From the frying pan
By Bhaskar Hazarika
I stepped out of the lift on the 37th floor and headed towards the penthouse apartment of rising Bollywood star Rishi Sangwan. I rang the bell and waited for the door to open, listening to the babble of voices and ambient party music from inside the apartment. I glanced at my smartphone to check the time. It was 10.43 pm on December 31 — the last day of this most wretched year 2020 AD. I was here not just to ring in the new year and bid a relieved farewell to this one, but also for my first — and I hoped not the last — mask-burning party.
Ever since the vaccine for COVID-19 got deployed around the world, groups of the vaccinated have been throwing boisterous mask-burning parties. They tended to feature wild merriment, feasting, and fornicating — like pre-COVID parties on hyperdrive. But the main attraction at these parties, as the name suggests — is the collective burning of face masks.
The bulk of the guests at these parties feature the vaccinated, but many of the masked, too, turn up, secure in the belief that the vaccinated cannot transmit the virus anymore. That’s why I was here. Rishi was a friend from when we were both cub reporters for a news channel, and had just gotten his second dose along with the usual clutch of privileged folk like ministers’ sons and judges’ daughters. I accepted his invite not (just) because of the aforementioned feasting and fornication, but also to document a mask-burning party for a small news website I sometimes wrote for.
An hour later, I watched as people danced around a drum of fire in the large balcony, tossing masks in the flames as they whirled around it. The mood was ecstatic, and it was difficult for the dozen-odd masked guests like myself not to get carried away and fling our own masks in the fire, too. Some did exactly that, and maybe I would have joined them but for a piercing scream. I turned to look at the source, and was stunned to see my friend Rishi tearing into the neck of a starlet — with his teeth. More screams distracted me from this hideous sight, and I saw that the vaccinated were attacking the masked, ripping them apart with their teeth in a rabid frenzy. I turned to look at Rishi, and his eyes — or what used to be his eyes but were now putrid orbs filled with pus — locked on to me. He charged, snarling like a wolf. I ran and shut myself inside a bathroom. Panicked, I turned on my smartphone to figure out what the hell was going on.
A few minutes on Twitter told me the bare facts. The vaccinated were turning into zombies, governments were paralysed, and no one knew how to stop it. Just then, I heard a distant church ringing in the new year with bells. The ringing wafted through the open window, mixed with the sound of fireworks and screams of terror. I looked in the mirror and said to myself — “Happy new year.”
(Bhaskar Hazarika is a National Award-winning Assamese filmmaker of Kothanodi and Aamis)
By Vasan Bala
Saiba lives on a beautiful island. One day, as she sits on the cliff overseeing the sea, she sees a pod crash into the water, it drowns but a thing is ejected out of it. Saiba dives in to see. As she swims closer, she realises it’s a robot and brings it ashore. The robot has a message encrypted in it. Saiba sees it as a holographic vision. It’s to find a missing Warrior of the Resistance to save the world of the Evil… an Evil Empire.
Saiba takes on the plots of Wonder Woman, Moana and Star Wars and navigates her way through an incredible adventure, in which she makes new friends, meets her heroes who disappoint in a world that is losing hope, and an Empire that is ready to wipe out all magic and wonderment from the world.
Saiba gets on a flying dog, blends The NeverEnding Story plot, and tries to save “imagination” as people are losing faith in it. Without imagination, there’s no world.
The voyage shifts from the Flying Dog to the Millennium Falcon to The Milano, where she meets Groot. They land in a deserted jungle and have dinner at Yoda’s cottage, the seven dwarfs play some music and the hobbits sing.
After that Captain Kirk beams Saiba into his USS Enterprise. She plays chess with Spock when a distress signal from Fireball XL5 makes her leave the game unfinished and go meet Doctor Venus, who’s treating Elsa’s sister, Anna. Elsa accidentally froze Anna’s heart. Only Saiba’s healing touch can save her. Saiba uses all her power and reunites the sisters, bringing Christmas and joy back to Arendelle. But Saiba can’t stay for too long. A bit of imagination may have been restored, but the Evil Empire is still strong. To defeat it, Saiba needs to find the Warrior she’ll join forces with. Armed with a map, some food, some water, and loads of imagination, Saiba sets off from Arendelle to meet the Dragon Warrior…the Kung Fu Panda!
(Vasan Bala is a writer, and director of Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota)