Categories
Index

Borderless, October 2021

An Ode to Autumn: Painting by Sohana Manzoor.

Editorial

Making a Grecian Urn… Click here to read.

Interviews

Unveiling Afghanistan: In Conversation with Nazes Afroz, former editor of BBC and translator of a book on Afghanistan which reflects on the present day crisis. Click here to read.

The Traveller in Time: An interview with Sybil Pretious who has lived through history in six countries and travelled to forty — she has participated in the first democratic elections in an apartheid-worn South Africa and is from a time when Rhodesia was the name for Zimbabwe. Click here to read.

Translations

Travels & Holidays: Humour from Rabindranath

Translated from the original Bengali by Somdatta Mandal, these are Tagore’s essays and letters laced with humour. Click here to read.

The Quest for Home

Nazrul’s Kon Kule Aaj Bhirlo Tori translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Mysteries of the Universe

Akbar Barakzai’s poetry in Balochi, translated by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Gandhi & Robot

A poem reflecting the state of Gandhi’s ideology written in Manipuri by Thangjam Ibopishak and translated from the Manipuri by Robin S Ngangom. Click here to read.

Sorrows Left Alone

A poem in Korean, written & translated by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

The Song of Advent by Tagore

Written by Tagore in 1908, Amaar Nayano Bhulano Ele describes early autumn when the festival of Durga Puja is celebrated. It has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Michael R Burch, A Jessie Michael, John Grey, Rupali Gupta Mukherjee, Mike Smith, Saranyan BV, Tony Brewer, Baisali Chatterjee Dutt, Jay Nicholls, Beni S Yanthan, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Pramod Rastogi, Jason Ryberg, Michael Lee Johnson, Oormila Vijayakrishnan Prahlad, Rhys Hughes

Animal Limericks by Michael R Burch. Click here to read.

Nature’s Musings

In The Lords of Lights, with photographs and a story, Penny Wilkes makes an interesting new legend. Click here to read.

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Pessoa and Cavafy: What’s in a Name?, Rhys Hughes comically plays with the identity of these two poets. Click here to read.

Musings/ Slices From Life

At the Doctor’s

In this lighthearted narration, Farouk Gulsara uses humour to comment on darker themes. Click here to read.

Taking an unexpected turn

Nitya Pandey talks of a virtual friendship that bloomed across borders of countries during the pandemic. Click here to read.

Travel in the Time of Pandemics: Select Diary Entries of an Urban Nomad

Sunil Sharma gives us a slice from his travels with vibrant photographs, changing continents and homes during the pandemic. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Surviving to Tell a Pony-taleDevraj Singh Kalsi journeys up a hill on a pony and gives a sedately hilarious account. Click here to read.

Essays

A Season of Magical Mellow Wistfulness

Meenakshi Malhotra through folk songs that are associated with Durga Puja explores the theme of homecoming. Click here to read.

What Gandhi Teaches Me

Candice Louisa Daquin applies Gandhiism to her own lived experiences. Click here to read.

How Women’s Education Flourished in Aligarh Muslim University

Sameer Arshad Khatlani dwells on the tradition of education among Muslim women from early twentieth century, naming notables like Ismat Chughtai and Rashid Jahan. Click here to read.

Once Upon a Time in Burma: Of Friendships & Farewells

John Herlihy takes us through more of Myanmar with his companion, Peter, in the third part of his travelogue through this land of mystic pagodas. Click here to read.

When Needles Became Canons…

Ratnottama Sengupta, who has edited an encyclopaedia on culture and is a renowned arts journalist, gives us the role ‘kanthas’ (hand-embroidered mats, made of old rags) played in India’s freedom struggle. Click here to read.

Stories

Lunch with Baba Rinpoche in Kathmandu

Steve Davidson takes us for a fictitious interview with a Tibetan guru in Nepal. Click here to read.

The Tree of Life

An unusual flash fiction by Parnil Yodha about a Tibetan monk. Click here to read.

Odysseus & Me: A Quest for Home

A short fiction from Bangladesh by Marzia Rahman on immigrants. Click here to read.

Dawn in Calicut

Krishna Sruthi Srivalsan writes of a past that created the present. Click here to read.

I am a Coward with Priorities

Tejaswinee Roychowdhury tells a story from a soldier’s perspective. Click here to read.

The Literary Fictionist

In Bapu, Denied, Sunil Sharma explores the fate of Gandhiism in a world where his values have been forgotten. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt of In a Land Far From Home: A Bengali in Afghanistan by Syed Mujtaba Ali, translated by Nazes Afroz. Click here to read.

An excerpt from letters written by Tagore from Kobi & Rani, translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Aruna Chakravarti reviews Golden Bangladesh at 50: Contemporary Stories & Poems edited by Shazia Omar. Click here to read.

Somdatta Mandal reviews Wooden Cow by T. Janakiraman, translated from Tamil by Lakshmi Kannan. Click here to read.

Gracy Samjetsabam reviews Suzanne Kamata’s The Baseball Widow. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Mohona Kanjilal’s A Taste of Time: A Food History of Calcutta. Click here to read.


Categories
Slices from Life

At the Doctor’s

By Farouk Gulsara

A rule is often made for others. 

A morning in the doctor’s clinic, a retired teacher was apprehensive about the nagging pain she had over her left nipple. Her beloved sister had succumbed to dreaded breast cancer. Naturally, she was concerned. 

She came with a stack of her medical reports, old ultrasound pictures and mammography prints. 

“You know Doctor, I have brought all these films for you to see,” she said. “Well, my late sister died at the age of 35 due to breast cancer.” 

Her conjunctiva, showing strains of not sleeping well the night before, was flushed. There was a weakness in her voice. She hoped that it would just turn out to be a red herring, something superficial without much fanfare. After all, she had just undergone a major gastrointestinal surgery four months ago. Indeed, God couldnot be so unkind. She had done her duty as a human, paid her dues to humanity. 

“I cannot be so despicable to get a double whammy,” she thought, gazing at the doctor who was scrutinising intently into her medical records. “I have been a good person.” 

“I see you have kept all your records nicely, pictures from 1996 all the way to 2006,” the doctor blurted out, looking directly at her eyes. He turned back to his perusal of the documents. 

The teacher opened her mouth to say, “I don’t know why, Doctor, my hospital stopped giving my ultrasound pictures for the past few years.” 

“I wonder why?” 

Still deep in thoughts, halfway looking at her and the other at the notes, he verbalised. “They are scared. With the increasing complaints against hospitals and the litigious nature of the society, they may find it better not to give out reports freely.” 

A long pause. 

“There are many people out there just to find fault with others… to kick dirt. They create problems only to exert power because they can. And there are many pseudo-intellectuals to douse the fire with kerosene,” the doctor added, sounding frustrated as if he was one of such victims. 

The patient was quick to rebut: “No, I am not that of person. I was a teacher, I know.” She appeared slightly irritated that the good doctor was wasting time talking rather than diagnosing her! “I hold the medical profession close to my heart with the utmost respect. I don’t find fault.” 

“Why is the doctor smiling?” the teacher wondered. “This cynical doctor better not keep me in further suspense. I don’t think my heart can take all these uncertainties.” 

Time almost stood still. 

In what appeared like aeons later, the healer vocalised. She could not believe what she was hearing. It could not be accurate. After all, she had been keeping these documents so carefully. 

“Ms Nayagam, do you know that the last film that you have been safeguarding for the — the past 15 years actually belongs to a 30-year-old Malay lady, not yours!” 

“What!?” 

“You see here,” he pointed to the printed corner of the ultrasound picture. “Anyway, the rest of the images and your clinical examination are normal.” 

Ms Nayagam felt overwhelmed with an avalanche of relief. Suddenly she felt empty. That is how she had been all her life, anyway. Constantly worrying about something or someone, so much so that her children must have decided to stay away. 

“No, this cannot go on!” she thought. 

“Doctor, can I have the films? I have to go back to the breast clinic to kick up some dirt.” She suddenly found new strength. “I have to complain about this foul-up to the highest of authorities. Some heads need to roll!” 

The smiling doctor broke into a wide grin revealing his coffee-stained teeth. 

“Well, well, well! Now you know why people are becoming defensive these days.” the doctor went into lecture mode again. “One small error and the whole twenty years of good work done on you gone down the drain. Nice!” 

Silence. 

“What is that, Ms Nayagam?” the doctor chided as he gazed directly at his first patient of the day’s eyes. He could see clearly her cholesterol deposits of arcus senilis on her sclera. 

He thought to himself, “What is there in your mouth, Ms Nayagam? A hot potato?” as he scrutinised her slightly agape lower jaw and her face pale with embarrassment. 

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Farouk Gulsara is a daytime healer and a writer by night. After developing his left side of his brain almost half his lifetime, this johnny-come-lately decided to stimulate the non-dominant part of his remaining half. An author of two non-fiction books, ‘Inside the twisted mind of Rifle Range Boy’ and ‘Real Lessons from Reel Life’, he writes regularly in his blog ‘Rifle Range Boy’.

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Categories
Musings

This is not a drill

Farouk Gulsara from Malaysia

 People, mainly the theistic type, are in a dilemma now. They are currently undergoing a test of faith of sorts. On the one hand, they feel they should not have been subjected through such a trial. Whoever had heard of man-made laws preventing believers from performing their daily mandatory salutations of the Divine Forces? Furthermore, at this time of calamity, if they cannot turn to the Divine for help, what else can they do?

 But wait…

Why did the Divine Forces ‘send’ such a test to us? Does He not love us so much? After all the cajoling over generations, and the importance that humankind had accorded to the divine forces all times, why are we continuously put to the test? Is it some kind of Divine Mirth for the amusement of the Maker and a testbed to gauge our devotion?

Why are the first spaces to be emptied all the places of worship? How can they be hotbeds for infection? Are they justified is asking, “My Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Has God ditched his followers stricken with COVID-19 by shutting down religious centres with no prayer meetings? Social distancing seems to be the only panacea for the pandemic. Perhaps He is telling us that blind faith does not work.

 Above all, intelligence and cognitive power would make us stronger as a race. Perhaps the answer would be, “I am here just for your solace. I cannot possibly change the trajectory of the Universe just because you cajoled me in prayers. Imagine the catastrophe that could cause to the others. I have other requests too, you know!”

 It has happened many times before…

 There was a time when worshippers were contented when their scriptures protected them from dangers of the pleasure of the forbidden fruit. They thought it was only the deviants who were at the receiving end of God’s wrath. So, when people like Paul Ehrlich came up with his magic bullet, Salvarsan, to treat syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease willed to punish the wayward, he received no accolades but instead, Ehrlich was pelted with stones, and his home was torched. He was scorned for siding with the sinners and going against the overpowering might of God.

All through our civilisation, believers took it upon themselves to symbolise the omnipotence of Divinity by constructing grandiose erections in the name of His splendour. True — these abodes have been useful to house believers and non-believers at times of crises before. These robust megalithic structures are of limited use as they are of restricted use to care for the homeless. They have been labelled as sites of super-spreaders and is out of bounds to worshippers and asylum seekers alike…

 We are left with the power of human intellect and science to overcome this as we have done many times. In years to come, this current episode would be just a fleeting moment in the annals of human history. Catastrophes, one after another, we have bowled over. Floods, famines, earthquakes, tsunamis, world wars — we have defeated all. This will add another feather to our cap.

We did not attain the status of the de facto spokesperson of the planet for nothing.

We shall overcome.

Farouk Gulsara is a daytime healer and a writer by night. After developing his left side of his brain almost half his lifetime, this johnny-come-lately decides to stimulate his non-dominant part on his remaining half. An author of two non-fiction books, ‘Inside the twisted mind of Rifle Range Boy’ and ‘Real Lessons from Reel Life’, he writes regularly in his blog ‘Rifle Range Boy’.

Categories
Musings

Not our crowning glory

By Farouk Gulsara

Is it funny that every time Man thinks that he has it all figured out, Nature (or fate if you like to call it) just jolts him back to reality? Like Will E Coyote and his spanking new latest invention from ACME Corporation, it just falls flat and blows right on his face again and again, and Roadrunner always goes scot-free, scooting off yet again, screeching “beep..beeep!”

The latest viral scare of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) just opens up our vulnerability. All the so-called foolproof systems that we had installed are just scribblings on the sand – they cannot withstand the test of time. And they are so porous. We thought we had all the arsenal that could not only not annihilate our enemies but ourselves in the process too. All these are useless in combating our electron-microscopic size enemy. We are literally crippled by an unseen offending foe. All the King’s horses and the King’s men cannot put our peace of mind together at least for now. 

In the 1990s, our leaders were hellbent on embracing globalisation. They argued that we were heading to a borderless world where physical borders were an illusion. Commerce transcended boundaries, and we should welcome it with open arms. No one could live in isolation. Now, see what is happening. Countries are scurrying to close the borders as not only diseases spread like wildfire, refugees who bungled up their own nation are clawing through the immigration gates displaying their victim card. Many have opted for self-isolation to keep their people safe.

Over-dependence on particular countries for supplies and over-concentration of the supply chain from a specific region has not a smart move after all. It looks like when China sneezes, the whole world may get pneumonia.

The democratisation of flying made travelling no more an activity of the bourgeois. Now, everyone could fly. With it came secondary industries and opening of new regions and tourists attractions. Unfortunately, the concept of open skies also opened the Pandora box of international subversive activities and seamless flow of problems. At the time of writing the tagline of one of the most popular low-cost airlines have changed from ‘Everyone can Fly’ to ‘No one wants to Fly’ or ‘Nowhere to Fly’.

We thought the world wide web of interconnectivity was going to transform the world into a utopia of a knowledge-based society,  well-informed consumers and broad-thinking creative communities. How naive we were. What we have are fake news of questionable authenticity and a band of fist thumping keyboard warriors who type away their hate speeches under the cloak of anonymity without a thought of the effects of their actions. 

Generations before us grew up without any exchange of physical touch or public display of affection. In some societies, physical touch between unmarriageable kins was frowned upon. With open-mindedness, bodily contacts by handshakes, hugging and pecking became the norm. Come SARS, MERS-CoV and now COVID-19, and we are back to our traditional ways of salutations – bowing and placing of own palms together; fear of transmission of pathogens.

Just a thought…

The mighty Chinese armada used to travel to the four corners of the globe. They are said to have ‘discovered’ the Americas even before Columbus’ alternate route to India. But then everything stopped. The Ming Dynasty decided to opt for a closed-door policy of the world. Even the Japanese kingdoms underwent a similar transformation. Was the spread of disease the reason for this move?

(Nerd Alert: Corona is Latin for Crown. Corona also refers to the gaseous accumulation around the Sun (which looks like a crown enveloping the Sun), mainly around its equator. Did you know that there is a field of study dedicated to studying the Sun called Solar Science (Helioseismology)? The suffix ‘seismology’ is used here because Solar Scientists principally study it via the oscillations of sound waves (?Om –  etc.) that are continuously driven and damped by convection near the Sun’s surface. One of the puzzling thing about the Sun is that the Corona is hotter than the Sun surface by a factor of 150 to 400. The Corona can reach temperatures of 1 to 3 million Kelvin.)

Farouk Gulsara is a daytime healer and a writer by night. After developing his left side of his brain almost half his lifetime, this johnny-come-lately decides to stimulate his non-dominant part on his remaining half. An author of two non-fiction books, ‘Inside the twisted mind of Rifle Range Boy’ and ‘Real Lessons from Reel Life’, he writes regularly in his blog ‘Rifle Range Boy’.