Categories
Editorial

We are All Going on a Summer Holiday…

Yes! It is vacation time, and we are all able to travel at last. Though the pandemic which had closed borders for us seems to be evolving as an endemic, another huge human crisis, a war which cannot be justified in any way, stares us in the face. Loss of lives, homes, towns, cities and threats of global recession follow in the footsteps of refugees wandering into our lives. Lesya Bakun, the Ukrainian refugee whose story we have been following, told me four of her relatives’ homes in Mariupol have been erased out of existence and her extended family has scattered where they found safety as her cousin continues a prisoner of war, captured while defending the iron and steel factory at Azovstal. While majority of the world expresses solidarity with the Ukrainians, another set of refugees remain in shadows. They have completely lost their country in which they had lived from ancient times. I am referring to the Rohingya of Arakan. CNN world states:

“The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, thought to number about 1 million people.

“Myanmar does not recognize them as citizens or one of the 135 recognized ethnic groups in the country.”

 We are privileged to host a powerful poignant translation by Arifa Ghani Rahman of Shaheen Akhtar’s short story about such a voiceless Rohingya child in a refugee camp. Though this is a fiction inspired by Akhtar’s visits to such shelters, we hope at some point these children will be able to build new lives to create a world free of violence, intolerance, hatred and greed.

One of the questions that springs to one’s mind, watching such atrocities destroy innocent lives is that should one accept bullies and give in to their pressure tactics? Bullies can be found among world leaders as well as perpetrators of decadent societal norms which are often critiqued by satires. Somdatta Mandal has translated one such satirical playlet where social conventions are targeted in a lighter vein by Tagore. In the same spirit, the maestro’s iconic poem about a palmyra tree called Taal Gaachh has been transcreated to bring the joy of innocent wanderings back into the narrative, creating an island of healing thoughts. We continue with our translations of Jibananada Das by Professor Fakrul Alam, a Korean poem by Ihlwha Choi and a magical Balochi folktale by Fazal Baloch. Let us read such translations to connect with varied cultures so that compassion and acceptance of diverse perspectives end horrors like wars, starvation and hunger.  

Tagore’s writings translated to English by Mandal in Gleanings of the Road, a collection covering the maestro’s travel to the West, is part one of our book excerpts and highlights Rabindranath’s perspectives on the need to connect with the larger world. The other book excerpt, from Waiting, poetry by Suzanne Kamata, takes up the theme of victimisation, crime and murder. Dwelling on no less horrific narratives, though justified as non-criminal, is a review by Meenakshi Malhotra of Harsh Mander’s Locking down the Poor: The Pandemic and India’s Moral Centre. Gracy Samjetsabam’s assessment of Half-Blood by Pronoti Datta informs about the greyer areas of a whole community in Mumbai. Indrashish Banerjee reviewed Keki Daruwalla’s stories on human relationships anthologised in a collection called Going: Stories of Kinship while Bhaskar Parichha has acquainted us with Deepti Priya Mehrotra’s Her Stories –Indian Women Down the Ages — Thinkers, Workers, Rebels, Queens, a non-fiction that visits inspiring women.

Inspiration can also be drawn from Rinki Roy Bhattacharya’s and Maithili Rao’s The Oldest Love Story, featuring a medley of men and women writing on the theme of motherhood along with some narratives about their mothers or on the experience of being one. The medley includes well-known names from films and literature like Shabana Azmi, Saeed Mirza, Shashi Deshpande, Nabanita Dev Sen and more. We interviewed Roy Bhattacharya to find out more about this impactful book. Achingliu Kamei, an academic and writer, has conversed with Naga writer, Veio Pou, whose award-winning book, Waiting for the Dust to Settle, was reviewed earlier — a book that gives a glimpse of conflicts in the Northeast of India.

Taking on the theme of conflicts at a personal level, Atreyo Chowdhury’s and Banerjee’s stories create a sense of disquiet as Paul Mirabile’s explores crime, madness and its impact on humans. G Thomas takes a relook at heroism and bravery as a concept. His story set in Kerala shakes our complacency, upending traditional concepts of heroism and bravery just as Candice Louisa Daquin has upended the cult of positivity in her essay. Notes of discord and accord seem to ring through this edition and the undertones of greys spread out towards an exploration of life and death. We have multiple ghost stories this time, even from the Nithari column written by Kiran Mishra, a youngster who got over the trauma of violence in the community and discovered her place as a bilingual writer and educator.

Our poetry section is honoured to host Walt Whitman Award winner, Jared Carter, again with his poetry on a Japanese artefact as George Freek’s continues to be inspired by the style of Song dynasty poets. Michael Burch writes beautiful love poems. We have a vibrant poetry section with Daquin, Sutputra Radheye, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Antara Mukherjee, Rhys Hughes, who has also revisited ‘The Penguin Café Orchestra‘. This band started a new kind of musical trend with nothing but passion and conviction. Hughes of course cannot escape the bonds of his tongue-in-cheek style, also adopted by Devraj Singh Kalsi while he pretends to be an ant.

Keith Lyons has got the bug of tongue-in-cheek too as he gives us a piece on his travels in Varanasi that well captures the dichotomies we find in India. Dwelling on social dichotomies also is Ratnottama Sengupta’s powerful tribute to Swatilekha Sengupta, a film and theatre doyenne who brought to life Tagore’s novel, Ghare Baire (Home and the World, 1985). An essay by Mozid Mahmud exploring both the syncretic elements in Tagore’s and Kabir’s works, the medieval poet’s impact on the Nobel laureate and a dispute over Rabindranath’s own translation blends with the tone of greys in this edition.

Travel narratives and photographs by Meredith Stephens sailing the seas in Tasmania and Ravi Shankar trekking on the slopes of the Himalayas to get a view of Mt Everest make for perfect holiday adventures. From Japan, Kamata has given us a narrative set in the pandemic. And environmentalist Kenny Peavy dwells on reconnecting with nature in Mission Earth.

We have a fair deal from across the globe in the June issue. But, as usual, some of the treats in the content have not been mentioned though they are wonderful pieces of writing too. We look forward to your continued support as you delve into our treasure trove of gems from across the oceans. A huge thanks to our fabulous team, to the contributors and readers. I especially want to thank Sohana Manzoor for sharing her lovely artwork and wish you all a wonderful read!

I hope you have a fabulous summer.

Thank you.

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

Categories
Stories

The Wallet

By Atreyo Chowdhury

Courtesy: Creative Commons

It was a Sunday. Sudha woke up later than usual. She glanced at the wall clock and hid under her blanket again. She stayed there, motionless, a drag of weariness over her. The doorbell rang, and she sat up.

Champa arrived every morning to sweep and mop the apartment, wash the utensils, and help Sudha make breakfast. There was no need to prepare lunch on the weekdays as Sudha left for work, but on a Sunday, Champa had to spend an extra hour making preparations for lunch.

As Sudha chopped onions on the kitchen counter, Champa spoke: “My mother-in-law watches me like a hawk. It’s as if I’m a devil who’d possess her son and manipulate him to my wishes. She thinks I’m scheming to throw her out of the house. Once she takes the cot, she keeps her ears cocked as I make my bed on the floor. There’s nothing but a curtain that divides the room in half, and she’s wary of me drawing the curtains close, always making excuses. Arré, then why did she wed her son to me? She could have kept him to herself… Didi, you tell me, am I being too demanding?”

The doorbell rang. “Uff, who is it now?” Champa dropped her broom and rushed.

Sudha could overhear their conversation.

“I hope you aren’t selling anything,” Champa said. “Didi will be furious if it’s a salesman so early in the morning that too on a Sunday.”

“Can I speak to… um, Arun Banerjee’s wife?”

“Why? Tell me what you want. Didi is busy.”

“Who is it, Champa?” Sudha craned her neck from the kitchen and intervened.

“He isn’t saying….”

Sudha placed the knife on the chopping board and proceeded to the drawing-room. “Let me speak to him. You go and dice a couple of potatoes.”

The man at the door had a lean physique with an elongated face, a sharp nose and dull eyes. He glanced at Sudha, and then his head wilted like a flower, his chin almost touching his chest.

“Yes, can I help you?”

The man stayed as he was, frozen, staring at his feet.

Sudha frowned. She was about to say something when the man reached for his pocket and took out a wallet. He didn’t have to utter a word since Sudha had recognised it.

“Where did you…?”

The man didn’t answer.

Sudha stood with the wallet in her hand. The weight of memory descended upon her, and her knees trembled.

The police had not found Arun’s wallet on him. Before their arrival, a crowd had hailed a cab to send him to a hospital. The traffic volunteer, who had accompanied him, had found his phone, but not his wallet. Later, the police tracked Sudha to inform her of his death.

Presently, Sudha stood staring at the wallet, tracing her fingers around its edges. She wished to open it but thought it might seem rude. The man was still there, gazing at his feet. He didn’t appear to be well-off. He was wearing a pair of rubber slippers, light grey trousers and a chequered half-sleeve shirt. His clothes were faded due to overuse, and his skin was dark, almost burnt. It looked as if he spent a lot of time in the sun.

“Please, come in,” Sudha said.

The man looked up now. There were dark circles around his eyes, and he had a week-old stubble. His hair was short and generously oiled. “No, thank you,” he said. “I should get going.”

“Please. I would like to know more.”

“More?”

Sudha nodded. “Please.”

The man entered the apartment and looked around. Sudha asked him to take a seat, and he settled on the edge of the sofa uncomfortably.

“Would you like some tea?”

“What? No… it’s alright.”

“A glass of water, perhaps? It’s hot today.”

The man nodded, and Sudha went to the kitchen and asked Champa to fetch a couple of shondésh[1] from the refrigerator. She returned to sit across him, placing the glass of water and the plate of shondésh on the centre table. The man downed the water in a go.

“Where did you find the wallet?”

The man hesitated. “Um, at Gariahat Crossing… I was returning from work… and, and it was lying on the pavement.”

“When was it?” Sudha asked, now opening the wallet to take a look. There were a few currency notes, and the wallet felt heavy because of the coins it had in its pocket. The credit and debit cards were there, as were the receipts and tickets. She closed it and placed it on her lap.

The man was looking at his toes, which curled-uncurled. Sudha repeated herself, and he gulped and trembled and rose to leap at her feet. “I’m sorry,” he said, weeping. “I didn’t steal anything. It’s all there. I didn’t touch a thing….”

Sudha was taken aback; she didn’t know how to react. Champa stood by the kitchen door, bewildered. Sudha placed a hand on the man’s shoulder. “It’s alright… I’m not accusing you. Please, calm down… I just wanted to thank you, nothing more, nothing less….”

The man looked up, still crying. He was on his knees now, hands folded, begging for forgiveness. “I was there when the car hit your husband. I rushed to the spot like others. As they carried him to the cab, I was there to help. Then his wallet fell out of his pocket, and I stole it. I don’t know why. Trust me, I’m no thief. I work for a reputed insurance company. I have committed a grave sin. Please, forgive me….”    

Sudha didn’t know when tears had welled up in her eyes. They were now flowing freely down her cheeks. She composed herself. “I understand. You don’t need to explain. We all make mistakes, but you dared to make it right. I forgive you.”

After the man had gone, Sudha remained on the couch. Champa left too. She asked if there was anything she could do and even offered to return and cook lunch. However, Sudha told her not to trouble herself. “I will manage,” she said.

Presently she opened the wallet and laid its contents on the centre table. Cash—a couple of five-hundred-rupee notes, three hundred-rupee notes, and some loose change—a total of one thousand three hundred and eighty-six rupees. There were four cards; a credit, two debit, and the fourth was a rewards card of an apparel chain.

Sudha recalled the last time they had gone shopping. It was a month before his death. She had noticed that he was barely present, always looking at his phone, replying to messages, smiling to himself. She had caught him in glances browsing through the dresses. He lifted his head only when she asked for his opinion. “It’s good,” he replied, without even a look. They went to the food court at the mall afterwards, but he hardly paid any attention to the food either as he was busy scrolling through his phone.

Sudha sighed; she placed the card down and looked at his driver’s license. On the fateful day, their car was at the service station. Perhaps, if it was there, he would have lived, she ruminated.

In the wallet, she found an envelope, folded to fit. Inside it was a gold charm bracelet with a pearl and a few hearts hanging off the chain. She recollected the last time he had bought her a gift. He had presented her with a wristwatch on her birthday last February. Her eyes brimmed up, and she buried her face in her hands.  

She had no idea what he was doing at Gariahat. Initially, she thought that he was meeting a client. But then his colleague mentioned that Arun had taken the afternoon off — left the office early. Perhaps, he was visiting a friend or a relative. Sudha tried to make sense, understanding very well that no one she knew lived in that neighbourhood.

Presently, she scrambled through the receipts in his wallet. He had the habit of keeping them, no matter how irrelevant they were. An ATM withdrawal slip… A receipt for petrol… for lunch at a restaurant in Park Street… Ice-cream, the same afternoon, at an ice-cream parlour nearby… a couple of parking tickets… and, there it was…the receipt for the bracelet. She glanced at the address of the jewellery store. It was on the same street he was hit by the car.

According to the receipt, he had collected the bracelet three days before his accident and had paid the due amount by his debit card. It also mentioned that he had made an advance payment a week prior.

If he had the bracelet three days before his accident, why didn’t he give it to me? Sudha asked herself. Was he waiting for an appropriate moment? My birthday was, and is, months away. Our anniversary was near, but still weeks away… They did gift each other on these occasions, but it was merely a ritual. Did they feel the same tug of emotions each time they were close? When was the last time they held hands? Sudha couldn’t remember. When was the last time they kissed? Sudha sighed.

She didn’t want to think anymore. She didn’t want to think any less of him. She wished to remember him for the moments they had cherished together, not for the moments they had faltered.

She looked out of the window. The sky was clear without a trace of any clouds. She got up and kept the wallet in her wardrobe amongst the other things that reminded her of him. She changed into something appropriate, brushed her hair, and headed out. She wandered for a while and then hopped onto a bus heading towards Gariahat.

Upon reaching there, she located the jewellery store with ease. It was on the main street, past the Gariahat Market. The person at the shop looked at the receipt and the bracelet. It was a piece of jewellery they had custom-made, and a woman had come with Arun to order it. Arun had paid the due and collected it a week later. Did they have an address? No. But the woman had provided a second phone number, and someone recalled that Arun had referred to the woman as Naina.

Standing on the busy pavement, Sudha hesitated. She then took out her phone and dialled the number. The phone rang for a while, and just when she thought of disconnecting the line, a woman answered. “Hello?”

“Is this Naina?”

“Yes, who is it?”


[1] Bengali sweet made out of cottage cheese

Atreyo Chowdhury was trained to be a mechanical engineer and has a postgraduate degree from IIT Guwahati. Besides writing, he shares an equal passion for music and travelling. He can be found at https://atreyochowdhury.wordpress.com/

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Contents

Borderless February 2022

Winter in Africa. Painting by Sybil Pretious.

Editorial

What’s Love Got to Do with it’ … Click here to read.

Interviews

Sriniketan: Tagore’s “Life Work”: In Conversation with Professor Uma Das Gupta, Tagore scholar, author of A History of Sriniketan, where can be glimpsed what Tagore considered his ‘life’s work’ as an NGO smoothening divides between villagers and the educated. Click here to read.

Akbar: The Man who was King: In conversation with eminent journalist and author, Shazi Zaman, author of Akbar, A Novel of History. Click here to read.

Translations

One Day in the Fog, written by Jibananda Das and translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Mahnu, a poem by Atta Shad, translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

A Superpower in the Pandemic, written and translated from Korean by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Eyes of the Python, a short story by S.Ramakrishnan, translated from Tamil by Dr.B.Chandramouli. Click here to read.

Raatri Eshe Jethay Meshe by Tagore has been translated from Bengali as Where the Night comes to Mingle by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Pandies’ Corner

These stories are written by youngsters from the Nithari village who transcended childhood trauma and deprivation. The column starts with a story, Stranger than Fiction from Sharad Kumar in Hindustani, translated to English by Grace M Sukanya. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Rhys Hughes, A Jessie Michael, Jay Nicholls, Moonmoon Chowdhury, Mike Smith, David Francis, Ananya Sarkar, Matthew James Friday, Ashok Suri, John Grey, Saptarshi Bhattacharya, Candice Louisa Daquin, Emalisa Rose, Ryan Quinn Flanagan

Nature’s Musings

Penny Wilkes explores dewdrops and sunrise in A Dewdrop World. Click here to read.

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

Rhys Hughes explores the paranormal with his usual wit in Three Ghosts in a Boat. Promise not to laugh or smile as you shiver… Click here to read.

Musings/ Slices from Life

Requiem for the Melody Queen

Ratnottama Sengupta sings her own paean in which a chorus of voices across the world join her to pay a tribute to a legend called Lata Mangeshkar. Click here to read.

Forsaking Distant Hemispheres for the Immediate Locale

Meredith Stephens introduces us to the varied fauna found in South Australia with vivid photographs clicked by her. Click here to read.

Breaking the fast

P Ravi Shankar takes us through a breakfast feast around the world. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Life without a Pet, Devraj Singh Kalsi gives a humorous take on why he does not keep a pet. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In Bridging Cultures through Music, author Suzanne Kamata introduces us to Masaki Nakagawa, a YouTuber who loves Lativia and has made it big, playing for the President of Lativia at the Japanese coronation. Click here to read.

Essays

Farewell Keri Hulme

A tribute by Keith Lyons to the first New Zealand Booker Prize winner, Keri Hulme, recalling his non-literary encounters with the sequestered author. Click here to read.

Satyajit Ray’s Cinematic Universe: Can Isolation Lead to a New World?

Rebanta Gupta explores two films of Satyajit Ray, Kanchenjunga & Charulata to see what a sense of isolation can do for humans? Click here to read.

‘What remains is darkness and facing me – Banalata Sen!’

Rakibul Hasan Khan explores death and darkness in Fakrul Alam’s translation of Jibanananda Das’s poetry. Click here to read.

Dhaka Book Fair: A Mansion and a Movement

Ratnottama Sengupta writes of a time a palace called Bardhaman House became the centre of a unique tryst against cultural hegemony. The Language Movement of 1952 that started in Dhaka led to the birth of Bangladesh in 1971. In 1999, UNESCO recognised February 21 as the Mother Language Day. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

 In To Be or Not to Be, Candice Louisa Daquin takes a close look at death and suicide. Click here to read.

Stories

Navigational Error

Luke P.G. Draper explores the impact of pollution with a short compelling narrative. Click here to read.

The Art of Sleeping

Atreyo Chowdhury spins an absurd tale or could it be true? Click here to read.

Dear Dr Chilli…

Maliha Iqbal writes of life as a young girl in a competitive world. Click here to read.

The Literary Fictionist

In MissingSunil Sharma gives us a long literary yarn. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

Two Banalata Sen poems excerpted from Jibanananda Das: Selected Poems with an Introduction, Chronology and Glossary, translated from Bengali by Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Mahasweta Devi, Our Santiniketan. Translated from the Bengali by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Indrashish Banerjee reviews The Best of Travel Writing of Dom Moraes: Under Something of a Cloud. Click here to read.

Gracy Samjetsabam reviews Masala and Murder by Patrick Lyons. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal reviews Kavery Nambisan’s A Luxury called Health. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Growing up Jewish in India: Synagogues, Customs, and Communities from the Bene Israel to the Art of Siona Benjamin, edited by Ori Z. Soltes. Click here to read.

Special Issues

Cry, Our Beloved… Click here to read (For Peace)

Born to be Wild …Click here to read (World Wild Life Day)

Categories
Stories

The Art Of Sleeping

By Atreyo Chowdhury

“Mr Ghosh!”

 Mr Ghosh sat up startled. His colleagues were staring at him. He glanced at them and returned to his boss standing arms akimbo in front of the cubicle. “Do I pay you to sleep on the job?” he bellowed, his nostrils flaring.

“I’m sorry,” Mr Ghosh mewed, wiping the streak of saliva that had dribbled from the corner of his mouth onto the desk.

“Disgusting!”

A pink ball on the dark computer screen bounced about, and Mr Ghosh waited for his boss to march off. He then stretched in his chair, yawned, and rose. Caught sleeping twice in the very first week, not bad, huh? he thought, letting out a silly chuckle as the coffee machine sputtered out a cup.

All of a sudden, the odds of surviving this job appeared far better than the last company he worked for. There, he had been fired after a month-long sleeping streak. Following a miraculous stint of three years and thirty-three days in that miserable dump, his luck finally ran out, and matters snowballed when a colleague posted a video of him on Facebook. The caption read: The Art of Sleeping. The post spread through the office like wildfire. In the video, Mr Ghosh was seen with his head cupped in his hands, elbows on the desk, eyes shut, an innocent smile on his lips. It was hard to discern if he was dozing as the computer screen reflected on his glasses. But in the two-minute-long video, many of his colleagues made necessary appearances; some dancing, doing the pelvic thrust near his face, others miming and gesticulating obscenity. Eventually, the video made it to his supervisor, who laughed his head off, falling off the chair and rolling on the floor. He decided to not summon Mr Ghosh and instead ordered the CCTV cameras to be focused such that he could keep a watch.

On payday, Mr Ghosh was the only employee to not receive his salary, and he went to his supervisor to enquire. His supervisor ushered him into the conference room, where a couple of board members were present. They commended him for his hard work and dedication to the company, enthusing that he deserved a promotion or a hefty bonus at the very least. This continued for a while as Mr Ghosh spent dreaming of the car he fancied. At the end of it all, his supervisor slipped a DVD into the video player. In the footage, Mr Ghosh was seen in his cubicle sound asleep. The dates at the corner of the screen changed through the month, fast-forwarded, only to be slowed down in stretches when his supervisor gleefully appeared to wave his hand between the computer screen and Mr Ghosh to let the viewers know that Mr Ghosh was indeed asleep.

The room convulsed in the laughter of those men; old, haggard and disgusting, so much so that Mr Ghosh felt sick deep in his gut. He dashed out of the room and didn’t bother to collect his belongings. He ran to the street and caught a taxi home, to his bed, to hide under the blanket and cry, sleep, cry—repeat.

His wife, pregnant at the time, was so alarmed to see him in this state that she urged him to visit a doctor. When he wouldn’t, she grabbed him by his arm and dragged him to the neighbourhood physician. The doctor examined Mr Ghosh and dispatched him home with pills to boost his vitality. However, Mr Ghosh did not show any improvement whatsoever, and one could argue that his condition deteriorated for the worse. He neither ate nor uttered a word and simply stayed put in his bed, awake like an owl all night and repeating the cycle; cry-sleep-cry, during the day.

Terrified, his wife hauled him to a psychiatrist next. Alone in his chamber, Mr Ghosh burst into tears. He trembled, recounting the brutal, inhuman act, choking between sobs and gulping through a jug of water.

The doctor adjusted his spectacles and asked. “Do you doze off almost anywhere?”

Mr Ghosh nodded, blowing his nose in a handkerchief.

“Is the urge to sleep irresistible, almost uncontrollable?”

“Yes.”

“Do you dream during these episodes? Do they seem real, life-like?”

Mr Ghosh straightened up in excitement. “Yes, yes!”

The doctor rose and circumambulated his desk three times. He then came to a stop beside Mr Ghosh and asked, “Would you describe your night-time sleep as disturbed, incomplete?”

Mr Ghosh almost leapt out of his chair, but the doctor patted him down in place. He made a grave face and informed Mr Ghosh that he seemed to suffer from a rare neurological disorder—narcolepsy. It was quite a mouthful for Mr Ghosh, and the doctor had to break it down into syllables.

Mr Ghosh’s shoulders drooped, and the doctor paced about the room, explaining the complexity of it. “Narcolepsy affects just two in ten thousand people. You see, it’s quite rare. Presently, there’s no cure available, and we can only work towards mitigating the symptoms… Orexin is a hormone that helps us stay awake; it is produced in the brain, and in patients with narcolepsy, the cells in that region are irreversibly damaged. The culprit is none other than the patient’s own immune system. Isn’t that fascinating?”

Mr Ghosh tried his best to follow, but the doctor seemed elusive, not only in his movement but also in his explanation. “In general, we progress through multiple sleep cycles every night, each composed of four stages.” His body and arms swayed gracefully in tune with the rhythmic drone of medical jargon he expressed in his silky voice. It was as if he was singing a lullaby and not describing a disease. “…a normal person would enter the fourth stage, thedreaming phase, only after ninety minutes. But a patient with narcolepsy would go into it within minutes of falling asleep…”

A vortex of images tumbled inside Mr Ghosh’s brain, and he found it impossible to keep his head upright. The doctor’s chamber turned misty; it began receding from his vision. The doctor’s voice, now garbled, trailed off into silence.

Mr Ghosh heard a faint tinkling of an anklet approaching, and he looked up to see his mother bear down upon him with a sweaty face and wild flowing hair. She screamed, and a gust of wind blasted across his face. A chill ran up his spine, and he cowered into a ball, shivering. He shut his eyes, and he was at his desk, studying. The room was dark except for the light from the table lamp. His pen kept slipping from his fingers, and his head kept drooping. From the corner of his eyes, he noticed a hand creep towards him as if not to disturb him, yet with a fearful intention. It picked up speed, and whack, it struck him on the back of his head. His heart leapt to his throat, and he swivelled to see his father’s face emerge out of the shadow, large angry eyes, bared gritted teeth. He could smell his breath.

In the calm after the storm,

She walked away.

Drenched in love,

I scaled the peaks, but alas…

Ms D’Souza turned from the blackboard, and the boys drooled at her sight—her curly hair and dreamy eyes. Mr Ghosh grinned, standing on a bench, holding his ears. The scent of bél flowers in her hair sent his senses into a tizzy as she walked past, reciting the poem. He closed his eyes…only to be violently roused by a thunderous cheer of a football match. He stood leaning against the goalpost, his hair ruffled by the summer breeze that carried the smell of fresh-cut grass. The scores were tied with only a minute to go, and his team fought on. He could hear the crowd applause; scream with frantic passion but could only figure out Ms D’Souza, standing amidst them, beckoning him. She looked beautiful in a simple white gown, a yellow lily behind her ear. He grinned coyly and stretched out his arms, but… whoosh, the ball whizzed past, barely missing his face. He opened his eyes to discover that the ball lay tangled inside the net as the opponent team huddled in jubilation. He had dozed off yet again, leaning against the goalpost…

“…Someone with your condition can carry on with day-to-day activities in half-asleep states, and, and…they often experience sleep paralysis while awake, conscious… Mr Ghosh? Mr Ghosh!”

Mr Ghosh sprang up in his seat.

“Was it another of your episodes?” the doctor asked.

“Um, I don’t know. It might have been.”

Outside, his wife was reading a film magazine. She looked at him quizzically, but he said nothing. He simply smiled and helped her onto her feet as she struggled with her skewed centre of gravity. Then as they returned home in a taxi, holding hands, Mr Ghosh, gazing at the passing vehicles, shops and buildings, lamented about their future. He predicted it. “I don’t know how present I’d be when you’d give birth to our child. I’d probably miss her subsequent birthdays too, his—if it’s a boy, doze off in a corner and wake up when they sing the birthday song. I’d miss the precious moments in life, like when our kiddo takes her first step or calls me papa. I’d be fired from jobs, only to keep moving from one company to another. I might not even be there for you when you need me, and you may find me snoozing on the couch as you recount your day or grouse about your friends. I’d someday purchase a car but never get to drive it, take you on a long, romantic drive. I’d create awkward and embarrassing situations, both in private and public, be a burden, and multiply your troubles as I grow old. For all that, I am sorry. I understand that those incidents would leave you helpless, angry, frustrated or even disgusted at times. But in the end, I’m certain you’d always awaken me with a smile, not with a hoot or a slap. You wouldn’t mock my imperfections or take me as lazy, clumsy or socially awkward. And for that, I’d forever be grateful…”

Atreyo Chowdhury was trained to be a mechanical engineer and has a postgraduate degree from IIT Guwahati. Besides writing, he shares an equal passion for music and travelling. He can be found at https://atreyochowdhury.wordpress.com/

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Contents

Borderless, May 2021

Editorial

And this too shall pass… Click here to read

Translations

Songs of Seasons: Translated by Fakrul Alam

Bangla Academy literary award winning translator, Dr Fakrul Alam, translates six seasonal songs of Tagore. Click here to read.

Temples and Mosques

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s fiery essay translated by Sohana Manzoor. Click here to read.

Purify My Life

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poem, Purify my Life, translated by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu. Click here to read.

Waiting for Godot by Akbar Barakzai

Akbar Barakzai’s poem translated by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Solus

Aditya Shankar translates a poem by Sujith Kumar. Click here to read.

The Last Boat

Tagore’s Diner Sheshe Ghoomer Deshe translated by Mitali Chakravarty with an interpretation in pastels by Sohana Manzoor. Click here to read.

Poetry

Anasuya Bhar, Scott Thomas Outlar, Saranyan BV, Matthew James Friday, Nitya Mariam John, RJ Kaimal, Jay Nicholls, Tasneem Hossain, Rhys Hughes, Vatsala Radhakeesoon, Ihlwha Choi, Himadri Lahiri, Sunil Sharma, Mike Smith, Jared Carter

Nature’s Musings

Photo-Poetry by Penny & Michael Wilkes. Click here to read.

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

Lear and Far

As a tribute to the 209th anniversary of Edward Lear, Rhys Hughes writes of his famous poem, ‘Owl and the Pussycat’, and writes a funny ending for it rooted in the modern day. Click here to read.

Stories

If at all

Shobha Nandavar, a physician in Bangalore, depicts the trauma of Covid 19 in India with compassion. Click here to read.

First Lady

Rituparna Khan gives us a brief vignette from the life of one of the first women doctors in India, Dr Kadambari Ganguly. Click here to read.

Mr Dutta’s Dream

Atreyo Chowdhury takes us into the world of unquenchable wanderlust. Click here to read.

Neemboo Ka Achaar or Maa’s Lemon Pickle

A compelling flash fiction by Suyasha Singh hovering around food and a mother’s love. Click here to read.

The Literary Fictionist

In A Lunch Hour Crisis, Sunil Sharma raises humanitarian concerns that though raised in a pandemic-free world, have become more relevant and concerning given our current predicament. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Serve the People

Danielle Legault Kurihara, a Quebecker in Japan, writes of differences in rituals. Click here to read.

Why I write?
Basudhara Roy tells us how writing lingers longer than oral communications. Click here to read more.

The Quiet Governance of Instinct

Candice Louisa Daquin, a psychotherapist, talks of the importance of trusting our instincts. Click here to read more.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Nations without NobelDevraj Singh Kalsi takes a fresh look at national pride with a soupçon of sarcasm and humour. Click here to read.

Adventures of the Backpacking Granny

In Visit to Rural BaoyingSybil Pretious travels to spend a night with a local family in rural China in a ‘hundred-year-old home’.Click here to read.

Essays

Four Seasons and an Indian Summer

Keith Lyons talks of his experiences of seasons in different places, including Antarctica. Click here to read.

Rabindranath and the Etchings of His Mind

Anasuya Bhar explores the various lives given to a publication through the different edited versions, translations and films, using Tagore as a case study and the work done to provide these online. Click here to read.

My Experiments with Identity

Tejas Yadav explores identity from the context Heraclitus, Rumi down to his own. Click here to read.

Can Songs be the Musical Conscience of a Film?

Prithvijeet Sinha uses Gaman (Departure), a Hindi movie around the pain of migrant workers, as a case study to highlight his contention that lyrics and songs convey much in Indian films. Click here to read.

Bhaskar’s Corner

In Manoj Das – The Master Storyteller, Bhaskar Parichha pays a tribute to one of the greatest storytellers from the state of Odisha, India, Manoj Das( 1934-2021). Click here to read.

Book Excerpt

Excerpted from A Bengali Lady in England (1885): Annotated Translation with Critical Introduction to Krishnabhabini Das’ Englandey Bangamahila by Nabanita Sengupta. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

A review of Feisal Alkazi‘s memoir, Enter Stage Right: The Alkazi Padamsee Family Memoir by Rakhi Dalal. Click here to read.

A review of Shakti Ghosal‘s The Chronicler of the Hooghly and Other Stories by Gracy Samjetsabam. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Raising a Humanist by Manisha Pathak-Shelat‘s and Kiran Vinod Bhatia. Click here to read.

Interviews

Communication scholars and authors, Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia, discuss how to bring up children in these troubled times, based on their book, Raising a Humanist, which has just been released. Click here to read.

Sonya J Nair of Samyukta Poetry talks about the Samyukta Research Foundation and its affiliates and its festival, Anantha. Click here to read.

Sara’s Selections, May 2021

A selection of young person’s writings from Bookosmia. Click here to read.

Categories
Stories

Mr Dutta’s Dream

By Atreyo Chowdhury

Mr Dutta’s dream of travelling around the world died with him. He was seventy-seven; an old lonely soul, who until the very end, never gave up his desire to see the world. 

Like any other day, that morning too, Mr Dutta sat on the balcony with a cup of steaming tea placed within his reach as he witnessed the sky turn bronze. His fading eyes stared fixed at an apartment building across the street. He wasn’t looking at anything in particular; his mind was already engaged.

The images swam in his head.

The Egyptian Pyramids—the mighty structures that housed the tombs of the great Pharaohs stood amidst an undulated sea of golden sand under a clear blue sky. A caravan moved leisurely with the wind breathing against them, bringing with it their presence; the faint tinkle of camel bells in an infinite ocean of silence. Mr Dutta closed his eyes. He inhaled the parched air and smiled.

His mind stretched next to a summer evening in Paris, the sun dipping, the sky turning scarlet-blue. He was in a café at the edge of a narrow cobblestoned lane, where a young couple stood kissing, a musician played the accordion, a group of girls giggled past, and a man walked his dog.

Bonjour, Monsieur, Merci, Au revoir,” Mr Dutta said aloud, taking his time, articulating each syllable in the best manner he could. This was all the French he knew.

A silly chuckle left his mouth, and he reached forward. His hands trembled as he held the teacup. He sipped the milky-brown liquid with a long slurp and closed his eyes once again. He was now in the land of the rising sun, walking barefoot along a trail flanked by delicate pink cherry blossom trees.

Mr Dutta’s dream was born on a mushy summer evening sixty-seven years ago. He was at his friend’s place, hunched over a photo-album, looking agog at the photographs from across the globe. Every single picture captured his imagination, and in his mind, he began replacing his friend’s father—a stout, balding man having a pencil moustache with a tall, handsome young man, which he had no doubt he would grow to be.

His friend’s father, Uncle Jodu was in the merchant navy. Listening to him speak about his journeys, and watching him bounce about the room like a clockwork toy fetching little souvenirs; a key chain from London, a bottle of Vodka from Russia, a purple hand-fan from Japan, set Mr Dutta’s heart pounding furiously. He felt a flutter in his guts and knew in that precise moment that he had no other option than to join the merchant navy and sail as far as the seas stretched.

Since that evening, all Mr Dutta could do was daydream. He couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, couldn’t study or even speak. He was lost in a world of his own; travelling places, tasting exotic dishes, speaking new languages, making friends… Every day, he sat by his window, reading travelogues and maps, scribbling itineraries in a little red notebook, which, when he slept, found its place tucked safely under his pillow.

After finishing school, Mr Dutta went to college, still with his little red notebook in his pocket, and with the photos of that photo-album riveted into his memory. But he hadn’t planned against the misfortunes of life. His father’s business, which was small but sturdy until then, plummeted, and in the process, his father’s health faded too. With his father’s death, after a year of doctors and medicines, Mr Dutta had no other option but to drop out of college.

For months, he wandered through the city with letters of recommendation and found a position in a bank as a clerk. Years tumbled by, and one afternoon, while he sat at his desk chewing the excess of his fingernails, he remembered the little red notebook that had been gathering dust in his drawer all these years. The photographs flashed in front of his eyes like the spring sun, and he jumped from his seat, took out his little red notebook, and went to the branch manager’s cabin, to quit. The branch manager blinked at him curiously. Mr Dutta took a deep breath, and the moment he was about to utter the words, the phone rang. It was for him.

His mother was taken ill, and she had expressed her desire to see her son for the last time. Mr Dutta hurried to attend to his ailing mother, unaware of the consequences. The old lady, breathing heavy, took hold of his hand and whispered into his ear her death-wish. In a week, Mr Dutta was married—with his mother totally recovered, alive, with a mischievous grin.

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Mr Dutta had known his wife since their childhood. Their families were close, and as a kid, Mr Dutta had always heard them reiterate how perfect they were for each other. So married life didn’t offer many surprises, apart from the fact that his responsibilities mounted and that he could barely save any money or time for his unfulfilled dream.      

A year later, his wife gave birth to a son, and Mr Dutta holding that tiny creature in his arms felt immense joy. But deep within, he was confounded by fear. He struggled from that moment on, juggling his role as a father and simultaneously maintaining his identity as a wanderer. It was exasperating to be rooted and possess a soul that wanted to expand limitlessly. He woke up often in the middle of the night, weeping; thinking of abandoning everything and running away. But something held him back.

As Mr Dutta’s son showed promise academically, he wanted his son to go abroad for higher studies. He revisited his dreams once again and expressed a desire to accompany his son. But the expenses were too high; he had already taken a loan to support his son’s expenditures, besides he couldn’t dream of going without his beloved wife. The day his son left for the USA, Mr Dutta pressed his forehead against the glass window at the airport watching the flight take-off; consoling himself that at least a part of him was off to see the world.

The year Mr Dutta retired, his son completed his education, returned to Calcutta, found a suitable girl, married, and announced his decision to settle in the USA. Mr Dutta had been awaiting the news secretly and knew it was only a matter of time before his son would ask them to join him.

He waited.

Each evening, as the old couple sat on the balcony expecting their son’s telephone call, Mr Dutta would fetch his little red notebook. He would announce his plans of travelling across the Americas—from Alaska to Argentina—with a must-do list:

  1. Watch the sunset at The Grand Canyon
  2. Gamble in a Las Vegas Casino
  3. Take a boat ride along the Amazon (catch a glimpse of an anaconda)
  4. Walk barefoot over the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni.
  5. Experience the lost world of the Incas
  6. Visit the Galápagos Islands…

His wife would listen, smile assuredly, but make no comments.

One evening, as Mr Dutta extended his plans further south to Antarctica, his wife suffered a stroke. She died a few days later.      

At her cremation, his son hugged him and said that it would take another year before he could come and stay with them. He appointed an attendant for the old man and left. Days turned into months, and months turned into years. Mr Dutta’s vision was fading now, and in his knees, gout had set in.

The telephone rang as Mr Dutta finished his evening tea and an extensive tour of the central African rainforest. The attendant received the call and handed it over. Tears trickled down as he listened to his son. He couldn’t speak; so unbound was his joy. Finally, he was going across the Atlantic.

The sun had now set, and Mr Dutta sat still.

In the distance, a figure was appearing out of the mist. Mr Dutta strained his eyes to discern the outlines of it—the Statue of Liberty. He grinned. A flock of seagulls circled overhead, and the waves crashed against the ferry. A crimson sun was dawning against a greyish-orange sky…

Atreyo Chowdhury was trained to be a mechanical engineer and has a postgraduate degree from IIT Guwahati. Besides writing, he shares an equal passion for music and travelling. He can be found at https://atreyochowdhury.wordpress.com/

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL.