Categories
Contents

Borderless, August 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

The Stars were Shining There for You & Me, for Liberty… Click here to read.

Conversation

The Making of Historical Fiction: A Conversation with Aruna Chakravarti unfolds the creation of her latest novel, The Mendicant Prince, based on the prince of Bhawal controversy in the first part of the last century. Click here to read.

Translations

Tagore’s humorous skit, The Treatment of an Ailment, has been translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

Arise, Arise O Patriot! and Helmsman Attention! by Kazi Nazrul Islam have been translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Pus Ki Raat or A Frigid Winter Night by Munshi Premchand has been translated from Hindi by C Christine Fair. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Song of Hope or ‘Hobe Joye‘ has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Rhys Hughes, Ratnottama Sengupta, Mike Smith, Rituparna Mukherjee, Tony Brewer, Ahmed Rayees, Ron Pickett, Ramesh Dohan, Sister Lou Ella Hickman, Sambhu Nath Banerjee, Candice Louisa Daquin, Oindri Sengupta, Gigi Baldovino Gosnell, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Tanvi Jeph, George Freek, Michael R Burch

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Mini-Sagas: A Dozen Examples, Rhys Hughes talks of a new genre with dollops of humour. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Istanbul

G Venkatesh has a stopover in the airport to make a discovery. Click here to read.

The Loyal Dog in Loyalty Island

Meredith Stephens makes friends with a dog in the township of Wé on the Lifou island, an ‘overseas territory’ of France. Click here to read.

The ‘New Kid on the Block’ Celebrates…

Dr Kirpal Singh ruminates over what led to the making of an island state, Singapore. Click here to read.

Remnants of Time Once Spent Together

Sayali Korgaonkar ruminates over loss and grieving. Click here to read.

Moonland

Rupali Gupta Mukherjee journeys through the moonlike landscape housing a monastery with her camera and a narrative. Click here to read.

King Lear & Kathakali?

PG Thomas revisits a performance that mesmerised him in a pre-covid world. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In A Bone in My Platter, Devraj Singh Kalsi shares a taste of running a restaurant. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

Suzanne Kamata writes a light slice from life in The Boy & The Cats: A Love Story. Click here to read.

Stories

Does this Make Me a Psychic?

Erwin Coombs tells a suspenseful, funny, poignant and sad story, based on his real life experiences. Click here to read.

Hard Choices

Santosh Kalwar gives a glimpse of hope for an abandoned girl-child in Nepal. Click here to read.

No Rain on the Parade

Tan Kaiyi goes on a hunt for the National Day Killer. Click here to read.

Until We Meet Again

Shivani Shrivastav transports us to Manali for a misty union. Click here to read.

The Hatchet Man

Paul Mirabile tells a story of murder and horror. Click here to read.

I am Not the End

Aysha Baqir takes on the persona of a computer to unleash a poignant and chilling story. Click here to read.

Essays

How Many Ways To Love a Book

Sindhu Shivprasad describes passion for books. Click here to read.

Hiking in the Himalayas with Nabinji

Ravi Shankar explores more of Himalayas in Nepal. Click here to read.

Freedom is another word for… Zohra Sehgal

Ratnottama Sengupta gives a glimpse of the life of Zohra Sehgal, based on the book Zohra: A Biography in Four Acts by Ritu Menon, and her own personal interactions with the aging Zohra Sehgal. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In Can We Create a Better World by Just Wishing for it, Candice Louisa Daquin dwells on the question to locate answers. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir by B. M. Zuhara translated by Fehmida Zakeer. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Michael R Burch’s poetry book, O, Terrible Angel. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Tagore’s Four Chapters translated and introduced by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Gracy Samjatsabam visits Mamang Dai’s Escaping the Land. Click here to read.

Aditi Yadav reviews Pallavi Aiyar’s Orienting : An Indian in Japan. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal visits Neelum Saran Gour’s Requiem in Raga Janki. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Rakesh Batabyal’s Building a Free India. Click here to read.

Categories
Editorial

The Stars were Shining There for You & Me, for Liberty…

Painting by Sohana Manzoor

“It just so happens that their[1] universes were different from ours: because why would their imaginations be constrained by a nation-state that would not exist for another thousand years?”

Anirudh Kansetti, the print.in

These lines from a recent article on conquests carried out by the Indian subcontinent in ancient times brings to focus that earlier countries or nation-states as we know of them today did not exist till the industrial revolution set the concept in motion. In the month many countries in Asia celebrate their independent existence or rather the drawing of borders based on colonial mapmakers’ whims, we should perhaps relook at the way the world stands divided.

Is this what we want as humans? Where are we headed? While conquerors write the history, we tend to gloss over what is left unsaid. The millions who died crossing borders, in race riots and of hunger, starvation and disease in refugee camps is overlooked, or worse, used to justify the divisions that still hurt the residents of the sub-continent and try to destroy any sense of oneness among the human species. We tend not to forget the atrocities of the colonials but we overlook the violence of the mobs that incensed with hatred instilled by politics annihilated and murdered. Their story is reduced to “us” and “them”. In our mood of jubilation, the recent bombings in the Middle East and the Ukraine-Russia war have already been delegated to the newsreels. But these are all people who are killed and displaced without any justification for the need to do so. One of the things that George Orwell had depicted in 1984 was an acceptance of a constant state of war. Are we stepping into that frame of mind with our cold acceptance of the situation worldwide?

In the last century, many united against the atrocities of the empire builders. They wanted to rise above the divides. At least greats like Nazrul vociferously objected to the basis of divides that were used to draw the borders. Translations brought to us by Professor Fakrul Alam showcase such poetry as does much of Tagore’s own writing and actions. Tagore organised a protest march against the colonial proposal of Partition of Bengal in 1905 by taking a procession in which he encouraged Hindu and Muslim women to tie rakhis[2] on men from the other community and make them their brothers. Tagore put the welfare of humanity above nationalism as can be seen in his writings and speeches. Reflecting on humanity, we have Munshi Premchand’s powerful story, Pus Ki Raat or A Frigid Winter’s Night, translated from Hindi by C Christine Fair, dwelling on the sad state of peasantry under the Raj. In a bid to rouse people like the protagonist of Premchand’s story, Tagore wrote inspirational songs, one of which, Hobe Joye (Victory will be Ours) has been translated on our pages. We also continue sharing Rabindranath’s humour with a skit translated by Somdatta Mandal from Bengali.

Humour is also stirred into Borderless by Rhys Hughes with a series of mini sagas in his column and a trip around the world in eighty couplets. These couplets actually are more in number — I tried counting them — and are guaranteed to make you laugh. We have travel stories in plenty too. Ravi Shankar again treks to the Himalayas and brings us wonderful photographs of his journey and G Venkatesh stops over at Istanbul airport to find a friend from across the border. Meredith Stephens travels to a French colony called Lifou Island — sounds unbelievable as in the month we celebrate the independence of so many countries across Asia, there is still a country in the Pacific that owes allegiance to a democratic European power! But other than writing about the beaches, Stephens talks of a temporary pet dog while Suzanne Kamata gives us cat talk in her notes from Japan in a lighter vein — a very pleasant glimpse of life. Devraj Singh Kalsi brings a grin when he talks of his stint at trying to run a restaurant.

Interesting non-fictions from a book lover, Sindhu Shivprasad, and from PG Thomas who talks of King Lear performed a la classical Indian dance mode, Kathakali, by an international caste add to narratives that focus on bringing the pleasanter side of life to our readers. Such stories are a welcome relief in dark times when people find themselves caught between price hikes due to the pandemic and wars. An essay by Candice Louisa Daquin looks for a way out of the stresses of these times. Erwin Coombs gives us a funny, poignant and tragic classroom encounter which reminds me of the 1967 Sidney Poiter movie, To Sir, with Love. We have darker tones brought into our journal also with Aysha Baqir’s story on child exploitation, a sad but hopeful narrative from Nepal by Santosh Kalwar about the rejection of a girl-child by her mother and a horrific murder brought to us by Paul Mirabile.

Our poetry section this time flows over with poems from Michael R Burch, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, George Freek, Mike Smith, Gigi Baldvino Gosnell and even Ratnottama Sengupta, who has also given us a powerful essay on an acclaimed dancer called Zohra Sehgal whose life was changed by the Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, basing her essay on Ritu Menon’s Zohra: A Biography in Four Acts and her own personal encounters with the irrepressible artiste. Michael Burch has also shared an excerpt of his book dedicated to his wife, O, Terrible Angel.

An excerpt from B. M. Zuhara’s The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir, translated from Malayalam by Fehmida Zakeer, brings us close to a community we know very less about in the Southern part of India. Meenakshi Malhotra has reviewed Tagore’s Four Chapters translated from Bengali and introduced by Radha Chakravarty, a book that is a powerful voice against violence in the name of nationalism touching on the independence of women, a theme that is reiterated in another book that has been visited by Rakhi Dalal. While exploring Neelum Saran Gour’s Requiem in Raga Janki, Dalal contends that the book familiarises us with a singer “who carved her own destiny and lived life on her own terms, in times when women were generally subjugated and confined to roles given by society”. Gracy Samjetsabam has visited Mamang Dai’s Escaping the Land, a novel that tries to weave issues faced in the Northeast of India and integrate it with the mainstream by stirring human emotions.  Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Rakesh Batabyal’s Building a Free India, a collection of powerful speeches from the past.

Within the confines of the Raj, there was a long court case where a prince who had been declared dead resurfaced as a Naga sadhu[3], a claimant to the throne, this time not to abuse his power as of past but to be a sympathiser of the people in their tryst to fight the Raj. Aruna Chakravarti has woven a historical fiction around this controversy centring around the prince of Bhawal. In an exclusive interview, she tells us the story behind the making of The Mendicant Prince — her novel that was published just last month. Her responses could well teach us how to write a historical novel.

We have much more than the fare that has been mentioned here. Pause by on our contents page to take a look. My heartfelt thanks to the whole team at Borderless for helping with this issue, which we managed to get out in a shorter time than usual and Sohana Manzoor for her wonderful artwork. I am grateful to all our contributors as well as our readers. We could not have made it this far without all of you.

In the spirit of uniting under a borderless sky, let us look forward to cooler climes and happier times.

Cheers!

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com


[1] Guptas (4-6 century CE), Cholas (300 BCE -1279 CE) and other ancient rulers in the Indian sub-continent

[2] A festival held in August where sisters of all ages tie a talisman or amulet called the rakhi around the wrists of their brothers, who promise to protect them.

[3] Mendicant

Categories
Independence Day

Of Midnight’s Children and their Compatriots… 

At the stroke of midnight, on 14th-15th August, 1947, the colonials handed the Indian subcontinent back to the indigenous population — but they did not leave it as they had found it. They made changes: some reforms and alterations, like the introduction of railways  helped the subcontinent move towards a better future once the  plundering of raw materials and the transport of British mill cloth halted. However,  the major change which continues to create conflicts in the sub-continent to date was the Partition on the basis of religions. This was initiated by the colonial  policy of divide and rule, which came into play post the revolt of 1857 and is often perpetrated still by the local inheritors of the colonies. Was it justified and does the packaging by the colonials have to be given credence so that the progeny of the ruled keep othering and thinking of differences? 

To help you find answers, we bring to you writings about the days of the Raj like Aruna Chakravarti’s The Mendicant Prince, where the colonials try to deprive a state of its rightful ruler to fill their own coffers, and Premchand’s Pus ki Raat (A Frigid Winter Night) that reflects the sorry state of peasantry under the Raj. Prince or pauper — both suffered.  Voices that pleaded for secularism, like that of Nazrul, Tagore or Gandhi remained unheard by those who drew the lines of division. Bhaskar Parichha tells us in his review: “On his way to Noakhali and in the face of the large-scale massacre, to the question ‘Will Partition Change Us Forever?’ Mahatma Gandhi replied: ‘I have seen more of history than anyone of you, and I tell you that I have known Hindu boys who called Muslims ‘uncle’. Hindus and Muslims used to participate in each other’s festivals and other auspicious occasions.’”

And perhaps this is borne out from the life of Zohra Sehgal, a legendary dancer as reflected by the essay written by Ratnottama Sengupta, based on Ritu Menon’s Zohra: A Biography in Four Acts and her own interactions with the aging performer. Along with these, we have the voices from the present like that of G Venkatesh who finds that the borders may not be what the indigenous population had wanted and Aysha Baqir’s narrative reflecting on the darker aspects of life in the sub-continent.

Poetry

Arise, Arise O Patriot! and Helmsman Attention! by Kazi Nazrul Islam have been translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Song of Hope or ‘Hobe Joye‘ has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Prose

Pus Ki Raat or A Frigid Winter Night by Munshi Premchand has been translated from Hindi by C Christine Fair. Click here to read.

Aruna Chakravarti unfolds through the life of a prince in pre-independence era in her latest novel, The Mendicant Prince, based on the prince of Bhawal controversy in the first part of the last century. Click here to read.

Ratnottama Sengupta gives a glimpse of the life of Zohra Sehgal, based on the book Zohra: A Biography in Four Acts by Ritu Menon, and her own personal interactions with the aging Zohra Sehgal. Click here to read.

In Istanbul, G Venkatesh stops over at the airport to make a friend from the other side of the divide. Click here to read.

In I am Not the End, Aysha Baqir takes on the persona of a computer to unleash a poignant and chilling story based on the darker side of modern living. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Rakesh Batabyal’s Building a Free India, dynamic speeches by freedom fighters of the last century. Click here to read.

Categories
Stories

‘Pus ki Raat’ or A Frigid Winter’s Night by Munshi Premchand

Translated from Hindi by C. Christine Fair

Munshi Premchand (1880-1936)

Premchand is the pen name adopted by the Indian writer, Dhanpat Rai Srivastava (31 July 1880- 8 October 1936).  He was a pioneer of modern Hindi-Urdu literature which focused upon contemporary social issues including caste, the treatment of women, day labour and other socio-political concerns. He remains one of the most heralded writers in South Asia. His oeuvre includes more than a dozen novels, about 300 short stories, numerous essays as well as translation of foreign literary works into Hindi.

Pus Ki Raat or Frigid Winter Night

(1)

Halku came home and told his wife, “Sahna has arrived. Get those rupees you’ve saved up and hand them over to him. We need to rid ourselves of this noose around our necks one way or another.”

His wife, Munni, was sweeping. She turned her head and responded, “We have just three rupees. If I give it to him, how will we get the blanket? How will you spend these freezing nights in the field? Tell him we’ll give him the money upon harvest. Not now.”

Halku stood there in silence for some time. He kept thinking that the coldest month of winter was already here. Without a blanket he wouldn’t be able to tolerate sleeping in the field. But Sahna wouldn’t accept this. He would hurl threats at him. As he thought this through, he hauled his heavy body — which belied the silliness of his name[1] which suggested he was slender — over to his wife. He grovelled, “Come one. Hand it over. Let’s be rid of this noose. We’ll come up with some other way to get the blanket.”

Munni stepped away from him. With arched brows, she retorted, “This was our other plan. Just tell me what your plan is. Who is going to give us a blanket for free? Who knows how much more money is left to be paid or how we are going to pay it? Why don’t you give up farming? You’re working yourself to death. If there is any yield, then you’ll pay off the loan. Come on, it’s over.  We were born to pay off this debt.  Let’s just avoid this kind of farming. I won’t give him the money. I won’t.”

Halku repined, “So what kind of abuses will I have to endure?”

Munni shot back, “Why should you suffer them? Is he a king?” But even as she said this, her taut eyebrows relaxed. There was a heart-wrenching truth in his words. She looked at him tenderly and withdrew the rupees from the niche in the wall. She brought them to Halku and placed them in his hand and said, “Stop share cropping. We can eat from our day labours in peace.  We won’t have to deal with anyone’s bullying. It’s a good crop.  Bring it in through hard work then chuck it…and the browbeating because of it.”

Halku took the money and headed outside towards Sahna. It took all the courage he could muster to give him the money. He had managed to save these rupees one by one for the blanket but today they would vanish. With each and every step, the weight of his debt was squashing his soul.

(2)

It was a dark night of Pus, the coldest month of winter.  Even the stars in the sky seemed to quiver. Halku sat on a bamboo cot at the edge of field, shivering with his old, coarse sheet wrapped about him.  Beneath his cot was his companion dog, Jabra, who was curled up tightly and shuddering from the cold. Neither of them could sleep a wink.

Halku curled his knees to his neck and said “Jabra, it is so damned cold. I told you to stay home where you can lay upon the pile of husks.  Why did you come here? Now, you’ll have to suffer the cold! What can I do? You thought I was coming here to eat halva puri[2]!” Jabra ran to him. “Now go and wail to your grandmother.”  Jabra, wagged his tail, took a long yawn then laid still. Maybe he thought that his whines were disturbing his master’s slumber.

Halku stretched out a hand to caress Jabra’s cold back and told him “From tomorrow, don’t come with me, otherwise you’ll freeze. God only knows from where this freezing west wind is bringing this frigid cold. I’m going to get up and fill my chillum in hopes of somehow passing this night. I’ve smoked eight already! These are the joys of farming! There are some fortunate beings whom the cold doesn’t even consider harassing because it knows it will be vanquished! They have thick quilts, comforters and blankets that are so warm that they can tolerate the cold. This is the nature of fate. Some of us work ourselves to the bone while others enjoy themselves.”

Halku got up and took a cinder from the pit and filled his chillum. Jabra also got up. Taking a drag on the chillum, Halku asked Jabra, “Want to smoke the chillum? It doesn’t make the cold go away but it does soothe the mind a bit.”

Jabru looked towards him, his eyes overflowing with love. Halku said, “Just put up with this cold tonight. From tomorrow, I’ll spread out the husks here. You can curl up in the husks and it won’t feel so cold.”

Jabra put his front paws on  Halku’s knees and brought his snout near his face. Halku could feel his warm breath. After taking a drag of his chillum, he laid down. He was determined that come what may, he would sleep. But within a minute, his body was shivering once more. Sometimes he laid on this side, sometimes on that side. The cold sat oppressively on his chest like an invisible enemy.

When there was no way to sleep, he gently lifted Jabra, patted his head, and put him to sleep in his lap. A terrible stench came from the dog’s body but from embracing him in his lap, Halku felt a contentment which he hadn’t felt here for months. Jabra must have thought this was heaven. Halku’s soul was so pure that he had not the slightest aversion towards the dog. He never would have hugged a close companion or brother so eagerly. He no longer resented his poverty, which was the reason for his predicament. No. This extraordinary friendship had opened all of the doors of his soul and he was beeming from head to toe.

Suddenly, Jabra heard an animal. This special intimacy imbued him with a new verve that made him immune to the shocks of the frosty air. He jumped up and with a pounce bolted outside and began to bark. Halku called him several times with kissing noises, but he did not come. Without catching his quarry, he kept running around everywhere and barking. Even if he’d come for a moment, he’d run off again. Duty surged in his heart as if it were desire.

(3)

Another hour passed. The cold winds invigorated the night. Halku got up. He drew both knees to his chest and burrowed his head in the crevice, but this did little to mitigate the cold. It felt as if ice water was coursing through his veins. He looked off into the horizon and wondered how much of this terrible night remained. The Big Dipper hadn’t even climbed halfway into the sky. It will be morning only when it fully ascends. More than one fourth of the night remained.

There was a mango grove a mere tip of a bullet away from Halku’s field. It was early autumn. The leaves began to pile up in the grove. Halku thought, “If I can muster the strength to go and get some leaves to burn, it will give off good heat. If someone sees me gathering these leaves at night, they will think I’m a ghost. Who knows, there could be some animal lurking over there. But I can’t just keep sitting here in this cold. He passed through the pigeon pea field and plucked some plants to make a broom. He then walked to the grove with the smouldering cow chip in his hand. When Jabra saw him coming, he came along too and began wagging his tail.

Halku explained, “We don’t need to stay here. Let’s collect the leaves in the garden and warm up. Once we warm up, we come back and sleep again. The night is still long.”

Jabra whined in agreement and headed off in the direction of the grove.

The grove was pitch dark and, in the blackness, the ruthless wind crushed the leaves then blew them away. Drops of dew dripped from the trees.

Suddenly a gust of wind came in, carrying the scent of henna blossoms.

Halku said “What a lovely fragrance, Jabru. Can you smell it too?

Jabra was gnawing upon a bone he found lying on the ground.

Halku put the smoldering cow chip on the ground and began gathering the leaves around it.

Within a short while, he had gathered a large heap of leaves. His hands were chilled to the bone. His bare feet felt numb. Yet he was able to create a mountain of leaves. With this bonfire, he would turn this cold into ashes.

A short time later, there was a campfire. The blaze grew so high that it began to singe the leaves of the tree above it.  In that capricious light, the magnificent trees of the grove seemed as if they had gathered all of the unfathomable darkness upon their heads. The light of the fire seemed to quiver and heave like an unsteady boat moving through that infinite ocean of blackness.

Halku sat in front of the bonfire warming himself. He removed the sheet and tucked it into his armpit. He stretched out his legs as if he were challenging the cold to do whatever it could. Having subdued the seemingly limitless power of the cold, he could not hide his pride of this conquest.

He asked Jabru, “Jabbar are you still feeling chilly?”

Jabbar whined as if to say, “How could I still feel chilly?”

“Had this solution occurred to me earlier, we wouldn’t have had to put up with so much cold.”

Jabbar wagged his tail.

“Good. Come. Let’s leap over this flame and see who can do it without getting burned. Son, if you get burned, I will not get you medicine!”

Jabbar looked at that fire in terror!

Don’t tell Munni about this in the morning. If she catches wind of this, she’ll give me hell.

Then he leapt over the blaze without injury. The flames grazed his feet, but it was no big deal.

Jabra circled around the fire and stood near him.

“Hey! Come on! That’s not fair. You have to jump over it.” Halku said and again bounded over the flames.

(4)

All the leaves had burned. Once again, darkness spread across the orchard. Some embers smouldered beneath the ashes which would begin to burn brightly when a breeze would arouse them only to be extinguished a moment later. 

Halku again wrapped the sheet about himself and, sitting near the hot ashes, began humming a song. The heat entered his body, but as the cold intensified, he began to feel lethargic.

Jabra barked loudly and ran towards the field. Halku wondered whether a herd of animals had entered the field. Maybe it was a herd of nilgai[3]. The sounds of their running and jumping could be clearly heard. It seemed as if they were eating the crop as the sounds of their chewing were audible.

He reassured himself, “No. No animals could come into the field with Jabra around. He’d tear them apart. I must be out of my mind as now I don’t hear a thing. Clearly, I was mistaken.”

He loudly yelled “Jabra! Jabra!”

Jabra kept on barking but did not come near him.

Once again, he heard the sound of his field being ravaged. He could no longer tell himself otherwise. But the thought of moving from his seat seemed so difficult. He got up with a jerk. But going into the fields and running after the animals in this cold was unthinkable. He didn’t budge.

He called out loudly “You rascals!  Damned rascals!”

Jabra again barked loudly. Animals were ravishing the field. The crop was ready. And what a good crop it was but these damned animals are destroying it.

Halku readied his resolve, got up and took a step.  Then suddenly a frightfully cold, biting wind came. It felt like the sting of a scorpion.  He returned and again sat near the fading bonfire and began to warm his frigid body by stirring up the ashes.

Jabra had barked himself hoarse. The nilgais were clearing out the field while Halku kept on sitting placidly by the warm embers. Languor clutched him.

He wrapped himself in his sheet and fell asleep near the warm embers.

He awoke in the morning after the sunshine has spread out in all directions. As he woke up, he heard Munni’s voice. “Are you going to sleep all day today? You came over here to laze about while over there our entire crop was being ruined.”

Halku got up and said, “Are you coming from the field?”

Munni said “Yes. The entire crop has been wiped out. Who else sleeps like this? Why didn’t you use the hut you built there?”

Halku, concocting an excuse, explained, “I was here trying to save myself from freezing to death and you are worried about the crop. Only I know how horrible it was!”

Both walked to the edge of the field. The entire crop had been flattened and Jabra was lying under the hut lethargically.

Both were surveying the field. There was sadness on Munni’s face, but Halku was ebullient.

Munni apprehensively opined “Now we’ll have to pay off the tax through day labour.”

Halku replied with joy on his face, “At least I don’t have to sleep here at night in this cold.”


[1] Halka means light in Hindi

[2] Semolina pudding and fried wheat bread

[3] Nilgai is the largest Asian antelope in Asia and is ubiquitous in north India.

C. Christine Fair is a professor in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program.  Her books include In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (OUP 2019); Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (OUP, 2014); and Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and Other Irritating States (Globe Pequot, 2008). Her translations of Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi stories have appeared in the Bombay Literary Magazine, Bombay Review, Muse India, Kitaab, The Punch Magazine, and Borderless Journal. She reads, writes and speaks Punjabi, Hindi, and Urdu.

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

Categories
Contents

Borderless, July 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

Whispers of Stones… Click here to read.

Translations

Tagore’s Mono Mor Megher Shongi (‘The Clouds, My Friends‘)has been translated by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

The Welcome, a skit by Tagore, has been translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

The Bus Conductor, a short story by Dalip Kaur Tiwana has been translated from Punjabi by C. Christine Fair. Click here to read.

Hasan Sol: A Balochi Folktale from Geedi Kessah-4(Folktales Vol: 4) compiled and retold by Gulzar Khan Mari, has been translated by Fazal Baloch from Balochi. Click here to read.

Cry of the Sunflower written in Korean and translated to English by Ihlwha Choi, a poem for Ukraine. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Nobobarsha (or ‘New Rains’) has been translated by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Pandies’ Corner

This narrative is written by a youngster from the Nithari village who transcended childhood trauma and deprivation. Lockdown had been written in Hindustani by Jishan and translated to English by Grace M Sukanya. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Michael R Burch, Supatra Sen, Jenny Middleton, Pramod Rastogi, Ron Pickett, George Freek, Devangshu Dutta, Candice Louisa Daquin, David Francis, Raja Chakraborty, Michael Lee Johnson, Ashok Suri, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Sutputra Radheye, Maid Corbic, Rhys Hughes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In The Anthology in my Mind, Rhys Hughes talks of a make believe anthology. Click here to read and find out what he imagines.

Conversations

Eminent film journalist, Ratnottama Sengupta, converses with legendary actress, Deepti Naval, on her literary aspirations at the Simla Literary festival, Unmesh, in June 2022. Click here to read.

Keith Lyons interviews Steve Carr, a writer who has written 500 short stories and has founded the Sweetycat Press. Click here to read.

Stories

A Cat Story

Sohana Manzoor leaves one wondering if the story is about felines or… Click here to read.

My Christmas Eve “Alone”

Erwin Coomb has a strange encounter at night. Is it real? Click here to read.

Bus Stop

The story by Rinu Antony focusses on chance encounter at a bus stop. Click here to read.

Murder at the ‘Pozzo di San Patriza’

Paul Mirabile travels to 1970s Italy to experience a crime inside a sixteenth century well. Click here to read.

Musings/ Slices from Life

Grune Point and an Inkling of Eternity

A poetic account by Mike Smith as he explores the area that hovers between England and Scotland. Click here to read.

Olympic Game Farm: Meeting and Greeting Animals from Disney Movies

Hema Ravi visits a farm that houses animals that had a past in Disney. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In A Visit to the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Suzanne Kamata visits a Museum dedicated to an American Japanese artist. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Shopping for my Funeral, Devraj Singh Kalsi goes on a bizarre spree. Click here to read.

Mission Earth

In On a Bamboo Bicycle from Thailand to Indonesia, Kenny Peavy revisits his trip across Asia exploring the biodiversity and conservation efforts. Click here to read.

Essays

Discovering Books and Places: The Voyage from Eden

Meredith Stephens sails the Australian coastline, recording her experiences with words and her camera. Click here to read.

Trekking to Tilicho Lake

Ravi Shankar treks up to Tilicho Tal at 4940 m. Click here to read his trekking adventures.

A Modern-day Animal Fable with Twists

Dan Meloche visits a contemporary Canadian novel written as an animal fable to draw an unexpected inference. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

Is it okay to be ordinary? by Candice Louisa Daquin explores the responses of people to being accepted as ordinary. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from The Mendicant Prince (based on the Bhawal sannyasi case) by Aruna Chakravarty. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Nabendu Ghosh’s Dadamoni: The Life and Times of Ashok Kumar. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Tagore’s Gleanings of the Road translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal reviews Geetanjali Shree’s Mai, Silently Mother, a Sahitya Akademi winning translation of the Hindi novel by Nita Kumar. Click here to read.

Indrashish Banerjee reviews Nabendu Ghosh’s Dadamoni: The Life and Times of Ashok Kumar. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Prosanta Chakrabarty’s Explaining Life Through Evolution. Click here to read.

Categories
Editorial

Whispers of Stones

When the mountains and grass
had life, stones whispered
how the world came to be…

'Stonehenge', Daily Star

And as the world came to be, there was war — war that seems to rage in some part of the world or other. The British Museum has an exhibit which states the first battle was staged 13,000 years ago… in what is now Sudan, long before the advent of written history. This was even before the advent of people who built the ancient Stonehenge which was constructed around 3000-2000 BCE. And battles still continue to rage. The Jebel Sahaba casualties in Sudan 13000 years ago were less than 100. But the current conflicts claim in terms of tens of thousands which prolonged could stretch to millions. The last world war (1939-1945) which lasted for six years had a total of  75-80 million persons who perished. Ukraine-Russia conflict has within five months had a casualty count of more than 14000. And yet weapons and nuclear arms continue to proliferate decimating humanity, nature and towns, destroying homes, erasing ruthlessly and creating more refugees. The only need for such battles seem to be to satiate the hunger of the warlords secure in their impenetrable fortresses while tens of thousands are annihilated and natural or nurtured landscapes lie emaciated, mutilated and polluted.

What would be a good way of ending such wars?

Tagore sought the development of better instincts in humankind as an antidote. He wrote in the last century: “Any teaching concerning man must have human nature for its chief element. How far it will harmonise with human nature is a matter of time.”

With wars getting deadlier and more horrific, we can only try to awaken, as Tagore suggests, the better nature in man to move towards a peaceful world. What would be a more effective way of doing it than writing with the hope of a kinder and accepting future?

For that let us start with translations of the maestro Tagore himself. We have a song about the season — monsoon, ‘Monomor Megher Songi (My Friends, the Clouds)’, translated by Professor Fakrul Alam, a painting by Sohana Manzoor interpreting the lyrics and a transcreation of Nababarsha or New Rains’ was shrunken into a popular Rabindra Sangeet and reduced to twenty lines in English by Tagore himself. The connect with nature is an important aspect that enables humans to transcend petty concerns leading to dissensions of different kinds as evidenced in the maestro’s humorous feline skit, translated by Somdatta Mandal. A translation of Dalip Kaur Tiwana’s ‘The Bus Conductor’ from Punjabi by C. Christine Fair adds zest to this section. Fazal Baloch has translated a folktale from Balochistan involving the supernatural and Ihlwha Choi has taken on the cry for peace on behalf of Ukraine while translating his own poem in Korean. The Nithari column has a story by Jishan in Hindustani, translated to English by Grace M Sukanya, showcasing the struggle of a youngster during the pandemic – rather a sad narrative, which though fictitious has its roots in reality. 

Our poetry section touches upon the timelessness of dissensions and darkness with Michael R Burch’s poem on Stonehenge and Supatra Sen’s poem on Ukraine. This has been allayed by love poetry by Maid Corbic from Bosnia. George Freek’s poem ruffles with its reflective lines. And in the midst of it all, is poetry by Ryan Quinn Flanagan reflecting on the seven stages of man. Will the process of aging or human nature ever change? I wonder if Rhys Hughes can find an answer for that in humorous verses as he has shared in this issue. In his column, Hughes has written about an imagined anthology of short stories.

Our short story section has echoes of humour around felines by Manzoor, somewhat in tune with the mind frame seen in Tagore’s skit on this issue. Humour rings tinged with an apparition in Erwin Coombs’s narrative – should one call it dark humour or is it just his style? Paul Mirabile goes for gothic darkness in his meanderings around Italy.

Strangely, we seem to have a focus on short stories this time. Keith Lyons has interviewed Steve Carr, a journalist, a publisher and writer of 500 short stories who is questing to create a ‘perfect short story’. Reading out excerpts from her short story at a literary festival in Simla, Bollywood celebrity, Deepti Naval, was in conversation with eminent film journalist, Ratnottama Sengupta. She spoke of her literary aspirations while unveiling her autobiography in verse, A Country Called Childhood. This conversation has been shared by Sengupta with Borderless. It is interesting to see how Naval’s reactions to social malaise contrasts with that of the film director, cinematographer and actor, Goutam Ghose, who was present during the unveiling of her book. He had responded to communal violence by making a film on Lalan Fakir extolling virtues of love and kindness, called Moner Manush (2010) and then made a book on the film called, The Quest (2013) which has beautiful translations of Lalan Fakir’s lyrics by Sankar Sen.  

Our non-fiction sections seem to be hosting multiple travel stories across UK by Mike Smith, along the Australian coastline by Meredith Stephens, on the Himalayas with Ravi Shankar and an unusual visit by Hema Ravi to a farm in US where animals that had been used in Disney films in the past are homed. Our environmental columnist, Kenny Peavy, actually wrote about his cycling trip from Thailand to Indonesia on a bamboo cycle made by a Singaporean! And from Japan, Suzanne Kamata explored a museum in the neighbouring town of Mure. The museum on a hill hosts the art of American Japanese Artists, Isamu Noguchi.

We do have non-fiction that moves away from travel: noir humour by Devraj Singh Kalsi and an essay by Candice Louisa Daquin on a very interesting subject – ‘Is it Okay to be Ordinary?’ Is it?  Dan Meloche has written a literary essay on Canadian novelist Andre Alexis’s award-winning novel, Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue (2015). While Meloche spoke of how the novel departed from Orwell’s Animal Farm, his narrative brought to my mind a novel closer to our times set in England by Jasper Fforde called Constant Rabbit (2020) – this a science fiction while Alexis’s was an apologue or an animal fable. Fforde did use the rabbits rather well to highlight the current times.

We have book excerpts of two recent books that I would call really outstanding. One of them is Aruna Chakravarti’s The Mendicant Prince, which is being released this week, and is based on the evergreen contentious case of the prince of Bhawal that has even been explored even in cinema. The other, Dadamoni: The Life and Times of Ashok Kumar by Nabendu Ghosh, has been published posthumously and is not a translation from Bengali but written in English originally by this trilingual writer.  

Called ‘Dadamoni’ affectionately, iconic actor Ashok Kumar is regarded as “the one personality who symbolises Indian cinema’s journey from Bombay Talkies to Bollywood”.  This book has been reviewed by Indrashish Banerjee, who calls it ‘a reflection on the Hindi film industry’ as well as a biography. Rakhi Dalal has reviewed Booker winner Geetanjali Shree’s Mai, Silently Mother, a Sahitya Akademi winning translation of her Hindi novel by Nita Kumar, reiterating the dialogue that had been kindled on motherhood last month by Rinki Roy Bhattacharya and Maithili Rao’s The Oldest Love Story (2022). Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Prosanta Chakrabarty’s Explaining Life Through Evolution plotting how life evolved on earth. Parichha tells us: “Meaningful, wide-ranging and argumentative, this is a must-read book. It will propel us to imagine and reimagine life around us.” Another book that sounds like a must-read has been reviewed by Meenakshi Malhotra, Tagore’s Gleanings of the Road, translated by Mandal. She tells us: “ ‘Gleanings’ represents the quintessential Tagore…Ably introduced and translated by Somdatta Mandal, a renowned Tagore scholar, the translation captures the iridescent and luminous quality of Tagore’s prose and its chiaroscuro effects.”

There is more to tempt. Please stop by on our contents page and take a look.

We would like to hugely thank all our contributors and readers for being with us and helping us grow. I would like to thank my team, who despite hurdles they face, always lend a helping hand and wonderful words from their pens or computers to get Borderless on its feet. I apologise for the delay and thank you all for your patience. Special thanks to Sohana Manzoor for her fabulous artwork.

I wish you all a wonderful July and peace in a war-torn world. We are all affected by the ongoing conflicts. Let us hope for peaceful and just resolutions.

Thanks.

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com