Borderless, January 2023

Painting by Sohana Manzoor


Will Monalisa Smile Again? … Click here to read.


Nazrul’s Ring Bells of Victory has been translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Nobody in the Sky by S Ramarishnan, has translated from Tamil by R Sathish. Click here to read.

The Bike Thief by Ihlwha Choi has been translated from Korean by the poet himself. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Banshi or Flute has been translated by Mitali Chakravarty from Bengali.Click here to read.


Click on the names to read

Jared Carter, Ranu Uniyal, Rhys Hughes, Saranyan BV, Scott Thomas Outlar, Priyanka Panwar, Ron Pickett, Ananya Sarkar, K.S. Subramaniam, George Freek, Snigdha Agrawal, Jenny Middleton, Asad Latif, Michael R Burch

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In I Went to Kerala, Rhys Hughes treads a humorous path. Click here to read.


In Conversation with Abhay K, a poet turned diplomat, translator and a polyglot, converses of how beauty inspired him to turn poet and translating Kalidasa and other poets taught him technique. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

What do Freddy Mercury, Rishi Sunak & Mississipi Masala have in Common?

Farouk Gulsara muses on the human race. Click here to read.

Ghosh & Company

Ratnottama Sengupta relives the past. Click here to read.

Sails, Whales, and Whimsical Winds

Meredith Stephens continues on her sailing adventures in New South Wales and spots some sporting whales. Click here to read.

Tsunami 2004: After 18 years

Sarpreet Kaur travels back to take a relook at the tsunami in 2004 from Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Click here to read.

‘I am in a New York state of mind’

Ravi Shankar shares his travel adventures in the city. Click here to read.

Half a World Away from Home

Mike Smith introspects on his travels to New Zealand. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Back to the Past, Devraj Singh Kalsi muses on the need to relive nostalgia. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In The Year of the Tiger Papa, Suzanne Kamata gives us a glimpse of Japan’s education system with a touch of humour. Click here to read.


A Solitary Pursuit: The Art of Suhas Roy

Ratnottama Sengupta journeys with the signature art of Suhas Roy as it transformed in theme, style, and medium. Click here to read.

New Perspectives on Cinema & Mental Health

Between 1990 and 2017 one in seven people in India suffered from mental illness. However, the depiction of this in cinema has been poor and sensationalist contends Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In The Immigrant’s Dilemma, Candice Louisa Daquin explores immigrants and the great American Dream. Click here to read.


The Book Truck

Salini Vineeth writes a story set in the future. Click here to read.

The Scholar

Chaturvedi Divi explores academia. Click here to read.

Little Billy

Paul Mirabile renders the poignant tale of a little boy. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Sanjay Kumar’s Performing, Teaching and Writing Theatre: Exploring Play. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Abhay K’s Monsoon: A Poem of Love & Longing. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Somdatta Mandal reviews Priya Hajela’s Ladies Tailor: A novel. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal reviews Shrinivas Vaidya’s A Handful of Sesame, translated from Kannada by Maithreyi Karnoor. Click here to read.

Gracy Samjetsabam reviews K.A. Abbas’s Sone Chandi Ke Buth: Writings on Cinema, translated and edited by Syeda Hameed and Sukhpreet Kahlon. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews MA Sreenivasan’s Of the Raj, Maharajas and Me. Click here to read.


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


Will Monalisa Smile Again?

The first month of 2023 has been one of the most exciting! Our first book, Monalisa No Longer Smiles: An Anthology of Writings from across the World, is now in multiple bookstores in India (including Midlands and Om Bookstores). It has also had multiple launches in Delhi and been part of a festival.

We, Meenakshi Malhotra and I, were privileged to be together at the physical book events. We met the editor in chief of Om Books International, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri, the editor of our anthology, Jyotsna Mehta, along with two translators and writers I most admire, Aruna Chakravarti and Radha Chakravarty, who also graced a panel discussion on the anthology during our physical book launch. The earlier e-book launch had been in November 2022. My heartfelt thanks to the two eminent translators and Chaudhuri for being part of the discussions at both these launches. Chaudhuri was also in the panel along with Debraj Mookerjee at a launch organised by Malhotra and the English Literary Society steered by Nabaneeta Choudhury at Hans Raj College, Delhi University. An energising, interactive session with students and faculty where we discussed traditional and online publishing, we are immensely grateful to Malhotra for actively organising the event and to the Pandies’ founder, Sanjay Kumar, for joining us for the discussion. It was wonderful to interact with young minds. On the same day, an online discussion on the poetry in Monalisa No Longer Smiles was released by the Pragati Vichar Literary Festival (PVLF) in Delhi.

At the PVLF session, I met an interesting contemporary diplomat cum poet, Abhay K. He has translated Kalidasa’s Meghaduta and the Ritusamhara from Sanskrit and then written a long poem based on these, called Monsoon. We are hosting a conversation with him and are carrying book excerpts from Monsoon, a poem that is part of the curriculum in Harvard. The other book excerpt is from Sanjay Kumar’s Performing, Teaching and Writing Theatre: Exploring Play, a book that has just been published by the Cambridge University Press.

Perhaps because it is nearing the Republic Day of India, we seem to have a flurry of book reviews that reflect the Sub-continental struggle for Independence from the colonials. Somdatta Mandal has reviewed Priya Hajela’s Ladies Tailor: A novel, a book that takes us back to the trauma of the Partition that killed nearly 200,000 to 2 million people – the counts are uncertain. Bhaskar Parichha has discussed MA Sreenivasan’s Of the Raj, Maharajas and Me, a biography of a long serving official in the Raj era — two different perspectives of the same period. Rakhi Dalal has shared her views on Shrinivas Vaidya’s A Handful of Sesame, translated from Kannada by Maithreyi Karnoor, a book that dwells on an immigrant to the Southern part of India in the same time period. The legendary film writer K.A. Abbas’s Sone Chandi Ke Buth: Writings on Cinema, translated and edited by Syeda Hameed and Sukhpreet Kahlon, has been praised by Gracy Samjetsabam.

We have a piece on mental health in cinema by Chaudhuri, an excellent essay written after interviewing specialists in the field. Ratnottama Sengupta has given us a vibrant piece on Suhas Roy, an artist who overrides the bounds of East and West to create art that touches the heart. Candice Louisa Daquin has written on border controls and migrants in America. High profile immigrants have also been the subject of Farouk Gulsara’s ‘What do Freddy Mercury, Rishi Sunak & Mississipi Masala have in Common?’ Sengupta also writes of her immigrant family, including her father, eminent writer, Nabendu Ghosh, who moved from Bengal during the Partition. There are a number of travel pieces across the world by Ravi Shankar, Meredith Stephens and Mike Smith — each written in distinctively different styles and exploring different areas on our beautiful Earth. Sarpreet Kaur has revisited the devastation of the 2004 tsunami and wonders if it is a backlash from nature. Could it be really that?

Suzanne Kamata gives us a glimpse of the education system in Japan in her column with a humorous overtone. Devraj Singh Kalsi dwells on the need for nostalgia with a tongue-in-cheek approach. Rhys Hughes makes us rollick with laughter when he talks of his trip to Kerala and yet there is no derision, perhaps, even a sense of admiration in the tone. Hughes poetry also revels in humour. We have wonderful poetry from Jared Carter, Ranu Uniyal, Asad Latif, Anaya Sarkar, Michael R Burch, Scott Thomas Outlar, Priyanka Panwar, George Freek and many more.

The flavours of cultures is enhanced by the translation of Nazrul’s inspirational poetry by Professor Fakrul Alam, Korean poetry written and translated by Ihlwha Choi and a transcreation of Tagore’s poem Banshi (or flute) which explores the theme of inspiration and the muse. We have a story by S Ramakrishnan translated from Tamil by R Sathish. The short stories featured at the start of this year startle with their content. Salini Vineeth writes a story set in the future and Paul Mirabile tells the gripping poignant tale of a strange child.

With these and more, we welcome you to savour the January 2023 edition of Borderless, which has been delayed a bit as we were busy with the book events for our first anthology. I am truly grateful to all those who arranged the discussions and hosted us, especially Ruchika Khanna, Om Books International, the English Literary Society of Hans Raj College and to the attendees of the event. My heartfelt thanks to the indefatigable team and our wonderful writers, artists and readers, without who this journey would have remained incomplete. Special thanks to Sohana Manzoor for her artwork. Many thanks to the readers of Borderless Journal and Monalisa No Longer Smiles. I hope you will find the book to your liking. We have made a special page for all comments and reviews.

I wish you a wonderful 2023. Let us make a New Year’s wish —

May all wars and conflicts end so that our iconic Monalisa can start smiling again!

Mitali Chakravarty,


Photographs of events around Monalisa No Longer Smiles: An Anthology of Writings from across the World. Click here to access the Book.


Insta Link to an excerpt of the launch at Om Bookstore. Click here to view.

E-Launch of the first anthology of Borderless Journal, November 14th 2022. Click here to view.


Is Theatre a Sport?

Title: Performing, Teaching and Writing Theatre: Exploring Play

Author: Sanjay Kumar

Publisher: Cambridge Scholar’s Publishing


The ludic journey has taken us playing through performing, studying, researching, teaching, and writing theatre. It is a specific, experience-based journey, but it has a vastness and a depth that is just about beginning to reveal itself. The one thing that is clear is that creating theatre is an exercise in seeking an alternate way of life, constantly activist and constantly developmental.

Challenging the hegemonic crust, showing it to be the veneer that it is, theatre is the voice of all the diversity that lies beneath. Inimical to the state, in its purer, stronger, manifestations it questions all forms of authority, and beyond that, exposes the fallacies that constitute the very framing of authority. It is the reply to authoritarianism, and at best, often the only means to express the perspective of the unheard. It leads from the front against oppression and repression and becomes a vehicle for the two rudimentary rights of all thinking beings, the right to say ‘no’ and the right to question ‘why’. Hated by religious bigots, theatre is against the orthodox and the patriarchal, and also against the ossification of the radical, showing progress to be a verb in progress rather than an arrived noun. It is a performance that constantly seeks to outperform the deals dealt out to it.

A form existing as text, theory, and praxis from times immemorial, theatre integrally ties in with the histories of its times. Wallowing in many such oxymorons, theatre is historical in being located in its specific history and has a trans-historical dimension in being the perennial naysayer. And as the world sinks to newer levels of fascist authoritarianism, and detentions, arrests and persecutions abound, theatre reverts to metonymies, fantasies, dystopias and historical allegories to keep the fight going. All kinds of decadence are its target, from the toxic masculine to the religious bigot to capitalist power, theatre can, and does, oppose them all. Its biggest enemy remains the fascist, authoritarian, capitalist state in all its avatars, and it is possibly the best weapon against it.

The provisional aspect of its outcomes makes it capable of dealing with the ossified layers of its world and seeking alternate questions and meanings, continuing to show that the meanings that are rooted in hegemonic formations erode in time. An incomplete and malleable form, its multilayerity gives it the flexibility to explore diverse facets of the same reality.

The capitalist and the fascist seek to keep us entrapped in cocoons. Theatre, however, links people, it is a reaching out, and its transboundary aspect makes it possible for it to acquire an international dimension and combat the internationalism of the market. The history of theatre evidences its relative insularity to the forces of capitalism. After a capitalist takeover of our world, clearly since the 19th century in the west, and then in India, all over the world there exist traditions of theatre that prioritize working in the margins, and acquire a razor edge in showing the political through the prism of the peripheral. Critiquing the money-oriented world is where realism began, and the kind of distancing that left-wing theatre creates from this orientation takes the critique much further.

In our world, proscenium theatre can serve as a point of intersection between dominant processes and dominant policy making on the one hand, and the needs of the margins on the other. The pandies’ experience shows this across the class and gender divides, and in undermining notions of dominance and supremacism. Its strength lies in creating mutually performative playful zones where the audience goes along with the performing unit and sees through its own blindness to realize how easy it is to pass a lie as truth and vice versa. The creation of a developmental zone of shared ideology between the unit and the audience is the key to successful proscenium theatre. The challenge of theatre becomes to outperform and reach out to the class and power other. In its taking on of hegemony, it has the potential to be confrontationist. The challenge to regression can be outright or with subterfuge, as seen in the use of Manto by pandies’. Negotiating with those in power, the proscenium is also the space to impact the young privileged, to impact enough to use better, more inclusive paths, enabling us to make better decisions for the future. It is the perfect site for advocacy — social, medical, and even legislative. Its effectivity gains manifold if the performing unit makes a conscious effort to overcome, or at least mitigate, the class barrier, to get underprivileged voices in. This enables the margins to better penetrate hegemonic structures and provide leads to better courses of development.

With workshop-based theatre, we move into a zone that is probably most conducive to alternate formulations of amelioration and development. It opens the doors between the mainstream and its margins and enables those stories to come in, and it’s no longer a diseased margin that needs cure but a vital, throbbing entity with its own claims to be heard and developed on its own terms. This is the real site of out-performing, setting the problems and getting possible processes for solutions. The age-old problem is reframed in bold frieze – can those sitting in positions of power redress the problems of the disempowered? Can they even identify the problems holistically? On the margins, it gives the space to voice its position about its problems and judge back the power structures that profile it. One needs to give in to alterity, to at least a feeling that some of our fundamentally held beliefs can be wrong, or at the very least not pertaining to those away from the mainstream.

When we look at the workshops with the youth in Nithari, and with the platform boys, the certitudes of dominant classes get irrevocably displaced. The participants perform in all senses of the verb. And via proscenium theatre, these voices penetrate the mainstream. They raise new questions and review old problems. Co-ordinates of family, religion, and a good life do not hold any certitude for those in the margins. It stands bare that the system’s ameliorative processes are for the dominant only, and those in the margins continue to be used and exploited. And there is the special relationship between the facilitator and the participants that forms the core of understanding needs and moving towards possible methodologies of development.

Theatre assumes penetrative insights as one creates with communities in zones of conflict and war. Its potential in zones of war, not simply of usual peace processes but of understanding the conflict and seeking solutions from the engaged parties together is still untapped, as shown by the Kashmir experiences. The pioneer process showed possibilities in theatre, at par with workshopping at Nithari and with platform children. In zones of war, its characteristics become stronger and more capable, the defiance of an authoritative perspective, of not taking of one discourse as the final statement, the fluidity of negotiating binaries becomes a mode of understanding and bringing opposite positions closer. Again, voices that are totally removed in times of war, those of women and children, come to the fore and add perspectives to what is felt, and what is required. The process of theatre repeatedly showed that beneath the veneer of hegemonic dominant voices the suppressed voices wanted a cessation, of war, of conflict, of misery, of one and all. The incompleteness of theatre matches the incompleteness of the process, the bumps, the changes, the veering possibilities. Penetrating the chest-thumping veneer, it seeks out the vulnerability and takes us often, as elsewhere, into desire and imagination, the two sources capable of taking on most conflicts. Suspicion and hatred slowly give way to older traditions of love and togetherness. And there is potential for turning any, even loose, agenda on its head, as the workshop with the Sopore pelters showed. There is a kind of immediacy to the process. The form dips so much into the participants’ collective thought process and depends so much on what emerges from there, that it is this collectivity that at that moment forms the narrative.

All political formations seek to prescribe or proscribe theatre, and theatre exists in subversion, subterfuge, and open rebellion. Closer to our understanding of historical processes, theatre’s role has been more caustic as nations veer towards a right-swinging, fascist combination of patriarchy, religion, and capitalism, theatre has had to bite in hard. The proscenium theatre has played, and continues to play, its vital role, but it’s really theatre that emanates from various communities and underserved social formations that the more disturbing and relevant modes of theatre emerge. Arousing our critical faculties theatre goes places. The whole holistic mythos of the bourgeois success narrative from school to profession; the bigotry of all religions; legal, medical and social interventions — all are under its purview. And creating unique developmental zones in our societies it nudges to outperform ourselves, look beyond the decadent ideological frames of the worlds we inhabit, and seek out, or rather make, newer, better worlds.

About the Book:

Drawing on the writer’s experience of three and a half decades of performing, teaching and writing theatre, this book explores the performance practice of a theatre group (pandies’ theatre, Delhi) by placing this practice in a frame of international activist theatre movements. The teaching aspect provides a historical backdrop and the writing of plays adds depth and sharpens the political position. It identifies theatre as a force for changing society across the centuries and beyond national borders. The book examines a large variety of theatrical experiences, including well-known forms of proscenium, workshop and street theatre.

About the Author:

Sanjay Kumar has been part of the International Residency Programme at the Rockefeller Centre, Bellagio, Italy and an alum of the prestigious, US Government’s IVLP (International Visitors Leadership Program) and is the recipient of Delhi University’s (Vice Chancellor’s) Distinguished Teacher Award in 2009.


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