Title: A Glimpse Into My Country: An Anthology of International Short Stories
Editors: Andrée Roby & Dr Sangita Swechcha
Publisher: Book Hill International
Excerpted from The Goats and the Cow by Sanjib Chaudhary (Nepal)
Shubhavati was humming a folk song. The sun was above her head. The easterly wind was hitting hard on her face. The wind along with the Peepal’s shadow provided her relief from the heat.
The 10 goats were grazing on the nearby field. The landowner had recently harvested rice and the juicy tender sprouts were perfect feast for the goats. While feeling the easterly winds caress she saw a humanlike spot in the horizon. Coming towards her, in a hurried pace. As the figure got nearer, the once single spot broke into four distinct figures. A woman in her mid-twenties, a 40 newly born baby clinging to her shoulder, a boy of around seven years trudging along her and a goat in tow.
As the group came near her, Shubhavati asked the woman, ‘Why are you running so fast in the midday sun? Have some rest.’
The small boy, tired, sat next to her and started humming a Bollywood song. The woman tethered the goat to a small shrub and started suckling her baby, sitting beside Shubhavati. Her eyes were red with weeping and, as she saw Shubhavati gazing at her with love, she broke down. She started whimpering. Shubhavati consoled her, washed off the tears rolling down her eyes. The woman broke into a loud cry and the little boy, perplexed, started crying with his mother.
She said, ‘This boy’s father returned from Qatar a few days ago. We had a reunion after two 41 years. This little girl was not born when he left us. Everything was so good for few days and suddenly he beat me up.’
‘Small fights between wife and husband are a normal, my dear,’ said Shubhavati.
‘But it was not a small thing. His mother is so jealous that she wants everything that her son brought to be hers. Even the toys that he brought for this little boy!’ She was furious.
She continued, ‘Can you imagine? She threw away a bowl of milk he was sipping in. For me it had been always like that. My husband has been to Rajbiraj. But had he been there he would not say anything to her. He is a coward and doesn’t have courage to say anything to his mother.’
The goat was a small kid when she had brought it along with her from her mother’s house. She had run almost two kilometres and it was still three kilometres to reach her maternal house. Shubhavati lighted a biri and offered it to the young woman. She refused it, saying that she is a non-smoker. Shubhavati sent the puffs of smoke to the skies and started advising the young woman.
‘See, quarrels never will do any good to you, neither to you, nor to your mother-in-law. In between your quarrel, this little boy will suffer. He will be deprived of going to school for many days. Your husband loves you but he can’t take your side.’
‘If you take me as your mother, return to your home. But if you have already made your mind, go, stay for few days and return as your husband comes to fetch you.’ The woman nodded to her advice, clutched her baby and, with the goat and the little boy in tow, continued her journey.
Shubhavati thought had she had a baby girl in her early twenties, she would have had a daughter like the fleeing woman. As the four figures disappeared in the horizon, she saw a man running towards her. She at once knew that he was the father of the two little children when he asked whether she saw a woman running away with two young kids. She told him not to worry, asked him to pacify his wife and to try to maintain a cordial relation with her. The man ran in the direction the woman had headed.
Shubhavati felt good and thanked the lord.
Excerpted from Crossing the Bridge by Norma Hall (Zimbabwe)
Leila sat in the back of the blue Ford Mondeo, trying to peer out of the car window, over the larger figure of her older brother Spike, who sat next to her. On her other side, her sister Susan, head down, was engrossed in one of the pile of brightly coloured comics the children took with them on one of these long journeys over the border from Zimbabwe into South Africa. Leila’s father, who was driving, had half turned his head to exclaim to the children in the back, that they were now approaching the ‘Great, grey, green, greasy Limpopo River,’ and crossing the bridge, would bring them across the border.
Excitedly Leila looked at the huge muddy green river, which ran like a thick ribbon through the yellow stubbly countryside on either side. Some women could be seen on some of the rocks below doing their washing and a few children swam in the shallows. Then they were over the expansive bridge and soon arrived at the bustling border, with numerous buses, trucks and queuing people waiting out in the sun next to the buildings, beyond which the barrier gate could be seen guarded by some uniformed customs officers and a few soldiers, slouching around, talking and laughing among themselves. Knowing, like others, there was no hurry, they were in for the long wait.
The children were left in the car, windows wound down for the heat which made it almost too hot for the inevitable bickering that would ensue, while the adults, gathering up their various documents, sighed and went off resignedly for the long, arduous process they were accustomed to encountering at the Zimbabwe border post.
Car documents had already been checked by the required visit to the Harare Police Station a few days earlier, which was a mission in itself. There, similar queues, often lengthened by those who curried favour or paid bribes to receive attention first, had to be dealt with. Was the car stolen, who was the owner, where was the insurance, road worthiness, road recovery service documents? With all the requirements, it was strange how one later encountered so many wrecks on the roads caused by accidents and broken-down vehicles, as well as the number of stolen cars being reported.
Leila remembered having seen the strewn clothes and luggage in the bush alongside the road and remnants of a recently crashed car, they’d come across on a previous trip. One of her father’s friends had also been killed one night when his car had crashed into an army truck which was parked with no warning lights, sticking out into the road.
The family had done this journey every two years now, to visit family in South Africa and for the long-anticipated holidays by the sea. And it had been worth it, exciting and adventurous, despite the problems at the border or being stopped by Police on either side of the bridge, for whatever usually ‘cooked up’ reasons that could be used to elicit bribes for an underpaid work force. The two-day journey was long and hot, but they knew it well by now. The snake like road that never seemed to end, driving through small villages, sporadic rocky granite outcrops and rundown towns. Then the climb up Louis Trichardt with its mountain views and winding roads before the long exhilarating drive down to their destination for the first night, an inexpensive motel just outside of Polokwane.
Towards the end of another long day of driving, the children would crane their necks, eyes straining for the prize of being the first to see the sea. Zimbabwe was landlocked, mostly dry and that incredible expanse of aquamarine and then deeper greenish blue water encircling the land at this southern-most tip of Africa, never ceased to enthral the family on these much-anticipated trips.
Leila thought she could have watched forever the sight of that foam riding on the top of the waves, as they rushed to shore and then slowly retreated with a sigh.
About the Book:
A Glimpse Into My Country is a collection of international, fiction and non-fiction, short stories giving the reader a chance to travel from France to England, to Zimbabwe, to India, to South Africa, to Nepal, to Bangladesh and to discover something new about each country through the lens of new and published authors.
The writers from Nepal include Mahesh Paudyal, Sanjib Chaudhary, Mamata Mishra, Jayant Sharma, Neelima Shrestha, Sangita Swechcha & Deepak Rana. The other contributors are Mitali Chakravarty (India), Farah Ghuznavi (Bangladesh), Micaela Grove (South Africa), Norma Hall (Zimbabwe), Derek McMillan (England), Sara Kapadia (UK), and Andrée Roby (France).
About the Editors:
After spending over thirty-five years in South London, Régine, originally from France, now lives in West Sussex. She writes under the pen name of Andrée Roby, a name she chose as a tribute to her father (André) and her uncle (Roby). Régine is fluent in French, Spanish and English. As a language teacher, she has a passion for the written word. Her novella “Double Vision” – a creative crime drama, was published in January 2019 and revamped in July2021. Her second book published in April 2020 is a collection of original poems, flash fiction and short stories. Her crime fiction “Failed Vision”, launched in October 2020, is the prequel to “Double Vision”.
Dr Sangita Swechcha
Dr Sangita Swechcha is an ardent lover of literature from an early age, Sangita has published a novel and co-authored a collection of short stories before the collection ‘Gulafsanga ko Prem’, collection of short stories. She has many short stories, poems and articles published in various international journals and online portals. She was the Guest Editor for the ‘Nepali Literature Month – Nov 2019’ held at Global Literature in Libraries Initiative (GLLI), a USA based organisation. ‘The Himalayan Sunrise: Exploring Nepal’s Literary Horizon’ edited by Sangita Swechcha and Karen Van Drie was released in London in November 2021. The book, A Glimpse Into My Country, is the second publication from Book Hill International. Currently, Sangita Swechcha is working on her second novel.
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