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Contents

Borderless, December 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

It’s Only Hope… Click here to read.

Conversations

Shantanu Ray Chaudhari converses with writer Gajra Kottary, a well-known writer of Indian TV series, novels and stories. Click here to read.

A discussion on Samaresh Bose’s In Search of the Pitcher of Nectar, a book that takes us to the heart of the Kumbh Mela, a festival recognised by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, with the translator, Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee. Click here to read.

Translations

Nazrul’s Why Provide Thorns has been translated by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Mercy, a story be P. F. Mathews, has been translated from Malayalam by Ram Anantharaman. Click here to read.

Even A Simurgh Cannot Change Destiny, a Balochi folktale translated and retold by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Confessions, a poem written by and translated from Korean by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

The Sun on the First Day, a translation of Tagore’s Prothom Diner Shurjo by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Pandies’ Corner

Songs of Freedom: Vikalangta or Disability is an autobiographical narrative by Kajal, translated from Hindustani by Janees. These narrations highlight the ongoing struggle against debilitating rigid boundaries drawn by societal norms, with the support from organisations like Shaktishalini and Pandies. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Jared Carter, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Rhys Hughes, Asad Latif, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Santosh Bakaya, Phil Wood, Sharanya B, George Freek, Saibal Chatterjee, Jonathan Chan, Sutputra Radheye, Shambhu Nath Banerjee, Michael Burch

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Some Differences Between Wales and India, Rhys Hughes makes some hilarious comparisons. Click here to read.

Musings/ Slices from Life

Near-Life Experiences: Hiking in New Zealand

Keith Lyons escapes city life to find his happy place while hiking in New Zealand. Click here to read.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings

Saeed Ibrahim introduces us to Native Indian lore from Canada and shows its relevance in the current times. Click here to read.

Dismasted in Bass Strait

Meredith Stephens takes us for a sailing adventure with photographs in the Southern Hemisphere. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Of Mice & Men, Devraj Singh Kalsi talks of his encounters with rats. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In A Clean Start, Suzanne Kamata tells us how the Japanese usher in a new year. Click here to read.

Stories

Annapurna Bhavan

Lakshmi Kannan closes class divides in Chennai over a meal. Click here to read.

Two Faces of a Mirror

Tulip Chowdhury gives us a story set in a Bangladeshi village. Click here to read.

The Slip

Sushma R Doshi takes a look at the pandemic against an Indian middle-class set up. Click here to read.

Till Life Do Us Part

Devraj Singh Kalsi explores a strange new trend. Click here to read.

Essays

Orangutans & a School at Sarawak

Christina Yin, a conservationist, travels to Borneo in an attempt to create awareness for conserving the Orangutan. Click here to read.

Taiping of the Raj Era

Ravi Shankar explores Taiping in Malaysia with a camera and words. Click here to read.

Ivory Ivy & Stephen Dedalus

Paul Mirabile explores James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus and his passion for words keeping in mind the hundred year old Ulysees & the even older, A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Radha Chakravarty’s translation of Tagore’s Farewell Song. Click here to read.

An excerpt or two short narratives from Rhys Hughes’ Yule Do Nicley. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Somdatta Mandal reviews The Shaping of Modern Calcutta: The Lottery Committee Years, 1817 – 1830 by Ranabir Ray Chaudhury. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal reviews Freny Manecksha’s Flaming Forest, Wounded Valley: Stories from Bastar and Kashmir. Click here to read.

Basudhara Roy reviews Manoranjan Byapari’s How I Became a Writer: An Autobiography of a Dalit. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews In Search of the Divine: Living Histories of Sufism in India by Rana Safvi. Click here to read.

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

You are all welcome to the book talks of our first anthology

Categories
Editorial

Its Only Hope…

Painting by Sybil Pretious

New year, like a newborn, starts with hope.

The next year will do the same – we will all celebrate with Auld Lang Syne and look forward to a resolution of conflicts that reared a frightening face in 2022 and 2021. Perhaps, this time, if we have learnt from history, there will not be any annihilation but only a movement towards resolution. We have more or less tackled the pandemic and are regaining health despite the setbacks and disputes. There could be more outbreaks but unlike in the past, this time we are geared for it. That a third World War did not break out despite provocation and varied opinions, makes me feel we have really learnt from history.

That sounds almost like the voice of hope. This year was a landmark for Borderless Journal. As an online journal, we found a footing in the hardcopy world with our own anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles: Writings from Across the World, which had a wonderful e-launch hosted by our very well-established and supportive publisher, Om Books International. And now, it is in Om Book Shops across all of India. It will soon be on Amazon International. We also look forward to more anthologies that will create a dialogue on our values through different themes and maybe, just maybe, some more will agree with the need for a world that unites in clouds of ideas to take us forward to a future filled with love, hope and tolerance.

One of the themes of our journal has been reaching out for voices that speak for people. The eminent film critic and editor, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri , has shared a conversation with such a person, the famed Gajra Kottary, a well-known writer of Indian TV series, novels and stories. The other conversation is with Nirmal Kanti Bhattajarchee, the translator of Samaresh Bose’s In Search of a Pitcher of Nectar, a book describing the Kumbh-mela, that in 2017 was declared to be an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Bhattacharjee tells us how the festival has grown and improved in organisation from the time the author described a stampede that concluded the festivities. Life only gets better moving forward in time, despite events that terrorise with darkness. Facing fear and overcoming it does give a great sense of achievement.

Perhaps, that is what Freny Manecksha felt when she came up with a non-fiction called Flaming Forest, Wounded Valley: Stories from Bastar and Kashmir, which has been reviewed by Rakhi Dalal. Basudhara Roy has also tuned in with a voice that struggled to be heard as she discusses Manoranjan Byapari’s How I Became a Writer: An Autobiography of a Dalit. Somdatta Mandal has reviewed The Shaping of Modern Calcutta: The Lottery Committee Years, 1817 – 1830 by Ranabir Ray Chaudhury, a book that explores how a lottery was used by the colonials to develop the city. Bhaskar Parichha has poured a healing balm on dissensions with his exploration of Rana Safvi’s In Search of the Divine: Living Histories of Sufism in India as he concludes: “Weaving together facts and popular legends, ancient histories and living traditions, this unique treatise running into more than four hundred pages examines core Sufi beliefs and uncovers why they might offer hope for the future.”

In keeping with the festive season is our book excerpt from Rhys Hughes’ funny stories in his Christmas collection, Yule Do Nicely. Radha Chakravarty who brings many greats from Bengal to Anglophone readers shared an excerpt – a discussion on love — from her translation of Tagore’s novel, Farewell Song.

Love for words becomes the subject of Paul Mirabile’s essay on James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, where he touches on both A Portrait of the Artist as a young Man and  Ulysees, a novel that completed a century this year. Love for animals, especially orangutans, colours Christina Yin’s essay on conservation efforts in Borneo while Keith Lyons finds peace and an overwhelming sense of well-being during a hike in New Zealand. Ravi Shankar takes us to the historical town of Taiping in Malaysia as Meredith Stephens shares more sailing adventures in the Southern hemisphere, where it is summer. Saeed Ibrahim instils the seasonal goodwill with native Indian lores from Canada and Suzanne Kamata tells us how the Japanese usher in the New Year with a semi-humorous undertone.

Humour in non-fiction is brought in by Devraj Singh Kalsi’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ and in poetry by Santosh Bakaya. Laughter is stretched further by the inimitable Rhys Hughes in his poetry and column, where he reflects on his experiences in India and Wales. We have exquisite poetry by Jared Carter, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Asad Latif, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Michael R Burch, Sutputra Radheye, George Freek, Jonathan Chan and many more. Short stories by Lakshmi Kannan, Devraj Singh Kalsi, Tulip Chowdhury and Sushma R Doshi lace narratives with love, humour and a wry look at life as it is. The most amazing story comes from Kajal who pours out the story of her own battle in ‘Vikalangta or Disability‘ in Pandies’ Corner, translated from Hindustani by Janees.

Also touching and yet almost embracing the school of Absurd is PF Mathew’s story, ‘Mercy‘, translated from Malayalam by Ram Anantharaman. Fazal Baloch has brought us a Balochi folktale and Ihlwha Choi has translated his own poem from Korean to English. One of Tagore’s last poems, Prothom Diner Shurjo, translated as ‘The Sun on the First Day’ is short but philosophical and gives us a glimpse into his inner world. Professor Fakrul Alam shares with us the lyrics of a Nazrul song which is deeply spiritual by translating it into English from Bengali.

A huge thanks to all our contributors and readers, to the fabulous Borderless team without who the journal would be lost. Sohana Manzoor’s wonderful artwork continues to capture the mood of the season. Thanks to Sybil Pretious for her lovely painting. Please pause by our contents’ page to find what has not been covered in this note.

We wish you all a wonderful festive season.

Season’s Greetings from all of us at Borderless Journal.

Cheers!

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

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

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Review

Manoranjan Byapari: “ Why did I even write?”

Book Review by Basudhara Roy

Title: How I Became a Writer: An Autobiography of a Dalit

Author: Manoranjan Byapari

Translator: Anurima Chanda

Publisher: SAGE Publications India and Samya under Samya SAGE Select imprint

The autobiography, as a literary genre, has a compound and far-reaching relevance. Among the many ways that it engages in a productive conversation with the world, is its staunch social impact. When and why does a person set out to write his or her life’s story? The answers to this could be numerous. Central, however, to each of them would be the perception of a threat to one’s experienced or imagined identity, the attempt to seize empowerment through the act of narration, and the identification of one’s individuality as having a widely referential social base that could encapsulate some meaning for humanity at large.

In the teeming, diverse and thoroughly spectacular life of writer, Manoranjan Byapari, an impulse towards all the three can be found. An unlettered rickshaw puller-turned indefatigable and award-winning fiction writer, and currently a member of the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal (Balagarh constituency) and the Chairperson of the Dalit Sahitya Akademi, West Bengal, Manoranjan Byapari’s How I Became a Writer: An Autobiography of a Dalit is the translation of the sequel to his Itibritte Chandal Jivan (Interrogating My Chandal Life) published in 2017 and winner of The Hindu Prize 2018 for non-fiction.

“I keenly believed that even though a life might be trivial, inferior or disgusting, there was something to learn from it which could come handy later. […] People who scavenged through dustbins would know that sometimes one might also find delicacies in the garbage,” writes the author (in the context of a particularly obnoxious character in the book), articulating a practical and philosophic doctrine that is hard to beat. If taken as a metaphor for his own life’s tireless trials, these words throw light on Byapari’s literary treatment of every little or mean episode in his life with sincerity, stubbornness and sagacity.

The sequel How I Became a Writer effectively takes off from where the first book ends – Byapari’s return to Calcutta from Dandakaranya and his taking up the job of a cook at the residential Helen Keller School for the Deaf and the Blind. Spanning a journey of around two decades, the book documents the arduous, painstaking, courageous and unrelinquishable labour of nurturing the ambition to write amidst the innumerable hazards-big and small-that threaten a Dalit’s dignified existence in India.

Comprising a series of thirty-four vignettes, the book is divided into two parts – ‘School Shenanigans’ and ‘The Right to Write’. The former section offers a close look at Byapari’s work-life – his workplace, duties, associates, and the systemic social inequities that are intended to steadily impoverish and dehumanize those who inhabit the lowest rungs of the class and caste hierarchies. The latter section focuses almost exclusively on his creative life, his intense literary and activist aspirations, and his relentless growth as a writer in the face of every obstacle to body, mind and spirit. The two sections, however, speak very intimately to one another with the result that they effectively build up one seamless narrative whole, animated, in each of its fibres, by “jijibisha” – the indomitable will to live that has characterised Byapari’s intellectual journey throughout.

In her ‘Foreword’ to the book, Sipra Mukherjee, the translator of Interrogating My Chandal Life, draws attention to the remarkable “non-marginality” of Byapari’s writing that, in the first part of his autobiography, exhibits and establishes itself in his choice of both language and geo-political space of creative exploration. In How I Became a Writer, Byapari’s marginal viewpoint on the history, narratives and psychology of the mainstream impresses further. His knowledge of the world is clearly staggering, his perception sharp, and his intuitive wisdom is matchless in its perspicacity. Alert, critical, and thoroughly versed in his Marxist epistemology, he understands the social dialogue of money and power and that of rights and denial, with deftness and insight. Most importantly, he is constantly aware of being not merely an individual but a representative of a social group – the proletariat who must attempt, by all means, to speak truth to power:

“Muttering furiously, she asked, ‘Royda asked you to make tea and you refused. Is that right?’

“I answered in the affirmative without an iota of tremor in my voice. I did what a representative of the working class would do had it been within the world of one of my own stories. The way Bordi, like one of the overlords, had called me forth to show off her positional power in front of her people, I too, was eager to show her that I was a knowledgeable and brave representative of my class of people.”

Throughout Byapari’s language, there is a quiet and determined authority intended to radically subvert the dense and intricate mainstream texts of injustice and victimization. One of his potent subversive tools is certainly his robust and well-toned satire, the other being his close reading of mythological material, folk tales, and indigenous wisdom located in anecdotes and proverbs. Bringing this local ontology and epistemology to bear on the mainstream knowledge involves a constant interrogation of the latter’s chosen socio-political and cultural texts, thus constituting a bottom-up view on social theory and praxis.

Glowing vividly in these pages is also Byapari’s unvanquished faith in literature as a means of social reform. He reiterates here, often, the necessity to take up the pen as a tool of protest, as a means of emancipation from indignity, and as the only method of scripting oneself into social discourse – “Somebody had said that a writer does not write with a pen, but with the spine.” But the act of writing which is often made to appear autonomous and independent of social interference, may not come as easily to everyone. To someone like himself, as Byapari insists, literacy itself has been a gift and the act of reading and writing, a liberation from his otherwise “insignificant, ugly and hateful life”.

In a society where writing has often been valorised as a private intellectual activity, Byapari strongly points out how privacy is, in itself, a privilege. Contrary to the fashionable notion of the writer as entitled to a ‘writing space’ both physically and temporally, Byapari’s autobiography projects him as accomplishing his writing in the oddest of spaces and hours, under the most threatening of conditions, and with the sole will to keep the fire in his soul alive. Both cathartic and revolutionary, his creative life becomes a valuable agency for him to wield his self-esteem against life’s diminishing forces.

But to be able to write and to, even, write well is not enough. To carve a niche for oneself in the writerly world, and to be heard and responded to is an enormous challenge in itself. There is, firstly, the significant handicap of financial investment in publishing a book; secondly, the apathy of prejudiced and non-discerning readers towards writers of the lower caste; and thirdly the entire nexus of publishers, marketing, reviewers and awards to negotiate with. To someone like Byapari, handicapped severely by both his caste and class, literary recognition has been very slow and unforthcoming.

It has, however, happened over the years, for as Byapari believes, in the world of literature, the way upward lies only through dedication, toil, perseverance, and the presence of an empathetic and like-minded literary community. But though the writer remains inordinately grateful for where he has arrived, there is also, at times in the book, a serious questioning of the practical outcome of meaningful literature in the world. Does it make a difference? Does it help transform the conscience of society? Does it lead to material improvement in a poor writer’s life circumstances? Byapari remains distinctly conscious of having been transformed from a writing person to a literary subject under the harsh glare of literary festivals, media and academics but his greatest fear of failure revolves around the possibility that his writing may have failed to make a dent on the world’s harsh indifference:

“Why did I even write? Would I be able to change this bloodsucking societal system standing atop the rotting thousand-year-old foundation with my pen alone? Would I be able to stop the inhumane religious brutality of the priestly class in the name of caste? The child lying on the footpath, who had curled up in the bitter cold, could I bring him a blanket? That child crying in his mother’s arms in hunger, would I be able to make him sit in front of a plate full of warm freshly made rice?

“I could not! I could not!”

However, as in the case of every true artist, Manoranjan Byapari’s love for writing triumphs over all misgivings. How I Became a Writer is a glowing celebration of his tribulations, grit, antagonisms, friendships and the generous support of many noble souls that helped pave his way to artistic maturity and fame.

For those who cannot read the book in Bengali, this translation by Anurima Chanda, an academic and translator,  arrives as a coveted gift. Organic, fluid, and maintaining the right balance between linguistic and semantic authenticity, this animated rendering of Byapari’s life introduces readers of English to a writer who remains etched in memory as much for his lyricism and humour as for his sheer honesty and brilliantly satirical social criticism.

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Basudhara Roy teaches English at Karim City College affiliated to Kolhan University, Chaibasa. Drawn to gender and ecological studies, her four published books include a monograph and three poetry collections. Her recent works are available at Outlook India, The Dhaka Tribune, EPW, Madras Courier and Live Wire among others.

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Click here to read the book excerpt from How I Became a Writer

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

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

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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

Reconstructing a Broken World with Sufism

Book Review by Basudhara Roy

Title: Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems

Poet: Afsar Mohammad

Translator: Afsar Mohammad and Shamala Gallagher

Publisher: Red River

I’m sorry, my Lord. 

My poem is not your slave,
it’s a sickle with its head to the sky. 

My poem is not a damsel timid in your moonlight,
it’s a tiger prowling in a shadowed forest. 

My poem won’t be your grand constitution, 
devoted to your happiness 
at all costs.

-	‘Outcast’s Grief’ from Evening with a Sufi

Not all poetry can be read with the same eye or ear. Certain poems demand to be seen and heard on their own terms, offering to the reader their own canons of understanding and appreciation in imaging an idea that, through them, has just been born into thought. Afsar Mohammad’s Evening with a Sufi sets out to be one such thought-provoking book of poems.

A slim collection of twenty-six verses selected and translated from Afsar Mohammad’s extensive oeuvre in Telugu by Shamala Gallagher and the poet himself, these are existential political poems that are as theoretically perspicacious as they are urgent and astounding in their overwhelming sincerity. Like Eliot’s The Waste Land, Afsar Mohammad’s Evening with a Sufi aesthetically documents a difficult world, especially one criss-crossed with systemic hegemony, and bereft of equality. An engagement with these poems is a direct invitation to the reader to embark on an epistemological tour into a sharp symbolic landscape that encapsulates visceral records of social meaning.

The title, to begin with, itself upholds a strong symbolism. Its ‘evening’ bespeaks the twilight of civilisation, the personal-social moment of the unleashing of despair, and a decadent global landscape thriving on inequity and deprivation. And yet, evening, in these poems, is also the transitional period of awareness, self-reflection, evaluation, and the collective envisioning of an egalitarian dawn. These poems, therefore, become investigations and articulations of both fatigue and rest, of falling apart and re-gathering, and of old failures and new beginnings, leading us to look at the idea of the Sufi or Sufism anew.

“For me, Sufism is nothing but a tool of resistance,” avers the poet, indicating how Sufism, as a philosophy, offers a vigorous counternarrative to transnational policies and practices of discrimination, marginalisation, disempowerment and exclusion. “In my village Sufism, I see how people of diverse colours and castes share food, rituals and stories. As a village person, it’s not a far-fetched utopia for me — but an everyday reality. My writings are nothing but reminders of that shared realm of life.”

In Afsar’s poems, Sufism becomes a political as well as existential search for a vision of oneness. This vision is, at the same time, philosophical and social, local and global, integrating and intimidating in the way that most revolutions are – “The drop that can swallow a desert” (‘Another Word’) or “Where walls are knocked down,/ we won’t need the splendour of curtains” (‘The Spectator is Dead’) or “I always speak the language of war.” (‘A Green Bird and the Nest of Light’)

Identity surfaces as a significant theme in this book. Most of the twenty-six poems in Evening with a Sufi embark on a complex exploration of identity on geographical, cultural, social, historical or linguistic terrains. However, the book’s conceptualisation of identity is far from monolithic. Germane to the vision of these poems is the essentially dialogic space of identity and its characterization as an ever-contingent work-in-progress.

Mark the first poem in the collection, for instance. Titled ‘Name Calling’, an ambiguous phrase that poignantly addresses the phenomenon of naming as an act of use and abuse, the poem captures the essential seamlessness of names and identities. The protagonist of the piece is a boyhood contemporary called Usman who is visibly an ‘other’ to the speaker of the poem, the difference between them marked out distinctly in class terms and perhaps also (less evidently) in terms of physical ability – “You scared all the children/ away from the river./ A body like a wound/ peeks from your torn shirt.” It is, however, to this social pariah – “the one street dog doggedly haunted by a ball” that the speaker feels affiliated in his later life:

Now I don’t see much difference between you and me. 
We are the same.[…]
Usman, times never change 
only the roles change.

Muslim, Telugu and Third-world migrant, the poet reads the theory and experience of otherness on a number of sociological axes and through a variety of cultural lenses. In ‘The Accented Word’, he uses the idea of accent to explore the complex genealogies of language on the intersections of purism and cultural hegemony, contemplating variously, through the three sections of the poem, on linguistic integrity, capitalist subordination, and postcolonial erasure:

Words 
are stillborn babies. 

Their blood has gone bad with white poison, 
their words have gone bad from the accent. 

I’ve been poured, shared, and bathed in white poison 
since I was little 
and now I want to speak out for myself. 

But my voice is in chains 
and my language is poisoned, 

and the language of my time is poisoned. 

We live on the brackish water of life.

While Shakespeare’s Caliban in The Tempest felt that the colonizer’s language profited him by teaching him “how to curse”, Afsar’s poems approach language with utmost caution, forever mindful of the possibility of trampling and obscuring buried histories of domination and betrayal. Many of the poems, here, are metapoetic in their thrust, assiduously exploring the value of meaningful postcolonial poetic creation from the inescapable inequities and ideological loopholes of language: “a market piles up words sounding like poetry” (‘The Accented Word’) or “How long this slavery to white poems?” (‘Outcast’s Grief’) or again as in “Poetry: / just one dried leaf.” (‘Walking’)

In ‘A Piece of Bread, a Country, and a Shehnai’, bread, music, war and pain – all come together to avow our subcontinent’s shared heritage of poverty and cultural intimacy brutally shredded by politico-religious separation. In ‘No Birthplace’, the speaker of the poem is as much the Indian subcontinent as its hapless postcolonial citizen faced with the inability to reconcile its historical legacy of cultural plurality with the blind spots in its mythological and ideological machinery:

Come, divide me by myself, I say. 
Not by forty-seven. 

My laughs, screams, harangues, deaths, and rapes — 
They’re all yours too! 

It is interesting to note how Afsar’s poems consistently invigorate and socially translate the idea of spirituality through sinewy sociological imagery with the result that spirituality is transformed from a closeted and socially-indifferent personal practice to a welfare-oriented everyday social ritual. In ‘Iftar Siren’, the idea of fasting as self-purification is ironically brought to bear on the understanding of the hunger-stricken socially dispossessed as perpetually cleansed while the overfed victimisers walk about unconcerned:

What a great life. 
In the holy month, 

do you see how you are all becoming pure? 
I’ve been like this for years 

burning in the divine fire. 
Unable to turn into ashes. 

I’m a fire-pit you try 
and try to stamp out. 

Yes, the fire-pit 
is tired too.

The haunting and incendiary metaphor of hunger as fire and the stomach/body as the fire-pit, tired of being stamped out or dispossessed, makes these poems powerful bandages for social injustices as well as flaming flags of protest. In ‘Qibla’, the posture of prayer, again, pivots on the stomach – “a belly turned deep/ into itself/ in which I obscure my body,/ feet, hands and everything/ for a long time” – suggesting the omnipotence of hunger as surpassing all acts of asocial faith. The poem concludes with considerable uncertainty of the efficacy of prayer and with an ideological pun on “arms” (arm/armament) as a means of erasing human hatred.

The stupendous yet composed energy of the book needs no forestatement. Every single word here is deftly chosen, well-placed, and tersely poised to make emotional leaps on command. The images are taut, the sentiments thoroughly grilled in the fire of creative originality, and everywhere, there is a sense of potential unruliness held firmly in check by a balanced and farsighted imagination.

In considering these poems, one must not forget, also, their complex linguistic history. Though translated from the original Telugu, the Telugu language itself includes, for the poet, “the entangled history of Urdu, Hindi and English — the languages that indeed shaped my emotional realm.” Arriving into English via such multi-layered linguistic travails and travels, these exceptionally well-translated poems infuse postcolonial English with a visceral depth, a spiritual profundity and a razor-sharp urgency that would be difficult to come by in the original English.

Accompanied by a very relevant author interview and insightful essays by the translator and  valuable first readers of this collection, Evening with a Sufi arrives, in its essential philosophy and call for humanitarian action, with a new theory and praxis for the world, determined to reconstruct rather than redeem it.

Basudhara Roy teaches English at Karim City College affiliated to Kolhan University, Chaibasa. Drawn to gender and ecological studies, her four published books include a monograph and three poetry collections. Her recent works are available at Outlook India, The Dhaka Tribune, EPW, Madras Courier and Live Wire among others.

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Click here to read the book excerpt from Evening With a Sufi

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

Categories
Greetings from Borderless

Illuminate the World…

“Light festive lamps, make bright the night,
Shine your own lights, illuminate the world.”

— Tagore’s Autumnal Nights, translated by Professor Fakrul Alam
Courtesy: Creative Commons

Celebrating and reinforcing the victory of the human spirit over darker forces is a cathartic experience in a world reeling under the impact of senseless wars, depression and economic crises. While the Earth too upheaves changes to create new lores, we draw comfort from the perpetuation of rituals that have solaced us over centuries. These festivals are celebrated in different ways across the world on different days. But, the festival of lights has become a major one, celebrated by a diaspora across all continents. The rituals were varied but the celebrations include lighting of lamps across the board.

The Combat of Rama and Ravana (late 18th century) Courtesy: Creative Commons

Lamps were lit to celebrate Rama’s return home after destroying darker forces as Diwali among North Indians. Among those from the South and West, it was the victory of Krishna over demon Narakasur that warranted the celebration of Deepavali. And yet those from the East, celebrate Kali’s victory over the rakshasas with lamps, sparklers and prayers. The Jain and Buddhist communities also have their special observances on this day.

To bring to you a flavour of these festivals, we have writings by Farouk Gulsara from Malaysia on the celebration of Deepavali during his childhood; Debraj Mookerjee on Kali Puja celebrations in his ancestral home and a sample of Bibhutibhushan’s stories on the darker tantric practices — intrinsically linked to the worship of Kali along with Basudhara Roy’s review of the translation of his book by Devalina Mookerjee.

We begin our selection to jubilate this festival of lights with a translation of Tagore’s poem on light and another by Mike Smith.

Poetry

Tagore’s Paean to Light. Click here to read.

Last Lights by Mike Smith. Click here to read. 

Prose

In Dim Memories of the Festival of Lights, Farouk Gulsara takes a nostalgic trip to Deepavali celebrations in the Malaysia of his childhood. Click here to read.

In Vignettes of Life: Unhurried at Haripur, Debraj Mookerjee revisits Kali Puja in his ancestral home. Click here to read

Basudhara Roy reviews Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee. Click here to read.

Categories
Contents

Borderless, October 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

The Sky … Click here to read.

Conversations

Anthony Sattin, an award winning journalist and travel writer in conversation about Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped our World, his recent book published by Hachette, India. Click here to read.

VR Devika talks of the dynamic Muthulakshmi Reddy, the first woman in the world to preside over a Legislative Assembly who sought justice for Devadsis and prostitutes and discusses her book, Muthulakshmi Reddy: A Trailblazer in Surgery and Women’s Rights published by Niyogi Books. Click here to read.

Translations

Daridro or Poverty by Nazrul has been translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

The Browless Dolls by S.Ramakrishnan, has been translated from Tamil by B Chandramouli. Click here to read.

Two poems from Italy by Rosy Gallace have been translated from Italian by Irma Kurti. Click here to read.

Flowers of Love Bloom Everywhere, a poem for peace, written by and translated from Korean by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Aalo Amar Aalo (Light, My Light) a song by Tagore, has been translated by Mitali Chakravarty from Bengali. Click here to read.

Pandies Corner

Songs of Freedom: Moh-Reen is an autobiographical story by Amreen, translated from Hindustani by Janees. These stories highlight the ongoing struggle against debilitating rigid boundaries drawn by societal norms, with the support from organisations like Shaktishalini and Pandies. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Michael R Burch, Kirpal Singh, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Jonathan Chan, Ron Pickett, Saranyan BV, George Freek, Pramod Rastogi, Mike Smith, Gayatri Majumdar, John Grey, Vandana Kumar, Ahmad Al-Khatat, Rhys Hughes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Crossing the Date Line, Rhys talks of his fascination with this imagined construct. Click here to read.

Essays

Epaar Bangla, Opaar Bangla:  Bengals of the Mind

Asad Latif explores if homeland is defined by birth. Click here to read.

The Wabi-Sabi of Making a Living

Aditi Yadav calls for taking a break from hectic work schedules. Click here to read.

Just a Face on Currency Notes?

Debraj Mookerjee writes of Gandhi’s relevance and evolution. Click here to read.

A Mother, a Daughter & a Demon Slayer?

Meenakshi Malhotra checks out the festival of Durga Puja, declared the a heritage festival by UNESCO. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

Candice Lousia Daquin explores festivals and the God gene in We had Joy, We Had Fun…. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

KL Twin Towers near Kolkata?

Devraj Singh Kalsi visits the colours of a marquee hosting the Durga Puja season with its spirit of inclusivity. Click here to read.

A Five Hundred Nautical Mile Voyage to Tasmania

Meredith Stephens writes of sailing to Tasmania when the pandemic had just started loosening its grip. Click here to read.

Keep Walking…

Ravi Shankar recommends walking as a panacea to multiple issues, health and climate change and takes us on a tour of walks around the world. Click here to read.

The Matriarch of Hirronk

Ali Jan Maqsood introduces us to a strong matriarch from a Balochi village. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Drill, Fill, Just Chill, Devraj Singh Kalsi gives us humour while under a dentist’s drill. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

Suzanne Kamata writes of her A Ramble on Bizan, focussing on a writer, also by the surname of Moraes, who lived on Mount Bizan more than century ago, moving to Japan from Portugal having fallen violently in love. Click here to read.

Short Stories

Half-Sisters

Sohana Manzoor explores the darker regions of human thought with a haunting psychological narrative about familial structures. Click here to read.

Homecoming

Rituparna Mukherjee gives a poignant story about missing home. Click here to read.

The Phosphorescent Sea

Paul Mirabile journeys with his protagonist into the depths of the ocean. Click here to read.

The Literary Fictionist

In Deathless are the Words, Sunil Sharma explores madness and ideators who believe in the power of words. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee. Click here to read.

An excerpt from A Handful of Sesame by Shrinivas Vaidya, translated from Kannada by Maithreyi Karnoor. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Somdatta Mandal has reviewed BM Zuhara’s The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir, translated from Malayalam by Fehmida Zakir. Click here to read.

Basudhara Roy has reviewed Taranath Tantrik: And Other Tales from the Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Satyajit Ray Miscellany: On Life, Cinema, People & Much More, a collection of the maestro’s writings and illustrations. Click here to read.

Categories
Editorial

The Sky

The sky is, was and will be.

It stretches without borders, without interruptions, without contentions, unifying all under its life-giving ambience. We live nurtured by the sky, the water and the Earth. If we think back to times before humans made constructs and built walls to guard their own, to times when their ancestors roamed the Earth and moved to meet their needs, the population was not huge, and resources were abundant. Our species lived in consonance with nature. People revered natural forces and found trends that evolved into traditions and constructs which eventually made their progeny forget that the sky, water and Earth did not belong to them. These belong or perhaps exist for some reason that we do not comprehend despite the explanations given by science and religions. Being merely transient passers-by through these, humanity, unlike dinosaurs, has an urge to survive and be like the sky — with a past, present and future and a sense of the eternal. Though we all have short lives compared to the sky, Earth or universe, we continue to find ourselves in a homo centric world that considers all else to be made to meet their aspirations. But there was a time, when humans lacked this arrogance. They just tried to survive. And move with shifting rivers in an unbordered world.

Exploring such times, is Anthony Sattin’s profound book, Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped our World. He converses to reinforce reviving the concept of asabiyya or bonding between humans so that they find it in their hearts to move forward with necessary changes to avoid following in the footsteps of mammoths. A change maker who redefined constructs for humankind, a devdasi’s[1] daughter who rose to become a pioneering doctor and activist a hundred years ago, is Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy. We have an interview with her recent biographer, R Devika, who authored Muthulakshmi Reddy: A Trailblazer in Surgery and Women’s Rights.

The books reviewed this time include one featuring the writings by the greatest change maker in cinema — Satyajit Ray. Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Satyajit Ray Miscellany: On Life, Cinema, People & Much More while Professor Somdatta Mandal has given us a candid opinion on BM Zuhara’s The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir, translated from Malayalam by Fehmida Zakir. Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the  Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee brings unexplored dark mysterious forces into play and has been reviewed by Basudhara Roy. We have an excerpt from the titular stories of Tarantath Tantrik. Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay(1894-1950) was a legendary writer from Bengal. He wrote stories and novels, some of which were immortalised in cinema, such as the Apu triology by Satyajit Ray. The other book excerpt is from a translation from Kannada by an upcoming voice that needs to be heard, Maithreyi Karnoor. She has brought to the anglophone world Shrinivas Vaidya’s Handful of Sesame.

In our section on translations, we are privileged to carry voices that remain relevant to date, Tagore and Nazrul. Nazrul’s poem on poverty, Daridro, has been translated by Professor Fakrul Alam and we have a transcreation of Tagore’s inspiring lyrics (Aalo Amar Aalo) to energise one’s life with the refulgence of light. Rosy Gallace’s poetry has been translated from Italian by Albanian writer, Irma Kurti. Korean poet, Ihlwha Choi, has translated his own poem on peace for us. And a Tamil short story by S Ramakrishnan, has been rendered into English by B Chandramouli. It is an interesting potpourri as is our poetry section, which even features poetry from Iraq by Ahmad Al-Khatat. We also feature poems by Michael Burch, Kirpal Singh, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Jonathan Chan, Ron Pickett, George Freek, Gayatri Majumdar, Vandana Kumar, Mike Smith and many more along with the inimitable witty ditties of Rhys Hughes which not only make us laugh but also wonder…

Evoking humour is not easy, but we do have a few such writers who manage it very well. Hughes has given us a tongue-in-cheek piece on the dateline, which has more than humour. And Devraj Singh Kalsi has shared his discovery that laughter is the best medicine to shrug off a dentist’s drill. He has also visited the colours of Durga Puja which, with its spirit of inclusivity, transported visitors in one marquee near Kolkata to the iconic Malaysian Twin Towers. Thus, bringing festivals in October into our purview. Candice Lousia Daquin has actually explored why we celebrate festivals and the God gene… Did you know we have a biological need for spirituality?

Suzanne Kamata has introduced us to Mount Bizan, which houses a writer by the surname of Moraes – Wenceslau José de Souza de Moraes, an expat writer who lived in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century. Wonder if he could have been related to the Anglo Indian writer, Dom Moraes? Aditi Yadav has also given us an essay on the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi with its world view centred on imperfections and transience. Ravi Shankar has suggested walks for all of us, sharing his experiences in the Himalayas, the Caribbean island of Aruba and in many more places. Meredith Stephens has written of sailing to Tasmania.

The essay that brought back a flavour of home for me is one by Asad Latif, now a journalist in Singapore but long ago, he was an icon in India. We are very privileged to have his writing on what borders do for us… a piece exploring the idea on which we base our journal, also perhaps with a touch of Anthony Sattin’ s asabiyya. ‘Pandies’ Corner‘ starts another run, showcasing women’s tryst for freedom. Amreen’s ‘Moh-Reen’, her own story, translated from Hindustani by Janees, is a brave start to the series. The voices ring out asking for a change, to heal social norms to accommodate love and kindness with the backing of Shaktishalini and Pandies as does the unsupported solo voice of an older woman from Balochistan, Ganji Baloch, brought to our notice by Ali Jaan Maqsood.

We have fiction from Sohana Manzoor – again bringing to fore strange stories of women rebelling against social norms. Paul Mirabile explores death and the sea in a horrific story. Sunil Sharma’s fiction explores madness and ideators, making a social comment on recent happenings. As the sky stretches out to accommodate all kinds of writings, all creatures great and small, we try our best to give voice to a fair cross section from around the world as we have done this time too.

There are as usual pieces that we have not mentioned in this note but they are all worth a read. Do drop in to check out our contents in this October issue. We are truly grateful to our contributors who continue to connect with words and thoughts that waft along with clouds. We would like to thank Sohana Manzoor especially for her wonderful artwork. The journal would not be a possibility without the support of the whole team and our valuable readers who make writing worth the effort. It is lovely to be read and remembered for the words we write.

Wish you all a wonderful October.

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com


[1] A woman ‘married’ to Gods and forced to live as a mistress to mortal men.

Categories
Review

Of Ghosts and Tantriks

Book review by Basudhara Roy

Title: Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the Supernatural

Author: Bibhutibhushan

Translator: Devalina Mookerjee

Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books

The book decides to arrive on a crisp Friday morning, its sunshine so keen and abundant that any thoughts of the supernatural can only be merrily chuckled over. The cover, however, is strangely disconcerting. It takes me time to mark that the brilliant art on it actually depicts skulls. Not ordinary enough to be dismissed as mere biological specimens, the skulls seem to represent, in their complexity, vibrancy and the silhouette of birds that haunt them on every side, a text that is both hauntingly familiar and eerily not so. Bibhutibhushon’s short stories exploring the supernatural and tantra, a practice associated with dark forces and the Goddess Kali, translated by Devalina Mookerjee from Bengali — could not, perhaps, have been showcased better.

Bibhutibhushan (1894-1950) was an eminent Bengali writer whose best known works are his novels, Pather Panchali (Song of the Road) and Aparajito – both immortalised into films by Satyajit Ray,  Chander Pahar (Moon Mountain) Aranyak (Of the Forest). Some of these books can be found in translation.To one even remotely acquainted with Bibhutibhushan’s oeuvre, his stories offer a definite assurance of being in good company. In reading , Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the Supernatural, however, what the reader might fail to bargain for is the almost complete obliteration of the physical world by the world of the book, and by the time the journey through the nine translated stories therein has been made, one is no longer sure where one world ends and the other begins.

It takes time to step out of the frame and to express admiration for the conduit that has led to this extraordinary experience in fiction – the translator. To transcend spatiality and temporality and conjure these tales again for an entirely different readership in an entirely different language is likely to have been a project fraught with its own pointed challenges. Mookerjee, however, seems to have successfully met them all, so much so that in the context of the English language, these spooky, unsettling tales offer not the slightest semblance of foreignness, even when they deal thematically with something as acutely local and specialised as tantra. The language is sparklingly contemporary and in its inflections, energy and dreaminess to allow these nine narratives to carve their own particular niches. The pace of the collection stays heady throughout and the atmosphere is completely overpowering.

Of special significance is Mookerjee’s nuanced and insightful twenty-seven paged ‘Introduction’ to the collection that calls upon the reader to visualise concrete connections between social justice and the genre of the supernatural. Mookerjee writes: “Seen against the background of what people are capable of doing to each other, stories of ghost may be seen as corrective mechanisms in the scales of justice. A person who has been wronged returns to tell their story, perhaps to wreak havoc on their tormentors. A disbeliever sits in a séance for which the medium is clearly not prepared, and chaos ensues. We have a word for this already. We call it karma.”

The ‘Introduction’ serves, also, as a brave attempt to place Bibhutibhushan’s writing in current socio-cultural perspective, and to bridge the disparate worlds of rural Bengal that birthed these stories and that of the contemporary English reader of these tales who could belong to almost any geographical space on the global map.

The first two stories of the collection are centred around the protagonist after who the book has been named, a dabbler in the dark arts, Taranath Tantrik. The remaining seven stories are each unique in their own ways as they chart their individual journeys into the terrain of the invisible and the occult with remarkable skill and clarity. “Human beings have historically shown very little need of support from the otherworld to behave in perfectly horrible ways with other people. This is the point at which the darkness of the uncanny and the darkness of people converge,” avers Mookerjee, pointing out how the surreal is often only another dimension of the real revealed in a disjointed spatial-temporality.

Not all of the nine stories strike with equal power. If ‘The Ghosts of Spices’ appears quite facile and juvenile in its description of a march-past of spice sacks on the deserted nocturnal streets, ‘A Small Statue’ appears rather simplistically cinematic in its  dream presentation of the tableau of the monk, Dipankar’s life. In the most evocative stories of the collection like ‘Maya’, ‘The House of His Foremothers’, ‘Arrack’ and ‘The Curse’, however, the quiet, intricate weaving of setting, psychology and idea dazzles in its brilliance, leaving behind a sense of both fracture and healing.

Bibhutibhushan’s poignancy is at its unsurpassable best in his delineation of place and in his exploration of links between physical place and human placed-ness. His most unforgettable stories are those in which people and places interact with each other organically and without inhibitions, creating a documented identity of both being-in-place and place-in-being. In ‘Maya’ for instance, the house acquires an identity of its own as its past inhabitants gently draw its present dweller/s into the folds of its mystery and inexplicable self-sufficiency. In ‘The House of His Foremothers’ similarly, the ghost-girl Lokkhi mourns for the bereft house more than her lost family and consistently haunts its silences in the hope of resurrection for the house which, unlike her, still lives across the family’s generational lifetimes.

To allow one’s imagination to be overpowered by these stories is to experience a strange welding of the probable and the improbable into the arc of the possible — to be awakened to a new dimension of being in which while vision remains at par, the other senses experience a heightened participation with what is positively undefinable but utterly undeniable.

Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the Supernatural, by thus placing the reality in the larger context of a world that still evades the cartography of reason, becomes a portal to a widened, heightened and more enlightened worldview. It helps remind of the intersections between our own human finitude and the infinite world with its geo-historical consciousness incapable of forgetting and thoroughly unable to forgive.

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Basudhara Roy teaches English at Karim City College affiliated to Kolhan University, Chaibasa. Drawn to gender and ecological studies, her four published books include a monograph and three poetry collections. Her recent works are available at Outlook India, The Dhaka Tribune, EPW, Madras Courier and Live Wire among others.

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Click here to read the book excerpt from Taranath Tantrik

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

Categories
Editorial

Catch a Falling Star…

Art by Sohana Manzoor
For when your troubles starting multiplying
And they just might
It's easy to forget them without trying
With just a pocketful of starlight

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away (never let it fade away)
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

'Catch a Falling Star' by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss

Perhaps, it is time to find that fallen star popularised by pop singer Perry Como is 1957. Optimism glimmers faintly, sometimes even conceals itself, in a world passing through a dark phase in history. For instance, few of us would know that we might find more answers to tackle  climate change as dinosaur fossils (from the time an asteroid hit the planet) have been unearthed recently. That sounds like solutions can be had to what was perceived as inevitable doom.

Another bit of news that perhaps will cheer some is the first anthology of Borderless Journal will soon be available in market. It has been accepted by a publisher, an old, trusted and reputed name from India, Om Books International. They have bookshops splattered all over — should make it easy for buyers to access the book. Hopefully, you can target the anthology for your Diwali or Christmas gift hampers. Om Books has one of the most iconic editors-in chief, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri. A multiple award-winning editor, he has worked in Penguin and Harper Collins and is currently churning out wonderful books from Om with a fabulous production team, working with whom has been a pleasure. Ray Chaudhuri is an outstanding film writer and poet. He is part of a group that is creating a film archive online. To know more about him or his views on publishing, you can read our online conversation with him.

The energy one gets from optimism like starlight from a fallen star, lightens the darker shadows that create gloom with the war leading to rise in prices and threats of recession in a post pandemic scenario. Lesya Bakun, the refugee from Ukraine whose story we carried last month, finds her starlight by sharing updates of her story.  She added to her narrative with the news that her cousin has been taken as a prisoner of war by Russia from the besieged factory in Ukraine. Though sharing does not alleviate suffering, Bakun’s ability to cling to hope and imagine a future where she gets her dream highlights the strength of her convictions. The other thing that is revealed by her narrative and media coverage is exclusivity and boxes of ideology split humankind, erase families, cities, countries, lives and sanity. The war can appease only the lust of warlords. Against this desolation caused by the devastation, what could be the starlight that would lead to a happier future?

Laughter. Unleashing the ability to laugh at oneself is as potent as laughter that generates relief and lightens our mood, so that we can view differences as whimsical, treat them with tolerance and compassion and not destroy the diversities that add colours to the world. Perhaps, that is why Tagore took to humour too. Somdatta Mandal has translated a series of humorous skits by Tagore. We are featuring one of these called the ‘Ordeal of Fame’. Yet another translation or transcreation of a poem called ‘Lukochuri’ or ‘Hide and Seek’ reflects the playful in Tagore’s oeuvre. These, along with Rhys Hughes humour on the pandemic in poetry and prose, bring good cheer into our journal. Hughes has also used his column to tell us why he curated a new humorous anthology of verses by seventeen poets called Wuxing Lyrical. I wonder if he is serious or joking!

We were fortunate to have a tongue-in-cheek online discussion with an academic with a witty sense of humour who started a book based on his PhD research with a limerick, Amit Ranjan, author of John Lang the Wanderer of Hindoostan, Slanderer in Hindoostan, Lawyer for the Ranee. While Ranjan brought to us a narrative of an Australian who challenged the colonial mindset, went to court representing the Rani of Jhansi, wrote for Charles Dickens in Household Words and moved around the world just like one of us, hopping jobs and looking for a life, we have diverse cultural streams woven into the journal with translations of a Balochi folktale from Fazal Baloch, a Korean poem by Ihlwha Choi and Professor Fakrul Alam’s translation of Jibananda’s poetry, an ongoing project in Borderless.

The Nithari column has yielded us a story that was written in a mix of Hindi and English by Yogesh Uniyal and translated fully to English by Nirbhay Bhogal. We have strange stories this time. Nileena Sunil’s short narrative and Paul Mirabile’s longer one set in Madrid explore the unusual. More stories delve into the intricacies of the human mind.

As we trot around the globe, Suzanne Kamata tells us about a Monet museum in Japan where she ate madeleines made with the artist’s recipe! Meredith Stephens sails to Tasmania with her camera and gives us a glimpse of nature’s plenty. Ravi Shankar relates his trekking adventures among the Himalayas in Nepal, with awesome photographs of these mountains, while Kenny Peavy who lives in Indonesia dwells on the value of falling down and getting up in a light humorous vein against the backdrop of nature – though metaphorically perhaps the world needs to do that. We have G Venkatesh’s story about his stay in Johannesburg where he discovers that skin tones do not matter.

Ratnottama Sengupta makes the whole world look like a home with the story of a legendary screenwriter, Jean Claude Carriere, who wrote the script of Mahabharata for Peter Brook’s play (1985) of the same name and the subsequent film (1989) — with characters drawn from all over the world. Candice gives us an overview of the pandemic, with more focus on US where she lives.

Mike Smith travels back to another time when an ailment called World War II raged and has revived a writer from the past, HE Bates (1905-1974). We have another essay by Dan Meloche on a legendary book which turned 100 this year — Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. Rakhi Dalal revisits more than a century old translation by Devabrata Mukherjee of Tagore’s The Post Office which bears relevance to the present day as it shows how the human spirit endures over even the darkness of death.

Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Radhika Gupta’s Limitless: The Power of Unlocking Your True Potential, by his assessment a book that inspires youngsters to take charge of their future. On the other hand, there are books that explore the darkest in humans. Basudhara Roy has reviewed a collection short stories by Sunil Sharma called Burn the Library & Other Fiction. Indrashish Banerjee reviews Upamanyu Chatterjee’s latest novel based on modern day crimes, Villainy, from which we are carrying a book excerpt too. The other excerpt is from a narrative written from a refugee’s perspective, Ramy Al-Asheq’s Ever Since I Did Not Die, translated by Isis Nusair from Arabic. Born in a refugee camp in Damascus, this Syrian-Palestinian poet defies all genres to touch hearts with brutal honesty. No less sincere is Michael Burch’s poetry on summer that ushers in the season as much as Sohana’s beautiful painting that we are using as our cover photo. We have poetry from not just Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri but also by George Freek, S. Srinivas, Tohm Bakelas, Abin Chakraborty, Marianne Tefft and many more. As usual, I have not mentioned all the treats in store for you. Delve into our contents page and browse to find out more.

Before winding up, I would want to extend my thanks not only to our team and contributors, but also to our publisher who is willing to republish our content with some tweaking. Thanks to our readers who, I hope, will be excited to have selected content between their palms as a hardcopy anthology with 49 of our most iconic pieces. We have more than a thousand published works. This anthology will be an iconic sample that you can carry anywhere with you even if there is no internet – that would include Mars and Moon!

I wish you happy reading, happy dreaming and hope… plenty of it.

Best wishes,

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com