Categories
Halloween Greetings

Ghosts, Spooks & Spirits of the Night Arise…

Halloween returns, bringing back memories of trick or treating with children collecting candies, celebrating — celebrating perhaps to get over the fear of darkness, the unknown or perhaps, even the experience of global disasters ? The Bengali equivalent of Halloween — Bhoot Chaturdashi — was celebrated a day before Diwali. And as people do up ‘haunted homes and dress as witches, zombies and ghosts, I wonder, why do we celebrate such dark festivals and also enjoy them?

Perhaps, the answer is given in an essay by Candice Louisa Daquin that we have a gene that helps us enjoy such occasions… And then there is always the necessary adjunct of ghost stories and spooky rhymes that makes us feel ooky as our hearts beat and nervous snots of laughter explode from chests beating in anticipation…Wafting on borderless clouds that float mysteriously on Halloween nights, we invite you to visit a few spooks, ghosts, goblins, witches and spirits…

Poetry

It’s Halloween by Michael R Burch… Click here to read.

Horrific Humour by Rhys Hughes… Click here to read.

Prose

My Christmas Eve “Alone” : Erwin Coombs has a ghostly encounter at night. Is it real? Click here to read. 

Flowers on the Doorstep :Shivani Shrivastav writes of an encounter with a mysterious creature in Almora. Click here to read. 

A Curse: San Lin Tun gives us a macabre adventure with malicious spirits lurking in a jungle in Myanmar. Click here to read.

Pothos: Rakhi Pande gives us a macabre story set in Singapore that borders on the supernatural? Click here to read.

I Grew into a Flute: A Balochi Folktale involving the supernatural retold by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Categories
Greetings from Borderless

Illuminate the World…

“Light festive lamps, make bright the night,
Shine your own lights, illuminate the world.”

— Tagore’s Autumnal Nights, translated by Professor Fakrul Alam
Courtesy: Creative Commons

Celebrating and reinforcing the victory of the human spirit over darker forces is a cathartic experience in a world reeling under the impact of senseless wars, depression and economic crises. While the Earth too upheaves changes to create new lores, we draw comfort from the perpetuation of rituals that have solaced us over centuries. These festivals are celebrated in different ways across the world on different days. But, the festival of lights has become a major one, celebrated by a diaspora across all continents. The rituals were varied but the celebrations include lighting of lamps across the board.

The Combat of Rama and Ravana (late 18th century) Courtesy: Creative Commons

Lamps were lit to celebrate Rama’s return home after destroying darker forces as Diwali among North Indians. Among those from the South and West, it was the victory of Krishna over demon Narakasur that warranted the celebration of Deepavali. And yet those from the East, celebrate Kali’s victory over the rakshasas with lamps, sparklers and prayers. The Jain and Buddhist communities also have their special observances on this day.

To bring to you a flavour of these festivals, we have writings by Farouk Gulsara from Malaysia on the celebration of Deepavali during his childhood; Debraj Mookerjee on Kali Puja celebrations in his ancestral home and a sample of Bibhutibhushan’s stories on the darker tantric practices — intrinsically linked to the worship of Kali along with Basudhara Roy’s review of the translation of his book by Devalina Mookerjee.

We begin our selection to jubilate this festival of lights with a translation of Tagore’s poem on light and another by Mike Smith.

Poetry

Tagore’s Paean to Light. Click here to read.

Last Lights by Mike Smith. Click here to read. 

Prose

In Dim Memories of the Festival of Lights, Farouk Gulsara takes a nostalgic trip to Deepavali celebrations in the Malaysia of his childhood. Click here to read.

In Vignettes of Life: Unhurried at Haripur, Debraj Mookerjee revisits Kali Puja in his ancestral home. Click here to read

Basudhara Roy reviews Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee. Click here to read.

Categories
A Wonderful World

Where “Divides of Class, Religion & Ethnicities Collapse”

Painting of Durga Puja. Courtesy: Creative Commons
Wherever I look, a golden light 
Suffuses a vision of holidays,
The festive sun rises in the woods
Of puja* blossoms drenched in gold rays. 
             -- Tagore, Eshechhe Sarat

This has been a favourite poem of many who grew up reading Tagore, lines that capture the joy and abandon of the spirit that embodies the celebration of Durga Puja, a festival that many Bengalis deem as important as Christmas, Chinese New Year, Diwali or Eid. It is a major celebration in Bengal and large parts of the sub-continent, though not in all parts.

The reason that reviving the lore associated with this fiesta has become very important is that it centres around women. Given the situation in Iran, where the battle over how to wear headscarves has turned bloody, murderous and violent, celebrating an empowered woman, even if mythical, takes precedence over all else. Mythology has it that Durga was empowered by weapons given to her by various deities, all of who were men, and then, she did what all the male Gods failed to do — destroyed a demon called Mahisasur. Rama too prayed to Durga for victory around this time. And on Bijoya Doushami, the last day of the Durga Puja, some celebrate Rama’s victory over Ravana and call it Dusshera or Dashain.

Taking up this theme of the narratives around Durga Puja and how it has been made into an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO is Meenakshi Malhotra’s essay on the festival. Part of the citation reads: “During the event [Durga Puja], the divides of class, religion and ethnicities collapse….” 

To bring to you a flavour of the Puja, we have translations of poetry by Tagore describing the season and of a poet who was writing before Rabindranath, Michael Madhusdan Dutt, by Ratnottama Sengupta, verses exploring the grief of parting Durga’s mother expresses as her daughter returns to her husband’s home. This is also a festival of homecoming for, like Durga, those living far from their homes return to the heart of their families. Rituparna Mukherjee has woven a story specially around this aspect of the festival. Journals in Bengal, traditionally, brought out special editions with writings of eminent persons, like Satyajit Ray. We have an interview with a writer who wrote a book on Satyajit Ray, an actor called Barun Chanda, to bring a flavour of that tradition along with the translation of a celebrated contemporary Bengali writer, Prafulla Roy, by Aruna Chakravarti. We hope you enjoy savouring our Durga Puja Special.

Poetry

Eshechhe Sarat (Autumn) , describing the season of Durga Puja, by Tagore has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read. 

Bijoya Doushumi, a poem on the last day of Durga Puja, by the famous poet, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, has been translated from Bengali by Ratnottama Sengupta. Click here to read.

Prose

A Mother, a Daughter & a Demon Slayer?, an essay by Meenakshi Malhotra, checks out the festival of Durga Puja against the concept of women empowerment. Click here to read.

Homecoming by Rituparna Mukherjee is a poignant story about homecoming during Durga Puja. Click here to read.

Nagmati by Prafulla Roy has been translated from Bengali as Snake Maiden by Aruna Chakravarti. Click here to read. 

Interview

Meet Barun Chanda, an actor who started his career as the lead protagonist of a Satyajit Ray film and now is a bi-lingual writer of fiction and more recently, a non-fiction published by Om Books International, Satyajit Ray:The Man Who Knew Too Much in conversation Click here to read.

Categories
Greetings

Festival of Lights

After welcoming the dark half of the year with Halloween, we light lamps to observe yet one more homecoming festival — that of the legendary Rama. Though Diwali or Deepavali is interpreted variously in different parts of India, in the North, Rama’s homecoming after fourteen years of exile and victory over various demons is celebrated with the lighting of lamps and fireworks. Simultaneously, in Eastern India, they celebrate the victory of good over evil with the worship of Goddess Kali. In the Southern part, the victory of Krishna over a demon or asura known as Narakasura is jubilated. This festival is observed as a national holiday across a dozen countries now. There are a dozen different rituals, Gods and Goddesses correlated with the festivities. But victory of good over evil is a concurrent narrative along with prayers for prosperity and well being of the world. Both of these themes are a felt need in the present times.

In keeping with the theme of light, at Borderless, we celebrate this season with stories and poems connected with lights or lamps along with narratives around the festivals themselves… all from within our treasury.

Poetry

Light a Candle by Ameenath Neena. Click here to read.

One Star by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

The Candle by Matthew James Friday. Click here to read.

The Starry Night by Sunil Sharma. Click here to read.

Prose

What Ramayan taught me about my parents: Smitha R gives a humorous recap of how the legendary epic brought the family together. Click here to read.

How a dark Goddess lights up a Fallen World: Meenakshi Malhotra talks of Kali and the narrative of the festival that lights up during this festive season. Click here to read.

The Dark House: A Balochi folk tale translated by Fazal Baloch that reflects on the crucial role of light in a young girl’s life. Click here to read.