Categories
Contents

Borderless, October 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

The Sky … Click here to read.

Conversations

Anthony Sattin, an award winning journalist and travel writer in conversation about Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped our World, his recent book published by Hachette, India. Click here to read.

VR Devika talks of the dynamic Muthulakshmi Reddy, the first woman in the world to preside over a Legislative Assembly who sought justice for Devadsis and prostitutes and discusses her book, Muthulakshmi Reddy: A Trailblazer in Surgery and Women’s Rights published by Niyogi Books. Click here to read.

Translations

Daridro or Poverty by Nazrul has been translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

The Browless Dolls by S.Ramakrishnan, has been translated from Tamil by B Chandramouli. Click here to read.

Two poems from Italy by Rosy Gallace have been translated from Italian by Irma Kurti. Click here to read.

Flowers of Love Bloom Everywhere, a poem for peace, written by and translated from Korean by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Aalo Amar Aalo (Light, My Light) a song by Tagore, has been translated by Mitali Chakravarty from Bengali. Click here to read.

Pandies Corner

Songs of Freedom: Moh-Reen is an autobiographical story by Amreen, translated from Hindustani by Janees. These stories 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.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Michael R Burch, Kirpal Singh, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Jonathan Chan, Ron Pickett, Saranyan BV, George Freek, Pramod Rastogi, Mike Smith, Gayatri Majumdar, John Grey, Vandana Kumar, Ahmad Al-Khatat, Rhys Hughes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Crossing the Date Line, Rhys talks of his fascination with this imagined construct. Click here to read.

Essays

Epaar Bangla, Opaar Bangla:  Bengals of the Mind

Asad Latif explores if homeland is defined by birth. Click here to read.

The Wabi-Sabi of Making a Living

Aditi Yadav calls for taking a break from hectic work schedules. Click here to read.

Just a Face on Currency Notes?

Debraj Mookerjee writes of Gandhi’s relevance and evolution. Click here to read.

A Mother, a Daughter & a Demon Slayer?

Meenakshi Malhotra checks out the festival of Durga Puja, declared the a heritage festival by UNESCO. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

Candice Lousia Daquin explores festivals and the God gene in We had Joy, We Had Fun…. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

KL Twin Towers near Kolkata?

Devraj Singh Kalsi visits the colours of a marquee hosting the Durga Puja season with its spirit of inclusivity. Click here to read.

A Five Hundred Nautical Mile Voyage to Tasmania

Meredith Stephens writes of sailing to Tasmania when the pandemic had just started loosening its grip. Click here to read.

Keep Walking…

Ravi Shankar recommends walking as a panacea to multiple issues, health and climate change and takes us on a tour of walks around the world. Click here to read.

The Matriarch of Hirronk

Ali Jan Maqsood introduces us to a strong matriarch from a Balochi village. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Drill, Fill, Just Chill, Devraj Singh Kalsi gives us humour while under a dentist’s drill. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

Suzanne Kamata writes of her A Ramble on Bizan, focussing on a writer, also by the surname of Moraes, who lived on Mount Bizan more than century ago, moving to Japan from Portugal having fallen violently in love. Click here to read.

Short Stories

Half-Sisters

Sohana Manzoor explores the darker regions of human thought with a haunting psychological narrative about familial structures. Click here to read.

Homecoming

Rituparna Mukherjee gives a poignant story about missing home. Click here to read.

The Phosphorescent Sea

Paul Mirabile journeys with his protagonist into the depths of the ocean. Click here to read.

The Literary Fictionist

In Deathless are the Words, Sunil Sharma explores madness and ideators who believe in the power of words. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee. Click here to read.

An excerpt from A Handful of Sesame by Shrinivas Vaidya, translated from Kannada by Maithreyi Karnoor. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Somdatta Mandal has reviewed BM Zuhara’s The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir, translated from Malayalam by Fehmida Zakir. Click here to read.

Basudhara Roy has reviewed Taranath Tantrik: And Other Tales from the Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Satyajit Ray Miscellany: On Life, Cinema, People & Much More, a collection of the maestro’s writings and illustrations. Click here to read.

Categories
Editorial

The Sky

The sky is, was and will be.

It stretches without borders, without interruptions, without contentions, unifying all under its life-giving ambience. We live nurtured by the sky, the water and the Earth. If we think back to times before humans made constructs and built walls to guard their own, to times when their ancestors roamed the Earth and moved to meet their needs, the population was not huge, and resources were abundant. Our species lived in consonance with nature. People revered natural forces and found trends that evolved into traditions and constructs which eventually made their progeny forget that the sky, water and Earth did not belong to them. These belong or perhaps exist for some reason that we do not comprehend despite the explanations given by science and religions. Being merely transient passers-by through these, humanity, unlike dinosaurs, has an urge to survive and be like the sky — with a past, present and future and a sense of the eternal. Though we all have short lives compared to the sky, Earth or universe, we continue to find ourselves in a homo centric world that considers all else to be made to meet their aspirations. But there was a time, when humans lacked this arrogance. They just tried to survive. And move with shifting rivers in an unbordered world.

Exploring such times, is Anthony Sattin’s profound book, Nomads: The Wanderers Who Shaped our World. He converses to reinforce reviving the concept of asabiyya or bonding between humans so that they find it in their hearts to move forward with necessary changes to avoid following in the footsteps of mammoths. A change maker who redefined constructs for humankind, a devdasi’s[1] daughter who rose to become a pioneering doctor and activist a hundred years ago, is Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy. We have an interview with her recent biographer, R Devika, who authored Muthulakshmi Reddy: A Trailblazer in Surgery and Women’s Rights.

The books reviewed this time include one featuring the writings by the greatest change maker in cinema — Satyajit Ray. Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Satyajit Ray Miscellany: On Life, Cinema, People & Much More while Professor Somdatta Mandal has given us a candid opinion on BM Zuhara’s The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir, translated from Malayalam by Fehmida Zakir. Taranath Tantrik and Other Tales from the  Supernatural by Bibhutibhushan, translated from Bengali by Devalina Mookerjee brings unexplored dark mysterious forces into play and has been reviewed by Basudhara Roy. We have an excerpt from the titular stories of Tarantath Tantrik. Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay(1894-1950) was a legendary writer from Bengal. He wrote stories and novels, some of which were immortalised in cinema, such as the Apu triology by Satyajit Ray. The other book excerpt is from a translation from Kannada by an upcoming voice that needs to be heard, Maithreyi Karnoor. She has brought to the anglophone world Shrinivas Vaidya’s Handful of Sesame.

In our section on translations, we are privileged to carry voices that remain relevant to date, Tagore and Nazrul. Nazrul’s poem on poverty, Daridro, has been translated by Professor Fakrul Alam and we have a transcreation of Tagore’s inspiring lyrics (Aalo Amar Aalo) to energise one’s life with the refulgence of light. Rosy Gallace’s poetry has been translated from Italian by Albanian writer, Irma Kurti. Korean poet, Ihlwha Choi, has translated his own poem on peace for us. And a Tamil short story by S Ramakrishnan, has been rendered into English by B Chandramouli. It is an interesting potpourri as is our poetry section, which even features poetry from Iraq by Ahmad Al-Khatat. We also feature poems by Michael Burch, Kirpal Singh, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Jonathan Chan, Ron Pickett, George Freek, Gayatri Majumdar, Vandana Kumar, Mike Smith and many more along with the inimitable witty ditties of Rhys Hughes which not only make us laugh but also wonder…

Evoking humour is not easy, but we do have a few such writers who manage it very well. Hughes has given us a tongue-in-cheek piece on the dateline, which has more than humour. And Devraj Singh Kalsi has shared his discovery that laughter is the best medicine to shrug off a dentist’s drill. He has also visited the colours of Durga Puja which, with its spirit of inclusivity, transported visitors in one marquee near Kolkata to the iconic Malaysian Twin Towers. Thus, bringing festivals in October into our purview. Candice Lousia Daquin has actually explored why we celebrate festivals and the God gene… Did you know we have a biological need for spirituality?

Suzanne Kamata has introduced us to Mount Bizan, which houses a writer by the surname of Moraes – Wenceslau José de Souza de Moraes, an expat writer who lived in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century. Wonder if he could have been related to the Anglo Indian writer, Dom Moraes? Aditi Yadav has also given us an essay on the Japanese philosophy of Wabi-sabi with its world view centred on imperfections and transience. Ravi Shankar has suggested walks for all of us, sharing his experiences in the Himalayas, the Caribbean island of Aruba and in many more places. Meredith Stephens has written of sailing to Tasmania.

The essay that brought back a flavour of home for me is one by Asad Latif, now a journalist in Singapore but long ago, he was an icon in India. We are very privileged to have his writing on what borders do for us… a piece exploring the idea on which we base our journal, also perhaps with a touch of Anthony Sattin’ s asabiyya. ‘Pandies’ Corner‘ starts another run, showcasing women’s tryst for freedom. Amreen’s ‘Moh-Reen’, her own story, translated from Hindustani by Janees, is a brave start to the series. The voices ring out asking for a change, to heal social norms to accommodate love and kindness with the backing of Shaktishalini and Pandies as does the unsupported solo voice of an older woman from Balochistan, Ganji Baloch, brought to our notice by Ali Jaan Maqsood.

We have fiction from Sohana Manzoor – again bringing to fore strange stories of women rebelling against social norms. Paul Mirabile explores death and the sea in a horrific story. Sunil Sharma’s fiction explores madness and ideators, making a social comment on recent happenings. As the sky stretches out to accommodate all kinds of writings, all creatures great and small, we try our best to give voice to a fair cross section from around the world as we have done this time too.

There are as usual pieces that we have not mentioned in this note but they are all worth a read. Do drop in to check out our contents in this October issue. We are truly grateful to our contributors who continue to connect with words and thoughts that waft along with clouds. We would like to thank Sohana Manzoor especially for her wonderful artwork. The journal would not be a possibility without the support of the whole team and our valuable readers who make writing worth the effort. It is lovely to be read and remembered for the words we write.

Wish you all a wonderful October.

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com


[1] A woman ‘married’ to Gods and forced to live as a mistress to mortal men.

Categories
pandies' corner

Songs of Freedom: Moh-Reen

Story by Amreen, translated from Hindustani by Janees

Songs of Freedom bring stories from women — certainly not victims, not even survivors but fighters against the patriarchal status quo with support from the organisation Shaktishalini.[1]

–Sanjay Kumar, founder, pandies

Amreen hails from Khadoli village in Uttar Pradesh. She is 22 and currently pursuing distance education to complete her high school. She courageously braves writing down a peek of her life’s challenges as a survivor/fighter of gender and religion-based abuse with the intention of providing support and solidarity to underprivileged and disadvantaged women around the world.

Moh-Reen

How am I at fault Ammi? Abbu?

Are you upset that I am alive? (Does my being alive upset you to the core?)

You never tried to reach me, even for once!

You have never asked me how I was doing, never enquired whether Amreen was even alive….

I want to ask who gets to decide my worth?

Why have I been rendered helpless to make my own decisions?

Why is the conflict between humanity and religion forced upon us time and again? Are you telling me they cannot go hand-in-hand in harmony?

There always had been huge sermons on the unity of religions…of how all paths lead to the same God (Ishwar)…then why wasn’t my marriage with Mohit acceptable? Were we not in sync with our God who is the same, just called by different names?

Amreen hails from a small village, ‘Khadoli’ in the Meerut district of India’s largest state, Uttar Pradesh (UP). She is currently living in Delhi…but in fear…She has fled home.

Year 2005

Amreen, lovingly called ‘Lalli’, had a pleasant childhood…She would even go on describing it as happy and beautiful. Getting dressed for school early morning, then school, followed by a wave of excitement as the clock struck 3 and she was home. At home, she would have lunch in a rush only to catch up with her friends. Lalli loved her friends, what she loved more was spending time with them. After a long day of play and fun, Lalli would go back home and refuse to help with chores. After all, she had worked so hard at playing.

She loved wandering in the alleys of her village and wouldn’t trade anything in this world for that freedom.

Year 2010

Lalli’s life suddenly took a turn. Her elder sister got married as a virtue of which Lalli dropped out of school. Now her days were mostly marked with helping her Ammi with never-ending household chores. She lost touch with friends. Lalli had to grow up  at a tender age.

Amreen would get lost in her desperation and sing to herself: “The darkness has set foot on our path for a long time, come what may the sun must rise now…”

Year 2019

This is the year Mohit took their companionship and love a step ahead and proposed to Amreen.

“Put your hand in mine, with a promise of a love lifelong, I shall stand by your side.”

“I yearn to walk all my life with you. Let’s embark on this journey hand in hand, faith in souls.”

Year 2020

Amreen mustered the courage and disclosed her decision of marrying Mohit. She put in everything to convince her family. But is there a bigger sin in this world than loving/marrying someone from a different faith or caste? It turns out it’s a sin bigger than murdering entire humankind.

The moment Amreen disclosed her yearning to be with Mohit to her family, she understood what she had signed up for. All the mental and physical abuse on one side and now, her marriage was fixed with a man from her community. Yet she braved the decision to keep on trying to convince them, only to be met with pain and despair. Where else does one go with expectations and burdens other than to a family?

There seemed no other way, but the one Amreen dreaded the most. She never wanted to elope. In fact, she was hopeful that as parents, her Ammi and Abbu would understand her, or at least prioritise her happiness over all else. But alas, to fit into a society!

March 16, 2020

Amreen and Mohit left their respective homes. They embarked on a journey to make a home to be called theirs. They reached Delhi where a new hardship was awaiting their arrival. Due to the outbreak of Covid-19, a nation-wide lockdown was announced. As a result, all the courts were suspended indefinitely. Amreen needed a place to stay in the new city. She couldn’t live with Mohit. They feared the reactions of their families.  What if the police were after them and Mohit would be framed falsely in the case? What if the patriarchs of both the families were on their way to kill them? What if their village was being torn apart by communal violence because of what they had done?

Amidst this, the lockdown!

During this time, Dhanka Sanstha (an organisation for interfaith couples) and Shakti Shalini (an NGO that supports victims of gender and sexual violence) came to Amreen’s rescue. For the first time in her life, Amreen felt cared for, supported for her decision-making ability, and came to know what solidarity feels like.

July 29, 2020

After all the hardships and agony that Moh-Reen went through, the day they had been desperately seeking finally arrived. Amreen and Mohit tied the knot.

Year 2021

Moh-Reen were blessed with a little angel, whom they named, ‘Tamanna’ — a wish. It was their wish to have a daughter, a wish fulfilled. But it seemed Mohit’s family were upset with the sex of the child. They wanted a son – a son they would call theirs, not Muslim woman’s daughter.

It had only been five days after Tamanna was born and Amreen was brought home, that Mohit’s family started mistreating her. She was denied food. For days Amreen was only able to have tea and biscuits, which was also the time Tamanna was being breast fed by her famished mother. Amreen patched up with her elder sister, the only family member who was considerate enough to stay in contact. Her elder sister couldn’t bear to look at Amreen’s plight and took her home along with Tamanna, where they looked after the mother and child for almost two months.

The mistreatment continued even after Amreen moved back with Mohit’s family. She was verbally abused by her mother-in-law and sister-in-law for giving birth to a girl.

February 10, 2022

The previous year’s series of agonising events finally made Moh-Reen move out and rent a place of their own. Mohit, Amreen, and Tamanna live here peacefully. Amreen hopes her story is not confined within the frame of a short story but goes beyond touching lives of many people…even if it means changing a single woman’s life for good.

Mohit wants to fulfil Amreen’s dreams. Amreen is currently enrolled in tenth standard [grade] to catch up on her studies. She is on her to become someone – somebody known for her own self, where she will be known by her name and not just as someone’s wife, daughter, or mother.

Are we going to end this story with the same questions as asked in the beginning? Or are there questions that need to be asked from your side as well? There’s one definite question for sure – whom will you hold accountable?

.

Janees is an independent researcher and theatre-practitioner who has been associated with Pandies for the past five years.


[1] “Establishing itself as a premier women’s organisation in India from 1987, Shaktishalini has spread out and deals with all kinds of gender based violence. A shelter home, a helpline and more than that a stunning activist passion are the hallmarks of this organisation. 

pandies and Shaktishalini – different in terms of the work they do but firmly aligned in terms of ideological beliefs and where they stand and  speak from. It goes back to 1996 when members of the theatre group went to the Shaktishalini office to research on (Dayan Hatya) witch burning for a production and got the chance to learn from the iconic leaders of Shaktishalini, Apa Shahjahan and Satya Rani Chadha. And collaborative theatre and theatre therapy goes back there. It is a mutual learning space that has survived over 25 years. Collaborative and interactive, this space creates anti-patriarchal and anti-communal street and proscenium performances and provides engaging workshop theatre with survivors of domestic and societal patriarchal violence. Many times we have sat together till late night, in small or large groups debating what constitutes violence? Or what would be gender equality in practical, real terms? These and many such questions will be raised in the stories that follow.” — Sanjay Kumar

.

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