On 26 th January, 1950, India was declared a republic, an independent entity with the complete withdrawal of colonial support of any kind. The country adopted an independent constitution. The Republic Day celebrations conclude on 29th January with ‘Beating the Retreat’,where more than seven decades ago the British withdrew all armed support from India.
In this edition, we will explore how the idea of an independent India has evolved over the decades. We have poetry by Asad Latif that celebrates the Indianess across borders. On the other hand, Beni S Yanthan from Nagaland explores the republic in the shadow of displacement, which makes one wonder if cultural hegemony can help make a country? Ukraine is faced with a war over it.
Tagore’s poem builds empathy around human suffering as does Premchand’s story, translated by C Christine Fair — these are texts written at the start of the turn of the last century. Have we come out of that suffering? Perhaps, the answer can be found in Bhaskar Parichha’s review about a book that spans almost the whole of twentieth century in India. He tells us the author, “MA Sreenivasan (1897-1998) lived through almost the entire 20th century and was among the very few people who witnessed at close quarters the enormous changes that took place in India during this period.” This has been recorded in his book and its review. Rhys Hughes’ humour winds up this edition where he recounts the differences in the cultural ethos of India and a region of the country that despite losing an empire where the sun never set, still retains its sense of humour!
The Traveller in Time: An interview with Sybil Pretious who has lived through history in six countries and travelled to forty — she has participated in the first democratic elections in an apartheid-worn South Africa and is from a time when Rhodesia was the name for Zimbabwe. Click here to read.
Ratnottama Sengupta, who has edited an encyclopaedia on culture and is a renowned arts journalist, gives us the role ‘kanthas’ (hand-embroidered mats, made of old rags) played in India’s freedom struggle. Click here to read.
What if I uproot you?
If I uproot you from my heart,
I would have spare breath to
squander among the babel of crows
that swaddles this wayward house.
I would have space to house abandoned
love songs that have been sleeping
in the mouths of robins.
I could take in the dead-silence
that arrives at the end of
a long day with a hard kiss,
I would have room to shelter
uncompanionable poems like this one
that prickle with vulgar melancholia,
I could describe every regret with digestible
verbs without having to blame
it on my foibles…
I could break tradition –
speak my mind, get worked up,
pick the choicest meat from the table
and hold it up as a homage to forgotten deities
all in the presence of outraged men,
without breathing in your scent -
I could do all this and not allow
anger to walk into our world but -
Of what use is a republic,
even if it’s a republic of one,
if there is nothing inside of
Beni S Yanthan (Yanbeni) is a tribal, feminist poet and academic from Nagaland, India. She belongs to the Lotha tribe. She teaches English and Cultural Studies in Nagaland University, Kohima.
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