The City by Prakhar Pathrikar (Jury Chosen)

I hear this city.
It’s puffed sighs on an empty belly.
Wind chiming dreams and responsibilities together,
spooking timid titanium hearts from behind.

I gush through these crowded streets
full of variety-shops selling anxieties,
and strangers whirling cracked crooked spines,
roping colored tongues at every chance they find.
Sidewalks overflowing with bloodshot eyes and wilting shoulders.
A five hour sleep is difficult with the next twenty years on your mind.
I want to leave.
But I’m stuck at this radiant righteous signal
that stares at me with its scarlet eye.

The next thing I see is a child,
nose-pressed, licking my car window,
asking for a little taste of my middle class life.
“It’s Stale”, I tell him.
He’s not alone, there are thousands of him,
running around in torn slippers and tattered futures.
His only inheritance is ashes,
probably he sold them for two cold square meals
while his parents were busy harpooning the sun down,
because they are just not ready for another day.

People of this city have forgotten, for ages the sun has risen in the east.
But all they have done is stare in the west.
Houses here have rooms smaller than childhood and debts heavier than sorrows.
And in every backyard, someone is drying their failures on their blood-lines.
This city is malnourished.
All it needs is little “Food…. for thought”
and it’ll sprout out of its open wounds.
When the scintillating horizon will melt away the colossal mountains of our individual histories,
I’ll drink the dark nights until my blood becomes thicker than my lies,
I’ll wring the poison out of the sultry skies to keep it that way.
And if instead of folding
we start holding our hands together,
Maybe it’ll take ten years, twenty years, fifty years,a hundred years,
but we’ll make it.

Alive by Aditya Raizada (Jury Chosen)

Silence heralds me,

The world holds its breath

And I am a storm, arrived.

Rivers froth, boulders crumble

As I rage, roar and rumble,

At my touch, all creation trembles

As I unite earth, sea and sky

Within me flows infinite power

And within it, I am alive

I quiver on my branch, lank yet tense

A moment before, a moment after,

I am ripped away from home,

Whipped, whirled and warped

Tossed into the wild, willful wind,

I tear, I twist and I dance.

To see, I try; to be, I fly,

On wings of wind, I touch the sky

Racing ahead of the thunder wall

I, the puny leaf, lead the mighty storm.

And as the debris cloud engulfs me again

Alive, I dance in the rain.

Performance by Priyanka Naik (Jury Chosen)
The stage is ready, I play my part

Exit stage left, I then depart

But the show isn’t over for me

Not yet; it has only begun

For that narrow alley, I have to cross

To head home alone, an albatross

In unsafe times like these

Even for a woman with nerves of steel

It feels no less than an ordeal

To walk the streets alone

The moon is frightened, the path is dark

The fear in my head and heart is stark

As I clutch my bag and clench my fist

They surround me in a drunken twist

Slurred speech armed with lusty gaze

Shocked to see me still unfazed

Unaware that the beast within them

Has provoked the Goddess inside me

With pepper spray in my stead

And fury blazing in my head

I open fire from my veins

The curtain rises yet again

This time though of an apartment window

A little girl sees them blinded

Screaming in pain, running amok

Panic-stricken, in a state of shock

By the will of Durga, the wrath of Kali

The girl smiles at me; an inspiration

The desired end to the scary tales

That her grandma would often regale

Of how girls shouldn’t clothe too short, too tight

Or walk around too late at night

Of how they must hang their head in shame

And when teased or bullied, take the blame

The little girl, her eyes shining bright

Now smiles at me for putting up a fight

And from that high rise building, 15th floor

Through the curtain drawn open window

I receive

My first standing ovation


You Are by Taraa Vermaa Senguptaa (Voters Choice)

You are….
The first rays of the sun
Falling on slumbering leaves
Making them glow.
The first drops of rain
Pattering on the panes
Of my window.

You are….
The silken sheen of the moon
Draped softly across
Beds of wild flowers.
The whisper of a breeze
From over the seas
With a hint of showers.

You are….
The gurgling of a brook
As it meanders
Over a bed of rocks.
The gentle caress of a breeze
As it musses
Some errant locks.

You are….
The innocent laughter of children
As they play
One summer morn.
The longing sighs of parted lovers
As they crave their mate
At every dawn.
You are….
The uncertainty
Of tomorrow
And days unknown.
The sweet nostalgia
Of the past
And days that have flown.

You are…..
The routine of a work day
With a beginning
And an end.
The quest of an artist
Randomly seeking
Inspiration to spend.

You are….
The clarion call of a bugle
Stirring passions
For soldiers to march.
The lilting love song
In her heart as she walks
Down the aisle in church.

You are….
A sea of security
And contentment
In a womb.
The despair and desire
For ultimate peace
In a tomb.

You are….
The incessant tears
And manic frenzy
Of nations torn apart.
The overriding prayers
Of peace and harmony
In the heart.

You are…..
To me
The whole world.