1st prize – Arjun Devkaran Singh

Her cheeks were plump and rosy, unable to hide her joy. She wore a red top-hat, with a rose

placed at the edge, and in her right hand, she held a bouquet of red roses.

On top a blade of grass was a butterfly flapping its wings – a dazzling spectacle of a dance of

two weightless living fabrics. Tiny ants marched into anthills, swans swam gracefully in the

lake, and delicate sparrows flew, gliding harmoniously up in the sky.

The sun was shining overhead, streaks of yellow and orange light tinting the endless blue.

Yet, in the battle of the armies of nature, the heat was nearing its impending defeat. Cold, icy

specs of dust tickled the cheeks of those passing by, and the wind carried with it a warning of


Having made it across the dark oak bridge, the pair trotted across the field, holding hands,

keeping close, with their mouths sunk deep in overcoats. Only, the cold hadn’t much

bothered him. No, he was just immensely glad, joyful, even grateful to be here with his little


Soon, they sat down on the grass, laying down a clean cloth, and ate what he had brought for

her if she felt hungry – raspberry jam sandwiches and orange juice. The corners of her mouth

were now red and sticky from blots of jam. Seeing her eyes, eyes streaked with a blue so pure

and utterly innocent, a blue so heavenly, a blue of the vast oceans and lakes, a blue of

graceful peacocks and kingfishers warmed him. It was as if inside the little house that was his

heart, the fireplace was lit, burning only because of her gleeful face.

Now, years later, whenever he sees her, this love is fortified (maybe sometimes

overshadowed) by a feeling of respect. She moves, swiftly and confidently, speaking

diligently yet lovingly: one envisions a mighty goddess giving a chieftain commands, or

perhaps a mighty Valkyrie, alone, in the sweep of battle.

Here he sits, rocking in his chair, eyes affixed on the decades old photograph, with his little

girl smiling back at him. The pleasant recollections of that journey across the water seize his

consciousness: as if his mind were submerged in a pool of blissful memories.

An instant later however, the hairs on his body tremble restlessly, his muscles involuntarily

contracting, because there is now this indescribable cacophony of emotions. Inside the heart,

agony, fear, regret form a swirling wind of black mass, frolicking with a mass of pure white,

an entity comprised of love, joy, and comfort. A dance so violently destructive, his body

shudders, his heart quivers, trying to break free from this feeling, so wholly unnatural.

But eventually the dance stops. He collects his thoughts as his little girl approaches the door –

all grown up.

“Hi, my little bug”, he says, the edges of his lips curling into a smile resembling a crescent

moon. Yet, this smile is brighter than the moon on a full moon night.

2nd prize – Aida Jilani