The Sun Never Sets in Our Country

~3400 words, ~20 minutes reading time


 Hridi’s mind was a principle. A theory of waves. The first time her thoughts rippled onto my forehead, they had left scars. But not skin deep, the scars penetrated further—beyond matter, beyond minds, hearts, constitutions, borders, beyond the fractured landmass, and dipped into the salty sea of emotions. Whenever Hridi wished, she had my undivided attention.

“Division is just a form of multiplication,” she said. “Divide your countries, and you multiply the bricks and barb wires. Divide your wardrobes, and you multiply ownership. Divide the people by the colour of their tears, and you multiply emotions.”

It took me years to realise that Hridi never gazed in a straight line. Her sight followed a trajectory. A half eclipse. Uncertain of its target, until it fell onto something or someone. Entirely arbitrarily. Like it did upon me on a date that was later erased from all calendars.

I was not her first choice. Nor the second. Not even the last one. I was like the wedding gift you put to use because it’d been sitting in your wardrobe, occupying one of your shelves for no particular reason.

Yet when she put me to use, it felt good indeed. I stretched my arms and legs, heard my rickety joints crack, the sound reverberating in the empty room in which I sat. A solitary chair placed at the centre, a light bulb hanging right above me. No windows. No doors. I couldn’t say how long I’d been sitting there. How long I had been hearing Hridi speak to me. Or why I was still alive. But the wrinkles on my hands told me I was way past senility and now belonged to an age unnamed.

“Return home,” Hridi instructed inside my head, that day. “It’s your turn to teach them.”

And I saw her voice. It was a spark of lightning in the morning sky over a country where night hadn’t fallen for about a decade now. It was an infinite blue ribbon unrolled until it had spread out on every street and crossed itself on every crossroad of that country. It was a sparrow dancing from one branch to another of a tree – felled, dismembered, its logs now existing as furniture in all the myriad places around the country. 

Hridi’s voice wore the appearance of that lightning, of that sparrow, and the blue ribbon. Hridi was many, and Hridi was one.

“Where’s the home you want me to return to?” I asked her.

“It’ll be in the direction you turn to,” she said.

So, I turned inwards.


Once upon a time, there was a government, and the government had come upon some intel: their greatest foe wasn’t made of matter. Hridi was made of time. That explained why she kept eluding not only the police but the army. (And later, the secret police as well.)

Hridi’s skin was woven from the hours a group of parents spent sitting at the crossroads, in the sun’s scorching heat, refusing food, their placards questioning the whereabouts of their disappeared sons and daughters. The bones of Hridi’s body were constituted of the days protesting students spent in jail, often taking a beating, for asking why the cost of oil and gas shot up while the price of intolerance and xenophobia went down. The minutes it took to thoroughly insult a group of farmers fighting for their rights formed the nerves and capillaries of Hridi’s body. And the seconds it took for a dishonoured person to break, to commit suicide, composed the organs that brought Hridi to life.

It made sense (to the government, at least) that a person made of time would choose to hide in the dark shadows of a labyrinthine night. So, a timely legislature banned night across the country. Morning was disallowed to end. They wouldn’t give Hridi the pleasure of retreating to the comfort of night-time melancholy. No, they’d rather arrest anyone conspiring with the dark forces to allow the night to set in. All forms of pining for the night, spoken or unspoken, were deemed illegal. The government negotiated an agreement with its western ally nations to retain, on a daily basis, a share of the western sun for itself. The western nations, which pretended to agree begrudgingly—and only when they had brokered a profitable deal —were, in reality, more than happy to take the heat off themselves.

But despite the gazillions of taxpayers’ monies spent to enforce the absence of night, the strategy did little to strip Hridi of her invisibility. The government forgot that Hridi still had access to the minds of their probable vote bank. People still looked up to her voice inside their heads. In moments when they felt like giving up, Hridi assured them, “I won’t let the government use the sun to vaporize your revolutionary zeal, to burn your fingers pointed at their misdoings, to steal away your privacy by keeping you under the constant scrutiny of the eternal sunrays, by flooding your personal beliefs with an invasive gleam.”

A set of diverse scars appeared on the foreheads of the trained Indian Classical singers. The scars defied all definitions of shapes, sizes, and patterns. Their only commonality: Hridi’s voice of the lightning, the sparrow, and the blue ribbon inside their heads and outside their consciousnesses. The singers found themselves more than eager to agree to her instructions. They all crooned a certain classical raga. The string of notes they sang was a bandish of megh malhar, a staunch invocation to the rainclouds to gather in the firmament. The singers sang in chorus, although sitting in their respective homes in various cities, different districts, and separate states.

How could the clouds disappoint such patient dedication? How could they be anything but intoxicated by the soul of that harmony? How could they not darken the skies with their heavy hearts?

Clouds eclipsed the sun. Night extended its palpable presence throughout the morning. And Hridi recalled me.


I wasn’t born yesterday. Or maybe I was. That was the thing about Hridi; she never let you know for sure. So, forgive my imbecility, but I presumed she’d be physically present back home since she had asked me to return there.

Hridi was made of time and was, therefore, independent of space. For her, home was not a place but an intent. Ever since the scar appeared on my forehead, she sat on the throne of our collective unconscious. That was her home. And I led her to “us” without even knowing that I did.

“You are a beginning,” Hridi’s voice sat beside me on a seashore that had just come into being. “Not an end. Nor a means to an end. A beginning—that’s what you are. And the only beginnings that search for conclusions are in fiction. In life, each beginning leads to newer beginnings.”

“What about death?” I was stupid enough to ask. The waves that crashed on the shores repeatedly were Hridi’s mind. It went on forever, in principle.

“It isn’t yours. Your death belongs to your loved ones. It’s for them to experience. All you know in your final moments is suffering. All you get to leave behind is that suffering. At most, some sweet memories to go with it, like the ketchup that comes for free with the food you ordered. That’s all.”

“Am I dead?” I asked. My asininity was more infinite than the salinity of Hridi’s thoughts.

“You were dead at birth,” she said. “Now you’re alive. Now, you have me and I have you.”

“I was stillborn?”

“The girl who never cried, who never really left the room with no doors and windows—that’s you.” Hridi’s voice struck me like lightning, yet had the lightness of a sparrow and the extensiveness of a blue ribbon wrapping itself all around my wrinkled skin.

“A girl?” I exclaimed. “But I feel like a man.”

“Your body is free to pick its own gender—the absence of any gender, even—regardless of the dictates of your chromosomes.”

I took another look at my wrinkled hands. “What happened to me since I died?”

The invisible Hridi got up from the shore, took my hand, and pulled me up too. “I happened to you since then.”

Hridi folded the sea carefully down its creases and put it in her coat pocket.


Did you know that, if one day, someone felled the mahogany tree by the street corner where the road bends, the elderly might never find their way home again? Quite a few of them keep walking in the sun that never sets, in the nostalgia of their dead and disappeared children, in the sweet and oft-ignored rhythm of shoes and walking sticks on the pavements. The elderly continue to walk, forever believing the mahogany tree awaits them only a few steps ahead and they are just about to reach it. They cross their own towns, their own memories, their own hopes and despair, and later, thoroughly exhausted, they sit down on one side of the pavement, careful not to disturb the free passage of the passers-by who are always too busy to slow down. Then, in a city brimming with pavement dwellers, how do you differentiate the lost from the homeless?

In a speech that Hridi relayed to the minds of the citizens, she assured them that the government had enough resources for the destitute, that economics is an advertisement of scarcity. A make-believe propaganda. “Economics is a legal function,” she said, “that would let them hide away all their diamonds so the seller may create exclusivity, although there might be enough diamonds to cover each finger of every woman in this world.  Although there might be more money than they can shove into a cart. Although there might be a beggar sitting on the pavement waiting for one of those coins to slip off the wagon. Economics doesn’t hear him whispering. Blabbering. Screaming.”

Unsurprisingly, the government wasn’t amused with Hridi’s speech. In a universe where all energy is constant, the political recruits may only multiply by division. In Hridi’s speech, the government recognised her covert intention of stripping the powers that be of their multiplicity.

The lost and the homeless were a nuisance to them, anyway. A foreign leader was due for a visit in the coming weeks. How could he see anything but the beautifully renovated pavements—cleaned and cleansed? How could their paid news media show anything but the cleanliness, the emptiness, the trendiness? After all, there can be no beggars in a country on which the sun always shines.

The destitute were arrested, shoved into cages along with stray dogs, and transported to secret detention centres where even the light of the eternal morning was denied entry. They found themselves in a large room with no windows and no doors, a lightbulb glowing at its centre, right above a solitary chair. An ancient person sat in that chair, not quite human-like in appearance. Their long, frizzled hair would have been grey if it wasn’t so dirty. Sleep dusted in the corner of their eyes seemed to have accumulated over centuries. And the mud in their fingernails spoke of a patient Earth that existed only in the distant past.

Despite that, the destitute recognised me. “You’ve returned,” they said. “I always knew you would.”


The voices hummed. They were all around me. But inside me, it was only you, Hridi. I spoke in your voice.

You first painted a night—yes, the illegal night—around us, then spread a forest inside it like a picnic blanket. We sat in the middle of that forest, with me at its very centre, between lines of mahogany trees amidst a mist of fireflies that danced to the rhythm of your voice.

“Welcome, dear folks,” you said, and “Welcome, dear folks,” I repeated, and “Welcome, dear folks,” the fireflies buzzed, and “Welcome, dear folks,” the wind whispered to the destitute around us, around me.

The destitute nodded. Some said thank you.

“Do you know where they’ve trapped you?” you asked the destitute sitting cross-legged on the forest floor, paying attention to every word you said.

They shook their heads.

“Inside an atom.” Your voice speaks to their minds, but they hear me utter those words.

They don’t get the meaning of what you’re telling them, though. They don’t know much about radioactivity. Or how elements already have a life of their own in which they search for greater stability. Or that the government has power enough to misconfigure and disfigure an atom and its further constituents by stepping inside the atom itself. They don’t know how transmutation works. They might never accept that man will make a kingdom inside an atom one day and become the king, queen, peasant, horses, and coaches inside it at the same time. They may never comprehend that man will become a kingdom one day. And an island too.

“You’ve been reduced to become negligible,” you explained the best you could. “Tiny enough that the government will no longer need to count your heads in their national census. You no longer have the right to vote, nor are you eligible for free rations. As far as the government is concerned, you no longer exist. They are free and happy to discount your numbers from their country’s exponentially growing population.”

The destitute began speaking among themselves in muffled voices, which gradually rose to a din.

Then, one of them turned to me and said, “I no longer care for any of that, now that I’ve found you.”

Another took that cue and added, “Yes, now you’ll take care of us, my son.”

And the others joined. “You’re all that matters.” “We’ve much catching up to do.” “Your mother would’ve been so happy if she was alive. All she wanted was to see her daughter’s face once again. Wish you could have returned a few years ago.”

I was afraid and I was confused. “What’s going on here?” I asked you.

“They see their lost children in you. Their dead and disappeared sons and daughters,” you said.

That’s when I noticed the scars on their foreheads, defying all definitions of shapes, sizes, and patterns. And I knew. “It’s you, isn’t it? You’re whispering those things inside their heads. They’re each seeing what you want them to see. Perceiving me the way you want them to.”

“Yes, because they need to trust you. You are to be their teacher. You will be their guide.”

“I? A teacher?” I couldn’t hide my bewilderment. “A century-old stillborn like me?”

“That’s exactly what makes you perfect,” your voice shrugged, the jerk of your invisible shoulders unmissable. “You exist on no documents. No paper trail leads to you. In that, you’re much like me.”

“Why not you then?” I argue, mostly out of self-doubt. “You yourself are best suited to be their guide.”

“I’m not flesh-and-bone. In the long run, it’s hard for people to keep following what’s formless.”

Was that a hint of pain in your voice, Hridi? I tried to put my hand on your invisible cheek, but my fingers made no contact. “I love you, you know,” I said, nonetheless.

You said nothing. Only the fireflies glowed brighter for a second or two before resuming their usual dance.

I changed topics. “What would you have me do?”

“Don’t let them fade,” you said, your voice quivering yet again.

I couldn’t help but feel concerned now. “And what about you?”

This time too, you said nothing.

“Tell me,” I persisted.

“I’ll surrender.”

“What?” A stirring ran down my spine and took a dip in the earth. “No. You can’t do that. Don’t even think about it.”

“The government will keep robbing people’s rights, keep punishing them for my deeds as long as they can’t capture me. I can’t let them do that to everyone.”

“How does your surrender help any of that?”

“They’ll have one less reason to be cruel. For example, they can unban the night. Put an end to the curse of eternal mornings.”

“But who’ll guide me?” My desperation did the talking.

“You are ready.”

I understood that you were decided, and there was nothing I could do to shake your resolve. I sighed. “Okay.” I nodded. “But I’m only doing this for you.” I gathered myself. Or tried to. “And I’ll miss you. Terribly so.”

You said nothing, Hridi. Yes, I remember you not saying a thing to the very end. You only doused the forest and the night, and we found ourselves in the room with no doors and windows.


Hridi’s mind was a principle. A theory of waves.

A sparrow perched on the shoulder of the country’s Prime Minister, disregarding the multitude of security personnel all around him. The sparrow didn’t fly away when the bodyguards pointed their guns at it, albeit momentarily. It was their reflex reaction. They soon realized they were pointing their rifles at their Prime Minister and downed their guns and their heads alike. But a scar appeared on the forehead of the Prime Minister. The scar defied all definitions of shape, size, and pattern.

At that very instant, in the room with no doors and windows I jolted in pain. An excruciating pain. I blinked. I was sitting on a seashore with the destitute. It made no sense. I blinked again to gain perspective. I was in the forest of mahogany trees and fireflies at night. I blinked. The shore again, but dead seagulls, fish, and other creatures had amassed around us. I blinked. The forest was on fire. And I blinked. The walls of the room with no doors and windows were in flames. Splinters flew all around us. Burning columns fell. Dark phlegm surrounded us from all sides. We coughed. The destitute held on to each other.

“My daughter will save you,” someone consoled a frightened soul.

“Help us, son,” another pleaded.

“I know you’ll save us,” yet another assured themselves.

But I could think little beyond Hridi’s pain. I felt the torment Hridi felt as soon as she had stepped into the Prime Minister’s mind. The grime inside was relentless. It slithered through her being. Pierced her senses. Penetrated her sense of judgement. Violated her morality. Left her too broken to fight.

Yet Hridi fought back for those who remained. For the destitute. For me. “I’m here,” she whispered inside the Prime Minister’s head. “Let them go.”

The Prime Minister wished to say no, but Hridi fought through the reluctance, even as she saw herself fading, scattering, turning into dust.

The Prime Minister automatically pulled out a phone, dialled a number.

The burning roof and walls of our room disappeared. The smoke dispersed. We stood inside the framework of what was once a room. Outside was a street. On it, a blue ribbon was slowly rolling itself back into a ball, out of its own volition. Mesmerized, I stepped into the empty street from which Hridi was taking herself away. Surrendering. And soon fading. The destitute followed me. Together, we followed the blue ribbon that was rolling back into itself.

Another group of people in tattered clothes stepped out of an adjacent alley and joined in following the ever-growing ball of blue ribbon. And then, there were more people. The further we walked, the greater our numbers. People joined us from all sides, from all beliefs, from all cities, from all ethnicities. I walked in front of them all, and they followed me and the ribbon. Their presence filled my heart with an inexplicable warmth. My eyes welled up. “Hridi lives,” I muttered to myself. In you.

“Hridi lives,” those around me responded.

“Hridi lives,” they who were around those around me responded.

“Hridi lives,” everyone chanted.

For the first time in years, night fell on the streets and shattered into pieces. We walked on the shards of the nubile night, most of us barefoot, but uncaring for the pain. We welcomed the night and focused on our destination, following the giant blue ball ahead of us. “Hridi lives.” Our chants now reverberated all across the cities, all across the states, all across the country.

We inched closer and closer to Hridi, following the sound of seagulls and waves inside our hearts, and turned only at the bends where the mahogany trees stood once again in all their majestic glory, amidst a mist of dancing fireflies, in this forest of a country.



Abhishek Sengupta is imaginary. Mostly, people would want to believe he uses magical realism to write novels about world issues, even though he is stuck inside a window in Kolkata, India, but he knows none of it is true. He doesn’t exist. Only his imaginary writing does and has appeared in some periodicals and anthologies around the globe, won a few international prizes, including the Bristol Short Story Prize 2023, and been published alongside the likes of Neil Gaiman (who is a little less imaginary). If you’re gifted, however, you may imagine him on Twitter/X @AbhishekSWrites.

Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash

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