It is a slightly disconcerting sight to watch a larynx at work. It reminds me of a sea urchin’s mouth instead of the feature that enables (some of) us to sing L’Orfeo. Consider how glistening vocal cords create sounds that our minds, upon receiving the vibrations, subjectively interpret as haunting or irritating, alluring or threatening. It is a rather bizarre but charming process.
The talented contributor Sunil Sharma came up with this week’s prompt and four writers responded: Sunil Sharma, Debjani Mukherjee, Leslie Crigger, and Kira. Each writer’s own ‘voice’ is distinct as well as the voices they write of in their respective stories. I hope you enjoy reading the stories and ‘hearing’ these unique voices as much as I did.
Love and its obsessions.
Narcissus transfixed with his own image.
The new-millennium world is image-driven.
Nina Ganguly, too, adored images. At 30, she was a self-declared Alice in search of wonderland.
She did not have to wait long.
The Alice-moment arrived, on a Sunday afternoon, in an unexpected manner.
Nina got electrified by a voice on the podcast.
Entranced by quality.
The voice was like the rumbling that convulses the earth.
Strange feel and texture: Akin to the wind whispering in a remote Alpine forest, on a crisp summer morning.
She was overwhelmed by the tenor and intensity—and its ability to move the listener to the core, the way you get enraptured, watching the Everest summit, first time.
The masculine voice triggered some long-forgotten sensation.
…pure bliss this, like the first rain drumming on the corrugated sheets or tiles of the mud houses in the small village on the edge of the river…the big drops creating a symphony odd…the grey curtain travelling fast over the plain and the meadow, drenching the trees that dance in the strong wind…kids screaming in joy and splashing in the brown puddles, a woman singing a song in a Kolkata home, a child trying to capture the diamonds from the dark skies in outstretched hands and the manna sliding down the fingers, and, some death chant in a mourning family, the light-n-dark blending in that specific instance…
She fell in love with it!
She went on playing the podcast and felt uplifted.
Every time, the baritone opened up secret passages inside a heart long suspected to be cold, clogged.
A lightness of being similar to listening to Zubin Mehta or viewing Mona Lisa.
The folksy song done in a soulful voice ran:
This spring I will not be home
I will miss the beauty and the splendor
Of a rural scene
That murmuring of bees
And waters of the river
And the song of the fishermen
And toiling boatmen
I will miss out all these
And your smile and love
Stuck up in this city of concrete!
You ask me to return
But I cannot
There are huge debts to be paid
But remember sweet-heart
The moon unites me with you all.
It was a podcast made by a young researcher on a local tribe and their dying oral culture. In her intro, she had talked of a gifted singer who narrated the agony of the uprooted.
His name was Mehto. Sans surname.
Anonymous. Last time, she met the famished singer, he was admitted into a municipality hospital.
I lost him from there. Concluded the researcher.
Nina fell in love again, this time with a popular image—an obscure singer; impoverished worker; a homeless migrant, untraceable, in the big, bad city of commerce.
She could understand the dualism of art — the simultaneous presence and absence of the creator.
An unseen artist becoming real through a distinctive voice.
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA:
For more details, please visit the blog:
The Lost Poem
The yellow streetlights flood the empty roads. The car is running on the chest of the sleepy city, playing hide and seek with light and shadows. It is a cold night outside the glass window, reflecting the series of yellow lights on its surface. Here and there, a few souls are sitting around the fire trying to cut the cold chilling their bones. Riddhi doesn’t know what they are discussing, nor can she guess; it may be life, it may be failures of the government or it may simply be bread and butter, who knows!! Who cares!!! Nowadays nobody cares beyond themselves; she doesn’t either or does she? Does her heart still beat? Still feel? Still cry for the cold growing on the bones of humanity? For a moment she wondered what would happen if she sat beside those men tonight? Spreading her hands to the fire, feeling the warmth inside her heart and asking them how are you? How is life?
But the car neither noticed the fire nor the people around it. The wheels kept rolling on the streets glimmering with halogens. She turned up the radio; the magnificent voice of Lata Ji singing the words of Gulzar. “There must be a road that will go to you from the bend of this lane” Her eyes are sleepy, the song ended and she changed the channel.
A lovely, soft feminine voice was rendering a poem. The beautifully expressed words were vibrating with life. Riddhi wanted to remember the poem but couldn’t except a few lines ….
“The heart knows the sun will again rise/ again the night will fade but it’s hard to keep forbearance till then/ what is this patience? Where could I get it from?/ no shop ever sell it though.”
It was R J Sayema with one of her daily poems. Riddhi’s heart grew sad: she lost a poem. A poem of which she couldn’t know the beginning, a poem of which she couldn’t remember the end. Just a few lines got embossed in the mind, keeping the hunger alive. She wanted to capture the poem in the pages of her diary but they were lost in the twilight of the road. Much like life, a little under your control, a little wayward like a wild horse. Riddhi took a deep breath in and looked outside the window. A moment she loved is now a moment she lost and on her bed tonight her heart will moan. Moan for the poem, moan for a love that she lost forever.
Debjani Mukherjee is a MBA in applied management and also a poet and a writer. Her poems, short stories and articles are published in several international anthologies and magazines.
A Gentle Voice
Thoughts scatter like Skittles from an overturned Easter basket. Bright and dazzling, they spin and skitter out of control. The display of new thoughts entices the mind at first, but the stimulation approaches too quickly and becomes overwhelming. A cry escapes my puckered lips.
Shh, shh, shh.
The chant rolls in on a tide of molasses- calm, sweet. Her voice, the eye of my intellectual hurricane, wraps its soothing extensions around me, well before her arms do.
Her feet shuffle along the shag carpet creating a familiar pattern as the plush piles are parted with each step towards me. A tranquil ritual in its own right but the ceremony has just begun, and I match the pitter patter of her feet with soft whimpers.
Shh, shh, shh.
She croons, to reassure me her presence. Silky arms dotted with the finest brown hair swoop in to rescue me from my bedchamber, a high-walled prison of sorts. The place of slumber is no match for the giantess. I nestle into her plump, predictable embrace. As she walks toward her throne, she continues the chant.
Shh, shh, shh.
A hint of stale milk lingers on the air. Anticipating my needs before I can, she lifts her shirt to allow me a deeper nuzzle into her chest. On a raft of lullabies, I drift past consciousness. Soothed by the greatest voice my infant ears will ever know- my mother’s.
I met you
Finally, I heard your voice.
I had known you for a year, and then suddenly realized I had never heard your voice before.
You, in turn, had never realized I had never told you my real name.
Before meeting you, I had frantically looked you up on every social media account I could find, looking for videos of you. Obsessed. Whether you would be talking, singing, screaming, it wouldn’t have mattered: I just wanted a sample of your voice. I wanted to feel like I had met you, before I really did.
You’re the only one I wanted to meet so badly.
Then, I got lucky. I was on holiday, and you asked me if I would be interested in spending a few days at your place. I brought a friend, in case you were a weirdo.
My friend and I got lost in the city, arrived late, and you came to pick us up. You tried to make conversation and were adorably awkward. I don’t remember any of it. All I remember is that you still didn’t know my name at the time. I didn’t correct you. It was okay to be someone else for a little longer.
We arrived at your apartment, were impressed by the space, the view, then settled in. At least, tried to. You wanted to lend us your printer, but it wouldn’t work. You had food delivered for us, but spilled some of it. You tried to heat something up in the microwave, but it wasn’t ready to cooperate. It shut down, never to function ever again.
I was so anxious to meet you, but this was my way out. In order to lighten up the atmosphere, I jokingly asked: “Well, I guess you haven’t been here in a while. Everything tends to explode around here?”
In an undertone, you answered: “Oh no, I blew up this microwave.”
To this day, it makes absolutely no sense. I still have no idea why, but those words still echo in my mind. Suddenly, the world stopped being white noise. I was left troubled for a while.
Interesting to think that such random words, with your deep, husky voice, could be mesmerizing. You managed to make blowing things up very appealing.
You were the best kind of weirdo I could ever imagine. My kind of weirdo.
Finally, I met you.
Kira is a full-time dreamer who just started her journey as a writer. She aspires to make a difference to those who stopped seeing the beauty in this world.