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Contents

Borderless, November 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

We did it! … Announcing our first anthology … Monalisa No Longer Smiles… Click here to read.

Conversations

Suchen Christine Lim, an iconic writer from Singapore in conversation about her latest book, Dearest Intimate. Click here to read.

Blazing trails, as well as retracing the footsteps of great explorers, Christopher Winnan, a travel writer, delves into the past, and gazes into the future while conversing with Keith Lyons. Click here to read.

Translations

Rows of Betelnut Trees by My Window by Nazrul has been translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

A Day in the Life of the Pink Man is a story by Shankhadeep Bhattacharya, translated from Bengali by Rituparna Mukherjee. Click here to read.

The Clay Toys and The Two Boys is a story by Haneef Shareef, translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Saturday Afternoon is a poem by Ihlwha Choi, translated from Korean by the poet himself. Click here to read.

Tagore’s poem, Tomar Shonkho Dhulay Porey (your conch lies in the dust), has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty as The Conch Calls. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Jared Carter, Asad Latif, Rhys Hughes, Alpana, Mimi Bordeaux, Saranyan BV, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Quratulain Qureshi, Jim Bellamy, Sourav Sengupta, Ron Pickett, Davis Varghese, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Jonathan Chan, Terry Trowbridge, Amrita Sharma, George Freek, Gayatri Majumdar, Michael R Burch

Poets, Poetry and Rhys Hughes

In Infinite Tiffin, Rhys Hughes gives an unusual short story centring around food and hunger. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

The Scream & Me

Prithvijeet Sinha writes of how Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream, impacts him. Click here to read.

A Fine Sunset

Mike Smith travels with a book to a Scottish beach and walks in the footsteps of a well-know novelist. Click here to read.

The Death of a Doctor

Ravi Shankar mourns the loss of a friend and muses on mortality in his experience. Click here to read.

My Contagious Birthday Party

Meredith Stephens writes of her experience of Covid. Click here to read.

Dim Memories of the Festival of Lights

Farouk Gulsara takes a nostalgic trip to Deepavali celebrations in Malaysia. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Strumming Me Softly with His Guitar…, Devraj Singh Kalsi talks of his friends’s adventure with the guitar. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In Therese Schumacher and Nagayoshi Nagai: A Love Story, Suzanne Kamata introduces us to one of the first German women married to a Japanese scientist and their love story. Click here to read.

Essays

My Favourite Book by Fakrul Alam

The essay is a journey into Fakrul Alam’s evolution as a translator. Click here to read.

The Ultimate Genius of Kishore Kumar

Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, an eminent film critic, writes on the legend of Kishore Kumar. Click here to read.

T.S Eliot’s The Waste Land: Finding Hope in Darkness

Dan Meloche muses on the century-old poem and its current relevance. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In Piano Board Keys, Candice Louisa Daquin talks of biracial issues. Click here to read.

Stories

The Funeral Attendee

Ravi Prakash shares the story of the life of a migrant in rural India. Click here to read.

A Letter I can Never Post

Monisha Raman unravels the past in a short narrative using the epistolary technique. Click here to read.

Red Moss at the Abbey of Saint Pons

Paul Mirabile takes us to St Pons Abbey in France in the fifteenth century. Click here to read.

You have lost your son!

Farhanaz Rabbani gives a light story with a twist that shuttles between Dhaka and Noakhali. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An Excerpt from Manoranjan Byapari’s How I Became a Writer: An Autobiography of a Dalit, translated from Bengali by Anurima Chanda. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems by Afsar Mohammad, translated from Telugu by Afsar Mohammad & Shamala Gallagher. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Reba Som has reviewed Aruna Chakravarti’s Through the Looking Glass: Stories. Click here to read.

Somdatta Mandal has reviewed Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Birth Lottery and Other Surprises. Click here to read.

Basudhara Roy has reviewed Afsar Mohammad’s Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems, translated from Telugu by Afsar Mohammad and Shamala Gallagher. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Rahul Ramagundam’s The Life and Times of George Fernandes. Click here to read.

On World Tolerance Day, we invite you to the Book Launch of the first anthology from Borderless Journal, “Monalisa No Longer Smiles”

Borderless Journal Anthology

Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles

Categories
Stories

You have Lost your Son!

By Farhanaz Rabbani

Jethi Maa[1]..you have lost your son! He will never come back home!”

With these words, Kalam entered the old hut where his Jethi Maa was cooking lunch for her family. Having lost her husband at a very young age and with no financial support of her own, Chand Banu had to let her elder son stay as a jaigir[2]  in faraway homes so that he could continue his studies. Once he got admitted to Jagannath College in Dhaka, the whole village was elated. Habib would go to the big city Dhaka to do his ISC [3]! Habib, the eldest son of the family was always a bright student. His local schoolteachers wondered at his intelligence and diligence. Coming from a very poor family, Habib never gave up on his dreams. After his father’s death, the additional burden of looking after his mother and siblings was thrust upon him when he was only in Class 4[4]. He used to sell peanuts when he was not at school. Never averse from taking in new challenges, Habib did all kinds of manual jobs from his childhood — some of which would shock some of his colleagues much later in his life.

In Dhaka, he was struggling to find a place to stay. He needed to find a place soon or else he would jeopardise his studies. A family finally agreed to keep him as a jaigir. They liked the quiet and humble boy who was full of dreams and ambitions of his own. As the days went by, they began to appreciate the intelligent young man and decided to let him tutor their children at home. Later Habib would recount how the mistress of the household would force him to eat more and to have milk everyday so that he could study well.  Gradually they embraced him as a member of the family and began to see him as a prospective son-in-law for one of their daughters. Habib of course had no inkling about their secret plans. He was too intent on earning his keep and focusing on studies. Every month he used to send the extra money he earned from his private tuition classes to his mother. His goal was to sit for the ISC exams.

On a pleasant spring day, when Kalam informed his Jeti Maa that he was going to Dhaka on an errand, he took Habib’s address. Not knowing how her son was doing, his Jeti Maa held his hands and tearfully told him to see how her beloved son was doing.

Reaching Dhaka, it took a few days for Kalam to sort out his affairs. Finally, after three or four days, he went to meet Habib. When he knocked on the front gate of the house, a young girl opened it. As soon as she heard that he was from Habib’s village, she let him in and took him to Habib’s room. A tiny little room with a desk and chair at the corner was lit by a hurricane in the mellow evening. Kalam stepped into the room and said “Habibullah! Are you here?”

 Overjoyed with this surprise visit from his cousin, Habib jumped up from his chair and embraced him. It felt as if the whole village of Kafilatoli had come to see him! How he missed his family and friends back home! Taking Kalam’s hands, Habib urged him to sit down on his tiny bed and asked him about his mother, brothers and sisters.

Kalam was happy to see Habib in good health and spirits. But, as he looked at his cousin animatedly describing his experiences as a college student of Dhaka, a strange ominous thought entered his mind. Kalam noticed how the family was taking care of Habib. He was well fed and was treated as a beloved member of the family. And furthermore, he also noticed that there were three young beautiful girls in that family — all students of Habib. It did not take long for Kalam to understand the true motives of the family. Back in those days — in the 1930s and 1940s, it was not unusual for parents to marry off their daughters to well behaved and academic jaigirs. It was generally known that these young boys were destined to shine later in life either as government officers, doctors, academicians or reputed scholars of the country. Many parents successfully married their daughters to these bright young men with the hopes of ensuring the best future for their daughters.

Kalam left for his village early the following morning. Hurrying into his Jeti Maa’s hut, he did not waste any time to beat around the bush.

“Oh Jeti Maa! You have lost your son. He will never come back home again!”

Shocked, Chand Banu dropped the wooden ladle on the terracotta stove and ran towards him. “What do you mean Oh Kalam? What happened to my Hobu?!”

As soon as she heard about the family of three daughters with whom her dear son was staying as a jaigir, her whole body froze. The grim image of her dear son being bewitched by an unknown strange Dhaka family — people who belong to a totally different region – was agonizing to her.

Although she was illiterate, Chand Banu was an extremely astute and wise mother. Despite her poverty, she knew that her Hobu had much more to offer to prospective brides in her village. Her frantic search for a Noakhali girl for her dearest Hobu began. She told Kalam, “Go and find a suitable bride for Hobu—from the nearest villages—so that he never deserts us. We must make sure that he starts his family in his home—in Noakhali!”

Habib’s mother never allowed her adverse financial condition to hold her back in dreaming and aspiring for the best for her children. She knew of a reputed family in Meerganj — the Meer family — who had several eligible daughters. Long before Habib left for Dhaka, Chand Banu had a secret desire to welcome one of the Meer Bari daughters as her daughter-in-law. She had heard that the eldest daughter of the Meer Bari [5] had been married off to a cousin, an educated head teacher of a local High School. The second daughter was next in line.

Chand Banu did not waste any time. She knew that the Meer family valued education more than anything, they would definitely want an educated son-in-law for the other daughters. She summoned her extended family to consult with them on how she could send a proposal to the Meer family. Unfortunately, one of her neighbours informed her that the Meer family had already decided that their second daughter would get married to a rich chilli merchant’s son of the same region. They were extremely wealthy and boasted several warehouses all over Meerganj and an impressive three floor ‘paka[6]’ house in the region. How could Chand Banu compete with them?

Imbued with an immense fear of losing her son to the strange city of Dhaka, Chand Banu decided to take a huge risk. She sent a representative of the family, Selim Miah, an elderly neighbour, who was a mutual friend of both the Meers and her family.

The Meer Bari, as it was known and is still known today, was one of the most reputed families of the region. They were one of the few families who had acres of land, ponds, a huge mansion and dozens of families working for them all throughout the region. They had several silos or warehouses to store the rice harvested from all their fields!

On a warm and humid summer morning, Meer Saheb was sitting at the verandah watching his men drawing in fishing nets with catch from the large pond behind his home.  When he stepped onto the verandah, Selim Miah found him in a good mood, because his second daughter was due to get married the following day. Greeting each other warmly, the two men sat down to have a friendly conversation of fishing and farming in general.  Meer Saheb was especially in a good mood. After a few furtive glances towards Meer Saheb, Selim Miah finally mustered up the courage to convey Chand Banu’s message to him. Meer Saheb turned towards Selim Miah and looked intently into his eyes.

The following day, the chilli merchant and his son came to Meer Bari with twenty other members of his family. The whole mansion was decorated to the tees and the groom was looking exquisitely handsome in his satin white sherwani[7] and silk turban. As the guests arrived, the ladies of the household quickly ran inside and allowed the men to greet them. The very tall Meer Saheb, elegantly dressed in an off-white punjabi, payjama and white tupi[8], stood in front of the guests. Accompanied by the senior members of the family, Meer Saheb, requested that the guests be seated. After they had all settled in, Meer Saheb took a deep breath, and apologised to the chilli Merchant.  Bewildered, the groom and his father looked inquisitively at Meer Saheb. Then the news was given to them…the news of Meer Bari’s second daughter getting married to Habibullah of Kafilatoli village just the night before!

A few miles away, Chand Banu was rigorously fanning her terracotta stove so that the flames could cook the meat quickly. She did not have much time left. She finished sweeping the yard earlier. Her eldest daughter was in charge of cleaning the only two rooms of her dilapidated mud hut. The local boys and girls were making handmade streamers out of cheap coloured paper to welcome the new guest.

Chand Banu’s daughter-in-law was finally coming. Her dear Hobu’s bou[9] was coming!

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Glossary

[1] Father’s elder brother’s wife – aunt. Translation from Bengali

[2] Meritorious young men from rural regions staying with a host family in the city

[3] Intermediate of Science

[4] Fourth grade at school

[5] House or family home

[6] Made with cement and bricks

[7] Long coat

[8] Punjab …tupi: Kurta…Cap

[9] Wife

Farhanaz Rabbani loves to chronicle interesting stories and events that happen around her.  She is an avid listener.

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

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Review

Building a Free India

Book Review by Bhaskar Parichha

Title: Building A Free India

Author: Rakesh Batabyal

Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books

“Under this Flag there is no prince and there is no peasant, there is no rich and there is no poor… Whether we be Hindus or Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs or Zoroastrians and others, our Mother India has one undivided heart and one indivisible spirit.” — Sarojini Naidu, poet and political activist, on the resolution on the national flag in the Constituent Assembly, 22 July 1947

The immutability of prodigious speeches and their magnifying impact on people can’t be underestimated. The prize of a great speech comes from pure wisdom that originates from indulgence. These words from Naidu’s speech can work as magic anytime one reads them.

Building A Free India – Defining Speeches of Our Independence Movement that Shaped the Nation by Rakesh Batabyal is just the book you needed to read as India celebrates her 75th year of its independence. It is a thought-provoking assemblage of solicitous speeches delivered by some of the most prominent Indian personalities.

Many of these men and women have made invaluable contributions to India’s coming together as a nation of people and are the pride and honour of the sub-continent. These are people who impacted the lives around them. Their words were the gems that had the power to evoke courage and emotion in countless people and inspire them to make history.

Rakesh Batabyal teaches history, theory, and philosophy of media at the Centre for Media Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. His The Penguin Book of Modern Indian Speeches is widely accepted as an important work in the genre. He is working on a book on the history of nationalism in India.

Says the blurb: “The new public sphere that emerged in nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century India was a space that enabled magnificent public oratory, particularly that which mounted a challenge to colonial rule. From social and political platforms like the Indian National Congress, in the courts of law, or inside legislative bodies, leaders of the freedom struggle gave eloquent and clear-eyed articulations of not only the social, economic, and political problems that faced India and their possible solutions but also the kind of sovereign nation we must collectively aspire to be. India’s democratic ethos was a product of these foundational ideas of the freedom movement.”

Building a Free India brings together these landmark speeches delivered over roughly a century by the leading lights of the national movement—from Dadabhai Naoroji, Surendranath Banerjee, Bhikaiji Cama, Lajpat Rai, and Tilak, to Gandhi, Nehru, Ambedkar, Bose, Sarojini Naidu, and Maulana Azad—as well as a range of lesser-known but equally remarkable figures.

Writes Batabyal in the book: “As the movement progressed—from the economic critique of colonial rule by the early nationalists to the unequivocal demand for Purna Swaraj[1] and the immense moral authority of the Mahatma Gandhi-led resistance—the notion of an equal society that ensured dignity to all—irrespective of caste, class, gender or religion—came to occupy a central place in it. By the time the Constituent Assembly met in December 1946, not just civil rights, but the particular rights of women, of minorities, of the Depressed Classes, and the Adivasis were being articulated and demanded, not as favours but as a matter of course.” As the editor of this volume writes in his brilliant introduction, the effect of the speeches delivered by the leaders of our national movement was to focus “political action towards scripting an ennobling nationalism that would give us a just and equal society”.

A couple of speeches in the book are captivating. This one by India’s philosopher-President Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan on India’s history and legends reads: “Our pledge tells us that this ancient land shall attain her rightful and honored place. We take pride in the antiquity of this land for it is a land which has seen nearly four or five millenniums of history. It has passed through many vicissitudes and at the moment it stands, still responding to the thrill of the same great ideal. Civilization is a thing of the spirit; it is not something external, solid, and mechanical. It is the dream in the people’s hearts. It is the inward aspiration of the people’s souls. It is the imaginative interpretation of human life and the perception of the mystery of human existence. That is what civilization actually stands for.

‘We should bear in mind these great ideals which have been transmitted to us across the ages. In this great time of our history, we should bear ourselves humbly before God, brace ourselves for this supreme task that is confronting us and conduct ourselves in a manner that is worthy of the ageless spirit of India. If we do so, I have no doubt that; the future of this land will be as great as its once glorious past.’

Painstakingly divided into six chapters, each section in the 300-plus page veers around freedom and that itself makes the collection unique. What’s more Batabyal provides a context to every single discourse.

On his way to Noakhali and in the face of the large-scale massacre, to the question ‘Will Partition Change Us Forever?’ Mahatma Gandhi replied: “I have seen more of history than anyone of you, and I tell you that I have known Hindu boys who called Muslims ‘uncle’. Hindus and Muslims used to participate in each other’s festivals and other auspicious occasions. You want to force me to leave this place but you should know that I have never submitted to force. It is contrary to my nature. You can obstruct my work, even kill me. I won’t invoke the help of the police. You can prevent me from leaving this house, but what is the use of your dubbing me an enemy of the Hindus? I will not accept the label. To make me quit, you have to convince me that I have made a mistake in coming here.”

This and many such defining speeches make the collection truly exceptional. The book  is not only a priceless history of India’s  freedom movement but also of the ideas of universal equality, dignity, and justice that are—and must always remain—at the root of any democracy. The assortment of some sixty communicative moments of oratory would provide the reader with a fresh perspective and evoke feelings of patriotism, motivation, and infinite stimulus.


[1] Full self-rule

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Bhaskar Parichha is a journalist and author of UnbiasedNo Strings Attached: Writings on Odisha and Biju Patnaik – A Political Biography. He lives in Bhubaneswar and writes bilingually. Besides writing for newspapers, he also reviews books on various media platforms.

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