Categories
Editorial

We are All Going on a Summer Holiday…

Yes! It is vacation time, and we are all able to travel at last. Though the pandemic which had closed borders for us seems to be evolving as an endemic, another huge human crisis, a war which cannot be justified in any way, stares us in the face. Loss of lives, homes, towns, cities and threats of global recession follow in the footsteps of refugees wandering into our lives. Lesya Bakun, the Ukrainian refugee whose story we have been following, told me four of her relatives’ homes in Mariupol have been erased out of existence and her extended family has scattered where they found safety as her cousin continues a prisoner of war, captured while defending the iron and steel factory at Azovstal. While majority of the world expresses solidarity with the Ukrainians, another set of refugees remain in shadows. They have completely lost their country in which they had lived from ancient times. I am referring to the Rohingya of Arakan. CNN world states:

“The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, thought to number about 1 million people.

“Myanmar does not recognize them as citizens or one of the 135 recognized ethnic groups in the country.”

 We are privileged to host a powerful poignant translation by Arifa Ghani Rahman of Shaheen Akhtar’s short story about such a voiceless Rohingya child in a refugee camp. Though this is a fiction inspired by Akhtar’s visits to such shelters, we hope at some point these children will be able to build new lives to create a world free of violence, intolerance, hatred and greed.

One of the questions that springs to one’s mind, watching such atrocities destroy innocent lives is that should one accept bullies and give in to their pressure tactics? Bullies can be found among world leaders as well as perpetrators of decadent societal norms which are often critiqued by satires. Somdatta Mandal has translated one such satirical playlet where social conventions are targeted in a lighter vein by Tagore. In the same spirit, the maestro’s iconic poem about a palmyra tree called Taal Gaachh has been transcreated to bring the joy of innocent wanderings back into the narrative, creating an island of healing thoughts. We continue with our translations of Jibananada Das by Professor Fakrul Alam, a Korean poem by Ihlwha Choi and a magical Balochi folktale by Fazal Baloch. Let us read such translations to connect with varied cultures so that compassion and acceptance of diverse perspectives end horrors like wars, starvation and hunger.  

Tagore’s writings translated to English by Mandal in Gleanings of the Road, a collection covering the maestro’s travel to the West, is part one of our book excerpts and highlights Rabindranath’s perspectives on the need to connect with the larger world. The other book excerpt, from Waiting, poetry by Suzanne Kamata, takes up the theme of victimisation, crime and murder. Dwelling on no less horrific narratives, though justified as non-criminal, is a review by Meenakshi Malhotra of Harsh Mander’s Locking down the Poor: The Pandemic and India’s Moral Centre. Gracy Samjetsabam’s assessment of Half-Blood by Pronoti Datta informs about the greyer areas of a whole community in Mumbai. Indrashish Banerjee reviewed Keki Daruwalla’s stories on human relationships anthologised in a collection called Going: Stories of Kinship while Bhaskar Parichha has acquainted us with Deepti Priya Mehrotra’s Her Stories –Indian Women Down the Ages — Thinkers, Workers, Rebels, Queens, a non-fiction that visits inspiring women.

Inspiration can also be drawn from Rinki Roy Bhattacharya’s and Maithili Rao’s The Oldest Love Story, featuring a medley of men and women writing on the theme of motherhood along with some narratives about their mothers or on the experience of being one. The medley includes well-known names from films and literature like Shabana Azmi, Saeed Mirza, Shashi Deshpande, Nabanita Dev Sen and more. We interviewed Roy Bhattacharya to find out more about this impactful book. Achingliu Kamei, an academic and writer, has conversed with Naga writer, Veio Pou, whose award-winning book, Waiting for the Dust to Settle, was reviewed earlier — a book that gives a glimpse of conflicts in the Northeast of India.

Taking on the theme of conflicts at a personal level, Atreyo Chowdhury’s and Banerjee’s stories create a sense of disquiet as Paul Mirabile’s explores crime, madness and its impact on humans. G Thomas takes a relook at heroism and bravery as a concept. His story set in Kerala shakes our complacency, upending traditional concepts of heroism and bravery just as Candice Louisa Daquin has upended the cult of positivity in her essay. Notes of discord and accord seem to ring through this edition and the undertones of greys spread out towards an exploration of life and death. We have multiple ghost stories this time, even from the Nithari column written by Kiran Mishra, a youngster who got over the trauma of violence in the community and discovered her place as a bilingual writer and educator.

Our poetry section is honoured to host Walt Whitman Award winner, Jared Carter, again with his poetry on a Japanese artefact as George Freek’s continues to be inspired by the style of Song dynasty poets. Michael Burch writes beautiful love poems. We have a vibrant poetry section with Daquin, Sutputra Radheye, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Antara Mukherjee, Rhys Hughes, who has also revisited ‘The Penguin Café Orchestra‘. This band started a new kind of musical trend with nothing but passion and conviction. Hughes of course cannot escape the bonds of his tongue-in-cheek style, also adopted by Devraj Singh Kalsi while he pretends to be an ant.

Keith Lyons has got the bug of tongue-in-cheek too as he gives us a piece on his travels in Varanasi that well captures the dichotomies we find in India. Dwelling on social dichotomies also is Ratnottama Sengupta’s powerful tribute to Swatilekha Sengupta, a film and theatre doyenne who brought to life Tagore’s novel, Ghare Baire (Home and the World, 1985). An essay by Mozid Mahmud exploring both the syncretic elements in Tagore’s and Kabir’s works, the medieval poet’s impact on the Nobel laureate and a dispute over Rabindranath’s own translation blends with the tone of greys in this edition.

Travel narratives and photographs by Meredith Stephens sailing the seas in Tasmania and Ravi Shankar trekking on the slopes of the Himalayas to get a view of Mt Everest make for perfect holiday adventures. From Japan, Kamata has given us a narrative set in the pandemic. And environmentalist Kenny Peavy dwells on reconnecting with nature in Mission Earth.

We have a fair deal from across the globe in the June issue. But, as usual, some of the treats in the content have not been mentioned though they are wonderful pieces of writing too. We look forward to your continued support as you delve into our treasure trove of gems from across the oceans. A huge thanks to our fabulous team, to the contributors and readers. I especially want to thank Sohana Manzoor for sharing her lovely artwork and wish you all a wonderful read!

I hope you have a fabulous summer.

Thank you.

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

Categories
Stories

Fakir Khizmil & the Missing Princess

A Balochi folktale translated by Fazal Baloch

Balochistan. Courtesy: Creative Commons

Once there ruled a king over a certain land. In the outskirts of the land there lived a rich man. A few days later the rich man died leaving a huge sum of wealth and property behind. His widow made it to the palace and told the king: “My husband passed away a few days back leaving enormous wealth behind. I have no one to look after me except for my son. I fear I’ll be robbed off my property. I urge you to give me a place near your palace where I could live in peace and without fear”.

The king asked his men to find out if the woman was telling the truth. They reported back  that whatever the woman had told him was true. Her husband left her with enormously wealthy. The king, then, summoned her and asked her to live with them in the palace. He also told the woman that he would marry his daughter with her son when they were old enough. The woman was quite happy hearing this.

Time passed by.

The boy grew young and so did the king’s daughter. One day the woman went to the king and told him that she wanted to the marriage to take place. The king said that he had no objection whatsoever, but he asked her for a few days to make preparations. A few days later they were finally married. Along with jewels and fineries, the king also gifted a golden bowl to his daughter.

The groom took the bride to his house. One day, when the womenfolk were going to fetch water at a river near their home, the king’s daughter also expressed her desire to accompany them. They tried to convince her that as she was a princess, she should let them have the opportunity to serve her. But she was adamant and accompanied them. They filled their pots, washed their faces and started on their way back home. Midway through, the princess remembered that she had unmindfully left her golden bowl at the river. She excused herself and hurried back to the river.

When she reached the riverbank, she met four thirsty horsemen who stopped by to ask for a drink of water. She filled the golden bowl and offered it to the horsemen. He was struck by her beauty. Since she was alone, they rode beside her.

Meanwhile, the womenfolk waited for long, but the princess did not return. When they went to the river, there was no trace of her there. They told her mother-in-law about what befell her daughter-in-law. Initially she waited for her to turn up, but she did not return. She went out to search of her but could not find any clue. Later in the evening when her son came back, she started wailing and told her about the incident. Her son immediately went out looking for his wife but he too could not find any trace of her. As he went along the road, he noticed some strands of a woman’s hair and drag marks on the road. He followed the marks till he reached a town.

A few children were playing there. He asked one of the children whose son he was. The boy replied, “Fakir Khizmil”. 

“Where do you live?” he asked them.

“There.” They pointed towards a nearby house.

“Ask your father, a horseman has said, he would be your guest tonight.”

After covering some more distance, he was overwhelmed by thirst. He saw a woman was filling her jar at a nearby stream. He approached her and asked her for a bowl of water. Initially, the woman berated him but then she offered her water. He sat there to rest for a while. Then he coaxed/lured the woman into a conversation. Amongst other things, the woman revealed to him that their king had brought a beautiful maiden with a golden bowl from a distant land. The man felt relieved to have finally found news of his wife. He took leave of the woman and rode back to fakir’s.

The fakir’s meal used to be sent from the king’s palace. At night the young horseman noticed that someone had sealed her ring in the middle of the plate. He looked closely at it. It was his wife’s ring. Next day, he noticed the seal again on the plate. He secretly sent a message to his wife with the maidservant who delivered the food asking her to be ready so that he could rescue her and take her back that evening.

Meanwhile the fakir asked him about the purpose of his journey. He told him how the king took his wife away and how he had uncovered her traces. The fakir asked him:

“Is she ready to come with you?”

“Of course, she is. But I am wondering how to manage the escape as the king has a huge contingent of army and the swiftest horses in the land.”

“Don’t worry. Just ask her to take a goatskin bag full of water, a stone from the right corner of the house and a matchbox. The rest I will explain to you later.”

The next day, the maidservant told the young man that his wife was ready, and she had asked him to wait for her in the garden. When stars arrayed themselves across the night sky, she would come to him. The young man conveyed to her what the fakir had told him to do.

The fakir further advised him thus: “When you notice the king’s army approaching you, throw the stone at them. When you see them again drawing nearer, spill the water. Again, when you notice them drawing close to you, just light a matchstick and throw it towards them.”

Later in the evening he saddled his horse and made preparations for his departure. When stars had covered almost the whole sky, he secretly rode to the garden and waited for his wife. A later, she arrived carrying the goatskin bag, the stone and a matchbox. They mounted the horse and rode off.

At dawn, the king noticed the maiden was not in her bed. He knew she had fled. He commanded his men to find her and bring her back to the palace. He said: “Whosoever will bring her alive or her head, I will give that person half of my wealth”.

Numerous soldiers went in different directions looking for the woman.

Meanwhile, the young man and his wife noticed a group of horsemen were approaching them. The young man threw the stone towards them. It turned into a huge mountain standing between them and the king’s men. After covering some distance, again he saw another group of horsemen drawing close to them. He untied the mouth of the waterskin and spilled the water on the ground. The spilt water turned into a huge sea. Some of the horsemen drowned in the sea and the others turned back.

When they had drawn close to their land, the young man noticed some dust spiralling into the air. A few horsemen emerged out of the dust. By then, their horse had almost collapsed and it was barely moving forward.

The woman said: “Hurry up! We are almost surrounded.”

“Don’t worry,” said the young man. In that very moment he lit a matchstick and flung it towards the horsemen. A huge fire erupted around. The horsemen turned back and took to their heels.

Finally, the couple reached home and lived happily ever after.

(This tale is taken from Geedi Kessa-2(Folktales: Vol 2) compiled and retold by Mahmood Mari in Balochi and published by the Balochi Academy Quetta in 1969. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights for this. )

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies.

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

Categories
Contents

Borderless May 2022

Painting by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

Catch a Falling StarClick here to read

Interviews

Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri: In Search of Serendipity: Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, an iconic editor and film writer from India, converses on his own journey and traditional publishing. Click here to read.

A Wonderer Who Wanders Between Waves and Graveyards and Digs Up Ancient Tales: In Conversation with Amit Ranjan, a writer-academic, who is trying to redefine academic writing, starting with his book, John Lang the Wanderer of Hindoostan, Slanderer in Hindoostan, Lawyer for the Ranee. Click here to read.

Translations

Jibananda Das’s All Afternoon Long, translated from Bengali by Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

The Colour of Time, Korean poetry composed and translated by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

The Ordeal of Fame, a humorous skit by Rabindranath, translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

Fazal Baloch translates a retold folktale from Balochi, The Precious Pearl. Click here to read.

Tagores’ Lukochuri has been translated from Bengali as Hide and Seek by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Pandies’ Corner

These narratives are written by youngsters from the Nithari village who transcended childhood trauma and deprivation. The Story of Rajesh has been written by Yogesh Uniyal in a mix of English and Hindi, and translated fully to Hindi by Nirbhay Bhogal. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Michael R Burch, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, Ron Pickett, Abin Chakraborty, Tohm Bakelas, Mini Babu, Sudakshina Kashyap, George Freek, Shailja Sharma, Allison Grayhurst, Amritendu Ghosal, Marianne Tefft, S Srinivas, Rhys Hughes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

Rhys Hughes shares why he put together an anthology of humorous poetry with seventeen writers, Wuxing Lyrical. Is his logic funny or sane? Click here to find out.

Stories

Intersleep

Nileena Sunil gives us a flash fiction. Click here to read.

Ants

Paul Mirabile tells a strange tale set in Madrid. Click here to read.

Mausoleum

Hridi gives us a poignant story on the banks of the river Seine. Click here to read.

The Persistence of Memory

Vedant Srinivas reflects on a childhood lost and a career found. Click here to read.

Viral Wisdom

Rhys Hughes finds humour within pandemic sagas. Is it dark or light? Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Sea Days, Sea Flowers

Mike Smith uncovers the wonders of British writer, H.E Bates. Click here to read.

Ruleman Ngwenya and Johannesburg

G Venkatesh shares the experience of his first trip out of India long, long ago. Click here to read.

“You don’t have to understand life. You just have to live”

Shubha Apte muses on a book that taught her life lessons. Click here to read.

Mission Earth

In Falling Down and Getting Up, Kenny Peavy explores how to raise resilient children. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In An Encounter with the Monet on Naoshima, Suzanne Kamata writes of snacking on Claude Monet’s hundred year old recipes while savouring his art and that of the famed artist who makes bold art with polka-dots, Yayoi Kusama. Click here to read.

A Special Tribute

In Jean Claude Carriere: A Writer for all Directors, Ratnottama Sengupta pays homage to Jean Claude Carriere (1931-2021), the legendary screenwriter of Peter Brook’s Mahabharata. Click here to read.

Essays

Hesse’s Siddhartha: Towards a Shadowless Present

Dan Meloche revisits a hundred-year-old classic by Herman Hesse that is based on Buddhist lore. Click here to read.

Himalayan Stories: Evenings with Nuru at Pheriche

P Ravi Shankar takes us to a trekkers’ life in the Himalayas. Click here to read.

Living up to my Seafaring Name in Tasmania

Meredith Stephens explores Tasmania on a boat and with hikes with a gripping narrative and her camera.Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In A Post Pandemic Future …?, Candice Louisa Daquin takes a look at our future. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Upamanyu Chatterjee’s Villainy. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Ramy Al-Asheq’s Ever Since I Did Not Die, translated from Arabic by Isis Nusair, edited by Levi Thompson. The author was born in a refugee camp. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Rakhi Dalal revisits Tagore’s The Post Office, translated from Bengali in 1912 by Devabrata Mukherjee. Click here to read.

Indrashish Banerjee reviews Upamanyu Chatterjee’s Villainy. Click here to read.

Basudhara Roy reviews Sunil Sharma’s Burn The Library & Other Fiction. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Radhika Gupta’s Limitless: The Power of Unlocking Your True Potential. Click here to read.

Categories
Editorial

Catch a Falling Star…

Art by Sohana Manzoor
For when your troubles starting multiplying
And they just might
It's easy to forget them without trying
With just a pocketful of starlight

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away (never let it fade away)
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

'Catch a Falling Star' by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss

Perhaps, it is time to find that fallen star popularised by pop singer Perry Como is 1957. Optimism glimmers faintly, sometimes even conceals itself, in a world passing through a dark phase in history. For instance, few of us would know that we might find more answers to tackle  climate change as dinosaur fossils (from the time an asteroid hit the planet) have been unearthed recently. That sounds like solutions can be had to what was perceived as inevitable doom.

Another bit of news that perhaps will cheer some is the first anthology of Borderless Journal will soon be available in market. It has been accepted by a publisher, an old, trusted and reputed name from India, Om Books International. They have bookshops splattered all over — should make it easy for buyers to access the book. Hopefully, you can target the anthology for your Diwali or Christmas gift hampers. Om Books has one of the most iconic editors-in chief, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri. A multiple award-winning editor, he has worked in Penguin and Harper Collins and is currently churning out wonderful books from Om with a fabulous production team, working with whom has been a pleasure. Ray Chaudhuri is an outstanding film writer and poet. He is part of a group that is creating a film archive online. To know more about him or his views on publishing, you can read our online conversation with him.

The energy one gets from optimism like starlight from a fallen star, lightens the darker shadows that create gloom with the war leading to rise in prices and threats of recession in a post pandemic scenario. Lesya Bakun, the refugee from Ukraine whose story we carried last month, finds her starlight by sharing updates of her story.  She added to her narrative with the news that her cousin has been taken as a prisoner of war by Russia from the besieged factory in Ukraine. Though sharing does not alleviate suffering, Bakun’s ability to cling to hope and imagine a future where she gets her dream highlights the strength of her convictions. The other thing that is revealed by her narrative and media coverage is exclusivity and boxes of ideology split humankind, erase families, cities, countries, lives and sanity. The war can appease only the lust of warlords. Against this desolation caused by the devastation, what could be the starlight that would lead to a happier future?

Laughter. Unleashing the ability to laugh at oneself is as potent as laughter that generates relief and lightens our mood, so that we can view differences as whimsical, treat them with tolerance and compassion and not destroy the diversities that add colours to the world. Perhaps, that is why Tagore took to humour too. Somdatta Mandal has translated a series of humorous skits by Tagore. We are featuring one of these called the ‘Ordeal of Fame’. Yet another translation or transcreation of a poem called ‘Lukochuri’ or ‘Hide and Seek’ reflects the playful in Tagore’s oeuvre. These, along with Rhys Hughes humour on the pandemic in poetry and prose, bring good cheer into our journal. Hughes has also used his column to tell us why he curated a new humorous anthology of verses by seventeen poets called Wuxing Lyrical. I wonder if he is serious or joking!

We were fortunate to have a tongue-in-cheek online discussion with an academic with a witty sense of humour who started a book based on his PhD research with a limerick, Amit Ranjan, author of John Lang the Wanderer of Hindoostan, Slanderer in Hindoostan, Lawyer for the Ranee. While Ranjan brought to us a narrative of an Australian who challenged the colonial mindset, went to court representing the Rani of Jhansi, wrote for Charles Dickens in Household Words and moved around the world just like one of us, hopping jobs and looking for a life, we have diverse cultural streams woven into the journal with translations of a Balochi folktale from Fazal Baloch, a Korean poem by Ihlwha Choi and Professor Fakrul Alam’s translation of Jibananda’s poetry, an ongoing project in Borderless.

The Nithari column has yielded us a story that was written in a mix of Hindi and English by Yogesh Uniyal and translated fully to English by Nirbhay Bhogal. We have strange stories this time. Nileena Sunil’s short narrative and Paul Mirabile’s longer one set in Madrid explore the unusual. More stories delve into the intricacies of the human mind.

As we trot around the globe, Suzanne Kamata tells us about a Monet museum in Japan where she ate madeleines made with the artist’s recipe! Meredith Stephens sails to Tasmania with her camera and gives us a glimpse of nature’s plenty. Ravi Shankar relates his trekking adventures among the Himalayas in Nepal, with awesome photographs of these mountains, while Kenny Peavy who lives in Indonesia dwells on the value of falling down and getting up in a light humorous vein against the backdrop of nature – though metaphorically perhaps the world needs to do that. We have G Venkatesh’s story about his stay in Johannesburg where he discovers that skin tones do not matter.

Ratnottama Sengupta makes the whole world look like a home with the story of a legendary screenwriter, Jean Claude Carriere, who wrote the script of Mahabharata for Peter Brook’s play (1985) of the same name and the subsequent film (1989) — with characters drawn from all over the world. Candice gives us an overview of the pandemic, with more focus on US where she lives.

Mike Smith travels back to another time when an ailment called World War II raged and has revived a writer from the past, HE Bates (1905-1974). We have another essay by Dan Meloche on a legendary book which turned 100 this year — Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. Rakhi Dalal revisits more than a century old translation by Devabrata Mukherjee of Tagore’s The Post Office which bears relevance to the present day as it shows how the human spirit endures over even the darkness of death.

Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Radhika Gupta’s Limitless: The Power of Unlocking Your True Potential, by his assessment a book that inspires youngsters to take charge of their future. On the other hand, there are books that explore the darkest in humans. Basudhara Roy has reviewed a collection short stories by Sunil Sharma called Burn the Library & Other Fiction. Indrashish Banerjee reviews Upamanyu Chatterjee’s latest novel based on modern day crimes, Villainy, from which we are carrying a book excerpt too. The other excerpt is from a narrative written from a refugee’s perspective, Ramy Al-Asheq’s Ever Since I Did Not Die, translated by Isis Nusair from Arabic. Born in a refugee camp in Damascus, this Syrian-Palestinian poet defies all genres to touch hearts with brutal honesty. No less sincere is Michael Burch’s poetry on summer that ushers in the season as much as Sohana’s beautiful painting that we are using as our cover photo. We have poetry from not just Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri but also by George Freek, S. Srinivas, Tohm Bakelas, Abin Chakraborty, Marianne Tefft and many more. As usual, I have not mentioned all the treats in store for you. Delve into our contents page and browse to find out more.

Before winding up, I would want to extend my thanks not only to our team and contributors, but also to our publisher who is willing to republish our content with some tweaking. Thanks to our readers who, I hope, will be excited to have selected content between their palms as a hardcopy anthology with 49 of our most iconic pieces. We have more than a thousand published works. This anthology will be an iconic sample that you can carry anywhere with you even if there is no internet – that would include Mars and Moon!

I wish you happy reading, happy dreaming and hope… plenty of it.

Best wishes,

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

Categories
Stories

A Balochi Folktale: The Precious Pearl

Translated from the Balochi retelling* by Fazal Baloch

Courtesy: Creative Commons

Once there lived a poor man who made his living by selling firewood. One day he was chopping a tree in a forest when suddenly his axe got stuck in a log. Despite all his efforts, he could not pull out the axe.

A bird perching on the tree asked: “Who are you? Why are you chopping the tree?”

“I’m a poor man. I sell firewood to feed my family,” replied the man.

The bird gave him a pearl and said: “It’s the most precious pearl in the world. Sell it out and live the rest of your life in prosperity. And listen, never come to the forest to split trees again”.

The man took the pearl and strolled back home. When his wife saw him coming with empty hands, she shouted at him and said: “Where is the wood? What will our children eat today?”

The poor man held her the pearl and said: “Take this and sell it.”

The woman carried the pearl to a shop and said: “I’ve a pearl to sell.”

 The shopkeeper after examining the pearl and said: “It’s a very precious pearl. I’m afraid I can’t pay you its price even if I continue paying through my my lifetime.”

The woman said: “First give us some ration. I’ll leave the pearl with you. Sell it out in the market and pay us the reminder of the money.”

The shopkeeper agreed.

The woman returned home and asked her husband to go catch the bird and bring it home. She said: “When we have the bird in our possession we will soon run into enormous wealth. The money we are going to obtain from this one pearl is like stagnant water which will soon dry out and we will become poor again.”

But the husband replied: “How can I go to the jungle again? I made a promise to the bird that I would never turn up there again”.

“It doesn’t matter. Go and strike the tree with your axe. When the bird addresses you, pretend to be deaf. Eventually, it will alight on your shoulder and draw its beak close to your ear. That is the time to capture it.”

The husband did exactly what the wife had told him. When the bird perched on his shoulder, he caught hold of him and carried it home. They made a beautiful cage for it. It was a pretty bird. His both sons always played with it.

The shopkeeper, who actually was a wizard, assumed that it was perhaps the magical bird about whom he had heard many stories. Whoever should eat the bird’s meat would become a king. Whoever ate the liver, would find a pearl under his pillow every morning. He yearned to possess the bird.

The shopkeeper had also started seducing women. A woman fell in love with him inasmuch as that she killed her husband to marry her new lover.

A month after their marriage one day the shopkeeper asked his wife: “How much do you love me?”

“I love you more than my own life.”

“Can you kill the bird for me?” asked the husband.

“Of course.”

The wife stole the bird and killed it.

Then the husband advised the wife thus: “Cook its meat, liver and skull in three separate pots.”

The wife followed her husband’s instructions and cooked the bird in three different pots and retired to her room for a nap. When his wife’s sons from her first marriage returned home, their old maidservant who had heard the conversation of the couple, told them everything about their mother’s relationship with their stepfather and the secret about consuming the bird’s meat and liver. Then she asked the boys to eat the bird’s meat and liver and leave immediately. She feared their stepfather would kill them if he learnt that they had devoured the bird. The elder brother ate the meat while the younger one consumed the liver quickly and they left the house.

The maidservant buried the bird’s skull, tore her dress, smeared her hair with dust and began wailing. The woman came out to see what was going on. The maidservant said: “Your sons assaulted me. They consumed the bird and left. I called you out for help but you didn’t listen”.

When his husband came to know about this, he shouted in rage: “I’ll not leave the boys alive. I’ll find them wherever they have gone.”

After wandering for almost a whole day, the two brothers reached a jungle in the evening and decided to spend the night under a tree. Off in the distance, they noticed a spiralling dust approaching them. They knew it was the wizard following them.

The two brothers shot at the dust with their arrows. As a result, the wizard was wounded and could not proceed forth. Both brothers decided that when one brother slept, the other would stand guard there to keep a watch for wild animals. The elder brother slept first.

The younger brother noticed the presence of a bird on the tree. Since they were hungry, he shot the bird. It fell on the ground. He needed fire to roast the bird but he did not have any matchstick on him. Far in the distance he noticed the flames of a fire. So, he hurried towards it. But the more he went forward, the farther the fire moved. At last, he gave up and took returned to his brother.

Meanwhile, when the elder brother woke up and did not find his brother, he thought he might have been killed by a wild beast. Thus, with a heavy heart he resumed his journey. He reached a city and found a huge crowd had gathered. He enquired what was happening of one person. The man told him that their king had died and as per their custom the queen would release a bird, and whosoever the bird perched on, would be appointed the king. He stood at a corner to see how things would unfold. The queen released the bird, everyone held his breath, the bird soared high and then perched on the boy’s shoulder. Everybody was surprised!

As he was a stranger in the city, the elders decided to release the bird again. Not the second but the third trail also brought the same result. Hence, he was conducted to the palace, where he was crowned as the new king of the land. Since he was worried about his younger brother, he made a proclamation saying that whosoever saw a stranger in the city, should produce him before the king.

When the younger brother reached back to the tree, there was no trace of his elder brother. He assumed his elder brother had left and it was perhaps not destined they would cross paths again. Thus, with a heavy heart he resumed his journey.

At dawn he reached the frontiers of a city. Soldiers apprehended him and asked him who he was and where he was heading. He told them: “I’m a stranger and am looking for my lost brother.”

The soldiers started beating him till he became unconscious. All of a sudden, one of the soldiers remembered the proclamation of the king about a stranger. To avoid the king’s wrath, they secretly threw the boy into a well. In the morning, a washerman came to draw water.

He found the bucket unusually heavy. Thus he pleaded: “O, whether you are a human, a jinn or an angel, please leave my bucket. I have to wash huge piles of cloth to feed my family”.

The boy replied from beneath the well saying:

“I’m a human being. Pray draw me out. From today onward, I’ll be like your son and you will be like my father.”

The washerman at last drew him out of the well. When he was unconscious, water had coursed into his belly. He vomited out a huge sum of the pearls. The washerman was astonished. He gathered the pearls in the bucket and took the boy home. Now every morning, a pearl would show up under the boy’s pillow.

One day the boy, now known as the “washerman’s son” was walking outside, when vizier’s daughter saw him. She immediately fell for him and expressed her desire to marry him to her mother. The next day, her mother sent for the boy. When the boy came, she asked him to marry her daughter, but the boy refused. She offered him enormous wealth and riches, but he turned down her proposal. The woman decided to teach the boy a lesson for his ‘misdemeanour’.

One day, the king prepared a boat and dispatched it to the sea in search of pearls. When vizier’s wife got the news, she secretly summoned the captain and hatched with him a plot to murder the boy.

The captain secretly tied a rope to the boat and the other end of the rope he tied to a huge boulder buried beneath the boat. When they tried to drag forth the boat to the water, it would not move.

The captain said: “We must seek the help of the astrologer.”

The king summoned the astrologer. Since he was the part of the conspiracy, he said: “The boat needs the offerings of the blood of the washerman’s boy”.

The astrologer summoned the washerman and the boy. He told him that the boat needed the blood of his son. The boy had no choice but to give the offering of his blood. The astrologer said that he would give him enormous wealth which would never be exhausted for many generations in exchange of the boy’s blood. The poor washerman left the boy with the astrologer and walked back home with a grief-stricken heart.

The boy was taken to the shore. The boy turned to the astrologer and said: “Does the boat need me or my blood?”

“It’s your blood, “replied the astrologer.

The next moment, the boy cut his fingertips and smeared the boat with blood.

When the vizier’s wife got the news of the failure of her plot, she was disappointed. However, she racked her evil brain and asked the captain to take the boy along and throw him into the sea. The captain requested the king to accompany such a wise boy on the expedition. Thus, the boy was summoned and taken along.

One morning, one of the crew members found a pearl on the spot where the boy had slept during the night. He took the pearl to the captain. The captain asked him to be on guard to see where the pearl would come from. The crew member secretly kept an eye on the boy. He noticed that the pearl was produced by the sweat of the boy. He told the captain. Since they were in the quest for pearls, and the source of the pearl was with them on the boat, they exposed the boy to the fire, scratched his body and gathered a huge amount of the pearl from his body. This continued for many days until the boy turned pale and frail.

One day the boy noticed a tree in the middle of the sea. It was all green till midnight and turned yellow after midnight. The boy was curious to know the mystery behind it. At late hours of the night, the boy noticed a horse with forty foals nibbling its tender branches. He seized hold of the horse. The horse pleaded to let go of it. He gave a bit of its hair and said:

“Whenever you are in trouble and need my help, just show a fire to the hair I will arrive”. The boy took the hair and let the horse vanish.

After journeying for many days, they finally reached a city by the shore. The captain anchored the boat on the shore, and they strolled towards the city. They walked into a jeweller’s shop. The boy turned to the jeweller and said the gold he was selling was blended with impurities. The boy’s words did not sit well with the jeweller, and they started to argue.

The jeweller said: “If you prove the impurities in my gold, I will give my daughter to you as your wife”.

The boy said: “If I’m proved wrong, I’m ready to be beheaded”.

The boy continued: “Bring a hammer and let me strike on a piece of a gold. If it shatters apart, you will see the traces of impurities”.

The jeweller brought him the hammer. When he struck the gold, it shattered into many pieces.

The jeweller was embarrassed and admitted the error of his ways. He married off his daughter to the boy. After staying for a few days with his wife, the boy along with the other crew members proceeded ahead. Since they were to take the same route upon their return, he left his wife at home.

After sailing for a few more days, they reached a city which resembled Bombay. A huge crowd had gathered on the ground. The boy asked someone what was going on there.

“A horse race”, he replied. “The winner will be married to vizier’s daughter and the losers will lose their life as they will be beheaded”.

The boy approached the king and expressed his desire to take part in the race. Away from the sight of the crowd, he exposed the hair to the fire and the horse emerged before him. It was a very frail and weak horse, and everybody sneered at it. When the race began all swift horses ran out of the sight and the boy with his frail horse was left behind. When they were away from the crowd’s sight, the horse soared ahead and flew past the horses running on the ground and reached the destination.

Everyone in the crowd stood astonished at how such a frail and weak horse could beat all the fastest horses in the race. Hence the boy was married to the vizier’s daughter. After staying for a few days with his wife, the boy along with the other crew members went their way. Since they were to take the same route upon their return, he left his wife at home.

This time around they sailed over to another coastal city. Its streets were deserted. They asked a passer-by why there was nobody out on the street. He told them that the king had arranged a feast to pick a groom for his daughter.

They went to the feast. The king along with his courtiers, viziers and emissaries had gathered there. Whosoever wanted to marry the princess, had to defeat the wrestler. He was such an ugly, fierce man that just a glimpse of him was enough to send ripples of fear in people’s hearts. But the boy walked over and accepted the challenge. Before stepping into the ring, away from the sight of the crowd, he secretly exposed the hair to the fire. The horse emerged. The boy told him that he had challenged the king’s wrestler, and now he needed his help to defeat him. The horse said, “Just hold your arms around his waist, I will kick him so hard that it will soar in the air. Nobody will be able to see me”.

When the boy walked into the ring, the wrestler laughed at him. The boy held his arms around his waist and pretended to lift him up. In the very moment the horse kicked him so hard that he swung in the air and with a huge thud fell on the ground. Everybody, including the king, was amazed to see how the boy overcame their otherwise undefeated wrestler. Since he had won the fight, the king married his daughter to him.

After staying for a few days with his wife, the boy was told by the captain to prepare for his return. The king said farewell to his daughter. He gave an entourage of one hundred folks including servants and soldiers to accompany his daughter. In the next city, the boy took his second wife, the vizier’s daughter. He too gave her a group of one hundred soldiers and servants to accompany her. Then they went to jeweller’s city, where the young wife took his third wife along. The boy told his wives the everything about himself and his brother.

He also cautioned them that the captain wanted to throw him into the sea. He told his wives to tie him with a rope so that, if he was thrown into the sea, they could save him by pulling the rope. At night, he along with his wives, pretended to be asleep, the captain quietly picked him up and threw him into the sea. The wives immediately pulled him out. He told them to lock him inside the giant wooden box they had with them. In the morning, the captain told the women that since their husband had drowned, he was going to marry them.

One of the wife said: “We are ready to marry you, but marriage can’t be solemnised in the boat. Let’s reach offshore first”. The captain agreed.

After journeying for many days, they finally reached their destination. The king presented the pearls to the king and asked him to solemnise their marriage with the three women.

One of the women turned to the king and said: “Before performing the marriage ritual, let me tell you a tale first”.

“Go ahead”, said the king.

She started it with the tale of the bird which gave a pearl to the king’s father. Then she told the audience how the wood cutter’s wife persuaded his husband to catch the bird. When she said: “The two brothers ate the bird’s meat and liver and left their home”, the king thought how that story resembled their own but he did not interfere and continued listening.

However, when she told the audience that the boy was thrown to the sea, the king couldn’t help but shouted: “Where is the boy? He’s my brother”.

“I don’t know anything about him. I’m just telling you a tale”, said the woman.

But when the king insisted, she pointed towards the giant box and said: “Open the box”.

The box was opened and out came his younger brother. They hugged each other with tears of happiness. The king punished the astrologer, vizier’s wife and captain.

Both the brothers lived happily ever after.

(*This folktale was originally published in Balochi in Gauhar Qeemati, an anthology of Balochi folktales, compiled by Rahim Mehr and published by Higher Education Commission Pakistan in 2012. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights to this piece.)

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies.

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

Categories
Contents

Borderless April, 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

For the People, Of the People, By the People Click here to read.

Ukrainian Refrains

In A Voice from Kharkiv: A Refugee in her Own Country, Lesya Bukan relates her journey out of Ukraine as a refugee and the need for the resistance. Click here to read.

Refugee in my Own Country/ I am Ukraine Poetry by Lesya Bukan of Ukraine. Click here to read.

Translations

Ananto Prem (Endless Love) by Tagore, translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Playlets by Rabindranath Tagore reveal the lighter side of the poet. They have been translated from Bengali by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

The Faithful Wife, a folktale translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Leafless Trees, poetry and translation from Korean by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Ebar Phirao More (Take me Back) by Tagore, translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Pandies’ Corner

These narratives are written by youngsters from the Nithari village who transcended childhood trauma and deprivation. Will to be Human is based on a real life story by Sachin Sharma, translated from Hindustani by Diksha Lamba. Click here to read.

Interviews

In When a Hobo in a Fedora Hat Breathes Tolkien…, Strider Marcus Jones, a poet and the editor of Lothlorien Journal, talks of poetry, pacifism and his utopia or Lothlorien. Click here to read.

In Why We Need Stories, Keith Lyons converses with Ivy Ngeow, author and editor of a recent anthology of Asian writing. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Michael R Burch, Mini Babu, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal, Anjali V Raj, George Freek, Ashok Suri, Ron Pickett, Sutputra Radheye, Dr Kisholoy Roy, David Francis, J.D. Koikoibo, Sybil Pretious, Apphia Ruth D’souza, Rhys Hughes

Nature’s Musings

In Studies in Blue and White, Penny Wilkes gives us a feast of bird and ocean photography along with poetry. Click here to read and savour the photographs.

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In My Favourite Poem, Rhys Hughes discloses a secret. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Getting My Nemesis

Erwin Coombs laces his cat’s story with humour. Click here to read.

A Writer’s Pickle

Adnan Zaidi has analysed his poetic abilities with tongue-in-cheek comments. Click here to write.

Great Work…Keep Going!

G. Venkatesh looks at the ability to find silver linings in dark clouds through the medium of his experiences as a cricketeer and more. Click here to write.

Cycling for my Life

What can be more scary and life-threatening than the risk of getting Covid-19? Keith Lyons finds how his daily joy has menacing dangers. Click here to read.

Musings of the Copywriter

In When Books have Wings, Devraj Singh Kalsi talks of books that disappear from one book shelf to reappear in someone’s else’s shelf. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In Owls in Ginza, Suzanne Kamata takes us to visit an Owl Cafe. Click here to read.

Mission Earth

In No Adults Allowed!, Kenny Peavy gives a light hearted rendition in praise boredom and interaction with nature. Click here to read.

Stories

Chameleon Boy

Kieran Martin gives a short fiction woven with shades of nature. Click here to read.

The Circle

Sutputra Radheye narrates a poignant story about love and loss. Click here to read.

Before the Sun Goes Down

Amjad Ali Malik gives us a strange tale of flatmates. Click here to read.

The Agent

Paul Mirabile takes us to Nisa, Portugal, with his narrative. Click here to read.

The Rebel Sardar

Devraj Singh Kalsi has written of how one man’s protest impacts a whole community. Click here to read.

Essays

Beg Your Pardon

Ratnottama Sengupta explores beggary in fact, films and fiction. Click here to read.

A Tasmanian Adventure: Bushwhacking in East Pillinger

A photo-essay set in Tasmania by Meredith Stephens. Click here to read.

The Call of the Himalayas

P Ravi Shankar takes us on a trek to the Himalayas in Nepal and a viewing of Annapurna peak with a narrative dipped in history and photographs of his lived experience. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In A Bouquet of Retorts, Candice Louisa Daquin discusses the impact of changes in linguistic expressions. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from a fast-paced novel set in Mumbai, Half-Blood by Pronoti Datta. Click here to read.

An excerpt from a Malaysian anthology, The Year of the Rat and Other Poems edited by Malachi Edwin Vethamani. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Rakhi Dalal reviews Ramy Al-Asheq’s Ever Since I Did Not Die, translated by Isis Nusair, edited by Levi Thompson. Click here to read.

Gracy Samjetsabam reviews Iskendar Pala’s Tulip of Istanbul, translated from Turkish by Ruth Whitehouse. Click here to read.

Candice Louisa Daquin reviews Marjorie Maddox’s poetry collection, Begin with a Question. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Kiran Manral’s Rising: 30 Women Who Changed India. Click here to read.

Tagore Anniversary Special

Click here to read.

Categories
Editorial

For the People, Of the People, By the People

Painting by Gita Viswanath
"I wish you survival, 
Health
And the closed sky above you."

— Refugee in my own Country/I am Ukraine, Lesya Bakun

Despite this being the season of multiple new years around Asia, we cannot close our eyes to the skies that connect all the world like a blue dome. Though celebrations and humour continue to lighten the darkness of war, while Ukraine is being wrecked, can we turn our faces towards only festivities?

I had an interesting anecdote about how before the onset of the Gregorian calendar, new years in the world were celebrated around March and in some places in September. The Earth would turn fecund and green with spring, a beautiful season sprinkled with love and nostalgia as Michael R Burch tells us in his poetry. However, despite all the opulence of nature, it is hard to watch a country being bombed and families splintered to man a war that supposedly guards a human construct called ideology and blocs. Ukranian refugee, Lesya Bakun, in an interview says: “It is not a clash of ideologies. It is a fight for our country and nation to exist.” Listening to Lesya’s stories makes one amazed at the bravery of the Ukrainians battling what seems to be cultural hegemony. It reminds of the war in Bangladesh in 1971. Though incredibly courageous in voicing her experiences, Lesya is traumatised and has a psychosomatic cough as she sends her voice and text messages from her mobile through Telegram. There were times when she was just weeping or angry for the questions asked, and justifiably so, as her home in Kharkiv, where she lived was under attack, and the town of Mariupol, where she was born, has been wrecked by the war.

The refrain of the pain of a refugee continues to reverberate in a book reviewed by Rakhi Dalal, Ramy Al-Asheq’s Ever Since I Did Not Die, written originally in Arabic and translated by Isis Nusair. The Syrian-Palestinian poet refused to clarify whether his writing was prose or poetry — perhaps these borders and boxes drawn by humankind are breaking down in reality. Perhaps, this new year, the time is ripe to look forward to a new world that transcends these borders. This is also the first time we have had the privilege of carrying reviews of translations from Arabic and also from Turkish. Gracy Samjetsabam has reviewed a translation of a Turkish novel by Iskendar Pala called The Tulip of Istanbul, translated by Ruth Whitehouse. Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed a book by Kiran Manral, Rising: 30 Women Who Changed India while Candice Louisa Daquin has drawn our focus on a poetry collection by Marjorie Maddox, Begin with a Question, where the perceived divisions do not matter while the poet questions the larger issue of faith in quest of answers.

Is it the same kind of quest that has led Strider Marcus Jones to create the Lothlorien Journal, named reminiscently after Tolkien’s elvish ‘Lothlorien’ in Lord of the Rings? Find out Jones’s views and flow with his fluid poetry in the featured interview. Keith Lyons has been in conversation with Ivy Ngeow, an upcoming writer and the editor of a recent anthology of Asian writing where she has retained different styles of English across the world in a single book. While this could be beneficial to writers, would readers be comfortable reading stories with different styles or dialects of English without a glossary?

Our book excerpts are from more Asian books.  The Year of the Rat and Other Poems edited by Malachi Edwin Vethamani has an interesting title poem which has been shared in the excerpt. The other excerpt is from a fast-paced novel, Half-Blood, by Pronoti Datta. We also have a fast-paced story by a writer from France called Paul Mirabile set in Portugal; two that verge on the bizarre from Keiran Martin and Amjad Ali Malik; a poignant story from Sutputra Radheye and another that shows the positive side of voicing a protest against wrongs by Devraj Singh Kalsi. Kalsi has also given us a tongue in cheek musing called When Books have Wings.

On the lighter vein are travel essays by Ravi Shankar and Meredith Stephens. They take us to the Himalayas in Nepal and to Tasmania! Suzanne Kamata has taken us to an owl cafe in Japan! At the end of her column, one feels sad for the owls as opposed to Erwin Coombs’ narrative that evokes laughter with his much-loved pet cat’s antics.

Humour is evoked by G. Venkatesh who with an ability to find silver linings in dark clouds talks of cricket and lessons learnt from missing his school bus. Adnan Zaidi has also analysed his poetic abilities with tongue-in-cheek comments. Kenny Peavy gives a lighthearted rendition in praise of boredom and interactions with nature. It is good to have laughter to combat the darkness of the current times, to give us energy to transcend our grief. Keith Lyons hovers on the track between humour and non-humour with his cycling adventures. Rhys Hughes seems to talk of both his favourite poem and the war in a lighter shades, in no way insensitive but his observations make us wonder at the sanity of war. We have much of war poetry by a number of writers, poetry on varied issues by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal, George Freek, Sybil Pretious, Kisholoy Roy, J.D. Koikoibo and many more.

Candice Louisa Daquin has taken on the onus of bringing to our notice how language can impact us in the long run while Ratnottama Sengupta has explored beggary in films, fiction and fact. The Nithari column runs a real-life story of a young boy narrated by his brother, Sachin Sharma. It has been translated from Hindustani by Diksha Lamba. The trauma faced in 2006 is strangely not discussed in the story though it hovers in the backdrop between the lines. We also have a translation of a Balochi folk story by Fazal Baloch and a Korean poem by Ihlwha Choi. Translations from Tagore by Fakrul Alam and Somdatta Mandal have honoured our pages again. Mandal has sent us fun-filled skits by Tagore. But are they just fun or is there something more? We also have a translation of a long poem that explores a different aspect of Tagore, his empathy for the downtrodden which led him to create Sriniketan and regard it as his ‘life work’.

We have a bumper issue this time again — especially for the Asian new years; Thai, Nepalese, Bangladeshi, multiple Indian and more…

We would like to thank Sohana Manzoor for our cover painting and Gita Viswanath for her artwork. I would like to thank our wonderful team who with their contributions make this journal a reality. All the contributors deserve a huge thanks as do our loyal readers.

I wish you all a wonderful start to a non-Gregorian new year and hope that peace prevails over parts torn by wars and dissensions.

Thank you all!

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

Categories
Stories

The Faithful Wife

A Balochi folktale translated by Fazal Baloch

Courtesy: Creative Commons

Once there lived a king who had a son. With the passage of time, the prince grew into a young man.  The king thought that before he shut his eyes forever, the prince should be married off. He expressed his desire to his son who responded with his choice. He wanted to marry a princess of a distant land. The next day, the king summoned his vizier and told him what the prince desired. Moreover, he said that he would pay as much dower as they asked for.

The vizier sent a messenger to the king for the purpose. The king gave his consent. The messenger returned to his country with the good news. The prince was married with great pomp and splendour. A few days after their marriage, the king brought his daughter-in-law to the palace. She was beautiful and well-mannered.

Days passed by. One day the king breathed his last and his son subsequently ascended the throne and became the king. But he loved his wife so much that he did not pay much attention to the affairs of his kingdom. At last, he abdicated his throne to live a happy and peaceful life with his beautiful wife. Soon he ran out of his wealth and become so poor that he had nothing left. A few days later his wife turned to him and said, “By sitting idle at home we will die of hunger. You should do something or engage yourself in a business”. He replied, “First, I can’t live without you. Separation from you will rend my heart. Second I’m not well-versed in any craft. There is however a desire in my heart to conduct some trade but I don’t have any capital for it”.

“Don’t worry I will finance you,” his wife told him.

“How come?” asked the husband.

“Take all my jewels and sell them off and bring me the sum you receive for them.”

The husband did what his wife had told him. The wife then advised him to buy goods with the money and board a ship. Thus he loaded the goods on a ship and returned to his wife and asked her, “What should I do next?”

She gave him a flower and said, “Whenever you feel sorrowful for me, just look at the flower. It will ease off your sorrows”.

He put the flower into his pocket, boarded the ship and set on his journey. After journeying for many days and night he finally landed in a distant country. He anchored the ship in the harbour. Meanwhile, the soldiers arrived and demanded duties. He paid the duty for the ship but surprised the soldiers saying that he had something else on him but neither was he going to pay any duty for it nor show it to them.

“How strange! What is it?” a soldier asked him but he refused to reveal.

When the soldiers continued to insist, he at last told them that it was the flower given by his wife. The soldiers took him to the king’s court and told the king about the flower he was keeping with him. The king turned to him and asked him sarcastically, “Oh, you think your wife is such a good woman that you can live by her token?”

“Yes, I think so” was his reply.

“If we produce your wife here at our court, what would you say?”

“If you think you can convince her to come here, I will give her to you”, he told the king. Then he turned to the court and said, “A man or two could go and try to persuade his wife to come.”

Two young men, one was king’s own son and the other was the vizier’s, presented themselves for the adventure. After making necessary preparations, they set out on their journey.

Meanwhile, the man sought permission to sell his goods. The king granted permission happily.

The king’s and vizier’s son traveled long and finally reached the city where the wife of the king who was now a merchant lived. There they ran into an old lady who invited them to her cottage. They asked the old woman to go to the merchant’s wife and tell her that the son of a king was desperate to see her. Initially she refused but when the prince gave her a sack full of gold coins, the old woman hurried to merchant’s wife and conveyed her prince’s message. At first she made excuses but when the old woman gave her no rest she at last said, “Ask the prince to visit me at night”.

The old woman told the prince what she had been told by the merchant’s wife. In the evening, the prince spruced himself up and took leave of his friend, the vizier’s son and left for his desired destination.

When he reached there, the woman pointed towards the bathroom and said, “Go there and refresh yourself. I do the same. Then we will have a conversation. We’ve a long night ahead”.

The moment the prince entered the bathroom, the woman locked the door from outside. Two days later, when the prince failed to return, the vizier’s son grew anxious about him. He wondered if someone had done him ill or he had gone somewhere. The next night he decided to see the woman and ask her about the prince. But when his eyes fell on her, he forgot the prince and thought that it would be a lucky hit if he managed to trick her.

He told her that he had been desperate to see her and would be much obliged if she would spare some moments to talk to him. The woman told him to do what she had asked the prince the other night. When he entered the bathroom she locked it from the outside. Now the prince and vizier’s son both lay locked in the bathroom. Six or seven days later she sent for a carpenter and asked him to make two giant sixed boxes in which a man could sleep easily. He also asked the carpenter to make two holes on the side of the each box.

The carpenter went off and made the boxes as she had ordered him. She then summoned two men who owned camels. She instructed them thus, “I have locked two men in the bathroom, put them in these two boxes, load them on the camels”.

When they were all done she asked the camel owners to follow her. She fed them water and food through the holes in the boxes. After travelling for many days and night, they finally reached the land of the king who wished to have her in his court. Upon reaching there, she rented a quarter and placed the two boxes there. She locked the house and went out. On her way to the city, she encountered the kotwal or the police chief of the city. He inquired her: “Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan”, she replied.

“Don’t you know courtesans are not allowed to move around freely in this city? I wouldn’t let you wander like this.”

“Is there any way that I could be spared?” She asked the kotwal.

“If you visit my home in the evening, I will let you go,” the kotwal put the condition before her.

“Of course I will come. This is what I do. But being a servant of the king you have always people around you. If any of your sentries or soldiers catches the sight of me, it will bring ruin to your reputation. I have rented a house in the corner of the city. It is better we meet there”.

Thus, the kotwal let her go.

The Imam of the mosque was the next she encountered. He asked her:

“Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan,” she replied.

“I seek refuge from the Holy Lord! Don’t you know such impure women are not allowed to roam freely in this city? I will take you to the king”.

“Please for God’s sake, let me go,” she pleaded.

“If you visit me in the evening I will let you go,” he told her.

“Of course, I will come. This is what I do. But as you are the Imam of the entire city, whether it is death or marriage people will come to you to perform the rituals. If someone saw me with you, it would tarnish your dignity and honor. I have rented a house in the corner of the city. It is better we meet there”.

Hence the Imam let her go.

She then ran into the vizier who inquired: “Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan”, she replied.

“The king has banned the movement of courtesans in the city. I will take you to the king”.

“Is there any way that I may be spared?” she asked the vizier.

“Yes, if you come at my home near king’s palace tonight, then I will leave you,” said the vizier.

“Of course, I will come. This is what I do. But as you are the vizier, if king sends someone for you and he happens to catches the sight me with you it will dent your dignity. I have rented a room in the city. It is better we meet there”.

The vizier agreed and let her go.

At last she bumped into the king himself. He asked her: “Who are you?”

“I am a courtesan,” she replied.

“In my kingdom sinful women like you are not allowed. I will put you in the prison”.

“I am a poor woman. Let me earn a livelihood. Take pity on me,” she pleaded.

“No, I can’t,” the king replied.

“Isn’t there any way that I may be spared?” she asked the king earnestly.

“Yes, there is but one condition. If you accept it I will let you go the very instant”.

“What is it”?

“If you come at my palace in the evening, I will let you go,” said the king.

“Of course I will. This is what I do. But as you are the king of the land, if someone saw me with you; it would stain your honour and esteem. I have rented a house in the corner of the city. It is better we meet there”.

Thus the king was agreed to see her at her house. He noted down the details of the location and told her that he would pay her a visit at her place that night.

The woman returned to her quarter. At dusk she cooked herself a dinner. She was just done with her meal when someone knocked at the door. She got up and opened the door. The kotwal was standing outside. She let him in. He had barely seated himself when someone again knocked at the door. The kotwal pleaded with the woman:

“For God sake hide me somewhere.”

“There is no such place in the house where I could hide you, but I have an idea,” replied the woman.

“What is the idea?” the kotwal instantly asked her.

“I will give you a sack of grain and you grind the content in the quern. Thus, nobody will suspect you”.

The kotwal agreed.

She opened the door and found the mullah standing outside. She welcomed him. The mullah had just started the conversation with the woman, when someone knocked at the door again. The mullah grew worried, and he begged to the woman saying: “Pray hide me somewhere”.

“There is no such place in the house where I could hide you but I have an idea”, replied the woman.

“What is the idea?” the mullah asked her trembling.

“You should bend down on your knees, and I will place the water-pitchers on your back,” said the woman.

The mullah consented and she placed two water-pitchers on his back and strolled out of the room.

She opened the door and let the vizier in. The vizier had barely stepped into the house, when there was a knock on the door again. The vizier turned to the woman and urged her: “Please hide me somewhere”.

“There is no such place in the house where I could hide you but I have an idea,”replied the woman.

“What is the idea?” The vizier asked her in an earnest voice.

“You should snuggle against the wall and I will place the lamp on your head. It will be dark beneath the lamp and nobody will notice your presence,” said the woman.

The vizier did what the woman told him. She placed the lamp on his head and left the room.

She opened the door and to her surprise she found the king himself standing before her. She courteously greeted him and conducted him into the house. Then she went and unlocked the two giant boxes. A moment later she excused herself and said: “Let me take a bath to refresh myself before I join you”.

The king granted her the permission, and she stole out of the door and started her journey back home.

Back in the house, the king kept waiting for her. When after a long time she failed to show up, the king decided to ask the maidservant who was grinding the grain. Hence he walked over there and he was astonished to discover that instead of a maidservant it was the kotwal grinding the grains. When the kotwal saw the king there he smiled and said: “Thank God! I’m not alone. His Majesty too has been tricked by the woman”.

The vizier also felt relieved and so did the mullah. The king said that since they had been tricked by the woman, they would take away the two boxes of the woman. The king went forward and opened one box and but instead of any finery or jewelry he found his own son lying in the box. The king lost his temper saying, “I spit on your face. You damn coward!”

The prince turned to his father and said, “I was made a captive away from home, but I curse you for you all have been tricked in your own kingdom.”

The king asked him about vizier’s son. The prince told him that he was lying in the next box. They all broke the door and sheepishly went to the merchant and sought his forgiveness for they couldn’t bring his wife into the palace. The king presented him a shipload of silver and gold.At last he reached his home. He felt very proud to have a clever woman as his wife who with her shrewdness not only protected her own honour but also did not let any stain spoil her husband’s dignity. Thus, she remained honoured and exalted in the eyes of both her husband and God.

(This folktale was originally featured in Balochi in Geedi Kessah-5, compiled by Mahmood Mari published by Balochi Academy Quetta in 1979. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights of this collection.)

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies.

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

Categories
World Poetry Day

Imagine…

And as imagination bodies forth 
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen 
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing 
A local habitation and a name. 

-- Midsummer Night's Dream (premiered 1605)by William Shakespeare

Imagine… if words could weave a world in harmony! Perhaps… then as Shakespeare declared and more recently John Lennon wrote in his song ‘Imagine’ (1971), we might have constructed a new world…

In hope of the same perhaps, Nazrul had published his poem, ‘Bidrohi‘ or the rebel a hundred years ago, a few months before TS Eliot published Wasteland, again a poem raising humane concerns and reinforcing values post the First World War. More recently Akbar Barakzai who has passed on at the start of this month, wrote about a better world in his poem, ‘We are all Human‘. And yet we have a war …

In response to the war, we have modern voices that ring out in harmony, including the voice of a Ukranian refugee. In reaffirmation of a world that can transcend divisions created by human constructs and soar in a virtual world, we also present to you interviews of half-a-dozen poets.

From the Treasury

Rebel or ‘Bidrohi’: Nazrul’s signature poem from 1922, ‘Bidrohi, translated by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

A Special Tribute

We are All Human by Akbar Barkzai, translated by Fazal Baloch, has been published as not only a tribute to the poet who left us forever on 7/3/2022, but also as his paean to humanity to rise about differences which lead to war and horror, to unite us as one humankind. Click here to read.

War, Peace and Poetry

Poetry from across the world in support of peace and voicing concerns over the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, we have Ukranian Lesya Bakun give us poetry as a war victim, a refugee. Rhys Hughes, Ron Pickett, Michael R Burch, Kirpal Singh, Malachi Edwin Vethamani, Suzanne Kamata, Mini Babu, Sybil Pretious and Mitali Chakravarty have contributed poetry written for the Ukraine crisis. Click here to read.

Poets across Borders

Half-a-dozen poets from different continents tell us about their poetry. The poets include Ryan Quinn Flanagan, George Freek, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozabal, Ihlwha Choi, Sutputra Radheye, Anusuya Bhar. Click here to read.

Categories
Tribute

Akbar Barakzai’s Paean to Humanity

Poem by Akbar Barakzai, translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

Akbar Barakzai (1939-2022)
WE ARE ALL HUMAN

Russia, China and India,
Arabs and the New World*,
Africa and Europe,
The land of the Baloch and Kurds --
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

Of blood and brotherhood,
We share common traits and ties.
Love is all we harvest.
On freedom our faith does rest.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

A life free from strife,
A world blooming with 
Dreams and desires,
Happiness and delight --
This is all we seek.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.


From murderers and tyrants,
Like Genghis,
With our swords and soul,
We protect the beautiful Earth.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

Together along with the downtrodden, 
The wretched of the Earth,
We shall wage a war 
Against brutes of the world,
And for truth we shall lay our lives.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

With the stars of our blood,
Like our beloveds, we shall adorn
The night-bitten cities and valleys.
The dark night will vanish forever.
Indeed, the whole world is ours.
We are all human.
We are all human.

The sun will rise from our blood,
the prophet of glory will appear,
The night will pass into dawn --
There will be happiness everywhere.
Indeed, the whole world is ours
We are all human.
We are all human.

*By the New World, the poet means the continents of Americas and Australia.

Akbar Barakzai (1939-2022) was born in Shikarpur, Sindh. He is ranked amongst the proponents of modern Balochi literature. His poetry reflects the objective realities of life. Love for motherland, peace and prosperity and dignity of a man are the recurrent themes of his poetry. His love for human dignity transcends all geographical and cultural frontiers. Barakzai is not a prolific poet. In a literary career which spans over half a century, Barakzai has managed to bring out just two anthologies of his poems, but his poetry has depth and reaches out to human hearts with its profundity. Last year, Barakzai rejected the Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL) award, quoting  the oppressive policies meted out to his region by the government as the reason.

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated many Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters and in the form of books and anthologies. Fazal Baloch has the translation rights to Barakzai’s works and is in the process of bringing them out as a book.

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