‘Flights From My Terrace: A Treasure Trove Of Memories and Metaphorical Truths

Filled with vivid, veritable expressions, descriptions connoting the joie de vivre of life in its small, yet discerning moments, Santosh Bakaya’s treasure trove of 58 essays in ‘Flights From My terrace’ comes across as a remarkable odyssey of childhood memories, nostalgia, and a vivid internal journey capturing universal human feelings. The journey of these essays combined together in an unforgettable mosaic, in her own words, is “the outcome of my ruminations on my terrace” of her snug, cozy Jaipur home, a home which pulls her away to the other homes and their assorted images, homes and realms she has inhabited with her memories, opening the doors to her idyllic childhood, replete with delight, loss, wonder, and bewilderment cried to be put into words.

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Bakaya, the amazing storyteller, essayist and poet extraordinaire attains catharsis and makes perfect sense of the hubris of her mind and the memory chaos by documenting and depicting a series of diverse complex emotions in the book, starting from the exuberance of flying kites to the reminiscence of the sweet nothings of an idyllic Kashmir of her childhood to being a mother to delving in the other metaphorical truths of her life. Hers is a Bedouwin (nomadic) heart inside which churns the quicksilver flash of memories, and splashes across the zigzag crannies of the terrains she touches now, hungering, wreaking havoc.

In spite of the deeply synesthetic appeal of the flow of her words, never once does her sea of thoughts from Kashmir to Bharatpur feel too exhausting for the readers to handle. She has them always in her stride as she is in complete grip of her narration, whether she is depicting the romancing of sacred whispers, the sweet resonance of birds chirping, the sudden burst of the cacophonous world, or her untiring, persistent interaction with strangers and serendipity. Like a true memoirist and a flawless essayist, she absorbs the readers full on in the immediacy of her subtle life experiences, eclipsing everything else with the earnestness and the lyrical candor of a loving heart.

Yes, undoubtedly memories and their essence form the core and crust of ‘Flights from My Terrace’. The fervor with she describes her journey from Bharatpur to Jaipur in the essay ‘The Persistence of Memory’ as “…a chunk of memory here, a sliver of memory there,” forming “a memory avalanche” is truly remarkable and unforgettable. Also, one cannot help but reminisce the beauty and power Bakaya inscribes to the seemingly inconsequential subjects, like the neem tree of her childhood, the family dog, Nipper, the cat, Lazy, among other things, and all of them are incorporated so endearingly into the narrative that they echo in the minds of the readers like a delightful, richly woven symphony, long after they finish reading the book.

“I did not have to make any conscious effort, these slivers of memory just erupted from the subterranean depths, fitting into the narrative smoothly.” She said in an interview where I had asked her about the effortlessness and ease of her narrative journey in the book. The passages about her scholar father, her loving grandmother and other members of her kith and kin come together as delightful chunks of the unforgettable mosaic of her narration, along with all her other lyrical encounters that form the crux of the book.

The takeaway from ‘Flights of Terrace’ to a discerning lover of literature is the use of language, tender, lyrical yet robust and poignant, the pervasive and spirited voice of Bakaya as the narrator, the crisp, almost meditative beauty of her prose. To all who love powerful stories centered on the meaning and essence of home and one’s memories and nostalgia that spills over, spreads around the idea of home, childhood and the engrossing facets of humanity, this book will remain a cherished, treasured read always.

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For Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff

#GloPoWRIMO

My dedication poem for Catherine and her irresistible love for the dark and sinister Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’, loosely based on the tideling form, invented by the talented Daipayan Nair.

Wuthering Heights

We collide, burn
Our fire, and smoke
Did you die, unburied, Wuthering Heights?

Heathcliff, the dark-skinned gypsy
Nibbled on my being, me, a mist of his particles.
I died. Did you die, unburied, Wuthering Heights?

The landed gentry, my conceit, my injured vanity
Stabbing my singing throat. You owned me, smelled of me.
I died. Did you die, unburied, Wuthering Heights?

In the moors, we, the hot lilacs gathered and tore apart,
Our torrid air and salt rippled, in a point of no return, no start.

Did you die, unburied, Wuthering Heights?
Heathcliff, your demonic master usurps you, and my piteous clan.
I reach him, a cold ghost, crooning amid shattered glasses, and pregnant sighs.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. April 18, 2017

Los Angeles Book Festival 2017: An Intimate Journey

Feature Story: Lopamudra Banerjee

In the thriving, bustling LA Live complex in downtown Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Book Festival 2017, a division of JM Northern Media honored some deserving books representing world publishing of contemporary times and their authors in an informal award ceremony at Fleming’s restaurant on Saturday, April 1, 2017. The award ceremony, titled ‘The East Meets West’, was described as ‘an evening of creative excellence’, while some of the awardees of the Los Angeles Book Festival, Great Southeast, Great Southwest and also Great Northwest Book Festivals congregated at the award venue and talked about their books and the inspiration behind writing their books in front of the audience.
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Steven Manchester’s “Ashes: A Novel” (The Story Plant) had been declared the Grand Prize Winner of the LA Book Festival, and there were also celebrated names like Neal Hall, the poet laureate whose poetry book ‘Where Do I Sit’ was a winner (category: poetry). Hence, the first thought that came to my mind when I was invited to the award ceremony in Los Angeles for my book ‘Thwarted Escape’ (Honorable Mention: memoir/autobiography) was that I would be a minuscule voice lost in a sea of illustrious voices.

However, when I found myself inside Fleming’s, it was rather a cozy, homely gathering of authors and some of the award committee members chatting over scrumptious dinner, drinks and mouth-watering desserts.
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“So you came all the way from Texas to LA to receive your award certificate?” A couple of fellow authors whom I befriended right away asked.

“I had to come. How could I possibly ignore the allure of the Pacific ocean?” I joked, and then told them that the award ceremony was too good an opportunity for me to showcase my book to a greater, wider, appreciative audience.

A Table of Honor was prepared for the authors, a wonderful display of the books in a quiet corner with candles lit, honoring the authors, their publishing journey and their success, following years of hard work, motivation and perseverance. Being the only south-Asian present to take the Honorable Mention certificate for my book in this very close-knit and cozy gathering of authors was indeed a special moment for me. I had been expecting to see another South Asian, Niraj Srivastava to come for the event and receive Honorable Mention for his fiction ‘Daggers of Treason’. However, only a handful of the winners, runners-up and honorable mention candidates were present to take the awards physically. Overall, the experience was tremendously rewarding.
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“Tonight’s winners truly represent the best of what current book publishing has to offer.” The blue, sparkling brochure of the event ‘The East Meets West’ specified, also reiterating the fact that with a discerning committee of judges including authors, publishers, journalists, agents, directors, such hard-earned recognition would greatly inspire the authors to keep up the momentum of their writing journey and certainly create greater impact in the already crowded publishing marketplace. Bruce Haring of J M Northern Media in his opening speech, emphasized on the relevance of publishing in today’s fast-paced world of technology, adding that despite the other overwhelming forms of entertainment, writing and publishing books continues to thrive because there is still a hungry audience who are constantly in search of content that is timeless and out of the ordinary.

“Without books there would be no movies…” he says, citing several instances where a number of memoirs and nonfiction books have been made into award-winning movies in recent times, a fact that deeply inspired many authors like myself present on the occasion, authors who have been told time and again that in today’s competitive marketplace, fiction and only fiction rules the roost.

The winners, previously been announced in their website http://www.losangelesbookfestival.com, were an eclectic mix of authors in diverse categories including, but not limited to general non-fiction, fiction, biography/autobiography, children’s books, young adult, poetry, romance, and regional literature published on or after January 1, 2012. These also included books published by major publisher, independent publisher and self-published works, so the scope and range of the award event was understandably quite huge. What also inspired me was the presence of other nonfiction authors in the award ceremony, authors whose memoirs, spiritual nonfiction works and other autobiographical narratives being awarded gave me a chance to know them, as I had been intrigued to know more about the subject matter of the books.
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My recently published book ‘Thwarted Escape’, a poetic memoir about my inner sojourns as a woman, a mother, a writer and a wistful immigrant woman from Kolkata, India has been chosen/placed as Honorable Mention (category: memoir/autobiography). Undoubtedly, while it gave me goosebumps to stand in the podium and say a few words about how the book was conceived and how I trailed along in its arduous yet fulfilling journey, it was also tremendously satisfying to listen to my fellow authors Kevin Foster, Dr. Sam Alibrando, T.M. Morris, Madeline Morehouse and others whose memoirs/nonfiction were placed as winners and Honorable Mention. Their journeys with their books, shared in the podium resonated with my own, as we all were celebrating a worthwhile moment in our lives with our books bridging gaps, forging new friendships and pushing our boundaries as writers and artistes.
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As the festivities ended and we, the authors lined up together to pose for group pictures with our individual award certificates, a special moment in our lives was born, a moment that whispered to us in unison that the journey with our books must never stop, that it is the journey and not the destination that would remain of utmost importance, always.

Book Trailer: Thwarted Escape

“Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you/You must
travel it by yourself.
It is not far, it is within reach/Perhaps you have been on it since
you were born, and did not know.
Perhaps it is everywhere—on water and land.”
–Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Watch out for the journey of my book THWARTED ESCAPE in Youtube as it transforms from a Journey awards winning manuscript to a published book and an Honorable Mention awardee at the LA Book Festival 2017.

#booktrailer, #youtubevideo, #bookpromotion, #Goodreads

Spotlight: Princess Of A Whorehouse by Mayank Sharma

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THE PRINCESS OF A WHOREHOUSE: THE STORY OF A 
SWAMP LOTUS
by
Mayank Sharma



Blurb

Aparajita is a tenacious go-getter. Her name means unconquerable in Sanskrit, and she lives up to its meaning. 

Just like any other ambitious girl, she desires to fulfil her dreams and become an independent individual. Far and wide, the shadow of her melancholy past chases her passage. The fact that her widowed mother is a former sex worker irks the community. Nonetheless, she is not ashamed to reveal her mother’s past. 

Will she lose hope, or will she defy an enigma that is centuries-old? Will she ever conquer the hearts of a prestige-obsessed community? 

See the world through Aparajita’s prism in a tale stirred by some real life events.

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About the author


Mayank Sharma is a computer engineering graduate with post-graduation in business management. He works with a leading technology multinational in Delhi. He has authored a number of articles and white papers on software technology and processes. For the first time in April 2014, his article was featured in Better Software magazine published in Florida, USA. Writing has become Mayank’s greatest passion when he observed how it can trigger the winds of change. He is gradually transforming from a “left-brained” writer to a “right-brained” writer. Besides writing, he is passionate about sketching, painting, and making sculptures since childhood.

India is the fifth-largest economy in the world with the Gross Domestic Product growth at 7.1 percent. Contrary, India ranks 118 out of 157 countries in the happiness index. The fact seized Mayank’s attention towards social problems affecting social support, freedom of choices, and generosity, to name a few. Having travelled across continents and associated with people with diverse beliefs and values, he became more curious about the social riddles curtailing liberties across societies. He penned his debut novel, The Princess of a Whorehouse, when he came across some real life incidents that quivered his soul.

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For Charulata and The Broken Home: A Roseate Sonnet

Note: A roseate sonnet, dedicated to the beautiful, lonely, vulnerable and literary soul of Charulata, the heroine of Rabindranath Tagore’s magnum opus novella ‘Nastanirh’ (which had been filmed by Satyajit Ray, the Oscar-winning filmmaker as ‘Charulata’), the lovelorn soul who seeks love, acceptance and validation from both her husband Bhupati, and realizes the irony of her twisted fate towards the end, when both she and her husband seek a closure.

Every time I have let loose, I went flopping, I drifted ashore,

My pain, lopsided anguish charring me with the embers of my torn poetry.

The silver swirl of my words, my unquenched thirst you had never known, my husband,

Voices floating inside my lovelorn being, in your brother’s bonhomie, had found delightful symmetry.

For you, beneath your spectacles and uninviting cool, had never known how

While I chewed on betel leaves, I scraped inside like crimson paint, pummeling my raw pages like dough.

Did even Amal know, when we wove our silken dreams of our clandestine garden, our little lake, idyllic ducks,

How I craved to be princess of yore for you both, slithering in your mediocre love, every then and now?

A damned, accursed princess, seated unaware, beneath the shady canopy of the hog plum tree,

Burning my untainted silence of moments, dreaming of rampant, inconsequential poesy that was never to be.

Running away, surreptitious, from my frayed edges, Amal, didn’t you trip over our shadowed world, for once?

Only if I had known before, our twilight hill would be crushed, trampled, our rhythmic melody broken down, thus.

Silent, ebbing and swelling inside, my domesticated footsteps censured me, “Charu, be the cloudburst, but never the rain.

Enter my wet, plundered earth, my husband, let us take each other in our lost catharsis, let me be your loving wife, the adulteress.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. March 27, 2017.

charulata1

Charulata_(The_Lonely_Wife)_pic_4.jpg

Charulata (Filmed by Satyajit Ray, India 1964)

P.S. The novella in Bengali has been translated by me as ‘The Broken Home’ (available in Amazon Kindle) and fetched me the International Reuel Prize for translation in 2016, instituted by The Significant League, a literary group in Facebook and The Autism Village Project Trust.

Second Skin: Poetry on Photo Prompt

Note: ‘Second Skin’, the prose poem is one of the winning poems based on a photo prompt contest hosted by the vibrant literature group in Facebook, The Significant League. The photograph, a seething document emphasizing on the crass and ruthless impacts of our urban civilization, had been taken and shared by the prolific Indian author, Dr. Santosh Bakaya. 

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What is the road made of, when we wait, deep, eager, in the tail-end of its sooty flesh?

The dirt is our pixie dust, the molecules of our tainted breaths traipsing with the smoke, swirling in the summer of smells. For ages, we wait, in the clogged pores of the city streets, clenching our calloused fists, our crooked teeth.

The streets become our cradles, rocking us in its high-pitched sopranos. We know the glittering place where the horns screech and trample the silence of our waiting, a waiting with its high and low notes, a waiting in its repetitive rhythms.

A waiting which becomes a clenched metaphor, telling our tale of rags and our smudged brown skins, our soiled faces that slap you hard, slap your conceited words, your vanilla-scented clothes, your practiced complacency.

Ah, this street now, at some uncertain end of the labyrinthine maze, stares in our faces. We flop down, inhale the putrid air, soaked with stories like that of ours, stashed away, nonchalant.
This street now, our second skin, is the rhetoric of our unnamed home as we slip into its monstrous bed, sucking full throttle, from its blackened, emaciated nipples.

Hey baby, suck on, why worry when the earth’s crust is but an unzipped black pit, an ashen pasture when you can roll around in the dirt and lick its fevered heat, running your little fingers over it when the blackness bleeds?

Hey baby, clap, clap, clap in your silver swirl as the thumping in our chests turn into a rhythmic chanting. Let our black foams squashed under the car tires be the thick wash of blood between all things terribly shiny and white.

Let them stop in their tracks for once, in their white skins and made up hair, grabbing the flesh of this cul-de-sac where we now squat, sculpting the pathos, the bare-boned poetry of the city street.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. March 3, 2017.

P.S. The other winners of this contest are Geethanjali Dillip, Bhuvaneshwari Shivkumar Sharma, Fatima Afshan and Rahul Ahuja.

For ‘A Doll’s House’ and For all Women

 

My belated and small offering on the World Poetry Day, loosely inspired by the Tideling poetic form created by the very young and talented poet Daipayan Nair from India, dedicated to Henrik Ibsen,a-dolls-house-gvrxgpko.n5g his phenomenal play ‘A Doll’s House’, and to all of us women folks.

Good, good heavens,
My beautiful, happy home!
Who calls you ‘A Doll’s House’?

A self-loathing of debt
A pinch of punctuality, a tinge of engagement.
Who calls you ‘A Doll’s House’?

The messed laundry,the maimed laughter
The sweet scent of prayers that you slaughter
Who calls you ‘A Doll’s House’?

The burnt garlic, the half-cooked onion smirk,
At a quiet cranny, Nora’s crochet and embroidery lurk.

Who calls you ‘A Doll’s House’?
Nora’s starved essence, her miracles and crushing blows?
Ibsen squints from his cold grave.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. March 21, 2017

 

To know more about the Tideling poetic form, do visit the poet’s blog:

http://daipayannair.blogspot.in/2015/11/new-poetry-form-tideling.html?m=1

 

 

 

1857 DUST OF AGES BY Vandana Shanker

 

1857 DUST OF AGES VOL 1:

A FORGOTTEN TALE

by

Vandana Shanker

 

Blurb

 

1857. The rebellion erupts in India. Despite its attempts to stay aloof, NAVGARH, a small town near Delhi, is drawn into the conflagration. And at its heart are Princess Meera and Captain Richard Smith, with their strange alliance made for the throne of Navgarh.

 

2016, Shiv Sahai, a young Indian art historian and Ruth Aiken, a British scholar discover an excerpt from the journal of an anonymous British soldier, searching for his wife in the chaos of 1857 Delhi. As they begin investigating the scandal, they become aware of the vague rumours that are told in the bylanes of Navgarh – about a princess who married a British soldier to save her kingdom.

 

 

Read an excerpt from the book…

 

Prologue

Camp, Delhi Cantonment, 16 August, 1857.

Things have changed forever. A day spent in the company of my old friend Knox made it clear. These distances can never be bridged.

The pole of his tent snapped in the storm yesterday; and for the sake of old friendship, I offered Knox my humble abode. But his rancour was jarring. His determination to teach the enemy a lesson, the unshaken belief in the rightness of our mission– such bitterness asks too much of friendship and duty.

Earlier we went over the battlefield. One of our regiments was destroying the village near the bridge to prevent the enemy from getting cover in it. Elephants were pulling down the walls. The villagers stood by as their houses turned into mud while the monsoon clouds gathered on the horizon. Unfortunately, they were the Jats, who, for the most part, are our friends. We decided that the destruction of their homes and fields was necessary. Twenty-three men – their countrymen – were lying together in the ditch at the back of the village; we weren’t sure if they were the rebels. A party of Rifles killed then en masse, just to be sure.

We left the village with our bags swollen like raisins in water. And who can blame our light-fingered gentry? Armies are said to travel on their stomach.

At some distance from our camp, I can see the sun setting over the fort of Delhi. It isn’t much different from the first sunset I witnessed here years ago. How things have changed! We came with a mission – to know this exotic land, to bring the light of knowledge and civilization to its darkness. Now the memory leaves me embarrassed. These massive red walls made me uneasy even then. Today they mock our camp again. Whatever be the outcome of this devil’s wind, it has revealed the banality of our mission.

Knox’s bitterness is an expression of the anger in the camp. When the cannons are quiet, the silence resounds with confusion, with terror, with rage, but most of all with the question ‘Why?’ As we sit around a small fire every night, the question rages in every mind. ‘Why the mutiny? Haven’t we brought the glory of civilization to this land of superstition?’ These thoughts simmer as we deal with hunger, heat and rain.

But soon these questions will be forgotten. The winners will annihilate the other side. Already I see the madness in the eyes as rumours reach us from other places – Cawnpur, Jhansi, Lucknow. Madness will soon be let loose.

I often feel that the answers that elude me today were within my grasp a short while ago. They are somewhere near, yet unreachable, like the time gone by.

I promise to look for them once I have found her again. For she, I feel, holds a part of it.

So every evening, I try to escape this madness by thinking about her, Princess Meera of Navgarh, a rebel soldier and my wife. It is the third year of our marriage. Three years of tenuous links and fragile understanding. It was only a matter of time before an explosion happened. And it happened that eventful week when Navgarh too burnt in the fire raging all across India. The news that the sepoys in Meerut had rebelled spurred both of us. Did I expect Meera to be a dutiful wife when all her beliefs, her convictions pulled her in the opposite direction? Was I surprised on knowing that she was in Delhi, amongst the rebels? Would she be surprised on knowing that I have followed her as an enemy… a British officer? And as I follow her, I stand here once again, after five years, outside the walls of the Red Fort in Delhi.

 

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About the author

 

Delhi-born Vandana Shanker is the author of the series 1857 Dust of Ages, a historical fiction set in the year of the great uprising in India. A PhD from IIT Delhi, Vandana is passionate about history, storytelling and art. Apart from writing, she teaches literature and creative writing in Malaysia. She has also taught in Universities in India and Vietnam. She currently lives in Kuala Lumpur with her family and wants to travel the world. 

 

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Durga: The Light That Flickered and Blazed

 

Note: My poetic tribute to the relentless, unblemished spirit of the teenager Durga, a poetic celebration of her short, unceremonious, yet unforgettable life and the haunting reality of her untimely death in Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Panchali’ (Song Of The Road), the award-winning cinematic adaptation of the master storyteller of Bengal, Bibhutibhushan Banyopadhyay’s magnum opus novel  of the same name.

durga-in-pather-panchali

(1)

The light that had flickered and blazed had found its humble moorings

In the moonbeams of a brother’s quiet smile.

The light, naked, unabashed, glaring, rose and fell

between the crests and rims of an untamed want of ripe mangoes

and guavas picked up from neighbor’s orchards, her kith and kin

for whom Durga was the other name of a censuring reality.

The light, an all-pervading truth, had shone, wandering in those wistful eyes

Loosening in their shores like sea water, and she clutched the brother’s shoulders

And took in the delight of trains whizzing past the silhouetted fields, whistling,

While the kaash flowers swayed in those eyes in their ivory nakedness.

The moon of her newborn puberty ached in the dark edges of her kohl,

A dark ink that had craved for a morsel of pampering from a troubled mother,

Splotches and shades of a promise peeping by, whistling in her ears the provocation

Of a scrumptious feast of a wedding, the provocation of a sweetmeat

Of a fancy doll, a string of false pearls, which she could cling to, as her own.

(2)

The light that had cradled her lap which hid sweet nothings for her ancient, dying aunt

A strand of forbidden silver which had carved her destiny, in a dilapidated hut

Where hope was but a shallow inhale, trading her brother Apu’s porridge

with her grim, corrosive punishments, a plate of squashed rice

and a mother’s wordless tears waiting for her, in an eager dusk of her return. durga-and-apu

The light, which had died out, in spurts, stumbling upon the dead aunt

In the lingering quiet of her way back home, chewing on rural titbits.

The light had taken in the world in the diamond drops of a torrential rain

Squandering in the open fields when she too hungered to live life

In bite-sized chunks of enduring moments, swirling, dancing around her.

The ashen sky of Nishchindipur, the nonchalant village

Where she anchored her tomfoolery, had flashed that one final grin

As she hung, loose, papery-thin in its sunless folds, taking in

Her wild breaths, hissing against the wind for one last time.

Death, her truthful, final kin had put his arm around her

While the brother listened to her last wish to storm out in the open fields

To see a stray train whizzing by….

The brother, the stoned mother, the bereaved father,

The starched cotton sari which she would never ever wear,

Waited and moved on in the bare-bone life, trudging on uncertain miles

Where her dim light, the dying vapors of her last breaths waved at them,

In a choking, molten surrender.

All Rights Reserved. Lopa Banerjee. February 28, 2017

 

Also, sharing a detailed, in-depth essay about the grinding reality of death and the philosophy of life as depicted in the Apu trilogy that I had published in 2014 in Cafe Dissensus e-mag. It is also archived in this blog (January 2014).

Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy: Celebrating Life Through the Vision of Death