Categories
Contents

Borderless, August 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

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

Conversation

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

Translations

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

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

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

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

Poetry

Click on the names to read

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

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

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

Musings/Slices from Life

Istanbul

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

The Loyal Dog in Loyalty Island

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

The ‘New Kid on the Block’ Celebrates…

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

Remnants of Time Once Spent Together

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

Moonland

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

King Lear & Kathakali?

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

Musings of a Copywriter

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

Notes from Japan

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

Stories

Does this Make Me a Psychic?

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

Hard Choices

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

No Rain on the Parade

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

Until We Meet Again

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

The Hatchet Man

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

I am Not the End

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

Essays

How Many Ways To Love a Book

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

Hiking in the Himalayas with Nabinji

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

Freedom is another word for… Zohra Sehgal

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

The Observant Immigrant

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

Book Excerpts

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

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

Book Reviews

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Editorial

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

Painting by Sohana Manzoor

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

Anirudh Kansetti, the print.in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com


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

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

[3] Mendicant

Categories
Excerpt

The Dreams of a Mappila Girl

Title: The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir

Author: B. M. Zuhara Translator: Fehmida Zakeer

Publisher: Jointly published by SAGE Publications and Yoda Press under the Yoda-SAGE Select imprint

The kitchen was a woman’s world in those days. Work started there soon after the morning prayers. Each morning, Ummambiumma and Ummatha had the job of grinding parboiled rice that had been soaked in hot water. The clacking of the grinding stone resounded through the nalapad and the central hall during the early hours of the day. A half wall divided the big kitchen into two sections. On the ground in the main section, facing east, were five firewood stoves. Squatting on the floor, Kunhamina got these stoves burning every morning. Three grinding stones, one large and two small, were placed on a ledge built against the half wall. Ummambiumma called the big grinding stone Bombayiammi, after the city from where Valippa brought it. 

‘The master brought this ammi from Bombay especially for grinding the rice for pathiri. If the consistency of the dough is not correct, the pathiri will not be good. The pathiri we make here is famous,’ said Ummambiumma, her tone full of the pride she took in her work.

The ammis operated from morning until afternoon. Once the rice for the pathiris had been ground, the coconut for the curries was ground next, then the items required for making lunch. Ummambiumma and Ummatha kept up a continuous chatter as they worked on the ammis. Kunhamina, seated on the ground and attending to the pots on the stove, joined in their conversation every now and again.

‘If you keep talking like this, your mouths will become dry,’ Kadeesumma who supervised the work in the kitchen would warn. Mostly she went unheeded. ‘Talking helps us to do our work quickly, Kadeestha,’ Ummatha would say.

Since we cultivated rice, we always had either puttu or pathiri made with unpolished red rice for breakfast. At night, it was always pathiri. The curries were rotated on a daily basis—onion, dried fish, drumstick leaves, egg curry. The onion curry was prepared by frying peeled and diced shallots, adding turmeric and chilli powder, and finally mixing in coconut milk. When drumstick leaves were substituted for the shallots, it became drumstick leaves curry; when dried fish was added to the basic onion curry, it became dried fish curry; adding boiled eggs to the onion curry converted it into egg curry. A change in the menu happened only on special occasions or when we had visitors. When the children grumbled about the unvarying fare, omelettes or bulls-eye eggs appeared on the table. Sometimes, they gave us coconut mixed with sugar, a favourite with me.

For breakfast, the side dish for the puttu was supposed to be fish in red gravy. But we didn’t get fish early enough on most days, and so the children were served bananas and sugar with their puttu. The puttu, which was made by steaming rice flour layered with liberal quantities of shredded coconut in hollow logs of bamboo, was delicious enough to eat without any accompaniments. 

In the mornings, the kitchen was a cacophony of sounds. After the morning prayers, Valippa and Uppa were each served an egg along with their morning tea—half boiled for Valippa and hard boiled for Uppa. After he was diagnosed with diabetes, Valippa stopped eating rice pathiris, switching to wheat dosas and oats boiled in milk for his breakfast. The preparation of wheat dosas involved soaking the wheat grains in water the previous night and grinding them into a fine batter in the morning. Valippa liked tomato roast with his wheat dosas. Uppa wanted egg roast for his breakfast, whether it was pathiri or puttu. Egg roast was made by frying onions in coconut oil, adding turmeric, chilli and cumin powders, and finally breaking an egg over the mixture. When we had guests, egg chops replaced the egg roast. Instead of breaking an egg into the onion mixture, hard-boiled eggs were added into it and topped with a layer of finely sliced onions and thin round slices of golden-fried potatoes. Egg chops were Umma’s speciality. She also prepared Valippa’s oats.

Umma supervised the making of breakfast. Ummama avoided the morning rush in the kitchen and came in to oversee the preparations for lunch. When the servants heard the tapping of Umma’s medhiyadi, they would turn down the volume of their chatter.

‘Kunhiammayi is coming. Have you boiled the milk for the oats, Kunhamina?’ Kadeesumma, sitting on the wooden box peeling onions, would ask.

‘I’ve boiled the milk and kept the pan ready.’

Kunhamina would wait with the washed and dried pan. Umma came into the kitchen holding a tin of oats. On the tin was a picture of a man with a white hat that never failed to intrigue me. The tin of oats was bought specially for us at Jambu Stores in Kozhikode. Umma scooped two spoons of oats into the pan placed on the table in the kitchen. She added milk and handed it to Kunhamina who boiled the mixture, cooled it, poured it into a glass tumbler and then covered it with a lid. Meanwhile, Umma sat on a low stool by the stove on the ground. She made the egg roast for Uppa, intermittently giving instructions to Kunhamina who had started preparing the wheat dosas for Valippa.

‘Drizzle some ghee and turn the dosa, Kunhamina. Don’t let it burn.’

Like a shadow, I would stand behind Umma.

‘Move aside, Soora. Don’t follow me like a tail.’ Irritated, she pushed me aside and I started crying.

‘Dear girl, don’t cry, I’ll give you a dosa secretly,’ Kunhamina whispered. I stopped crying.

Assan came into the kitchen. ‘Is the master’s breakfast ready?’

Umma placed the wheat dosas, tomato roast and oats on a tray for Valippa. On another tray, she placed Uppa’s food and asked, ‘Have you laid the supra on the thinna?’

Assan confirmed that he had laid the mat and went to Valippa’s room with his breakfast.

Uppa and the older boys had their meals on the thinna beneath the front staircase. Mats were laid out on the platform before serving the food. Valippa joined them on the thinna for lunch.

About the Book: As a young Muslim girl growing up in the 1950s in a small South Indian village, B. M. Zuhara had simple dreams—to go to the newly opened ‘talkies’ in town and watch a movie, play with her brothers in the rice fields, learn the ancient martial art of Kalari Payatu with them, stand on the bridge and listen to the songs sung by the farmhands as they worked. But she soon realised that even being the pampered, youngest child of her family would not help her in realising some of her dreams because of her gender. Set at the time when Independent India was embracing its new identity as a free nation, this book provides a wide lens for the reader to view life in a semi-rural Kerala village. Zuhara recounts the social mores of the society she lived in and offers glimpses into the secluded lives of Muslim girls and women who, despite obstacles, made the best of their circumstances and contributed positively to their communities.

About the Author: B. M. Zuhara is a Malayalam writer hailing from Thikkodi near Kozhikode. She has written novels and short stories and has been a columnist in regional newspapers. She is the first Muslim woman writer from Kerala. Her new novel titled Pennungal (Women) is forthcoming from Chintha Publications. She won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for her contribution to Malayalam literature in 2008 and has also been a recipient of awards such as Lalithambika Antharjanam Memorial Special Award, Unnimoy Memorial Award and the K. Balakrishanan Smaraka Award. Her novel Iruttu was translated to Arabic recently as part of the Qatar Ministry Cultural Exchange and was launched at the Doha International Book Fair in January 2020. She has also translated Tayeb Salih’s Wedding of Zein and Naguib Mahfouz’s Palace Walkinto Malayalam. The English translation of her novella Nilavu (moonlight) was published by Oxford University Press in the anthology titled Five Novellas. The same novella was translated into Arabic and published as Zooul Khamar while Mozhi (Talaq), another novel of hers, was translated into Arabic and published by IQRani Publishers, UAE.

About the Translator: Fehmida Zakeer is a writer hailing from Kerala. Her work has appeared in Indian Quarterly, Rose and Thorn Journal, Out of Print Magazine, Asian Cha, The Bangalore Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Muse India and elsewhere. Stories written by her have come out in print anthologies such as Pangea: An Anthology of Stories from Around the World (Thames River Press, UK), Ripples: Short Stories by Indian Women Writers (APK Publishers, India), Happy Birthday to Me (Dahlia Publishing, UK) and others. A story of hers placed first in the Himal South-Asian short story competition 2013 and another was chosen by the National Library Board of Singapore for the 2013 edition of their annual READ Singapore anthology. She was twice on the honourable mentions list of the Binnacle Ultra Short competition (University of Maine at Machias). A story of hers was shortlisted in the DNA-Out of Print short story competition, 2014 and another one was published in the Out of Print magazine issue focusing on Sexual and Gender Violence. An anthology of stories, titled Keeper of Secrets, is forthcoming from Dhauli Books.

(Excerpted from The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir by B. M. Zuhara; translated by Fehmida Zakeer. Jointly published by SAGE Publications and Yoda Press under the Yoda-SAGE Select imprint.2022, 228 pages, Paperback, Rs. 550, ISBN: (978-93-5479-280-9), YODA SAGE Select.

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