As we glide in and out of different phases of the pandemic, recalling when it started to make news takes one to a different world, a world where human interactions, travel, life — all of it seemed more predictable. I remember, I heard of it while in Yogyakarta in December 2019. At that time, we just knew of some new outbreak that had taken toll of a few human lives.
In three months, it became larger and larger and lockdowns became a reality. At some point, the outbreak was named a pandemic. Now, it seems to loom over us like a Sisyphean burden which rolls back to a fresh threat from a new variant just as we start to feel we have finally overcome the virus and made it to the peak, where we can resume our old ways. Is this a hint that we need to redefine our lives and change the tenor of our existence?
With eternal optimism for a weapon, mankind has overcome more deadly situations, when there were neither labs nor technologies to overcome diseases. Writers on our pages have reacted to the multiple outbreaks in varied ways. Here we present a selection of poems, stories and non-fiction from Mid-2021 that feature the onset of the new waves of the virus, which eventually will hopefully evolve to become an endemic. What is heartening to see is some writing has started to move towards a direction to define new ways to overcome the fear and darkness that seem to have been generated by the inability to bounce back to our ‘normal’ ways of living within a given timeframe. Perhaps, one should tend to agree with Keith Lyons, when he says in his essay: “I’ve learned to better cope with the challenges of life. As Jedi Master Yoda once said: ‘Named must be your fear before banish it you can’.”
In conversation with Fakrul Alam, an eminent translator, critic and academic from Bangladesh who has lived through the inception of Bangladesh from East Bengal, translated not just the three greats of Bengal (Tagore, Nazrul, Jibanananda) but also multiple political leaders. Click here to read.
In conversation with Arindam Roy, the Founder and Editor-in-cheif of Different Truths, an online portal for social journalism with forty years of experience in media and major Indian newspapers. Click here to read
Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poem, Shammobadi(The Equaliser) translated by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu. Click here to read.
Tagore’sAmar Shonar Horin Chai(I want the Golden Deer) translated by Mitali Chakravarty, edited and interpreted in pastel by Sohana Manzoor. Click here to read.
To mark the birth centenary of Satyajit Ray, Ratnottama Sengupta translates fromNabendu Ghosh’s autobiography experience of Pather Panchali ( Song of the Road) — between covers and on screen. Click here to read.
Wendy Jones Nakanishi, an academic who started her life in a small town called Rolling Prairie in midwestern US, talks of her journey as a globe trotter — through Europe and Asia — and her response to Covid while living in UK. Click here to read.
‘Did life change or did I change from the events of the last year,’ ponders New Zealander Keith Lyons who was in the southern state of Kerala when the first cases of Covid-19 were detected in India last January. Click here to read.
A Lament, A Prayer
This slow sweltering summer day
the suburb seems to be sleeping,
succumbing to the heavy & humid daytime lull.
I walk from room to room
with a glass of fizzy drink,
losing track of time
with my multifarious musings.
I sit down to work
amid the late afternoon susurrus sneaking
in from the latticed windows.
I put my pen aside —
and there it rests on the table,
too tired, too reluctant to write about
all the paralyzing things happening
in the world.
My mushy brain throbs
in its liquid room,
swimming in endless tragedies
of faraway places.
At home, there’s birdsong
and a willful indifference,
though the heart is not impervious
Days go by.
Sparrows cheep and flutter,
moths die on window panes,
not a single news of the ones
who left us in these sleepy suburbs,
full of endless waiting.
Bibek Adhikari writes poetry and fiction. He lives in Kathmandu and works as a freelance technical writer and editor.
Words dribble down from the corners
of your mouth. From within the temple,
gods tremble with your frosty voice —
they now need a glass of moonshine.
The night is paused on LED screens.
The quietness of eating alone
in this rented room is too loud to bear.
a staccato bark of madness.
Is it your heartbeat?
There is pain that seeks its way out
through the crack in your heart.
This too shall pass as time goes by.
The overhead yellow light is on —
you are by yourself at the dinner table.
Pick up the pen, bleed poetry.
Bibek Adhikari is a poet and critic based in Kathmandu. A full-time technical writer for Deerwalk Inc., he divides his time between poetry and ‘unpoetic’ documentation. His poems and narratives have been published in some prints and online publications, including The Kathmandu Post, República Daily, and Annapurna Express. Currently, he’s working on his manuscript of poems.
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