Meet Barun Chanda, an actor who started his career as the lead protagonist of a Satyajit Ray film and now is a bi-lingual writer of fiction and more recently, a non-fiction published by Om Books International,Satyajit Ray:The Man Who Knew Too Much in conversation Click here to read.
Jim Goodman, an American traveler, author, ethnologist and photographer who has spent the last half-century in Asia, converses with Keith Lyons. Click here to read.
“Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too…”
— John Keats (1795-1851), To Autumn
For long writers have associated autumn with “mellow wistfulness”. That loss of spring, or loss of youth is not bleak or regretful has been captured not just by Keats but also been borne out by historical facts. Anthropocene existence only get better as the human race evolves … If we view our world as moving towards an autumn, we perhaps, as Keats suggests, need to find the new “music” for it. A music that is ripe and matures with the passage of time to the point that it moves more towards perfection. Though sometimes lives fade away after autumn gives way to winter as did those of Queen Elizabeth II (April 21st 1926 – September 8th 2022) after a reign of seventy historic years and Mikhail Gorbachev (2nd March 1931 – 30thAugust 2022) with his admirable efforts to bridge divides. Both of them have left footprints that could be eternalised if voices echo in harmony. Thoughts which create bonds never die – they live on in your hearts and mine.
Imagine… ten thousand years ago, were we better off? Recorded history shows that the first war had already been fought 13,000 years ago. And they have continued to rage – but, at least, unlike the indomitable Gauls in Asterix comics – not all jumped into the fray. They did during the last World Wars — which also led to attempts towards institutionalising humanitarian concerns and non-alignment. Yes, we have not had a perfect world as yet but as we age, the earth matures and we will, hopefully, move towards better times as we evolve. Climate change had happened earlier too. At a point, Sahara was green. Continental shifts split Pangaea into seven continents – that was even earlier. That might have driven the dinosaurs to extinction. But I am sure mankind will find a way out of the terror of climate change and wars over a period of time, as long as we believe in deciphering the sounds of autumn as did Keats in his poem.
Tagore had also sung of the joys of autumn which happens to be a time for festivities. Professor Fakrul Alam has translated three such songs, reflecting the joie de vivre of the season, The translation of a small poem, Eshecche Sarat, brings the beauty of the season in Bengal to the fore. We have a celebration of youth and romance in a Balochi folksong, an anti-thesis to autumn and aging, translated for us by Fazal Baloch and also, poetic prose in quest of God and justice by Haneef Sharif, translated from Balochi by Mashreen Hameed. Lost romance recapitulated makes interesting poetry is borne out by Ihlwha Choi’s translation of his own poem from Korean. But the topping in our translation section is a story called ‘Nagmati’ by eminent Bengali writer, Prafulla Roy, translated by no less than a Sahitya Akademi winning translator – Aruna Chakravarti. This story illustrates how terrifying youthful follies can lead to the end of many young lives, a powerful narrative about the snake worshipping community of Bedeynis that highlights destruction due to youthful lusts and an inability to accept diverse cultures.
When this cultural acceptance becomes a part of our being, it creates bonds which transcend manmade borders as did the films of Satyajit Ray. His mingling was so effective that his work made it to the zenith of an international cinematic scenario so much so that Audrey Hepburn, while receiving the Oscar on his behalf, said: “Dear Satyajit Ray. I am proud and privileged to have been allowed to represent our industry in paying tribute to you as an artist and as a man. For everything you represent I send you my gratitude and love.”
This and more has been revealed to us in a book,Satyajit Ray: The Man Who Knew Too Much, authored by a protagonist from Ray’s film, Barun Chanda. This book brought out by Om Books International reflects not just Ray as a person but also how he knitted the world together with his films and took the Indian film industry to an international level. Barun Chanda has been interviewed with a focus on Satyajit Ray. Keith Lyons has also interviewed a man who has defied all norms and, in the autumn of his life, continues his journey while weaving together cultures across, China, India and Thailand by his ethnographic studies on tribes, Jim Goodman. Goodman says he left America when speaking for a war-free world became a cause for censorship. This makes one wonder if war is a game played for supporting a small minority of people who rule the roost? Or are these ramblings of a Coleridge writing ‘Kubla Khan’ under the influence of narcotics?
Poetry also brings the season into our pages with an autumnal interpretation of life from Michael Burch. More poetry from Sunil Sharma, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Gayatri Majumdar, George Freek, Ron Pickett, Sutputra Radheye, Marianne Tefft brings a wide range of concerns to our pages – from climate to the vagaries of human nature. Poetry by an Albanian writer, Irma Kurti, and photographs by her Italian spouse, Biagio Fortini, blend together the colours of humanity. Rhys Hughes as usual, makes it to the realm of absurd – perhaps voicing much in his poetry, especially about the environment and human nature, though he talks of woodpeckers on Noah’s ark (were there any?) and of cows, yetis, monkeys and cakes… He has also given us a hilarious cat narrative for his column. Can that be called magic realism too? Or are the edges too abstract?
A leader who quested for freedom and roamed the world after being passed over by the Congress in favour of Nehru, Netaji raised an army of women who were trained in Singapore – not a small feat in the first half of the twentieth century anywhere in the world. His death in an air crash remained an unsolved mystery — another one of those controversies which raged through the century like the Bhawal case. In his review, Parichha spells out: “Aiming to bring an end to the controversies and conspiracy theories surrounding the freedom fighter, the over 300-page book gives a detailed and evidence-based account of his death in one of its chapters.”
Our non-fiction also hosts humour from Devraj Singh Kalsi about his interactions with birds and, on the other hand, a very poignant poetic-prose by Mike Smith reflecting on the vagaries of autumn. From Japan, Suzanne Kamata takes us to the Rabbit Island – and murmurings of war and weapons. We have the strangest story about a set of people who are happy to be ruled by foreign settlers – we would term them colonials – from Meredith Stephens. G Venkatesh delights with a story of love and discovery in Korea, where he had gone in pre-pandemic times. Paul Mirabile travels to Turkey to rediscover a writer, Sait Faik Abasiyanik (1906-1954). And Ravi Shankar gives us an emotional story about his trek in the Himalayas in Nepal with a friend who has passed on. Candice Louisa Daquin has written of the possibilities towards integrating those who are seen as minorities and marginalised into the mainstream.
The edition this time is like Autumn – multi-coloured. Though I am not able to do justice to all our contributors by mentioning them here, my heartfelt thanks to each as every piece only enriches our journal. I urge you to take a look at the September edition.
I would like to give huge thanks to our readers and our team too, especially Sohana Manzoor and Sybil Pretious for their artwork. We could not have come this far without support from all of you.
 The men in the indomitable Gaulish village (which the Romans failed to conquer) in times of Julius Caesar loved to jump into a fight for no reason…Asterix was the protagonist of the comics along with his fat friend Obelix
By Haneef Sharif, translated from Balochi by Mashreen Hameed
From the world,
silence… intense silence.
I am somewhere between the better and the best in this world. Safe and sound. Breathing. Every morning, I had walked to my job and the evening breeze had wafted me back home. Drifting like this, many times I pondered over penning down a letter to you but was held back…. lack of address ….my own fears…. dread of time…. Therefore, I never quite made up my mind to complete the task.
My Lord! Today I am feeling very dispirited. I have been expelled by the head of the post office from my job. He said, I happen to deliver the letters, orders, registry and parcels on wrong addresses. The recipients receive the wrong mail. He states, for three months I kept reiterating these mistakes.
I had never envisioned this situation.
Giving it some thought, I concluded that this is all because I did not write a letter to you. Thus, today, I am writing to you.
I apologise in advance for any errors in my penning.
The crucial thing is — My Lord! Tonight, is curtained by stillness, the fire is inhaling its final breath. After the fire dies, I remain with taciturnity alone at home. Whosoever obtains more power than others, will press them down, and you know well who is more powerful than me and who….
God Almighty! To say worthily, I love you a lot and very much —
like toys kept on carts,
like whirlwinds on mosques,
like ash that clings tired on jammed wheels,
like wandering cows on streets,
like the daughters of neighbours…
Almighty God! I love you limitlessly. I don’t know how to convince your ears about my profound affections. I love everything about you, I stoop to your every word, and your every creation is beyond examples, wordless and irreplaceable.
But my Lord! This is also true that you left nothing but confusion in this world, everywhere inconclusiveness, lack of fulfilment, no ins and outs but all the edges of incompletion.
My Lord, who are you? What are you?
The pouring light of lamp igniting before the home of Khuda Baksh, I wonder are you
the tyre-prints of police cars,
the pay-day for teachers,
the rock on the pavement of road,
or the first daily paper each morning?
Who are you? Where are you? In the skies…
No, I cannot admit this, how come my friend, my companion is so far? My Lord is not cruel. He is alone, childfree, poor, miserable like me… stricken by hunger, and knows that the most powerful thing in the world is hunger… hunger… ufff…. I cannot explain. But My Lord, what do you think, is the most powerful among your creations —
drug filled cigarettes,
leftovers of bread,
a cold, collapsed lonely road,
sunsets in summers,
or relics of autumn leaves?
As per my heart, these all are powerful, frightening, but tempting.
What do you say my lord?
What is your point of view?
Do you know one more thing Almighty God, you made abundant useless things in your world; they are meaningless, unimportant, but absurdly you are accountable for creating them.
Lord Almighty! Don’t you realise some surplus things remain unnoticed when you look at the world, like —
school going children in the morning,
busloads of travelers to cities,
‘wedlocks’ in marriages,
ventilators of bathrooms,
and traffic police on roads.
My lord!! These all are complaints, all protests. These are our grievances echoing before you.
We are wretched, distressed, dead hearted. Other people are engulfing us. We are being thrown out of the world. Lord, my heart has become the residence of hatred, enmity and envy; I feel jealous of everyone. I suffer in anguish. I am changing into a devil, converting to wickedness. In spite of all these, I am amazed to discover that, My Lord, I love you a lot, in fact, very, very much –
like a healthy fish,
like the last drop of wine,
like a full plate of curry,
like a room filled with water,
God Almighty! There is nothing more vital to pen down except, the fire is dead now. My stomach is screaming, hunger creeps, cold extends, surfeits, magnifies and I am…
My best regards to all.
And… actually…. I am handing over this letter to the breeze; I hope you will receive it.
Everything is pretty well.
(This story was first published in Balochi in Teeran Dask, a collection of stories by Haneef Sharif and is being published in translation with permission from the author and the Balochistan Academy of Literature and Research, Turbat.)
Haneef Sharif, born on December 25, 1976, is a well-recognised author, filmmaker, YouTuber, photographer and script writer. He completed his basic education in Turbat, Balochistan, and received his MBBS degree from Bolan Medical College, Quetta, in 2003. He currently lives in Germany. He has published a novel, Chegerd Poll enth ( The Chegerd Tree is blossoming), and a number of short stories in Balochi. Some of his short stories have been published in 3 collections: Shapa ke Hour Gwareth ( The Night When It Rains), Teeran Dask ( Teeran Dask) and Haneefnaam ( Hey you Haneef). He has also directed four films in Balochi. He also runs a YouTube channel Radio Balochistan where he publishes videos, short stories, interviews and lectures on miscellaneous subjects.
Mashreen Hameed is a fresh graduate of University of Turbat with a Masters’ degree in English literature. She is a writes fiction, poetry and translates from Balochi and English.
PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL