The Thrice Born

Commemorating fifty years of Bangladesh which struggled for the right to freedom from oppression and succeeded finally on 16th December, 1971

Landscape in Bengal. Painting by Sohana Manzoor

Bengal went through three Partitions, the final one being in 1971, when Bangladesh came to be its own entity. The first Partition of Bengal was in 1905, when Lord Curzon sliced it along the lines of faith, which as Ratnottama Sengupta points out in her musing was the result of the colonial policy of divide and rule implemented along religious lines for earlier when Hindus and Muslims had combined forces against colonials, it took a year to quell the revolt of 1857. Due to opposition from many, including Tagore, the colonials were forced to revoke the Partition in 1911.

In 1947, the subcontinent was again divided along religious lines. So, technically, there was Pakistan and India. Pakistan included East (Bengal) and West. As Fakrul Alam tells us in his essay, the Bengalis resented the imposition of Urdu by Pakistan. After a struggle of three decades, and a war in which India supported East Pakistan and America supported West Pakistan, Bangladesh gained complete independence in 1971 with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of the country, at its helm.

We present to you a glimpse of this part of history as told by various contributors on our forum.


Professor Fakrul Alam, the translator of Bongobondhu (friend of Bengal) Mujibur Rahman’s autobiography, to takes us on a journey to the inception of Bangladesh and beyond. Click here to read the interview.


Poetry & Prose of Nazrul extolls the union of all faiths. Known as the ‘rebel’, now the national poet of Bangladesh, he has been translated by Fakrul Alam, Sohana Manzoor and Shahriyer Hossain Shetu. Click here to read.


The Birth of Bangladesh & the University of Dhaka

Professor Fakrul Alam takes us through the three Partitions of Bengal which ultimately led to the creation of Bangladesh, with focus on the role of Dhaka University. Click here to read.

Joy Bangla: Memories of 1971

Ratnottama Sengupta recaptures vignettes from her past, from across the border where the same language was spoken, some in voices of refugees from East Pakistan to India. Click here to read.

The Voice that Sings Hope through Suffering…

Rakibul Hasan Khan pays a tribute with a twist to a recently deceased Bangladeshi writer, Hasan Azizul Huq, a writer who wrote of the Partition victims. Click here to read.

Golden Bangladesh at 50: Book Review by Aruna Chakravarti

Aruna Chakravarti reviews Golden Bangladesh at 50: Contemporary Stories & Poems edited by Shazia Omar, bringing to focus the Partition between 1905-1911. She also explains the story of the creation of Aamar Shonar Bangla (My Golden Bengal, the Bangladesh National Anthem) by Tagore around this period. Click here to read.

Flash Fiction: In Search of a New Home

Marzia Rahman shares a short narrative about refugees in Bangladesh. Click here to read.

House of the Dead

Sohana Manzoor gives us a glimpse of contemporary Bangladesh in a poignant short story. Click here to read.


Towards a Brave New World

Painting by Sohana Manzoor

With Christmas at our heels and the world waking up slowly from a pandemic that will hopefully become an endemic as the Omicron seems to fizzle towards a common cold, we look forward to a new year and a new world. Perhaps, our society will evolve to become one where differences are accepted as variety just as we are fine with the fact that December can be warm or cold depending on the geography of the place. People will be welcomed even if of different colours and creed. The commonality of belonging to the same species will override all other disparities…

While we have had exciting developments this year and civilians have moved beyond the Earth — we do have a piece on that by Candice Louisa Daquin — within the planet, we have become more aware of the inequalities that exist. We are aware of the politics that seems to surround even a simple thing like a vaccine for the pandemic. However, these two years dominated by the virus has shown us one thing — if we do not rise above petty greed and create a world where healthcare and basic needs are met for all, we will suffer. As my nearly eighty-year-old aunt confided, even if one person has Covid in a remote corner of the world, it will spread to all of us. The virus sees no boundaries. This pandemic was just a start. There might be more outbreaks like this in the future as the rapacious continue to exploit deeper into the wilderness to accommodate our growing greed, not need. With the onset of warmer climates — global warming and climate change are realities — what can we look forward to as our future?

Que sera sera — what will be, will be. Though a bit of that attitude is necessary, we have become more aware and connected. We can at least visualise changes towards a more egalitarian and just world, to prevent what happened in the past. It would be wonderful if we could act based on the truth learnt from history rather than to overlook or rewrite it from the perspective of the victor and use that experience to benefit our homes, planet and all living things, great and small.  In tune with our quest towards a better world, we have an interview with an academic, Sanjay Kumar, founder of a group called Pandies, who use theatre to connect the world of haves with have-nots. What impressed me most was that they have actually put refugees and migrant workers on stage with their stories. They even managed to land in Kashmir and work with children from war-torn zones. They have travelled and travelled into different dimensions in quest of a better world. Travelling is what our other interviewee did too — with a cat who holds three passports. CJ Fentiman, author of The Cat with Three Passports, has been interviewed by Keith Lyons, who has reviewed her book too.

This time we have the eminent Aruna Chakravarti review Devika Khanna Narula’s Beyond the Veils, a retelling of the author’s family history. Perhaps, history has been the common thread in our reviews this time. Rakhi Dalal has reviewed Anirudh Kala’s Two and a Half Rivers, a fiction that focusses on the Sikh issues in 1980s India from a Dalit perspective. It brought to my mind a family saga I had been recently re-reading, Alex Haley’s Roots, which showcased the whole American Revolution from the perspective of slaves brought over from Africa. Did the new laws change the fates of the slaves or Dalits? To an extent, it did but the rest as fact and fiction showcase were in the hands that belonged to the newly freed people. To enable people to step out of the cycle of poverty, the right attitudes towards growth and the ability to accept the subsequent changes is a felt need. That is perhaps where organisations like Pandies step in.  Another non-fiction which highlights history around the same period and place as Kala’s novel is BP Pande’s In the Service of Free India –Memoirs of a Civil Servant. Reviewed by Bhaskar Parichha, the book explores the darker nuances of human history filled with violence and intolerance.

That violence is intricately linked to power politics has been showcased often. But, what would be really amazing to see would be how we could get out of the cycle as a society. With gun violence being an accepted norm in one of the largest democracies of the world, perhaps we need to listen to the voice of wisdom found in the fiction by Steve Davidson who meets perhaps a ghost in Hong Kong. Musing over the ghost’s words, the past catches up in Sunil Sharma’s story, ‘Walls’. Sharma has also given us a slice from his life in Canada with its colours, vibrancy and photographs of the fall. As he emigrated to Canada, we read of immigrants in Marzia Rahman’s touching narrative. She has opted to go with the less privileged just as Lakshmi Kannan has opted to go with the privileged in her story.

Sharma observes, while we find the opulence of nature thrive in places people inhabit in  Canada, it is not so in Asia. I wonder why? Why are Asian cities crowded and polluted? There was a time when Los Angeles and London suffered smogs. Has that shifted now as factories relocated to Asia, generating wealth in currency but taking away from nature’s opulence of fresh, clean air as more flock into crowded cities looking for sustenance?

Humour is introduced into the short story section with Sohana Manzoor’s hilarious rendering of her driving lessons in America, lessons given to foreigners by migrants. Rhys Hughes makes for  more humour with a really hilarious rendition of men in tea cosies missing their…I  think ‘Trouser Hermit’ will tell you the rest. He has perhaps more sober poetry which though imaginative does not make you laugh as much as his prose. Michael Burch has shared some beautiful poetry perpetuating the calmer nuances of a deeply felt love and affection. George Freek, Anasuya Bhar, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Dibyajyoti Sarma have all given us wonderful poetry along with many others. One could write an essay on each poem – but as we are short shrift for time, we move on to travel sagas from hiking in Australia and hobnobbing with kangaroos to renovated palaces in Bengal.

We have also travelled with our book excerpts this time. Suzanne Kamata’s The Baseball Widow shuttles between US and Japan and Somdatta Mandal’s translation of  A Bengali lady in England by Krishnabhabi Das, actually has the lady relocate to nineteenth century England and assume the dress and mannerisms of the West to write an eye-opener for her compatriots about the customs of the colonials in their own country.

While mostly we hear of sad stories related to marriages, we have a sunny one in which Alpana finds much in a marriage that runs well with wisdom learnt from Kung Fu Panda.  Devraj Singh Kalsi has given us a philosophical piece with his characteristic touch of irony laced with humour on statues. If you are wondering what he could have to say, have a read.

In Nature’s Musings, Penny Wilkes has offered us prose and wonderful photographs of the last vestiges of autumn. As the season hovers between summer and winter, geographical boundaries too can get blurred at times. A nostalgic recap given by Ratnottama Sengupta along the borders of Bengal, which though still crossed by elephants freely in jungles (wild elephants do not need visas, I guess), gained an independence from the harshness of cultural hegemony on December 16th, 1971. Candice Louisa Daquin has also looked at grey zones that lie between sanity and insanity in her column. An essay which links East and West has been given to us by Rakibul Hasan about a poet who mingles the two in his poetry. A Bengali song by Tagore, Purano shei diner kotha,  that is almost a perfect trans creation of Robert Burn’s Scottish Auld Lang Syne in the spirit of welcoming the New Year, has been transcreated to English. The similarity in the content of the two greats’ lyrics showcase the commonalities of love, friendship and warmth that unite all cultures into one humanity.

Our first translation from Uzbekistan – a story by Sherzod Artikov, translated from Uzbeki by Nigora Mukhammad — gives a glimpse of a culture that might be new to many of us. Akbar Barakzai’s shorter poems, translated by Fazal Baloch from Balochi and Ratnottama Sengupta’s transcreation of a Tagore song, Rangiye Die Jao, have added richness to our oeuvre along with  one from Korean by Ihlwha Choi. Professor Fakrul Alam, who is well-known for his translation of poetry by Jibonanda Das, has started sharing his work on the Bengali poet with us. Pause by and take a look.

There is much more than what I can put down here as we have a bumper end of the year issue this December. There is a bit of something for all times, tastes and seasons.

I would like to thank my wonderful team for helping put together this issue. Sohana Manzoor and Sybil Pretious need double thanks for their lovely artwork that is showcased in our magazine. We are privileged to have committed readers, some of who have started contributing to our content too. A huge thanks to all our contributors and readers for being with us through our journey.

I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful transition into the New Year! May we open up to a fantastic brave, new world!

Mitali Chakravarty

Borderless Journal


In Search of a New Home

By Marzia Rahman

Refugees: Courtesy: Creative Commons

Migration is tough, littered with blank memories and a bleak future. It’s not something you ever hope to do.

Yet, you find yourself standing in a long queue, with a tiny bundle in hand, despairing to do or not to do? Fleeing a country that you naively thought yours. Stepping on a country that you know nothing about. That would never accept you as her own. Non-belonging is not a breezy concept, a topical topic in a critical theory. It’s an unnerving parable of human condition that no human ever yearns for.

You shudder, clasping the tiny bundle, containing your entire household, your sixteen years of life. Behind you, in a burnt house of a burnt village, your parents, your old grandmother and your two young siblings buried under the ideological beliefs of the state. Too complicated to grasp. Too easy to elude. “They don’t want you”— a clear and loud message the government sent to your people through army, arson, and atrocity.

Where is God? Your silly query swirls in the smoky air of a plundered village where dead people shrouded beneath dead humanity.

Tears fall on the tiny bundle, too small to carry so much misery. How can you leave your home where every dusty road is filled with memories, stories and songs? Where once a young man presented you a handwritten poem and a lotus flower. Where is he now? Dead or alive? Will he search for you?

The long queue gets smaller, some move forward, a few cries looking back at the village while boarding the boat.

Your turn.

They ask for money.

A gold chain, a few coins, a nose pin?

You have none.

Yet, the duo, one boatman and a middleman let you in. They have other means to usurp the debt. 

You are crammed between a family with five children, an old woman with acne and a little boy with a broken toy. There are others, men, women, children—your people—hunched and twisted in a small, shabby boat in silence.

Hours after hours, you travel in an opaque night under a livid moon. The endless sea stretches endlessly. What is the name of the sea? No one knows. Your people are poor farmers, illiterate housewives. None of you have ever read history, geography or geology. Ever stood in front of the Taj Mahal or saw any of the seven wonders. You have no idea of its existence. How would you know the glow of the sea is called sea sparkle? How would you grasp that it’s not magic but the phosphorescent waves lighting up the night?

Soon, you and your people would reach a new place. A new country with fresh troubles. Maybe, a new hell. Yet, each of you pray earnestly to reach there safely and soundly. You have no desire to be part of the global headlines. To be found lying face-down on some unknown beach. 

All you want is a new home. To build new dreams.


Marzia Rahman
 is a Bangladeshi writer. Her writings have appeared in several print and online journals. She is currently working on a novella. She is also a painter.
This story was first featured in the Writing Places Anthology.




Odysseus & Me: A Quest for Home

 By Marzia Rahman

You once thought naively, oh no, not naively, but foolishly that the hardest thing to do was to sever the ties. To uproot. You did not know the true meaning of uproot back then. Or what it meant to sever the ties. You only wanted to leave your home. Your town. Your mother. Or maybe, you were just being a teenager with an insatiable thirst for freedom.


The mornings were the worst, gray and interminable, and you fought a lot with your mother. And at nights, you stayed awake. You imagined yourself as a princess, trapped in a palace waiting for a prince or maybe a demon to release you. You pretended to be a solitary prisoner some days, whose date of execution had been announced, but all she cared for was looking out of her cell window at a clear blue sky where a lone bird flied up, up, above until it turned into a dot. 


You thought you didn’t belong in that small town with half-finished buildings and mud houses that had faded and where people, too, had faded, and looked more like the forgotten characters of a history book. You wanted to run away from that godforsaken place. You knew there was a world out there, bright and shining, living and breathing, bursting with cafes and restaurants, salons and boutiques and with freedom sprinkled in the air.        


And then, one day you did walk out of your home and stepped into the new world. This new world—how much did you know about it? Was it a kind place? Sane and sympathetic? Or was it more crowded and chaotic than your old hometown? Could you read it the way you read the palms of your town? Did you know the name of the streets or the people of this city, the colour of its sky, the trees, the birds, the lyrics, the signs and the symbols?

No. You knew nothing.

You thought that you’d learn to navigate the roads, the twisting alleys and gullies, the hundreds of shops and days and nights. You thought you would slowly and gradually adopt to the new life of this new world. But it would take time, perhaps months and years. And in all those months and years, you’d peek into your old world sometimes just to see how things were! But you would not gaze at it for long, or you might miss it. Because you could never sever the ties forever. Forever is such a tricky adverb, an unsure word. But you did not know it back then.

You thought once you entered the city,  you would forget all about your past life, the white walls of your house, your mother’s sewing machine, the poems, the songs and the rainy nights. You thought it was fine to lose some memories, a few books of classics and the old school diaries. You wanted to build new memories, new friends.

You worked two jobs, one full time, one part-time. You cut your hair, painted your toenails, ate yogurts, made ginger tea and sang new songs. You thought you were content, and no memories of the past would ever come muttering after you in a soft November night when you were cooped up in your room, alone. You thought you would never wake up in the middle of the night to the pitter patter rain pouring outside and your heart would not ache for the starry night sky you used to watch, lying next to your grandmother on her cot in the open courtyard of your home. 

But you were wrong.


You were wrong to presume that you could erase the past. That you would never feel the urge to go back to your town. And you realised it when your little brother, a grown up now, showed up at your door one rainy morning. You never thought one single knock would usher so many memories of yesteryears; and made you ache for the home you left years ago.


When you decided to go back to your old town, you remembered how you’d once thought naively, oh not naively, but foolishly that the hardest thing to do was to cut the ties. When it was tying the cords that seemed to be much harder, a colossal task. Was it even possible to go back? You felt the pain that Odysseus must have felt. The quandary the great hero was in! You grasped why he though spent a lifetime at war, but found the biggest struggle was finding his way back home?


You were the new Odysseus, puzzled, lost. What if the house, where the bougainvillea bloomed on the roof in white, pink and yellow all the year round and a cat often came to sit, wagging its tail, in the wide courtyard failed to recognise you? What if your family had already filled the vacuum? They would be no longer willing to open an old wound.  

You boarded the bus, packed with people and your fears and a throbbing heart on a sunny morning in late June. And when the bus dropped you onto a dusty road of your old town in the afternoon, you were surprised to find yourself surrounded by a sea of green. The leaves of the trees on both sides of the road rustled and murmured, and the scent of some wildflowers wafted in the air and you wondered: Do you walk ahead? Or wait for a return bus? Go back to the city?

The dust beneath your feet twirled and swirled, and you bit your nails and looked at the sky, filled with clouds and your doubts. You stepped off the main road and walked down to a muddy field, flanked by bamboo and coconut trees. You suddenly remembered there was a short-cut path snaking through the bamboo groves and coconut trees. And you realised that you found your freedom, you needed to find your home now.


Marzia Rahman is a Bangladeshi writer. Her writings have appeared in several print and online journals. She is currently working on a novella. She is also a painter.