Independence Day

“Struggle for Our Liberty”

 “The struggle this time, is a struggle for our liberty. The struggle this time, is a struggle for our independence.”

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, The Founding Father of Bangladesh

Painting by Sohana Manzoor

At a time, while a war is challenging the freedom of humanity, it is necessary to celebrate the past victories that freed humankind from different kinds of hegemony and oppression, especially with poetry and prose that brings this struggle to the fore. Bangladesh was declared an independent entity on 26th March, 1971. For this occasion powerful poetry that rebels against injustices from the pen of Kazi Nazrul Islam, the writer who Bangladesh has adopted as their national poet, has been translated by Professor Fakrul Alam. More writing from emerging writers of Bangladesh showcase the same spirit mingled with rebellion and a love for justice.


Manush: Nazrul’s Lines for Humankind: Translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Birth of an Ally by Tamoha Siddiqui. Click here to read.


Maya and the Dolphins: Mohin Uddin Mizan creates a flash fiction on dolphin sightings in the crowded Cox Bazar at Dhaka. Click here to read.

Henrik’s Journey: Farah Ghuznavi follows a conglomerate of people on board a flight to address issues ranging from Rohingyas to race bias. Click here to read.

The Doll: Sohana Manzoor tells a story around the awakening of a young woman. Click here to read.

Remembering Rokeya: Patriarchy, Politics, and Praxis: Azfar Hussain takes us on a journey into the world of Madam Rokeya who wrote more than a century ago in English, Urdu and Bengali. Her books talked of women, climate and issues related to patriarchy. Click here to read.

Independence Day


Malaysia is said to have been inhabited 40,000 years ago by the same tribes who populated the Andamans. Situated on the trade route between China and India, they assimilated varied cultures into their lore, including that of the Arabs. Phases of colonial occupation by the Portuguese, Dutch and British wracked their history from 1511. They suffered from Japanese occupation during the Second World War. The Federation of Malaya achieved independence after a struggle on 31st August 1957. In 1963, the British colonies of Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo were combined with Malaya and the country was rechristened Malaysia.

In 1965, Singapore was voted out due to ideological reasons, some of it being racial and political. This Partition was free of political bloodshed or violence between the two countries, unlike the earlier Partitions within Asia which led to much violence and bigotry — India, Pakistan and North Korea and South Korea (where the split along the 38th parallel was initiated by the West post-Second World War to settle matters between the ideological blocks of communism and capitalism).

Malaysia continues a federal constitutional monarchy with a Sultan and an elected Prime Minister at the helm and has a mixed population of Malays (Bumiputera), Chinese, Indians, Portuguese and other ethnicities. We present a selection of writing from this country, put together on the occasion of their 64th independence day, also known as Hari Merdeka or National day.


Benderaku (My Flag) by Julian Matthews. Click here to read.

A False Dawn by  Malachi Edwin Vethamani. Click here to read.

Colours of Words, three poems by A Jessie Michael. Click here to read.


Brother Felix’s Ward

Malachi Edwin Vethamani takes us to an exploration of faiths and borders. Click here to read.

The Night of Sirens

A Jessie Michael tells us of riots that set in during elections in Malaysia. Click here to read.

Independence Day

Born Free

Born free
As free as the wind blows
As free as the grass grows
Born free to follow your heart
-- Born Free by Andy Williams

These are lines from a song by Andy Williams, a pop icon whose song was the theme song in Born Free, a film made in 1966 about a lion cub bred in captivity, who had to be trained to live free even though she was born free. Does that apply to all living creatures, including humans? What is freedom? And who is free? Does political independence mean ultimate freedom?

We celebrate political ‘freedom’ of countries as national or independence days. Sometimes, as in the case of India and Pakistan, independent nationhood can be laced with bloodshed and grief . Two new countries were born of a single colonial India in the August of 1947. Pakistan awoke as a country on the midnight of 14th August and India called the late hour 15th August. Nehru’s speech has become an iconic one: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge… At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…”

Common people while crossing the boundary line between the two new nations lost their lives, homes and lands over the mob violence. The resentment still simmers in a few hearts. In an attempt to find peace and amity, we have put forward a combined selection of writing from across borders, words devoid of angst or hate, words that look for commonality and harmony.


Goutam Ghose. Courtesy: Creative Commons

In Conversation with Goutam Ghose, multiple award-winning filmmaker, writer, actor discusses his films, film-books and journey as a humanitarian artiste who makes cross cultural films across all boundaries. Click here to read.


Akbar Barkzai’s Songs of Freedom translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Poems by Jaydeep Sarangi: Click here to read

For Danish Siddiqui by Sutputra Radheye: Click here to read.

The Equalizer by Nazrul translated from Bengali to English by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu from Sammyabadi. Click here to read.

Deliverance by Tagore translated from Bengali to English from Tran (Sanchayita). Click here to read.


In The Idea of India: Bharata Bhagya Bidhata – The Making of a Motherland Anasuya Bhar explores the history around the National Anthem of India which started as a song, composed by Tagore. Only the first paragraph of the whole song in Bengali was adapted as the National Anthem. We include the translations of the complete song both by Tagore and by Aruna Chakravarti. Click here to read.

In An August Account of ‘Quit India’ Movement Ratnottama Sengupta,  translates from Bengali the excerpts recorded by Sandhya Sinha (1928-2016), who witnessed an upsurge in the wake of the Quit India Movement. Click here to read.

Temples & Mosques by Nazrul has been translated by Sohana Manzoor. Click here to read.

In Seventy-four Years After Independence…“Mil ke rahe gi Azadi” (We will get our Freedom), Aysha Baqir muses on Pakistani women’s role in the independence movement and their current state. Click here to read.

 In 2147 without Borders, Devraj Singh Kalsi meanders over Partitions, borders and love stories and looks for an amicable solution in a happier future. Click here to read.


Bundu, Consoler of the Rich is a story based on memories of Partition by Nadir Ali, translated from Punjabi by Amna Ali. Click here to read.

In The Best Word, Maliha Iqbal explores the impact of wars in a spine chilling narrative, journeying through a range of emotions. Click here to read.

In Do Not Go!, Moazzam Sheikh explores dementia, giving us a glimpse of the lives of Asian immigrants in America. Click here to read.

In The Chained Man Who Wished to be Free, Sunil Sharma explores freedom and democracy versus conventions. We are left wondering is this the freedom we fought for? Click here to read. 

Excerpt Independence Day

Beyond The Himalayas by Goutam Ghose

Title: Beyond the Himalayas: Journeying Through the Silk Route

Author: Goutam Ghose

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Major Hari Ahluwalia was a young officer in the Indian Army when he climbed Everest in 1965. He was a member of the first Indian expedition to successfully scale the mountain and one of the first to reach the summit. Our then prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, awarded him India’s coveted Arjuna Award and India had a new national hero. But within two months of receiving the award, he was wounded in combat along the India-Pakistan border and permanently disabled. Despite the setback, Hari continued organizing mountaineering expeditions and writing books about his life and travels.

It was as the chairman of the Youth Exploring Society of India that he invited me to film an expedition he was planning along an ancient trade route connecting India with Central Asia and Tibet. But most of the route lay within modern China. This would be the first time any group was being allowed to make a journey with its own vehicles – a diplomatic breakthrough and a personal triumph for Hari.

In 1962, a border dispute between India and China had erupted into a brief war which left the two countries estranged  for the next thirty years. In the two most populous nations of the world, a generation of young people had grown up, knowing little or nothing about one another.

Hari’s idea was to encourage peaceful dialogue between India and her northern neighbour through new cultural exchanges. In Beijing, he met with the president of the Disabled Federation, who, like Hari, is confined to a wheelchair. As it happened, he is also the son of China’s leader, Chairman Deng Xiaoping, and is thus perfectly placed to help Hari fulfil his dream.

I live in Calcutta and I make films about India. My country was run by the British for 200 years, yet it preserves an ancient culture that conditions every aspect of its daily life. Because we live in a world of our own, separated from the north by politics and geography, I have always wanted to see what lay just a few hundred miles from me on the other side of the mountains. Excited about Hari’s proposal, I abandoned my new idea for a feature film and began to think about journeying along the ancient Silk Road.

The first place I decided to visit was The Asiatic Society. Founded by Sir William Jones in 1784, the society pioneered the rediscovery of Asia and its past. All the early expeditions were organized and monitored from here. I was suddenly filled with curiosity and an impetuous desire to delve into all the rare books and manuscripts on its shelves. The Travels of Marco Polo describe the wonders of the Silk Road – cities far greater than his own and a world more magnificent than anything imagined by the insular backward Europe of the thirteenth century. But he was a late traveller. The Silk Route was one of the greatest trade routes in history and men had already been travelling there for four thousand years. Before sea routes were discovered in the fifteenth century, this trans-Asian highway was the sole link between the east and the west. It ran from Xi’an in China all the way to the Mediterranean. There were, moreover, many tributaries to the mighty river, not least of which were caravan routes across the Himalayan mountain range between India and Central Asia.

A facsimile of Hari’s letter to me –

Dear Goutam,

You will be delighted to know that we now have all our permissions. Because of the current turmoil in Afghanistan, we cannot drive through the Khyber Pass into the Central Asia as planned. All the members of the expedition including the jeeps and equipment will be flown from Delhi to Uzbekistan on the 18th of May.

I believe I told you about my London-based friend Michael, who is a filmmaker with a longstanding interest in Buddhism. He has wanted to make this trip for a long time and I’m sure he will be immensely helpful to you. Do please get in touch with him.

As per Hari’s suggestion I met Michael Haggiag in his London home. Michael was preparing for the trip with great excitement. I filmed him and his wife there.

A conversation between Michael and his wife Katherine in London –

Katherine – ‘Want some tea?’

Michael thanks her. ‘This is what Marco Polo had to say about the women of Hami and their very nice customs.

‘I give you my word – when a stranger comes to a house here to seek hospitality, he receives a very warm welcome.

The host makes his wife do everything the guest wishes and he leaves the house and goes about his own business and stays away for two or three days. Meanwhile, the guest stays with his wife in the house and does what he will with her – lying with her in one bed, just as if she was his own wife, and they lead a gay life together. The women are beautiful and vivacious and always ready to oblige.

‘I am not sending you there.’

‘No? It’s also very hot. It’s 40˚C in the shade – that’s over 100˚F. They also have the largest cockroaches.’

‘Sounds like it’s terrible out there!’

‘Anyway, I’m preparing for the trip. Look at these wonderful books here … this is Bukhara and this, Samarkand … these are some really old pictures of the way it was in the 1890s!’

‘Beautiful places!’

‘Do you realize how long Hari had to wait for permission for this? He started organizing his expedition eight years ago and he just got confirmation now. And if we don’t go within the next three weeks, we can’t go at all.’

The Armada starts on its journey. Courtesy: Extracted with permission from Beyond The Himalayas: Journeying Through The Silk Route, by Goutam Ghose (published by Niyogi Books)
Guri Amir mausoleum, Samarkand.Courtesy: Extracted with permission from Beyond The Himalayas: Journeying Through The Silk Route, by Goutam Ghose (published by Niyogi Books)
Goutam Ghose with the two Chinese. Courtesy: Extracted with permission from Beyond The Himalayas: Journeying Through The Silk Route, by Goutam Ghose (published by Niyogi Books)

About the Book: Filmmaker Goutam Ghose was part of the Central Asian expedition organised by Major H.P.S. Ahluwalia in 1994, the first of its kind. They undertook an arduous 14,000 km journey through Central Asia, China and Tibet tracing the ancient trade route. Ghose captured this once-in-a-lifetime adventure as a five-part series in his film Beyond the Himalayas (1996). This film book is a pictorial chronicle of Ghose’s incredible experience on the Silk Route. Much of the text is the narration of the original soundtrack of the series which has been adapted for the benefit of book readers. His lens captures breathtaking visuals of a less travelled road. The tapestry of history, travel anecdotes, local legends and titanic characters lend a cinematic quality to the whole narrative. The fabled past and the present are intercut by cinematic jumps in this fascinating record of an enduring memory in the collective consciousness of the history of mankind.

Goutam Ghose launched into documentaries, group theatre and photo journalism in 1973. His documentary, Hungry Autumn won him the main award at the Oberhausen Film Festival. Since then Ghose has produced several documentaries on personalities like Ustad Bismillah Khan, Satyajit Ray and HH Dalai Lama, in addition to ten feature films and a number of advertisement, corporate and short films. He has won fifteen National Awards, besides Filmfare Awards and a number of international awards like Silver Balloon, Nantes Film Festival, UNESCO Award at Venice, Golden Semurg at Tashkent, Fipresci Award and Red Cross Award at Verna Film Festival. He is the only Indian to win the coveted Vittori Di Sica Award and was awarded the Knighthood of the Star of Italian Solidarity in 2008.

Click here to read Goutam Ghose’s interview.



Independence Day Interview

In Conversation with Goutam Ghose

Goutam Ghose: Photo provided by Niyogy Books

Goutam Ghose is a well-known award-winning film director, scriptwriter and even actor. He has been the only Indian to have received the Vittorio Di Sica Award from Italy in 1997 and was awarded the Knighthood of the Star of the Italian Solidarity in July 2006. Ghose has won fifteen National Awards, besides Filmfare Awards and a number of international awards like Silver Balloon, Nantes Film Festival, UNESCO Award at Venice, Golden Semurg at Tashkent, Fipresci Award and Red Cross Award at Verna Film Festival.

But did you know he has also authored a number of books? Just as he bridges borders with his poetic films that touch the human heart with a range of emotions, he does the same with his books. He takes up burning issues with artistry, never inciting with rage or hatred but conveying by his skill with the camera and words. He has created a world without borders with his transcontinental outlook and approach.

His reaction to the Ram Janmabhoomi riots was Moner Manush (2010), a film based on Lalon Fakir’s life, knitting together the best in Muslim and Hindu traditions instead of filming the clashes and the violence. Published in English as The Quest (2013), the book is a powerful dramatisation with pictures from the film. The book, like the film, is also an emotional lesson in humanism. Based on Sunil Gangopadhyay’s novel on Lalon Fakir’s life, the film is beautiful. But the book allowed me to mull over the words, which have been translated by Sankar Sen. It is a book that needs to be read when casteism and religious divides take precedence over humanitarian values. By bringing these songs into translation to readers unfamiliar with Bengali, both Ghose and Sen have opened a world of love and tolerance to new readers, who will hopefully find the time to mull over the wisdom of these songs.

‘What was your caste when you came here,
What caste did you take on arrival, dear,
What would be your caste when it’s time to go -- 
Ponder and tell me if you know.’

-- Translated by Sankar Sen, from The Quest

 His other book that traverses the silk route and journeys through China, Beyond the Himalayas (2019), transcends boundaries and fills the reader with a sense of exhilaration. It is based on his documentary of the same name. Both these recordings of their journey along the silk route are worth viewing and reading. They show humans are the same across all borders. The book, interspersed with lovely pictures of the landscape and mature writing pauses on history at the right junctures. The narration is poetic in both the book and the documentary.

Though Ghose claims that these texts and photographs capture memories of the film, both his books transported me to a different time and space. I saw the films after reading the books, but both were energising, emotionally charged and entertaining. The journey takes one through different parts of the world and gives a new perspective to a 4000-year-old route. Initiated and organised by Major Hari Singh Ahluwalia and Deng Xiaoping’s son, the travels in Beyond the Himalayas took me across borders to areas I have never visited and now, I hope to visit post pandemic. Both the book and the film acquainted me with cultures that excite. And The Quest reinforced the belief, through the depiction of Lalon’s life, that humanism exists despite the degradations of history. That riots can be calmed with the soothing notes of Lalon’s lyrics, rich in wisdom, would be a win for the human spirit.

Like all great artistes, Ghose speaks in beautiful poetic sentences about concepts that touch the human heart and imagination. In this exclusive, he speaks not just about his film-books, but about the real journey and issues he is facing through the pandemic, including the delay of his film with an Italian male lead and his new short film on the current times, Covid-worn and waiting…

You are a very well-known film director, cinematographer, and music director. You have directed award winning Bollywood and Tollywood movies. Normally books come before films but from two of these films, you have made books. Why did you go in for making books of the films?

I have loved books since my childhood. The shape and form of it, the touch and smell of a book fascinate me. They will never die even if we read on the screen rather than by turning pages of a physical object. A certain sense of the sacred has surrounded books from civilisations’ inception. In cinema, be it fiction or non-fiction, we write a script at the pre-production stage. A film-book is all about times gone by — a book of memories, of both cyclic and linear time. My producer from Bangladesh, Habibur Rehman Khan, had liked the idea of film books and had published three wonderful books on Padma Nodir Majhi (Boatman of the Padma River, filmed in 1993), Moner Manush (filmed in 2010 ) and Shankhachil (Unbound, filmed in 2016) in Bengali. Niyogi books of India has published a beautiful pictorial English version of Moner Manush as The Quest and also Beyond the Himalayas, my journey along the Silk Road. Another lovely film book is Pratikshan’s bilingual centenary tribute to Bismillah Khan (Bismillah in Banaras the film Goutam Ghosh made, 2017).

Is dubbing or subtitling the film not an easier option than doing a film-book?

Well, dubbing or subtitling is for watching a language film, but a film book is meant for reading. It becomes a part of your book collections. I have some wonderful film books published from Europe and United States.

Moner Manush is based on Lalon Fakir’s life and on the novel by Sunil Gangopadhyay. Why did you feel there was a need for a separate book after you made a very powerful film on it?

Lalon Fakir is an eternal savant. Scholars have been doing research on Lalon’s life and philosophy since long. It is heard that Lalon was an illiterate man. But going through the words of his songs and the implied significance, it seems as if he was an erudite scholar tutored in an age-old system of education.  His faith was not guided by any particular religion, rather it could be said to be comprised of the mysticism of Sufi and the love and forgiveness of Vaishnavism and the liberalism of the tantric sect of Buddhism. My film on Lalon fakir is research on this great man aswell. The Bengali film book contains important articles by scholars besides the script, reviews and memoirs.

Do you feel that the message of Moner Manush is relevant in a world beset by not just divides but even a pandemic? Is there something we can learn from the story?

Yes, of course the message of Moner Manush is even more relevant in today’s intolerant world, a world of greed and opportunism. The pandemic has victimised the togetherness of the human race but how can we survive without empathy? I don’t know how good the film is, but Moner Manush will serve as a gospel to those who revere humanity.

Lalon says as his own introduction “I am a human.” How important is that for humankind to see themselves as humans over titles of caste, profession, and economics?

The baul (minstrels in Bengal) community had renounced all recognised institutions of religion and revolted against long established rites, customs and faiths. Breaking down the barriers of the narrow confines of communal faith, they had found a large expanse under the sky which had served as a bountiful meeting place of many religions. Under that open sky, Lalon had found the truth in Humanism.

Lalon dreamt of a borderless world. Do you think adopting his outlook can change the outlook of nations which draw borders between the species? Do you think it is implementable at a personal, national or international level?

I think all mystics believe in borderless space of Earth where all centennial beings live in peace and harmony. But the wheel of time had moved in the direction of Divide and Rule. John Lennon’s Imagine has become the iconic song on the dream of a borderless world. It may have been a failed dream, but I confess it might have been one I shared growing up in India and will cherish till the last breath of my life. Let it be a dream and a wonderful utopia.

Beyond The Himalayas was first a documentary film. How long was it and when was it screened? How many episodes is the film?

Beyond the Himalayas was made as a documentary film during our expedition through the Silk Road in 1994. The final edited version is four-and-a-half hour long. It was shown in Discovery Channel in five parts in the late nineties. A shorter version was screened in BBC as well. The Indian national TV had screened a Hindi version of all five episodes.

The book seems to cover lesser than the documentary. Is that true or do the visuals/ music just seem to impact us more? Why did you leave out Pakistan?

Well watching the film with arresting visuals and absorbing the soundtracks of the trail is a linear viewing of our journey along the fabled Silk Road. It is very, very exciting indeed. But the film is also a journey back in time with many references and anecdotes from history. For instance, while showing the travel through the deadly Taklamakan desert, I referred to Sven Hedin’s(1865-1952) expedition of the region. I quote: ‘The first European to map this desolate region was the Swedish explorer, Sven Hedin. His first expedition in 1895 was very nearly his last.  The local guide supplied enough water for four days in the desert instead of ten requested. When the caravan lost its way, the guide was the first to die. The others became insane with thirst, drinking anything — even Sheep’s blood and camel’s urine. By the fifth day, the men, camels and other livestocks were all dead except for Sven Hedin and one other man. Hedin writes in Through Asia, “If I was doomed to die in the sand, I wanted to be properly attired. I wanted my burial clothes to be both white and clean.” But fate was on its side. Spying the dark green side of an oasis, he dragged himself to safety. “I stood on the brink of a pool with fresh cool water, beautiful water. I drank, drank, drank time after time. Every blood vessel and tissue of my body sucked up the life-giving liquid like a sponge.”’

Here the film-book helps the readers. One can refer back to the time past and time present more deeply to understand time as a metaphor of history.

How many days were you on the road? What was the experience like?

We were out for almost ten weeks covering a distance of 14,000 kms. The journey was fascinating for the entire team. There can be no journey more enchanting than the route we took. The collective trove of memories has made the Silk Road so memorable. We had to negotiate extreme weather conditions in Central Asia and Tibet. In a single day, we experienced two extremes. While negotiating the desert, temperatures rose to 48 degrees Celsius, and by nightfall when we pitched camp at Tianshan mountains, the temperature fell to 2 degrees. The situation is almost like the scenes of Satyajit Ray’s Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne — desert to snow in the blink of an eye.

Did you travel through the part of the route Marco Polo used? Did you find it much different from what you had imagined?

Well, the travels of Marco Polo described the wonders of the silk road, cities far greater than his own and a world more significant than anything imagined by the insular backward Europe of the thirteenth century. But he was a late traveller. The silk road was one of the greatest trade routes in history and men had already been travelling along for 4,000 years. Before sea routes were discovered in the fifteenth century, this trans-Asian highway was the sole link between the East and the West. It ran from Xian in China to all the way to the Mediterranean. There were many tributaries to the mighty river, not least of which were caravan routes across the Himalayan mountain range between India and Central Asia.  We could not follow the planned route through Pakistan and Afghanistan to Central Asia via Khyber Pass because of the civil war. The government of India did not want us to take such risks. All the members of the expedition, including the jeeps and equipment, were flown from Delhi to Uzbekistan on 18th May, 1994.

With the silk route being revived, do you think this film has significance?

Xuanzang took back over 600 Sanskrit text. Courtesy: Creative Commons

Yes, the film is still significant because it carries the memories of time. We were the first group of travellers after many, many years to cross three new republics after the collapse of Soviet Union and a vast territory of China. Now, the route is open to tourists, and I was told that many travel packages are available all along the mighty river and its tributaries. I would like to revisit the cauldron once again to understand how those multi-ethnic republics have survived the onslaught of modern times with its regional rivalries, new mafias, and consumerist pressures. I wish the new silk route trade brings peace and harmony in this intolerant world. Travellers today can choose from many trails as we did during our expedition. My favourite was Xuanzang’s (602-664 AD) trail. I quote from my book. “At 27, he set out his pilgrimage until he was 43. Unconvinced by the translations available in China, he sought the true teachings of Buddha in the holy lands of India. He walked alone into the great unknown, crossing the world’s greatest deserts and its highest mountain ranges. He faced death many times and his courage and equanimity impressed kings, bandits and barbarians alike. He lectured at monasteries and debated with learned monks and by the time he reached his destination, his reputation as a great sage had already preceded him. Xuan Zhang was not the only Chinese pilgrim to visit the homeland of Buddhism, but he was the most important. Like a death star that keeps releasing energy for thousands of years, he continues to be a valuable source of knowledge and inspiration.”

You are making a new film I believe rooted in the present pandemic. What is it about? Will you be making that too into a book?

My 2019 film Rahagir or Wayfarer, starring Adil Hussain, Tillotama Som, Neeraj Kabir, had travelled to many festivals and received awards and appreciations but unfortunately, we could not release it in public theatres due to the pandemic. Another multilingual film is also stuck for obvious reasons. I could finish the Italian shoot in January 2020, but the Indian shoot did not happen till date. It is so frustrating.

Meanwhile, I have finished a short film Memories of Time on pandemic days. It is about a happy, cultured couple living in the heart of Kolkata. Like everyone else, they are caught in the claustrophobia of the pandemic and the consequent lockdown. The film travels back and forth in time as they try to navigate through these hard times and search for fresh air and sanity. The film is an exploration of their fears, realisation and going back to nature. It’s from my own experience — how I have navigated 2020 and moving through the course of this pandemic. I think one can really publish a film-book because it has so many elements, the fear of people and the inhuman approach of the human race and then the migrant labours — their terrible conditions, the psychological problem of people confined inside their home and the most importantly, the problem of the children. They are confined as if in a prison. They can’t go to school. They can’t really meet their friends. I think this could be a very, very interesting material for a film-book.

Thank you for giving us your time.

Click here to read an excerpt and see photographs from his book Beyond the Himalayas.

Goutam Ghose: Courtesy: Creative Commons

(This is an online interview conducted by Mitali Chakravarty)



Independence Day Poetry

A False Dawn

By Malachi Edwin Vethamani

A False Dawn

We sang a song of victory.
Raised a new flag. 
Held our heads high.
Shouted new slogans. 

A new nation we said
has risen bursting 
through the dark clouds. 
Malaysia Baru. 

Then came Deceit, 
old Greed reared its ugly head,
murky waters returned
and undid us all.

 Malachi Edwin Vethamani is a Malaysian Indian poet, writer, editor, critic, bibliographer and academic. He is Emeritus Professor with University of Nottingham. More details in: 




Independence Day Poetry

Akbar Barkzai’s Songs of Freedom

Akbar Barakzai’s poetry translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch


Before liberating the people
Let’s liberate ourselves first
We who are slaves of our centuries’ old feuds and malevolence
Slaves of our follies and sins; malice and greed
How could we liberate the people?

How could we liberate our laborers and peasants
Shepherds and fishermen?
Before liberating the people
Let’s liberate ourselves first!

Who Can Snuff Out the Sun? 
(In Memory of Ernesto "Che" Guevara)

Who can snuff out the sun? 
Who can suppress the light? 

In the realm of the dark night 
The night-birds proclaimed 
To have snuffed out the sun
They rejoiced and revelled in trance
With wine, songs and dance

Without the glorious light 
Without Phoebus Apollo
The primeval source of light, music and poetry
The Heaven and the Earth
The moon, stars and Pleiades
Will lose their way
Into the dark void of nothingness
Without the timeless Phoebus
Life's most handsome knight
Passion will lose its spark
The sea of music will go dry
And the songs of love fall silent
Without the ardent Adonis
Life's Aphrodite wouldn't survive for a moment
Nobody can ever dare to snuff out the sun
Or suppress the light
In the dark wilderness of the night 
The blind night-birds celebrated in vain 
The triumphant sun comes out every day
spreading its radiance trough out the world
Chanting ever so gracefully
"I'm Phoebus Apollo"
"I'm Ernesto Che Guevara"
"I'm Immortal"

Everywhere in the world
It unveils Ernesto's smiling face
With splendor and grace

Who can snuff out the sun? 
Who can suppress the light? 

For How Long?

For how long
Light will languish in captivity
In vales and dales death will roam free?
For how long
Life will remain in utter distress
Handsome youths keep falling to bullets
And mirror like hearts continue to shatter into shards
For how long?
For how long?
Light -- the very essence of freedom
Will not forever remain in prison
Life will not suffer distress
The serpent of tyranny will vanish evermore
The sapling of envy and hatred will wither away
This world of mankind will blossom
Into a garden of paradise
But who knows?
How many more years will it take?
How many more eons will it take?

Akbar Barakzai was born in Shikarpur, Sindh in 1939. He is ranked amongst the proponents of modern Balochi literature. His poetry reflects the objective realities of life. Love for motherland, peace and prosperity and dignity of a man are the recurrent themes of his poetry. His love for human dignity transcends all geographical and cultural frontiers. Barakzai is not a prolific poet. In a literary career which spans over half a century, Barakzai has brought out just two anthologies of poetry, Who can Kill the Sun and The Lamps of Heads, but his poetry has depth and reaches out to human hearts with its profundity. Last year, Barakzai rejected the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) award, quoting  the oppressive policies meted out to his region by the government as the reason.

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights to Barakzai’s works and is in the process of bringing them out as a book.



Independence Day Poetry

Benderaku (My Flag)

By Julian Matthews

Photo Courtesy: Julian Matthews
I wave my flag in thorny poems
Because I am too embarrassed to show you off in tatters
Stripped of your stripes
Your crescent eclipsed
Your pointy star blunted

My words are meant to prick
But they are not daggers nor keris
It's not good for my constitution to keep them inside
It's also bad for my heart

But if you look closely
You can see the patriotism in the whites of my eyes
You can feel the nationalism when they are bloodshot red
You can hear the anthem of my soul crying out when I am blue
You can sense the pride when I march in unison with my fellow yellows
(We link arms and sing the Negaraku because—hey—it's our country too)

My poems are my battle cry for you
My rhymes are there to straighten their crooked lines
My alliterations are a raucous rallying rap to get us back on track
My puns are the stitching of your sides
My consonance are the higher thread count of your fabric, the higher ground we tread to discount their dread
My imagery yearns to return your colours that have run, insane
My metaphors are my longing to unfurl you in the sun, again

My Malaysia is a million valiant vigorous voices wanting to raise a nation's flagging fading fervour
Don't need to stand in attention to appreciate it
Just pay attention
Because it's freely given
And if they still can't take the brave words of us poetic souls
Then they can just hang us from the nearest pole


Julian Matthews is a former journalist and trainer currently expressing himself in poetry, short fiction and essays. He is based in Malaysia



Independence Day Stories

Brother Felix’s Ward

By Malachi Edwin Vethamani 

Johan sat very still. His head was bowed low. His fingers were clasped together tightly. As he heard Brother Felix say, ‘Amen’, his fingers relaxed and slowly disengaged. He slowly raised his head. He saw Brother Felix’s radiant, happy, glowing face.  Brother Felix’s gaze fell on him and he seemed to smile a little broader. The other boys were already leaving their seats. Johan wanted to linger a little longer. He felt a calmness within him. Johan knew where he ought to be and slowly made his way out of the chapel and headed to the mosque. Today, he had lingered a little longer than he should have.

Johan knew he was not supposed to attend chapel. At the sound of the last bell on Fridays, his Muslim classmates would leave school and head for lunch or sometimes go directly to the mosque for Friday prayers. Johan was a loner and did not go with his classmates. They found him aloof and different. Soon, they found out that he went for chapel at school before going to the mosque for Friday prayers. They were amused and did not care what Johan did. They did not say anything to the adults. 

When his first year at his new school ended, Johan longed for the Friday chapel. Johan yearned for the music, the songs and the stories he heard each week. When Brother Felix mentioned certain prophets, he would recognize them as Adam, Ibrahim, Musa and most of all, Nabi Isa. He had been taught about all of them by his Al-Quran and Fardu Ain teachers. 

Brother Felix had often talked about Jesus or Nabi Isa, as Johan had first known of him. Johan did not tire hearing stories of Jesus’ miracles or the parables with their teachings. Soon Jesus was rarely Isa to Johan. He did not go beyond these stories. Johan did not want to hear about the Jesus who was crucified and was said to have risen. He did not want to hear about the Jesus who was resurrected from the dead and whom the Christians called god. The Jesus alive and preaching love was enough for him.

Johan was drawn to Jesus, the man. He was drawn to Brother Felix. Brother Felix told the stories Jesus had. Stories about love, kindness and forgiveness. Soon, Johan wanted to be like Brother Felix. His young mind could not have comprehended the ramifications of his desire. Johan did not see in his young, innocent mind the transgressions he would be making by just desiring to be like Brother Felix.

Brother Felix treated Johan as he did all the young boys under his care. He was aware of the complex and complicated racial and religious situation in the newly formed Malaysia. He was glad that a missionary school like his could continue to operate in a Muslim country.

Brother Felix enjoyed playing football as a young man and continued to play when he found time. He had broad shoulders and a well-built body, a soldier’s body. He was strong and had felt ready to go to a distant country in Asia. Brother Felix heard his calling to come to Malaysia in his thirties. He did not have to wait long. One of the other Brothers who had just returned from a short stint in Malaysia informed him of a teaching position in a secondary school in Malacca and he immediately applied for it. 

He arrived in Singapore and made his way to Malacca. He was welcomed by the other Brothers and Sisters who were already there in this small town. He was to teach English in the only school set up for boys by the Catholic church. His first day of teaching went by quite uneventfully. What struck him was the different colours of his students. They were certainly quite different from those in Dublin. However, the colours meant little to Brother Felix. They were all the same in his flock. 

It did not take long for Brother Felix to discover that they were certainly not the same and a few had to be treated slightly differently. In his induction to Malaysian life, Brother Felix discovered the religious mosaic in the country. The main concerns were to be with the Muslim students. They were to be set apart and given different religious instruction in the Catholic School. Brother Paul, the Headmaster, had been very clear about it when he met Brother Felix for the first time. Brother Paul, now in his late 50s, had arrived on Malayan shores just like Brother Felix. Over two decades he had learned the ways of the local authorities and adapted accordingly. ‘There will be no preaching or conversion of Muslim students to Christianity,’ Brother Paul had instructed Brother Felix. That would be at the peril of closing down this school and the Brothers’ Provincialate. The La Sallian Brothers certainly did not want that to befall them, he was explicitly cautioned. 

Brother Felix, however, wondered why Muslim parents would want their children to attend a missionary school. A local teacher gave him the answer. One day, a young twenty something Chinese English language teacher, Miss Esther Lim, informed him, ‘They want their children to learn English well and be able to go overseas for further studies.’ With that Brother Felix’s lessons on Malaysia and Malaysians, especially Muslim Malaysians, had slowly begun. It was made clear to him that Christianity was out of bounds for Malay boys in missionary schools. There was no compromise on this matter, none whatsoever ever. 

Brother Felix was in his eighth year of teaching when Johan joined the school in a Form Two class. He was a precocious young boy. Johan was in Brother Felix’s English language class. Johan was a keen reader and his language proficiency was the highest among his peers. Johan had breezed through Enid Blyton stories and gone on to the more adventurous Hardy Boys mysteries. Brother Felix could not help but take notice of this young boy. He wrote excellent compositions but spoke only when called to answer a question. Johan did not enjoy sports, and this kept him very much on his own. He chose to sit in the last row in the class and was often by himself. 

Johan was a fair-skinned lad. His facial features were not typically Malay. When he spoke, it was always in English. He looked like some of the Eurasian boys in the school. Johan did not join the Malay boys in his class, either. They spoke both English and Malay but seemed unwelcoming towards this new kid who spoke only in English.  Most people did not think him to be Malay. Brother Felix was one of those who did not think of Johan being Malay, either until he saw the young man’s full name in the class register. 

Brother Felix was given the task of conducting the weekly lessons from the Bible during Chapel. The students arrived for the sessions with mixed feelings. Most seemed reluctant to attend. It took a while for them to settle down. The other Brothers were present to help the boys settle down. Soon the chapel was almost full. Johan was among the last to enter the chapel and as usual, he sat alone and in the last pew. Brother Felix only noticed Johan after a few Fridays. Just as in the English Language class, Johan sat there quietly, listening with a faraway look. Lost in his own world. Brother Felix chose not to say anything.

Johan listened to Brother Felix’s Bible stories but rarely waited for the moral lessons that followed. His attention would wane as the stories drew to a close and as soon as the pedantic part began, his mind would switch off and he would quietly slip away before the others could notice him. 

Johan’s thoughts often lingered on the stories he heard during Chapel. Many of these stories he had heard before about prophet Ibrahim and Ishak, Musa and Adam. Just the names had been changed here. He was fascinated when he heard the stories that Jesus had told. Johan understood sibling rivalry and envy in the tale about the prodigal son. In his gentle heart, he glowed on the kindness of the good Samaritan. These were new stories to him. 

A desire slowly began to grow in Johan. He wanted to read and hear more about this gentle prophet who preached love and was later scorned by some of his own people and the Romans. Johan scoured a few history books in the school library and found the historical Jesus mentioned in passing. Then one day, by sheer chance he found a Bible stories series in the fiction section. And over the next few weeks, he managed to read the twenty-five titles in the whole series. 

Brother Felix prepared for his English language classes with the same enthusiasm as he did for Chapel. In both, Johan remained seated at the back and Brother Felix thought it best to leave the boy alone. He sensed Johan was different and he was not sure if there was something troubling the lad.

During the double-period English language classes which were towards the end of a long school day, Brother Felix would play a game with the students. He would tell them a story and ask them to give an ending or ask the students to give a lesson they could learn from the story. These stories were short enough to hold their attention and the class would listen intently. The students would respond rather enthusiastically, knowing someone would get a small prize from Brother Felix. Johan listened intently like the others. He enjoyed the stories and knew the lessons they taught. He had read many of them in the books on the library shelves. His heart warmed when he heard Brother Felix now re-tell these stories. Yet, Johan felt no desire to raise his hand to answer Brother Felix’s questions. Hearing the stories was gift enough from Brother Felix. He also did not want to draw any attention to himself.

Soon there were only a few more weeks before public examinations. Johan and his classmates were busy with their preparations for the examinations. The school Chapel sessions continued as usual. One Friday, just as Johan was slipping away from the chapel and rushing off to the mosque for the prayers, his Bahasa Malaysia teacher saw him. The teacher called him aside and asked Johan what he was doing coming out from the chapel? 

“Listening to the Bible stories, sir,” he replied in Malay. 

The teacher gave him a stern warning, “Stop going to the chapel. It is not for you. If you go again, your parents will be informed.”  

Johan nodded, thanked his teacher and fled. He knew why the teacher forbade him to go to the Chapel. It broke his heart that he had been caught. He sobbed all the way to the mosque, knowing he could not return to the chapel anymore. His mind was troubled throughout the Friday prayers. He found it hard to pay attention to the sermon that was being preached. As the prayers drew to a close and the worshippers began to leave, Johan remained seated in his place. His eyes were closed, and he tried to clear his mind. But the troubling words from his Bahasa Malaysia teacher continued to ring loudly in his head. After a few minutes, finding no solace, he got up and left for home. 

Johan was back at his seat in his classroom on Monday. Classes went on as usual. Brother Felix was his usual self, completely unaware of what had transpired for Johan on Friday. The Bahasa Malaysia teacher came to class and taught his lesson. Just as the bell rang, and Johan was about to sigh a relief, the teacher called out Johan’s name and said, ‘Johan, jangan lupa apa yang saya kata pada kamu (Johan Don’t forget what I told you)’, reminding Johan of his warning. His classmates however, paid no heed to what the teacher told Johan.

As Friday drew close, Johan longed to go to chapel. He had grown accustomed to it. The whole of that Friday morning was a struggle within him. He could not see the problem of attending Friday Chapel, then rushing off for Friday prayers. Attending chapel had not turned him away from his religion. After the final class on Friday, Johan walked slowly to the mosque. He knew the chapel routine well and that by the time he reached the mosque, Brother Felix would be giving his weekly lesson to his schoolmates. Johan did his ablutions and joined the men in the mosque. 

The last week of class finally arrived. There were a few revision lessons and “spotting” of exam questions for the examination. Brother Felix walked into the classroom with his usual bright smile. Johan knew that this would be the final class with Brother Felix. They would have a few days of study leave before the examination began the following week. Like the other teachers, Brother Felix gave tips for the examinations. Unlike his regular way of ending his lessons, today, Brother Felix had no time for a story for his students. He ended his class in an unusual manner. He looked at all his students and bid them farewell, “You have my best wishes and God bless each one of you.” He beamed at the students, picked up his books, and waited for their practised reply. The students shouted out, “Thank you, Brother Felix.”

Johan felt a sadness descend upon him. He saw the end of something he had treasured. This second year in the new school had been trying. His parents had demanded excellent grades from him so that he could enter the Science stream the next year, in a new school overseas. Brother Felix had been a beacon in his lonely life. English language classes had not just been learning the English language but listening to Brother Felix’s Bible stories, listening to his calming voice. 

He remembered his English language teacher in the previous school. Puan Halimah taught English using so many Malay words, it frustrated Johan. He felt his Bahasa Malaysia was improving but not his English language. His classmates were generally weak in English and were quite happy with Puan Halimah’s style of teaching. Johan’s parents wanted more for him and got him transferred out of the school.

Johan knew this day would come. It had been scheduled and was expected. Not the way his attending chapel had suddenly been terminated. That had been unexpected and painful. He thought it cruel, even. He felt something he enjoyed and loved being snatched away from him. His young mind was completely oblivious of what could have happened if his Bahasa Malaysia teacher had made a complaint to the religious authorities.

Johan wanted to see Brother Felix. He wanted to say thank you for all that Brother Felix had done for him. Johan feared he might not see Brother Felix again, unsure when he would be leaving for England.

Johan knocked on Brother Felix’s office door. On the door, he saw Brother Felix’s name and job designation. It read, Brother Felix and beneath it, Senior Assistant. A familiar voice answered, “Come in.” Brother Felix was seated at his table. Johan had never been into this office. Brother Felix gave him his familiar warm smile. 

“Ah, Johan! Wasn’t expecting you to be coming to see me. Sit down.”

“Good afternoon, Brother Felix,” Johan replied. 

Johan sat on the chair in front of Brother Felix. 

“Sir, I wanted to come and thank you,” he said. 

Brother Felix was not accustomed to having students drop by his office to thank him. Most shied away from his office and some dreaded being called to see him. It often meant some disciplinary issue needed to be addressed. 

“Johan, it’s been a pleasure teaching you. You should speak up more in class,” Brother Felix said. 

“Brother Felix, I really liked your stories, too.”

“They are not my stories, they are stories from The Bible, Johan.”

“Sir, I know. I read a few in the library…. Brother Felix, could you give me a copy of The Bible?” Johan asked. Johan could not believe what he had just said. He had merely come to thank his English language teacher. And now, he had blurted a request for a copy of The Bible

Brother Felix sat in front of Johan with the most perplexed look. No student had ever asked him for a Bible. And there sat in front of him a Muslim boy asking for a Bible. Brother Felix remembered Brother Paul’s words, “There will be no preaching or conversion of Muslim students to Christianity.” 

Johan sensed a change coming upon his favourite teacher’s face. There was no anger welling up. Just some confusion and a sadness.

“Brother Felix, I’m not sure why I suddenly asked you for a Bible. I just came to say thank you for the English classes and for the stories during Chapel on Fridays. I will miss both.”

Johan quickly got up, gave Brother Felix a bow and fled from his office. Anyone seeing Johan leave Brother Felix’s office would have thought that he had just received a punishment from the school Senior Assistant. 

Brother Felix sat at his table for a long time thinking of Johan and all his wards. He began to weep silently. He did not know why he wept.


Malachi Edwin Vethamani is a Malaysian Indian poet, writer, editor, critic, bibliographer and academic. He is Emeritus Professor with University of Nottingham. More details in: 



Independence Day Stories

Bundu, Consoler of the Rich

A story by Nadir Ali, translated from Punjabi by Amna Ali

Nadir Ali(1936-2020), recepient of the Waris Shah Award from Pakistan Academy of Letters in 2006.

A peculiar dream replayed itself in my mind recently. I am the kind of man who always thinks deeply about dreams. When I lost and then initiated the arduous task of recalling my memory, I went in search of all those times I could not account for by raking through my dreams. We rarely make sense of the surreal glue that holds dreams together, reconstructing them as if they are stories.  Indeed, sometimes they chronicle our longings, other times they unfold our ardent desires reaching fulfilment, as in the union of a man and a woman! In essence, words lay the foundation, not only of the inner world, but also of our dreams. Words illuminate this journey we undertake in the pitch dark. They help us penetrate the maelstrom of existence!

This is how the dream began. I address a seated man, apparently a doctor, I recognize as Shahabuddin. He transmutes into a woman when I sit down across from him. She has the most beautiful eyes. Dark-complexioned, she appears to be Bengali. I find her very attractive. We take a stroll to the front of the Zamindara College in Gujrat. I point out Nawab Sahab’s grave to her. She moves closer to me as we approach the college hall. We continue onward to the back of the college. My heart turns tranquil as the dream fades. 

I did not have to venture far to find the rungs that would help me comprehend my dream. Ah, I had recently read the translation of the Musaddas by Sir Shahabuddin. Since Shahabuddin had tanned skin, he visited my dream as a woman with dark complexion. Again, it was he who dissolved into Balo Jati in my dream because he belonged to the Jat caste. I rushed to Balo and narrated the night’s dream. “Lady, I have to remove curtain upon curtain to find you, even in my dreams!” She laughed and explained, “Such a distance lies between an old man and his youth!” I persisted with my interpretation of the dream. “I showed you Nawab Sahab’s grave to indicate that I am old and decrepit, yet I live on, like Nawab Sahab’s name lives on.  We went to the back of the college to excavate my youthful days.”

“Lahore, Chaudhry Sahab, is overflowing with young lovers. My most prized beloved, though, remains this old man. He is a parent and lover rolled into one. People need conversations to share our joys and sorrows, no? Who would I converse with if I don’t see you Chaudhry Sahab?”  Balo’s words lifted my spirits. My dream bestowed its blessings and then was forgotten. Two months passed.

Yesterday, as I sat reading the biography of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti – the Consoler of the Poor*, Bundu dhobi* appeared in my thoughts out of the blue.  Consider that one of Khwaja Sahab’s miracles or the secret of caring for the crushed! My mind was reminded of the two-month-old dream. I pictured the dark-skinned woman’s eyes. Ah, exactly like Bundu’s! So, the woman was in fact Bundu the washerman!  Bundu is the only person I remember fondly from my two-year stint as a professor at Gujrat’s Zamindara College.  He transformed me into a Sahab during those youthful days of surviving on the pittance I was paid as a novice professor. I wore the best starched and brightest white shalwar kameez in the entire college. 

I also happened to be the college hostel warden. One day, Bundu appeared with a plea. 

“Sahab, it is impossible to find accommodation in the homes seized after the exodus of the Hindus from the city. The Neighborhood of the Untouchables too is under the police’s control. They have escorted so many women there, turning it into their own personal cantonment. It is indeed not befitting for real men to spend nights at the police-station! Please if you get me a place at the hostel, I will manage.”

I arranged lodging for him at the hostel. Meanwhile, I found it hard to manage my expenses after sending two hundred and fifty rupees home each month. I had rashly jumped on the marriage bandwagon too. I ended up renting a house in Madina village situated on the outskirts of the town. Bundu would walk the two miles to my place. I had a bicycle at least.

Bundu never learnt to ride. “It has a mind of its own!  What if the damn machine decides to carry me to Momdipur from Madina village?” Bundu would tease.

The marriage ceremony and monthly expenses drained us of all our money within a month of marital bliss. One day, my wife announced, “Someone named Bundu dhobi is asking for you.”

I stepped outside to meet him. “Sorry Bundu, I am penniless this month. I won’t be able to pay you,” I told him.

“Sahab, I am not here to receive my payment. I am here to pick up the dirty laundry. Moreover, I haven’t even congratulated you on your marriage. Your wife is one lucky woman. A good man usually finds a good match.” Little by little, Bundu developed the routine of picking up our laundry from my wife multiple times a week, instead of once a week. Thanks to the care he showered upon our clothes, my wife and I climbed up the social ladder. When the college let him go, he managed to rent a small place that used to belong to Hindus in Muhammadi village. We remained broke.

One day, my wife took out some old bills. “Bundu heard us fighting about the expenses. He left thirty rupees with me.” I expressed my anger. We didn’t have a penny. How were we going to repay him given how impossible it was to borrow from anyone in our village?

“He said we could repay him after one month. He placed the money in my hand,” My wife tried to allay my worries.

Bundu played an important role in my transfer to Lahore when our principal accepted a position at the university and took me along. “You are the best-dressed man in all of Gujrat!”, the principal had said. From Lahore, I went on to Dhaka University in 1965.  My children and I took to Dhaka, but luck was not on our side.  We were spared the perils of detention in 1971 as we had returned to West Pakistan for the summer holidays. But I remained affected by 1971. I became very ill. I lost my memory during my treatment.  Once recovered, I made a trip to Gujrat after a gap of twenty-five years. Bundu had passed away by then.

Today, Khwaja Muinuddin, the Consoler of the Poor, reminded me of my Consoler of the Rich, a most loving and kind-hearted man. Perhaps even Khwaja Sahab had been softened by such love from people! After all, a poor person can also be a benefactor of the rich!  Such are the links of love. The foundational bond, too. As in the love between a man and a woman!  In my dream, he appeared as a beautiful, dark woman. He was a very handsome man. How can I ever forget his deeply telling eyes?

*Also known as Khwaja Ghareeb Nawaz (Consoler of the Poor), he was a sufi saint and founder of the Chistiya Sufi order in the early 13th century

*A dhobi is a washerman


Nadir Ali (1936-2020) was a Punjabi poet and short story writer. In 2006, he was awarded the Waris Shah award for his collection Kahani Praga. Coming late to writing, particularly fiction, Nadir Ali is credited with spearheading a unique style, blurring the boundaries between significant and petty, artistic and ordinary, primarily due to his preference for and command over the chaste central dialect understood by the majority of Punjabi speakers. He is also noted for writing and speaking about his experiences as an army officer posted in East Pakistan at the height of the 1971 war.

Amna Ali is Nadir Ali’s daughter.  She is currently translating a selection of Nadir Ali’s short stories into English. She is a librarian and lives in San Francisco with her husband and two sons.

(Published with permission of the author’s family)