Where Have All the Sunflowers Gone?

Only when the cries of the wretched of the earth will stop renting the skies,
Only when the oppressor’s bloody sword will cease smearing battlefields,
			A rebel, weary of war,
			Only then I won’t stir.
I’m the ever-rebellious hero--
	Soaring over the world, all alone, head forever held high!

--  Rebel or 'Bidrohi' (1922) by Nazrul, translated by Fakrul Alam
Borderless: Digital Art by Ayaan Ghoshal
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.         
 Shantih shantih shantih

-- Wasteland (1922) by TS Eliot

These lines reiterate values we would do well to live by in a war-torn, dissension-worn world where the need for a rebel to recreate a humane society that lives with values such as peace, generosity, acceptance, tolerance, compassion and restraint — is a felt need. The two great poems made history by remaining as popular a hundred years after they were written — ‘The Rebel’ by Nazrul and TS Eliot’s ‘Wasteland’. Nazrul defined a rebel as an iconoclast who breaks norms to find peace, justice and love for all, to move towards the creation of an ideal world. TS Eliot quoted from the Upanishads and ended with redemption coming with giving (giver perhaps denoted generosity), compassion and restraint. Despite the wisdom of these great poets and seers, war still continues a reality. The values remain neglected not just in as we see in conflicts, like the one in Ukraine that destroys lives, property and nature with intolerance towards differences, but also in our personal lives. Tagore also reiterated the same need for stepping out of personal, social, economic and political insularity. We carry a translation of a song that echoed this need while inviting participation in his ecstasy. He wrote:

Why do you sit in isolation,
Dwelling on self-centred issues? 

Tagore had not only written of the negative impact of isolation from the world but he led by example, building institutions that could lead the world towards pacifism with acceptance of diversity and inclusiveness. Sriniketan and Santiniketan were created to move towards these ideals. Many of the people he influenced or who studied in Santiniketan made history, like Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Satyajit Ray; many added to the sense of inclusiveness, like Mahasweta Devi, who other than her enormous work to integrate different cultures, also wrote a memoir about Santiniketan in Bengali. Radha Chakravarty, nominated for the Crossword Translation Award (2004) for In the Name of the Mother by Mahasweta Devi, has translated this memoir, a narrative which brings us close to Tagore’s ideals of the whole world being a family. How wonderful it would be if the world were open to such ideals and would behave like a global family and not go to war!  Mahasweta Devi, Our Santiniketan, which has been reviewed by Meenakshi Malhotra, reiterates Tagore’s vision of a planet living in harmony with the flora and fauna.

Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed another non-fiction by Ashok Kumar Pandey, Why They Killed Gandhi; Unmasking the Ideology and the Conspiracy. Parichha writes: “The finest point about this book is its storytelling…” The book review brings to mind in the midst of a war and violence that Gandhi had tried to erase this mindless destruction of lives, nature and cities with Ahimsa or non-violence. Will we ever rise up to it? Perhaps… We see strains of recognising the negative impact of insular outlook in writings like that of Temsula Ao, a Sahitya Akademi Award winner, according to Indrashish Banerjee who has reviewed her new book, The Tombstone in My Garden: Stories from Nagaland. Keith Lyons has reviewed Asian Anthology: New Writing Vol. 1: Stories by Writers from Around the World, edited by Ivy Ngeow, an exotic medley of Asian stories, one of which has been excerpted as well.

We are privileged to carry another excerpt from Ruskin Bond’s Friends in Wild Places: Birds, Beasts and Other Companions, a hilarious story about a pet tiger adopted by the legendary writer’s grandfather. What is amazing about Ruskin Bond’s writing is the love and compassions for all creatures great and small that colours the tongue-in-cheek humour he rolls out to his readers. If only we could think like Bond, there would be no wars. His writing, I feel, transcends political borders or ‘isms’, and laces with love and compassion tales of menageries of monkeys, snakes, mongoose, humans of different denominations. This excerpt is a treat we are giving Borderless Journal as the journal completes two years of its existence. We are truly grateful to Speaking Tiger for sharing this excerpt with us. But our celebrations this time are sombre as the war rages with incoherence accompanied by heart-breaking ravages.

The refrain from Ukraine has been taken up by Ratnottama Sengupta as she takes us through the past and present experiences of the devastated country, bringing in the views of the legendary folk singer and pacifist, Pete Seeger (1919-2014), who she had interviewed over a span of four days. The writer of ‘Where have all the Flowers Gone?’, a song based on an Ukrainian folk song, Seeger said, “The point is not to ask for yourself alone — one has to ask for everybody: Either we all are going to make it over the rainbow or nobody is going to make it.” Candice Louisa Daquin has also pondered on the justification of war, contextualising it with the current one along with her essay on the paradox of modern linguistic communication.

We have an exhaustive essay on the legendary Satyajit Ray’s creations by Anasuya Bhar. Malhotra has pondered at exclusivity reinforcing divisions, margins and borders to plague humankind, against the backdrop of the Women’s Month, March. Highlighting women in writing, we have interviewed two female writers, one from Nepal and another from Bangladesh. Sangita Swechcha lives in UK but her writing, till now largely in Nepali, often pines for her home embedded in the Himalayas whereas, an expat, Neeman Sobhan, shuttles between Bangladesh and Italy with the affluence and assurance of a privileged background.

Finding a way to override lack of privileges, deprivation and violence, are the youngsters of Nithari on the outskirts of Delhi where less than two decades ago other than poverty, savage criminality devastated the local populace. These youngsters transcended the suffering over time with help from volunteering NGOs to create narratives that amaze with their inventiveness and confidence. Tanveer Hussain from Nithari, self-motivated and self-made from a young age, asks questions that would be relevant for all humankind in a letter to God. It has been translated from Hindustani by Vritika Thareja of pandies’. This edition’s translations include Professor Fakrul Alam’s mellifluous rendition of Jibanananda Das’s poetry from Bengali to English, Ihlwha Choi’s Korean poetry and a Balochi poem by Munir Momin rendered in English by Fazal Baloch. Baloch had earlier translated poems by Akbar Barakzai, a great poet who departed on 7th March, depriving the world of yet another powerful writer who imbibed hope of a better future in his poetry. We are privileged to have hosted the translations of some of his poems and his last interview.

Another well-known poetic voice from Singapore, Kirpal Singh, has given us poignant poetry that can be applied to the situation that is leading to the wreck of Ukraine. Anasuya Bhar has  poetry, one of which despite being in the ilk of Nazrul’s great poem, ‘Rebel or Bidrohi’, questions gently mainly social constructs that obstruct the flow of harmony. Ryan Quinn Flanagan has pondered on the acceptance of a changed world. We have humour from Rhys Hughes in poetry and wonderful poems by Michael R Burch on spring. Jay Nicholls shares the last of her dozen Pirate poems as Blacktarn sails the lemon seas to fight pollution. Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, George Freek, Sutputra Radheye, Mike Smith, Shaza Khan and many more have contributed a wealth of beautiful lines. Penny Wilkes has captured storms and seas with photographs and text and Rhys has surprised us with some strange, bizarre tales in his column.

We have musings from around the world. San Lin Tun, Meredith Stephens, Erwin Coombs, G Venkatesh have all brought in flavours of multiple cultures. Devraj Singh Kalsi has spoken of a book fair he visited in a semi-sardonic tone. He has also given us a short story as has Farah Ghuznavi – a truly borderless story which takes place in an aeroplane, in the sky where all borders collapse. We have more stories from Balochistan, US and India.

Suzanne Kamata continues writing on Japan as she  introduces us to an Australian film maker who is making films in Japan and in Japanese, called Felicity Tillack. Cultures are perhaps truly crossing borders as we can see Kenny Peavy, an environmentalist who moved from US to Indonesia start a new column with us called ‘Mission Earth’. We hope, like Tagore or Rousseau, he will help to revive our felt need to live with nature, acknowledge the nurture that we get from the planet to live in harmony with it and on it.

At the end of twenty-four months of existence – that sounds better than a mere two years— we are happy to host a melange of writers from across the borders and be the meeting grounds of writers and readers from across continents. I am truly thankful to all of you for helping concretise an ideal. Huge thanks to all the writers, artists, photographers and the readers for the contribution of their time, effort and love. And thanks to our fabulous team who continue to support the journal unwaveringly. I would also like to thank Sohana for the lovely visuals she generously shares with us. A special thanks also to young Ayaan Ghoshal for his digital art where hands reach out to support a truly borderless world.

As usual, all the content has not been covered here, I invite you all to enjoy our March edition of Borderless Journal.

At the start of the third year of our existence, let us march onwards towards renewed hope – maybe the Ukraine experience will take us closer to a war-free world with an awakening of a felt need for peace and compassion in a planet without borders.

In quest of a peaceful, humane world, I invite you all to continue being part of this journey.  

Mitali Chakravarty

Borderless Journal


Death will Come…

By Munaj Gul Baloch

 It was a quiet pleasant evening with an unending essence of hopelessness. Mahi was drained and unable to reply to her own self. It was about six in the evening. The breeze carried a soulful fragrance within its whispers. Mahi was sitting on the edge of Neheng River. The sparkle of the setting sun with the pleasing breeze solaced her and revived her, raising her out of her weariness. 

She remembered the sunset when she would sit a little distance away from Hasnain and stare at him. Hasnain was dispirited and was waiting to befriend death. So was death.

Hasnain’s tempting smiles and innocent face were forever visible within her tear-filled eyes. Mahi wandered why like a doomed soul he was unable to adjust himself to dwell in peace.

Mahi closed her eyes and scrutinised the jarring memories that wavered through her mind, remembering all those peaceful moments which were spent with him. The boy had died a year ago. His voice still haunted her. His image still drifted before her eyes. His grief was apparent in such visions and each of his words wafted back to her. 

 She was bound to suffer. She still heard the voice of his wretchedness as he screamed out loud.

 “Is there anyone to free me from this torture-cell? I am suffocated here. I no longer want to resist my own departure from myself. Neither have I had an existence nor a non-existence. I befriended nothingness.” 

These words of Hasnain made Mahi suffer till her last breath. She was dead silent after witnessing the misery and soreness of the blue boy as he tussled with death and lost himself.

It was the same day. It bound each life within death. Mahi was submerged with suffering, and she befriended death. So did death. 

The graveyard is proud to own deaths that had befriended lives and exposed souls.


Munaj Gul Muhammed from Turbat, Balochistan, has been writing since 2017 on various educational, social and gender issues in different newspapers such as The Daily Times, Balochistan Voices, The Baloch News, Balochistan Point and other outlets. He has also won Agahi Award in the category of Human Rights in 2018.



Borderless January, 2022

Painting by Sohana Manzoor


Elephants & Laughter… Click here to read.


Keith Lyons introduces us to Kenny Peavy, an author, adventurer, educator and wilderness first-aider who has travelled far and wide and wishes everyone could connect with the natural world right outside their door. Click here to read.

In Rhys Hughes Unbounded, Hughes, an author and adventurer, tells us about his inclination for comedies. Click here to read


Professor Fakrul Alam translates If Life were Eternal by Jibananada Das from Bengali. Click here to read.

Ratnottama Sengupta translates Bengali poet Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s Bijoya Doushami. Click here to read.

Korean poet Ihlwha Choi translates his own poem, Sometimes Losing is Winning, from Korean. Click here to read.

Give Me A Rag, Please:A short story by Nabendu Ghosh, translated by Ratnottama Sengupta, set in the 1943 Bengal Famine, which reflects on man’s basic needs. Click here to read.

On This Auspicious Day is a translation of a Tagore’s song, Aaji Shubhodine Pitaar Bhabone, from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.


Click on the names to read

Rhys Hughes, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Anasuya Bhar, Jay Nicholls, Anuradha Vijayakrishnan, Vernon Daim, Mathangi Sunderrajan, William Miller, Syam Sudhakar, Mike Smith, Pramod Rastogi, Ivan Peledov, Subzar Ahmed, Michael R Burch

Nature’s Musings

In Best Friends, Penny Wilkes takes us for a photographic treat. Click here to read.

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Making Something of Nothing…, Rhys Hughes explores sources of inspirations with a dollop of humour. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Wooing Children to School

Munaj Gul writes of how volunteers are engaged in wooing children from poverty stricken backgrounds to school in Turbat, Balochistan. Click here to read.

Historical Accuracy

Ravibala Shenoy ponders over various interpretations of the past in media and through social media. Click here to read.

The Ocean & Me

Meredith Stephens writes of her sailing adventures in South Australia. Click here to read.


Kavya RK finds her fascination for plants flourish in the pandemic. Click here to read.

The Great Freeze

P Ravi Shankar trots through winters in different parts of the globe. Click here to read.

Two Birds

Ratnottama Sengupta muses as she translates a Tagore’s song. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In The New Year’s Boon, Devraj Singh gives a glimpse into the projection of a new normal created by God. Click here to read.


Dramatising an Evolving Consciousness: Theatre with Nithari’s Children

Sanjay Kumar gives us a glimpse of how theatre has been used to transcend trauma and create bridges. Click here to read.

Potable Water Crisis & the Sunderbans

Camellia Biswas, a visitor to Sunderbans during the cyclone Alia, turns environmentalist and writes about the potable water issue faced by locals. Click here to read.

The Malodorous Mountain: A Contemporary Folklore

Sayantan Sur looks into environmental hazards due to shoddy garbage disposal. Click here to read.

Where Sands Drift Back in Time…

Shernaz Wadia explores Western Australia. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In The Changing Faces of the Family, Candice Louisa Daquin explores the trends in what is seen as a family now. Click here to read.

Bhaskar’s Corner

In Fakir Mohan: A Tribute, Bhaskar Parichha introduces us to Fakir Mohan Senapati, the writer he considers the greatest in Odia literature. Click here to read.


Folklore from Balochistan: The Pearl

Balochi folktales woven into a story and reinvented by Fazal Baloch highlighting the wisdom of a woman. Click here to read.

The American Wonder

Steve Ogah takes us to a village in Nigeria. Click here to read.

The Boy

Neilay Khasnabish shares a story on migrant labours with a twist. Click here to read.

Stranger than Fiction

Sushant Thapa writes of real life in Nepal, which at times is stranger than fiction. Click here to read.

The Solace

Candice Louisa Daquin takes us on a poignant story of longing. Click here to read.

The Doll

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

Among Our PeopleDevraj Singh Kalsi gives a fictitious account of a common man’s quest for security in a country that is one of the world’s largest democracy. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Shazi Zaman’s Akbar: A Novel of History detailing his interactions with Surdas and Braj. Click here to read.

Excerpts from A Glimpse Into My Country, An Anthology of International Short Stories edited by Andrée Roby & Dr Sangita Swechcha. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Somdatta Mandal’s translation of A Bengali Lady in England by Krishnabhabini Das (1885). Click here to read.

Gracy Samjetsabam reviews Anuradha Kumar’s The Hottest Summer in Years. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal reviews Selma Carvalho’s Sisterhood of Swans. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Amit Ranjan’s John Lang; Wanderer of Hindoostan; Slanderer in Hindoostanee; Lawyer for the Ranee. Click here to read.


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

Slices from Life

Wooing Children to School

By Munaj Gul Muhammad

Shah Meer Sowali with the dog he wanted to sell. Photo Courtesy: Munaj Gul

Little Shah Meer Sowali got a dog with him to the bazaar in Turbat. He sold the dog for a small sum because he lives hand to mouth. His beloved and aged father is lame and they live in a broken room. Seeing the condition of little Shah Meer, members of an organisation called SFA (School for All) approached Shah Meer’s family and took the responsibility of the little boy and his little sister as before they both were out-of-school. The family had been unable to enroll the little children because of poverty.  Now, Shah Meer and his sister are enrolled in Bolan School.

The SFA is a non-profit organisation working for the promotion of education and reduction of student dropouts along with enrolling unschooled children into schools in Turbat since its establishment. It was established on October 1, 2020. Since its inception, the organisation has been successfully enrolling many orphans and disabled children along with financially weak children into different private and government educational institutions. The organisation is registered under Balochistan Charities Regulation Authority [BCRA] and is designed to serve the cause of education in the province. The organisation facilitates education of the enrolled students until they matriculate. These children are provided with books, shoes, bags, uniforms, stationery and fees along with other basic amenities.

Given that Pakistan is one of the most illiterate countries of the world, education for people is a daydream. Fahad Baloch, had to go to Quetta to get a basic education.  Unlike Fahad, his brother was not as fortunate. Despite wanting to go to school, he could not. A large chunk of children had no access to uneducated in his locality. But now this gap is being attempted to be bridged by the SFA.

The prime ambition of this organisation is to aid edifying the society where everyone acquires the opportunity to receive an education. They also hope to subsidise the costs. The organisation has successfully conducted three educational awareness programs in different areas of the region and received an affirmative response of the society to enrolling the out-of-school children into schools. The core drive of conducting such programmes was to impart a real sense or essence of education to the minds of the people in the region.

The SFA has been successful in enrolling 21 out-of-school children into private schools and 34 in government institutions. These enrolled children are registered by an agreement drawn up between the organisation and the parents of the children. They have even opened four bookstalls in the region to help get books to those who can read. “The benefits received by the SFA from the bookstalls go to these needy people,” said Kamran Gichki of the SFA. “Since the inception of the organisation, we approached many people, among them some were government officials from the concerned departments, and we shared our motives with them. We received affirmative and moral support from these officers but got financial support only from the middle-class residents in the region. The government is yet to support us in our efforts financially even though by Article 25A, they have made education a must for five to sixteen year olds.”


Munaj Gul Muhammed is a journalist and a LLB student at Faculty of Law, University of Turbat. He tweets at @MunajGul


Slices from Life

Embroidering Hunger

A story of dochgirs (embroiderers) in Balochistan by Tilyan Aslam

As a Baloch girl when I walk into a room full of people, what outwardly attracts them is my cultural Balochi attire. I often get compliments from people telling me how beautiful and enthralling our Balochi dresses are. I remember once this lady came up to me in an international fair to photograph me for her magazine-project because of the way I was dressed – in a traditional Balochi dress. I have heard it more than enough times about the beauty and creativity of Balochi dresses, but regrettably, those compliments never really got into a point where we could discuss the people and hardwork behind those dresses.

Balochi dresses are the result of utmost passion, hardwork and dedication. The professionals who make Balochi dresses are called ‘dochgir’ in the local Balochi language, and they are the key reasons behind these breathtaking outfits. They make these dresses out of scratch without technology and other resources. They make up their own designs by doing a lot of experiments and end up making something creative and later name it as per their convenience and the structure of the ‘Doch’ (embroidery).

Luckee, a tremendously diligent and hardworking woman in her mid-forties from a village named Saami (Makran, Balochistan), is one of the reasons that I had to write this piece. Her story, unlike any other person I have come across, is rare. Even though, most of the embroiderers are Baloch women who sew dresses to support their families financially, but Luckee’s story is unusual.

In tribal Balochistan, the means of livelihood is either agriculture or livestock. The lives there are very primitive, far from technology and present-day facilities. Baloch women have sewn dresses for centuries for the upkeep of their families, helping their male counterparts from within the house. The handicraft skills of the people of Balochistan are ancestral, passed on from generations.

Dochgirs not only sew or doch (embroideries) in their own villages but travel near and far to make these dresses from almost anyone especially those who they are familiar with already. A few months ago, I got a chance to have a conversation with Luckee about her life and I was amazed with what she shared with me.

The tale of agony, striking poverty and lack of platform for Baloch dochgirs was so gut-wrenching to know from the one already suffering with it. “I was married to a man who didn’t earn. He was a drug addict,” she continued with grievance. “I got divorced after undergoing domestic abuse from my husband.” Long before even Luckee got divorced, she was the only one in her family working and earning. “I have no option, even till today, but to sew dresses and raise my two sons,” states Luckee.

The village of Saami, where she lives, has drastically reduced the population since the past years. The Nawabs and Gichkis who have ruled these places for years, have moved to cities long ago except few of the families. “The only people who haven’t moved out of the village are those who cannot afford to live in big cities – people like us,” she shared, “I used to live with my other family members in their house, but the space was inadequate as my older son got married. So I had no chance, but to buy a cheaper house from someone who no longer lived in the village,” she added. The house she bought is shabby, but gives her a shelter and she is grateful for that. “I had to work hard to sew many Balochi dresses to get money for a committee to buy the house. I still haven’t paid the total amount of my home,” said Luckee, her eyes filled with tears.

When I asked her about the education of her younger son, who passed his 10th grade, her words gave me shivers down to my spine. “Don’t you know about the inflation in the country?” she asked, to which I replied, “Yes, I do, but I’m also well aware of the fact that without education you cannot improve the lives you are living – in poverty and ignorance.”

Her reply was quick and truly upsetting to hear from her own words, “Education is expensive. It is for the rich ones. We barely manage to find meals of our day. With an empty stomach, you cannot think of educating your children, but feeding them,” she also added, “I wish my son could go to college and become a great person after 10th grade, but we cannot afford it.”

In a resource-rich province like Balochistan, the people are enduring poverty in a way that for them two basics of life, food and education still remain the biggest hurdles of life.

Balochistan is a home of arts, culture and creativity. It is very unfortunate to know that the baseline of the creative works; dochgirs, regardless of the efforts they put into their work, rarely manage to find adequate sustenance. Creativity takes courage. Every Baloch dochgir puts their heart and soul in their embroidery work, but sadly their hardwork is not compensated by enough returns.

It is about time that these dochgirs should be given the opportunities and recognition that they deserve. Our government should take steps to promote art and culture in the country and make policies that provide dochgirs with a platform to showcase their talents and skills to a wider community. Hardworking people like Luckee deserve to be given chances to flourish with their handicraft works which deserve coverage, for it is worth it.

Tilyan Aslam belongs to Turbat, Baluchistan who has recently got admission in Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad. She has been actively writing since 2019 on various social and gender issues, cultural and travel blogs in different newspapers such as The Daily Times, Balochistan Point, Balochistan Express, Balochistan voices , The Baloch News and some other local websites.




The Law of Nature by Akbar Barakzai

Akbar Barakzai was born in Shikarpur, Sindh in 1938. He is ranked amongst the proponents of modern Balochi literature. His poetry reflects the objective realities of life. Love for motherland, peace and prosperity and dignity of a man are the recurrent themes of his poetry. His love for human dignity transcends all geographical and cultural frontiers. Barakzai is not a prolific poet. In a literary career which spans over half a century, Barakzai has brought out just two anthologies of poetry, Who can Kill the Sun and The Lamps of Heads, but his poetry has depth and reaches out to human hearts with its profundity. Last year, Barakzai rejected the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) award, quoting  the oppressive policies meted out to his region by the government as the reason.

The Law of Nature

(First Voice)

Come, you the riff-raff evildoer!
Hearken to what I utter

You are my slave 
I am your Master
You are homeless
At my feet are forts and palaces
You are homeless 
I’m the lord of power and puissance 
You are destitute and famished
I am rich and affluent

I am wise and prudent, you are brainless
I am the man of might, you are weak and frail
I'm the owner of large estates and orchards
Irksome is your existence in this world
I’m the master
You are my subject

Of faith and the divine book
Guidance I always seek
You are a wayward heretic
I am pure, you are filth
I am strong, you are meek

Have you ever pondered?
On the law of nature
Always subdued in the world
Are the weak and vulnerable 
A shark preys on little herrings
The lion hunts the ibex
Birds and locusts are the falcon’s prey

History bears witness
Always favours the fittest
Throne and crown,
Glory and pride. Discern! 
In rebellion
You’ll gather only humiliation
I am powerful, you are powerless
I am the master, you are the subject

(Second Voice)

Granted, you are the master
Proud, rich and affluent
I am miserable and poor, 
Pious jurists and clerics
Your companions and cohorts
I am but a sinner and transgressor

True you are the mighty overlord
I'm just a wretched slave
But listen you to me --
I’m also a man, a descendant of Adam
No matter how much you oppress me
I wouldn't accept your law of nature
A pretext of my subjugation
No matter how mighty you are
No matter how weak and frail I am.

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




The Word by Akbar Barakzai

Translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

Akbar Barakzai

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

The Word 

We begin with the word 
With the word we end 
Blessings and Salutations 
To the Apostle of the word! 

The word is God 
The very existence 
And the guiding ocean of time
The word brings forth 
Freedom and providence 
Prosperity and ruin 
Mountains trembles with the fear of the word 
Who could put out the ever-leaping flames of the word? 
Don’t ever bury the word 
In the chasm of your chest 
Rather express the word 
Yes speak it out! 
The word is freedom 
End of oppression 
Light and radiance 
Beauty and bliss
The word is Socrates’ free-spirited paramour 
The ember glowing in Mansour’s fervent heart 
The harbinger of a new dawn 
Don’t ever bury the word 
In the depth of your chest 
Rather express the word 
Yes, speak it out. 
The Word brings forth 
Freedom and providence.

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




Flash Fiction: Tears of a Revered Mother

Mereen Nizar

Written in Balochi by Mereen Nizar, translated by  Ali Jan Maqsood

That unpleasant winter night breaks my heart. My mother sobbed loudly and stated with tearful words, “Better than this life, I had tied a rope on my neck and killed myself. What misfortune! What sin have I committed that I am being punished?”

After these words, Mother wiped her tears.  

I was caged with chains of childhood and immaturity. My thoughts were next to nothing. I could not start to comprehend the anguish of my mother. I felt so vague and dumb.

While I shed tears in a corner by the wall, my mother, lay on her stomach and continued to sob.

Time moved faster. I, as a lame, was dragged along with time towards an unknown destination.

I felt my experiences were maturing me.

And then I witnessed again a similar winter night — my mother — the exact walls and home, but there appeared marks of cruelty on her.

She had lost the courage to be alive. She was inconsolable. Crying and lamenting had depleted her youthfulness. Age had crept in on her and humbled her.

The mother, sitting on the funeral of her innocent child, was missing him.

I continued to be the same person, attached to the same walls of the home. I wandered like a lost soul with grief haunting my thoughts. My eyes began to rain with tears. By then, my mother was not alone. I, too, was torn with pains and worries.

The world had changed: many had lost the game of life, many had won. Many were homeless. People were yet moaning under the fallen walls of weariness. One among them was the same old lady who had lost the game of life and was shouldered by four people. She was kept under sanctuary of the Motherland.

I realised the place and situations had changed. My mother’s laments had ceased. The Motherland had sheltered my mother. The sky began to shed its tears along with mine. I apprehended my mother was shedding her tears for me from the sky.

Mereen Nizar is a Balochi fiction writer and an M.phil scholar in the field of Botony. He writes for different local newspapers and magazines.

Ali Jan Maqsood is a student of Law at University Law College Quetta and can be reached at He tweets at @Alijanmaqsood12

Originally published in Balochi language in Tawar newspaper in 2015. 



An Eternal Void

A Balochi story by Munir Ahmed Badini translated by Fazal Baloch

Munir Ahmed Badani

A fortnight after my elder brother’s death, heavy rain deluged our town. For two consecutive days, violent winds blew across the town and the sky remained engulfed in dark clouds. It was so dark that days appeared like nights. Clouds hung so low that it appeared rain would burst forth at any minute. But it did not for two days.

Our house was in mourning. During the day my mother along with the womenfolk of the neighborhood, wailed and mourned the death of her beloved son, and at night she offered prayer for his departed soul. When we went to bed, she would stay for a while at our beds and intonate some sacred lines and blow her breath one by one upon us. Before retiring to her bed, she would walk over to have an eye on the Holy Quran again. But she could not get to sleep out of grief and constantly recalled her son who at a young age had fallen seriously ill and eventually would breath his last while in pain. I noticed that during his illness my mother showed a great amount of courage but as soon as he breathed his last, she almost collapsed. She wept incessantly.

I was quite young then, and often stayed awake late at night. I couldn’t fathom my mother’s grief which I wished to share. I hoped his memory would stay forever with us. At the same time, I solaced myself that one day life would return to its normal rhythm and happiness would make it back to our house. It seemed a far cry though.

I was quite hopeful that the heavy rain would wash off our grief and sorrows. My father too was shaken by the grief but unlike my mother, he held back his tears. Indeed, the death of my brother hit our house like an earthquake and rendered everything meaningless for us.

At night, towns-elders came to see my father. They chattered and puffed at the hookah*. I noticed my father’s absentmindedness. I knew he was shaken by the grief. I heard anguished groans coming from his room in the late hours of the night. I couldn’t sleep properly. I desperately wished for something miraculous to turn our sorrows into happiness.

At times some unusual events dragged us back to life again. For example, at times our goatherd failed to return late in the evening. We anxiously waited for him to show up. And then my mother would dispatch our servant to trace him outside. My father himself went out to enquire of neighbors as well. Seeing him taking an interest in something after my brother’s death made me very happy. I assumed that he was finally managing to get over the grief of having lost a son.

Thus, after the heavy rain, I was hopeful that this torrent would wash off everything even our grief and sorrows.

Initially the clouds remained suspended in the sky for two days. First it drizzled lightly but soon the rain gained momentum and relentlessly poured down for seven days and nights at a stretch. Water flooded the land.

My father along with other farmers went to the fields to protect the crops and yield from the flood while my mother held the Holy Quran in her hands and sought God’s mercy. I was happy to see that she too had finally succeeded to get over the shock. I thought life was finally back to its routine. At the same time, I feared that this heavy rain would lead to unimaginable losses. But, as of then, I was not able to forget my brother. Despite this heavy rain and flood, his memory continued to haunt me.

Last time when it rained, he was with us, reduced to a skeleton though. Yet we hoped that he would recuperate sooner or later. We never thought he would leave us forever.

But nobody can avert life’s course. The worst had happened. My brother was dead. Now all I wanted to see was for life to return to its routine path. I pinned all hope on the rain and it partially helped us to divert our attention. His memory was making lesser inroads to our minds.

It was night and my father had not returned from the fields. My mother asked the helper to go after him. Carrying a lamp in hand, he went towards the fields. I sneaked out stealthily and followed him. I remember the sky was covered with dark clouds and it was still raining intermittently. We had left our homes behind and were on the way to our fields. By the graveyard, I noticed the servant stopped and talked to someone. It was my father. I heard his words clearly:

“No matter if the flood sweeps away my fields and crops, but all I want is to save the graveyard from the flood”.

I was shocked.

From that day I was convinced that there was nothing that could wipe my brother’s grief off our hearts.

*Hookah — an oriental pipe that passes the smoke through an attached container of water before it is inhaled.


Munir Ahmed Badini is known as the most prolific fiction writer ever appeared on the horizon of Balochi literature. So far he has authored over a hundred Balochi novels and three anthologies of short stories. Recently he was awarded the Kamal-e-Fun Award by the Pakistan Academy of Letters. It is the highest award for the recognition of lifetime achievements in the field of literature.

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated several Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters in 2017 and Silence Between the Notes — the first ever anthology of Partition Poetry published by Dhauli Books India in 2018. His upcoming works of translation include Why Does the Moon Look So Beautiful? (Selected Balochi Short Stories by Naguman) and God and the Blind Man (Selected Balochi Short Stories by Minir Ahmed Badini).