(3 winners picked by the litlive jury based purely on merit)

(All winners are in alphabetical order by last name)

Recipe For The Perfect Avakaiyya Pickle by Jajwalya Karajgikar

If you want the perfect pickle
That you will want to suckle
Step 1 is to gather the enveloping simmering summer heat
Toss it in hard mangoes, until it burns my skin to a scratchy red
Add dashes of Ammamma’s loving chuckle
When she dices green mangoes raw as her chafed red heels
From tottering to and fro the veranda and her kitchen.
Leave the seed cover to suck at its marrow later.
“You think you are biting it,” she says, tapping my cold red nose
“But it bites your teeth for days to come.”
If you want the perfect pickle
As spicy as the south wind in a market’s till
“You must not touch the sensitive skin near your eyes, my dear,”
She says quietly,”The chilli  marinade in your red eyes will burn
Like your heart of a slap from your mother.”
Then she bathes the mango cubes in red masala, fragrant with flavour
If you want the perfect pickle
Of the right consistency; like you will
“Pour the oil into the vat, gently”, she murmurs softly

“For a spill will be harder to wash off than regrets
Of a childhood lost or words said in red-hot anger.”
If you want the perfect pickle
For sensory overload each time un-culled
Sprinkle salt in heaps, prepare the brine
And the penultimate ingredient (Step 4, are you keeping track?) is the red blood of your menses
For all the tiresome symbolism of restrictions inevitable with womanhood.
“Don’t touch anything, you are madi!”,Ammamma admonished with a steel handle.
Mix this magic concoction in a ceramic white pot with a red lid.
Seal this potion. Let it soak, let it be.
Over months it will be done.
Fermented like your aspirations
But the perfect pickle, for me,
Is the one in my mouth;
Swishing, languidly lolling about my tongue.
I enjoy it with the blandness of curd rice –
Life has a way of balancing storms with eye of the storms –
Red against white, not unlike the symbolic virginal bed.
I relish it with sambar or rasam-
Red spurts on squishy dal terrains
Or with bajjis and bondas in dollops.
Or even, in a steel cup, all on its own.
It does not matter, so long as I remember Ammamma.

Remember tugging her thick long black braid adorned with red roses from the temple.
Remember wrapping her in red and gold silk saree,
Fingers taut and stretched out to measure the folds.
Remember her not quite red (maroon, perhaps?) kumkum,
My younger self thought, it was for playing holi.
Remember the fire I was named after.


Metamorphosis by Priyanka Naik
You recited Neruda and I blushed
Imagining I was the cherry tree
And you, the spring that made me bloom
Erotic poetry does that to girls
Makes them go giddy in the head
Weak in the knees, queasy in the stomach
But little did I know that this is exactly how
Mature men play with young things
Seducing their mind before touching their body
Making them believe they have finally found
The answer to their prayers
The missing half of their soul, the yin to their yang, the complete man
And I was no different
Allowing you into my life, my mind, my heart
Becoming yours just like the cherry tree
Permitted spring to own it—revelling in its presence
I too made you the centre of my existence
The constant on which I depended
Until the seasons changed and I realised
That spring was long over
It was then that I felt like the mighty oak
Appearing tall and strong on the outside
But crumbling from within, trembling from the fear
Of being felled by one swift stroke of your axe
Your cutting words replaced Neruda’s sweet poems
Your cold touch felt like winter evenings
As I lay frozen, I wondered what
The cherry tree must have felt
When Spring passed it by


Bidrohi by Baidurya Sen

There is a well right across my own backyard.
For ‘forefathers’, we have been fetching water from there;
And when I peep into it,
I can see the water is still there.
It is not bone-dry or undrinkable
as my son, Bidrohi tells it to be.
Yet I don’t know why he has to go to the river to fetch the water.
It is ever-changing, ever-moving.
We don’t know where it comes from
or where it flows to.
But Bidrohi trusts it more. Not just likes.
“It is so fresh”, he tells.
“And it has fish too at times”
“And if you are lucky, you can get diamond-shaped stones too”
His eyes glitter as he tells how
Monolota caught a big fish the other day.
“She was dancing with joy”, he shouts.
I asked if she liked it.
“Monolota doesn’ eat fish. And besides, the fish was dead”
I stare at Bidrohi in amazement.
Such worldly intricacies is beyond my grasp.
What am I to do with the fish and diamond-shaped stones!
I sigh.
All I need is the water.
There was a well right across my own backyard.