Categories
Editorial

The Caged Birds Sing

...Don't you know
They're talkin''bout a revolution
It sounds like a whisper...
-- Tracy Chapman,'Talkin 'Bout a Revolution
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 
— Bible 

We are living in strange times that seem to be filled with events to challenge the innovativeness of man. As if the pandemic were not enough, concepts that had come out of the best in our civilisation to unite mankind have been convoluted by a minority to manipulate and hurt the majority into submission. Life is not about surviving with faint-hearted compliance but about having the courage to live it as you want, facing it full up front, to voice out in unison against injustices, wrongs, and most of all to loan strength to help and care for each other. Often to understand this, we need to hinge on to our past, to learn from our heritage. But do we do that? In the hectic drive to be successful, we tend to ignore important lessons that could have been imbibed from the past. Like, did you know that the tribes in the Andaman can save themselves from a tsunami?

Padma Shri Anvita Abbi tells us all about the Andamanese and her attempts to revive their moribund language in her interview and book, Voices from the Lost Horizon, reviewed by Rakhi Dalal. While the review focusses on the uniqueness of Abbi’s work and the publication with its embedded recordings of the tribe fast dissolving into the morass of mainstream civilisation, her interview highlights the need to revive their lores that evolved out of a 70,000-year-old culture. On the other hand, Jessica Mudditt, interviewed by Keith Lyons, dwells on the ongoing crisis in Myanmar, which has been clearly the focus of her book, Our Home in Yangon. This interview focusses on the here and now of the crisis. But most crises have their roots deep and perhaps an exploration of these could help. There are 135 ethnicities in Myanmar but how many are actually integrated into the mainstream? Are they in the process of getting ‘lost’ like the voices of the speakers of Greater Andamanese?

That is why we tried to showcase a few such strains that are going unheard in the loudness of the ‘civilised’ mainstream. We have translations in poetry from Santhali and Adivasi, touching on the concerns of those who are often considered underdeveloped. And, perhaps, as Abbi said in her interview about the Andamanese, we can say much the same for these tribes too.

“These tribes are neither poor, nor uneducated (their knowledge of environment comprising birds, fishes, medicinal plants and their … weather predictions, and the Earth they walk on is amazing) …”

Distinctions have been created by a ‘civilisation’ entrenched in mono-cognitive enforcements leading to the loss of trust, confidence, languages, cultures and valuable knowledge about basic survival. Perhaps we can attempt to heal such wounds by imbibing the openness, love, devotion and compassion shown by the Buddhist monk, Upagupta (who is still revered in Myanmar as Shin Upagutta), in the translation of Tagore’s story poem, ‘Abhisar’ or ‘The Tryst’.  Somdatta Mandal’s translation of Tagore’s letters introduce similar humanitarian concerns when the maestro mentions a German anthropologist and his wife who for the betterment of mankind were journeying to study tribals in India. Tagore remarks, “The people for whom they are willingly prepared to undergo hardship and to overlook all sorts of danger are not their relatives, nor are they civilised.” And yet even a century ago to fathom more about mankind, attempts were being made to integrate with our ancient lore. The concept of being ‘civilised’ is of course now much under the microscope. What is being ‘civilised’?

 Is it about having power? We have Akbar Barakzai’s poem translated by Fazal Baloch on creation looking at the divide between a ‘civilised’ God and man. The theme stresses the two sides of the divide. More translations from Odiya, Dutch and Korean further mingle different flavours of the world into our journal — each questioning the accepted norm in different ways.

In an edition focussed on myths and stories from which we evolved, Rhys Hughes has created an unusual legend around elephants. His poetry also deals with animals — cats. One wonders if the T S Eliot’s famed ‘Macavity, the Mystery Cat’ could have to do something with his choices?  We were fortunate to have Arundhathi Subramaniam share her poetry on myths around Indian figures like Shakuntala and Avvaiyar and the titular poem from When God is a Traveller that won her the 2020 Sahitya Akademi Award. Michael R Burch continues on the theme dwelling on Circe, Mary Magdalene and Helen. Sekhar Banerjee has a more iconoclastic approach to myths in his poetry. Jared Carter talks of modern myths perpetuated through art and cultural studies as does Mike Smith in his musings with his glance back at the last century through a photograph.

We have poetry by a Filipino writer Gigi Baldovino Gosnell from South Africa, looking for a new world, a new legend, perhaps a world without borders. Tohm Bakelas has given us a few lines of powerful poetry. Could these poems be a reaction to world events? Smitha Vishwanath has responded to the situation in Afghanistan with a poem. In this edition, photographs and verses in Penny Wilkes’ ‘Nature’s Musings‘ draw from the universe. She writes, “The sun never asks for applause” — a powerful thought and perhaps one mankind can learn from.

Ghost stories by Niles Reddick and Sunil Sharma perpetuate the theme, especially the latter has a ghost that questions myths of ‘isms’ created in the modern-day world. We also have a writer from Malaysia, P Ravi Shankar, with a futuristic legend set in a far-off time where man has embraced the reality of climate change and artificial intelligence. An interesting and fun read as is Devraj Singh Kalsi’s professions about why he did not become a professor, Geetha Ravichandran’s light musing on word play and a young writer Saurabh Nagpal’s musing, ‘Leo Messi’s Magic Realism‘ — a footballer viewed from a literary perspective!

While our musings make us laugh, our essays this time take us around the world with the myth of happiness deconstructed by Candice Louisa Daquin, to Burma and deep into Kolkata’s iconic history of the detective department started in the nineteenth century. There is an essay by Bhaskar Parichha that explores politics and media and mentions ‘gatekeepers’ of the media who need to be responsible for influencing public opinion. Guess who would be the gatekeepers?

Bhaskar Parichha’s review of Wendy Donniger’s non-fiction exploring myths around horses, Winged Stallion and Wicked Mares, and Basudhara Roy’s review of Bina Sarkar Ellias’ Song of a Rebel and Other Selected Poems perpetuate the theme of the importance of the past on the one hand and question it on the other. But that is what Borderless is about — exploring the dialectics of opposing streams to re-invent myths towards a better future.

We have a bumper issue again this time with nearly fifty posts. I invite our wonderful readers on a magical journey to unfold the hidden, unmentioned gems scattered on the pages of the September Issue of Borderless. Thank you again to an outstanding team, all our global contributors who make every edition an adventure and a reality and our wonderful readers. Thank you all.

Have a beautiful month!

Mitali Chakravarty

Borderless Journal

Categories
Editorial

Triumph of the Human Spirit

On August 8th 2021, the chief of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, pointed out during the closing ceremony that these games were “unprecedented” and brought messages of “hope, solidarity and peace” into a world torn with the desolation generated by the pandemic. It was a victory of the human spirit again, a precursor of what is to come. That the Japanese could get over their pandemic wrought hurdles, just as they did post the nuclear disasters wrought by the Second World War and by the 2011 earthquake-tsunami at Fukushimaya, to host something as spectacular and inspiring as these international games reflects, as the commentators contended, a spirit of ‘harmony and humility’. The last song performed by many youngsters seemed to dwell on stars in the sky — not only were the athletes and organisers the stars but this also reminded of unexplored frontiers that beckon mankind, the space.What a wonderful thing it was to see people give their best and unite under the banner of sports to bring messages of survival and glimpses of a future we can all share as human beings! Our way of doing things might have to evolve but we will always move forward as a species to thrive and expand beyond the known frontiers.

One such explorer of yet unknown frontiers who mingles the historic with the contemporary, Goutam Ghose, an award-winning filmmaker and writer, has honoured our pages with an extensive interview showing us how art and harmony can weave lores that can help mankind survive. This is reinforced by the other interview with Singaporean academic, Dr Kirpal Singh, whose poetry reflects his convictions of a better world. With our intelligence, we can redefine processes that hold us back and grind our spirits to dust — be it the conventional ‘isms’ or norms that restrict our movement forward – just as Tagore says in the poem, we have translated this time, ‘Deliverance’.

…On this auspicious dawn,
Let us hold our heads high in the infinite sky 
Amidst the light of bounteousness and the heady breeze of freedom.

As the Kobiguru mentioned earlier in the poem, the factors that oppress could be societal, political, or economic. Could they perhaps even be the fetters put on us by the prescribed preconceived definition of manmade concepts like ‘freedom’ itself? Freedom can be interpreted differently by multiple voices.

This month, on our pages, ‘freedom’ has found multiple interpretations in myriad of ways — each voice visualising a different dream; each dream adding value to the idea of human progress. We have discussions and stories on freedom from Nigeria, Argentina, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Malaysia and more. Strangely enough, August holds multiple independence/ national days that are always for some reason seen as days of being ‘freed’ by many — at least from oppression. But is that true?

From Malaysia, Julian Matthews and Malachi Edwin Vethamani cry out against societal, religious and political bindings – quite a powerful outcry at that with a story and poems. Akbar Barakzai continues his quest with three poems around ideas of freedom translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Jaydeep Sarangi and Joan Mcnerny pick up these reverberations of freedom, each defining it in different ways through poetry.

Jared Carter takes us back to his childhood with nostalgic verses. Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Michael Lee Johnson, Vandana Sharma and many more sing to us with their lines. Rhys Hughes has of course humour in verse that makes us smile as does Jay Nicholls who continues with her story-poems on Pirate Blacktarn – fabulous pieces all of them. The sport of hummingbirds and cats among jacaranda trees is caught in words and photographs by Penny Wilkes in her Nature’s Musings. A poetic tribute to Danish Siddiqui by young Sutputra Radheye rings with admiration for the Pulitzer prize-winning photographer who met his untimely end last month on 16th while at work in Afghanistan, covering a skirmish between Taliban and Afghanistan security forces. John Linwood Grant takes up interesting issues in his poetry which brings me back to ‘freedom’ from colonial regimes, perhaps one of the most popular themes for writers.

Indo-Pak independence, celebrated now on 14th (Pakistan) and 15th August (India), reflects not only the violence of the Partition which dislocated and killed millions historically but also the trauma caused by the event. Capturing this trauma is a short story based on memories of Partition by Nadir Ali, translated from Punjabi by his daughter, Amna Ali. Ratnottama Sengupta translates from the diary of Sandhya Sinha (1928-2016), a woman’s voice from the past that empathises with the subjugated who were subdued yet again after an upsurge of violence during the Quit India Movement (1942) against the colonials. Sinha contends that though the movement frittered away, the colonials were left with an after-taste of people hankering for self-rule. A thought-provoking short story by Sunil Sharma explores the results of self-rule in independent India.

Alluding to Jinnah’s vision for women, Aysha Baqir muses emotionally about the goals that remain yet to be fulfilled 74 years after independence. Moazzam Sheikh’s story of immigrants explores dementia, giving us a glimpse of the lives of Asian immigrants in America, immigrants who had to find a new home despite independence. Was this the freedom they dreamt of — all those who fought against various oppressive regimes or colonialism?

Tagore’s lyrics might procure a few ideas on freedom, especially in the song that India calls its National Anthem. Anasuya Bhar assays around the history that surrounds the National Anthem of India, composed by Tagore in Bengali and translated to English by the poet himself and more recently, only by Aruna Chakravarti. We also carry Dr Chakravarti’s translation of the National Anthem in the essay. Reflecting on the politics of Partition and romance is a lighter piece by Devraj Singh Kalsi which says much. ‘Dinos in France’ by Rhys Hughes and Neil Reddick’s ‘The Coupon’ have tongue-in-cheek humour from two sides of the Atlantic.

A coming-of-age story has been translated from Nepali by Mahesh Paudyal – a story by a popular author, Dev Kumari Thapa – our first Nepali prose piece.  We start a four-part travelogue by John Herlihy, a travel writer, on Myanmar, a country which has recently been much in the news with its fight for surviving with democracy taking ascendency over the pandemic and leaving the people bereft of what we take for granted.

Candice Louisa Daquin discusses a life well-lived in a thought provoking essay, in which she draws lessons from her mother as do Korean poet, Ihlwha Choi, and Argentinian writer, Marcelo Medone. Maybe, mothers and freedom draw similar emotions, of blind love and adulation. They seem to be connected in some strange way with terms like motherland and mother tongue used in common parlance.

We have two book excerpts this time: one from Beyond the Himalayas by the multi-faceted, feted and awarded filmmaker we have interviewed, Goutam Ghose, reflecting on how much effort went in to make a trip beyond boundaries drawn by what Tagore called “narrow domestic walls”. We carry a second book excerpt this time, from Jessica Muddit’s Our Home in Myanmar – Four years in Yangon. Keith Lyons has reviewed this book too. If you are interested in freedom and democracy, this sounds like a must read.

Maithreyi Karnoor’s Sylvia: Distant Avuncular Ends, is a fiction that seems to redefine norms by what Rakhi Dalal suggests in her review. Bhaskar Parichha has picked a book that many of us have been curious about, Arundhathi Subramaniam’s Women Who Wear Only Themselves. Parichha is of the opinion,Elevated or chastised, exonerated or condemned, the perturbation unworldly women in India face is that they have never been treated as equal to men as spiritual leaders. This lack of equality finds its roots not only in sociological and cultural systems, but more particularly at the levels of consciousness upon which spirituality and attitudes are finally based.”One wonders if this is conclusive for all ‘unworldly women’ in India only or is it a worldwide phenomenon or is it true only for those who are tied to a particular ethos within the geographical concept of India? The book reviewed by Meenakshi Malhotra,  Somdatta Mandal’s The Last Days of Rabindranath Tagore in Memoirs, dwells on the fierce independence of the early twentieth century women caregivers of the maestro from Bengal. These women did not look for approval or acceptance but made their own rules as did Jnadanandini, Tagore’s sister-in-law. Bhaskar Parichha has also added to our Tagore lore with his essay on Tagore in Odisha.

As usual, we have given you a peek into some of our content. There is more, which we leave for our wonderful readers to uncover. We thank all the readers, our fantastic contributors and the outstanding Borderless team that helps the journal thrive drawing in the best of writers.

I wish you all a happy August as many of the countries try to move towards a new normal.

Mitali Chakravarty

Borderless Journal, August 2021

Categories
Editorial

Reach for the Stars

Courtesy: Creative Commons
“Nothing can be unconditional: consequently, nothing can be free.”


“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.” 

-- George Bernard Shaw,  Maxims for Revolutionists, Man & Superman (1903) 

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), a great writer and playwright, used these epigrammatic lines to bring focus on what people thought was liberty or freedom from oppression, from regimes that were dictatorial. While discussing concepts of freedom, one does wonder if political freedom solves all humane issues, occasions we celebrate with great aplomb, like the birth of a nation.

This month started with the observance of July 4th, the date of the American Revolution in 1776 and the publication date of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in 1855. In between these two years, in 1789, ten days down the line, on July 14th, another significant occurrence has been handed down by history to be celebrated as the Bastille Day— the day prisoners were freed from Bastille, a major event that led to the overthrow of the insensitive monarchy in France, a symbolic resurgence of the common, exploited man that has often been seen as an inspiration for later uprisings to reinforce the concept of democracy or liberté, égalité, fraternité.

As we move forward in time, towards August, one wonders if liberty attained by these means was good for all fellow humans? France was part of the Allied Forces that with America taking the lead dropped not one but two atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6th and 9th, 1945, to end the Second World War. Did the ends justify the means? Reflecting the cry and suffering of these victims, we have poetry from Suzanne Kamata, a well-known writer from Japan. Michael Burch on the other hand has shared poetry with us which shows how the nuclear programme continued unrepentant despite the devastation it caused. One must give kudos to the descendants of the victims of the nuclear blast that they have forgiven the perpetrators, admitted their own hand in the Second World War and moved ahead. In that spirit, we have an essay on peace by Candice Louisa Daquin, who joins the Borderless team as a writer-in-residence.

We have much happening in poetry this time with an interview of American poet Jared Carter, a recipient of number of awards and fellowships, including the Walt Whitman Award and the Guggenheim fellowship. He walks us through how he created the poem ‘Yeti’ (first published in the May edition of Borderless) and talks of the impact of artifacts from China and India on his own thought processes, the impact of Du Fu (712-770) and much more. We have a poem in Du Fu’s style this time by George Freek and an interesting poem with a Chinese title by Carter, a title that can have multiple connotations and yet each seems to fit the poem perfectly.

Rhys Hughes has brought humour into our pages with both his poetry and essay on William Mcgonagall, who bore the sobriquet of the worst writer in the world through his life and had things thrown at him when he read his poetry in Dundee. Yet, his work survived the beatings, and he lives on known as the ‘Scottish Homer’.

More poetry by Singaporean poet Marc Nair gives us a glimpse of the little island as viewed by someone who has grown up on it. Poetry is always multi-hued, and we have Lorraine Caputo transport us to a Garífuna village in Honduras. Penny Wilkes takes us ‘Down the Path of Nostalgia’ with a mix of old and new photography, prose and poetry on how almost a decade after the end of the Second World War, she started her love affair with photography and nature. It hovers between poetry and musings, and this time we have a rare musing by Jared Carter too. Devraj Singh Kalsi continues cogitating with wry humour while arranging bookshelves. We also have the backpacking granny visiting Indonesia. Post sharing this trip, our granny — Sybil Pretious — plans a little break from publishing to complete her memoirs.

A riveting flash fiction by Kaiyi Tan celebrates the spirit of conquest in these dark times, weaving into the pandemic lore the quest for personal freedom. Stories this time carry a real life one by Jean Kortum on adoption — her own struggle. But then, stories can be real or unreal – draw a bit from both to reflect bigger truths or create alternates that sink into the human mind as a perceived reality and leave an imprint deep inside the heart, like that of Niles Reddick. My conviction is that some lived experiences of writers seep into each story, whether it is from Bangladesh or India or by our literary fictionist, Sunil Sharma. His narrative continues infused by suspense.

We have a complete translated story of Tagore by Radha Chakravarty as our book excerpt this time. ‘The Parrot’s Tale’, ostensibly part of a children’s collection, reflects Tagore’s response to conventional schooling — a reason for him to start Shanti Niketan perhaps. She has also shared two of her translations of Rabindranath’s songs from Bhanusingher Padabali (1884, Bhanusingh’s verses). Chakravarty generously consented to an interview and has given us a glimpse of her journey as a translator and critic.  We also have translated a long poem by Tagore on our pages, a poem that inspires hope, though it was named Dushomoy (1897, Bad Times) finally. The original name had been Swarga Patthe (On the Path to Heaven) as can be seen from a page in his diary. We have been fortunate in finding a recording of his voice reciting the poem in Bengali and the print of a sample page of the manuscript bearing his signature.

We continue with Akbar Barakzai’s poetry translated by Fazal Baloch from Balochi – this time addressed to his daughter reminding for some reason of Nehru’s Letters from a Father to his Daughter — a book I read as a child.  In addition, we have translations from Korea and Bosnia & Herzegovina, from where the young poet, Maid Corbic, has taken up the concept of freedom of the self and of the nation, both together.

Keith Lyons from New Zealand in his very brief essay has quoted American novelist William Faulkner, “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” And perhaps we need to remember this if for no other reason, then, just to maintain our own sanity in these strange, almost unreal times as we attempt to unite as humankind to free ourselves from an unknown and unfathomable virus.

In a more sombre note, last week, untroubled by the virus, a victim of cancer, Bollywood legend Dileep Kumar, aged 98, breathed his last. Ratnottama Sengupta adds an unusual colour to the Borderless Journal with her tribute to this hugely acclaimed actor. In the process, she unfolds for us a brief history of the Indian cinema, and a glimpse of a world that transcends all man made constructs in quest of perfection.

We have an interesting set of reviews this July. Rakhi Dalal has reviewed Anuradha Kumar’s riveting short story collection, A Sense of Time. A murder mystery for young readers, Murder at Daisy Apartments by Shabnam Minwalla, has been reviewed by Gracy Samjetsabam. The Third Eye of Governance–Rise of Populism, Decline in Social Research by Dr N Bhaskara Rao, reviewed by Bhaskar Parichha, seems to be a non-fiction that looks forward to bridging gaps between academia and the real world, a truly felt need. Parichha has also given us an essay on a man who inspired Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, to make him a part of his lore, a journalist who moved around all of Asia with equal aplomb and a sense of humour – a truly global citizen called Richard Hughes.

I want to thank all our wonderful contributors for making this edition a reality. And readers, we leave you to explore the unknown… like that place we call outer space. A huge thank you again to not only all our wonderful contributors, our faithful readers but also to the fabulous Borderless team scattered across the world.  

Before I wind up, a little bird trills a song of hope in my ear. Business tycoons have started stepping into the mysterious void of space to eventually – let us hope — create affordable travel for common man, though it has started off as an expensive proposition. Will this be an industry that will generate more jobs on and off Earth and find new places for man to inhabit? After all, when George Bernard Shaw wrote his plays and essays, we had yet to cross the frontiers beyond Earth, had never even thought of flying across the world in budget airlines or mining moons!

Will we have a new world, a new outlook and a new set of hopes and aspirations as we stretch the frontiers of our home planet?

Wish you all a wonderful month of reading and thinking.

Best wishes,

Mitali Chakravarty

Categories
Editorial

Restless Stirrings

As we stand on the threshold of a new normal that will eternally rewrite the history of social interactions, of movements across the globe, of new world orders that will have to be more inclusive and more transparent to world view, we will, perhaps, feel the need to redefine business laws so that even countries with lesser wealth are able to access vaccinations and peace. We are now looking  up to leaderships which seem to be in crises themselves. Sitting securely on a tiny island that is well governed, an island where affluence and well-being set it adrift from the turmoils of countries around it, I wonder thirty years from now, what will mankind be like…  Will we be forever marred by the current events of the world? Globalisation has ensured that none of us can be secure on any secret island. There can be no land of lotus eaters hidden from the rest of mankind and accessed by only a few anymore. Even if one region is affected by the virus in any corner of the world, can the rest of the world be pandemic free? Perhaps, a question that those who peddle in vaccines and human well-being can address.

These issues have not only been highlighted by the news media but have also found echoes in some of our content this time. Keith Lyons’s essay talks of his last stay in India, when a tourist carried the  the pandemic  unwittingly into Kerala in February 2020 and subsequent repercussions. More stories and poems that dwell on the spread of the virus this year cry out for compassion. One hopes young poet Ruchi Acharya’s verses are born true.

One day the roses of hope will grow
Meeting the horizon,
Roses that, even plucked, will not die
But will bloom and bloom
Every single day that passes by.

We have young writers on the virulence of the virus and mature pens like that of globe-trotting academic Wendy Jones Nakanishi, who maps the pandemic from UK. Perhaps, we will find a new direction eventually.

There have been calls for uniting above divides as a single unit called mankind earlier too, from greats like Tagore and Nazrul. This time we carry translations of both — Nazrul’s translated poem calls for uniting against artificial divides drawn by man-made constructs and Tagore’s translation talks of redefining through self-reflection. An essay on Tagore by academic Parineet Jaggi talks of the impact of the teachings of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, on Tagore.

We have essays on writers and icons from around the globe. A photo-essay on the bald eagle, heralding the American Independence Day on the 4th of July, gives a humorous anecdote on how the eagle was chosen above the turkey. We have more variety by Candice Louisa Daquin, an immigrant in US, who shows how important human movement across man-made borders is to the development of a country. Michael Burch has given us beautiful poetry reflecting the history of America and American dreams, one of them with the voice of the legendary Mohammed Ali. These verses add substance to the concerns raised by Daquin. Jared Carter brings to us the colours of life with his poetry.

We have humour in verses from Rhys Hughes and even from a young poet, Sutputra Radheye. Limericks from Michael Burch and Penny Wilkes photo-poetry on ‘Changing Seasons’ puts us in a more cheerful mood.  More poetry from multiple writers across the world, including Nepal, Macedonia and Korea, have found their way into our journal.

Hughes has also given us a comprehensive and interesting essay on a twentieth century poet called Ivor Cutler, who said much as he sang his poetry and was encouraged by Paul McCartney of the Beatles. The brilliant poetry of Akbar Barakzai continues translated on our pages by Fazal Baloch and one must give many thanks to the translator for his indefatigable energy and for bringing us wonderful fare from Balochistan. An excerpt translated by eminent journalist Ratnottama Sengupta from Nabendu Ghosh’s autobiography ends with Satyajit Ray’s starting his famed career with Apu’s triology (based on Pather Panchali, a novel by Bibhuti Bhushan Bandopadhyay). These three films have become iconic in cinema history.

We were fortunate to have Professor Fakrul Alam agree to an interview. An eminent translator, critic and academic who has lived through the inception of Bangladesh from East Bengal, Alam has translated not just the three greats of Bengal (Tagore, Nazrul, Jibanananda) but also multiple political leaders like Mujibur Rahman. In this exclusive, he has taken us through the annals of history, reflecting on less-known perspectives of the Partition. Also, in conversation with Borderless, is Arindam Roy, a journalist with forty years’ experience and the founder of Different Truths who started his writing career, much in the tradition of Cyrano de Bergerac on a humorous note.

This time our backpacking granny, Sybil Pretious, gives us a glimpse of her wisdom, wit and compassion while visiting Philippines and talks of an ancient death ritual, volcanoes and strange mud baths. Devraj Singh Kalsi explores young romance in his tongue-in-cheek fashion. We also have more semi-humorous musings from young writers across borders. While Sunil Sharma has explored facets of the impact of terrorism, the other stories are told in a lighter vein.

Our book excerpt from Feisal Alkazi’s Enter Stage Right has a picture of the young artiste in a discotheque dancing in abandon — check it out. It made me smile. Rakhi Dalal has reviewed Jnanpith Award winner Shrilal Shukla’s Fragments of Happiness translated by Niyati Bafna. The book review by Meenakshi Malhotra of Neelima Dalmia Adhar’s The Secret Diary of Kasturba brings out an interesting facet on Gandhi and women in the Independence movement. It makes one notice the contrasts in the perspectives of Gandhi and Tagore, who created women like he saw around him in fiction. Kasturba’s life also contrasts with the independence found in the life of the avant-garde artist, Amrita Sher-Gil, who lived around the same time. In an essay, Bhaskar Parichha has shown how Sher-Gil lived out her dreams, blending the best of the East and West, while Malhotra writes, that though “Gandhi called women to join the national movement … he was not seeking to emancipate, but more to call forth their capacity for self-abnegation and self-sacrifice.”

Parichha has also introduced us to the need for changes in the banking sector in India while reviewing Transformational Leadership in Banking edited by Anil K. Khandelwal. Perhaps these will be part of the changes that will ultimately lead to a revision of old systems and the start of new ones. Changes, though not always welcomed or convenient, hopefully will lead to progress that can mould our future into a happier one. Restless stirrings transformed mankind from cave dwellers to an intelligent race that can assimilate nature and technology to survive and dream of a future, living among stars.

As Borderless reaches out to unite mankind transcending artificial constructs, its attempts can bear fruit only with support from each and every one of you. I would like to thank all our editorial team for their wonderful support, contributors for being the backbone of our content, and all our readers for continuing to patronise us.

Do take a look at our current issue for the writers who remain unmentioned here but create phenomenal bridges towards a borderless world.

Best wishes,

Mitali Chakravarty

Categories
Tagore Translations

The Golden Deer By Tagore

Written in 1910,  Amar Sonar Horin Chai ( I want the Golden Deer) is a popular Rabindra Sangeet that is often performed on stage. Seemingly simple, it explores the poet’s yearning for the intangible and ends with the sense of euphoria generated by his quest for the impalpable.

Sohana Manzoor’s interpretation in pastel & ink of ‘Amar Sonar Horin Chai’
The Golden Deer

Regardless of what you say,I want the golden deer.
Enchanting,nimble footed,I want that golden deer. 
He runs startled,eludes our gaze,and cannot be tied. 
If he comes within our reach,he escapes puzzling our vision. 
Chasing the elusive one who continues to evade capture 
Through fields and forests,I lose myself. 
Things that you can buy in bazaars are stored in homes.
Why do I look for that which cannot be bought?
I lost what I had while yearning for the intangible.
Do you think I am grieving for my lost treasures?  
I am content to live with a smile devoid of sorrow, 
Disappearing in my mind amidst meadows and woods. 

There is a reference to Sita’s yearning for the golden deer during her exile in the poem, an episode which led to her kidnapping by Ravana in Ramayana.

This poem has been translated by Mitali Chakravarty and edited by Sohana Manzoor on behalf of Borderless.

Categories
Editorial

And This Too Shall Pass…

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land…”
-- TS Eliot, Wasteland

April and May have been strange months — celebrations withered to anxieties. As the pandemic took on demonic proportions in its second wave, devastating millions with death and darkness, paralysing with the fear of losing friends and relatives or ones’ own life, festivities gave way to mourning. April this time truly seemed like the cruellest month as expressed by TS Eliot in the start of the Wasteland, turning our joyous thoughts on healing to a devastating reality of swirling smoke of pyres and graves that continue to throng certain parts of the world. However, mankind needs hope like the Earth needs rain, hope to survive. Great literature and writing inspire to give just that.

This month is also the birth month of three greats who were able to generate that kind of hope with their work: Rabindranath Tagore, Edward Lear and Kazi Nazrul Islam. We launched our new Tagore section on May 7th with Aruna Chakravarti’s translations of the maestro, Songs of Tagore. Do visit us at Tagore & Us to read them and more. We plan to keep adding to this section on a regular basis. This time we have Bengal Academy Award winner Fakrul Alam’s translations of six seasonal songs of Tagore, a translation from Borderless of a poem by the maestro that is not quite accepted as Rabindra Sangeet as the tune was given by the eminent musician Pankaj Mullick. An essay by Dr Anasuya Bhar highlights different lives given to Tagore’s writing by his own rewrites, translations, and films – an interesting perspective. We also carry tributes to Tagore in verse from Ilwha Choi of Korea, Mike Smith of UK, Himadri Lahiri and Sunil Sharma from the poet’s own homeland.

We celebrated Edward Lear’s birthday with some limericks and Rhys Hughes essay placing the two century old writer’s poetry in the present context and a hilarious conclusion to the sequel of Lear’s famous ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’. Upcoming is the birth anniversary of the rebel poet from Bengal, Nazrul. Sohana Manzoor translated a powerful essay and Shahriyer Hossain Shetu, a poem by this legendary writer who believed in syncretic lore and married a Hindu woman. Now the national poet of Bangladesh, Nazrul even wrote of Hindu Gods in many of his songs and essays – a lore that yearns for revival in the current day where politicians have fragmented the world by building more walls, using the names of religion, race, economics, caste and culture.

We have a poem from Pakistan by eminent poet Akbar Barakzai translated by Fazal Baloch using the lore of Samuel Becket’s Godot and yet another translation from Malayalam by Aditya Shankar of Sujith Kumar’s poem. Our poetry section is exciting with an exquisite poem from Jared Carter on a yeti, resting on the ephemerality of its presence; a funny one from Rhys Hughes and a diversity of poets from many countries, including Bangladesh. We also started a new column called Nature’s Musings which will combine poetry or prose with photographs by award-winning photographer Michael Wilkes and Penny Wilkes, who joins us now as a writer-in-residence.

In stories, we carry a COVID narrative by a real doctor, Shobha Nandavar, based in Bangalore and interestingly another about a doctor, the first women to adopt the medical profession in Bengal. Sunil Sharma in his narrative has highlighted a crisis in humanism. There are many more stories which would make for an interesting read. In musings, other than Devraj Singh Kalsi’s witty take on countries without Nobel Laureates, we have a Canadian writer’s perception of death rituals in Japan. Sybil Pretious has shared with us her strange adventures within China this time. Don’t miss the backpacking granny!

The May issue has a wide range of essays and musings ranging from Candice Louisa Daquin’s write up on the need to trust instincts to Keith Lyon’s residency in the Antarctica with interesting photographs. He writes that you could wear shorts in summers! Bhaskar’s Corner pays a tribute to the Padmashree Odia writer who passed away last month of old age, Manoj Das.

Our book excerpt is from an unusual book by Nabanita Sengupta, A Bengali Lady in England (1885): Annotated Translation with Critical Introduction to Krishnabhabini Das’ Englandey Bangamahila. We also carry reviews by Rakhi Dalal of Feisal Alkazi’s memoir, Enter Stage Right: The Alkazi Padamsee Family Memoir and by Bhaskar Parichha of Raising a Humanist by Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia. Shakti Ghosal’s The Chronicler of the Hooghly and Other Stories has been reviewed by Gracy Samjetsabam.

Our interviews this time are more on practical issues than literary – with the two authors of Raising a Humanist and with someone who supported our Tagore section by inviting us to talk on it in an online festival called Anantha, Sonya Nair. A friend and an academic with decidedly avant garde outlook, she is part of the twenty-year-old peer-reviewed Samyukta Journal that homes many academics. Pause by and have a read to see how they serve.

I would want to give heartfelt thanks to Nidhi Mishra and Archana Mohan for hosting Ms Sara’s Selections from Bookosmia this time as they help many battle the pandemic with hope, especially young children growing up in a world inhibited with masks and social distancing. I would also like to thank all the writers and my whole team for rising above the darkness by helping us get together this issue for our readers who I hope do find solace in our pages. And thank you readers for being with us through our journey.

There is a lot more in our pages than I have written. Do take a peek at this month’s issue and enjoy.

Best wishes,

Mitali Chakravarty

Categories
Young Persons' Section

Sara’s Selections, May 2021

Edward Lear with a painting of his famous poem, Owl & the Pussycat. Courtesy: Creative Commons

Greetings!

Other than hosting the World Laughter Day, this month also houses the birth anniversary of at least three great writers. On May 7th, 1861, was born the first Asian Nobel Laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Do you know he even wrote a book to teach young children Bengali with rhymes and poems for young children? Then, on May 12th, 1812, Edward Lear was born in England. He painted, drew, wrote funny poems and popularised limericks. You might have read Owl and the Pussycat by him. May 25th, 1899, was the birthdate of Kazi Nazrul Islam. He was a Muslim who married a Hindu and wrote for harmony intermingling the lore of both these religions. With three famous poets born in May, it is perhaps time we stepped into poetry here. Let us begin. And here is the fantastic Ms Sara. So what do we have this time?

This time we have a strange mix! Penguins and rainbows and much more… Let us start with poetry.

Poetry

Eight-year-old Harshika Khanna, from Kolkata pens an enticing poem about edible rainbows! What flavour would you want?

If I could taste the colours of the rainbow
By Harshika Khanna

If I could taste the colours of the rainbow…

I think that the violet would taste like mouth-watering grapes,

Indigo, like tiny sparkly blueberries,

Blue, like a fresh drink of blue lagoon,

Green, like the pretty pastel in shade matcha,

Yellow, like dreamy butterscotch,

Orange, like the delicious delight of freshly pressed orange juice.

Nine-year-old Vedika Sriram from Bangalore had tea for the first time and she loved it so much, she wrote a poem about it! Isn’t that Tea-rriffic!

The First time I had tea
By Vedika Sriram

The First time I had tea it was just amazing,
It was super hot and very pleasing.

It made me ask my mom for more tea,
Which meant for me to plea and plea.

She made tea every day just for me,
So that I could be happy.

I just loved tea like anything,
And for me it was everything.

So there I was, the tea lover of the world
In happiness, I swirled and twirled.

Full five-and-a-half-year-old Wrishik Ghosh from Kolkata loves to write poems. And his favourite subject is his dad! 

My Dad, My Hero
By Wrishik Ghosh

My dad is my friend,
He is always there at my end.
He spoils me a lot,
By giving lots of toys.
He is the best in the world,
His heart is made of gold.
Dad, I love you, you are my hero,
And you love me too.

Stories

Now we have these imaginative stories. Eight-year-old Prathmesh Chokhani, a Bookosmian from Kolkata makes us laugh with a funny story about a sweet teacher who forgets the way to school! 

The Teacher Who Forgot The Way To School

By Prathmesh Chokani

There was once a teacher named Priya. She loved to teach children and was very kind hearted. The children loved her classes. She was very punctual at school. But she had one problem-her terrible sense of direction!

Even though she went to school everyday she still needed a map to reach there.

One day, she had to be early at school. She woke up early in the morning, took a map, wore her prettiest dress and started walking to school.

She was holding the map. Then suddenly, a breeze came and the map flew out of Priya’s hand. She began to chase the map. But before she could, a dog caught it and ate it. Then she said to the dog in an angry voice “Eh! naughty dog,” and began advising the dog as if it was one of her naughty students in class.

Though the map was lost, she knew where the school was. But then by mistake, she stepped on the dog’s tail. Then the dog began chasing and barking at Priya.

Finally, the dog stopped chasing her and left her alone. She was now, completely muddled and had lost her way.

Then she remembered, she had her phone. She tried switching it on, but it had run out of charge. As usual, she had forgotten to charge the phone!

Now she had no option, but to ask someone for directions. She asked a person the direction and he said. “Take the right then you will reach a by-lane, then go straight and then you’ll reach the school.”

She walked and walked until she reached. She went inside the classroom and wished her students a good morning, but it was too late as it was dismissal time!

Priya joined the students as they all laughed at the incident. She may not have had a good sense of direction but she was the best at keeping the class in good spirits!

Penguins! Do you like penguins? Nine-year-old Aashritha Surya Prakash from Bangalore writes a cute little piece about a baby penguin’s sweet and happy life. Let’s get on to our happy feet too!

The happy life of a baby penguin

By Ashrita Surya Prakash

Crack! Crack! Wow what a beautiful place!

I just came out of my plain, white and warm shell into a magical place full of colours! Haaa! What a warm place! But why am I in between the legs of this person? Why do I like it here? Ohh this is my dad! But, but where is my mom? The one who laid my white, warm egg? Well now, I am a bit hungry.

Now…wow! What a nice surprise! There comes my mom! She got me some yummy fish and squid! I love it! Thank you mom! Now, after that yummy meal, I will go and meet my friends.

We played all day, my friends and I, and I am tired now, but I loved it! Tomorrow, my mom says I have to go to penguin school. There, we will learn how to fish, swim and ride on our belly down the hills full of snow!

I am so excited!

Today I went to school! It was awesome! My new teacher is great! She is very kind.

In recess, we learnt how to slide on our belly! It was very fun! I am going out to practice now, so bye!

Nine-year-old V Avyukkt from Hyderabad writes a powerful story about handling bullies. 

Learning To Face My Bullies

By V Avyukt

I am a zebra named Jack and I had three friends named Jane, Alex and Phillips. They always used to bully and tease me as I did not know how to walk on a tightrope like them.

After some days, I felt sad and suddenly a zebra was walking by. I asked his name. He said his name was Zebby. Zebby said, “I saw your friends bullying you.”

I told him it was because I can’t walk on a tightrope.

“I know tightrope, I can teach you,” he said.

Zebby tied both the ends of rope to sticks. I was not able to do it at first but I kept practicing for some days, weeks and months.

One fine morning, my heart was beating with hope. I decided to try it. I took my first step and continued walking on the rope without looking down.

Finally, I reached the end! I thanked Zebby and I told him it’s time to show the three bullies. To my surprise, he said it’s not over yet. Zebby said it was now time to learn to walk a tightrope over a fire. I was nervous but I trusted Zebby.

I closed my eyes took a deep breath and took my first step. Nothing happened so I reached the end and opened my eyes. I had done it! I looked at Zebby who was so proud of me.

I thanked him and decided to show the bullies what I could but to my surprise, Zebby said not to. He said I knew that I could walk on a tightrope over a fire and that’s all mattered.

I got over my fear of bullies and found a new best friend! 

Essays

And just as we learn to tackle bullies, we learn never to give up. Twelve-year-old Kavya Mehta from Mumbai writes an inspiring essay about not giving up despite the hurdles that come your way.

An Expert Was Once A Beginner

By Kavya Mehta

Do you think that every expert was born skilled or were they a beginner at first and had to go the extra mile to achieve their ambition? Learning is life. To achieve something, we have to burn the candle at both ends. Giving up is the path towards deterioration.

If every beginner gave up when things got tough, there would be no expert. Every time we hit a roadblock, we cannot simply throw up our hands and say, “I Quit,” you would never get past that. When you know you have failed, you would understand where you made a mistake. You can only learn, never feel discouraged by your failures and also never stop learning. Try to learn from the mistakes and be the best you can be.

If you want to succeed, never draw any conclusion from those who have achieved. They are not lucky. They may make success look easy, but no one knows how much hard work has gone into making them reach this position. Everyone starts as a beginner and takes that first step, and only by moving forward can they reach that expert level.

Late. Dhirubhai Ambani was one of the biggest examples. Dhirubhai Ambani-the son of a poor village teacher achieved his ambition by his confidence and passion. He faced numerous failures, but by his efforts and hope he started a business and thereafter gained huge success.

Ambani suffered through many hurdles in his life but he never gave up and fought tooth and nail. Following that, today his company is among the world’s best. This shows us that whether you are rich or poor you will get many obstacles as you move towards success and you have to choose the correct path without limiting yourself.

To push yourself to the next level, you need to put in the extra effort. With proper dedication, persistence, consistency, we learn to do our best. The same is the case with reaching your goal. It is not that difficult, and anyone can do it with a will to learn and implement.

Therefore, just believe in yourself and you can do the impossible.

So, before you give up always remember,

‘An expert in anything was once a beginner!’

 Eight-year-old Vedant Garg from Noida pens a heartwarming essay about a little hamster who found his home with him.

My New Pet Hamster

By Vedant Garg

It was a sunny morning when I was walking in the park. While returning home, I saw a small hamster pecking on pieces of apple that were littered on the grass.

The hamster was lonely but was contentedly enjoying his meal. He was stout-bodied, with a tail shorter than his body, tiny furry ears, and wide feet. He had very soft and silky fur.

I took the little hamster in my hands and carried him home. I was going to keep it as a pet. The little thing struggled to get out of my grip. I petted him and kept walking.

When I reached home, I rushed in and exclaimed, “Mom, Dad, see what I have got with me!”

My parents came to the living room where I had been playing with the hamster who had now fallen asleep. When they saw him, they shrieked in fear. I told them that there was nothing to worry about, it was just an ordinary hamster. But that didn’t comfort them at all. They got brooms and tried to shoo him away. I blocked their way and promised them that I would keep the hamster away from them. They agreed and stormed off.

From the very first day, I started to call the hamster Fluffy. Fluffy was very happy staying with us now. For him, it was a new dreamy life. But I was still facing some problems with him. He kept running around the house and aggravated my parents. Feeding him was very difficult too as he never wanted to eat anything, and I had to force him to eat to keep him healthy. I still had to keep him away from my parents though.

Whenever my parents would come, he would pretend to sleep but I knew that he had found a true friend in me and an affectionate house to stay.

In his hearts of hearts, Fluffy liked troubling my parents as much as I did.

I had found my companion too.

This beautiful essay by eight-year-old Jia Kataria from Kolkata, succinctly lays out the extraordinary bond we share with our mothers.

My Mother, My Best Friend

By Jia Kataria

My mother is my best friend, with whom I share all my secrets. Like a true friend she is always there with me in good and bad times.

She makes sure there is always a smile on my face and I am always free of all troubles.

She pampers me with good food, toys, dresses and a lot of love.

My mother’s presence always makes me happy and in her absence I feel very lonely.

I hope this bond blooms with every passing year.

And with that we wind up our young persons’ section for the month of May, which heralds the start of summer in the Northern hemisphere and winter in Southern. Have you even thought that while you sweat it out people in Australia would be wearing sweaters!

( This section is hosted by Bookosmia)

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

Categories
Index

Borderless, April, 2021

Greetings from Borderless Journal for all Asian New Years! Click here to read our message along with the video and a translation of a Tagore song written to greet the new year, with lyrics that not only inspire but ask the fledgling to heal mankind from deadly diseases.

Editorial

New Beginnings

A walk through our content and our plans for the future. Click here to read.

Interviews

In Conversation with Arundhathi Subramaniam: An online interview with this year’s Sahitya Akademi winner, Arundhathi Subramaniam. Click here to read.

Sumana Roy & Trees: An online interview with Sumana Roy, a writer and academic. Click here to read.

Poetry

(Click on the names to read)

Arundhathi Subramaniam, Jared Carter, Matthew James Friday, Michael R Burch, Aparna Ajith, Jenny Middleton, Rhys Hughes, Jay Nicholls, Achingliu Kamei, Vatsala Radhakeesoon, Ihlwha Choi, Smitha Vishwanath, Sekhar Banerjee, Sumana Roy

Photo-poetry by Penny Wilkes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

With an introduction to Blood and Water by Rebecca Lowe, Rhys Hughes debuts with his column on poets and poetry. Click here to read.

Translations

The Word by Akbar Barakzai

Fazal Baloch translates the eminent Balochi poet, Akbar Barakzai. Click here to read.

Malayalam poetry in Translation

Aditya Shankar translates a poem by Shylan from Malayalam to English. Click here to read.

Tagore Songs in Translation

To commemorate Tagore’s birth anniversary, we translated five of his songs from Bengali to English. Click here to read, listen and savour.

Tagore Translations: One Small Ancient Tale

Rabindranath Tagore’s Ekti Khudro Puraton Golpo (One Small Ancient Tale) from his collection Golpo Guchcho ( literally, a bunch of stories) has been translated by Nishat Atiya. Click here to read.

Musings/Slice of Life

Pohela Boisakh: A Cultural Fiesta

Sohana Manzoor shares the Bengali New Year celebrations in Bangladesh with colourful photographs and interesting history and traditions that mingle beyond the borders. Click here to read.

Gliding along the Silk Route

Ratnottama Sengupta, a well-known senior journalist and film critic lives through her past to make an interesting discovery at the end of recapping about the silk route. Click here to read and find out more.

The Source

Mike Smith drifts into nostalgia about mid-twentieth century while exploring a box of old postcards. What are the stories they tell? Click here to read.

Lost in the Forest

John Drew, a retired professor, cogitates over a tapestry of the Ras lila. Click here to read.

Tied to Technology

Naomi Nair reflects on life infiltrated by technology, by Siri and Alexa with a tinge of humour. Click here to read.

Adventures of a Backpacking Granny

In Inspiriting SiberiaSybil Pretious takes us with her to Lake Baikal and further. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Tributes & AttributesDevraj Singh Kalsi pays tribute to his late mother. Click here to read.

Essays

Reflecting the Madness and Chaos Within

Over 150 Authors and Artists from five continents have written on mental illness in an anthology called Through the Looking Glass. Candice Louisa Daquin, a psychotherapist and writer and editor, tells us why this is important for healing. Click here to read.

At Home in the World: Tagore, Gandhi and the Quest for Alternative Masculinities

Meenakshi Malhotra explores the role of masculinity in Nationalism prescribed by Tagore, his niece Sarala Debi, Gandhi and Colonials. Click here to read.

A Tale of Devotion and Sacrifice as Opposed to Jealousy and Tyranny

Sohana Manzoor explores the social relevance of a dance drama by Tagore, Natir puja. We carry this to commemorate Tagore’s birth anniversary. Click here to read

Photo Essay: In the Midst of Colours

Nishi Pulugurtha explores the campus of a famed university with her camera and words and shares with us her experiences. Click here to read.

Bhaskar’s Corner

Oh, That lovely Title: Politics

A short piece by Bhaskar Parichha that makes for a witty comment on the forthcoming Indian elections. Click here to read.

Stories

Pothos

Rakhi Pande gives us a story about a woman and her inner journey embroiled in the vines of money plant. Click here to read.

Elusive

A sensitive short story by Sohana Manzoor that makes one wonder if neglect and lack of love can be termed as an abuse? Click here to read

Ghumi Stories: Grandfather & the Rickshaw

Nabanita Sengupta takes us on an adventure on the rickshaw with Raya’s grandfather. Click here to read

Flash Fiction: The Husband on the Roof

Carl Scharwath gives us a story with a strange twist. Click here to read

Flash Fiction: Flight of the Falcon

Livneet Shergill gives us a story in empathy with man and nature. Click here to read

The Literary Fictionist

A playlet by Sunil Sharma set in Badaun, The Dryad and I: A Confession and a Forecast, is a short fiction about trees and humans. Click here to read.

Book reviews

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Reconciling Differences by Rudolf C Heredia, a book that explores hate and violence. Click here to read.

Nivedita Sen reviews Nomad’s Land by Paro Anand, a fiction set among migrant children of a culture borne of displaced Rohingyas, Syrian refugees, Tibetans and more. Click here to read

Candice Louisa Daquin reviews The First Cell and the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the last by Azra Raza. Click here to read.

Book Excerpt

Excerpted from Raising a Humanist: Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World by Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia, the focus is on media and its impact. Click here to read.

Sara’s Selection, April 2021

A selection of young person’s writings from Bookosmia. Click here to read.

Categories
Editorial

New Beginnings

We wish all our readers and writers fabulous varieties of new year celebrations across Asia! We also complete one year and waft towards a new beginning. We have had some alterations as you know over the last few months — new faces on our board and writers in residence. Now, in addition to hosting writers from across all borders and ages, we have decided to also become an online forum for translated Tagore songs and writings. This will be launched on Tagore’s Birth Anniversary — 7th May. We hope that the transcreations in this section will take the treasures of the great writer and philosopher closer to the non-Bengali speaking populations from all over the world. We will try to retain the spirit of his poetry and attempt to recreate the impact of the Bengali verses for everyone who can read in English. We have already started with transcreations of about half-a-dozen of his songs. Do take a look and tell us what you think.

To celebrate our diverse new years, we have a musing by Sohana Manzoor. Did you know that Pohela Baishakh or the Bengali New Year is a national holiday in Bangladesh and is observed on the 14th of April each year?

A new year bodes a new beginning, a new sunrise and a new day — a new bunch of experiences. That is why our theme this time was new beginnings. What did we have in the beginning? Dylan Thomas tells us —

In the beginning was the word, the word 
That from the solid bases of the light 
Abstracted all the letters of the void; 
And from the cloudy bases of the breath 
The word flowed up, translating to the heart 
First characters of birth and death. 

On that theme of words, we have a fabulous poem by Balochi writer, Akbar Barakzai, who created a furore by turning down an award from the Pakistan Academy of Letters last year. His poem has been translated by Fazal Baloch. That is just one of the treasures. This time to celebrate this bouquet of new years across Asia, we have a bumper issue which includes, interviews with the 2020 Sahitya Akademi winner, Arundhathi Subramaniam, and academic-cum-writer Sumana Roy. Both poets have been kind enough to share a poem each with us. Arundhathi’s poem is inspiring and Sumana’s is a moving one about a tree, a tree that made history. We have powerful poetry from a number of other writers, Pushcart winner Jared Carter, Michael Burch, Sekhar Banerjee, Vatsala Radhakeesoon, Ihlwa Choi and of course our inimitable Rhys Hughes. Rhys has also started a column for us in which he will talk of poets, poetry and whatever else he chooses (within the confines of our magazine’s needs, of course). Our focus this year will shift even more towards quality of content.

In translations, other than Tagore songs and Baloch’s translations, we have Aditya Shankar’s translation of Malayalam writer, Shylan. A short story by Tagore from his famous collection Golpo Guchcho has been translated by Nishat Atya. To celebrate Tagore’s anniversary, we have essays by Meenakshi Malhotra and Sohana Manzoor too. Interestingly Sohana Manzoor’s essay has Tagore’s vision of Buddha — and Sumana Roy gave us a poem on the Bodhi tree, a tree under which the Buddha meditated his way to salvation!  Looking at the sad situation in Myanmar, we definitely have a need for reviving Buddhism, a theme that has been touched on by well-known film critic, journalist and translator Ratnottama Sengupta, in her ponderings on the Silk Route. Branching off from the journey across Asia towards Europe and moving up north to Siberia is a narrative from our spunky back packing granny, Sybil Pretious. She writes of her travels all the way to Lake Baikal!

Devraj Singh Kalsi suffered personal loss and has given us a poignant in memoriam on his mother. Mike Smith takes us on a memorable nostalgic journey with postcards from the past with stories that want to make you weep. There is more on memorabilia with a photo-essay by Nishi Pulugurtha and a photo-poem by Penny Wilkes (have you ever adventured with one of these?). Sunil Sharma tried out a playlet! The other exciting and new thing is Bhaskar Parichha has started a witty column with us. We are calling it Bhaskar’s Corner! I won’t tell you what about but do take a peek!

Books reviewed are Paro Anand’s Nomad’s Land by Nivedita Sen — a book on migrants, a theme which is there in the piece on silk route too; Rudolf C Heredia’s Reconciling Difference by Bhaskar Parichha and Candice Louisa Daquin has reviewed a book on cancer, The First Cell by Azra Raza. Our book excerpt is from a book on parenting, Raising a Humanist: Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World by Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia. An interesting read in a world of changing values. Our young person’s section run by Bookosmia owe a huge thanks to the untiring efforts of Nidhi Mishra and Archana Mohan. Thank you both. Thanks to the whole team for your immense support.

I have as usual not covered all the content in my note. I leave you to unfold the surprises! Much thanks to all our writers and readers for continuing to be with us!

Again, we wish you all a new beginning in our diverse new years!

Hope and happiness to you all!

Mitali Chakravarty

Categories
Young Persons' Section

Sara’s Selections, April 2021

April is a time when summer or spring comes knocking at your door in the Northern Hemisphere and in the Southern, winter starts to peep with autumn doing a somersault. In India, we welcome our traditional new years along with many other countries like Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. New Years have so many names just like a frog has varied names in different languages: qingwa in Mandarin, kb in Thai, bang in Bengali, mendak in Hindi and we could go on and on. The reason we talk of frogs is because some even observe April as the National Frog Month. You can read all about it by clicking here.

But frog stories aside, we would like to wish you all a fabulous new year this April, a traditional new year. Here we always celebrate with the glamorous Ms Sara. So, Ms Sara what do we have this time?

We have a fabulous collection of poetry, stories and essays about so many things that happened between March and April!

Poetry

In keeping with the theme of frogs and variety is a rainbow. And here is a young man who talks of tasting one! Seven-year-old Savvya Gupta talks of the flavours.

Taste The Colours Of The Rainbow
By Savvya Gupta

I tasted the colours of the rainbow.

Red told me to be slow,

Blue gave me a taste of the sky,

Indigo was very shy.

Yellow was very dear,

Green colour did not fear,

Orange told me to be sweet.

But Violet didn’t want me to eat!

Thirteen-year-old Nazera Sheikh from Dahod, Gujarat misses the rains and the hot snacks that are perfect for the weather and she has put it all in a poem!

Missing The Rains And The Hot Snacks 
By Nazera Sheikh

Raindrops falling down
All around.
From high up in the sky
Touching the ground and saying bye.

Missing the rains and the hot snacks,
 
There is water everywhere
Some say it isn’t fair.

Children come out with their boats
And wear their raincoats,
Throw water on each other
Whether they are friends or neighbours.

Missing the rains and the hot snacks.
 

Mothers trying new cooking hacks,
We all love eating hot snacks!

Rain rain come again!

How nice! Eleven-year-old Dhriti Keni from Chennai dreams big and wants to follow it to the end.

Following My Big Dreams 
By Dhriti Keni

You are the driver of your destiny

Passengers none

Dreams are held deep inside us

Better to fail by faith

Then not do anything by fear

You are a shining star

High in the sky

Glowing like a legend

 

Following My Big Dreams
 

Wishes come true

If you work hard

And believe in yourself

 

Following My Big Dreams
 

Try and Try

Until your dreams come true

You may fall down

But you have to get up

Show courage and faith

Stories

Aha! Now we start with stories. Nine-year-old Ishani Ghosh, a Bookosmian from Kolkata writes a heartwarming tale of two girls who meet a homeless girl and help her find what she was looking for.

Making An Unexpected New Friend

By Ishani Ghosh

It was new year’s day of 2019.

I woke up, brushed my teeth and went downstairs for breakfast. My parents then surprised me by telling me that my best friend was coming over to celebrate the New Year’s day with us.

When she came over, we had lunch and then after some time, we went to the park. We went on the swings and then to the sandpit.

My parents then took us for a ride on a beautiful white horse called Milky. I went first and had just got off the horse when I noticed a little girl standing near the horse.

She was wearing ragged, torn clothes and was very skinny. My friend got off too. I showed her the girl. She told me that it looked like the girl wanted to ride the horse too but had no money to do so. We both told my parents about the girl.

We asked the people giving rides on the horse and found out that she was poor, homeless and had no parents. We were terribly sorry for her when I got an idea. I told my friend first and then my parents.
I suggested that we talk to my aunt Nora and arrange for the girl to move to her house. My aunt was very lonely. She lived all alone in her house and came to visit us often.

My parents thought it was a great idea and talked to my aunt about it. She was delighted and so was the little girl when we asked her.

We found out that her name was Judy and she immediately said that she would love to live with my aunt.

Now she is living happily with my aunt and is also one of my close friends.

Twelve-year-old P.N. Hitaesh from Chennai imagines a scenario where naughty little dragons play near a volcano.

Adventures Of The Dragon Family

By P.N. Hitaesh

Once there lived a family of dragons named Draco, Mushu and Drogan. Draco was the father, Mushu was the mother and Drogan was their son.

One day, Drogan went to play in the forest with his friends. All dragons were warned not to play near the dangerous volcano but Drogan and his friends were curious so they went there.

As they went there, the volcano erupted! The dragons ran to safety but Drogan, unfortunately, got stuck in a place where his father’s enemy lived.

When Drogan was not home, Mushu and Draco searched but he was not to be seen anywhere. Then Draco’s enemy came and said “Your son is with me. You need to fight with me and my group if you want him back.”

The fight started in the evening and it was a hard fought one. Finally, Draco and Mushu won the fight and Drogan came home.

Ten-year-old Annaya Aggarwal from Delhi tells us a lovely story of three sisters and how the shy sister, Star, finally learnt to express and communicate better. 

The Day Star Overcame Her Shyness

By Annaya Aggarwal

Once there were three sisters – Sun, Moon and Star.

Sun and moon were snobbish but popular in their kingdom. Star was shy but kind-hearted and a lovely girl but she wasn’t popular among her people as she hardly spoke.

One day, they got an invite for high tea from their aunt and uncle (Lightning and Thunder). They had never met them and were very excited.

So, when the day came, they got dressed and went in a beautiful carriage to the party. At the party, they were having so much fun that they lost track of time and were late for their dinner with their mother.

At home, their mother Galaxy was getting worried. Soon, she heard the sound of the carriage outside the palace and heaved a sigh of relief.

Mother galaxy thought that her kids would be as hungry as her. So, she asked them to set the dining table but Sun and Moon didn’t care much about their mother’s feelings. They went to sleep but Star saw tears in her mother’s eyes.

She joined her mother at the dinner table and told her all about the party. Her mother was very happy. Star realised that talking about what you feel is not so hard after all!

After that day, Star gained confidence and started helping her mother with work. She made an effort to speak to everyone and soon, she became the town’s favorite princess.

Essays

Time to think of travel? Well, once the world is rid of the pandemic, maybe we can visit this safari park called Kabini.

Let us for the time being find out about what eleven-year-old Yohaan Marda from Kohlapur, saw during his safari.

Meeting A Tiger And Sloth Bear At Kabini Safari

By Yohaan Marda

I was six when we saw this magnificent sloth bear with her cubs. We actually had stopped to see a Brahminy kite. But the sloth bear turned up out of nowhere!

It was an amazing moment and the first time ever that I had seen a sloth bear. Seeing the sloth bear with her cubs was very rare because sloth bears are shy animals and tend not to bring their cubs out so much. As we were seeing the sloth bear, the guide yelled “Tiger! Tiger!”

We all looked around and there she was! We were all very excited. Then as soon as the tiger saw the sloth bear she went charging towards the sloth bear.

This trip to Kabini was a family trip and about 55 of us went. Kabini is a wildlife sanctuary in Karnataka, about 200 kms from Bangalore. It is an amazing place for nature lovers with activities like safari, trekking, boating and plenty of animals and birds to see. We did not expect much when we booked the safari but we were lucky to see these majestic animals. At the time I thought seeing a sloth bear is not a big deal.  I thought it was a common animal but how wrong was I!

And now let us move on to the festivals we celebrated in March and early April. First let’s talk of Holi… which was a bit muted for nine-year-old Aarshiya Agarwal from Kolkata because of the pandemic. 

An Organic Holi With My Loved Ones

By Aarshiya Agarwal

Holi is a festival of colours.Holi is celebrated because of the death of Holika, Hiranyakashyapu’s evil sister.

She was killed by her nephew, Bhakt Prahlad. Every year according to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated but on different dates. It is usually celebrated in March in the spring season. One day before the festival, there is a puja or prayer held called Holika Dahan.

On the day of Holi, we play with water and colours. We throw water balloons and put colour on each other. We also play with water guns. After playing, when we go for our bath instead of using soap on our body, we apply a body scrub to get rid of all the colors.

We eat sweets with our friends and family. This year it is going to be my 2nd holi with my little brother. Nowadays, some people make colours which have bad chemicals. These ruin our skin and cause infections and irritations. So that’s why people have started using natural and organic colours.

I celebrated Holi with my parents, little sibling, grand and great grandparents and cousins. This year because of the coronavirus, we were not celebrate fully. I reused my old water guns because it is not safe to buy new ones from outside. I hope you all had a very happy and safe holi!

And the other festival in the time period some countries celebrate frog month, is Easter. Eight-year-old Riddhima Mishra from Kalyan, Maharashtra, tells us more about the festival with rabbits (not frogs) and chocolate eggs!

Why We Celebrate Easter

By Riddhima Mishra

Easter is a festival that is celebrated by Christians all over the world. This festival is always celebrated on Sundays between March 22 and April 25 every year. The festival is also known as Easter Sunday; or resurrection Sunday.

The word, Easter, was derived from the word “Eastra” which means goddess of springs. It celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ which occurred on the third day after he was crucified on the cross.

Forty days prior to Easter, Christians follow lent, which is supposed to be a period of prayer, penance and fasting. The week before Easter is known as the holy week.

Jewish Christians were the first who celebrated Easter around the middle of the second century in Jerusalem. Churches are specially decorated on Easter day. On this day, prayers are done for the welfare of the whole world in the church. Along with this, candles are lit in the church and at the same time candles are lit in homes.

Chocolate-filled eggs or brightly painted eggs with sweets inside (Easter eggs) are common gifts exchanged on Easter. Churches and homes are decorated with white lilies also known as Easter lilies.

The symbol of Easter is ‘the Easter bunny’ depicted as a rabbit bringing Easter eggs. The day also witnesses lavish feasts and a variety of traditional dishes being cooked and served.

Hope all of you had a happy Easter!

And with that we come to the end of the Bookosmian adventures. Hope you all have a fantastic month. Here is wishing all of you a wonderful start to all your new years in April!

( This section is hosted by Bookosmia)

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