The Lion & The Sun Part IV

Written by Prarthana Nandwani

lion

The lion scraped the sand in front of him with a long, razor-sharp nail. The sheer weight of his paw could have left a permanent etch in the ground’s base. As he raised his great head to meet the gaze of the gaggle of creatures staring up at him, his tousled mane ruffled gently in the breeze.

The call for the gathering reached the ears of those existing even many leagues away, as well as those that dwelled within the lion’s own internal kingdom. In the years preceding the lion had grown intrinsic; a tad more private. He took more interest in strategy than spontaneity, valuing skills over strength. As the many noble animals in the vicinity looked on, they noted with approval a stillness in the lion’s passionate eyes that measured it’s subjects with a quiet intelligence. “During my journeys across our lands, I sighted and sensed a type of creatures that do not look, act, or smell like us. They were not mildly different from us, as the external kingdom is from the internal, but completely unrecognizable. The creatures are not of much interest to me, however, as much as is the land they dwell in.
I had been hunting in the Grey Lands when I caught a whiff of a foreign scent. It had been faint, but at the same time caused my hairs to prick.”
The lion paused, his quiet eyes turned steely, recalling with a surge of passion the sweet feeling. Just a whiff of the mysterious scent had filled him with the most amazing ecstatic sensation that jolted through him like a shock of lightning.
“The smell, there was and is nothing like it – it changed my insides.”
A prickly alertness came over the Felidae observing their King. Their eyes seemed brighter, their noses more sensitive. Wherever this land was, they were going to find it.

Sheena stood tall and tried not to stare at the Lion. She was closer in proximity to him than the other muscular, brawny cats around. Over the years of surveying and plunder, the lion had acquired quite an entourage. “The Brawns”, as she privately named them, watched over the Lion’s cave as he slept. A leader of his stature needs his rest, Sheena mused.
Sheena’s white gold fur and lithe physique often stood in contrast to the lion’s bronzed, muscular frame. Their eyes met for a split second: the lion’s, a blood orange encircled with an icy blue, Sheena’s curious honeysuckle-brown. She turned suddenly and with the slow sensual movements that remain unique to felines, started towards the fair outlay of the inner circle caves. Back and forth – the lionesses’ shoulders prowled in rhythm with her derriere.
A thunderous BOOM resounded throughout the wide expanse reverberating within the Felidae’s hearts. The Lion’s paw had come down like a hammer, signaling an adjournment of gathering. He had the Felidae’s support to invade. He could see it in their besotted eyes. He could feel it from the yearning in their chests. They wanted to get closer to this land, this feeling that he so well described had creeped up on them as well. He needed it, and now so did they.

The Lion stalked off towards the impressive rock formation known as the inner circle caves. The deep blue backdrop of the sky served as the perfect canvas for highlighting the sharp crevices of the caves. It was as if someone had intently studied the sparkling dolomite, surveyed the mountain, and carved out hollow cavities ideal for shelter. Lions and lionesses dotted in and out of the crevices, pounced over and under rocks – like flashes of gold dotting around. Others simply lounged on the exposed flat surfaces leading up to their caves, their watchful eyes alight like fireflies. Sheena was nowhere to be seen.

A low rumble seemed to fill the caverns as the lion approached. Though the rumble closely echoed a young storm, his ears perked in anticipation. His pride had crowded around and had strategically placed themselves at the hollowest parts of the rock. The scene that befell him left the lion spellbound every time: His pride – the apex of all cat species – beating their inner paws against the stones in rhythmic unison. The sound slowly grew from an undercurrent to a steady thudding. The boom reverberated in the lion’s chest: he felt more awake, the blue of his irises narrowing into slits as the blood orange pupils expanded into them.

Thud, thud thud, thudding, thudding, THUDDING
The lions beat deeper into the rocks, growing into a faster rhythm. Back muscles flexing as they raised their great paws and let them fall now causing a dramatic BOOM. The lion closed his eyes as the experience overtook him. There was nothing to see anymore when his insides were exploding in adrenaline and pleasure. The beat filled him with an interminable energy, a vibe that he had felt only when living his deepest pleasures. He felt fluid. Seamless. His mind shut down, thoughts faded away. All the ideas and plans that usually spawn like drops of dew at this time of evening evaporated into nothingness, replaced with a keen focus on the sights and sounds of the night. He watched as the lions beat on, their paws sparking a magnificent blue fume turning dust into ash.

As dust filled the tepid air a new pair of eyes appeared like specks of gold flashing the darkness. Feminine feline, yet familiar. The lion grew warm, triangular ears piqued in interest. As the dust faded the sensation multiplied: Sheena. His heart thudded as her eyes locked onto his, arresting his breath. The lion had never registered her sensuality as he did now, always blocking out the animal in him when it came to her.
They stood like this for some time, until the dawn threatened to break the embers of the night.

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Camaraderie on the Roads

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Written by Prarthana Nandwani

We all grew up having to be teamed up. That moment when the person you loathe the most in the entire world is now your offense partner in school soccer. When the boy or girl you had a crazy crush on is called out as your lab partner. The same person who you spend sleepless nights thinking of either how to tease, or get their attention, is now suddenly having to spend hours with you after school. Precipitation forms on your neck and face at the mere thought of it.

“Priiiiiinngggg!” The school bell rings way louder than usual. As if I needed it – been thinking about this day for a while. The day when I’d have to play with Rob at Intramurals Soccer. Can’t believe they teamed us up! Hated him from the moment I saw him back in Grade 1! We’ve tortured each other to no end since that day – me coming up with pranks to make his life more and more miserable, he constantly annoying me in and out of class. Peeling off my uniform in the locker rooms, I noted Rob at the corner of my eye grabbing his new red Adidas cleats. My hands balled into fists – even the way he ties his laces is weird! Can’t believe he bought shoes matching the team colors. I rush out into the field hoping that the wind’ll make me feel better. “Just don’t pass – obvi!” I say to myself.

I note our soccer coach out over at the middle of the sunny, manicured soccer field over at Malibu, CA. Looks so chill and smug, as if he paired us up on purpose! Not to be cocky or anything but I was MVP last year and I think he’s just playing with me, testing me…

The whistle blows shrilly in my ear as Nick and I kick off. I love the feeling of the ball dribbling between my silver cleats as I zoom forward. Clumps of dark turf soar behind me with every sprinting step. Jen and Pri from the opposing team dart towards me, all fierce and intense in their golden jerseys. Skirting them as I sidestep the ball around J. and spinning it around P. Approaching the penalty box fast. The goal looks so big and inviting. Sadly a sea of gold jerseys block all the possible paths. Passing the ball to Nick who’d been sprinting along parallel the entire time while jumping in front of a golden defender. He fake passes, and steps over the offense. Rob appears out of no where at the corner in his little red jersey. He’s actually at the perfect spot to pass to me. Nick passes to Rob! Can’t believe he passed to Rob! What’s he going to do? I jump back and forth between the two defenders freeing myself up for ball. I never needed Rob as much as I did now, never saw Rob as accessible as he does now! I can work with him, it can work, he just needs to kick down…”Thump-ping!!!!!” Rob hits the sweet spot as the ball soars in the most perfect arc – towards me! He’s amazing! I catapult towards the air as my forehead connects with the ball, urging it to the rushing ground. The goal stands still inviting at my 11 o’clock, but I’m still boxed in. Rob’s moving fast in from wide, I back tap the ball to him as he sprints off with it. The defenders sprint off with him leaving me wide open! Rob looks up from the turning and dribbling, sees me. The eye contact only lasted a split second but it said it all:

In real life we are whatever, but right now in this scenario I am going to work with you. Not for you, not for me, but for all of us.

Another perfect “Thump-ping” as the inner side of his red cleat makes contact with the ball, sending it flying in my direction. A head rush of adrenaline. An electric tingling as I volley Rob’s pass – just ever so slightly up – and time stops for a millisecond with my leg swung back preparing for what I’m about to do. Eyes locked on the goal. Judging aim, power, and sniper precision. Ball descends from volley as my right leg swings forward at supersonic speed, muttering a quick “thanks Rob” under my breath before letting it fly. The goalie whips corner right, almost levitating for a second as the tip of his glove barely scrapes the ball as it escapes him. Silence.

Goal — goal? GOAL! GOAL!

A sea of red jerseys blurs my vision. “Well done bro!” “Awesome man!” “That was sick!” I spot Rob in his red cleats, high five him, and skip back to center field.

Living in a busy city like L.A., New York, Dubai or the like presents us with situations on the road everyday. We could always see the cars in front and around us as Rob – enemies that we have to try and beat or “tease” to get our way. We could cut others off, not give way when needed, and just generally create an unpleasant and dangerous scenario. However, if we start to see the road as an environment in which we must cooperate, where the vehicles around are teammates that we have to compromise with and work with in order to score (goal), we may actually start to enjoy our drives.

The Time Value of a Photo

Written by Prarthana Nandwani

Economists, in explaining the concept of diminishing marginal utility to students, often use pizza as a universal example:

“Picture yourself at your hungriest – at the end of a long day or maybe after an intense workout – picking up the phone and ordering your favorite type of pizza. Mine’s Hawaiian, by the way, in case any of you want to get me some later. You’re practically salivating by the time the door bell rings. Sinking your teeth into that first bite. Tasting the tomato sauce, the toppings. It’s heaven guys, let’s not kid ourselves. That first slice disappears in the matter of seconds, the second is still delicious but just not quite as amazing as the first. The third, still good…By the time the fourth rolls around you’re pretty much used to the taste and you’re just eating it because you’re hungry. Not because it’s insanely good.”

At the end of this meal, you’re stuffed and pizza just isn’t appetizing anymore. In some cases, if you’ve properly stuffed yourself, just looking at it may cause some queasiness. What if, though, you just stuck to that first incredible slice? How would that change your perceived value of pizza and food in general?

The example of pizza can also be tied into the modern day photo, or “pics”, “shots”, “images”. Over 1.5 billion new photos are shared per day across Facebook, WhatsApp, and Snapchat alone. In 1999, consumers only took 80 million photos in a year*. The number of images people are exposed to – voluntarily and involuntarily –  on a daily basis is overwhelming. Based on the theory of demand and supply then, there’s simply no way a modern day photo can be valued for as much as it once was.

The pizza and the photo have more in common than was once thought: the more slices eaten/photos shared, the less tasty the next one seems.

The Adult Playground

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Written by Prarthana Nandwani

In class. There’s only a few minutes left. Watching all the chairs tipping, fingers drumming, shoes tapping in anticipation for that one awesome sound: the recess bell. Jumping off the chair, flying out the door to the sunny playground. The next few minutes are crucial: foursquare or the swings? Jump rope or tag? Foursquare it is. Hearts pumping dirt flying colors running. This was recess. The best half hour of the entire day – until lunch of course.

At the office. Top right of the computer screen says 12:29. Almost lunch, score! Eyes flick to the sleek smartphone conveniently sitting face up on the desk. A blue light on the phone winks seductively. WhatsApp or a text? A comment on the latest IG picture or a reply to an FB message? Stretching the suspense for a few more minutes while walking to a nearby café. Fingers touch to unlock without looking. And there it is – that deep blue sea of a screen. Forgetting all about food while making the usual round of apps: Getting lost on Instagram and smirking at quirky little Facebook posts. The game of rounds picks up the pace as London wakes up and half of Dubai goes for lunch.

Now switching between the group chat on WhatsApp and catching up on Snapchat stories. Debating whether or not to snap a lunch time selfie (definitely not). Playing faster, faster until “Low Battery” pops up too many times to be ignored any longer.

Blue turns to black as the battery finally gives up. Looking up slowly, the colors of the room fade into view. The people around come into focus. Actual laughter, proper chatting, real eye contact. Surprising.

The Lion & The Sun – Part III

Written by Prarthana Nandwani

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The lion prowled softly as he camouflaged himself against the weeds. His eyes were large, alert, and flashing with fire. He’d caught sight of them: a herd of gazelle grazing on the other side of the prairie. His appetite had grown enormously since his sun-filled days.

“Who am I kidding, this isn’t about the food. It’s about the hunt,” he thought to himself as hate filled his bones over the fact that these beautiful creatures were still standing. The lion could now see them in plain sight, the color red blurred his vision as he raced, his heart beating wildly and even more so as he sunk his teeth and claws into the necks of each and every member of the herd. Thunder filled his veins as he leaped onto the last one standing, crushing it with his weight. The lion stood aside and looked unto his kill.

No satisfaction. Just empty, so empty…

Gazelles and felines were all the same to him. Except the former were to eat, the latter to consume. Every dusk brought the lion an insatiable thirst for lust. No feline was at mercy from the lion’s possessed eyes, a deep green mixture of desire, danger, and madness. His fiery roars of pleasure grew familiar only to few before he searched for another more exotic and enticing to devour.

Throughout his time with the sun, the lion had grown a regal presence. He finally had a star who was so stunning that he needn’t look elsewhere. His wandering eye and untamed energy were far too distracted by the sun, with her sheer beauty and constant drama. The result was amazing: a sagely lion who couldn’t even bat an eyelid to the many admirers who craved his attention. The only problem was that she was a star, a species far too taboo for his tribe. And so without her around, he grew dangerously insatiable.

But the sun hadn’t entirely disappeared from the lion’s life. He glimpsed her shadow. Felt her presence. Though they had called it quits, the lion knew that their obsessive love would be near impossible to write off completely. He knew she was watching and he needed it.

That winter his hunts ironically led him back to his own kingdom. The lion was mildly shocked to find it in shambles. His emotions had grown cold and jaded like the Siberian winter itself.
“The kingdom has gone to the dumps while you were out writing a love story!?” The head of the tribe roared, ” I am in two minds to banish you, bloody Romeo!”

“So banish me! What else am I going to do? How would I have helped this place anyway? With the lack of rain and your lack of brain, the ‘kingdom’ was always heading to the dumps,” the lion retorted.

“How dare you. This ‘place’ made you who you are. Which unfortunately is a washed up half-crazed monster and no where close to the king I raised.”

“MAYBE if you had accepted the SUN into this KINGDOM  things would have been DIFFERENT,” the lion exploded.

“Would she still be so in love with you after a RANDOM LIONESS would be forced to have your CUBS? You know, only the HEIRS to this kingdom?!”

The lion closed his eyes and blinked back his pain. The sun, being a star, could never give him an heir. The lion, being a lion, could never give her a star. It was a Catch-22 and the two of them were on board with that – except it would mean the end of the kingdom’s lineage.

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Come away with me!” urged the sun. Her eyes shone so bright with sincerity the lion could barely maintain his gaze. “We’ll travel the world, we’ll leave no corner undiscovered. We’ll write our own story, our own path. I’ll always keep you warm, happy”.

The lion’s heart burned with her earnestness. He felt like it had been a cold stone that just exploded with a warm, sensational feeling. He envisioned going away with her. The ecstatic seasons with no worries and responsibilities. Living like a cub with the love of his life. Being with her through pleasure and pain.

And then he thought of his past. Flashback to his selfish ways – always taking advantage of everyone around him just for a moment of pleasure. Flashback to the times his elders sacrificed their personal happiness for him. The lion’s moods had ruled the kingdom, not strategy and forward thinking.
Back then the kingdom was rich and could afford his mood swings. This isn’t the case anymore though – the kingdom’s wealth is in tatters, the elders counting rations.
Times had changed and though the lion craved with his raw, open, and shattered heart to be with his sun…He couldn’t.
It was his greatest and most painful sacrifice. He felt the pain of Mount Olympus if Zeus were to pry it in half.

He looked at the sun, and that look was enough for her. Her hopeful orange flame withered into a dull grey fume. The lion had rarely ever seen her like this. Red rage, very often. But dull, grey, lifeless, and shrinking – never. They looked at each other with pure grief.
The world stopped around them. There was only silence and the sound of their slowing heartbeats.

Why is it that the one who makes me feel the most free is the one I can’t be with?

Silence. They stared into each other, revealing all the memories, the never-ending days, the intimacy. Each had the eyes of a lifeless being – their hearts had stopped bleeding. The coldness settled in.
Their brows hardened. Never again would they fall like this. Never again would they feel like this.

And the lion returned to his kingdom. Though the weight of his sacrifice bore on him for the remaining years of his youth, the feeling of doing the right thing was stronger. He dedicated himself fully to the responsibilities within the kingdom, the strategizing of its regrowth.
He didn’t live happily ever after, but he knew that the pain of losing the sun was far less than the guilt of leaving his tribe in their moment of extreme need.
Still he often wondered about her – where she was, what she was doing.

But from time to time when the day shone just a shade lighter,
And the evening skies stayed dusky,
The lion knew she wasn’t too far away.

The Lion & The Sun – Part II

Written by Prarthana Nandwanifirelion

She circles me like a hyena closing in on it’s prey, her eyes flash down at me like she owns me, my scent is her perfume, her tail whips the air as she prowls. Then, she launches.

The lion roars awake, sending the trees around him into a flurry as the birds nesting on them fly away in terror. He scans the horizon looking for the subject of his dream – she had disappeared, again.

The lion had changed in the recent months: rather than his standard downtrodden self filled with dark thoughts and depressing feelings, he had actually grown more confident. One could even say he’d gotten a bit cocky.
There’s a certain air around a creature if they were born into a species that are undeniably the ‘kings of the jungle’. Lions are, after all, ego driven creatures. Though he was his darkest self shortly after his episode with the sun, the lion was surprised to find that he received quite a bit of attention throughout his sabbatical. Initially, of course, the young royal paid almost no heed to the side glances from the female jaguars, cheetah, and lionesses that eyed him as he padded along. He, rather, would take more notice to those who sensed his pain: the creatures who’d actually care to listen to his troubles.

None, of course, ever understood why he and the sun had parted ways, though the lion explained over and over that no one had ever brought a star into the tribe. The tribe had a set idea of who and more importantly, what, the lion should be calling his partner: a cat. A great cat, with royal blood running through her and her ancestor’s veins. The lion couldn’t even count the number of times these rules had been explained to him ever since he was a young cub.

The real crux of the story that the lion purposely omitted was much darker: A secret that if ever revealed could ruin his standing as the king. If the truth ever came out, his tribe would never look at him the same way.
Everyone knew that the lion & the sun would have wild conflicts. Some also knew that the arguments were about nonsensical issues. None, however, knew that about the punishments…

Though the two were always together, it was the lion’s princely duties to hunt game and to consult with the heads of his tribe about the future of his kingdom. The sun spit flames of jealousy in his absence – and the lion had the scarred fur to prove it.

Serious doubts about their relations did cross his mind during these occasions, especially when he returned to his cave at sunset with a burning body and a burnt ego. The lion constantly promised himself that he just wouldn’t make the mistake of seeing the sun again. Sure enough, he always found himself back in her warm embrace after letting a few days pass. One could assume that the lion almost needed this dangerous game of power play. One could assume…
The lion paused as the memories clasped his throat and he struggled to breathe for a few seconds. The king let a star – a STAR – destroy him? His roar shattered the crystal calm of the forest as he swung around and marched in the sunset’s direction.

The lion started his journey back to his kingdom on a different note. He decided to return the attractive gazes, started to enjoy the tickling in his mane when felines brushed past-just an inch too close.
More gratifying was the flicker of approval in their whiskers when he growled at them, demanding their presence. Most gratifying were the tiny scars left in their fur if they disobeyed.

“And the Hunted became the Hunter”

To be continued…

The Lion and the Sun

Written by Prarthana Nandwani

Lion

      Once upon a time in a far away land, there lived a beautiful lion. The lion had a smooth mane that glowed in the dawn and eyes that reflected the hazel skies. He lived amongst his own kind – those who respected him, feared him, and guided him whenever necessary. The lion, however, longed for more. He frequently gazed into the distance as if waiting for something, anything to come his way and shake up his privileged life. Though the others were contented by his presence, they too could feel that the lion was restless. The wisest of the lot, however, feared that his restlessness could drive him to a place distant from the longstanding morals and values upheld by the tribe. They feared for the lion’s sanctity and most importantly, his sanity.

One day while the lion was out and about in the woods, he came across an old friend of his – one who had admired his beauty since his youth and who often could think of clever ways to use it. The lion’s friend proclaimed, “I have a spectacular idea old mate. It will be a challenge, but one that would reap wonderful rewards.”

“Alright, let’s hear it. I always respected your wisdom, friend.” The lion replied in his usual manner – a sensual mix of naivety and bravery.

“I would like you to help me hunt the sun.”

His friend’s words amused the lion. Hunt the sun?! Surely he can’t be serious. How can anyone manage to hunt the sun? Sure, I’ve had a bit of luck with some of the other stars but the sun is just a whole ‘nother level. She would possibly give me the time of day…But she would probably never be mine…Or would she? Well it doesn’t hurt to try…

“Where and when?” The lion proclaimed.

During the seasons that followed, the lion simply could not be happier. He had grown lovelier than ever. His slender body had accumulated tone and muscle, his mane glowed white gold and his eyes, still hazel, were rimmed with an orange similar to a roaring fire. The sun had taken to the lion upon their first meeting. They both shared a loneliness common to each other, a loneliness that beautiful beings usually mask with narcissism. Her warm, magnificent rays beamed down upon the lion and he returned the fondness with caresses and care. They grew so close to each other that the lion’s tribe worried about his well being.

“Dear, I’m afraid you are wasting the attention that is meant for the growth and development of our tribe on her. Come back to us and leave this fruitless relationship once and for all.”

The sun, sensing the cause of her lion’s stress, at first seemed understanding. However, as time went on and the lion devoted more time to his tribe, the ends of her beautiful rays turned black with envy. She knew that her possession of the lion’s love was a passing phase, though she had gotten so used to his endearment that she hissed at anyone who tried to take it away. Stories were written during these moments of conflict between the lion and the sun, as mountains used to tremble at the pitch of his roars and the skies opened to rain when the sun sizzled his golden fur.

Eventually the sun’s rays shone less and less radiant as she came to the conclusion that she would never be accepted by her lion’s kingdom – one of the most powerful and traditional dynasties in the vicinity. As the direction of her rainbow-like beams reluctantly began to turn elsewhere, the lion suffered immensely. Never in his life had he received such warmth and attention. Never in his life had he felt so much like a king.

Without the sun’s rays the lion’s eyes grew dark and listless. His mane, once storied and the subject of tales far and wide, grew unruly. His proud posture visibly lost it’s regal stature, and his gait less elegant. When in love the lion lived each day like his last…Inspiring and motivating everyone around him with his positive attitude and risk-taking nature. Now, he lived only to survive. Everything was unexciting, and at any hint of the sun’s beams he was struck with a pain and excitement so sharp he could barely keep from falling. Nightmares of the sun romancing another in a far away kingdom lined his sleep.

That’s it, I can’t take it anymore. I have to go away.

Bidding farewell to his worried and disturbed close ones, the lion began his journey to nowhere hoping to find some solace in travel.

Seasons passed, and the lion had encountered many creatures and lands that not even his imagination could have ever conjured. Some could sense his pain, some were too caught up in their own journeys to even notice and thought of him as simply a lost soul. Some, however, could see through this façade and noted that the lion had something in him, something so radiant that even the brightest star couldn’t compete.

Where previously these words would have given him hope, the lion’s grief pierced through them and he continued his journey in the darkness.

To be continued…