Categories
Editorial

Dreams That Flow…

‘We are such stuff as dreams are made on…’

Shakespeare, Tempest, Act 4, Sc 1

Long ago, I had a dream… a dream where I was the sole player.

The dream changed to become more inclusive with the passage of time. It moved to create a new reality which was more fascinating than any other I could imagine. And you have all become a part of that reality for me — even though we all remain connected only in the virtual world — in a universe that links us seamlessly — in the reality created by Borderless Journal. Borderless has woven narratives together from all corners of the world and recorded a time which is in itself unique, not just because all time is, as Eliot says, unredeemable but also because the last six months have been one of an unmitigated battle to survive as a species against a virus that not only created a pandemic but mutates to infect more of mankind.

Today Borderless Journal completes six months of virtual existence. We started our journey on March 14, 2020, when the coronal heat had just started to scorch more of mankind. We started the journal with the hope of providing a space that would rise above all borders of politics, faith business to create a region to help move towards a positive mindset, above marginalised or divisive thought processes. We did not think of being unified by a pandemic! But by ideas.

And so many ideas were generated by writers through this year of travail for humankind, some related to the pandemic and some on other issues. Beautiful pieces emerged and helped Borderless become everyone’s journal — just as we all had dreamt.

When Borderless turned three months, we announced it would be a monthly. At six months, I want to add more to the journal by announcing two columnists — skilled acclaimed writers who have agreed to contribute on a monthly basis. Sunil Sharma starts a fiction column with us with a gripping story set in Mumbai — a narrative that leads you to uncover strange unknown secrets. Devraj Singh Kalsi starts a musing column with us with a funny nostalgic telling about his encounter with snakes and their charmers in his own home, which covers the theme I had set for this month — nostalgia and humour. Do not miss out on our two columnists this month.

The other story that will be published on a monthly basis are the Ghumi stories. Ghumi is an imaginary place created by the author, Nabanita Sengupta. She has six of them and each month, you can look forward to one. This month she shares with us a piece of nostalgia from 1984 — the riots around the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Another story by Bhavana Kunkalikar, an upcoming writer, covers a darker bit of history set during the 2008 terror attack at Mumbai. A senior journalist, Shevlin Sebastian, gives us another gripping read against violent and unsympathetic nature — a powerful read that assures if man can survive such violence, the virulence of the pandemic is just another episode in human history. Through all these stories we see the ascendancy of the human spirit which helps mankind cope with distress.

We have a lighter flavourful, nostalgic piece by Debraj Mookerjee on his trips into rural Bengal and another on the syncretic lore of Lucknow, the Lucknawi tehzeeb, brought to us by the founder of Bookosmia, Nidhi Mishra. And we have her and Archana Mohan to thank for not just Sara’s Selections but another thought generating musing by fifteen-year-old Shivam who concludes that “we all have to live together and in harmony”, inspiring divisive adults to unite under the banner of humankind. Bookosmia deserves kudos for giving us a huge access to the magical and imaginative kingdom of youngsters, which often has more wisdom than the adult realm. In our urge to simplify by classification, we forget that is pretty much what the Big Endians and Little Endians did in Gulliver’s Travels.

We have poetry from different parts of the world that is intense, some nostalgic, humorous and even, limericks. And we have our first poem from Korea by Dr Wansoo Kim, overriding the barriers that split the country in two after the second World War along the 38th parallel, pretty much around the time the Indian Subcontinent was split too. In Korea’s case it was ideologies based on ‘isms’ and in India’s case it was ‘religion’.

That Dustin Pickering brought out some of our pieces in his esteemed quarterly, Harbinger Asylum, in hard copy, is something that I feel very grateful for. I hope you have all got your copies of the quarterly. He has also generously contributed a literary essay trying to convince all of us that James Joyce is the writer of the hour. And we have Sekhar Banerjee talking of Lawrence’s utopia, Rananim – an interesting read, both essayists pleading for two different schools of thought being perfect for comprehending this age of dissonance! Interestingly Lawrence was born on 9/11, the day the New York towers tumbled taking millions of victims’ lives in a horrific , devastating attack of terror. While pieces touched on various dark issues even with the theme of nostalgia, none touched on this historic act of annihilation which changed the way we live and think. I wonder why? And we have another interesting essay on cozy novels by freelancer Soma Das, who finds these to be the most cathartic reads during the pandemic. An interesting bundle of essays!

This month we also carry an interview with the founder of an Albanian journal that tries to create a borderless world through poetry, Atunis Galaxy Poetry. The founder is none other than the gifted and established litterateur, Agron Shele, who kindly gave us some time.

Book reviews by Bhaskar Parichha, Meenakshi Malhotra, Rakhi Dalal and translations from various languages — Bengali, Marathi and Nepali — add to the colours of our oeuvre. We have a translation of a poignant Bengali story by the former Art’s Editor of The Times of India, Ratnottama Sengupta. I would list this one too as a must read.

There is always the mysterious more that I leave unmentioned to goad you on to explore our pages further. For, it is ultimately why we write — to be read. That is why I can never thank our readers enough for patronising us. I hope you all continue to find our journal interesting and gripping. Write to us if you feel we need to something different.

Have a fabulous journey through the September issue of Borderless Journal!

Thank you all for being a part of this fabulous dream.

Happiness and sunshine to all of you!

Mitali Chakravarty

Categories
Humour

Limericks: Of Donkeys & Corona

This section is dedicated to the memory of the Edward Lear (I812-1888) who laughed away life’s trials with nonsense verse and limericks.

The great erstwhile litterateur Edward Lear

Popularised laughter and not a single tear

He wrote fun rhymes

And drew out his times

His verses give joy and bring good cheer

— MC

There was a donkey who loved to bray. 

When they asked him why do you bray, pray ?

The mule obstinate 

His teeth did grate 

And with a vengeance started to bray

—SB

This donkey one day fell in love.

He fell and he fell and how ! 

The besotted one 

Now wanted to run 

From this vicious virus of love

—SB

I am Jennet said the dame/ 

My love for you I will loudly proclaim 

from the rooftops. 

To hell with the cops ! 

Said Jennet, eyes with love aflame !

—SB

There was a superstitious man from Surrey

Who was extremely prone to worry

When he heard a donkey bray

It rather spoilt his day 

And made him quite swallow his fish curry.

— MM

There was a donkey who loved Ovid

His songs warded off the Covid

Each time he brayed

The virus prayed —

Stop that noise or I’ll die atrophied. 

–MC

The donkeys danced on the road braying

The cows sat chewing, meditating, praying,

The traffic jammed

The horns rammed

Corona from the confusion fled fraying.

—MC

Index of names:

SB: Santosh Bakaya

MM: Meenakshi Malhotra

MC: Mitali Chakravarty

.

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

Categories
Editorial

Changes & Laughter

“Come, faeries, take me out of this dull house!

Let me have all the freedom I have lost…”

—William Butler Yeats, The Land of Heart’s Desire, 1894

Words from more than a century old play which could well voice the mood of 2020, the year that will go down in history as of a pandemic that not only connected the world but demanded a change in our way of life, perhaps even suggesting we evolve a new way of living. August is also always a happening month, heralding, at times, demanding changes — of season, of historic events that altered our way of life and thought. We tried to capture a whiff of this spirit in this month’s issue of Borderless Journal along with humour, another mood-changing, fay figment that breathes hope.

We start with the commemoration of an event which lasted a short time but changed the world forever — the seventy fifth anniversary of the Nuclear holocaust that ripped through the twentieth century, on 6th August 1945 at Hiroshima, Japan. It ended the Second World War and a way of life. The impact continues to stagger as we read in the interview with Kathleen Burkinshaw, the author of The Last Cherry Blossom and a survivor’s or hibakusha’s daughter. Archana Mohan reviewed her book for us. The book focuses on the story of Burkinshaw’s mother before and after the bomb blast. When I think of the staggered suffering of the survivors of the holocaust, the subsequent generations and the impact of that bomb on the world, I wonder if the coronal virus will change humanity and our world order in the same way. After all Bill Gates did say that future wars will not be with arms but against biological deviations.

The next and the last nuclear explosion during a war rocked Nagasaki three days later. On that date, 9 th August, two decades down the line, was born a nation that has become the gateway of all Asia to the rest of the world, Singapore. Celebrating Singapore’s 54 th birthday, Kaiyi Tan, a local author of dark fiction, takes us on a scintillating journey in quest of a new world beyond the reaches of a morose pandemic. Singapore, like America, gained its strength from immigrants. We have a thought-provoking piece from Pakistani immigrant author, Aysha Baqir. As she muses over this event , she gives a fleeting wistful glance towards another Independence Day on 14 th August, 1947, that of her home country, Pakistan, which was given a free reign just before India was born on 15 th August with a soulful, famous speech by the first Indian Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘Tryst with Destiny’ . In that speech, he said: “…A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends …” Are we at a similar point in history now — one wonders!

To jubilate India’s 74th Independence Day, we have a musing from Nishi Pulugurtha who pensively glances at present day India to pause and ponder over the future of the children growing up in these hard times. We have poetry around this, hovering around themes of war, refugees, partition and life as it is in Kashmir and Kolkata by established writers like Paresh Tiwari, Laksmisree Banerjee, Mosarrap Khan, Gopal Lahiri and youngster Ahmed Rayees.

From history, we move to humour, a much-desired commodity in the current cacophony of darkness. We start with fun poetry by Vatsala Radhakeesoon, Santosh Bakaya, Aditya Shankar, Dustin Pickering, Sunil Sharma and many more; move on to limericks, humorous stories and musings by a number of writers, including surprises from Sohana Manzoor and Devraj Singh Kalsi.

Then we have our usual variety of reviews, poetry and stories. We carry the protest poetry of Melissa Chappell which she wrote after protesting what she felt was flawed and wrong. Hat’s off to her courage — a true protest poet!

On our pages also is Meenakshi Malhotra’s review of a book which had been on the top ten of the best seller lists for ten weeks. Avik Chanda, the author of this historical narrative — Dara Shukoh: The Man who Would be King, was kind enough to do an essay for us rounding up the current outlook for jobs in India. We also had more essays by Dustin Pickering and Bhaskar Parichha.

Bookosmia, Nidhi Mishra and Archana Mohan have again kindly hosted a lovely young people’s selection for us as usual. For all the contributors I have mentioned, so many remain unnamed in my inadequate listing here. We have a fabulous collection awaiting readers, who are indispensable to our survival.

I would like to offer them a buffet of laughter and tears in Borderless Journal. A mixed oeuvre awaits their palate.

Best wishes,

Mitali Chakravarty,

Borderless Journal

Categories
Interview

Countercurrents: A People’s Journal

Binu Mathew, Founder and Editor of Countercurrents.org, in conversation with Mitali Chakravarty

Binu Mathew

Can you interview an online site?

You can’t. So, I did the next best thing. I interviewed Binu Mathew, the man behind the award-winning million readers a month or three million-page views a month online journal, Countercurrents. Mathew claims this is not a big thing except that his journal is based on ideology and openness. He calls it a “people’s journal” in his you tube interview.

He has also started a ‘People’s Manifesto‘, a campaign that will be released by August 15, 2020. He is asking people to give an alternative vision to the government for a post-COVID 19 India. Mathew grew up in a farm on Kerala and turned to journalism. He has talked of his life in an interview with John Scales Avery, a theoretical chemist who is a part of the Nobel Peace Prize winning Pugwash Conferences.

Mathew is a man who finds links and interlinks between major world issues from climate change, COVID to economics and politics. What impresses me most about Mathew is that while almost all writers and journalists see their journeys at an individual level, he completely identifies with his journal and lives by his ideology. Here in this exclusive, we have Mathew himself unravel his ideology.

You have been running Countercurrent.org for 18 years. Tell us how it was conceived and why?

 I was working as a journalist in Malayalam language news paper. It was a mundane job. Although the job gave me some financial security, it didn’t satisfy my intellectual curiosity. My desire to do something positive for the society kept nagging me. The job itself was a monotonous one, doing local beats and making local pages.

Some of my college mates and I had some discussions about starting an alternative weekly or monthly in Malayalam language. But the financial cost was huge, and it was beyond our capacity.

By the year 2000, internet infiltrated into our homes. There I chanced upon Znet, Electronic Intifada and many such fascinating websites. It was a revelation to me. Znet was a great source of left intellectual literature. Noam Chomsky, the rock star of intellectuals was free to read at the click of a mouse. In those days it was very expensive to buy books by Chomsky.  In other websites, I found people telling stories from Palestine and other conflict zones.

In around the same time, I read the book, When Corporations Rule The World by David Korten. It was an eye opener. I thought I had to do something more than doing the local beats for my paper. Internet gave me the opportunity to do this. I decided to start a website like Znet.

I had zero knowledge in computing language. So I joined a basic html course. I and some of our friends had a brain storming session and decided on the name “Countercurrents“. I took a loan from bank and bought a computer. It was a 20GB hard disc, 256 MB RAM computer. It cost me Rs 40,000 at 18% interest! I paid it back by monthly instalments from my salary.

It was also the time a pogrom in Gujarat against Muslims was going on, in which at least 2000 Muslims were killed. We decided to launch the site as soon as possible.

Artist Razi designed the site, Ajith Kumar B converted it into html. I translated an article from Malayalam by the well-known writer Sarah Joseph titled, “The Womb and the Sword”, on the attack on pregnant Muslim women in Gujarat, in some cases where the pregnant women’s belly was cut open and the foetuses were thrown into the fire. That’s how I became the editor of Countercurrents. It was on March 27, 2002 the first article was published. Since then more than fifty thousand articles have been published. Thousands of well-known and young people have written for CC. Some of them went on to become big journalists or activists.

Tell us about your team and what makes you tick?

I don’t have a team to speak of. Most of the editing work is done by me. There are people like K.P Sasi and Satya Sagar who help me with their intellectual inputs. There are also many other people who are part of the Countercurrents Collective who don’t like to be named. In that way, I’m very fortunate and extremely thankful to them.

What is the philosophy of Countercurrents?

Humanity is facing its greatest existential threat ever with climate change and resource depletion and environmental degradation. This is not a crisis waiting to happen in the future, but it is already here and manifests itself in the COVID-19 pandemic we are facing today. Many resources wars continue to rage in several parts of the world, rising food and fuel prices, growing hunger, natural calamities of horrifying proportions, water scarcity, debt crisis, unemployment, social tensions among communities, growing human rights violations and unprecedented ecological degradation. Unless we take urgent action to change the way we live, trashing our only home, this beautiful planet, this crisis has the potential to wipe out the entire humanity and a majority of the other species from the face of this Earth.

The objective of Countercurrents.org is to spread awareness about this crisis and search for meaningful solutions. We believe that energy intensive globalization should end and it must be replaced by a low energy, ecologically sustainable local economies.  If humanity is to survive, the destructive system of capitalism and consumerism must be replaced by an economic system which is based on just equitable distribution and need based use of resources.  

Your motto says —“Educate! Organise! Agitate!” How do you explain it?

Susan B. Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906), who was an American social reformer and women’s rights activist and played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement said, “Organise, agitate, educate, must be our war cry.”

In the Indian context Dr Ambedkar gave the call “Educate, Agitate and Organise.”

We combined both the slogans and took as our motto —“Educate! Organise! Agitate!”

We thought of it as a revolutionary call for caste annihilation and women’s empowerment, two of the major concerns in the world today. It also envisages a new kind of journalism which ‘educates’ instead of entertains as in ‘infotainment’. Organisation is necessary for social change. Without organisation, we cannot make any social change. However, it is not the duty of Countercurrents to establish an organisation. We hope that an organisation would emerge organically from the masses. An example is ” Fridays For Future” initiated by Greta Thunberg. Countercurrents has been educating the world about the danger of climate change from its inception. It is happy to see organisations emerge organically, especially on critical issues like climate change. Agitation is the final push for social change. It will happen or it should happen. Otherwise, we are all going to perish.

You have many hallowed names attached to your journal, like noted intellectuals like John Scales Avery, Magsaysay award winners, Sandeep Pandey and Prafulla Samantara and social activist Ram Puniyani. What do you think made them pick your journal over others?

I respect and love all these people. They are regular writers of Countercurrents too. They must have seen Countercurrents as an engine of social change. Otherwise they would not have endorsed CC.

You have recently started a section called Citizenship Amendment Act and it has won some recognition from US universities. Can you tell us a bit about this initiative and the subsequent recognition? How will this recognition help Countercurrents or your initiative?

Countercurrents was covering the Citizenship Amendment Act from the initial days of this controversial pact and the resultant agitations across the country. We were happy to know that Ivy Plus universities in the US decided to include it in their digital library for the benefit of faculty and researchers. Their communication said, “The Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation has selected your website — https://countercurrents.org/tag/citizenship-amendment-act — for inclusion in its India’s Citizenship Amendment Act Protest Movement Web Archive. The Archive is an initiative developed by librarians at Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, and New York University, under the auspices of the Ivy Plus Libraries Confederation. The Archive contains material related to protests against India’s new Citizen Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizenship, and was created to preserve and expose this content for academic research in politics, religion, sociology, and interdisciplinary South Asian Studies.”

It is extremely heartening to have this recognition from such prestigious universities, especially in this age of fake news. This speaks volumes of the authenticity of the content Countercurrents publishes. By the way, Countercurrents is archived in the US Library of Congress too. That too is an immense recognition

What kind of contributors do you look for?

Whatever the articles that Countercurrents publishes have some insights, give a new perspective to the reader. We won’t publish articles that don’t fit this criterion. We have contributors from Nobel Prize winners to grade ten students. Achievements doesn’t matter. Insights matter.

What kind of readership do you have?

We have readership from around the world. I get emails from even a remote village of Nicaragua.

What do you see as the future of Countercurrents and your own?

The future is beyond our control. We do our best while we can is my motto, the rest is beyond our control. If I die tomorrow, I hope someone will be willing and capable enough to take over.

You Tube interview of Binu Mathew with Vidya Bhushan Rawat, a social and human right’s activist

.

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

Categories
Interview

How the young and Ms Sara battled COVID

A brief journey into the world of founder Nidhi Mishra and co-founder, Archana Mohan.

Nidhi Mishra(Left)&Archana Mohan(right)

What is the smell of a book? Bookosmia. 

Bookosmia is also a publishing house that aims to promote reading among children, curates writing from youngsters and brings out books for youngsters in both hard and soft copy as well as audio books in varied languages. It was conceived by Nidhi Mishra who pivoted to children’s publishing from a 10-year banking career, post IIM, in 2017. After a fast paced career, she quit as Vice-President of HSBC (Hong Kong & Shanghai Banking Corporation) to create something from scratch in a space she was passionate about, making better use of her time and skills. Nidhi teamed up with Archana Mohan two years ago.  Mohan had worked as  a  journalist, corporate blogger and editor working with names like Business Standard, Woman’s Era, Deccan Herald, Chicken Soup for the Soul and Luxury Escapes Magazine.  She won the Commonwealth Short Story contest’s ‘Highly Commended Story’ award in 2009. 

In this exclusive, Mishra, founder and CEO of Bookosmia, and  Mohan, co-founder and head of content, tell us about their journey. 

When and how did Bookosmia come about? 

NM*: Bookosmia was launched in 2017 as a disruptive children’s content company, hoping to make kids fall in love with reading, writing and everything else around stories. While an already cluttered space in India, children’s  content was either always educative, western or inappropriate. No one wanted kids to just enjoy a good story without necessarily helping them in academics or teaching moral values. We wanted to change that. 

But what kind of stories do kids really like? What better way than to ask them directly. Hence our key premise that kids are perfectly capable and deserving, of telling their own stories, is the biggest differentiator in the market. 

What does Bookosmia do?

NM: Bookosmia is India’s premier writing platform for kids, publishing over 100 original digital stories a month with young writers from lesser known Indian districts like Kiccha, to the bustling metros, from Munich to New Jersey. Bookosmia recently launched its brand persona— a 10 year- old athlete Sara, fondly hailed as “our new best friend” by The Hindu recently. Sara has India’s premier and largest repository of stories for kids, by kids. Additionally she brings a whole host of fun and age appropriate content to kids through digital stories, video stories, audio stories and lots of fun activities for kids for perfect engagement for kids. That is what we offer from a product perspective.

However, we are onto a larger mission– to create a new ‘category’ of kids content, which strongly hinges on a “stories for kids, by kids” philosophy. Children lead their lives with a constant inflow of inputs. Parents, schools, teachers rarely pause to ask them for their original output. How are they feeling?

At Bookosmia, we are different from other content companies and publishers because we have a two-way conversation with our audience. Yes, we have digital  and video stories to engage children meaningfully. But we also have the intent to ask them and publish how they are feeling in the lockdown, during a world cup final, after listening to our science stories. We feel making young kids feel valued and heard will help in the following ways:1) They will be able to process their emotions and launch their imagination better, instead of hopping from one activity to another. For example, we love the stories 6-year-olds write to us where animals feel lonely, are behaving badly only because they are looking for a best friend. 2) It will help them boost their self-confidence. A child who feels empowered today will grow up to be a more engaged citizen tomorrow. For example, we have older kids writing to us on issues of racism, taboo around periods, refugee situations and more.  3) It will help children feel more positive, hopeful and raise awareness by evaluating what they can be grateful for. For example, our “Gratitude during Covid” series was a perfect example where even little kids sent us entries recognizing there is a lot to be thankful for, even in these difficult times.

How did you conceive Sarachats?

AM*: At Bookosmia, we take our ‘by kids, for kids’ mantra a little too seriously! This is a company where children call the shots. Our young friends decide the topics they will write on for the month, activities and new features to be added. So, the obvious thought was why not have a young character representing us in all our interactions as a brand? That was when Sara was born.  

Ms Sara

Sara isn’t a genius, nor does she possess magical powers. She is a curious and happy go lucky kid and every child will identify a bit of themselves in her. With her young friends from across the globe, Sara reads stories by kids, she listens to story tellers, she tells stories to little ones, she does fun activities and she even chats to cool older people to know more about their lives.

To us, Sara is a heart child. She has not one but many mothers! She was designed by the brilliant Parvati Pillai, ex design head of Chumbak. Our chief visual designer Aayushi Yadav has adapted the design fabulously and brought in her trademark humour, enriching Sara’s personality. As for how Sara talks, behaves and the capers she gets into, blame that all on the rest of us! 

In a very short span of time, Sara has made quite an impression on our young followers. Everyday, Sara’s inbox is flooded with messages by her friends across the world who love to share their thoughts and wait to hear back from her. For them and for us, Sara has become an inseparable part of our lives. 

How many children have responded to Sara chats? 

AM: We publish over 100 young writers a month, so the answer is, quite a few! But it’s not just about publishing. Some of our young writers are from lesser privileged backgrounds, so the whole concept of expressing themselves in a medium like the short story, is an alien experience to them. But guess who instantly connects with them and draws them out of their shell– their friend Sara.  

Similarly, some of our young writers have great ideas but lack proficiency in English and it is Sara who writes to them regularly encouraging them to put their thoughts into words without being boggled by vocabulary. We believe that every child has a story to tell and our global platform through a much-loved ambassador like Sara gives children an opportunity to express themselves and feel heard in a safe and non-judgemental space. From writing about their dreams, their family to topics like periods, disability, grief to bullying, our young writers are unafraid to write about subjects that move them. To say their refreshing optimism and understanding of the world stuns us, would be an understatement. 

What made you think of the icon of Sara? 

AM: Our girl Sara, is a stereotype buster. She is the answer to generalisations like “all girls like pink” and “sport is for boys”. Sure, she is notorious for breaking a windowpane or two with her football, but she is no different from any other girl in the world.  She represents every child who gets picked on for ‘being different’, for daring to think out of the box and for questioning norms that don’t make sense to them. Does loving sport instead of playing house make her any lesser of a girl? Absolutely not. And that’s the message Sara brings to every child of the world. You are you. Don’t feel pressurised to change just because you don’t fit into someone else’s mould. 

Is this a voluntary organization? 

NM: No, Bookosmia is a for profit private limited company.

Tell us how Ms Sara serviced children across borders through the trying times of COVID.

AM : Like we always say, it is the kids who drive this company and so it should come as no surprise that our much lauded ‘Gratitude During Covid’ series was conceived out of children’s conversations with Sara where they spoke about how their lives had changed post Covid. While most adults chose to binge watch during the lockdown, children from far flung corners of the country and even abroad, took up on our call to write essays, poems and short stories about ‘gratitude’, exhibiting an incredible amount of maturity in handling an unprecedented situation. 

And what delightful takes they had! While the younger ones were thankful for the cleaner air, food on the table and more time with their families, the teenagers wrote about how they had become conscious of their privilege, developed empathy for their domestic help and learnt to go ‘within’. 

As a company, we felt validated. Clearly, by engaging with them meaningfully, we had been able to make children feel valued. 

Are you still into bringing out books online? Or has it suffered from the pandemic too? Has the pandemic affected Bookosmia?

NM: Yes, the pandemic has affected Bookosmia, but only for the better. We have doubled our audience every month and it only speaks of the strong need that exists for safe, meaningful yet fun screen time for kids .We like to think of ourselves as the intersection of a parent’s need ( to keep their child meaningfully engaged) and a child’s want (to find relatable content).

We publish 4 free digital stories, written by kids, on our website everyday. Yes, we are releasing fewer online paid ebooks but that is mainly because our focus right now, through these tough times, is to make our free content available to as many kids as possible and build a community.

What are your future plans for both Bookosmia and Ms Sara? 

NM: In question two, I touched upon our intent to create a new “category” of kids content. A few years back I used to be very judgemental of the new generation of teens. Always on social media, gunning for more likes and comments, with dwindling attention spans and enormous need for approval. Over the years, I have realized the problem was not in that generation but in the world we have created for them. Yes, they are active on Facebook and Instagram and snapchat, but which other platforms value them. We have to give these young minds a platform where they feel safe speaking up, sharing their views and stories, not afraid of being dismissed with a ‘too young’ tag. 

Yes we have some excellent writers who share their stories with us. And it can be expected that children can create content(stories/ essays/ poems) that other kids will like more. Purely because it is first hand and organic. But we are not looking to churn out great authors, we are looking to make young voices feel valued.

Sara has found great relatability with children. She looks, talks and thinks like them. They have a lot less inhibition in writing to her than they would to a publishing house. We want Sara to take these stories from kids, far and wide across the globe and not be tied down to a particular country. Like any other kid, Sara is also upto a lot of things. Good at some, like sports and curious about others like Science, Art or Nature. So you will see Sara introducing kids to a whole range of topics and not limit herself to reading and writing. Also conscious that there is nothing more joyful than holding your beloved characters in your hand, Sara may soon be seen in a physical format.

*NM : Nidhi Mishra, Founder and CEO of Bookosmia. 

*AM : Archana Mohan, Co-Founder and Head of Content, Bookosmia. 

.

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

Categories
Editorial

In Search of Human Excellence

Good morning world! 

Borderless Journal today completes three full months of its virtual existence and will take a plunge towards a refreshed image. We hope to be a monthly from now on to serve you better, to do more justice to our submissions which continue to be overwhelming in numbers.

Meanwhile, in our pages, we have tried to connect mankind with ideas and thoughts that move away from borders drawn to divide humans — we want a world that transcends race, colour, creed or nationality. The only thing we look for is connectivity and coherence. We want to see the best in humans, what makes us strong and what carries us forward into a world that is not fragmented by fears, anger, hatred and marginalised thoughts.

Marginalisation also creates borders because there are humans within the border who for some reason are seen as different from humans without the border. I am not thinking of equality but of equity, where we can all feel we have been treated with justice. 

These few months we had writing not just on COVID 19, lockdowns, quarantines and opening of lockdowns, but also stories of major natural calamities like the Amphan, race riots like that of Floyd’s and more. Perhaps, the latest riots in America, will make us all realise that in every country, every culture, we have our own Floyds. And to acknowledge that we are of the same flesh and blood as the marginalised or underprivileged masses is a mammoth task for all mankind. We need to rise above things that divide and fill the world with love, kindness and tolerance.

Mark Twain in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889) has the protagonist who travels back in time to Camelot observe prisoners from the underprivileged masses waiting to be sentenced and he thinks:” …they are white Indians.” Indians, meaning the Red Indians who had their housing and way of life shrunk into reserves in the same year in Minnesota the book was published — 1889. In 1887, their land had been taken away by the Dawes Act signed by the US President Cleveland. Was it just — taking away the land in which they had lived for centuries? Was it just to hate someone for having a different culture or a different way of life anywhere in the world at any point in history? Was it just to have slaves? Was it just to kill Floyd? Was it just to kill in the name of creed, or on the basis of what people eat? Was it just to give people no work, no food and no transport and have them walk till they dropped dead?

To me, all these are Floyds of the modern-day world, people killed in mob violence or for following different food habits, lifestyles, cultures or beliefs. History speaks only the truth. It is heartless and as Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.” And the victors to perpetrate their hegemony, create margins for those they dominate — the ruled become the marginalised and non-marginalised as that makes it easy for power brokers to fan differences to maintain their own strength. In the colonial period, they called it divide and rule.

Toni Morrison, another lady with a great deal of wisdom, said in an interview, “Race is a construct, a social construct.” History, Yuval Noah Harari, and more have shown this assertion by Morrison to be a fact. All of these are man-made constructs. 

I have a very basic question: if we can accept the different colours in nature, why can we not find it in our hearts to accept differences not only of skin colour but of beliefs, of creeds and of food habits?  These are questions that Borderless seeks to explore, to find the weaves that connect mankind to help move towards a richer tapestry of humanity. This is just the start of the journey and we can all make it together.

Sara’s Selections in the loving nurture of Bookosmia hopes to integrate these larger values into the younger generation. 

Let us all lead by example with exemplary writing, with exemplary choice of subjects and with exemplary writing skills. We are open to comments and feedback by readers who are as necessary to the existence of writers and journals as air to breathe and live.

Welcome to an exploration of a world beyond borders! 

Mitali Chakravarty

Founding Editor,

Borderless Journal

Categories
Editorial

As Time Flies…

Hello World!

And what a lovely and magical life it is despite the COVID 19 — which I am sure we will battle, even if the path seems long. Meanwhile, we remain connected in this virtual world of friendship, harmony and giving!

We completed another month! And what a month it has been — the two greatest bards celebrated their birthdays — Shakespeare and Tagore. We carried an essay on one and a discussion between two greats of modern Indian literature on the other! Other than that, more essays, stories, musings, translations and poetry took our readers globe-trotting. We are doing our best to seamlessly create a world of ideas in which we can drift effortlessly and find a whole new world where we can all meet to have exchanges beyond borders drawn by the exigencies of history, politics, economics, greed and more.

Writers are doing such a wonderful job of connecting us with similar concerns worldwide. Our experiences with COVID 19 and quarantine actually unite us in a large way as humans. One of our story writers has plucked the heart strings of readers across oceans on distant lands and received many encomiums for it. We all seem to be getting more linked by the pandemic caused by the corona virus, giving all of us time to pause and reflect on the commonality of human sufferings, as shown by the narratives from different parts of the world in the journal.

We continue to be fortunate to find many of our pieces a second home in Countercurrents.org. I am also happy to announce we have been listed again as one of the top places for submissions in an Indian site this time.

We have more happening here with all the action from our dynamic editorial board. Dustin Pickering, the editor-in-chief of Harbinger Asylum, on our editorial board, has suggested a promotion for us in his quarterly this July. So, some of our authors will be republished in hard copy from USA in the summer edition of Harbinger Asylum.

We are also starting a young persons’ section from the end of this month. This will be organised by Bookosmia, a children’s publisher. The founder of this popular children’s publishing concern, Nidhi Mishra, also on our editorial board, will be giving us the best from her blog for youngsters and we will exhibit it in our new section called Sara’s Selection.

We want this to be a family friendly journal and to nurture young talents along with established writers. You can check our submissions if you want to publish in the young person’s section, which will cater to aspiring writers under eighteen. We have an email — sara@bookosmia.com – which will take you straight to Bookosmia and the submission of the under-eighteen’s section of both BookOsmia and ours. We will be publishing only a few selected pieces from their blog and others could just be featured in Bookosmia, the blog run by the publisher.

We welcome children from all over the world to write in to Sara. The tie has been announced by Bookosmia in The Hindu, a well-known and established newspaper in India. I am attaching a link to the news below*.

We are overwhelmed with support from all of you and are looking into the periodicity of the Borderless Journal and will be announcing more changes next month on June 14th.

As we move forward in the spirit of Ubuntu or “oneness to humanity”, towards a world filled with love and kindness, where vibrancy and positivity can wash away darkness and hatred, where the freedom of speech does not descend to narrow abuse and anger, marginalisation and boundaries, I welcome you all to write in to me if you feel we need to expand our horizons further.

As I bid you adieu for another month, I hope you will keep reading our journal and writing for us.

Best wishes,

Happiness and Peace,

Mitali Chakravarty, Founding Editor, Borderless Journal.

*Click here to read about Bookosmia and our plans in this report in The Hindu.

Categories
Musings

The Dawning of a New Era

By Mitali Chakravarty

More than a century ago Tagore wrote a song:

Kothao amar hariye java nei mana, mone, mone

Translated it stands, I can get lost anywhere within the infinite of my mind (imagination).

Time has come that we put his suggestion to test.

Though we are all torn by the isolation that battling COVID-19 demands, we still have a huge thing which we did not in the past, a thing that helps us all connect — the internet. While the educated stay connected, using social media and email, there will be many under isolation who will not have the skill sets to reach out, either due to lack of internet or due to the inability to write. There are countries like Singapore, where this is not an issue — but there is still a large population out there who cannot connect, who will be told by their community leaders that they need to remain isolated. Will that be a possibility? What about the homeless? What about those who do not have a clean potable water supply? What happens to them?

One thing that the tiny virus, which we cannot see with our naked eyes, has taught us is that mankind in its suffering cannot be bordered by economic, religious, cultural or political boundaries. As we all stand, in isolation, willing or unwilling to take up cudgels against a virus that has forced us to disturb, break and destroy the tenor of our lives, perhaps the time has come to assess our blessings.

Today, the fact that you are reading this means you are connecting with the internet and can read. You are connecting with my ideas, with my thoughts. We belong to the privileged few who can soar with internet and our imaginations. We have a home and hearth. We are educated and have enough to eat. We can afford to be kind and merciful to others.

The factory smoke has largely got silenced — even if temporarily. That means the air is getting cleaner. I can see more birds fly in the sky, bluer skies and hear bird calls. Perhaps, the Earth will stretch out in languor and awake from COVID19, a healthier and greener planet.

As I see the visa exempt, borderless virus roam the world, I am reminded of  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, The Poison Belt (1913), where the whole of mankind loses a day as our planet passes through Ether, and then wakes up as the Earth emerges out of the sleep inducing belt of the ‘poisonous’ gas. Will such a thing happen? Will we wake up and see the corona disappear one day?

Probably not, given that we have already diagnosed the virus. But, when you think of it, mankind has been through so many pandemics and has continued to thrive.

Perhaps, the tiny virus has taken on more than it can digest. Each time, mankind emerged a winner, they had a better life. After the Great Plague that wracked Europe from 1348-1350, came a jubilant Renaissance with Leonardo Da Vinci, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Christopher Columbus and Galileo Galilei celebrating the wealth of human development.

Then there was small pox, which was introduced among Native Indians and Mexicans in the fifteenth century by Conquistadors, and was completely eradicated after two centuries; cholera, which continues to assail some countries and many more such diseases. Mankind battled these and emerged victor into a better equipped world.  

This time, the pandemic is more widespread because we are living in a more connected planet. Is that such a bad thing? We do not really want to live like the hermaphrodite humans in Isaac Asimov’s Solaria, where mankind is served by robots alone on a solitary planet and they never meet other humans. But a temporary and intelligent isolation can teach the little virus that for all its virulence, it cannot destroy mankind. This is just a temporary measure, a temporary gesture to help mankind move into a better world. We will have to reorganise our way of life, our tenor of existence. Given the climate, economic and political issues our planet faces, this may not be such a bad thing!

After all, twentieth century guru, Yuval Noah Harari in his recent article in Financial Times, concludes: “Humanity needs to make a choice. Will we travel down the route of disunity, or will we adopt the path of global solidarity? If we choose disunity, this will not only prolong the crisis, but will probably result in even worse catastrophes in the future. If we choose global solidarity, it will be a victory not only against the coronavirus, but against all future epidemics and crises that might assail humankind in the 21st century.”

And I would like to agree with Harari as he says with conviction: “Yes, the storm will pass, humankind will survive, most of us will still be alive — but we will inhabit a different world.”

Let us look forward to the dawning of that new world.

Mitali Chakravarty is a writer and the founding editor of borderlessjournal.com.

Categories
Editorial

Hello World!

Welcome to Borderless — a journal that hopes to role out an invitation to all those who are willing to venture into the vastness of wonders, ideas and creativity. It seeks out thoughts that can soar above borders not just like birds but also like clouds. Clouds waft without pausing at differences, join together and bring water to the parched lands across all terrains as do writers and readers who look beyond differences. The writing will be like raindrops that create a downpour of love, tolerance, kindness, wit and humour. With a little soupçon of such values, we hope to unite into a world that can override differences, hatred, angst, violence and COVID-19. 

In these pages, we welcome hope for a future that makes us happy; we welcome all writers of all ages to come and revel in words and ideas and we invite readers to come and read and give us comments and write to us about what they would like to read at editor@borderlessjournal.com.  They are also welcome to try their hands at writing. In a world forced to segregate for the sake of survival, this is a way to connect with ideas. 

We start the journal with some input from the team from the editorial board, constituting a few writers who are outstanding and eminent in their own areas. You can read about the team in ‘About Us’ and savour some of their work under the different subheads: essays, reviews, stories and poetry. 

Dustin Pickering, somewhat of a rebel poet, a Pushcart nominee and a brilliant essayist, columnist and publisher, has contributed a scholarly essay on ‘Poets as Warriors’ — I love the idea even though I differ with some of his surmises. Maybe a war of words can convince people eventually that war with weapons is not the best way to maintain peace. Meenakshi Malhotra, a specialist in gender studies, bring us an essay on whether solidarity between women is possible. What do you think?

Namrata, a writer who hides behind fuchsia curtains and spills out lovely reviews, has a tempting review on a book edited by Sarita Jenamani and Aftab Husian — Silences between the Notes. Curious? Read and find out.

Sarita Jenamani, the PEN Austria general secretary, herself has contributed poetry — like the tinkling of crystal chandeliers evoking an evening in Vienna where she lives. Sohana Manzoor, the literature page editor in Daily Star, Bangladesh, has contributed a story, the title of which brings a smile — ‘Parul and The Potato Prince’ — reminded me a little of an O’ Henry in a Bangladeshi setting! 

Nidhi Mishra, a successful publisher of children’s stories, rolled out a fabulous piece on corona that hovers between an essay and a slice of life. It is in a grey zone — and that is why there is a new name for it — Musings. In Musings, you will also find Debraj, a popular columnist and an associate professor in Delhi University, with an unusual piece — again hovering between multiple genres. That is partly also what we hope do in Borderless, we explore genres and non-genre based writing to create new trends. 

Read it all and tell us what you think.

I look forward to Borderless as ‘your’ journal — a site that hosts contributions and looks for readership from all of you! 

Thank you all for your goodwill and friendship. 

Welcome again to a world without borders!

Mitali Chakravarty