Categories
Index

Borderless July, 2021

Editorial

Reach for the Stars… Click here to read.

Interviews

In conversation with an American poet, Jared Carter, who has received multiple encomiums like the Walt Whitman Award, the Poets’ Prize, a Guggenheim fellowship and much more. He tells us of his life and how he writes a poem. Click here to read.

In conversation with eminent academic and translator, Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Translations

Two songs by Tagore written originally in Brajabuli, a literary language developed essentially for poetry, has been translated by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Balochi poetry of Akbar Barakzai translated by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Korean Poetry written and translated to English by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Poetry in Bosnian from Bosnia & Herzegovina, written and translated by Maid Corbic. Click here to read.

Translation of ‘Dushomoy’ by Tagore, from Bengali to English by Mitali Chakravarty on behalf of Borderless Journal. Click here to read and listen to Tagore’s voice recite his poem in Bengali.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Suzanne Kamata, Lorraine Caputo, Rhys Hughes, Kinjal Sethia, Emalisa Rose, Shahriyer Hossain Shetu, John Herlihy, Reena R, Mitra Samal, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Shubham Raj, George Freek, Marc Nair, Michael R Burch, Jay Nicholls, Jared Carter

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In The Scottish Homer: William McGonagall, Rhys Hughes assays into the times of this bard known as the best of worst poets! Click here to read.

Nature’s Musings

Penny Wilkes takes us Down the Path of Nostalgia with a mix of old and new photography and prose and poetry on how a decade after the end of the Second World War, she started her love affair with photography and nature. Click here to read

Musings/Slices from Life

Summer Studio

Jared Carter writes of a childhood in mid-twentieth century America. Click here to read.

Three Men at the Lalbagh Fort

Marjuque-ul-Haque explores Mughal Lalbagh fort left unfinished in Dhaka, a fort where armies were said to disappear during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. Click here to read.

A Stroll through Kolkata’s Iconic Maidan

Nishi Pulugurtha journeys with her camera on the famed grounds near Fort William, a major historic site in Kolkata. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Managing Bookshelves, Devraj Singh Kalsi cogitates with wry humour while arranging his book shelves. Click here to read.

Adventures of the Backpacking Granny

Sybil Pretious concludes her adventures this round with a fabulous trip to Generous Indonesia, a country with kind people, islands and ancient volcanoes. Click here to read.

Essays

Peace: Is it Even Possible?

Candice Lousia Daquin explores war and peace through history. Is peace possible? Click here to read.

Corona & the Police

Subhankar Dutta reflects on the role the police has taken in a pandemic torn world. Click here to read.

A Prison of Our Own Making

Keith Lyons gives us a brief essay on how we can find freedom. Click here to read.

Bhaskar’s Corner

In Richard Hughes: The Reporter Who Inspired Ian Fleming, Bhaskar Parichha showcases a journalist who wrote globally, spicing it up with humour. Click here to read.

Stories

Flash Fiction: Horizon

Tan Kaiyi evokes the spirit of the Singapore National Day amidst the darkness of spread by a deadly virulence. Click here to read.

Flash Fiction: Ice Storm

Niles Reddick tells a weatherman’s story with a twist of humour. Click here to read.

Mr Roy’s Obsession

Swagato Chakraborty spins a weird tale about an obsession. Click here to read.

Magnum Opus

Ahsan Rajib Ananda shows what rivalries in creative arts can do. Click here to read.

Adoption

A poignant real life story by Jeanie Kortum on adopting a child. Click here to read

The Literary Fictionist

In Scarecrow, Sunil Sharma explores urban paranoia. Click here to read.

Book Excerpt

The Parrot’s Tale, excerpted from Rabindranth Tagore. The Land of Cards: Stories, Poems and Plays for Children, translated by Radha Chakravarty, with a foreword from Mahasweta Devi. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

A Sense of Time by Anuradha Kumar reviewed by Rakhi Dalal. Click here to read.

Murder in Daisy Apartments by Shabnam Minwalla reviewed by Gracy Samjetsabam. Click here to read.

The Third Eye of Governance–Rise of Populism, Decline in Social Research by Dr N Bhaskara Rao reviewed by Bhaskar Parichha. Click here to read.

A Special Tribute

Dilip Kumar: Kohinoor-e-Hind

In a tribute to Bollywood legend Dileep Kumar,  Ratnottama Sengupta, one of India’s most iconic arts journalists, recollects the days the great actor sprinted about on the sets of Bombay’s studios …spiced up with fragments from the autobiography of Sengupta’s father, Nabendu Ghosh. Click here to read.

Categories
Review

Murder at Daisy Apartments

Book Review by Gracy Samjetsabam

Title: Murder in Daisy Apartments

Author: Shabnam Minwalla

Publisher: Speaking Tiger, 2021

Murder in Daisy Apartments (2021) by Shabnam Minwalla is a young adult murder mystery story set in Colaba, Mumbai, India during the COVID-19 lockdown days.

Shabnam Minwalla has worked as a journalist with the Times of India. Her debut novel, The Six Spellmakers of Dorabji Street (2012) won the Rivokids Parents’ and Kids’ Choice Awards. She writes children’s fiction now. She has written a number of children’s story books including the Nimmi series, and a forward to an edition of Little Women brought out by Speaking Tiger Books.

Murder in Daisy Apartments starts on the forty-third day of the lockdown when 78-years-old Mr. Sevnani a resident of Lily Apartments, who had a bad heart, and an even worse temper was mysteriously hospitalized. The emergency that led him to be rushed to the hospital did not come as a surprise to the residents. Sevnani’s case was one in which a swarm of men wearing masks and sinister blue safety suits took him away in an ambulance.

But it happened again. On the forty-fourth day, a BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) van drove to the housing complex to pick up a dead body. People grew apprehensive. The shock deepened as residents came to know that Raghunath, a long-time resident of these apartments had been evicted by Baman Marker, the Chairperson of the Daisy and Lily Apartments as he had tested corona positive, and the complex had been declared a containment zone. During such severe lockdowns, movements were restricted.

On the forty-sixth day, Mr. Marker was found poisoned in his apartment. Since he was murdered during the pandemic lockdown, the killing could have only been masterminded by a resident of the complex. Nandini Venkat, a 15-year-old murder mysteries enthusiast, who calls herself and her twin brother as “standard issue South Bombay brats” is glued to the details of this “OMG (o my God) moments” in the history of Daisy and Lily Apartments. She joins the dots to detect and solve Marker’s murder mystery. Honing her investigative skills, with keen observation of people and the chronology of events, Nandini turns into a detective on the fiftieth day of the lockdown. Her sunny, social and festival loving brother, Ved, and her best friend, Shanaya, join her to find out more about this mysterious death.

Who could have murdered Baman Marker? Was it the Kurians, the Carvalhos, the Khambatas, the Habibullahs, the Lambas, the Burmans, the Kapadias, Lina Almeida, Maria, Alfonso, Mr. Shetty or Chemmen Saab? Who was the mysterious man that Mrs. Kurain saw early in the morning of the fateful day? Whose were those “black legs” that Nandini spotted climbing up and down the stairs on the night of the murder? More questions assail Nandini and the air gets thicker with thrill, nervousness and excitement all at the same time. Ved sings in a low voice:

"Beware, beware, he’s out and about, 
So be careful ’bout the rumours you monger, the panic you spread. 
The Big Bum’s at the door, revenge cooking in his head."

Ved and Shanaya make the best investigating team with Nandini. Nandini’s “LIST OF SUSPECTS—Means, Motive and Rating” tactfully streamlines the possibilities of finding the murderer. The strong suspects in the list includes Mr. Carvalho, Daniel’s father and a physics teacher who took crazily expensive tuitions and has a shady history; Amrita Aunty, Shanaya’s mother, who had had major disagreements with Marker; old and mean retired principal Lina Almeida, the granny gruesome who makes fabulous immunity boosting juices and detox smoothies; Marker’s chartered accountant Ranjit Burman with whom he had a nasty fight some months back; the secretly courageous Rashida Habibullah; and, the aged and immobile Mr. Alimchandani, who had long-buried secrets.

Amidst the fearful environment of death and pandemic in the Daisy and Lily Apartments, Minwalla beautifully brings out the characters of the young investigators and the residents with many details. The role of internet and social media during the pandemic and in the present day is infused in the narrative. For instance, she has highlighted the unavoidable participation in the Apartment’s WhatsApp groups of adults, where daily updates that thrive with rumours or gossips and the Daisy-Lily kids’ group for the children who discuss school, crushes, movies, people and latest information. Nandini and Shanaya discuss TikTok and Instagram followers, zombie teenagers addicted to social media, FOMO, Zoom call with school friends, Netflix and WiFi connections. Nandini on the verge of solving the mystery says, “My mind will be thinking about nachos or the red boots on sale in H&M, while my fingers pick up my phone, click, swipe, click.”

Minwalla also uses subtle humor to make the story a delightful read. This is evident in the children calling Mr. Sevnani “the Abominable Snowman”, or in imagining Baman Marker, the shrewish Chairperson of Daisy and Lily Apartments as “an arch criminal—a sort of Macavity the Cat” or “SoBo version of Kaa the python” and more. Minwalla’s use of phrases like ‘Work from Home’, disowning someone, sealed apartment, social distancing, stay safe, compulsory registry of visitors, tested corona positive, online meetings, and mental deterioration, instantly connects us and sheds light on the shift in the usage of language for depicting the pandemic. Nostalgia, empathy, magic and mystery mingle as one reads with a sense of enjoyment, revelling in the suspense-filled clandestine moves taking the mystery forward.

Murder in Daisy Apartments is entertaining and organically Indian. It gives a flavour of Mumbaikars to those willing to step into a local residential complex and mingle with the residents.

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Gracy Samjetsabam teaches English Literature and Communication Skills at Manipal Institute of Technology, MAHE, Manipal. She is also a freelance writer and copy editor. Her interest is in Indian English Writings, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, Culture Studies, and World Literature. 

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

Categories
Index

Borderless, May 2021

Editorial

And this too shall pass… Click here to read

Translations

Songs of Seasons: Translated by Fakrul Alam

Bangla Academy literary award winning translator, Dr Fakrul Alam, translates six seasonal songs of Tagore. Click here to read.

Temples and Mosques

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s fiery essay translated by Sohana Manzoor. Click here to read.

Purify My Life

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poem, Purify my Life, translated by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu. Click here to read.

Waiting for Godot by Akbar Barakzai

Akbar Barakzai’s poem translated by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Solus

Aditya Shankar translates a poem by Sujith Kumar. Click here to read.

The Last Boat

Tagore’s Diner Sheshe Ghoomer Deshe translated by Mitali Chakravarty with an interpretation in pastels by Sohana Manzoor. Click here to read.

Poetry

Anasuya Bhar, Scott Thomas Outlar, Saranyan BV, Matthew James Friday, Nitya Mariam John, RJ Kaimal, Jay Nicholls, Tasneem Hossain, Rhys Hughes, Vatsala Radhakeesoon, Ihlwha Choi, Himadri Lahiri, Sunil Sharma, Mike Smith, Jared Carter

Nature’s Musings

Photo-Poetry by Penny & Michael Wilkes. Click here to read.

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

Lear and Far

As a tribute to the 209th anniversary of Edward Lear, Rhys Hughes writes of his famous poem, ‘Owl and the Pussycat’, and writes a funny ending for it rooted in the modern day. Click here to read.

Stories

If at all

Shobha Nandavar, a physician in Bangalore, depicts the trauma of Covid 19 in India with compassion. Click here to read.

First Lady

Rituparna Khan gives us a brief vignette from the life of one of the first women doctors in India, Dr Kadambari Ganguly. Click here to read.

Mr Dutta’s Dream

Atreyo Chowdhury takes us into the world of unquenchable wanderlust. Click here to read.

Neemboo Ka Achaar or Maa’s Lemon Pickle

A compelling flash fiction by Suyasha Singh hovering around food and a mother’s love. Click here to read.

The Literary Fictionist

In A Lunch Hour Crisis, Sunil Sharma raises humanitarian concerns that though raised in a pandemic-free world, have become more relevant and concerning given our current predicament. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Serve the People

Danielle Legault Kurihara, a Quebecker in Japan, writes of differences in rituals. Click here to read.

Why I write?
Basudhara Roy tells us how writing lingers longer than oral communications. Click here to read more.

The Quiet Governance of Instinct

Candice Louisa Daquin, a psychotherapist, talks of the importance of trusting our instincts. Click here to read more.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Nations without NobelDevraj Singh Kalsi takes a fresh look at national pride with a soupçon of sarcasm and humour. Click here to read.

Adventures of the Backpacking Granny

In Visit to Rural BaoyingSybil Pretious travels to spend a night with a local family in rural China in a ‘hundred-year-old home’.Click here to read.

Essays

Four Seasons and an Indian Summer

Keith Lyons talks of his experiences of seasons in different places, including Antarctica. Click here to read.

Rabindranath and the Etchings of His Mind

Anasuya Bhar explores the various lives given to a publication through the different edited versions, translations and films, using Tagore as a case study and the work done to provide these online. Click here to read.

My Experiments with Identity

Tejas Yadav explores identity from the context Heraclitus, Rumi down to his own. Click here to read.

Can Songs be the Musical Conscience of a Film?

Prithvijeet Sinha uses Gaman (Departure), a Hindi movie around the pain of migrant workers, as a case study to highlight his contention that lyrics and songs convey much in Indian films. Click here to read.

Bhaskar’s Corner

In Manoj Das – The Master Storyteller, Bhaskar Parichha pays a tribute to one of the greatest storytellers from the state of Odisha, India, Manoj Das( 1934-2021). Click here to read.

Book Excerpt

Excerpted from A Bengali Lady in England (1885): Annotated Translation with Critical Introduction to Krishnabhabini Das’ Englandey Bangamahila by Nabanita Sengupta. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

A review of Feisal Alkazi‘s memoir, Enter Stage Right: The Alkazi Padamsee Family Memoir by Rakhi Dalal. Click here to read.

A review of Shakti Ghosal‘s The Chronicler of the Hooghly and Other Stories by Gracy Samjetsabam. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Raising a Humanist by Manisha Pathak-Shelat‘s and Kiran Vinod Bhatia. Click here to read.

Interviews

Communication scholars and authors, Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia, discuss how to bring up children in these troubled times, based on their book, Raising a Humanist, which has just been released. Click here to read.

Sonya J Nair of Samyukta Poetry talks about the Samyukta Research Foundation and its affiliates and its festival, Anantha. Click here to read.

Sara’s Selections, May 2021

A selection of young person’s writings from Bookosmia. Click here to read.

Categories
Review

The Chronicler of the Hooghly and Other Stories

Book Review by Gracy Samjetsabam

Book: The Chronicler of the Hooghly and Other Stories

Author: Shakti Ghosal

Publisher: Half Baked Beans, 2020

The Chronicler of the Hooghly and Other Stories by Shakti Ghosal is a collection of four compelling stories that hover around people in different times and places around the majestic Hooghly in Kolkata. As the river flows, the narratives flow with the current as long as there are storytellers and listeners.

Shakti Ghosal, an MBA from IIM, Bangalore, is a seasoned corporate personnel with more than four decades of experience both in India and abroad. The globetrotting Ghosal and his passion to explore new places and cultures are vividly imbued in his writing. The Chronicler of the Hooghly and Other Stories,  is a well-researched debut book entrenched in history.

His stories help us make sense of our realities. Ghosal admits that intense and traumatic events in life have contributed to the creation of these stories. Part-memoir, part-historical, Ghosal paints the stories with strokes of personal experiences and from chapters of India’s long history, selecting those that converse about Kolkata. This tapestry makes the readers more aware of the nuances of history and vividly recreates these scenes in the imagined reality. Ghosal impressively weaves history and imagination to blend fiction and reality, thereby providing a voice of the unrecorded, the myths and legends around what happened on the other side of known history during the colonial period in pre-independent India or at present.  

‘Ashtami’, the first story starts with a nightmare, a dream Lord Curzon had since his childhood days setting the tone of the story. The story opens in 1912 with Sujit, a Junior Clerk in the British administration and his wife Bina as they are all set to relocate to Delhi. Weaving the story in close quarters with the time of Ashtami during the Durga Puja festival of Bengal, Ghosal raises the idea of birth and death, beginning and ending in the personal lives of the characters along with the history of the nation, thus proposing life coming in full circle with fragments of joys and sorrows. Change is the only constant that is destined in the uncertain future.

From 1912 to 1947 and after, Sujit and Bina witness progress in life through their journey from Kolkata to Delhi with their children, the double irony of the life of the youngest child Shanti is a touching twist. A human error of a delivery gone wrong, makes Shanti a differently-abled child. As a result, he is mistreated, ignored, and judged by siblings and society but at heart, he is a sensitive soul. Shanti’s home schooling, errands, plea for help as his brother is murdered in an unjustifiable situation during the communal violence of the Great Kolkata Killings, an aging mother’s concern for a differently-abled child and the death of his mother leaving him helplessly alone, makes him and, subsequently, the reader, wiser on life and life’s little ironies. The lighter notes on the Howrah, Lal Qila, horse drawn tonga rides at Civil Lines, interstate train journeys, Burra Bazaar to Chandi Chowk, typical dust storms in Delhi, Durga Puja, food and communication through postcards make the story flavourful.             

‘Pandemic’ moves through different time zones within a century, dealing with similar situations in history. Dipen in 1919 is caught in the mahamari at Khidderpore docks where he is a labour supervisor. Indranil from Gurgaon in 2020 is caught in the pandemic situation in the middle of a safari trip with his wife in the Dooars forest region of West Bengal. Although a hundred year apart, the stories highlight similarities and differences in the human condition. Amidst the pandemic, Dipen is caught in all that happens between his home and the dockyard. Ghosal touches upon health issues both physical and mental, quarantine, human emotions, personal secrets, sacrifice, and life choices. Ghosal also beautifully brings out the gender readings as he sheds light on life as a widow or a widower, childlessness and society, and of perceptions on ill-luck and how ironically, the characters deemed as unlucky or  how just what is deemed as bad luck convert to beacons of hope and goodwill. Through Indranil, Ghosal discusses lockdown and cytokines, the science and signs of the disease along with the issues of present-day work and marriage and brings to light different aspects of youth, the working class, newer trends that govern passions, aspirations, families and priorities.         

In ‘Fault Lines’, a deadly gas explosion changes Anjan’s life forever. The accident broke the artificial shell that Anjan and Jaya made their home in and the realities that lay hidden in his subconscious haunts him in disguise of Savio, Anjan’s friend. Set in the idyllic Middle-East, and shuttling back and forth in time and between places, Anjan finds enlightenment through lessons on karma. Jaya closes the story with the understanding that nothing good can be built on the foundations of deceit and hurt.

The titular story, the last one in the book, ‘The Chronicler of the Hooghly’, has the protagonist, Samir, reacting to his dying mother who utters a panic-stricken whisper, “mukto malar abhishap” or the curse of the pearl necklace. Here Ghosal intricately and imaginatively spins history and myth to take us into a string of narratives strewn in their pathway by the fabled curse of the necklace. The ‘Chronicler’, or narrator, mystically and mysteriously asks, “What could be behind you taking this trip today and me telling you this tale?” He narrates the stories to Samir in the breath-taking boat ride on the Hooghly with a feeling both of nostalgia and curiosity, swaying between past and present to highlight the bigger picture. He touches upon England and Calcutta (1842-1846), Murshidabad palace of Siraj ud Daula in June 1756, Chandernagore (1757), Plassey (1757), and Calcutta (1846-55), along with the present day beautifully guiding the reader to the climax of the story.   

What is most fascinating is the telling of the stories in an alternative voice making the readers experience history with a fictitious veneer that magically brings into sight the hitherto unknown facets. Despite being set in a different time frames and in different situational events of history, the timeless elements in Ghosal’s stories are priceless.

The elements in the stories such as the anxieties of moving to a new place, the concerns of leaving behind old parents, the generational gap on how one looks at traditions, reflections on crisis and resilience on issues ranging from the Partition to communal violence to casteism to the pandemic and more, changing belief systems over time and experience, old age, diseases, mental health, loss and grief of a child or a partner, a parent’s concerns for their children, on the importance of empathy and decision-making,  on acknowledging uncertainties, on karma and enlightenment, finding home or solitude, or coming to terms with oneself – Ghosal sprinkles confetti of his coaching in life skills into the storytelling to create a set of modern-day tales that are easily relatable and palatable. The style and the settings are like fresh air that enlightens as it entertains. The stories are vibrant and close to current realities, making them a worthy read.

These are stories of changing times and a reminder that life is short, and that time will not wait for us. But we need to be positive, hopeful and be aware of the best we can do for ourselves and for others.     

 

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Gracy Samjetsabam teaches English Literature and Communication Skills at Manipal Institute of Technology, MAHE, Manipal. She is also a freelance writer and copy editor. Her interest is in Indian English Writings, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, Culture Studies, and World Literature. 

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

Categories
Review

Bridging Cultures

Book Review by Gracy Samjetsabam, commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Resilience and recovery can be learnt from a survivor of the Tohoku earthquake as the protagonist learns.

Title: Indigo Girl

Author: Suzanne Kamata

Publisher: GemmaMedia

Suzanne Kamata is an American writer, academician and fiction editor based in Tokushima Prefecture, Japan. She has authored or edited 14 books including, award-winners Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible (GemmaMedia, 2013), Squeaky Wheels: Travels with My Daughter by Train, Plane, Metro, Tuk-tuk and Wheelchair (Wyatt-Mackenzie, 2019), Pop Flies, Robo-pets and Other Disasters (One Elm Books, 2020), Indigo Girl (GemmaMedia, 2019); and other novels, travel writings and short stories. Her next novel The Baseball Widow (Wyatt-Mackenzie Publishing) will be published in October 2021.  

Indigo Girl is a story of Aiko Cassidy, an aspiring manga artist and a confident and sensitive 15-year-old bicultural teenager with cerebral Palsy. She is raised in Michigan by a single mother who is a sculptor and for whom, Cassidy is her muse. When her mother marries Raoul, her Hispanic step-father and he moves in with them, there was hope for her adoption and completion of a dream for a perfect family. But when a baby step-sister arrives, she starts feeling tugged at the margins.

In the meantime, she gets invited to spend three months in rural Japan in Tokushima in her biological father’s home, who is an indigo farmer. She sees it as an occasion to explore the hitherto unknown link of her life and root her belonging. She planned well in advance and looked forward to experiencing and fitting in into her role as a half-Japanese. However, her vacation in Japan is filled with shocks and surprises in contrast to her initial excitement and imaginings. She had conjured up images of her stay and even thought of the summer-break in Japan as a means to provide inspiration for her manga story, Gadget Girl, if not anything else.

The meeting of cultures and the clash of expectations and reality sets in, as she travels deeper into lives of people in Japan. Cassidy has her many complaints and concerns as a differently-abled teen stuck in-between the construct of family and relationships. In the conditions rendered by marriage, or in coping with grief and loss of a young one, or in turning homeless, or in living the life of a refugee, she comes across the many complicated truths and realities of people.

She meets Junpei, her Japanese half-brother, who dreams of getting out into the world as a young boy but for his predicament in being the sole heir to the 200-year-old family farm and the indigo farming legacy. Obashan, her grandmother obsessed with the love and loss of Kana, her younger Japanese step-sister to leukaemia, ignored the existence of Cassidy, her other granddaughter. Mariko, her Japanese step-mother, whose silence spoke louder than her words was more like a friend to her. In her Otosan’s (father’s) house, she figured out a lot was left unsaid but decided to speak out her heart and build bridges on the rift between her father, her father’s family and her.

Cassidy confronts her father by juxtaposing their places as characters in fiction and in reality. While they discuss the Italian opera, Madame Butterfly, her father gives his own point of view and she does hers to realise how complicated life’s choices and what we become are. Every small experience through participation in the family trips, visiting people, stories, visits to parks, temples and shrines made her culturally and personally wiser. She realises that “Change is inevitable” and that “life goes on”,

Cassidy’s story is a stand-alone sequel to Kamata’s book Gadget Girl, as it uniquely represents the story of a differently-abled child’s quest for greater clarity on her desires and the reality.

In her brief stay, having come from the West and with cerebral palsy, she attends a bilingual school and is introduced to all as Junpei’s cousin. She falls for Taiga, an upcoming figure skater. He respects her feelings for him, becomes a good friend. From his dedication to his profession, she learns the art of persistence against self-doubt. She tells Taiga that she is not Junpei’s cousin and Taiga says it is not a secret to many at school. She gets conscious of being called “disabled”, “bastard”, and “unwanted”. She draws inspiration from the resilience and learns to hope to “begin again” from Kotara, a refugee of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster which killed 15,500 people, caused a nuclear power plant meltdown and damaged the economy, making many homeless to this date. Kotara was one of them. Taiga’s understanding, Junpei’s sibling bonding and her friendship with Sora and other manga enthusiast members in the club at school, make  her feel as one with them.

Today’s continuously growing multicultural world needs more diverse stories. Kamata does her share of diversity writing by touching on issues such as biracial upbringing, single motherhood, divorce, re-marriage, step-children relationship, sibling rivalry, sibling bonding, trust, jealousy, parenting, love, death, disaster, refugees, stereotyping, stigmatisation, differently-abled children and inclusion. Kamata beautifully brings up the unconventional and often untouched areas in fiction with warmth and understanding. Family secrets, rituals, traditions, and what is spoken and what is left unspoken, speaks in volumes about the lives of people. The characters voice relevant issues with ease and confirm the importance of writing and speaking out on the many challenges and realities of life.

Kamata’s love for writing blends with the love of a mother in her works to reflect experiences of a multicultural, multilingual, multiracial and multi-abled world.

In the beginning of the story, Cassidy talks about her present self and her trip to her real father’s home in Japan and puts her condition as: “I’m in the sky. Here above the clouds, I’m in limbo: between America and Japan, between the past and the future. It’s weird, but for once I feel as if I’m where I belong.” In the concluding chapter, she again says, “And then I’m in the sky again, above the clouds. Between Japan and America, the past and the future.” The experiences in between, though happy and sad, come as a treat to the reader.

I would call Indigo Girl a heart-warming and compelling coming-of-age novel, a must read.   

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Gracy Samjetsabam teaches English Literature and Communication Skills at Manipal Institute of Technology, MAHE, Manipal. She is also a freelance writer and copy editor. Her interest is in Indian English Writings, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, Culture Studies, and World Literature. 

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

Categories
Review

Travel Stories Beyond Borders

Book Review of an anthology of travel essays by Gracy Samjetsabam

Book: Across and Beyond

Editor: Nishi Pulugurtha

Publisher: Avenel Press, 2020

Across and Beyond edited by Nishi Pulugurtha is an anthology of sixteen essays by multiple writers on travel. Nishi Pulugurtha is an academic and writes on travel, films, short stories, poetry and on Alzheimer’s Disease. Besides Across and Beyond (2020), her works include a monograph on Derozio (2010) and a volume of poems, Real and the Unreal and Other Poems (2020). She has a number of publications in various newspapers, journals and magazines.

Through the essays, the contributors share their travelogues to entertain and enliven our imagination and reason. Pulugurtha opens the introduction by invoking “small little things” from a travel as passages to our journeys taken in which nostalgia, memory, and longing play a significant role in recreating the magical experiences and knowledge gained and shared.

She contends, “Travel is about negotiating with the known and the unknown, the familiar and the unfamiliar.” The essays traverse on these negotiations to humanise the travelling self by pondering on perceptions before and after the travels. Thereby, highlighting how travel writing is not merely about the journey but is more about the experiences of people, places and cultures. And in this, the memory ignites the experiences to a better comprehension on life, politics, history and geography.

The essays are arranged thematically into four sections. Each covers multiplicity of themes on language, identity, gender and culture. In the first section – ‘Music, Textiles, Food and Travel’, Srirupa Dhar’s ‘From the Womb of Wien’ beautifully blends motherhood and music to her travel experiences and takes us on a tour to Vienna, the home of Hayden, Mozart and Strauss. In ‘Here and There: My Experiences with Food’, Usha Banerjee shares her gastronomic travel explorations of places in and around the two places she calls ‘home’ – Roorkee and Calcutta (now Kolkata). Ilakshee Bhuyan Nath’s ‘Celebration of Everywomen’ races her memory of travel to Lyon in France and a nostalgic remembrance of her childhood days in Tipling village in Assam and juxtaposes the two different cultures across time and space to weave new ideas and thoughts. As she ferries across the Brahmaputra, she remembers seeing Le Mur des Canuts, one of the largest murals in Europe, a tribute to silk workers in the city, a celebration of textiles. She thinks of women, weavers and the Muga silk in Assam and hopes for such an “art that celebrate the life of Everywomen”. In “A Journey to Santa Barbara”, Ketaki Datta muses over her trip to Santa Barbara and compares her taking the route Tagore took in 1916, experiencing the Danish culture in the city and visiting the Christian Anderson Museum to getting into portals of history.

In the second section – ‘The Solo Women Traveller’, Sohini Chatterjee’s “Travelling with fear and baggage of vulnerability: Reflections on Gender and Spatial mobility” juxtaposes her travel from Kolkata to Nottingham with the issues faced by women traveling alone, stressing on fear and vulnerability. Amrita Mukherjee’s ‘How Work Travel Taught me a Thing of Two About Life’ recollects her trip to Kashmir to emphasise on how an enriching travel is more about discovering people than places. Debasri Basu in ‘Journey’s Mercies Please – The Female Traveller in Perspective’ recalls her trip to the Himalayan province of Uttarakhand.

In the third section – ‘Literature and Travel’, Nishat Haider’s ‘Travelling Memory: A Study of Qurratulain Hyder’s River of Fire’ critically explores concepts of time, history and memory and examines plurality of culture. Haider notes how the novel evades conventional boundaries of historiography or narratology and is “like time travel across the map of memory”. In Arundhati Sethi’s ‘Re-mapping A Small Place: Examination of the Tourist Gaze and Post-colonial Re-inscription of the Antiguan natural and social landscape in Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Village’, one can read to find out how Kincaid “uses the Antiguan consciousness to reveal the inerasable tie between the colonial past and the post-colonial present”. Gillian Dooley’s ‘From Timur to Mauritius: Mathew Flinders’ Island Identity’ analyses the travel accounts of the British navigator Captain Mathew Flinders to enlighten us on how the islands inspired him and “never quite lost the aura of romance for him”. Nabanita Sengupta’s ‘A Bibliophile’s Sauntering in and Out of London’ tells us about the joy of actually travelling to re-live familiar places that have earlier featured in books. Sayan Aich’s ‘In Search of the Lost Travellers: Tradition of Travel in the Bengali Milieu’ debates with humour and serious concerns on the label “Bengali tourist”, the community’s passion for travelling and pauses to reflect on how political and social turmoil can dampen the spirit of inclusivity and cultural heterogeneity.

In the fourth Section — ‘History and Travel’, Sheila T. Cavanagh’s ‘“The Sun Shines Bright in Loch Lomond”: Geography Meets Politics in Scottish Highlands’ explores the narratives of the 18th century travellers Dr. Samuel Johnson and James Boswell to point out the power of narratives in shaping political and social agendas of the time. Himanshu Sharma’s ‘The Exotic Tropics of William and Thomas Daniell’ is an interesting take on how one of the earliest travel impressions of the ‘Oriental scenery’ of the two engravers-painters travel to British India from 1786 to 1796 indirectly contributed to coloniality by creating new materiality of India.

Ankita Das’s ‘The Private Lives of Memsahibs: A Study of Emily Eden and Fanny Parkes’ Experiences in India’ discusses multi-layered experiences based on a traveller’s social class or caste and their purpose of travel to relate race, gender and politics in narratives. She explores representation of Otherness, cross-cultural contacts, feminist discourses in Europe and on mental health and travel. Ruskin Bond’s story ‘Susanna’s Seven Husbands’ later made in the Bollywood movie Saat Khoon Maaf was inspired from the life of a Dutch lady Susan Anna Maria who lived in Chinsurah, whose tomb is locally known as “saat saheber bibir kabar” (tomb of the lady with seven husbands). This and many more stories through art, architecture, culture and heritage interlocking history and literature in and around Chinsurah finds life in Nishi Pulugurtha’s ‘By the Ganga-Chinsurah’.                    

Rich and delightful, subjective yet universal, whether you are a citizen of the world of globalisation or a postcolonial scholar, Across and Beyond is a book for everyone. Ranging from personal accounts of travel to critical essays on literary texts, it engages to connect and cater to mindful and meaningful travelling. Passionately written by a group of travel enthusiasts from their own experiences of travel, their shared moments and memory make the set of essays a bumper harvest for anyone looking for ideas or insights to solo travel or group travel, or for those who want to partake in what Jumpa Lahiri wrote in Namesake, “… to travel without moving your feet”.     

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Gracy Samjetsabam teaches English Literature and Communication Skills at Manipal Institute of Technology, MAHE, Manipal. She is also a freelance writer and copy editor. Her interest is in Indian English Writings, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, Culture Studies, and World Literature.

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

Categories
Poetry

Have you got a window?

By Gracy Samjetsabam

Have you got a window?
That window …
To your dreams
To your world
To yourself
To you!

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You all know that window —
That takes you to places you want to be,
That helps you see the beautiful, wondrous things,
That is the bridge, the string,
To Nature and to your Nature.

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We all have that favourite spot —
That favourite view.
Sometimes … it’s –
A foggy day, 
A rainy day,
A translucent day,
Or, an opaque day.

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Remember …
You just have to reach out.
Clear the fog, the mist,
And wipe the charcoal film –
Swipe it, sweep it, wipe it.
Till you can see –
The light; the green, the red, and all.
The frame isn’t complete –
Without the onlooker.

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There isn’t beauty –
Without the appreciator.
Have you got that window?
That window …
That window to the Beauty,
Your kind of beauty.

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That window to the Nature,
That is yours!
Have you got the window?
The window that is yours.
Remember …
We all have one.

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It can appear and disappear,
It depends on the atmosphere of the day.
Remember —
You are the portal keeper.
Only you have the magic —
To let it stay,
Or, to unlatch it.

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Remember …
Always keep it open.
Remember …
The breeze that blows through that window –
Is just for You!

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*Note: This poem on hope and reassurance dawned onto me as we walk through the trying days of the global pandemic. Irrespective of age, class or creed, we all have hardships and points in life that let us down and tax us on our dreams and aspirations. Besides the pandemic that can make us physically low, unmet expectations due to prevailing circumstances may make us financially or mentally low and lessen our hope and faith in life, but hope and happiness equally expects us to have credence and allow a chance to show that the magic works at any cost, and that, life goes on.

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Gracy Samjetsabam teaches English Literature and Communication Skills at Manipal Institute of Technology, MAHE, Manipal. She is also a freelance writer and copyeditor. Her interest areas are Indian English Writings, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, Culture Studies, and World Literature. When not reading or writing, she loves to indulge in being with Nature. 

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

Categories
Musings

COVID-19: Days by the Arabian Sea

By Gracy Samjetsabam

COVID-19 lockdown continues. I am stationed in a small modern town, surrounded by rustic villages in coastal Karnataka. From some of the tallest buildings in the locality, you can see the mighty Arabian Sea in the horizon, far and wide like a steamy mirage. It’s dreamy!

As uncertain as the pandemic, the day kicks off with the thoughts of the “what ifs,” “What numbers?” and “What next?” Waking up to birds chirping, calm sunrise, though the sun’s the same — shining bright and ever brilliant — I wondered if today was going to be the same or any different. It was the same. It was a melodious morning with birds chirping and singing, except that I was missing the honking and bonking of the pre-office and office hours rush of children and people moving, waiting, walking, rushing, driving in or away, or embarking on their respective buses to work or school. My mind was not merry but having decided to ceremoniously spend some time in the garden before breakfast, I freshened up and invited my husband to join me. He isn’t always interested in garden stuff but agreed. In disbelief, he uttered, “COVID-19, it’s truly a Black Swan situation.”

I called home to find out their condition. Unsurprisingly, identical stories of the contagion loomed large enmeshed with gloom, grim and grimace. Feeling cynical, I asked my husband what would happen if things would get worse? Would we never go out again till some vaccine or a solution took the form of a saviour, or, if things got out of control, would we all fall sick and die — unable to get back to the old normal?

He just said, “Don’t be silly. It will be over soon. I mean, it has to …” Watering the plant leisurely, I was happy for those moments that I was able to spend tending plants, admiring the blooms and nurturing my garden. I wanted to think that this day was going to be a blessing in disguise.

Multi-coloured Hibiscus

As I watered the plants, I was greeted by a couple of sunbirds sucking the nectar of the multi-coloured variety of hibiscus plants that grew along the fence in a row interrupted by jasmines followed by a parade of Ixora flowers mostly red, a couple of tall jackfruit trees bearing jackfruits big and small, a middle-aged cashew tree, a budding chikoo tree, curry leaf trees with its young ones sprouting around it like little children gathered around to listen to stories and, an alternate of tall coconut palm trees and lanky areca nut trees in each corner.

In one of the corners, was a family of plantains with one out of the two bigger ones that stood out gracefully, bearing tender bananas. They hung like braided hair with a flower at its tip. As I reached the corner, I could look up to the coconuts that hung so bountifully with spiky leaves that stretched out fiercely and proudly against the azure sky. For a moment I felt I was wrapped in a blue bubble.

I thought the sky is the same as the one I had seen from the rooftop of my house in Imphal on certain days when there were no clouds and the sky was exceptionally clear. But as I continued to look up almost breaking my neck, I twisted my head a little and wondered that it was the same sky yet it was different like a picture with filters. Spellbinding both though, in their own ways. 

Coucal

Spotting a greater coucal (crow pheasant) taking a quick-short flight from the cashew tree to the bushes reminded me of the Hume’s pheasant (Nong-in), the state bird of Manipur, which too loves to utilise the early hours of the day for food and fun. It reminded me of the familiar and at the same time made me curious.

Atypically, I missed rava idlis for breakfast, which I relished on certain mornings in the canteen, and so I had made plans to finally try cooking some at home. I always thought that the people of the place made it best, which surely is the case, but I thought of giving myself a chance. I looked up for the recipes and the procedures and made some with the emblematic coconut chutney. As I gave the final touches and made ginger tea, I thought of friends and family in this cosmic crisis. I could not help but feel heavy in my heart. I poured the hot aromatic tea into my favourite cups.

We were supposed to be home at this time of the year. By home, I mean my home in Manipur. A time we always look forward to, as the summer breaks are long and it has become a luxury to spend time at my home with dear and near ones. Along with the idea of longing and belonging, the idea of home too, keeps redefining with the passing time. And each time it gets defined, I get redefined too.

I remember, the first time I saw the Arabian Sea, it breathtakingly blew my mind. At the first glance, I felt like I was on the moon. The sea was calm and teeming blue. On the contrary, during the monsoons, the sea is wild, rough and voluminous. The sea, the waves, the sounds and sights of the beach slowly, becomes more familiar, the more I visit, the feeling is the less of a surprise but more of an endearing one.

Precarious as it may seem, the pandemic injected a moment of retrospection on the accustomed and the unaccustomed.

I continue to hope. I looked out into the garden from my window and smiled contentedly. I picked up my cup, sipped my tea and thought of home and of homes, at home. It captivatingly dawned on me that it was quite the same, yet not the same.

Gracy Samjetsabam teaches English Literature and Communication Skills at Manipal Institute of Technology, MAHE, Manipal. She is also a freelance writer and copyeditor. Her interest is in Indian English Writings, Comparative Literature, Gender Studies, Culture Studies, and World Literature. When not reading or writing, she loves to indulge in Nature.