“May is pretty, May is mild, Dances like a happy child…” Annette Wynne (Early twentieth century)
Each month is expressed in a different form by nature in various parts of the world. In the tropics, May is sweltering and hot — peak summer. In the Southern hemisphere, it is cold. However, with climate change setting in, the patterns are changing, and the temperatures are swinging to extremes. Sometimes, one wonders if this is a reflection of human minds, which seem to swing like pendulums to create dissensions and conflicts in the current world. Nothing seems constant and the winds of change have taken on a menacing appearance. If we go by Nazrul’s outlook, destruction is a part of creating a new way of life as he contends in his poem, ‘Ring Bells of Victory’ — “Why fear destruction? It’s the gateway to creation!” Is this how we will move towards ‘dancing like a happy child’?
Mitra Phukan addresses this need for change in her novel, What Will People Say — not with intensity of Nazrul nor in poetry but with a light feathery wand, more in the tradition of Jane Austen. Her narrative reflects on change at various levels to explore the destruction of old customs giving way to new that are more accepting and kinder to inclusivity, addressing issues like widow remarriage in conservative Hindu frameworks, female fellowship and ageing as Phukan tells us in her interview. Upcoming voice, Prerna Gill, lauded by names like Arundhathi Subramaniam and Chitra Divakaruni, has also been in conversation with Shantanu Ray Choudhuri on her book of verses, Meanwhile. She has refreshing perspectives on life and literature.
Poetry in Borderless means variety and diaspora. Peter Cashorali’s poem addresses changes that quite literally upend the sky and the Earth! Michael Burch reflects on a change that continues to evolve – climate change. Ryan Quinn Flanagan explores societal irritants with irony. Seasons are explored by KV Raghupathi and Ashok Suri. Wilda Morris brings in humour with universal truths. William Miller explores crime and punishment. Lakshmi Kannan and Shahriyer Hossain Shetu weave words around mythical lore. We have passionate poetry from Md Mujib Ullah and Urmi Chakravorty. It is difficult to go into each poem with their diverse colours but Rhys Hughes has brought in wry humour with his long poem on eighteen goblins… or is the count nineteen? In his column, Hughes has dwelt on tall tales he heard about India during his childhood in a light tone, stories that sound truly fantastic…
Devraj Singh Kalsi has written a nostalgic piece that hovers between irony and perhaps, a reformatory urge… I am not quite sure, but it is as enjoyable and compelling as Meredith Stephen’s narrative on her conservation efforts in Kangaroo Island in the Southern hemisphere and fantastic animals she meets, livened further by her photography. Ravi Shankar talks of his night hikes in the Northern hemisphere, more accurately, in the Himalayas. While trekking at night seems a risky task, trying to recreate dishes from the past is no less daunting, as Suzanne Kamata tells us in her Notes from Japan.
May hosts the birthday of a number of greats, including Tagore and Satyajit Ray. Ratnottama Sengupta’s piece on Ray’s birth anniversary celebrations with actress Jaya Bachchan recounting her experience while working for Ray in Mahanagar (Big City), a film that has been restored and was part of celebrations for the filmmaker’s 102nd Birth anniversary captures the nostalgia of a famous actress on the greatest filmmakers of our times. She has also given us an essay on Tagore and cinema in memory of the great soul, who was just sixty years older to Ray and impacted the filmmaker too. Ray had a year-long sojourn in Santiniketan during his youth.
Eulogising Rabindrasangeet and its lyrics is an essay by Professor Fakrul Alam on Tagore. Professor Alam has translated number of his songs for the essay as he has, a powerful poem from Bengali by Masud Khan. A transcreation of Tagore’s first birthday poem , a wonderful translation of Balochi poetry by Fazal Baloch of Munir Momin’s verses, another one from Korean by Ihlwha Choi rounds up the translated poetry in this edition. Stories that reach out with their poignant telling include Nadir Ali’s narrative, translated from Punjabi by his daughter, Amna Ali, and Aruna Chakravarti’s translation of a short story by Tagore. We have more stories from around the world with Julian Gallo exploring addiction, Abdullah Rayhan with a poignant narrative from Bangladesh, Sreelekha Chatterjee with a short funny tale and Paul Mirabile exploring the supernatural and horror, a sequel to ‘The Book Hunter‘, published in the April issue.
All the genres we host seem to be topped with a sprinkling of pieces on Tagore as this is his birth month. A book excerpt from Chakravarti’s Daughters of Jorasanko narrates her well-researched version of Tagore’s last birthday celebration and carries her translation of the last birthday song by the giant of Bengali literature. The other book excerpt is from Bhubaneswar@75 – Perspectives, edited by Bhaskar Parichha/ Charudutta Panigrahi. Parichha has also reviewed Journey After Midnight – A Punjabi Life: From India to Canada by Ujjal Dosanjh, a book that starts in pre-independent India and travels with the writer to Canada via UK. Again to commemorate the maestro’s birth anniversary, Meenakshi Malhotra has revisited Radha Chakravarty’s translation of Tagore’s Farewell Song. Somdatta Mandal has critiqued KR Meera’s Jezebel, translated from Malayalam by Abhirami Girija Sriram and K. S. Bijukuma. Lakshmi Kannan has introduced to us Jaydeep Sarangi’s collection of poems, letters in lower case.
There are pieces that still reach out to be mentioned. Do visit our content page for May. I would like to thank Sohana Manzoor for her fantastic artwork and continued editorial support for the Tagore translations and the whole team for helping me put together this issue. Thank you. A huge thanks to our loyal readers and contributors who continue to bring in vibrant content, photography and artwork. Without you all, we would not be where we are today.
Wish you a lovely month.