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Across and Beyond, Essays on Travel

Excerpted from the Introduction of a book of travel essays  

Title: Across and Beyond, Essays on Travel

Editor: Nishi Pulugurtha,

Publisher: Avenel Press, 2020

Small little things – a place, a book, a poem, an image, an incident, an anecdote, the memory of a journey, a short walk, a sight, a monument, a photograph, a magazine article, a snippet of history,  the train whistle, a meal, a trinket, a souvenir, someone I met, help received at some point of time — these and many more things like these often remind me of journeys, of my sojourns, some taken, some still to be taken, a story that is waiting to happen or a story that has become a part of my being. Nostalgia, memory and longing are closely intertwined in my mind whenever the word travel comes to mind.

Travel is about negotiating with the known and the unknown, the familiar and the unfamiliar. It brings in ideas of negotiation, urban planning, history, architecture, space, food, memory, exile, emigration, and colonialism. As a free, voluntary, spontaneous movement, travel could be contrasted to ideas of displacement. This brings into contention as to who can and who cannot travel, an important idea in today’s world, where violence has caused forced displacement of people. There are places where one cannot travel to because of restrictions. This counters the basic idea of travel as a free, spontaneous movement. There is also the travel of certain people that is necessitated by work – for instance, journalists travelling to war ravaged zones.

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Since time immemorial travel has excited and enticed people. Inspite of the fact that not all travel has had or has happy associations, people have written about their voyages in strange and new lands, opening new vistas, people and places. These works of travel, of experiences and adventures have enriched literature, and have worked at recreating social, cultural, political and economic history.

Travel writing is not just about travel. It is about one’s experiences, about places, people, culture. It is the subjective that matters more, or should matter more. Travel is about observations, it is about lives lived differently, in places that are so very different from what one is used to, the land, the history, the culture, the people, the food, the music, the textiles, the sights and sounds, the weather, everything that one gets to see is so very different. The personal, the subjective, becomes important, whether it is a personal narrative, or one that has a particular agenda to serve, whether it is about experiences pleasant or those unpleasant. Memory plays an important role in writing about travel experience. History, politics, geography, almost all branches of life feature prominently in works that talk about travel. 

Travel and writing on travel bring up various issues and themes. What makes people travel? How does the idea of travel work to re-present one’s lived place? How do the familiar and well-known take on a charm so very different? How do people and places seem to interact to create a sense of lived experience? What role do memory and nostalgia play in travel? Does writing about travel bring about a re-living of the whole experience? How do bad experiences while travelling colour one’s experience of the place visited? Who travels, for what purpose, and how does the purpose or nature of travel determine itineraries? Do images/ narratives/ descriptions produced by travellers influence or present constructions of identity? What is the role of travel writing in colonialism? How does travel writing work to present the little known or almost forgotten places and people? At a time when more and more women are beginning to travel alone or in women-only groups for pleasure, how do their experiences of travel add to the genre of travel narratives? Could travel writing be gendered?

The essays range from personal accounts of travel that interweave food, music, textiles and books into them, that speak of the nuances of language and words, of culture and its influence on things, of place and memory, critical essays on literary texts which have travel as an important aspect of their narrative or deal with travel as a metaphor, essays that deal with travel in the nineteenth century, to essays that talk about the fear that instinctively comes to the mind of a solo woman traveller conditioned socially to be wary of people and /or places, travel in popular culture, essays that bring together notions of identity, politics, diplomacy, geography and history, of work related travel and the experiences wrought thereof.

About the Book

An edited volume of a collection of essays by travel enthusiasts and scholars that range from personal accounts of travel that weave together food, music, textiles and books to essays that speak of the nuances of language, words and culture, of place and memory. There are essays that speak of travel in popular culture and bring together notions of identity, politics, geography and history. The volume also contains critical essays on literary texts which deal with travel, essays on travel in the nineteenth century, to essays that reveal the experiences of the solo woman traveller.

About the Editor

Nishi Pulugurtha is an academic and creative writer. Her research areas are British Romantic poetry, Indian Writing in English, diaspora literature, Shakespeare adaptations in film and she has presented papers and published in these areas extensively. She writes short stories, poems, essays, travelogues, and on Alzheimer’s Disease. Her creative writings have been published in anthologies, journals and magazines. She is the author of a monograph on Derozio (2010),  a collection of essays on travel, Out in the Open (2019), and has a volume of poems, The Real and the Unreal and Other Poems (2020). 

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The Brass Notebook: A Memoir by Devaki Jain

Excerpted from The Brass Notebook: A Memoir by Devaki Jain. Published by Speaking Tiger Books, 2020.

Upturning Hierarchies

‘She has wheels on her feet’: I think this phrase is used in several Indian languages to describe women who are constantly travelling (‘kaalile chakram’ in my own language, Tamil). The phrase sometimes carries with it a sense of exasperation or dismissal: why can’t she stay in one place? I was just the sort of person to whom that phrase applies. In retrospect, it amazes me to find that over a span of about fifty years, starting 1955, I have travelled to ninety-four different countries. I have also had the privilege of visiting every one of the twenty-nine states and seven Union Territories in India. In most of them, I have visited some of the poorest and most marginalized villages to meet women and to try to understand their struggles. Very little of this travel was for tourism or holidays. Nearly all of it was professional travel with my costs covered.

This cycle of constant travel began in a sense in childhood, when I accompanied my father on his trips and safaris. So many of my memories of childhood are of me in the back seat of a car, en route to somewhere unfamiliar. But I really became a self-sufficient traveller in my own right in 1962, when I found myself part of an unusual, and now almost impossible, overland trip from Oxford to Delhi. The leader of this bold travelling party was Elizabeth Whitcombe, an Oxford student who had studied ‘Greats’: that is to say, the four-year degree in Greek and Latin languages, literature, history and philosophy. She had only two conditions for members of her party: one had to be able to drive, and to contribute £100 to the kitty. In the end, there were four of us: two men and two women in a hardy Land Rover.

We started, of course, from where we were, in Oxford, and took the ferry across the English Channel into France. We drove across France and Switzerland, all the way down to Greece and then Turkey. Throughout, we stayed in what were called ‘mocamps’—camps for motorists to park their cars and spend the night. Sometimes, we slept out in the open in our sleeping bags. Elizabeth, a seasoned camper who had climbed mountains in New Zealand, brought all the necessary equipment. A well-read scholar, she could educate us about the antiquities in Greece and Turkey—archaeological sites and ancient monuments—that we visited.

From Ankara in Turkey, we went on through Trebizond, Batumi, Erzurum, Tabriz, stopping in each town, walking through and occasionally shopping in the bazaars. We all bought leather coats in the market in Istanbul, where the sturdiest and cheapest leather goods were to be found. The one memory of that part of the trip that stayed with me as a traumatic experience was seeing the decapitated heads of cattle being used to hang things on—bags, hats and so forth. The heads still had eyes and it was like they were staring right back at me when I looked at them.

One of my co-travellers, a mathematician from New Zealand called David Vere Jones, wrote to me recently with some of his memories from this leg of the journey: of a mosque with a wooden floor and many squares of old carpets, of leaving the mosque after dark in search of a camping ground, of eventually settling down for the night in a dry riverbed where some nomads were camping opposite. Some of the children and old men in their encampment came to visit us, bringing us melons; we accepted gratefully, offering them cigarettes and brandy in return. They sang for us, and one old man chose a particularly bawdy number that sent his companions into convulsions of laughter. David can also remember swimming in lakes, and the constant stomach upsets to which we all fell prey during the journey.

About the Book:

In this no-holds-barred memoir, Devaki Jain begins with her childhood in south India, a life of comfort and ease with a father who served as dewan in the Princely States of Mysore and Gwalior. But there were restrictions too, that come with growing up in an orthodox Tamil Brahmin family, as well as the rarely spoken about dangers of predatory male relatives. Ruskin College, Oxford, gave her her first taste of freedom in 1955, at the age of 22. Oxford brought her a degree in philosophy and economics—as well as hardship, as she washed dishes in a cafe to pay her fees. It was here, too, that she had her early encounters with the sensual life. With rare candour, she writes of her romantic liaisons in Oxford and Harvard, and falling in love with her ‘unsuitable boy’—her husband, Lakshmi Jain, whom she married against her beloved father’s wishes.

Devaki’s professional life saw her becoming deeply involved with the cause of ‘poor’ women—workers in the informal economy, for whom she strove to get a better deal. In the international arena, she joined cause with the concerns of the colonized nations of the south, as they fought to make their voices heard against the rich and powerful nations of the former colonizers. Her work brought her into contact with world leaders and thinkers, amongst them, Vinoba Bhave, Nelson Mandela, Henry Kissinger, and Iris Murdoch.

 About the Author

Devaki Jain graduated in economics and philosophy from St Anne’s College, Oxford and is an Honorary Fellow of the college. She is a recipient of the Padma Bhushan (2006) and an honorary doctorate from the University of Westville, Durban, South Africa.

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No Strings Attached

Book Excerpt from Bhaskar Parichha’s new book

The Tragedy of Itishrees 

Babina, Itishree, Nirbhayas-the list is lengthy. As 2013 fades away into history, the struggle that women face are enormous, and cases of gender inequality are monumental. Despite positive progress and legal guarantee, women continue to experience injustice, brutality, and unfairness in their homes and at the workplace. The devaluation of women and social domination of the male continues to worry sociologists and planners alike. Women in India are viewed as a shade lesser than men, the weaker gender, and this entrenched perception has led to their social and economic dispossession.

The key factor driving gender inequality is the preference for boys. Boys are deemed to be more useful than girls. They are given exclusive rights to inherit the family name and property. Bias also comes in the shape of religious practices making sons more attractive. What is more, the saddle of dowry discourages parents from having daughters. Thus, a combination of factors has shaped the imbalanced view of sexes in India.

The number of girls born and surviving in India is yet another worrisome factor because female fetuses are being aborted and baby girls deliberately neglected and left to die. Gender selection and selective abortion were banned in India under the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostics Technique Act, in 1994 but the use of ultrasound scanning for gender selection continues unabated.

In 1961, the Government of India passed the Dowry Prohibition Act, making the dowry demands in wedding illegal. However, many cases of dowry-related domestic violence, suicides, and murders are still reported. At least a dozen die each day in ‘kitchen fires’. Of course, amongst the urban educated dowry abuse has reduced dramatically. But rural women continue to be victims of dowry torture. Issues affecting Indian women are numerous. But it is domestic violence that impacts women the most. True, there are laws to protect them. Yet, they are defenseless and laws ultimately turn out to be mere pieces of paper.

In 1997, in a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court took a strong stand against sexual harassment of women in the workplace. The Court laid down detailed guidelines for the prevention and redressing of grievances. The National Commission for Women subsequently elaborated these guidelines into a Code of Conduct for employers.

 Whether it is self-employment, domestic work,   or even government jobs the discrimination of women more glaring. Equal pay laws may have been enacted, but women are still paid less than men across states and sectors. As if that isn’t enough, they are prohibited from working in the same industries as men. Several studies have linked the gender pay gap with women’s caring responsibilities- a responsibility which comes to women not on their own volition but according to their physique.

Talk about justice to women, the broad issue is one of empowerment. Even though there have been steep increases in women’s representation in parliament, state assemblies, and the Panchayati Raj institutions, there exists a case for more women in politics and public life. The horrendous crime perpetrated on Indian women says volumes about their vulnerability. The individual lives, the catastrophes, and the abuse that are the daily lots of millions of India’s women reveal poignant stories of bravery and struggle.

While there is a growing incidence of violence, many women shrink away from reporting crimes due to social stigma and weak justice systems. The costs and practical difficulties of seeking justice too are prohibitive — from travel to a distant court to paying for expensive legal advice. The result is high dropout rates where women fail to seek redress on gender-based violence. The phenomenon of honor killings is another variety of violence girls in India where village caste councils, or khap panchayats, often operate as an extralegal morals police force, issuing edicts against couples who marry outside their caste or who marry within the same village.

Though gradually rising, the female literacy rate in India is lower than the male literacy rate. Compared to boys, far fewer girls are enrolled in schools, and many of them drop out. According to various reports, the chief barriers to female education in India are inadequate school facilities such as sanitary, shortage of female teachers, and gender bias in curriculum. India has witnessed substantial improvements in female literacy and enrolment rate since the 1990s, but the quality of education for females remains to be heavily compromised.

Women in India suffer from yet another advantage. They are not allowed to have combat roles in the armed forces. According to a study female officers are excluded from induction in close combat arms, where chances of physical contact with the enemy are high. Even a permanent commission has not been granted to female officers.

Gender Inequality Index (GII) is a new index for the measurement of gender disparity that was introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). According to the Gender Gap Index 2011 released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), India was ranked 113 out of 135 countries polled. This represents a poor distribution of resources and opportunities amongst the male and female.

Since independence, many laws have been promulgated to protect women’s rights. The Constitution prohibits discrimination on several grounds including sex and recognises the principle of equality for all before the law and of opportunity in matters relating to employment. Women’s empowerment in India is a challenging task because gender-based discrimination is deep-rooted social malice. This sexual discrimination can be erased only through awareness of the ‘problem’ at all levels in society.

Acknowledging the presence of a problem will lead to solutions sooner or later. While the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women has to be the goal, what is important is a fundamental change in the misogynistic attitudes that exist in our society. 

(This was excerpted from the book ‘No strings Attached: Writings on Odisha’ by Bhaskar Parichha. Click here to buy)

About the Book: No Strings Attached  : Writings on Odisha

The past twenty years have been action-packed in Odisha’s millennial history – political bluntness, natural adversity, economic deceleration, community resilience and so forth. All these are part of the narrative of this book. Every single piece in the collection is the upshot of an occurrence. There are profiles, there is politics, and there are controversies and issues that have been part of the larger political process. The book is an Eldorado.

About the Author: Bhaskar Parichha is a journalist and author of Biju Patnaik – A Political Biography. He lives in Bhubaneswar and writes bilingually. Besides writing for newspapers, he also reviews books on various media platforms.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are solely of those of the author.

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The Birth of The Chronicler of the Hooghly

By Shakti Ghosal

In our lives, we at times get confronted with intense and traumatic events which force us to question who we are, what really matters to us and what we believe in. In some ways these events alter our sense of reality. Each of the four stories in my book, The Chronicler of the Hooghly draws inspiration from such crucible events that I have had to face in my own life. The protagonists in that sense carry a bit of my own ‘experience and thought’ genes. As I see them now within the larger fabric of the stories, I do notice shades of myself and others who have been part of my life. Writing the stories has been a personal journey in that sense. At times the stories seemed to write themselves. The four stories portray five crucible experiences and invite the reader to experience those transformative moments. Chances are that the reader would be able to relate to them in some way.

The Chronicler of the Hooghly is currently under publication. Here is an excerpt from the book.

Calcutta, 1757

The battle having been won, it was Omichand’s turn to demand his share from the East India Company. However, he did not realise he had more than met his match in the wily Clive.

Clive welcomed him with all solicitousness.

“Your share Omichand? But according to our agreement, you are not entitled to anything at all! Take a look at the agreement”.

Clive laid out before him the original agreement which had no mention of any wealth share from the royal treasury for him.

The earth moved from under Omichand’s feet, the whole world seemed to be swaying around him. His throat constricted. His head swam. He could not believe his eyes. The signatories were all there but the agreement was different.

Omichand realized he had been duped. “You have cheated me, you have cheated me!” was all he could say.

“Not at all dear friend”, said the wily Clive softly. “In fact, we have collected considerable riches as spoils of war, including an exquisite necklace made of pearls. We would like to offer that to you. Of course, we would continue to have you as one of our preferred trading partners. With the changed circumstances with a new and supportive Nawab, we expect the trade volumes to go up significantly”.

A medium-sized wooden box was placed before Omichand. “Take this home and be happy with it”, said Clive signalling that the meeting was over.

Omichand came back to his quarters and dully opened the box. He found a few trinkets, some gold coins and a pearl necklace. Omichand in his disturbed state failed to recognise the necklace. The deception and humiliation were taking its toll. Or was it the necklace that had started exercising its evil control? The outcome though was that Omichand, the one-time cunning and ruthless trader, started losing his sanity. The rumour went that he was given to alternate bouts of uncontrollable laughter and howls of misery.

One day in a fit of blind rage Omichand decided to go to Murshidabad to demand his rightful share from the new Nawab, the share from which he had been cheated. When the guards of the royal court heard of his audacious claim, they simply wrested all his belongings including the wooden box and threw him into the dungeon where he met his sorry end after a few years. The contents of the box went to the Nawab’s treasury.

Unbeknownst to all, the curse of the necklace had moved back to the Nawab of Bengal. It would ensure the decline in the fortunes and influence of the Murshidabad Royal Court over the years.

**

Ironically, as Omichand’s fortunes plummeted, they were on the rise for his one-time friend Nabakrishna Deb. The latter was rewarded with untold riches because of his services to the Company in the conspiracy against Siraj Ud Daula. Earning the title of Raja, Nabakrishna Deb rose in stature to become one of the leading luminaries in Calcutta.

Raja Nabakrishna Deb came to know that Clive wanted to do a thanksgiving ceremony to celebrate his victory at Plassey. Unfortunately, there was no suitable place in Calcutta, the one church that had been there was destroyed in Siraj Ud Daula’s attack a year earlier.

Nabakrishna suggested to Clive, “Your Lordship, I would like to invite you to the Durga Utsav that I would be performing at my residence. You may offer your thanks to the Goddess Durga”.

What Clive did not know was that this really was not the time for Durga Pujo which falls during the Bengali month of Chaitra, the end March- beginning April period. However the shrewd Nabakrishna had directed his purohits to come out with a suitable date or tithi in the local calendar. The generous pronami that was offered no doubt motivated the local priest community to come out with the creative solution of Akaal Bodhon.This essentially permitted the Durga Pujo ritual to be performed in autumn.

On the appointed day of the Pujo, Clive drove in his carriage to Nabakrishna Deb’s residence in Shova Bazaar and participated in what was to become the biggest festival in the Bengali calendar. He was accompanied by a number of Englishmen. The pomp and grandeur of the pujo were such that it became a talking point and something to aspire for by the upcoming rich merchant class. The Company Pujo, as it became known as, was not the usual conservative ritual based Hindu puja. Instead, it became known for its dance parties, elaborate menu of meats from the Wilson Hotel and unlimited drinks!

It is also said that Raja Nabakrishna Deb’s guests were regaled with the performances of the best nautch girls of Calcutta, one of them being the sensational new courtesan Rajni Bai who also responded to the name Joba.

**

Present Day

Dusk was on its way. The twinkling lights on both banks brought in an ethereal quality all around. Conversations were muted as most guests were immersed in the surroundings. The low voice of the Chronicler seemed to gain in intensity.

“The betrayal was huge and its impact momentous. A betrayal that led to the Nawab of Bengal losing the battle and his independence to a much smaller army. A betrayal that led to the payment of huge bribe money of Rupees eighty million to Nabakrishna Deb and other conspirators. A betrayal which led to the British becoming the dominant power in the subcontinent for over two centuries”.

But what is interesting is that this greatest betrayal in Indian history is so inexorably linked to one of the biggest religious festivals in the country. What is ironic is that the secular nature of the Durga Pujo festival, which receives praise all over the world, finds it origin in a tale of conspiracy and betrayal.” The Chronicler paused, looking at Samir with his hooded eyes.

Samir sat fascinated, only to hear the soft voice resuming from far, far away.

“The Hooghly ghats then were a far cry from the crumbling cesspools that we are seeing today. With magnificent facades and European classical architectures, the ghats were witness to impressive steam ships and tall masted boats sailing out to faraway places in England, Australia and New Zealand as also upstream to ports on the Ganga”.

“Did you know that there were thriving French, Dutch and Armenian settlements on the Hooghly in the early years of colonisation?” the Chronicler asked.

“Well I had read about the French settlement”, Samir responded.

“Fascinating, is it not, that events and rivalries five thousand miles away in Europe would show up in the waxing and waning of the Hooghly ghats? And so, it was that as the British colonialism went into ascendancy after winning the Napoleonic Wars in Europe in the early nineteenth century, the settlements of other nationalities on the Hooghly faded into oblivion.”

“Hmm! Interesting indeed. But what happened to the pearl necklace carrying the curse?’ asked Samir.

“Well for that we need to get into another story. A story which too is inexorably linked to the Hooghly”, replied the Chronicler.

Shakti Ghosal is new to the genre of fiction. He uses a wide-angle narrative style in his writings into which he brings his rich global perspective and life experiences. He loves to explore relationships within emergent situations. An engineer and a MBA (Faculty Gold Medal 1984) from IIM Bangalore, Shakti Ghosal has lived close to four decades of corporate life in India and abroad. A professional certified Coach, Mentor and Trainer, Shakti Ghosal runs Leadership Workshop cum coaching programs for organisations as part of his commitment to develop and upgrade Leadership Incubation globally. He is a visiting professor at IIM Udaipur, IIM Kashipur and IIM Nagpur. www.linkedin.com/in/Shaktighosal, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMg92VMo3_Cw8k-cu1rYWwg Ghosal has been blogging for close to a decade ( about 800 followers, 39,000 hits from all over the globe) on Leadership incubation, performance, life experience, philosophy and trends, and more recently, on his forthcoming book.www.esgeemusings.com

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Corybantic Fulgours

Rhys Hughes introduces us to the delights of doodling poetry in his new book with a name that I would not dare to pronounce, Corybantic Fulgours.

I ought to explain the title. It’s a title I have wanted to use for a book for a number of years. I often write down titles for later use and I usually have no firm idea what the books or stories or poems will be like until I write them. I just like the music of the words and that’s sufficient reason for me to write the titles down. ‘Corybantic’ means to dance wildly but I can’t recall where I first learned its meaning. A ‘fulgour’ is a light or glow and I’m sure I picked the word up from M.P. Shiel or one of those other writers of ‘weird fiction’ from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries who loved to overindulge in archaic or abstruse words. I have always found it amusing that those writers tried so hard to be wilfully obscure. They were often very good writers but strove to make themselves less palatable to a popular audience rather than more popular. I admire this eccentricity. My favourite among them is Clark Ashton Smith, who never used one simple word when a dozen complex ones would serve.

So the title came first. Then I had to provide a rationale for using it. The book turned out to be a set of poems to accompany some drawings I had done. The drawings were all of monsters. I justified the title by declaring that these monsters were made from curdled light and that they danced a lot. Let’s say that I cheated in order to find an adequate reason for using the title, Corybantic Fulgours. I don’t mind admitting that this stratagem was highly contrived. Monsters themselves are highly contrived too, so it all fits together well. I have drawn monsters most of my life. But I must add a disclaimer here too. I don’t believe that I can really draw. What I actually do is doodle. I doodle a lot and the majority of my doodles turn out to be monsters. It is easier to draw monsters than anything else. The great thing about drawing monsters is that any mistakes will contribute to the monstrousness of the final image. Therefore those who can’t draw are better able to represent such entities monstrously.

In other words, I didn’t let the fact that I can’t draw well hold me back. I have long been interested in combinations of texts and imagery. Recently I obtained a volume of writings and drawings by the wonderful Mervyn Peake entitled Peake’s Progress that features work from the full span of his life, including projects he never completed. One section of the book is called ‘Moccus Poems’, written in 1929 or thereabouts, a set of drawings of monsters with simple short verses to accompany them. There are only six of them. Maybe there were more originally, but if so they have been lost. The drawings are excellent. Peake was an illustrator of genius. The poems are nonsensical and good fun. I decided that I wanted to attempt to create a book along the same lines. I know I can’t match Peake in image or verse, but I decided to amuse myself anyway.

I thought that if I doodled one monster every day, and wrote a poem for it, the book would be completed after two months or so. But I found that I was doodling more than one a day, sometimes four or five. I decided to stop only when I ran out of blank pages in the notebook I was using for my doodles. The result is that there are 54 monsters. One of the monsters, the ‘Unfeasible Space Giraffe’, covers three pages because he has such a long neck. He can stand on the surface of one planet and nibble the leaves of the trees that grow on another planet. But all the other monsters occupy one page to themselves. I wrote poems for each doodle as I went along. The monsters came first every time. The shape and size of each monster determined the length and structure of each poem, because I had to fill the remaining space with words and sometimes the remaining space wasn’t very much. I often curled and curved the poems around the bodies of the monsters and I allowed myself to enjoy certain typographical tricks, such as having text upside down or in the shape of a wave.

Poetry written for images that already exist is called ‘ekphrastic verse’. I didn’t know that until shortly before I began this project. The book took only two weeks before it was done. I am pleased with it. The hardest part was formatting the poems so that they followed the contours of the forms of the monsters, or at least appeared on the page in a manner that seems a little more interactive with the image than merely descriptive. Might I do a sequel one day or another similar book? I see no reason why not. What surprised me most was how purely enjoyable the creation of ‘Corybantic Fulgours’ was. Some books are headaches to write. This one was quite a delight. It turned out better than I had hoped.

Rhys Hughes has lived in many countries. He graduated as an engineer but currently works as a tutor of mathematics. Since his first book was published in 1995 he has had fifty other books published and his work has been translated into ten languages.

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Excerpt Poetry

Poems from Notes of Silent Times

Poetry from Nepal by Mahesh Paudyal

Workers’ Poem

In a small gathering on the lawn

The poet was reciting his verses.

A little away, some masons and labours were busy

Hammering nails.

The poet stopped, looked at them, and yelled—

“Stop your pranks! Can’t you see I am reading a poem?”

The workers were silent. The poet recited his verses.

Much later, when everyone was gone

The workers resumed their life-song.

I don’t know if the poet heard it.

***

Emperor and the Kids

“Emperor, we are hungry!”

This sounded like a shooting lullaby;

The Emperor slept for one more century.

“Emperor, please lend us your crown for a while;

We will play the king-queen game and return.”

The Emperor ordered:

“Officer! Send these children out of the four passes!

They are here to spread measles.”

***

Firefly

Firefly,

Perhaps it’s time that writes our existence.

No matter how much you try

To glow in broad daylight

You need to wait for the night

To make yourself visible

***

Storm!

Blow on, storm!

Blow with all your might!

Unless there is wind

And unless a few homes and roofs are betumbled

No one writes

An epic on air, the puny thing!

***

The Sky

All smoke rising from the earth

Goes skyward

But the sky is never called the country of smoke

It is always called

The land of the stars and moons

***

These poems are excerpted from his latest collection, Notes of Silent Times

Mahesh Paudyal is a Nepali poet, storywriter, critic and translator. A lecturer of English at Tribhuvan University, Mr. Paudyal has written extensively for children and adult readers, and has translated more than 2 dozen books from Nepali into English. His major works include Tadi Kinarko Geet (novel), Tyaspachhi Phulena Godavari (stories), Of Walls and Pigeons (stories),  Sunya Praharko Sakshi (poems) and Notes of Silent Times (poems). Among his seminal translations are Dancing Soul of Mount Everest (representative modern Nepali poems), Radha (an award-winning novel by Krishna Dharabasi), Unfinished Memoirs and Prison Notes by Sheikh Mujibur Rahaman and Silver Cascades (representative Nepali short stories.) A recipient of Nepal Bidhyabhushan, Narendramani Dixit Gold Medal, Bimal Gurung Memorial Award, Sudish Niraula Memorial and Prasiddha Kandel Memorial Award, he has also represented Nepal in many international literary seminars.]

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Categories
Excerpt

On the Pandemic: To the Rising

Poetry by John Beacham

“Open Up and Die” Updated and Re-titled, “Your Mask is Our Life!”


It all comes down to your masks and your big love, my friends, ‘cause the Big Love is just not in the U-S-A. Not yet. Not until the end of this poem. Perhaps

Florida, where the governor’s mansion makes you “live” with the virus, ‘cause, you know, business before safety. That is what it is is: the bosses’ money before your lungs, heart and brain

Open the gates, open the gates … onward, onward to Disneyworld!

Genocide by individual liberty

Illinois and California, where the demgov does a better job for a few weeks and still more people die than in all of victorious China ‘cause …

The “libgovs” capitulate to a tiny handful of open-it, anti-mask racists; there is no social or public health fabric flesh; there is no we the people, just delusions of “at least we’re not Florida or Texas or Arizona or South Carolina”

Genocide by liberalism

(33 percent

33 percent of children tested in Florida as of July 15 have the genocide. Children!

“We currently have 85 babies under the age of one year in Nueces County that have all tested positive for Covid-19,” said the director of public health for Corpus Christi Nueces County (in Texas).

“These babies have not even had their first birthday yet. Please help us stop the spread of this disease.”

Wear a mask!)

Now.  Quiet your heart, breath and ears feeling …

The pandemic is at your door.   At your door.      It is at your door!

Smashing your door into a million flying pieces of masks that twist a virus into tiny shards of mostly harmless waves harmonium

What other option? What other option? Tell me and …

Wait.  Track back finely

The United States, where we send the young out to get infected in pandemic spreading zones of crowded bars and gyms at the epicenter

The country of death and disease is not
Russia, Russia, Russia
It’s not China, China, China

Now.  Look.  I don’t blame the bar owners though some of them are scum

I don’t blame the bargoers though most should do better and don’t

I don’t blame the families getting together

I blame the system that is in reality a non-stop lo-fi psychic filament of virus transmission belt

So.    What now?

Have you seen the new futured-monument? It is twenty-one stories high. On top of the glory mountain. Five of us like one rock, all masked. Realist. Humanist. Crisp steel

Arms twined and extended to the sky with slightly cupped hands. Heads up. Steady and calm. Visage to the stars. Front foot forward to …

The socialist future we drink up as a lip-satisfying, face caressed gentle breeze fountain that was always there but now finally understood and welcomed

I say to you now: “Welcome, my loves!”

“Open Up and Die” and “‘Open Up and Die’ Updated and Re-titled, ‘Your Mask is Our Life!’” are from the book, “On the Pandemic, To the Rising,” which can be found here: https://www.mass-action.org/On-the-Pandemic-Poems.html

Florida is a capitalist dictatorship

Florida so sad …profit-open > your

Friends, let us not mince. The government is killing people. Thousands of people. Florida and everywhere

To be precise: GENOCIDE

Florida so sad is america. Don’t miss miss it—as america as California or NYC where they haven’t stopped the genocide with better words

Words, words, words that do not stick or solve or sinew or lead. Where is the leader? Ohhhh, where are you in all of this?

Listening? Shout it through that massive placard bullhorn over the four corners: Who will stop america?

You. You will stop america

Or else, sister. Or else as Columbus statues brought down by the work of the rainbow future teens

“Florida is a Capitalist Dictatorship” and “Florida is a Communist Dictatorship” are from the book, “On the Pandemic, To the Rising,” which can be found here: https://www.mass-action.org/On-the-Pandemic-Poems.html

John Beacham is a social justice activist, podcast host and college writing teacher who writes political commentary, poetry and science fiction. He is founder of MASS ACTION podcast and publications platform: https://www.mass-action.org. He would bird more if he could.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely that of the author.

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Categories
Excerpt Poetry

Poems from My Father’s Face by Chandra Gurung

Chandra Gurung’s poetry translated by Mahesh Paudyal

My Father’s Face

Two eyes glitter like the sun and the moon

In that face

A kite of self-confidence keeps flying

Beautiful orchids and rhododendrons bloom

Combating the storms of calamities

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On that face

A sun rises every morning to carry the burden of a new day

And returns, at the end of the day

Hiding every line of sorrows

Carrying little parcels of joy

Making the house and the patio bright

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On that face

Narrow are the eyes that read the world

Pug is the nose that looms with raised self-respect

Wrinkled are the cheeks where joys and sorrows glide

Chapped are the lips, where smiles stage a march-past

And the entire Mongol identity has been smouldered by heat.

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But I am delightful

Happy beyond telling

When everyone says:

“You look exactly like your father.”

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Trust

Since you are back

Take those roses on the table

And kindly adorn them in the hearts.

Let the fragrance of love waft from it.

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Bring out on the veranda

A pair of chairs;

Let’s spend some intimate moments.

Also place a bottle of wine, and two glasses

On the table;

We shall spend

Some moments of life, talking.

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Look!

My weary rags

My books, pen and paper abandoned like an orphan

The stubs of cigarette littered like unclaimed corpses

And the scratched mirror—

All await for a single touch

From you.

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This dark evening

You showed up at my doorstep all alone.

At this moment

Every nook of my heart

Is filled with love, ripple by ripple.

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Leave it!

Let that window remain open at least

It reflects my heartfelt belief

That you would certainly turn up.

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Desert: A Life of Mirage

There is not a single bright line of smile

On the broad canvas of the face

No butterfly of joy flutters on the cheeks

Desolate is this desert

Like a garden where all beauty has wilted.

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There are dry tufts, devoid of life, everywhere

Dry hands of wind come to caress youth

The eyes accumulate dead excitement

And looms a mound of desolation

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The youthful sun comes to face, eye-to-eye, all day long

The wind teases again and again

The desert longs to allure a traveler with its youth

Dreams of enchanting someone with its gestures

The desert is like a bride’s dream

Living in anticipation of a loving embrace.

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Its breasts are decked by green date palms

A youthful cactus is tucked on its ears

And the desert stands in a long caravan of desires

Like a life of mirage

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All is well

Everything is fine.

Just now,

My children in immaculate uniform

Have been taken to school

By a house-boy their age

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My parents are happy in an old-age home

I am off from the pack of my siblings

My better half spends time watching TV serials

My home has hosted peace pervasively

From this, we can perceive that

All is well.

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Since a prayer room in the home accommodates

A bunch of deities

It has been long that praying has been a rare tale

Doesn’t it mean

Everything is fine?

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Nothing ever tortures my heart

I don’t meddle in others’ affairs

And keep myself away from such trifling hassles

And thus, do not bother myself in vain

It’s true:

Everything is fine.

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I keep my own ways

Act amiably with all

And keep myself away from problems

For this reason

Everything is fine.

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I carefully maintain my looks

Dress up myself decently

And follow healthy dietary habits

In fact,

Is everything really fine?

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All these poems are excerpted from Chandra Gurung’s upcoming book, My Father’s Face, with the author’s permission

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Chandra Gurung is a Bahrain based Nepali poet.  He has an anthology of poetry to his credit. That was published in 2007. The second anthology of his translated poems titled My Father’s Face will be published from Rubric Publishing, New Delhi.  He has passion for translation as well. He has translated Hindi, English and Arabic poets into Nepali. He has also has translated some of the Nepali poets into Hindi. His works (poems and articles) have found space in many online and print magazines including More of my beautiful Bahrain, Snow Jewel, Collection of Poetry and Prose complied by Robin Barratt (UK), Warscapes.com and many leading Dailies in Nepal.

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Mahesh Paudyal is a Nepalese writer, translator critic and Assistant Professor of English at Tribhuvan University. His works basically foreground local epistemic traditions and Eastern mythological richness. He has published novels, stories, poems, plays and songs both for adults and children and has extensively written critical works. His major translations include Sheikh Mujiboor Rahman’s Unfinished Memoirs and Prison Notes into Nepali, Silver Cascades, a collection of Nepali short stories and Dancing Soul of Mount Everest, representative modern Nepali poems. He is the Executive Editor of Roopantaran, a translation-based journal of Nepal Academy.

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Categories
Excerpt Poetry

Poems from Rituals

By Kiriti Sengupta

A Place Like Home

Lights turned off,

three glasses retire

as the bar closes.

The first stands upright,

the other upside down,

another lies horizontal.

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For last few hours

the crystals held liquor,

ice, scent and comfort.

They also witnessed

eyes that spoke volumes

while lashes refused

to flutter.

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The pub reopens

the next day

to the riff of unrest.

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Observance

1

Visitors, who checked in 

to see my father post-surgery, 

appeared stressed.

After his discharge several came home.

Eyes moistened, they wished him Godspeed.

All of us except Baba knew… 

Ma informed him months later.

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No one pays a call anymore. 

Three decades…

2

Tittle-tattle halts.

The mother waves a goodbye

as the school bus sets off.

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Both these poems are excerpted from Kiriti Sengupta’s collection, Rituals (March 2019, Hawkal Publishers), with permission from the author

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Kiriti Sengupta is a poet, editor, translator, and publisher from Calcutta. He is the recipient of the 2018 Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize for his contribution to literature. He has published eleven books of poetry and prose and two books of translation and co-edited five anthologies. Sengupta is the chief editor of the Ethos Literary Journal.

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