Borderless, December 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor


It’s Only Hope… Click here to read.


Shantanu Ray Chaudhari converses with writer Gajra Kottary, a well-known writer of Indian TV series, novels and stories. Click here to read.

A discussion on Samaresh Bose’s In Search of the Pitcher of Nectar, a book that takes us to the heart of the Kumbh Mela, a festival recognised by the UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, with the translator, Nirmal Kanti Bhattacharjee. Click here to read.


Nazrul’s Why Provide Thorns has been translated by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Mercy, a story be P. F. Mathews, has been translated from Malayalam by Ram Anantharaman. Click here to read.

Even A Simurgh Cannot Change Destiny, a Balochi folktale translated and retold by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Confessions, a poem written by and translated from Korean by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

The Sun on the First Day, a translation of Tagore’s Prothom Diner Shurjo by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Pandies’ Corner

Songs of Freedom: Vikalangta or Disability is an autobiographical narrative by Kajal, translated from Hindustani by Janees. These narrations highlight the ongoing struggle against debilitating rigid boundaries drawn by societal norms, with the support from organisations like Shaktishalini and Pandies. Click here to read.


Click on the names to read

Jared Carter, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Rhys Hughes, Asad Latif, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Santosh Bakaya, Phil Wood, Sharanya B, George Freek, Saibal Chatterjee, Jonathan Chan, Sutputra Radheye, Shambhu Nath Banerjee, Michael Burch

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Some Differences Between Wales and India, Rhys Hughes makes some hilarious comparisons. Click here to read.

Musings/ Slices from Life

Near-Life Experiences: Hiking in New Zealand

Keith Lyons escapes city life to find his happy place while hiking in New Zealand. Click here to read.

The Seven Grandfather Teachings

Saeed Ibrahim introduces us to Native Indian lore from Canada and shows its relevance in the current times. Click here to read.

Dismasted in Bass Strait

Meredith Stephens takes us for a sailing adventure with photographs in the Southern Hemisphere. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Of Mice & Men, Devraj Singh Kalsi talks of his encounters with rats. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In A Clean Start, Suzanne Kamata tells us how the Japanese usher in a new year. Click here to read.


Annapurna Bhavan

Lakshmi Kannan closes class divides in Chennai over a meal. Click here to read.

Two Faces of a Mirror

Tulip Chowdhury gives us a story set in a Bangladeshi village. Click here to read.

The Slip

Sushma R Doshi takes a look at the pandemic against an Indian middle-class set up. Click here to read.

Till Life Do Us Part

Devraj Singh Kalsi explores a strange new trend. Click here to read.


Orangutans & a School at Sarawak

Christina Yin, a conservationist, travels to Borneo in an attempt to create awareness for conserving the Orangutan. Click here to read.

Taiping of the Raj Era

Ravi Shankar explores Taiping in Malaysia with a camera and words. Click here to read.

Ivory Ivy & Stephen Dedalus

Paul Mirabile explores James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus and his passion for words keeping in mind the hundred year old Ulysees & the even older, A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Radha Chakravarty’s translation of Tagore’s Farewell Song. Click here to read.

An excerpt or two short narratives from Rhys Hughes’ Yule Do Nicley. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Somdatta Mandal reviews The Shaping of Modern Calcutta: The Lottery Committee Years, 1817 – 1830 by Ranabir Ray Chaudhury. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal reviews Freny Manecksha’s Flaming Forest, Wounded Valley: Stories from Bastar and Kashmir. Click here to read.

Basudhara Roy reviews Manoranjan Byapari’s How I Became a Writer: An Autobiography of a Dalit. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews In Search of the Divine: Living Histories of Sufism in India by Rana Safvi. Click here to read.


Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles

You are all welcome to the book talks of our first anthology


Its Only Hope…

Painting by Sybil Pretious

New year, like a newborn, starts with hope.

The next year will do the same – we will all celebrate with Auld Lang Syne and look forward to a resolution of conflicts that reared a frightening face in 2022 and 2021. Perhaps, this time, if we have learnt from history, there will not be any annihilation but only a movement towards resolution. We have more or less tackled the pandemic and are regaining health despite the setbacks and disputes. There could be more outbreaks but unlike in the past, this time we are geared for it. That a third World War did not break out despite provocation and varied opinions, makes me feel we have really learnt from history.

That sounds almost like the voice of hope. This year was a landmark for Borderless Journal. As an online journal, we found a footing in the hardcopy world with our own anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles: Writings from Across the World, which had a wonderful e-launch hosted by our very well-established and supportive publisher, Om Books International. And now, it is in Om Book Shops across all of India. It will soon be on Amazon International. We also look forward to more anthologies that will create a dialogue on our values through different themes and maybe, just maybe, some more will agree with the need for a world that unites in clouds of ideas to take us forward to a future filled with love, hope and tolerance.

One of the themes of our journal has been reaching out for voices that speak for people. The eminent film critic and editor, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri , has shared a conversation with such a person, the famed Gajra Kottary, a well-known writer of Indian TV series, novels and stories. The other conversation is with Nirmal Kanti Bhattajarchee, the translator of Samaresh Bose’s In Search of a Pitcher of Nectar, a book describing the Kumbh-mela, that in 2017 was declared to be an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. Bhattacharjee tells us how the festival has grown and improved in organisation from the time the author described a stampede that concluded the festivities. Life only gets better moving forward in time, despite events that terrorise with darkness. Facing fear and overcoming it does give a great sense of achievement.

Perhaps, that is what Freny Manecksha felt when she came up with a non-fiction called Flaming Forest, Wounded Valley: Stories from Bastar and Kashmir, which has been reviewed by Rakhi Dalal. Basudhara Roy has also tuned in with a voice that struggled to be heard as she discusses Manoranjan Byapari’s How I Became a Writer: An Autobiography of a Dalit. Somdatta Mandal has reviewed The Shaping of Modern Calcutta: The Lottery Committee Years, 1817 – 1830 by Ranabir Ray Chaudhury, a book that explores how a lottery was used by the colonials to develop the city. Bhaskar Parichha has poured a healing balm on dissensions with his exploration of Rana Safvi’s In Search of the Divine: Living Histories of Sufism in India as he concludes: “Weaving together facts and popular legends, ancient histories and living traditions, this unique treatise running into more than four hundred pages examines core Sufi beliefs and uncovers why they might offer hope for the future.”

In keeping with the festive season is our book excerpt from Rhys Hughes’ funny stories in his Christmas collection, Yule Do Nicely. Radha Chakravarty who brings many greats from Bengal to Anglophone readers shared an excerpt – a discussion on love — from her translation of Tagore’s novel, Farewell Song.

Love for words becomes the subject of Paul Mirabile’s essay on James Joyce’s Stephen Dedalus, where he touches on both A Portrait of the Artist as a young Man and  Ulysees, a novel that completed a century this year. Love for animals, especially orangutans, colours Christina Yin’s essay on conservation efforts in Borneo while Keith Lyons finds peace and an overwhelming sense of well-being during a hike in New Zealand. Ravi Shankar takes us to the historical town of Taiping in Malaysia as Meredith Stephens shares more sailing adventures in the Southern hemisphere, where it is summer. Saeed Ibrahim instils the seasonal goodwill with native Indian lores from Canada and Suzanne Kamata tells us how the Japanese usher in the New Year with a semi-humorous undertone.

Humour in non-fiction is brought in by Devraj Singh Kalsi’s ‘Of Mice and Men’ and in poetry by Santosh Bakaya. Laughter is stretched further by the inimitable Rhys Hughes in his poetry and column, where he reflects on his experiences in India and Wales. We have exquisite poetry by Jared Carter, Sukrita Paul Kumar, Asad Latif, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Michael R Burch, Sutputra Radheye, George Freek, Jonathan Chan and many more. Short stories by Lakshmi Kannan, Devraj Singh Kalsi, Tulip Chowdhury and Sushma R Doshi lace narratives with love, humour and a wry look at life as it is. The most amazing story comes from Kajal who pours out the story of her own battle in ‘Vikalangta or Disability‘ in Pandies’ Corner, translated from Hindustani by Janees.

Also touching and yet almost embracing the school of Absurd is PF Mathew’s story, ‘Mercy‘, translated from Malayalam by Ram Anantharaman. Fazal Baloch has brought us a Balochi folktale and Ihlwha Choi has translated his own poem from Korean to English. One of Tagore’s last poems, Prothom Diner Shurjo, translated as ‘The Sun on the First Day’ is short but philosophical and gives us a glimpse into his inner world. Professor Fakrul Alam shares with us the lyrics of a Nazrul song which is deeply spiritual by translating it into English from Bengali.

A huge thanks to all our contributors and readers, to the fabulous Borderless team without who the journal would be lost. Sohana Manzoor’s wonderful artwork continues to capture the mood of the season. Thanks to Sybil Pretious for her lovely painting. Please pause by our contents’ page to find what has not been covered in this note.

We wish you all a wonderful festive season.

Season’s Greetings from all of us at Borderless Journal.


Mitali Chakravarty


Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles


In Search of the Divine

By Bhaskar Parichha

Title: In Search of the Divine: Living Histories of Sufism in India

Author: Rana Safvi

Publisher: Hachette India

Sufism was a liberal reform movement within Islam. It had its origin in Persia and spread into India in the 11th century. Most of the Sufis (mystics) were persons of deep devotion who disliked the display of wealth and degeneration of morals following the establishment of the Islamic empire.

 The word ‘Sufi’ is derived from ‘suf’, which means wool in Arabic. It also means ‘purity’.Sufism or mysticism emerged in the 8th century, The early known Sufis were Rabia al-Adawiya, Al-Junaid, and Bayazid Bastami. It was a well-developed movement by the end of the 11th century. Al Hujwiri is regarded as the oldest Sufi in the sub-continent. By the 12th century, the Sufis were organized in Silsilahs.

In Search of the Divine: Living Histories of Sufism in India by Rana Safvi is by far the most comprehensive history of this belief system. As a scholarly book, it does more than just explain Sufism. The book elucidates how the practice is influential and yet possesses a quiet dignity. The general perception of Sufism for those uninitiated is perhaps reduced to paintings and images of saints, in cascading gowns steeped in reverence for the Almighty. The images, while powerful are deeply reductive. Like with most other things, Sufism has been reduced to images, motifs, and symbols of faith.

Says the blurb: ‘Sufism, called the mystical dimension of Islam, is known for its inclusive nature, as well as its ethics of love and compassion, its devotional music, art, and architecture. In India’s syncretic culture, Sufism developed a distinct character, and harmoniously embraced the Bhakti traditions of North India.’

A renowned writer, scholar, and translator, Rana Safvi is a passionate believer in India’s unique civilisational legacy and pluralistic culture which she documents through her writings. Author of nine books on the culture, history, and monuments of India, her A Folk Tale and Other Stories: Lesser-Known Monuments of India is a commendable book.

Safvi writes, “As numerous mystics came and settled in the subcontinent, they drew from local Hindu influences and developed a unique form of Sufism here. There was a great and constant refertilisation of ideas. With their understanding, acceptance, and integration of local customs and influences, they carved their own unique space in the hearts of locals of every faith, class, and caste. They could speak the local language, and dialects and as tales of their Karamat (miracles) grew, so did their followers.”

She delves into the fascinating roots of Sufism, with its emphasis on ihsan, iman, and akhlaq[1], and the impact it continues to have on people from all communities. Safvi relies not only on textual sources but also on her visits to dargahs across the country, and the conversations she has with devotees and pirs alike. 

Safvi says dargahs aren’t spaces meant to accommodate the Muslim community alone. Sufi saints insisted on religious harmony. In the 18th chapter of the book titled Celebrating with the Saint, she quotes an oral account of tolerance and acceptance.

“Some Muslims were once passing through an area where Holi was being celebrated. Perhaps as a shararat (mischief), perhaps unwittingly, the Muslims got Holi colors on their clothes. This led to a flight among Hindus and Muslims. The news reached the darbar (court) of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The Muslims complained that they had been defiled.

“How would they offer namaz now?’ said Fareed Bhai.

“Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya told them: my people, all colors come from Allah. Which color is that that does not come from Allah?

“Then Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya told Hazrat Amir Khusrau to capture this in a couplet. And Hazrat Khusrau wrote the (following) lyric:

Aaj rang hai ri

Mere khwaja ke ghar rang hai ri, aaj rang hai[2].”

The book suggests in intense detail the sacred atmosphere she encountered: the reverent crowds, the strains of qawwali, and the fragrance of incense, as well as highlights the undeniable yet often forgotten contributions of women in Sufism. The wide-ranging study is contemporary and also a tribute to the rich and textured past.

The book doesn’t just explain Sufism to the lay reader, it coagulates the affinity shared between Sufism and Islam. Safvi’s book lends dignity to the millions of worshippers who otherwise inhabit an Islam-loathing world.

Apart from a historical account, the books deal with the oral narratives, the status of women, and the Prophet’s family who laid the foundation for faith as Muslims know it. The elegant study emphasises the power of faith, not just in a universal capacity but also as a personal one. Along with the book meant for review, Safvi writes in a note, “This book has been a deeply enriching experience for me.”

Safvi’s work does not make the case that Sufism is independent of Islam. She says it was a myth solidified by western academics. She clarifies that a lot of Sufi followers do consider Prophet Muhammad to have spearheaded the practice. The connection with Islam is unmissable and yet it took on the shades of other faiths in praxis.

Her exploration isn’t in any way, a means to legitimise Sufism. Safvi is humble enough to recognise that she doesn’t need to do that. If anything, her writing is to shed light on values of peace, austerity, and benevolence which often miss the eye’s mark when religion is discussed in a politically charged world.

Rana Safvi’s In Search of the Divine is dignified, powerful, engrossing. Weaving together facts and popular legends, ancient histories and living traditions, this unique treatise running into more than four hundred pages examines core Sufi beliefs and uncovers why they might offer hope for the future.

[1] Spiritual excellence, faith, act of goodness or virtue

[2] At my Khwaja’s home, there is jubilant colour
Today there is jubilant colour

Bhaskar Parichha is a journalist and author of UnbiasedNo Strings Attached: Writings on Odisha and Biju Patnaik – A Political Biography. He lives in Bhubaneswar and writes bilingually. Besides writing for newspapers, he also reviews books on various media platforms.



Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles