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Borderless, July 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

Whispers of Stones… Click here to read.

Translations

Tagore’s Mono Mor Megher Shongi (‘The Clouds, My Friends‘)has been translated by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

The Welcome, a skit by Tagore, has been translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

The Bus Conductor, a short story by Dalip Kaur Tiwana has been translated from Punjabi by C. Christine Fair. Click here to read.

Hasan Sol: A Balochi Folktale from Geedi Kessah-4(Folktales Vol: 4) compiled and retold by Gulzar Khan Mari, has been translated by Fazal Baloch from Balochi. Click here to read.

Cry of the Sunflower written in Korean and translated to English by Ihlwha Choi, a poem for Ukraine. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Nobobarsha (or ‘New Rains’) has been translated by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Pandies’ Corner

This narrative is written by a youngster from the Nithari village who transcended childhood trauma and deprivation. Lockdown had been written in Hindustani by Jishan and translated to English by Grace M Sukanya. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Michael R Burch, Supatra Sen, Jenny Middleton, Pramod Rastogi, Ron Pickett, George Freek, Devangshu Dutta, Candice Louisa Daquin, David Francis, Raja Chakraborty, Michael Lee Johnson, Ashok Suri, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Sutputra Radheye, Maid Corbic, Rhys Hughes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In The Anthology in my Mind, Rhys Hughes talks of a make believe anthology. Click here to read and find out what he imagines.

Conversations

Eminent film journalist, Ratnottama Sengupta, converses with legendary actress, Deepti Naval, on her literary aspirations at the Simla Literary festival, Unmesh, in June 2022. Click here to read.

Keith Lyons interviews Steve Carr, a writer who has written 500 short stories and has founded the Sweetycat Press. Click here to read.

Stories

A Cat Story

Sohana Manzoor leaves one wondering if the story is about felines or… Click here to read.

My Christmas Eve “Alone”

Erwin Coomb has a strange encounter at night. Is it real? Click here to read.

Bus Stop

The story by Rinu Antony focusses on chance encounter at a bus stop. Click here to read.

Murder at the ‘Pozzo di San Patriza’

Paul Mirabile travels to 1970s Italy to experience a crime inside a sixteenth century well. Click here to read.

Musings/ Slices from Life

Grune Point and an Inkling of Eternity

A poetic account by Mike Smith as he explores the area that hovers between England and Scotland. Click here to read.

Olympic Game Farm: Meeting and Greeting Animals from Disney Movies

Hema Ravi visits a farm that houses animals that had a past in Disney. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In A Visit to the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum, Suzanne Kamata visits a Museum dedicated to an American Japanese artist. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Shopping for my Funeral, Devraj Singh Kalsi goes on a bizarre spree. Click here to read.

Mission Earth

In On a Bamboo Bicycle from Thailand to Indonesia, Kenny Peavy revisits his trip across Asia exploring the biodiversity and conservation efforts. Click here to read.

Essays

Discovering Books and Places: The Voyage from Eden

Meredith Stephens sails the Australian coastline, recording her experiences with words and her camera. Click here to read.

Trekking to Tilicho Lake

Ravi Shankar treks up to Tilicho Tal at 4940 m. Click here to read his trekking adventures.

A Modern-day Animal Fable with Twists

Dan Meloche visits a contemporary Canadian novel written as an animal fable to draw an unexpected inference. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

Is it okay to be ordinary? by Candice Louisa Daquin explores the responses of people to being accepted as ordinary. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from The Mendicant Prince (based on the Bhawal sannyasi case) by Aruna Chakravarty. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Nabendu Ghosh’s Dadamoni: The Life and Times of Ashok Kumar. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Tagore’s Gleanings of the Road translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal reviews Geetanjali Shree’s Mai, Silently Mother, a Sahitya Akademi winning translation of the Hindi novel by Nita Kumar. Click here to read.

Indrashish Banerjee reviews Nabendu Ghosh’s Dadamoni: The Life and Times of Ashok Kumar. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Prosanta Chakrabarty’s Explaining Life Through Evolution. Click here to read.

Categories
Editorial

Whispers of Stones

When the mountains and grass
had life, stones whispered
how the world came to be…

'Stonehenge', Daily Star

And as the world came to be, there was war — war that seems to rage in some part of the world or other. The British Museum has an exhibit which states the first battle was staged 13,000 years ago… in what is now Sudan, long before the advent of written history. This was even before the advent of people who built the ancient Stonehenge which was constructed around 3000-2000 BCE. And battles still continue to rage. The Jebel Sahaba casualties in Sudan 13000 years ago were less than 100. But the current conflicts claim in terms of tens of thousands which prolonged could stretch to millions. The last world war (1939-1945) which lasted for six years had a total of  75-80 million persons who perished. Ukraine-Russia conflict has within five months had a casualty count of more than 14000. And yet weapons and nuclear arms continue to proliferate decimating humanity, nature and towns, destroying homes, erasing ruthlessly and creating more refugees. The only need for such battles seem to be to satiate the hunger of the warlords secure in their impenetrable fortresses while tens of thousands are annihilated and natural or nurtured landscapes lie emaciated, mutilated and polluted.

What would be a good way of ending such wars?

Tagore sought the development of better instincts in humankind as an antidote. He wrote in the last century: “Any teaching concerning man must have human nature for its chief element. How far it will harmonise with human nature is a matter of time.”

With wars getting deadlier and more horrific, we can only try to awaken, as Tagore suggests, the better nature in man to move towards a peaceful world. What would be a more effective way of doing it than writing with the hope of a kinder and accepting future?

For that let us start with translations of the maestro Tagore himself. We have a song about the season — monsoon, ‘Monomor Megher Songi (My Friends, the Clouds)’, translated by Professor Fakrul Alam, a painting by Sohana Manzoor interpreting the lyrics and a transcreation of Nababarsha or New Rains’ was shrunken into a popular Rabindra Sangeet and reduced to twenty lines in English by Tagore himself. The connect with nature is an important aspect that enables humans to transcend petty concerns leading to dissensions of different kinds as evidenced in the maestro’s humorous feline skit, translated by Somdatta Mandal. A translation of Dalip Kaur Tiwana’s ‘The Bus Conductor’ from Punjabi by C. Christine Fair adds zest to this section. Fazal Baloch has translated a folktale from Balochistan involving the supernatural and Ihlwha Choi has taken on the cry for peace on behalf of Ukraine while translating his own poem in Korean. The Nithari column has a story by Jishan in Hindustani, translated to English by Grace M Sukanya, showcasing the struggle of a youngster during the pandemic – rather a sad narrative, which though fictitious has its roots in reality. 

Our poetry section touches upon the timelessness of dissensions and darkness with Michael R Burch’s poem on Stonehenge and Supatra Sen’s poem on Ukraine. This has been allayed by love poetry by Maid Corbic from Bosnia. George Freek’s poem ruffles with its reflective lines. And in the midst of it all, is poetry by Ryan Quinn Flanagan reflecting on the seven stages of man. Will the process of aging or human nature ever change? I wonder if Rhys Hughes can find an answer for that in humorous verses as he has shared in this issue. In his column, Hughes has written about an imagined anthology of short stories.

Our short story section has echoes of humour around felines by Manzoor, somewhat in tune with the mind frame seen in Tagore’s skit on this issue. Humour rings tinged with an apparition in Erwin Coombs’s narrative – should one call it dark humour or is it just his style? Paul Mirabile goes for gothic darkness in his meanderings around Italy.

Strangely, we seem to have a focus on short stories this time. Keith Lyons has interviewed Steve Carr, a journalist, a publisher and writer of 500 short stories who is questing to create a ‘perfect short story’. Reading out excerpts from her short story at a literary festival in Simla, Bollywood celebrity, Deepti Naval, was in conversation with eminent film journalist, Ratnottama Sengupta. She spoke of her literary aspirations while unveiling her autobiography in verse, A Country Called Childhood. This conversation has been shared by Sengupta with Borderless. It is interesting to see how Naval’s reactions to social malaise contrasts with that of the film director, cinematographer and actor, Goutam Ghose, who was present during the unveiling of her book. He had responded to communal violence by making a film on Lalan Fakir extolling virtues of love and kindness, called Moner Manush (2010) and then made a book on the film called, The Quest (2013) which has beautiful translations of Lalan Fakir’s lyrics by Sankar Sen.  

Our non-fiction sections seem to be hosting multiple travel stories across UK by Mike Smith, along the Australian coastline by Meredith Stephens, on the Himalayas with Ravi Shankar and an unusual visit by Hema Ravi to a farm in US where animals that had been used in Disney films in the past are homed. Our environmental columnist, Kenny Peavy, actually wrote about his cycling trip from Thailand to Indonesia on a bamboo cycle made by a Singaporean! And from Japan, Suzanne Kamata explored a museum in the neighbouring town of Mure. The museum on a hill hosts the art of American Japanese Artists, Isamu Noguchi.

We do have non-fiction that moves away from travel: noir humour by Devraj Singh Kalsi and an essay by Candice Louisa Daquin on a very interesting subject – ‘Is it Okay to be Ordinary?’ Is it?  Dan Meloche has written a literary essay on Canadian novelist Andre Alexis’s award-winning novel, Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue (2015). While Meloche spoke of how the novel departed from Orwell’s Animal Farm, his narrative brought to my mind a novel closer to our times set in England by Jasper Fforde called Constant Rabbit (2020) – this a science fiction while Alexis’s was an apologue or an animal fable. Fforde did use the rabbits rather well to highlight the current times.

We have book excerpts of two recent books that I would call really outstanding. One of them is Aruna Chakravarti’s The Mendicant Prince, which is being released this week, and is based on the evergreen contentious case of the prince of Bhawal that has even been explored even in cinema. The other, Dadamoni: The Life and Times of Ashok Kumar by Nabendu Ghosh, has been published posthumously and is not a translation from Bengali but written in English originally by this trilingual writer.  

Called ‘Dadamoni’ affectionately, iconic actor Ashok Kumar is regarded as “the one personality who symbolises Indian cinema’s journey from Bombay Talkies to Bollywood”.  This book has been reviewed by Indrashish Banerjee, who calls it ‘a reflection on the Hindi film industry’ as well as a biography. Rakhi Dalal has reviewed Booker winner Geetanjali Shree’s Mai, Silently Mother, a Sahitya Akademi winning translation of her Hindi novel by Nita Kumar, reiterating the dialogue that had been kindled on motherhood last month by Rinki Roy Bhattacharya and Maithili Rao’s The Oldest Love Story (2022). Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Prosanta Chakrabarty’s Explaining Life Through Evolution plotting how life evolved on earth. Parichha tells us: “Meaningful, wide-ranging and argumentative, this is a must-read book. It will propel us to imagine and reimagine life around us.” Another book that sounds like a must-read has been reviewed by Meenakshi Malhotra, Tagore’s Gleanings of the Road, translated by Mandal. She tells us: “ ‘Gleanings’ represents the quintessential Tagore…Ably introduced and translated by Somdatta Mandal, a renowned Tagore scholar, the translation captures the iridescent and luminous quality of Tagore’s prose and its chiaroscuro effects.”

There is more to tempt. Please stop by on our contents page and take a look.

We would like to hugely thank all our contributors and readers for being with us and helping us grow. I would like to thank my team, who despite hurdles they face, always lend a helping hand and wonderful words from their pens or computers to get Borderless on its feet. I apologise for the delay and thank you all for your patience. Special thanks to Sohana Manzoor for her fabulous artwork.

I wish you all a wonderful July and peace in a war-torn world. We are all affected by the ongoing conflicts. Let us hope for peaceful and just resolutions.

Thanks.

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

Categories
pandies' corner

Children of Nithari: Lockdown

Written by Jishan in Hindustani, translated by Grace M Sukanya

Jishan is a 23-year-old final year student of B.A Political Science, working as a receptionist at a dental clinic to support himself and his family. A curious person, he likes travelling, and football. He is a fan of the Liverpool Football Club. He has been associated with pandies’ for 12 years. Having participated in Nithari productions, he seeks pandies’ to further train himself as an actor and a facilitator of workshop theatre.

Lockdown

I was a 24-year-old happy-go-lucky guy, always searching for the silver lining. Because of the poor financial condition of my family and admittedly, also a lack of interest, I could not finish school. A lot of people from my village were working in the city. I decided to join them and try my luck. One of my uncles found me a job in an export factory.

Everyone at the factory was quite friendly, so I did not miss my family too much. The salary was okay too; I was able to rent a small room, and even after spending on food, I managed to save a little money to send home. My daily routine was fixed: I woke up early, made rotis to pack for lunch, and then got ready quickly to reach the factory on time.

That day, the sun felt a bit harsh in the sky. It was Holi[1] a few days ago and people say the weather does get a little warmer after that.

I packed my lunch, got ready and left for work as usual. Many people had started wearing masks. There are some masked people in the bus too. Apparently, there is some new disease called ‘corona’ and this mask helped defend us from it.

When I reached work, everyone was talking about corona. I didn’t know much about it, so I asked my friend Rohit, “Brother, what is this corona everyone keeps talking about?”

“Haven’t you seen the news on your phone? In China, people walking down the street are suddenly just dropping dead from it. It’s very dangerous, and now they are saying that it may have entered our country too,” he told me.

“You know I only use my phone to listen to songs and watch films, I don’t use it to keep up with the news,” I responded. 

“Okay but be careful from now on. To protect yourself from this disease, don’t go to crowded places, wash your hands frequently and well, and generally keep yourself and your surroundings clean,” he said.

I found this disconcerting, but I got back to my work quietly.

*

Talk about the disease had been increasing daily.

I had never before been as scared as I was by the thought of this new disease.

One evening, while still at work, I found out that the government could announce a lockdown to deal with this illness. Rohit said that in case of lockdown, we would not be able to leave our houses or even come to work.

The company informed us that since it would have to close and work would get stalled, our salaries would also be reduced.

I told myself it would soon be fine. It would only last a few days, and everything would go back to normal. And I would have enough money saved to afford food for a few days without work.

After work that day, I returned home and quickly went to the grocery to get rations. I didn’t know if the shops would be open during lockdown in case it happened. While making dinner that night, I started thinking: “If the lockdown happens, how will I survive alone in this tiny room all by myself, for 8 – 10 days?”

That night, the government ordered a complete lockdown for three weeks.

It’s the first morning of the lockdown. I woke up late because I don’t have to go work. The weather was pleasant – not too hot, not too cold. But everything felt deserted and empty. There was no one to be seen outside, none of the usual sounds.

I had tea and biscuits for breakfast, washed my clothes and did some chores around the house.

It had been 7-8 days since the lockdown was announced, but they were saying in the news that the number of infections were still increasing. I heard that even the lockdown may be extended by a few more days.

On top of that, my landlord and neighbours thought I was part of a religious sect that was being held responsible for the spread of the disease. My landlord told me the other day, “It’s because of people like you that this disease has taken root in our country. Clear out of this room as soon as you can and leave!”

My neighbours also looked at me with suspicion. But I had never been a part of any religious sect. If this lockdown went on for a few more days, where would I stay, how would I eat?

The ration I had would last only another 3-4 days. The government said they would be providing ration for everyone but when I went to the government run ration shop, they asked for my ration card, which I didn’t have.

I was feeling very alone. I want to return home. But how would I go? Train, bus — all transportation had shut down.

Some people had started off for their villages on foot. But my village was so far, how would I walk to it? And I saw on the news that many people who were walking couldn’t even make it to their homes – they died of hunger on the way or were crushed to death by the overloaded trucks.

I could not walk back home.

*

I had spoken to a few people from my village on the phone. They too were in the city. They said they were planning to cycle back home, and I could accompany them. But I didn’t have a cycle.

There was a tailor who lived nearby, I used to go to his place quite often. He was a kind person. Maybe I could ask if I could borrow his cycle…

The tailor gave me his cycle for half its price, and I told him I wold pay him the other half when I returned.

Now that I had figured out how to go home, I bought snacks for the road, and gave my leftover ration to someone else. I had only three or four hundred rupees left and a couple days of ration. I might or might not have died of this disease, but I would definitely have died of hunger if I had to stay on in this city. 

I was leaving with Ali, one of the other men from my village who worked in the city. He told me to be ready by 7 pm.

It was almost evening. My bags were packed. I was feeling much better now that I knew I was going back to my village and would soon be meeting my parents.

At 7 pm, all of us had gathered at the meeting point on the main road. Including Ali and me, there were four of us leaving together, and each had his own cycle. Night was looming, and all the roads looked abandoned as we started off.

We had been riding for some 20-25 km, slowly going towards the highway, when a police car approached us and asked us to stop.

We show them our IDs. They too started accusing us of being part of the religious sect that everyone was blaming for the spread of the disease.

You know the reputation of the police in India; you give a little money and they let you off… So, we said to him, “Brother, tell us what we can do for you, and let us go?”

He said, “No way, brother, I don’t want any part of your corona.”

We plead with him to let us go, because we had no more ration left to survive in the city but he said, “If I let you go, you will spread corona in your villages too. You’re going there to spread this disease only, no? Hunger may or may not kill you, but we definitely will.”

*

You can imagine what else happened to that poor boy. This was not my story — this was the story of all of us from challenged backgrounds who suffered during the lockdown.

Thank you.

Grace M Sukanya is a 28-year-old filmmaker based in Delhi, India. She is interested in creating arts-based educational interventions for children that respond to socio-political issues. She has been associated with pandies’ theatre since 2020. This is her second translation in the series.


[1] Indian festival of colours

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