Categories
Editorial

We Did It!

That good things happen despite darkness, despite prognostications of doom, that light glimmers hope if you strive to focus on your strength in hard times is borne true both in fiction and in life. Perhaps, we cannot get back the old ways (but is that what we want?) but new paths emerge. Old gives way to new. And while trying to gather pearls of human excellence — borne not of awards or degrees but of bringing out the best, the kindest, the most loving in human hearts — we managed to create with a team an outstanding anthology. Woven with the writings of old and new — we created a tapestry together that the editor in chief of our publishing house said was “classy, literary, engaging and international”. That one of the oldest and most reputed publishing houses in India with bookshops countrywide took it on was also an unusual event! We are truly grateful to Om Books International, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri and Jyotsna Mehta along with all our writers and readers who made our anthology a reality, and to Radha Chakravarty and Fakrul Alam for the kind words they bestowed on our effort.

Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles

Please greet our first anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles, with love and friendship. It could be the perfect Christmas gift in the spirit of the season! And as the blurb says, “it will definitely bring a smile to your face because it is a celebration of the human spirit.”

The anthology is different from our journal in as much as it has a sample of an eclectic collection that has been honed with further editing and has some new features. Most of the writing is from our first year and showcases our ethos, except for Lesya’s poetry and interview. Lesya Bakun from Ukraine is still on the run, looking for a refuge — she cannot return home like you or I can. Her family is scattered across number of countries. Her cousin, who was guarding the factory at Azovstal, was taken prisoner. We included her story in the anthology hoping to create global empathy for refugees as the numbers will increase not only due to war but also due to climate change.

The reason we felt a hardcopy anthology was a good idea was because nothing beats the joy of having a bunch of interesting reads in the warmth of your hands (especially where internet cannot reach or is unavailable). In any case, books with the feel of paper, the rustling whispers which carry voices of leaves can never be replaced as Goutam Ghose had also said in his interview which is now part of our anthology.

And that is why we celebrate more books… this time we feature Singaporean prima donna of literature, Suchen Christine Lim, with her new book Dearest Intimate, a novel that spans more than hundred years including the harrowing Japanese invasion during World War II. She shared sound advice with writers: “Suffering is good for the writer. It will deepen lived experience and expand the heart’s empathy.” And perhaps that is what is echoed through the experiences of the other writer interviewed on our pages by Keith Lyons. This is a writer who not only brought out his own books but was a regular contributor of travel pieces for Frommer’s and National Geographic traveling to unexplored destinations — Christopher Winnan. Another writer Lyon had interviewed recently, Steve Carr, has passed on. We would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

We have a number of books that have been reviewed. Reba Som reviewed Aruna Chakravarti’s Through the Looking Glass: Stories that span eras spread across time. Somdatta Mandal has reviewed Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Birth Lottery and Other Surprises and Bhaskar Parichha, Rahul Ramagundam’s The Life and Times of George Fernandes. Basudhara Roy has written of Afsar Mohammad’s Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems, translated from Telugu by the poet and Shamala Gallagher, verses that again transcend borders and divides. We have an excerpt from the same book and another from Manoranjan Byapari’s How I Became a Writer: An Autobiography of a Dalit, translated from Bengali by Anurima Chanda.

More translations from Bengali, Balochi and Korean enrich our November edition. Fazal Baloch has translated a story by Haneef Shareef and Rituparna Mukherjee by Shankhadeep Bhattacharya. We have the translation of an inspirational Tagore poem helping us find courage (Shonkho Dhulaye Pore or ‘the conch lies in the dust’). Another such poem by Nazrul has been rendered in English from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. He has also shared an autobiographical musing on how he started translating Tagore’s Gitabitan, which also happens to be his favourite book. More discussion on the literary persona of TS Eliot and the relevance of his hundred year old poem — ‘The Waste Land’ by Dan Meloche adds variety to our essay section.

Evoking the genius of another outstanding artiste, Kishore Kumar, who happened to pen thought provoking dialogues in some films, is Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri’s essay, review of a recent book on the legendary actor-singer and an interview with the authors. Infringing the boundaries of literary with popular culture and art and integrating all forms into a wholistic bundle has been part of our ethos. In that spirit we have a musing by Prithvijeet Sinha on Edvard Munch’s famous painting called Scream. We have non-fiction from Australia spanning Meredith Stephens’s recent brush with Covid, Mike Smith visits a Scottish beach in the footsteps of a novelist, Ravi Shankar has given us a poignant piece for a late friend and Candice Lousia Daquin talks of the existence of bi-racial biases. In contrast, Suzanne Kamata sent a narrative that bridges divides showcasing a German wife of a Japanese scientist that draws us to conclude that biases erode over time to create an acceptance of bi-racial people. Devraj Singh Kalsi brings in humour with his funny narrative about a guitarist. Rhys Hughes writes in a lighter vein on Indian cuisine in his column and spouts more funny poetry bordering on the absurd.

Jared Carter has shared beautiful poetry on murmuration in birds and we have touching verses from Asad Latif for a little girl he met on a train — reminiscent of Tagore’s poem Hide and Seek (Lukochuri). Michael R Burch has given us poems setting sombre but beautiful notes for the season. We host more poetry by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Quratulain Qureshi, Jim Bellamy, Gayatri Majumdar, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Alpana, Jonathan Chan, Saranyan BV, George Freek and many more. We have stories from around the world: India, France and Bangladesh.

Gathering all of your thoughts in strings of words from all corners of the world, we present to you the bumper November issue of Borderless Journal . Thank you all for sharing your thoughts with us. Thanks to Sohana Manzoor for her fantastic painting and more thanks to the whole Borderless team for seeing this issue through. We would not have been able to do the anthology or these issues without each one of you — writers and readers.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

There is always hope for a new tomorrow!

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles

Categories
Poetry

Black Queen Devil

Hybrid Poetry by Mimi Bordeaux

they have drawn epistles, narrative cannonballs, dispatched correspondence and reprints 

prose before puberty what place would you want in the future..?

Having drawn from many artists, poets, scientists, eccentrics eventually falling into your own house of writing, now I ask how to sit properly or eat before using the cutlery? Am I entitled to this family? 

I read books given to me, bought for Christmas and ones I bought myself for true keeps. 
Lots were passed down from my older sister Danielle the year I turned 13; the early 70's. 
Woman of the Future by David Ireland. I was given this by Danielle with the words, 'this book reminded me of you '. 
Althea, the protagonist with a brain full of ideas and the body of the androgen, metamorphosis into a leopard near the end. Besotted I was, I imagined Althea around the places I played. She walked with me to school and stayed with me until I  layed on the grass later in the year, with a new fascination; The Interpretation of Dreams by Freud.  Given to me for my 13th birthday my grandma asked me what it was I liked so much about Freud. I think she thought I was too young to be reading such a controversial composition.  
Carefully recording my own dreams, pen in hand, I held a ton of notes in a scrambled batch of excercise books. 
My bedroom was strewn with paperwork and pictures of favourite artists. My school work lay around somewhere. I knew how to find anything in a split second. 

Oh teachers of the plain high school I attended. I'm sure you meant well but you had a hellraiser on your hands not to mention one up and coming intellectual who was also an existentialist. I wrote an essay on the subject and the teacher didn't believe that I had written it, accusing me of plagiarism. I swore black and blue that I didn't but he gave me a 'D'. Other teachers weren't so hasty in their appraisal, knowing fully well that I was a special case, either doomed for failure or going places with the mind of its own. Right, wrong.

Grieving for years I drank my heart out, writing songs that succeeded traditional melodies using chromatic scales as a base for a tune. I was onstage, my only home. Reality didn't interest me; writing songs about my predictions did. And I was always right. The psychic nature of mine was always accurate. 
And so on until I died. 

An autopsy revealed that I had consumed a number of barbiturates, heroin and cocaine. My stomach had swollen to the highest value. So I was cremated, indeed the first fire I had ever been to. No, the second. 

Once I was running out late, my ex husband following me. As I turned the corner I saw a huge amount of smoke coming from the chemist store. I ran into it, engulfed by fire all around me: burning hell. It looked so strange, like an orange sky lit up for Guy Fawks Night. Quickly I ran across the street without seeing him again and back at home, my clothes worn and black. 
For pennies, opals, amethysts and Onyx, my black queen you are the devil and dance of Eden. Fantasy of becoming someone, something, to look for the next new free styler is a hard department at all times. Open only at certain times. It takes luck to know when. Capacity full they say. Not true. 
All welcome at the house of fame and glory. 
Black Queen knows.

Mimi Bordeaux likes drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes in Melbourne Australia. She writes dark prose and hybrid poetry.

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Categories
Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

Crossing the Date Line

Courtesy: Creative Commons

I have long been fascinated by the International Date Line, which I have never yet crossed but still intend to. I have unreasonable qualms that crossing it will change a person in some way, will project them into the past or future by a day and that some part of them will always remain displaced from the present. Even if they cross the line again in the opposite direction, they won’t entirely be back in alignment with themselves. It is difficult to explain without resorting to vague words such as ‘soul’ and the idea is without any basis in fact anyway. Yet it is a feeling that persists beyond logical thought.

I suppose that the origins of my excessive interest in the Date Line can be found in one of Jules Verne’s best novels, Around the World in Eighty Days, a book with one of the best twist endings ever devised. Phileas Fogg the explorer makes a bet that he can circumnavigate the Earth in only eighty days and thanks to an unfortunate set of circumstances he fails by one day. Or does he? He has crossed the Date Line from the east in order to enter the western hemisphere and thus has gone back in time one day. When he realises this fact, he uses the extra day to win the bet. Geometry saves him.

For a long time, I wondered why Verne wasn’t praised more highly for this brilliant plot device, but now I ask myself if it wasn’t a conceit he borrowed from Edgar Allan Poe, of whom he was a great admirer. Verne’s novel was first published in 1872 but thirty years earlier Poe’s short story ‘Three Sundays in a Week’ utilised the same ingenious idea for quite a different purpose. When the name of Poe is mentioned, we imagine tales of horror and bitter despair, morbid scenes, grotesque irony, but he also wrote strange comedies and ‘Three Sundays in a week’ is one of his lightest and happiest.

The narrator, Bobby, wishes to marry Kate, but her obstreperous father, Mr Rumgudgeon, is against the match while pretending to approve of it. He offers a generous dowry with his blessings but when Bobby asks that a date be fixed for the wedding, Mr Rumgudgeon replies that it will happen “when three Sundays come together in a week!”. This impossible condition is a cruelly humorous attempt to forestall the wedding. But Bobby is a clever young man. He knows a way in which the unfair condition can be met.

He arranges a dinner for himself, Kate and her father, and two guests, both of them sea captains who had lately returned from voyages around the world. The crucial point is that Captain Smitherton and Captain Pratt sailed in different directions while circumnavigating the globe. The dinner is held on a Sunday, but it is only Sunday for Bobby, Kate and Mr Rumgudgeon: for Captain Smitherton yesterday was Sunday and for Captain Pratt the next day would be Sunday. Thus, the impossible condition is met. It is a week with three Sundays in it and no further objection to the marriage can be made.

Poe was very clear in his mind about the technicalities of time difference in such voyages, as was Verne, but confusion about east/west crossings of the Line forms one of the recurrent absurdist jokes in W.E. Bowman’s The Cruise of the Talking Fish, in which the crew of a pioneering raft accidentally disrupt, at great cost, the launching of an experimental rocket from a remote Pacific island. This book was published in 1957 (one century after the midpoint date between Poe’s short story and Verne’s novel). It is a magnificent comedy that manages to make the reader doubt their own knowledge of how the Date Line works. And in truth the mechanics of the crossing still confuse me.

Yet another novel that utilises the Date Line and the oddities surrounding it is Umberto Eco’s The Island of the Day Before in which a becalmed sailor on a ship near an island that lies on the other side of the Line indulges in speculation as to the physical and metaphysical significance of our conventions of time. The island is unreachable but remains as an anchor that tethers his mind to the topic and he is unable to stop wondering (and extrapolating this wonder) until flights of fancy turn into mathematically-based obsessions. There is always the lurking suspicion that the Line is not just a human convention but something true that is now embedded in nature as a thriving paradox.

Deep down, I still believe that crossing the Line is an act of time travel, not only in terms of human timekeeping but also in relation to the natural world, so that a man who sails into tomorrow can find out the news of the day and learn such things from the newspapers or radio as to who has won a cricket match, then recross the Line in the opposite direction and lay bets on that team, raking in huge winnings. Or a man who has suffered an accident and is badly wounded can be carried back one day into the past, where he is well again and when the following day dawns, he can take evasive action.

I know that none of this is true, but I feel it is right nonetheless, and I have written my own stories in which the Date Line features, one of them being ‘The International Geophysical Ear’, which is about a gigantic ear positioned on the Line itself that can hear both backwards and forwards in time, and another being ‘The Chopsy Moggy’, concerning a talking cat who unfortunately turns up late for an inter-species conference that will determine the future of humanity. There are others and undoubtedly more will be written.

The Date Line has been host to rather strange happenings in reality as well as in fiction. On the map, it is no longer a straight line that follows the longitude of 180 degrees east and west. It veers abruptly to avoid landmasses, taking wide detours around islands. But once it deviated not one inch. It speared through the atolls and islands it encountered, dividing them in half, so that a person had the opportunity of standing with one leg in today and the other in yesterday or even tomorrow. Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean, the last dwelling place of woolly mammoths (still around when the pyramids were being constructed in Egypt), was one of these special places. Three Fijian islands too: Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Rambi, where unscrupulous plantation owners forced workers to cross the Line on Sundays to prevent them having a day off.

There is also the interesting fact that the equator crosses the Date Line and that a point therefore exists where it is summer and winter simultaneously while also being today and tomorrow (or yesterday). The SS Warrimoo was a ship that routinely travelled between Canada and Australia. On the last day of December 1899, the ship was very close to the point where the equator meets the Date Line and Captain Phillips realised that if he positioned the SS Warrimoo exactly on that point, something very curious could be achieved. He gave instructions for this to happen and on the stroke of midnight his vessel lay at 0 degrees latitude and 180 degrees longitude. Magical coordinates…

The forward part of the ship was now in the southern hemisphere and thus in summer while the rear remained in the northern hemisphere and in winter. Half of the SS Warrimoo was in the year 1899 (December) while the other half was now in the year 1900 (January). Captain Philipps was skipper of a vessel that was in two different days, two different months, two different seasons, two different hemispheres and two different centuries. Of course, the objection can be raised that December 30 is not the last day of a year. But the Captain waited until midnight before reaching the miracle point. December 31 did come but it flashed past in less than the blink of a mermaid’s eye. The ship leapfrogged an entire day, or at least the vast majority of it.

My hope is that there was a copy of Around the World in Eighty Days on board the ship when it made that spectacular crossing, or maybe a collection of the short stories of Poe. It is highly unlikely this was the case, of course. And I have just now had another thought. Suppose you are reading Verne’s novel on a ship that crosses the Line in an easterly direction. You have been reading it all day and have reached the last few chapters. Suddenly the ship crosses the Line and you are back in yesterday and find yourself only on the first page again. You might be frustrated not to know the ending to the book. Let me assist you. The hero and the heroine do get married.

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

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Categories
Poetry

Cogitations by Kirpal Singh

Courtesy: Creative Commons
COGITATIONS

I read some of my old letters-
Friends and lovers and miscellaneous.
I wonder if I should keep any?

How does one preserve privacy 
When one is told to donate
Private stuff to libraries?
Because- they flatter—
One is deemed to be special.

I struggle both for right words 
And also right conduct!

In the end I’d probably succumb.
Do what my betters have done:
Donate but with time-limits
So the immediate won’t hurt.

What a privilege to have —
Choose between now or later!

Kirpal Singh is a poet and a literary critic from Singapore. An internationally recognised scholar,  Singh has won research awards and grants from local and foreign universities. He was one of the founding members of the Centre for Research in New Literatures, Flinders University, Australia in 1977; the first Asian director for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1993 and 1994, and chairman of the Singapore Writers’ Festival in the 1990s. He retired the Director of the Wee Kim Wee Centre.

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Categories
Slices from Life

A Tale of Two Flags in the South Pacific

Meredith Stephens visits an island that opted to adopt the ways of foreign settlers with her camera and narrates her experiences…

It was the fifth week of our New Caledonia sailing trip from Australia. We had just returned to the Noumea marina from the Loyalty Islands and were flying one of the flags of our host country, the indigenous Kanak flag. We were sitting down to a boat lunch of a baguette with delectable French cheeses, when we heard a gentle knock, so gentle that we thought it must have been for someone else. Then we heard the knock again. Alex went out onto the pontoon to see an immaculately dressed Caledoche[1]. He had something urgent to tell us.

“It’s absolutely fine to fly the Kanak flag, but we have had three referenda about independence from France, and we have decided to remain with France,” he said in impeccable English. “There was an American here recently who was flying a Kanak flag. I told him that was fine, but then I asked him why he didn’t fly the flags of native Americans as his home flag. As for you, you should consider flying the First Nations Australian flag on your boat,” he continued. “But as I said, it’s absolutely fine. It’s your choice.”

I could see that it was not fine. As they walked away back along the pontoon I called out.

“We love France!”

It was true. As guests in New Caledonia the last thing we wanted to do was to make political commentary. We had no idea how high feelings were running on this issue. Alex immediately restored a large French flag above the Kanak one.

The visitor didn’t appear to be from the marina so he must have found his way through the locked gates and walked along the pontoon, especially to speak to us. Only then did we realise how prominent our flag had been. We were berthed at the end of the pontoon and were visible from any point in the busy harbour.

The next morning a Caledoche skipper greeted me as they walked along the pontoon. Then they said to me in English, “It looks better with the French flag on top, doesn’t it?” Not wanting to draw attention to ourselves again, I clapped my hands in applause in their direction as they retreated down the pontoon. “You’ve won!” was my intended meaning, but they looked at me quizzically.

On our last day before the long voyage back to the east coast of Australia we provisioned the boat. Before going to the supermarket, I persuaded Alex to take me to my favorite boulangerie. I looked at the breakfast menu and ordered two cappuccinos and two pain au chocolat. This would be one of the last conversations I would have in French, and I was happy not to have attracted any strange looks in response to my accented French. I was also happy to start the long week of sailing with a pain au chocolat.

Once back at the marina, my final duty was to empty our rubbish in the bins beyond the gates to the pontoon. As I was emptying the last of the rubbish, I noticed two Kanak gentlemen outside the gates, calling to one of the boaties inside the gates in French.

“Do you speak English? I want to get a message to the boaties at the end of the pontoon.”

The boatie shrugged his shoulders and retreated to his boat.

I realised he was referring to us. Our flying of the flags must have identified us as outsiders. I addressed the Kanak gentlemen in French.

“I’m on that boat.”

One of them put his hand on his heart.

“We are so touched that you are flying our flag. Can we exchange contact details?”

I looked at them, silently taking in what had happened. They were not boaties. They must have seen the flag flying from the harbour and sought us out.

I saw Alex heading towards me along the pontoon. He must have been wondering what had become of me because we were about to depart. I hastily introduced the Kanak gentlemen to him, and we received their email address. I asked Alex to retrieve some of our coutume[2] gifts from the boat.

“We received wonderful hospitality in the Loyalty Islands. We enjoyed drinking fresh coconut juice, cakes, and yams.”

“Did you stay in one of the traditional homes?”

“No. Some locals invited us to share their picnic rugs and we enjoyed their local specialties.”

Alex returned with the coutume gift, and then we parted ways.

We left our berth and headed for the fuel dock. We needed diesel because we could not necessarily rely on wind to get us all the way back to Australia. Once at the fuel dock we threw out the fenders and tied the cleats to the dock. A young man put the diesel in for us.

“Why don’t you ask him about the flag?” urged Alex.

“Is our flag a problem?” I asked in French.

Oui ……. et non. C’est compliqué[3].”

I explained our predicament, “We are foreigners. We had no idea that our flag would elicit such strong reactions. We came here not for the politics but rather because Alex loves the sea.”

He nodded enthusiastically.

In fact, Alex had come here because the coral is world heritage.

“He loves the sea, and I love the language and culture.”

Of course, Alex likes speaking the language too, even if not exactly fluently. He settled the bill and was chuffed that the attendant had spoken to him in French, unlike most others, who switched to English as soon as they detected our accent.

Then we noticed that the Kanak gentlemen had walked over to join us at the fuel dock. They asked if they could take a photo with us. We stood on the boat, and they stood on the dock. A passerby took the photo for us. Then they took their leave.

We started to exit the marina. I stood at the stern, as always when leaving a harbour, taking in the unique scenery as it receded. The attendant gave us a hearty wave, which we returned. As we rounded the seawall, we looked back we noticed the Kanak gentlemen positioned at the end of the breakwater. They waved at us with their arms extended above their heads, and we did the same, until the marina faded into the distance, and we could no longer see them.


[1] A New Caledonian person of European origin.

[2] Customary gifts

[3] “Yes… and no. It is complicated.”

Meredith Stephens is an applied linguist from South Australia. Her work has appeared in Transnational Literature, The Muse, The Font – A Literary Journal for Language Teachers, The Journal of Literature in Language Teaching, The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine, Reading in a Foreign Language, and in chapters in anthologies published by Demeter Press, Canada.

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Categories
Musings

The ‘New Kid on the Block’ Celebrates…

Dr Kirpal Singh, an eminent academic and writer, takes a nostalgic journey back in time to recall the start of Singapore as an individual entity.

The years 1964-66 were very interesting– not only because on 9 August 1965 we became the Republic of Singapore but also because of the events (some may even term these as “shenanigans”) surrounding to the lead-up to our final independence. I was a little more than fifteen years old and though not fully in the know or swing of things, it was pretty obvious real changes were afoot. The racial riots of 1964 left a deep impression– some may call it a “scar”—and many of us were truly worried and even frightened at what prospects lay in wait.

Nerves were running high and tension was palpable. Much as our teachers tried to hide hard truths, it was abundantly obvious that major changes were bound to usher a new and different ethos. My late Uncle was in the thick of things and though he did his best not to display anxiety, the various insinuations in the media– coming as they did from a variety of differing personalities with radically different perspectives — did not assure much comfort in what was to come. The hubbub left many wondering and many others questioning what had gone wrong. They demanded the “truth” be revealed.

And so it was. Mr Lee Kuan Yew addressed the nation and in-between wiping his clearly moist eyes told us that we had been kicked out of Malaysia! The shock took minutes even hours to sink home. Neighbours chatted across fences just to confirm what they had heard. But it was too late to do much by way of not accepting our fate: Singapore was now out of Malaysia and had to embrace the future alone, without the larger community that had formed in the two preceding years. It was the start of a new chapter in our short history– and a new beginning.

The new chapter in our history began with a clear glimpse of Lee Kuan Yew wiping his eyes. After all his long-cherished dream of a “Malaysian Malaysia” was now, in a sense, shattered. Whatever the details of that critical meeting that is said to have taken place in Cameron Highlands between the Tengku Abdur Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew one fact emerged: Singapore was on its own — no longer a part or partner of Malaysia.

Thus began the slow and arduous journey of our independent Republic of Singapore. In 1965, I was fifteen and though still a teen it was abundantly evident that a truly historic transition had taken place.

Whether it was Lee Kuan Yew’s oratory or his emotional self that made the impact, it was clear that most Singaporeans rallied behind him and resolved to ensure that we survived. Survival was our prime and major consideration, and all endeavours were directed to realising this goal. Crucial to this was the daily recitation of our National Pledge- “We the citizens of Singapore pledge ourselves as one united people…”. Whatever people may say our National Pledge remains sacred and sacrosanct.

As I look back at the tumultuous tensions and uncertainties we faced in those early years of our Republic’s nationhood, I can never state that we were despondent or unable to push forward. Yes, it will be folly to try and claim that everything was hunky-dory. No, far from it. But one thing was totally clear and universally accepted, as Mr Lee Kuan Yew said, we were now on our own and we had to shape our own destiny. All the doubts and unpredictable consequences notwithstanding Singapore was now the youngest new nation on planet Earth and her citizens were committed to ensure the nation survived.

And she did. Indeed, Singapore gloriously more than survived! She soared and within less than a decade of Independence– by 1975– we were showing ample signs of “earned success”, a reward that even opponents of Lee Kuan Yew had to acknowledge as “ real”.

There’s not much need for me to go into all the many new legislations and policies and rules and regulations that were mooted and passed in Parliament and embraced by all branches of our young Republic. The Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary had to be built on strong and impartial foundations without regard to race or language or religion. It was for the young an exciting and sometimes bewildering phase of history. But Mr Lee kept sharing his vision of a thriving young nation bent upon making a mark in history. Slowly but surely, said Mr Lee, Singapore would build her muscles and demonstrate what is achievable when citizen and together in order not so much to “show off” but essentially to survive. Survival was the foremost goal– all else could come afterwards.

And so we worked hard– very hard — and despite all the trauma and pain, we pushed and pushed and soon began to experience for ourselves the fruits of our determination. More and more nations began to realise that there was indeed a new kid on the block in Southeast Asia and that this kid was unrelenting in its efforts to succeed and succeed with distinction.

And so, today, as we celebrate our 57th year of Independence we can proudly claim to have surpassed all expectations and put to paid any misgivings anyone might have harboured.

Before Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed on, he said, movingly, while strolling through our Gardens By the Bay, that looking around he was glad we did what we did. He felt all his sacrifices were more than worth.

And so here we are celebrating our National Day in joy and even glee.

But we cannot ever forget or ignore the harsh lessons we learned along our journey to full and complete Independence. We live in a world crippled by numerous setbacks — the pandemic just being one.

It remains for others to evaluate the progress and strides our young and tiny island nation has taken. For my generation our Singapore is a miracle — a miracle realised through hard sacrifice and unwavering faith.

Kirpal Singh is a poet and a literary critic from Singapore. An internationally recognised scholar,  Singh has won research awards and grants from local and foreign universities. He was one of the founding members of the Centre for Research in New Literatures, Flinders University, Australia in 1977; the first Asian director for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1993 and 1994, and chairman of the Singapore Writers’ Festival in the 1990s. He retired the Director of the Wee Kim Wee Centre.

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Categories
Essay

Living up to my Seafaring Name in Tasmania

Narrative and photographs by Meredith Stephens

When I asked my mother why she called me ‘Meredith’, she told me that she had named me after one of the children in the class she had been teaching before she got married. Still curious, I looked up the meaning of my name and found that it meant ‘leader of the sea’. But it wasn’t until my seventh decade that I left the cloistered world of academia and became a seafarer. Then I was finally able to live up to my name, at least partially. Not only did I become a sailor, I also became a serious hiker, and learnt how to replace my daily shower for sporadic dunks in the ocean.

Alex, Luke, Verity and I were sailing south along the rugged western coast of Tasmania to Port Davey. The morning we arrived I ventured onto the deck and noticed that there was no beach, and the foliage was scrub rather than forests. As we entered Port Davey, we noticed still waters and jagged mountains. Several other yachts were anchored in the cove. Kayakers wove their way hugging the coast. I sat on the stern of the deck taking in the scenery that few people have the chance to observe. Port Davey is only accessible by small plane or boat, not by road.

Once anchored we decided to climb Balmoral Hill. Luke chose this because it promised the best rewards for the least effort; it would be a relatively easy climb with spectacular views. We made our way in the dinghy to the shore. We followed the wombat tracks, pushing our way through the bushes and native flowers, and reached the summit in under an hour. Balmoral Hill lived up to its promise. Views of Port Davey extended in all directions. The climb down was more challenging than the climb up, and I found myself lagging behind the others as usual.

We returned to the boat and it was still only 3 pm. We hadn’t been able to take regular showers because of the limited supply of fresh water on the boat. Luke and Alex decided to have a swim. Alex begged me to go in too.

“If you go in, I’ll give you a gin and tonic,” promised Alex.

He knew that was a sure-fire way to entice me in. I donned my swimsuit and secured my hair on the top of my head. I poked my feet into the water. Alex kept encouraging me to go in and finally I braved the cold brackish waters. I willed myself to stay in for a minute or two before climbing back up the ladder. Then Alex offered me a brief but hot shower on deck. True to his word, he brought me a gin and tonic with my favourite snack of hummous and seaweed crackers.

It was still early afternoon.

“Do you want to go ashore again?” Alex offered.

A narrow strip of white shore was enticing us. We made the 100metres trip to the shore in the dinghy. The shore consisted of white granite pebbles. We walked up and down the pebbles so that they could massage the soles of our feet, providing a shiatsu-like treatment.

The next morning Alex and Luke were looking forward to climbing Mt Rugby.

“How long does it take to climb?” I asked Luke.

“About six or seven hours.”

Alex had always encouraged me to go on daily hikes with him, and I was worried that I would have to undertake a six hour hike up Mt Rugby. Alex read my mind, and I realised that he was not expecting me to accompany them. He reminded me how to use the VHF [Very High Frequency] radio in case we needed to summon help. Verity and I stayed on the boat, working on our laptops in the saloon, gazing through a window at Mt Rugby, as the boat gently swayed back and forth. I went onto the deck periodically to scan Mt Rugby to try and sight Alex and Luke, but couldn’t find them. Before I knew it they had returned.

That evening, while positioning the dinghy, the rope became intertwined in the propellor. Alex donned his swimmers and dived quickly into the cold water to cut the rope. Every now and then he emerged from the water with his mask. His legs and feet were visible beneath the surface of the tannin filled water every time he dived back in. Eventually he cut the rope and returned to the boat.

The next morning we continued to Joe Page Bay to see the swans. After anchoring we hopped into the dinghy and headed for the lagoon. We noticed flocks of swans in the distance but as soon as they heard the engines of the dinghy they took off. The water was too shallow because it was low tide. We were at risk of hitting the river bottom, so we eventually turned around and returned to the boat.

It was another two days before we exited Port Davey. We headed back in the direction of the open ocean to anchor for the night, ready to leave the next day. Alex and Luke carefully chose the calmest spot in the north-west corner of Brambell Cove. Mt Millner was beckoning so we took the dinghy ashore and headed up the mountain.

“What if I can’t do it?” I asked Alex.

“You can rest on the beach if you like,” came the reply.

We entered a shady grove and found the path. Verity and Luke took the lead and Alex the rear, so I wouldn’t get left behind. The wombat track was studded in deep holes and it was hard to enjoy the view of the islands while being careful where I placed my feet. I thought we had nearly reached the summit, but it kept stretching ahead.

“You go ahead. I don’t need to get to the summit. I’ll rest here.” I pleaded.

Alex was having none of it.

“Look! We have reached the saddle. You can even go downhill for a bit before we ascend again. Not much further to go!” he encouraged me.

How could I disagree when Alex had so much confidence in me? I continued to clamber up the mountain. The bare surroundings turned to dense scrub and I had to push the branches away from my face to clear the way. Then in my haste I found myself falling backwards. My landing was cushioned by some thick undergrowth. My feet, bound up in my heavy hiking boots, stretched before me and I was tempted to rest a bit longer, but I worried about holding the others up, so I took a deep breath and summoned the effort to get up. No sooner had I reached the summit than I realised that it was another false summit. Rising before me was a steep incline to the sky.

“I can’t do it Alex!” I called behind me.

“You’re very nearly there. Then you can say that you climbed to the summit.”

I didn’t really care about being able to boast that I had reached the summit. Would anyone be impressed by that? But again, Alex’s enthusiasm pressed me on. With such encouragement it would be surly to refuse.

After climbing the steep incline I really did reach the summit. I caught a glimpse of the seascape below and the conical islands dotted in the bay. The fierce sun was oppressive and so I turned away, gratefully sat down on some heather, and pulled my hair away from my neck. Alex gave me some water.

“Do you want to walk to the other end of the summit?” Alex invited me.

If you walked to the other side you could look down on an ocean bay, but I could view it from my seated position and this time I really did decline.

After sitting there for twenty minutes I was cool enough to brave the descent. Luke and Verity climbed down quickly and waited on the shore. Alex took the rear and we trod along the wombat path trying to avoid the holes. Finally we reached Luke and Verity. We removed our hiking boots, hopped into the dinghy and motored back to the boat.

We had to ration fresh water and did not want to waste it taking a shower. I didn’t relish bathing in the ocean but I was both hot and perspiring so I felt I didn’t have a choice. I popped on my swimsuit, asked Alex to pull down the ladder, climbed down and immersed myself in the water. Finally, I was cool and clean. I couldn’t imagine being any more tired after the strain of the climb, the punishing sun and immersion in cold water. I am surprised I managed to mount the false summits and reach the real summit. It shows how encouragement can push you beyond the goal you set for yourself.

Alex prepared dinner. Behind the boat the sunset over the sea turned from an intense orange to purple. That night the boat was so still that we could have been excused for thinking we were on land. I was finally beginning to embrace my seafaring name.

Now that I had some sense of having earnt my first name, Meredith, I was ready to explore territory featuring the second part of my name, Stephens. My Great Aunt May, born around 1906, used to explain how her forebears had run a ‘Stephens’ shipping line in London in the late 1800s. Even my surname had a seafaring connection.

The next day we headed out to the open ocean past Bramwell Bay on our left and Breaksea Islands on our right. We anchored at Spain Bay, took the dinghy to shore, and then hiked to the other side of the peninsula. First the vegetation was low, and gradually gave way to bracken. We had to push the branches aside as we trudged through the mud. Then the path entered a forest with a canopy above the trail. Wooden stairs gave way to Stephens Bay. We sat on a rock to rest, and nibbled on some of the dry seaweed washed up on the beach, wondering what it would taste like if rehydrated in a misoshiru soup. I pondered whether I had an ancestral connection to this place as ships on their way from England to the east coast of Australia would have passed by this bay.

Back on board, despite the cold, I thought I would brave the waters again to refresh myself. I donned my swimsuit and tentatively climbed down the ladder into the sea. Alex dived in before me and I could tell from his expression that it was colder than we expected, as we were closer to the ocean. I held onto the ladder and vigorously moved my legs to warm myself up. I could only manage thirty seconds in the water despite resolving to last two minutes.

The next morning Alex entreated me to get up so as not to miss out on the spectacular scenery as we rounded southern Tasmania. The seas were as calm as they could possibly be. The boat was gently cantering in slow motion across the swell. South West Cape loomed in the distance, about an hour away. Luke was at the helm and Alex, Verity and I climbed carefully to the front of the boat holding onto the rails, and sat on the foredeck while we passed the cape, as the sun forced its way into view. Five hours later we rounded South East Cape, one of the five southernmost capes in the world, the others being West Cape Howe (Western Australia), South Cape (New Zealand), Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope.

Heading to the South West Cape, south western Tasmania

After so many decades spent in libraries and classrooms, my life had taken a turn and I suddenly found myself surrounded by ocean. Of course, living on a boat did not mean I would abandon reading and writing. In fact, the long hours at sea afforded even more time for these pursuits. This was especially the case when at anchor waiting for rough seas to subside, out of internet range, when there was little else to do. Nevertheless, I think my mother would have been more than surprised had she known that I would spend weeks at sea in some of Australia’s most remote waters. Neither of us could have imagined how literally I would grow into my name.

Meredith Stephens is an applied linguist from South Australia. Her work has appeared in Transnational Literature, The Muse, The Font – A Literary Journal for Language Teachers, The Journal of Literature in Language Teaching, The Writers’ and Readers’ Magazine, Reading in a Foreign Language, and in chapters in anthologies published by Demeter Press, Canada.

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Categories
Notes from Japan

Imagining a Possible Future: Filmmaker Felicity Tillack

Suzanne Kamata brings to us people, experiences and cultures from Japan

Director and writer, Felicity Tillack, preparing a shot at Uji.  Photo courtesy : William Yagi Lewis

Before coming to Japan in 2006, Felicity Tillack had hoped to become a Japanese high school teacher in Australia. She had grown up in Mackay in West Queensland where Japanese was one of the languages taught in primary school. “I fell in love,” Tillack says. In spite of her passion for the language and culture, she concedes that she wasn’t very good at Japanese. She decided to drop education as a major. After earning a B.A. in literature, she got on a plane to Japan. Now based in Kyoto, Tillack teaches at an international school, writing and making films on the side.

Tillack started making videos in 2012 on her Youtube channel Where Next Japan. She eventually moved on to documentaries such as New Japanese Citizens and 3rd Culture Kids in Japan. These projects, she says, “really started me thinking more deeply about the concept of identity and how it is tied to the culture you grow up in as well as your ethnic roots and background. I’ve seen so many kids struggle with their identity. I taught many biracial kids, with one Japanese parent and one foreign parent who, in their struggle to feel legitimate and accepted within Japan, would often strongly reject their non-Japanese heritage. So, a lot of experiences and observations started to come together and slowly built into a story.”

Impossible to Imagine, her debut narrative feature film is the story of Ami Shimizu (played by Yukiko Ito), a Kyoto woman doing her best to keep her mother’s kimono rental shop alive, and Hayato Arai (played by first-time actor William Yagi Lewis), the biracial Japanese business consultant that she hires for advice. It evolves into a romance, but it’s also an exploration of tradition versus change in one of Japan’s most traditional and impenetrable cities.

Although Tillack is Australian, the film is mostly in Japanese. “I felt that it was a story that needed to be told in Japanese with Japanese characters,” she says. “I wanted to start a conversation here in Japan.” She wrote the script initially in English and had it translated into Japanese. Tillack admits that the language barrier is “a big difficulty” when filmmaking in Japan, but both of the actors in the starring roles are bilingual. They were able to offer advice on cultural details and interpret, when necessary.

Tillack made the film on a shoestring budget of about a million yen (around US$10,000), financed out of her own pocket. The movie was shot in about ten days on the streets near her home. Although she wasn’t able to pay her actors and crew much, she said that she and her colleagues saw the making of the film as a “learning experience.”

Left to right: Felicity Tillack (director, writer), Yukiko Ito (main actress, Ami Shimizu) and William Yagi Lewis (main actor, Hayato Arai) at the Kyoto premiere of Impossible to Imagine.  Photo Courtesy: Morgan Lewis

Impossible to Imagine has been shown at several film festivals, including the Paris Lift-Off Film Festival, and the Shinjuku World Film Festival in Tokyo. Tillack has also hosted screenings at various venues in Japan. At one such event held at a Buddhist temple in Kagawa Prefecture, the audience was mostly elderly and eager to discuss the issues brought up by the film. The movie is now streaming on Amazon, making it accessible to viewers all over the world.

Tillack, who cites Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise series as an inspiration, had plans to start shooting a sequel: I had written the script, lined up financing, and everything.” But then the pandemic hit. Unable to make movies for the time being, she has started on another script, this one tentatively entitled Before Real Life Begins. It refers to the idea that foreigners often come to Japan after graduating from college intending to stay for a year or two before their “real life” starts. Tillack’s script contends that time spent in Japan is real life. Keeping in mind that Westerners experience Japan differently than Filipinos, for example, she hopes to explore this issue from various viewpoints. She is working on this story with two other writers who are based in Tokyo.

Tillack also had a hand in the forthcoming film Matcha and Vanilla, a love story written and directed by her friend Hamish Downie, who was the producer of Impossible to Imagine. Tillack is listed in the cast as “journalist” on the movie’s IMBD site, however she insists it’s only a bit part. Tillack’s future in filmmaking is off to a promising start.

In imagining a future for Japan, Felicity Tillack looks back at her own country’s history. “I was told when I was very young not to marry outside my culture,” she says – advice that she did not heed. She points out that in the 1970s, Australia was “95% white”, however, now, one in four in the country were born overseas. “Australia has changed culturally.” Through her work, both on this film and her other creative endeavors, Tillak suggests that her adopted country, too, may become more inclusive and accepting in the not-too-distant future.


Felicity Tillack (director, writer) and Shota Wanibe (sound mixer, boom operator) receiving an award at Shinjuku World Festival. Photo Courtesy: Shota Wanibe

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Suzanne Kamata was born and raised in Grand Haven, Michigan. She now lives in Japan with her husband and two children. Her short stories, essays, articles and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times, and received a Special Mention in 2006. She is also a two-time winner of the All Nippon Airways/Wingspan Fiction Contest, winner of the Paris Book Festival, and winner of a SCBWI Magazine Merit Award.

Thanks to the columnist Suzanne Kamata for sourcing the photographs.

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Categories
Review

Masala and Murder: Sugar & Spice & Not Everything Nice

Book review by Gracy Samjetsabam

Title: Masala and Murder

Author: Patrick Lyons

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Masala and Murder is a tantalising detective novel by Patrick Lyons, who is an Anglo-Indian writer based in Melbourne, Australia. He has had an interest in crime stories since childhood and has been writing from a very young age. His writing reflects his experience as an Anglo-Indian growing up in Australia during the 1970s and 1980s, which paves the way for Lyons to explore broader concepts of exclusiveness, racism, identity, and duality. These notions subtly sprout in his work and fortify the plot and characters in his story.

The whodunit comes in a well-packed set of 40 chapters with a prologue and an epilogue. The opening of the murder mystery is at a place called Uluru, or Ayers Rock, a scenic, sacred place for the aboriginal Australians which houses a massive sandstone monolith in the heart of the country’s arid “Red Centre”. On the fateful day, a mix of noise and silence, natural and artificial at the foot of the Uluru after sunrise await the tourists along with the Bollywood crew as they prepare to scale the famous rock. The Bollywood celebrity, Subhani Mehta, is all set to shoot a dance number on the top of the Uluru. As they reach the summit, amidst the heat and dust, the lead lady readies herself. High-pitched music plays. The camera rolls. They all move in unison. All of a sudden, Subhani Mehta gasps for air and falls. She dies in a matter of seconds.      

This makes headlines in India although it was just another crime news in Australia. Aamir Mehta, a well-to-do industrialist, and father of the dead actress, suspects foul play and approaches Samson Ryder, a private investigator in Melbourne to investigate the incident. Ryder, who was not a private investigator by choice, accepts the case for easy money. Ryder also empathises with the helplessness of Subhani’s father as he had lost his only sister and had seen his parents suffer similarly. He still carries the pangs of guilt for not having done enough to save his sibling.

An initial inquiry to Subhani’s case is dismissed as her demise is listed as a “natural death”. What had actually led to her death continues to be a puzzle as the incident was wrapped up in a hurry. Widespread corruption made way to create an easy exit for the case. Little did Ryder know that the task would lead him to unknown territories that would not only give a fair share of closure for the case but also, add to a better understanding of his messed-up work and life.   

Lyons manoeuvres the crime novel with a set of interesting characters that harmonise to make an intriguing tale. Besides the fee, Ryder’s own past and his relationship with his family make him want to bring solace to the torments of the loss of a child to a family. Cross-cultural exchanges on the aspects of beliefs, rituals, taboos, faith, and spiritualism, black magic, talisman, spirits, tantric, curses, exorcism, Kali worship, etc. in the story are ingredients of the masalas that spice the scrumptious murder mystery. Traversing inner lanes of glamour and darkness, the narrative excitingly reveals the rawness of humans in Bollywood. Lyon presents the Anglo-Indian communities in Australia and Mumbai, with more focus on food and lifestyle to create a feeling of universal belonging. Additionally, his experience as a citizen and as an NRI, ultimately shares a greater awareness of stereotypes and realities of identity.

Lyons beautifully brings up the idea of dreams in relation to our state of mind through Ryder. Themes of minority, infidelity, jealousy, ego, vengeance, depression, grieving, trauma, death threats, abuse – physical and drugs — are touched upon as the story meanders to figure out who murdered Subhani.

Was it the Singhs, Nair, Nadar or Ms. Khan, or was it just a natural death? The suspense interestingly lingers till the end. There is a tussle of love and hate, good and bad, atheism and faith, fear and strength, an exploration of identities bringing to life the duality in characters and unraveling stories within the story. That people cope with personal loss in different ways is subtly shown. Ryder’s father and his godmother, Mabel, resort to faith and worship and his mother keeps herself busier with cooking.

Lyons brings in timely wit and humour. The romantic grids with Rebecca, Ryder’s love interest, and conversations on the unfolding of the crime with Mabel are the lighter shades in the story. Through the descriptions of  traffic, lanes, scent and sights of the cities of Melbourne and Mumbai, Lyons also captivates  with  glimpses of  relatable beauty and distasteful sides of the cityscape. Throughout Ryder’s investigation that unravels as he takes taxi rides, walks, runs, making smart moves, breaking laws or flying across cities, there is not a dull moment in the novel.  

The mystery behind the murder trickles from one circumstance to another making a string of unbelievable coincidences. The protagonist advances to the core of the investigation to be stuck with the question — was it all mere coincidence or planned? With every turn of the page, suspense is in the air right from the start to the end. The plot mingles the mysteries of murder with masalas that throw light on love and loss, blatant racism, complexities of identity and belonging, tradition and beliefs across cultures, and the constant battle of good and evil that we play out as human beings. Patrick Lyons’ Masala and Murder (2021) published by Niyogi Books is a crime novel that is refreshingly told and is a compelling read with content that is contemporary and relatable. A beautiful cover design complements the thrill of the narrative.  

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Gracy Samjetsabam is a freelance writer and copy editor. Her interest is in Indian English Writings, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, Culture Studies, and World Literature. 

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Categories
Editorial

Elephants & Laughter

Run, Painting by Sybil Pretious

Ideally, I would love to start the New Year with laughter and happiness! Then perhaps, the whole year would be dotted with humour …

Laughter clubs often practice laughing for health benefits. I know the pandemic makes both guffawing outdoors or in a group hard but think of the funniest possible thing and, perhaps, you will start laughing. For me what works other than children’s and monkeys’ antics, are my trips to the dentist, especially the trip where I wondered on the fringe benefits of ‘laughing gas’ (as given in the PG Wodehouse novel of the same name), only to be informed that it was used exclusively for young children. For me, an adult, there was only — you have guessed it — the jab that numbs your lip function to lubber. I discovered if I could make light of a dentist drilling by learning from Harry Potter (the spell to get rid of the terrifying boggart, who took the shape of the thing you feared most, was to imagine the funniest thing, focus on the humour in it, and shout ‘Riddikulus’ with a wand pointed at the creature in the form of your worst nightmare), then I could pretty much get rid of most fears.

The other thing I have been wondering for sometime is can one write an editorial that is humorous when the content is serious? I would have wanted to ask that question to many, including Ruskin Bond, who continues as one of my idols. I would love to touch hearts with the humour and the sensitivity that flavours his writing. It is tough to convey a complex thought with the simplicity and elegance of a writer who can be read and understood easily. I think we have a few of them around and I interviewed one. You all probably know him well— Rhys Hughes. I have given the reasons for the interview in lieu of Mr Bond, who continues a distant star beyond the horizon of online interviews. We discussed humour and its role in literature, leaving out completely in the cold, the fictional Mr Bond who answers to the names of James and 007 and has made entertaining films, which can be seen as serious or non-serious.

Hughes has of course, given some writerly advice not just in the interview but in ‘Making Something of Nothing’ – pretty much the advice that God had probably been given when he asked an unspecified friend on how to create the universe and multiple realities. Hughes has also added to our galaxy of poets where Michael Burch, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Anasuya Bhar, Vernon Daim, William Miller, Pramod Rastogi, Mike Smith, Jay Nicholls and many more continue to sparkle. Taking up the theme of God’s creations, Devraj Singh Kalsi has added to more humour with a dream of divine intervention to make the ‘New Normal’ in 2022 – a plan for this year. Will it ever be real?

Another major issue in this world currently is climate change. In keeping with the need for acceptance of this reality, Keith Lyons introduced us to a nature lover, author and adventurer Kenny Peavy, who loved the fictional adventurer called Indiana Jones and has been working towards living in harmony with nature. He moved to Indonesia from America and is trying to raise awareness. You can find much, though not elephants, in the interview that encompasses the story of a man who cycled across a continent on a bike made of bamboo. However, you can find some writing on a king who acquired the skill to ride and tame elephants in our book excerpt from Shazi Zaman’s Akbar: A Novel of History. The excerpt does not showcase his elephant taming skills as did the Bollywood blockbuster Jodha Akbar but is focussed on bringing out the syncretism in the Mughal monarch’s outlook which made him seek out exponents of other religions. Sangita Swechcha’s and Andrée Roby’s anthology, A Glimpse Into My Country, with excerpts of short stories from Nepal and Zimbabwe, like Kenny Peavy, cycle across multiple borders as does our fiction. We feature stories from within and without the continent with Fazal Baloch recombining a couple of folklores from Balochistan to a single tale. Fiction from young writers highlight compassion and a varied perspective. Steve Ogah has a story from Nigeria which almost rings with overtones of Alex Haley’s Roots. Sohana Manzoor has given us a poignant narrative with an inspiring twist at the end, an absolute antithesis of the humorous one she rolled out for us last month. Candice Louisa Daquin has also given us an exceptional short fiction along with her column where she discusses the changing face of families in the current context.

While Daquin’s focus is mainly towards the West, we have an essay from Sanjay Kumar on families that live in the greyer zones of big cities, children from an outcropping called Nithari in Delhi, where they or theirs suffered neglect, abuse, carnage and cannibalism in their formative years.  Introducing the impacted children, Kumar explains how they transcended the wounds that lacerated their lives. This piece is a precursor to a column called ‘Children of Nithari’. Starting February, the abuse victims will give us a story a month which will be translated by young volunteers from pandies’, an activist theatre group founded by Kumar, and published in Borderless. Another article from Balochistan reflects on the lack of literacy and efforts to bring children into the folds of schooling. Pakistan ranked 99th out of 132 countries on the literacy survey in 2021. We are privileged to be the voice of the unheard.

Two essays that ring of concerns raised in the Kenny Peavy interview are to do with climate crisis in the Sunderbans and waste disposal in Delhi. Both of these are written by researchers who are working on these issues.

We have travel pieces from Australia – one is a sailing adventure by Meredith Stephens and the other is about a trip to the Sand Dunes of Western Australia by Shernaz Wadia. Ravi Shankar has also taken us through winters from the Everest to New York with his globe-trotting non-fiction. Penny Wilkes takes us on a flight of creativity with beautiful photography.

We have a stellar layout of translations. Professor Fakrul Alam translated another poem by Jibananada Das and Borderless is honoured to publish it to the world for the first time. We have a translation from Korea and another of a Brahmo hymn, Aji Shubho Dine, by Tagore, which is sung often during festivals. The icing in our Tagore section in this issue is Ratnottama Sengupta’s translation of the Kobiguru’s ‘Two Birds’ (Khanchar Pakhi Chhilo) along with a musing which reflects on the perspectives of the two contemporaries, Tagore and Saratchandra. She has also translated a well-known Bengali poet, Michael Madhusudan Dutt. Dutt wrote just before the advent of Tagore and had an interesting past which has been vividly depicted by Sunil Gangopadhyay in Those Days (Sei Somoy in Bengali), a novel that has been translated by Aruna Chakravarti. Bhaskar Parichha has given us a tribute on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Fakir Mohan Senapati, who, he claims, has the same standing in Odia literature as Tagore in Bengali or Premchand in Hindi.

Parichha has also reviewed Amit Ranjan’s John Lang; Wanderer of Hindoostan; Slanderer in Hindoostanee; Lawyer for the Ranee. It looks like an interesting read where an immigrant Australian came supported Rani of Jhansi in India. Rakhi Dalal has reviewed Selma Carvalho’s Sisterhood of Swans, again a story of migrants and their lives. The theme seems to echo among the books that have been reviewed this time, including Gracy Samjetsabam’s take on Anuradha Kumar’s The Hottest Summer in Years, a story about a German immigrant to India in the twentieth century. Meenakshi Malhotra’s review of Somdatta Mandal’s translation of A Bengali Lady in England by Krishnabhabini Das (1885) highlights the views of a traveller rather than an immigrant as the lady did return home after a ten-year sojourn in Britain. As Meenakshi contends, “The process of travel offers opportunities for emancipation where exposure to other cultures offers her a way of viewing and of gaining a perspective on her own experiences and that of her sisters in India. Krishnabhabini constantly refers to her Indian sisters and bemoans their sorry state and ignorance when she sees how active British women were in their families and societies…”

I was supposed to try my hand at a humorous editorial, but I realise that is tough when the ground is small. For humour, we need rolling acres where we can etch out each detail till it cannot be milked further for laughter. But I promise you I will keep trying to please the readers till one evolves to write like Ruskin Bond.

I would like to thank my fabulous team who even if not actively contributing to content are always at hand to advise and help. I would especially want to thank both Sohana Manzoor and Sybil for their fantastic artwork, which is as wonderful as their writings. I would like to give heartfelt thanks to all the contributors who have made this journal possible and each reader who comes back to our journal for more every month. Some of the pieces remain unmentioned adding to the mystery of the content, just like, Christmas gifts which need to be unwrapped and continue a reality even in January in some parts of the world – the Russians celebrate on January 7th and the Spaniards extend their festivities to January 6th.

Do take a look at this month’s edition for not just the stories mentioned here but for more.

I wish you all a wonderful New Year filled with laughter.

Mitali Chakravarty

Borderless Journal