Borderless, October 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor


The Sky … Click here to read.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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

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


Is it a Story, a Novel, or a Memoir?

Book Review by Somdatta Mandal

Title: The Dreams of a Mappilla Girl: A Memoir

Author: B.M. Zuhara

Translator: Fehmida Zakeer

Publisher: Yoda Press & Sage

 The terms ‘autobiography’ and ‘memoir’ are sometimes used interchangeably but the former is more fact-based and tends to be historical, whereas a ‘memoir,’ derived from the Latin word ‘memorandum’, is chiefly a personal, minute recollection of events, not necessarily intending to cover a person’s entire life, but often written from an epiphanic perspective, a significant event, or a particular aspect of the memoirist’s life. Thus, memoirs are essentially subjective and can never claim to be bio-bibliographical narrations. B.M. Zuhara, the writer and columnist from Kerala and a Sahitya Akademi awardee who writes in Malayalam, had penned The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir (2015), which was recently translated by Fehmida Zakeer to English. It traces the childhood years of the writer, growing up in the village of Tikkodi in rural Kerala as a young Mappila girl from the Muslim community in post-Independence India.

For Zuhara, the things she remembers from her childhood act as vignettes which we readers string together to form a wholesome picture of the feudal system and social issues that were significant in her mind as she was growing up in the Malabar Muslim community in the 1950s. The tenth and youngest child of her parents living in a huge ancestral house called Kizhekke Maliakkal, Soora’s narrative gives us details of the things she remembered about the place till the point where at the age of thirteen she moves with her family to live in a rented house at Kohzikode to be admitted in a high school and begin a new chapter in her life. But even after she gets admitted into a prestigious school at Kozhikode, uncertainty looms large over Soora’s life as her mother stays adamant about not allowing her daughter to wear a skirt as a uniform as mandated by the school. In the ‘Preface’, Zuhara mentions that her childhood ancestral home does not exist anymore, but its memory is so strong that it appears as a character in many of her writings.

From the very beginning of the memoir, we form a clear picture in our minds about the location of the house, its detailed set-up filled with characters of the extended family including servants and cooks who lent a helping hand to run it smoothly. Like many other narratives, food plays a significant role in developing the ambience of Soora’s household. We get details of the elaborate tea ritual every evening, the eating of pathiris soaked in coconut milk, the aroma of fried plantains and coconut residue that filled the air, the details of the betel leaf chewed by her mother and grandmother with their decorative boxes and copper spittoons, the attempts to hatch chickens from eggs that were undertaken in the storeroom, the rearing of hens and ducks and goats by her brothers, the midday meals offered in their village school which their mother did not allow them to partake considering that it was solely meant for underprivileged children, and so on fill up a considerable portion of the narrative. Apart from visiting the village fair, Zuhara recounts the social mores of the society she lived in and offers glimpses into the secluded lives of Muslim girls and women who, despite obstacles, made the best of their circumstances and contributed positively to their communities.

One significant point about the memoir is the presence of Soora’s mother throughout the narrative and the strong influence that she had over her. While growing up, Soora often accused her of not looking after her well because she was an unwanted child. A religious woman who prayed five times a day, she not only tried to apply the teachings of the Quran to her life, but also shared her newly acquired knowledge with the people around her. Any deviation from the traditional lifestyle was, according to her, punishable as an offence by Allah. A pampered cry baby who would often burst into tears for the slightest reason, Soora from the very beginning was a sensitive child, who was often admonished for her interest in playing with boys and learn Kalari Payattu like her brothers, play with them in the rice fields, stand on the bridge and listen to the songs sung by the farmhands as they worked. She was also scolded for eavesdropping into conversations made by adults and like all traditional Muslim women, her mother wanted to get her married at a very young age. The real and perceived slights that Soora was subjected to, were primarily targeted at her physical appearance, specifically her dark complexion and her tendency to cling to her mother. But paradoxically for a seemingly timid child, Soora’s propensity to constantly question what is established as normative behaviour for a girl earns her the nickname of ‘Tarkakozhi’ – one who argues. What these contradictory impulses perhaps reveal was a girl who was overwhelmed by the big and small battles she must constantly fight, a life burdened by gendered expectations, yet a girl whose deepest desire was to be like Unniarcha, a mythological woman celebrated for her fearlessness whose ballads Soora grew up listening to.

But soon Soora realised that some of her dreams would never materialise because of her gender. Certain details, such as that of Soora’s grandmother passing away at the age of thirty when Soora’s mother was fifteen; or that two of Soora’s sisters were married even before she was born, reveal the dark reality of women’s lives in those times. In the ‘Preface’ Zuhara categorically states:

“I grew up at a time when Muslim girls did not have the freedom to dream. When I started writing, I had to face a lot of criticism and threats, and I found many limitations imposed on me. Until then, only men had recorded the inner lives of Muslim women. Even though I could not comfort my sisters physically, I have tried through my writings to give them a voice by speaking about their dreams, chronicling the obstacles and difficulties faced by them, and providing a perspective from the point of view of women. In the process, I have tried to define a space for myself in the literary landscape.”

In her ‘Preface’, the author also wonders if her work is a “story, or a novel, or a memoir.” Her words became the wings upon which forgotten, and deeply bruised memories travelled out into the world. She recreated the stories of her dear and near ones around whom she had spent her childhood. She coloured her childhood experiences with her imagination and penned them all down. Even though all the names are of actual people, if she is asked if the stories are real or imagined, she can only say that they are both. So, she leaves it to her readers who have encouraged and supported her writing journey to decide.

Here one needs to add a few words about the translation. The translator Fehmida Zakeer also hails from Kerala and being a Muslim herself, her effort to make this book read as smoothly as the original Malayalam text is laudable. There is no italicisation of non-English words throughout the text and the list of kinship terms at the beginning, along with the elaborate glossary at the end, makes the book as reader friendly as possible while trying to retain the flavour of the original. The only occasional problem this reviewer faced while reading the text was that too many authentic words and salutary terms for relationships of even a single individual often turned confusing for a lay reader like her who had to pause and recollect who the actual person referred to was. For the protagonist, mention of Sora, Soora, Sooramol, and Zuhura is understandable, but addressing members of the extended family and others residing in the neigbhourhood in different salutations sometimes becomes difficult for people not acquainted with the South Indian Malayali culture. However, despite such a minor lapse, the book is engrossing and offers a wonderful slice of life of the rural and semi-urban Muslim community in Kerala, of its customs and lifestyle which otherwise would remain unknown to us in a muti-cultural and multilingual country like India.


Click here to read an excerpt from The Dreams of Mappila Girl: A Memoir


Somdatta Mandal, critic, translator, and reviewer, is a former Professor of English at Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan.