Meet Barun Chanda, an actor who started his career as the lead protagonist of a Satyajit Ray film and now is a bi-lingual writer of fiction and more recently, a non-fiction published by Om Books International,Satyajit Ray:The Man Who Knew Too Much in conversation Click here to read.
Jim Goodman, an American traveler, author, ethnologist and photographer who has spent the last half-century in Asia, converses with Keith Lyons. Click here to read.
“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
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 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, 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’ 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 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 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.
 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
By Haneef Sharif, translated from Balochi by Mashreen Hameed
From the world,
silence… intense silence.
I am somewhere between the better and the best in this world. Safe and sound. Breathing. Every morning, I had walked to my job and the evening breeze had wafted me back home. Drifting like this, many times I pondered over penning down a letter to you but was held back…. lack of address ….my own fears…. dread of time…. Therefore, I never quite made up my mind to complete the task.
My Lord! Today I am feeling very dispirited. I have been expelled by the head of the post office from my job. He said, I happen to deliver the letters, orders, registry and parcels on wrong addresses. The recipients receive the wrong mail. He states, for three months I kept reiterating these mistakes.
I had never envisioned this situation.
Giving it some thought, I concluded that this is all because I did not write a letter to you. Thus, today, I am writing to you.
I apologise in advance for any errors in my penning.
The crucial thing is — My Lord! Tonight, is curtained by stillness, the fire is inhaling its final breath. After the fire dies, I remain with taciturnity alone at home. Whosoever obtains more power than others, will press them down, and you know well who is more powerful than me and who….
God Almighty! To say worthily, I love you a lot and very much —
like toys kept on carts,
like whirlwinds on mosques,
like ash that clings tired on jammed wheels,
like wandering cows on streets,
like the daughters of neighbours…
Almighty God! I love you limitlessly. I don’t know how to convince your ears about my profound affections. I love everything about you, I stoop to your every word, and your every creation is beyond examples, wordless and irreplaceable.
But my Lord! This is also true that you left nothing but confusion in this world, everywhere inconclusiveness, lack of fulfilment, no ins and outs but all the edges of incompletion.
My Lord, who are you? What are you?
The pouring light of lamp igniting before the home of Khuda Baksh, I wonder are you
the tyre-prints of police cars,
the pay-day for teachers,
the rock on the pavement of road,
or the first daily paper each morning?
Who are you? Where are you? In the skies…
No, I cannot admit this, how come my friend, my companion is so far? My Lord is not cruel. He is alone, childfree, poor, miserable like me… stricken by hunger, and knows that the most powerful thing in the world is hunger… hunger… ufff…. I cannot explain. But My Lord, what do you think, is the most powerful among your creations —
drug filled cigarettes,
leftovers of bread,
a cold, collapsed lonely road,
sunsets in summers,
or relics of autumn leaves?
As per my heart, these all are powerful, frightening, but tempting.
What do you say my lord?
What is your point of view?
Do you know one more thing Almighty God, you made abundant useless things in your world; they are meaningless, unimportant, but absurdly you are accountable for creating them.
Lord Almighty! Don’t you realise some surplus things remain unnoticed when you look at the world, like —
school going children in the morning,
busloads of travelers to cities,
‘wedlocks’ in marriages,
ventilators of bathrooms,
and traffic police on roads.
My lord!! These all are complaints, all protests. These are our grievances echoing before you.
We are wretched, distressed, dead hearted. Other people are engulfing us. We are being thrown out of the world. Lord, my heart has become the residence of hatred, enmity and envy; I feel jealous of everyone. I suffer in anguish. I am changing into a devil, converting to wickedness. In spite of all these, I am amazed to discover that, My Lord, I love you a lot, in fact, very, very much –
like a healthy fish,
like the last drop of wine,
like a full plate of curry,
like a room filled with water,
God Almighty! There is nothing more vital to pen down except, the fire is dead now. My stomach is screaming, hunger creeps, cold extends, surfeits, magnifies and I am…
My best regards to all.
And… actually…. I am handing over this letter to the breeze; I hope you will receive it.
Everything is pretty well.
(This story was first published in Balochi in Teeran Dask, a collection of stories by Haneef Sharif and is being published in translation with permission from the author and the Balochistan Academy of Literature and Research, Turbat.)
Haneef Sharif, born on December 25, 1976, is a well-recognised author, filmmaker, YouTuber, photographer and script writer. He completed his basic education in Turbat, Balochistan, and received his MBBS degree from Bolan Medical College, Quetta, in 2003. He currently lives in Germany. He has published a novel, Chegerd Poll enth ( The Chegerd Tree is blossoming), and a number of short stories in Balochi. Some of his short stories have been published in 3 collections: Shapa ke Hour Gwareth ( The Night When It Rains), Teeran Dask ( Teeran Dask) and Haneefnaam ( Hey you Haneef). He has also directed four films in Balochi. He also runs a YouTube channel Radio Balochistan where he publishes videos, short stories, interviews and lectures on miscellaneous subjects.
Mashreen Hameed is a fresh graduate of University of Turbat with a Masters’ degree in English literature. She is a writes fiction, poetry and translates from Balochi and English.
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL
by Dr. Haneef Shareef (Translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch)
Almost after eleven long years he dreamed again. He saw his last dream when he was thirty-five and now, he was almost an old man at forty-six. Stretched on his bed in the nephrology department, as he shut his eyes, he saw the dream.
Mother Mary and the angel appeared like the fond memories of his bygone days. Dust and haze were gone and the days of thirst and scorching heat were over. Under the cloud covered sky, the two old familiar shadows emerged after a long wait. He recognised them. Even if he wished, he could not forget them. What he gained from his dreams in the last thirty-five years were the two kind faces; Mother Mary and the angel, whom he had since childhood been desperate to meet in every dream. And today, after eleven tedious years, they returned home.
As usual Mother Mary was standing a step ahead of the angel. She was silent. Moonlight had drenched her hair and a long journey towards her destination lingered in her eyes. He had etched her eyes in his heart and mind. Light was pouring forth from Mother Mary’s white robe. She seemed to have been encircled by cotton flowers and wax-moths. The entire ward was enveloped in the scent of camphor. Mother Marry looked at the dialysis machine which was making a gurgling sound. Blood coursing in a tube attached to his arm was passing through the machine and after being purified returning to his body through another tube. The machine was an alternative to his kidneys, enabling him to push his book cart forward.
He wished to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca and there, he would see a dream. The overcast sky; gentle breeze; clad in an Arabic robe, he would lead Mother Mary’s camel along the high mountains and before the end of the dream, ahead of dusk they would cross the desert. And then by the fountains, under the shades of the blessings he would marvel at flowing streams of milk and trees laden with figs and mulberries. Yet he knew, at present, the pilgrimage was beyond his reach as both of his kidneys had given in. He could only drag his life on with the support of the dialysis machine. He knew that once a week, he had to endure the pain and solitude of the dialysis room. He had never thought that he would have the dream during his dialysis session.
He was quite astonished that the angel was still thirty-five. Exactly thirty-five. He looked the same as he appeared thirty-five years ago. As far as he could remember, they both grew up in the same period. Whenever in dreams they ran into another, they mulled over the same plans and played the same games.
They had travelled for thirty-five years and half at the same pace in the course of their life. They shared the same age. Hence, he always used to think that the angel was his twin brother who lived with the Virgin Mary. Sometimes in scorching afternoons he would come out and look for him. He didn’t look like the angel, but he believed that he was blessed with a heavenly age and sent on the Earth. He traced his lineage to angels, created from fire, far superior to these earthly folks. But the fact was otherwise. He spent his whole life in selling books at his book cart.
Kamal always tried to convince him that he was a liar. He told him that he was destined to sell books at his book cart and to look eagerly at people was his need. In fact, while selling books he had sold himself as well. But he refused to believe. He had a world of fake dreams around him.
He always argued with Kamal. He never wanted to see him. He never visited his house or walked past his clinic. If someone from his family fell ill, he would take him to the civil hospital and would stand there in the middle of the crowd in the scorching heat but would never seek Kamal’s help. He began to avoid him.
His dreams never left him alone. He never sought Kamal’s help nor yearned for another’s confidence. After losing faith in his own cousin Kamal, he never shared his dreams with anybody anymore. He took refuge in his dreams.
As heaven is not kind forever. At thirty five, while pushing his book cart down home, one evening he felt stabbing pain around his waist. He felt glowing ambers running down his sides. Thus, began the never-ending visits to hospitals. He couldn’t help but finally sought Kamal’s favour. If the nephrologist were not Kamal’s friend, they would have not offered him free dialysis for eleven years.
Death lurked nearer him with every step he took. He thought that actually he was not one person. Rather his body housed two people. Both got up early in the morning, had their breakfasts and set out for their daily rounds. Gradually he felt heaviness on his shoulders. He told Kamal he felt as if he was carrying a dead body and his shoulders were weighing down by its burden. He also lamented that people around him would never share his burden. Kamal always invited him home and treated him to tea and saw him off at his clinic. People always noticed that he walked with uneasiness. As if he was dragging a funeral pyre on his shoulder. His family witnessed another change in his sleeping posture. He crouched on his bed in such a way that it seemed as if a baby slept beside him and he was afraid that he would roll over him in his sleep. He spent his nights in great agony.
And then came the sleepless nights. Sleep had forgotten the address of his eyes. In those days his relatives too had gradually begun to forget him. Mother Mary and the angel had forgotten him as well. Neither did the Virgin Mary send him a message nor was there any trace of the angel. Afternoons were as hot as fire and nights as cold as ice.
He waited for many months. At times, he deliberately attempted to catch a dream and planned to write a few letters. But there was not any trace of the dream. Again he desired to go for Haj. He bought an earthen piggy bank to start saving money. But he never shared his plan with his family. Eleven years went down the line, the dialysis machine had become an integral part of his life. Whenever Kamal and the nephrologist met, they always brooded over the reason that had kept him alive and determined.
Usually after two years of dialysis, patients caved into death. Rather they sought emancipation in death. But he dragged on to labour the years. The desire for Haj had kept him alive and healthy. He knew that he could not go out of this city. He could not leave Kamal. He knew that on each sacred day his family prayed for someone’s calm death. He felt as if they had been mourning someone for last two years. He didn’t know who was about to breathe his last at home. After all he was to go for Haj. He feared that someone might die like his dream while he would be performing Haj.
He narrated to Mother Mary what he felt during the last eleven years. He was about to address the angel when someone placed his hand on his cold forehead. He opened his eyes and saw the doctor was on the round. He was accompanied by the two-house jobbers, nurses and the registrar. The doctor asked him something, but he couldn’t hear anything. He looked at the doctor who appeared like a seventy-headed monster. A dream that had returned after eleven years was aborted by the doctor and his team. He closed his eyes to recapture the dream. But there was no sign of the dream. It vanished like a road lost in the fog.
Half-heartedly he opened his eyes again. Doctor was still standing by his bed. The ward boy was noting his blood pressure while the nurse was scrawling something on the history sheet. He found Kamal was sitting on the edge of his bed. He wanted to tell him that he had told a lie that he was alone in the world. That he had built a fake world for him. That Mother Mary had left him. That the angel was not his twin brother. That he had forgotten him.
At my home you called me a lunatic. You called me a dream digger. I didn’t say anything. My dreams had abandoned me. I had no witness to my dreams. But today again I received the tidings that I am blessed with an angelic age. I am the only living being from the land of angels. I have mistakenly landed on the earth. I carry fire in my eyes. I can reduce the whole world into ashes. You never believed me. You thought I was out of my senses. But today I announce in front of you that I am far superior to these earthly folks. I am a descendent of angels. You all are dependent on me. I am the architect of this universe. Without me nothing would exist in this world. Neither you, nor the doctor and nor the dialysis machine. These colours and clouds all owe to me.
Kamal saw he was pointing at the dialysis machine and trying to say something. He assumed that Hussain was lamenting over his delayed visit. Kamal addressed him by his name and told him that he was busy and belatedly learnt that the doctor had called him on the telephone. He tried to convince Hussain through excuses. To him Kamal’s voice was wafting from afar. As if he was speaking beyond a wall amid a tumultuous and bustling crowd. His voice evaporated before reaching his ears. He hardly managed to tell him that he was unable to hear his words. Kamal spoke louder but half-conscious Husain had already drifted off to sleep.
After eleven years, he had seen Mother Mary and the angel back in a dream again. Mother Mary looked as usual, but the angel seemed to have aged. Though he was about forty-six, he had grown old like Hussain. He looked for Kamal in the alleyways of his mind. But to no avail. All doors were locked off and darkness had descended upon the lanes of his mind. Before he could slip into contemplation, the angel moved forward. He was carrying some freshly blossomed jasmine flowers. He placed them on the side table. The fragrance of the fresh jasmine filled the suffocating room and Hussain’s heart with freshness. The angel sat beside him, caressed his hair and wiped the froth off his mouth. He held his hand against his bosom. Hussain opened his eyes and saw Mother Mary was standing at the foot of his bed. She was in tears.
The angel was looking down with downcast eyes. His long tufts hung loose across his neck and wings were at rest. Wax-moths were melting down and cotton flowers had caught fire. But the fragrance of camphor was in full bloom. Dust and haze was thickening. It was the first dream in the last forty six years wherein he craved for the companionship of a man. He called the name of a kind acquaintance but in the shower of jasmine flowers his voice diminished. He found it hard to breathe. But flowers kept showering and his breath stuck in his nostrils.
The dialysis machine was running, and the tick tock of wall clock had gain momentum. The fan was running fast. Amid tumult and clamour nurses and ward boys were in hurry. He saw the doctor’s sombre face for the last time. A thick fog appeared before his eyes. A fog that was no less than a deadly monster. He was abruptly put under the oxygen by the doctor. But his heart had ceased to beat. His eyes had stopped blinking. He was no more.
The doctor looked around with great gloom. Everybody was in a state of grief. The doctor placed his hand on Kamal’s shoulder. He was in tears. His enemy had departed. But he left him in tears. He closed Husain’s eyes and blew out the candles that had been lit for forty-six years. He covered his face with a piece of cloth. This scene made the elderly woman who was the attendant of the boy lying on the bed beside, wail in great grief. The boy too began weeping with her. Kamal, the doctor and the entire staff, everybody was startled. How come the old lady knew Hussain?
She remembered that today before going towards the dialysis machine, Hussain strolled to the old woman and enquired her about the boy’s health. The doctor and Kamal tried to solace her but she was inconsolable.
It was a long time since Kamal had left the room. Neither did he return nor did anyone else come to the hospital. The dead body was lying there and the old woman was sobbing unrelentingly. The dialysis machine was silent. All tubes and pipes had been removed from his body. The wall clock was ticking down. And the fan had scattered the jasmine flowers in the room.
* The author plans to write a series of stories in the future under ‘Thus Spake the Vagabond’.
Dr. Haneef Shareef, a trained medical professional, is one of the most cherished contemporary Balochi fiction writers and film directors. So far, he has published two collections of short stories and one novel. His peculiar mode of narration has rendered him a distinguished place among the Balochi fiction writers. He has also directed four Balochi movies.
Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated several Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters in 2017 and Silence Between the Notes — the first ever anthology of Partition Poetry published by Dhauli Books India in 2018. His upcoming works of translation include Why Does the Moon Look So Beautiful? (Selected Balochi Short Stories by Naguman) and God and the Blind Man (Selected Balochi Short Stories by Minir Ahmed Badini).
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL.