever been fortunate enough to lay my eyes on.

The city was buzzing around us. I looked at the horizon and what I saw wouldn't catch many people's imagination, I suppose. It was all cool planes of reflective glass or sturdy brick and plaster. There were no sleepy rivers, with dark reflections. But to me, it was beautiful. There was this ambience rising from the city - this city, that everyone said was cold and morally corrupt and it was washing over all of us. The glow was a tangible thing, colliding with the darkness of the night sky and keeping it at bay. The stars glimmered from far away like points of light in a vast ocean. Like white-hot flashes of pain and hope struggling out from underneath our collective despair. And the city made us forget how close we were to being engulfed in that despair as well.

As I stood motionless, drawing in the warmth radiating from this mass of steel and concrete, I saw the moon in the clear black sky. It was a silver slit in the darkness. To me, it would forever be a conspiratorial wink - like someone out there, greater than just you and me, had welcomed me into the ranks of a privileged few who knew, like I did now, how beautiful and frightening the night truly was - or how the city was our saviour.


Last edition of BetaWriters, we had the topic Singing the Blues. The article below was unconventional in terms of what it discussed. Next week we have the topic: Streetwise. We are hoping for some smooth write ups for this one. Submissions have to be sent in to ds.risingstars@gmail.com by Sunday noon. The word limit is the usual 500 words.

Singing the Blues

By Simra Ahmed

“Well I never felt more like singing the blues
'Cause I never thought I'd ever lose,”

She watched the rain pitter-patter on her window sill. She watched as a single raindrop made its way down, zigzagging along the glass leaving behind a wake of water. She watched it trickle down faster, faster until it reached the bottom; crashed, merged with the other droplets, then disappeared.

She still watched as the trail it left behind vanished, blending with the wetness surrounding its lowly form, mixing with all the other small tiny droplets, until there was nothing left of it. Just a blur on her window pane, forgotten.

Strangely, her existence felt like a raindrop to her.

“Well I never felt more like crying all night
Cause everything's gone and nothing ain't right.
Without you, you got me singing the blues.”

She had heard some say that you genuinely fall in love only once, that love so true that it makes you stand on the balcony on silent nights asking questions - the way things were, the way things could have been?

She had been in love like that, with her homeland. Her one worshipped lover, her first choice and her last. It had watched her grow, taken away old pains; had held all her untold secrets, her happiness, her promises, her sins; it had changed her for the better.

“The moon the stars no longer shine
The dream is gone I thought was mine
There is nothing left for me to do
But cry-y-y over you”


She never really understood why God made tears. Was it only for expression of emotions? If so, she had shed a lot of them when she was taken away. They fell from her eyes even without her noticing they were there. Every single drop unique in its own way, every single one of them containing a fragment of her past, the time spent with people she had left behind.

Some had said this was ridiculous. Some made fun of her. But if you could get hold of her teardrop and actually weigh it, you would understand the gravity of what she had to leave behind

Heavier than mountains, solid as a diamond, irreplaceable as the memories she carried inside of her.

“Well I never felt more like running away
But why should I go cause I couldn't stay
Without you, you got me singing the blues”


She believed they were a wonderful gift from god.
Even the sad ones are worth it. But even they, unfortunately, don't last forever.

She thought perhaps she could go back, cling onto the past that she never wanted to let go. But it is always so difficult.

Something or the other always comes up.

(Song taken from “Singing the Blues” by Guy Mitchell)


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