Categories
Editorial

When Autumn Leaves Start to Fall…

                     “Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
                      Think not of them, thou hast thy music too…”

                                 — John Keats (1795-1851), To Autumn
Art by Sybil Pretious

For long writers have associated autumn with “mellow wistfulness”. That loss of spring, or loss of youth is not bleak or regretful has been captured not just by Keats but also been borne out by historical facts. Anthropocene existence only get better as the human race evolves … If we view our world as moving towards an autumn, we perhaps, as Keats suggests, need to find the new “music” for it. A music that is ripe and matures with the passage of time to the point that it moves more towards perfection. Though sometimes lives fade away after autumn gives way to winter as did those of  Queen Elizabeth II (April 21st 1926 – September 8th 2022) after a reign of seventy historic years and Mikhail Gorbachev (2nd March 1931 – 30thAugust 2022) with his admirable efforts to bridge divides. Both of them have left footprints that could be eternalised if voices echo in harmony. Thoughts which create bonds never die – they live on in your hearts and mine.

Imagine… ten thousand years ago, were we better off? Recorded history shows that the first war had already been fought 13,000 years ago. And they have continued to rage – but, at least, unlike the indomitable Gauls in Asterix[1] comics – not all jumped into the fray. They did during the last World Wars — which also led to attempts towards institutionalising humanitarian concerns and non-alignment. Yes, we have not had a perfect world as yet but as we age, the earth matures and we will, hopefully, move towards better times as we evolve. Climate change had happened earlier too. At a point, Sahara was green. Continental shifts split Pangaea  into seven continents – that was even earlier. That might have driven the dinosaurs to extinction. But I am sure mankind will find a way out of the terror of climate change and wars over a period of time, as long as we believe in deciphering the sounds of autumn as did Keats in his poem.

Tagore had also sung of the joys of autumn which happens to be a time for festivities. Professor Fakrul Alam has translated three such songs, reflecting the  joie de vivre of the season, The translation of a small poem, Eshecche Sarat[2], brings the beauty of the season in Bengal to the fore. We have a celebration of youth and romance in a Balochi folksong, an anti-thesis to autumn and aging, translated for us by Fazal Baloch and also, poetic prose in quest of God and justice by Haneef Sharif, translated from Balochi by Mashreen Hameed. Lost romance recapitulated makes interesting poetry is borne out by Ihlwha Choi’s translation of his own poem from Korean. But the topping in our translation section is a story called ‘Nagmati[3]’ by eminent Bengali writer, Prafulla Roy, translated by no less than a Sahitya Akademi winning translator – Aruna Chakravarti. This story illustrates how terrifying youthful follies can lead to the end of many young lives, a powerful narrative about the snake worshipping community of Bedeynis that highlights destruction due to youthful lusts and an inability to accept diverse cultures.  

When this cultural acceptance becomes a part of our being, it creates bonds which transcend manmade borders as did the films of Satyajit Ray. His mingling was so effective that his work made it to the zenith of an international cinematic scenario so much so that Audrey Hepburn, while receiving the Oscar on his behalf, said: “Dear Satyajit Ray. I am proud and privileged to have been allowed to represent our industry in paying tribute to you as an artist and as a man. For everything you represent I send you my gratitude and love.”

This and more has been revealed to us in a book, Satyajit Ray: The Man Who Knew Too Much, authored by a protagonist from Ray’s film, Barun Chanda. This book brought out by Om Books International reflects not just Ray as a person but also how he knitted the world together with his films and took the Indian film industry to an international level. Barun Chanda has been interviewed with a focus on Satyajit Ray. Keith Lyons has also interviewed a man who has defied all norms and, in the autumn of his life, continues his journey while weaving together cultures across, China, India and Thailand by his ethnographic studies on tribes, Jim Goodman. Goodman says he left America when speaking for a war-free world became a cause for censorship. This makes one wonder if war is a game played for supporting a small minority of people who rule the roost?  Or are these ramblings of a Coleridge writing ‘Kubla Khan’ under the influence of narcotics?

Poetry also brings the season into our pages with an autumnal interpretation of life from Michael Burch. More poetry from Sunil Sharma, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Gayatri Majumdar, George Freek, Ron Pickett, Sutputra Radheye, Marianne Tefft brings a wide range of concerns to our pages – from climate to the vagaries of human nature. Poetry by an Albanian writer, Irma Kurti, and photographs by her Italian spouse, Biagio Fortini, blend together the colours of humanity. Rhys Hughes as usual, makes it to the realm of absurd – perhaps voicing much in his poetry, especially about the environment and human nature, though he talks of woodpeckers on Noah’s ark (were there any?) and of cows, yetis, monkeys and cakes… He has also given us a hilarious cat narrative for his column. Can that be called magic realism too? Or are the edges too abstract?

A book excerpt from Hughes’ Comfy Rascals Short Fiction and a review of it by Rakhi Dalal makes us wonder with the reviewer if he is a fan of Kafka or Baudelaire and is his creation a tongue-in-cheek comment on conventions? A book review by Hema Ravi of Mrutyunjay Sarangi’s A Train to Kolkata and Other Stories and another by Bhaskar Parichha of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Life, Struggle and Politics, authored by Netaji’s nephew’s wife, Krishna Bose, translated and edited by her son, Sumantra Bose, unveils the narratives around his life and death.

A leader who quested for freedom and roamed the world after being passed over by the Congress in favour of Nehru, Netaji raised an army of women who were trained in Singapore – not a small feat in the first half of the twentieth century anywhere in the world. His death in an air crash remained an unsolved mystery — another one of those controversies which raged through the century like the Bhawal case. In his review, Parichha spells out: “Aiming to bring an end to the controversies and conspiracy theories surrounding the freedom fighter, the over 300-page book gives a detailed and evidence-based account of his death in one of its chapters.”

Our book excerpts in this edition both feature writers of humour with the other being the inimitable Ruskin Bond. We have an excerpt of Bond’s nostalgia from Between Heaven and Earth: Writings on the Indian Hillsedited by Ruskin Bond and Bulbul Sharma.

Our non-fiction also hosts humour from Devraj Singh Kalsi about his interactions with birds and, on the other hand, a very poignant poetic-prose by Mike Smith reflecting on the vagaries of autumn. From Japan, Suzanne Kamata takes us to the Rabbit Island – and murmurings of war and weapons. We have the strangest story about a set of people who are happy to be ruled by foreign settlers – we would term them colonials – from Meredith Stephens. G Venkatesh delights with a story of love and discovery in Korea, where he had gone in pre-pandemic times. Paul Mirabile travels to Turkey to rediscover a writer, Sait Faik Abasiyanik (1906-1954). And Ravi Shankar gives us an emotional story about his trek in the Himalayas in Nepal with a friend who has passed on. Candice Louisa Daquin has written of the possibilities towards integrating those who are seen as minorities and marginalised into the mainstream.

The edition this time is like Autumn – multi-coloured. Though I am not able to do justice to all our contributors by mentioning them here, my heartfelt thanks to each as every piece only enriches our journal. I urge you to take a look at the September edition.

I would like to give huge thanks to our readers and our team too, especially Sohana Manzoor and Sybil Pretious for their artwork. We could not have come this far without support from all of you.

Thank you.

Happy Reading!

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com


[1] The men in the indomitable Gaulish village (which the Romans failed to conquer) in times of Julius Caesar loved to jump into a fight for no reason…Asterix was the protagonist of the comics along with his fat friend Obelix

[2] Arrival of Autumn

[3] Snake Maiden

Categories
Poetry

A Balochi Folk Song

Translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch

Balochistan. Courtesy: Creative Commons
A CONVERSATION BETWEEN A LADY AND HER SUITOR

She: Hither come, help me get off the cliff, O white-shawled lad!
He: I’ll, O, red-dressed lass, but what will be the reward, I have?

She: Either my necklace or my bangles, you will have.
He: Of your necklace and bangles, none I ever need!
‘Tis your shapely nose and flowing tresses I seek.

She: Shapely nose and flowing tresses lie beyond your reach
-- I’ll become a wild citron on a lofty tree.
Boy: I’ll become grasshopper and nibble your tender leaves.

She: I’ll become a cumulus and on the valley burst forth.
He: A thirsty deer I’ll become, and drink all the fresh water you pour.

She: I’ll become a sorghum grain and rest on the field.
He: I’ll become a grey dove and hold you in my beak.

She: I’ll become a rabbit, in rosebushes I’ll sleep.
He: I’ll become a shepherd, you with my crook I’ll gently beat.

She: I’ll become a turban that rests on a bride’s head.
He: I’ll play my mouth-harp, and as a reward, you I’ll seek. 

She: I’ll become the helpless daughter of a poor man.
He: I’ll become the grim-reaper, and whisk you off to the heaven.

She: You’ve filled my heart with boundless joy and delight
Hurry to the wedding chamber, I’m your bride.

This folk song was originally featured in Dreen (The Rainbow: A Collection of Folksongs) collected and translated into Urdu by Atta Shad and A. Salam and published by the Balochi Academy Quetta. Fazal Baloch has the rights to the translation in English.

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, July 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

Whispers of Stones… Click here to read.

Translations

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pandies’ Corner

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

Poetry

Click on the names to read

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

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

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

Conversations

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

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

Stories

A Cat Story

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

My Christmas Eve “Alone”

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

Bus Stop

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

Murder at the ‘Pozzo di San Patriza’

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

Musings/ Slices from Life

Grune Point and an Inkling of Eternity

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

Olympic Game Farm: Meeting and Greeting Animals from Disney Movies

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

Notes from Japan

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

Musings of a Copywriter

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

Mission Earth

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

Essays

Discovering Books and Places: The Voyage from Eden

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

Trekking to Tilicho Lake

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

A Modern-day Animal Fable with Twists

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

The Observant Immigrant

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

Book Excerpts

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

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

Book Reviews

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

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

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

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

Categories
Editorial

Whispers of Stones

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

'Stonehenge', Daily Star

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

What would be a good way of ending such wars?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks.

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

Categories
Stories

Hasan Sol: A Balochi Folktale

Translated by Fazal Baloch[1]

Balochistan. Courtesy: Creative Commons

Once there lived a poor man. Despite all his efforts, he could not beget any offspring. The grief of being childless had almost emaciated him. Most of the time he remained grief-stricken.

One day he left his home and took the route to the jungle where he reclined against a giant jujube tree. He decided not to move unless he was blessed with a child. A couple of days later a voice in the tree addressed him: “Man! Why don’t you leave me alone? I’ve named this tree after my own name. It is my dwelling. I have left the entire world for humankind and spared this tree for myself. Here I worship my Creator. Please leave me alone.”

The poor man said: “O, holy fakir! I am an unlucky man. I have no child. I have decided not to leave the tree unless I am blessed with a child. No matter if I die of thirst or hunger, I’m not going away”.

The fakir said: “Go home you will be blessed with a child, If it happens to be a boy, it is all yours but if it turns out to be a girl, you are bound to marry her with me. I will be your son-in-law”. The fakir continued, “If he’s a boy, his name will be Hasan sol, and in case of a girl, her name will be Nokmadina”.

The poor man replied, “Master! I am a Baloch. I will honour my promise”.

Nine months later he was blessed with a girl. As advised by the fakir, he named her Nokmadina. Time passed by and Nokmadina grew up. One day, along with other girls and womenfolk of the hamlet, she went to the jungle and walked over to the giant jujube tree to pluck its ripened fruits. The moment she stretched her hand, she felt her scarf had entangled with a branch of the tree. Despite all her efforts, she could not free it. She heard a voice addressed her: “Nokmadina! Ask your father to honour his promise”.

She immediately left for home but forgot to convey the message to her father. The next day when she went to the jungle, the same voice echoed again but Nokmadina couldn’t remember either. On the third day, when the jujube branch held her dress, Nokmadina apologised to it that she couldn’t remember his message.

The voice emanating from the tree said, “If you put your hand in the jar to pick up a dry date, a wasp will sting your finger and remind you of my words.”

She freed the hem of her scarf and quickly rushed towards home. Unmindful of the fakir’s words, the moment she ran her hand into the jar, the wasp stung her, and she broke out crying. Her father rushed to her and asked her what had happed to her. She recalled and told her father what the fakir had been telling for the past three days.

Her father did remember his promise. Though he did not want to marry his daughter with the fakir, he still wanted to fulfil his promise. His wife said, “May the Holy Quran cripple the old fakir! Do you have the heart to abandon your grown-up daughter in a jungle at the mercy of wild beasts? I am not going to allow you”.

The poor man said: “I’ve to honour my words. Let’s settle with whatever our fate has for us. First, we didn’t have any child. When we were blessed with one, it turned out to be a girl. And I have to marry it with the tree”.

Then he turned to his daughter and told her to be ready for he was going to leave her in the custody of the jujube tree the next morning. Everyone in the house including the girl and her mother cried inconsolably.

The next day he held Nokmadina’s hand and walked down to the jujube tree. Hasan Sol descended from the tree and they solemnised the marriage accordingly. Nokmadina’s father took the road back home.

Hasan Sol had already two ghoul-wives whom he visited every Friday in Mount Qaf and stayed with them for three days. He asked an old crone to stay with Nokmadina during his absence. Feeling envious of her, the old woman put Nokmadina in an underground den nearby and placed a huge rock on its opening so that she could not come out. When Hasan Sol returned, she produced her daughter before him and said, “Your wife has grown prettier than ever.”  On the other hand, she secretly fed Nokmadina with just a few morsels.

On a Friday morning, when Hasan Sol was about to leave, a dove perched on the tree. He shot at the bird and put it in the oven to roast it. Suddenly, the birds said: “The old woman has put Nokmadina in the den and brought her daughter in her place”. The bird repeated it over and again.

Hasan Sol thoroughly scanned her wife to determine the truth. He concluded that the bird was right.  Hence, he held her hand, spun it in the air and hurled it off like a stone in the sling. She landed beyond seven mountains. Nobody found any trace of her. Then he called out the old woman. He seized hold of her legs and thrusted them beneath the ground. Then he went to the nearby mountains to look for Nokmadina. He searched in each cave and cavern but could not find any trace of her. On his way back, he heard someone’s groan coming out of a jackal-den. He removed the rock from its opening and helped Nokmadina out and carried her home. When she fully regained her senses, Hasan Sol told her that he was going to Mount Qaf to visit her ghoul-wives. He warned her thus, “Never follow me. The road to Mount Qaf is long and tedious. You will wear out seven pairs of shoes made of steel, till you reach there. The ghouls will kill you there.”

When Hasan Sol flew off, Nokmadina made it to an ironsmith and ordered seven pairs of shoes made of steel and set out for Mount Qaf. After a long and tedious journey, having worn out all seven pairs of shoes, she finally reached the Mount Qaf.

A few children were playing at the door of a garden. She asked them if they knew anything about Hasan Sol. One of the children said that the very garden belonged to Hasan Sol and he would come there for his ablutions. She put her ring in the earthen jar, which he used to store water for cleaning himself, and hid behind a tree.

A little later, Hasan arrived there. When he noticed the ring in the bottom of the jar, he overturned and spilled the water on the ground to retrieve the ring. He assumed Nokmadina had disobeyed him and made it there. He asked the children if they had seen someone around.

The children told him about Nokmadina who was hiding behind a tree.

Hasan Sol walked over to her and asked her why she came there. He advised her to be careful otherwise the ghouls would eat her flesh. Hasan Sol transformed her into a knife and slipped it into his pocket and went home. The moment he got there, his ghoul-wives blurted loudly, “Human Smell! Human Smell.”

Hasan Sol said, “Where is the human? There’s no human but me. Are you want to eat my flesh?” He picked up spear and with great effort, he managed to silence them. He took his meal and strolled towards the garden where he transformed Nokmadina back into a human and together with her, he ate his meal. Then Hasan Sol transformed her into a pomegranate and tucked in a tree and told his ghoul-wives, “This pomegranate is meant for a sick man. Whosoever lays her hand on it, I will gouge out her eyes”.

When Hasan Sol left, the wives suspected it was a human. Thus, they cut a small piece and shared it together. When Hasan Sol returned, he asked them who spoiled the pomegranate in his absence. But they feigned ignorance. In the very instant, Hasan Sol transformed her back into a human and found out her that the ring on her little finger was missing. Infuriated, he shouted at them and said, “I swear by my sanctity, next time if you even touch her, I will tie you with chains and throw you before the dogs.”

One day when Hasan Sol had gone on an errand, one of the ghouls called Nokmadina and said, “You damn good-for-nothing human! Go to our mother’s house and bring us hair oil, comb and mud-soap.” They also gave her a letter as well. She complied and left. Midway through, she saw Hasan Sol who asked her where she was heading.

“I am going to deliver the letter to your mother-in-law,” she replied.

Hasan Sol asked her to show him the letter.

It read, “The moment this daughter of human delivers you the letter, kill her.” Hasan Sol changed the letter and wrote instead: “She is your granddaughter from your youngest daughter.” He further advised her thus, “Down the road you will see a dog with some grass before it and a goat with a piece of bone before it. Place the grass before the goat and the bone before the dog. Some distance further, you will find a mosque, replace its old mats with new ones. Then you will come across a dry pond. Unblock the watercourse and fill it with water.”

Nokmadina did exactly what Hasan Sol had advised her. When she delivered the letter, the ghoul woman hugged her and showered her with boundless love and affection. Nokmadina noticed a cage with four doves in the house. She asked her about them. The woman said: “One is my spirit; second one is your mother’s; third one is your stepmother’s and the fourth one is their grandmother’s”.

She took the cage and trampled the dove that was her co-wife’s sprit and ran off. The woman chased her. When she reached near the pond, she called the pond to stop her but the pond told her that she filled it with water a while ago so it would not stop her. When she drew close to the mosque, the woman asked the mosque to not let her go, but the mosque said that a while ago she replaced its mats, so it let her go. Then she asked the goat and the dog for the same, but they too refused as she fed them a while ago. At last, she reached Hasan Sol’s garden. When he saw the cage in her hand, he said, “Lo! You brought the cage along”.

“Why shouldn’t I? They don’t let me live. So now I’m not going to spare them either”, remarked Nokmadina.

“Alright. Kill all of them,” said Hasan Sol.

So, the story ended. And they headed home.


[1] This folktale is translated with permission from Geedi Kessah-4(Folktales Vol: 4) compiled and retold by Gulzar Khan Mari in Balochi, published by the Balochi Academy Quetta in 1971.

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

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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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