Borderless, May 2023

Art by Sohana Manzoor


Dancing in May? … Click here to read.


Aparichita by Tagore has been translated from Bengali as The Stranger by Aruna Chakravarti. Click here to read.

The Kabbadi Player, a short story by the late Nadir Ali, has been translated from Punjabi by Amna Ali. Click here to read.

Carnival Time by Masud Khan has been translated from the Bengali poem by Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Desolation, a poem by Munir Momin, has been translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Loneliness, a poem, has been translated from Korean to English by the poet himself, Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read

Jonmodiner Gaan or Birthday Song by Tagore has been translated by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.


A conversation with Mitra Phukan about her latest novel, What Will People Say? A Novel along with a brief introduction to the book. Click here to read.

Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri converses with Prerna Gill on her poetry and her new book of poetry, Meanwhile. Click here to read.


Click on the names to read the poems

Michael Burch, Lakshmi Kannan, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Shahriyer Hossain Shetu, Peter Cashorali, K.V. Raghupathi, Wilda Morris, Ashok Suri, William Miller, Khayma Balakrishnan, Md Mujib Ullah, Urmi Chakravorty, Sreekanth Kopuri, Rhys Hughes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In What I Thought I Knew About India When I was Young, Rhys Hughes travels back to his childhood with a soupçon of humour. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

A Towering Inferno, A Girl-next-door & the Big City

Ratnottama Sengupta writes of actress Jaya Bachchan recounting her first day on the sets of Satyajit Ray’s Mahanagar. Click here to read.

Kissed on Kangaroo Island

Meredith Stephens travels with her camera and her narrative to capture the flora and fauna of the island. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In The Reader, Devraj Singh Kalsi revisits his experiences at school. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In Making Chop Suey in South Carolina, Suzanne Kamata recaptures a flavour from her past. Click here to read.


Rabindranath’s Monsoonal Music

Professor Fakrul Alam brings to us Tagore songs in translation and in discussion on the season that follows the scorching heat of summer months. Click here to read.

A Night Hike in Nepal

Ravi Shankar hikes uphill in Nepal on a wet and rainy night along with leeches and water buffaloes. Click here to read.

Moving Images of Tagore

Ratnottama Sengupta talks of Tagore and cinema. Click here to read.



Julian Gallo explores addiction. Click here to read.

The Whirlpool

Abdullah Rayhan takes us back to a village in Bangladesh to give a poignant story about a young boy who dreamt of hunting. Click here to read.

Look but with Love

Sreelekha Chatterjee writes a story set in the world of media. Click here to read.

The Mysterious Murder of Adamov Plut

A globe-trotting murder mystery by Paul Mirabile, a sequel to his last month’s story, ‘The Book Hunter’. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Aruna Chakravarti’s Daughter’s of Jorasanko describing the last birthday celebration of Tagore. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Bhubaneswar@75 – Perspectives, edited by Bhaskar Parichha/ Charudutta Panigrahi. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra revisits Tagore’s Farewell Song, translated from Bengali by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Somdatta Mandal reviews KR Meera’s Jezebel translated from Malayalam by Abhirami Girija Sriram and K. S. Bijukumar. Click here to read.

Lakshmi Kannan has reviewed Jaydeep Sarangi’s collection of poems, letters in lower case. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Journey After Midnight – A Punjabi Life: From India to Canada by Ujjal Dosanjh. Click here to read.


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

Click here to access Monalisa No Longer Smiles on Kindle Amazon International


Dancing in May?

Courtesy: Creative Commons
“May is pretty, May is mild,
Dances like a happy child…”

Annette Wynne (Early twentieth century)

Each month is expressed in a different form by nature in various parts of the world. In the tropics, May is sweltering and hot — peak summer. In the Southern hemisphere, it is cold. However, with climate change setting in, the patterns are changing, and the temperatures are swinging to extremes. Sometimes, one wonders if this is a reflection of human minds, which seem to swing like pendulums to create dissensions and conflicts in the current world. Nothing seems constant and the winds of change have taken on a menacing appearance. If we go by Nazrul’s outlook, destruction is a part of creating a new way of life as he contends in his poem, ‘Ring Bells of Victory’ — “Why fear destruction? It’s the gateway to creation!” Is this how we will move towards ‘dancing like a happy child’?

Mitra Phukan addresses this need for change in her novel, What Will People Say — not with intensity of Nazrul nor in poetry but with a light feathery wand, more in the tradition of Jane Austen. Her narrative reflects on change at various levels to explore the destruction of old customs giving way to new that are more accepting and kinder to inclusivity, addressing issues like widow remarriage in conservative Hindu frameworks, female fellowship and ageing as Phukan tells us in her interview. Upcoming voice, Prerna Gill, lauded by names like Arundhathi Subramaniam and Chitra Divakaruni, has also been in conversation with Shantanu Ray Choudhuri on her book of verses, Meanwhile. She has refreshing perspectives on life and literature.

Poetry in Borderless means variety and diaspora. Peter Cashorali’s poem addresses changes that quite literally upend the sky and the Earth! Michael Burch reflects on a change that continues to evolve – climate change. Ryan Quinn Flanagan explores societal irritants with irony. Seasons are explored by KV Raghupathi and Ashok Suri. Wilda Morris brings in humour with universal truths. William Miller explores crime and punishment. Lakshmi Kannan and Shahriyer Hossain Shetu weave words around mythical lore. We have passionate poetry from Md Mujib Ullah and Urmi Chakravorty. It is difficult to go into each poem with their diverse colours but Rhys Hughes has brought in wry humour with his long poem on eighteen goblins… or is the count nineteen? In his column, Hughes has dwelt on tall tales he heard about India during his childhood in a light tone, stories that sound truly fantastic…

Devraj Singh Kalsi has written a nostalgic piece that hovers between irony and perhaps, a reformatory urge… I am not quite sure, but it is as enjoyable and compelling as Meredith Stephen’s narrative on her conservation efforts in Kangaroo Island in the Southern hemisphere and fantastic animals she meets, livened further by her photography. Ravi Shankar talks of his night hikes in the Northern hemisphere, more accurately, in the Himalayas. While trekking at night seems a risky task, trying to recreate dishes from the past is no less daunting, as Suzanne Kamata tells us in her Notes from Japan.

May hosts the birthday of a number of greats, including Tagore and Satyajit Ray. Ratnottama Sengupta’s piece on Ray’s birth anniversary celebrations with actress Jaya Bachchan recounting her experience while working for Ray in Mahanagar (Big City), a film that has been restored and was part of celebrations for the filmmaker’s 102nd Birth anniversary captures the nostalgia of a famous actress on the greatest filmmakers of our times. She has also given us an essay on Tagore and cinema in memory of the great soul, who was just sixty years older to Ray and impacted the filmmaker too. Ray had a year-long sojourn in Santiniketan during his youth.

Eulogising Rabindrasangeet and its lyrics is an essay by Professor Fakrul Alam on Tagore. Professor Alam has translated number of his songs for the essay as he has, a powerful poem from Bengali by Masud Khan. A transcreation of Tagore’s first birthday poem , a wonderful translation of Balochi poetry by Fazal Baloch of Munir Momin’s verses, another one from Korean by Ihlwha Choi rounds up the translated poetry in this edition. Stories that reach out with their poignant telling include Nadir Ali’s narrative, translated from Punjabi by his daughter, Amna Ali, and Aruna Chakravarti’s translation of a short story by Tagore. We have more stories from around the world with Julian Gallo exploring addiction, Abdullah Rayhan with a poignant narrative from Bangladesh, Sreelekha Chatterjee with a short funny tale and Paul Mirabile exploring the supernatural and horror, a sequel to ‘The Book Hunter‘, published in the April issue.

All the genres we host seem to be topped with a sprinkling of pieces on Tagore as this is his birth month. A book excerpt from Chakravarti’s Daughters of Jorasanko narrates her well-researched version of Tagore’s last birthday celebration and carries her translation of the last birthday song by the giant of Bengali literature. The other book excerpt is from Bhubaneswar@75 – Perspectives, edited by Bhaskar Parichha/ Charudutta Panigrahi. Parichha has also reviewed Journey After Midnight – A Punjabi Life: From India to Canada by Ujjal Dosanjh, a book that starts in pre-independent India and travels with the writer to Canada via UK. Again to commemorate the maestro’s birth anniversary, Meenakshi Malhotra has revisited Radha Chakravarty’s translation of Tagore’s Farewell Song. Somdatta Mandal has critiqued KR Meera’s Jezebeltranslated from Malayalam by Abhirami Girija Sriram and K. S. Bijukuma. Lakshmi Kannan has introduced to us Jaydeep Sarangi’s collection of poems, letters in lower case.

There are pieces that still reach out to be mentioned. Do visit our content page for May. I would like to thank Sohana Manzoor for her fantastic artwork and continued editorial support for the Tagore translations and the whole team for helping me put together this issue. Thank you. A huge thanks to our loyal readers and contributors who continue to bring in vibrant content, photography and artwork. Without you all, we would not be where we are today.

Wish you a lovely month.

Mitali Chakravarty


Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri Converses with Prerna Gill

A discussion on Prerna Gill’s new book of poems, Meanwhile, published by HarperCollins India

In a social media world teeming with every banality that goes for poetry, Prerna Gill’s is a refreshing voice that does not pander to easy rhetoric and comprehension. If good poetry is all about the silences between words, the spaces between the lines, Meanwhile is a collection that lives up to the test. Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri spoke to the poet on her first collection of poems. 

Your author’s note starts off almost defensive about ‘putting the book out’. It also provides a glimpse of what poetry means to you: ‘…when the guests leave … room is far too still’. Why do you call it narcissistic, and why poetry? Does it help cope with whatever it is that you seek?

Writing is a way through which I examine how I may still be compromised – by fears, by a stillness that some may call the blues, others ennui or even laziness. I think this form of introspection also helps me see how and where I have healed from issues I struggle with, like anxiety. It is therapeutic, almost, and points to how I may show myself grace and where I have some work to do. When poetry does so much for me it almost feels selfish, as though I put the reader second – which is, of course, not by design. I write what I know, but even this indulgence in examining my own psyche through wordcraft does seem terribly narcissistic, like I can’t stop staring into my own shadow. Not all of my poems are about this, but enough of them to make me a little uncomfortable when I do think about it.

When was it that you first realised the urge to write … and was it poetry or the dark mythology which I know is another passion? Do you remember your first attempt at a poem?

The first poem I wrote was in middle school and was about a bat. Animals are so fascinating, but there was always something about bats. I think they are adorable, really, and in no way deserving of their terrible reputation. As for the darker things that crept in later beginning with gothic novels, I loved the atmosphere, and how it was never too cheerful – this made me comfortable because, at the time I got into it, I was not in the sunniest of places in terms of my own headspace. Even now, when I feel much better and more balanced, it is my favourite genre along with horror and dark fantasy. It is quite an obsession, and has led to a supernatural-themed doll collection and a library of cherished horror computer games. At work, this manifests as a publishing list with many horror novels. I want to publish all the ghost stories and books on dark folklore and myths that I can get away with. It’s going quite well.

Do you read a lot of poetry? Are there any particular favourites who inspire you, or influence your poetry?

I read quite a bit, but probably still not as much as I should. I enjoy Anne Carson’s work, also Ella Frears. Currently I am reading Orexia: Poems by Lisa Russ Spaar. Of the older poets, my favourite is Sylvia Plath for how eloquently she captures small moments of violence. Also her free verse – which I enjoy because, in my opinion, it puts the words first and everything follows – like red chasing the scalpel.

Can you talk about the process – the birth of a poem. And whether you rework/rewrite or come upon the poem in one draft, ready… You can talk about, say, (i) ‘come teatime she will inherit the ice’ (On Not Drowning) … how does that line form, where does it begin, and (ii) ‘we will loosen our consonants’ (No Strings) … where does that line originate, and become a part of the poem?

A poem can begin with a name, a random word or thought. I can dwell on a poem for months and then delete the whole damned thing. Other times, I can return to a piece of verse and tinker it into a new animal. The rule I set for myself is to put all my finished poems in one folder and return to them in a different season, a different mood, and see if they still say something – even if it isn’t what I wanted them to. So many are erased, but the ones I like I keep in a new folder, ready to submit wherever I think they may have a chance.

About the line to do with inheriting ice: This is from a ‘Persona’ poem with bits of my own experiences with dissociating in difficult times – something that will eventually be harmful, in that you avoid confronting it. At the same time, the best way to look at something in the dark may be to look beside it – not at it. I am not a psychiatrist, but it is a poem about a coping mechanism, one I was once too familiar with. That said, I wanted to look at the hereditary nature of things like anxiety. I have, in my later teenage years, struggled with moments where I felt I could not move or feel. Like I was numbed by ice. I do not know where that came from, but the persona from the poem does know. Her mother and sister are mentioned at the end of the poem, pulling her out of the underwater world she creates as she drowns. Or rather, doesn’t. The choice of ‘teatime’ was to anchor this moment to a very domestic space with a certain pressure to be social and civil – a difficult moment in which to find yourself frozen in a way handed down by those sipping at their cups around you. I could only imagine what that is like and then it became this poem.

The second line you mention is from a poem that goes in the opposite direction, exploring a moment of fleeting intimacy. It is a line where caution slackens, and where sewing and strings and threads form a lot of the imagery … this lets language come into the picture of a quick moment. We have more consonants than vowels. They form so much of what we say, a lot of which may be sharper and faster moving, not rounded gently by ‘an’ like the apple it may precede. They are brisque, taut strings played more often. To me, they represent the more common things we discuss. Small talk. When looking into this moment in the poem, a one-night stand, the loosening is framed as a deliberate act to serve a purpose. It is affection implemented with steely resolve.

You have six poems on colours – and the author’s note also says ‘there’s no looking past the greys…’ What is it about colour that it plays through your poems.

The grey in the introduction was mostly to highlight the everyday moments compared to the more dramatic milestones. With the poems, I get to explore colour in a slightly different way.

Red: ‘and plain on every face … some of us are grey by twenty-five years’. Red is the first colour to fade from view under water, and that struck me as quite poetic all by itself. The deeper some of us get in our lives, in terms of time and age, or the deeper we sink into our troubles, I find we are at a greater risk of losing what red comes to mean. In terms of my own mental health, I saw red as the opposite end of a spectrum from the odd forms of silence that I would be overcome by: a silence of regular, reasonable thought that would normally counter exaggerated fears. There were also silences of action and movement with a very strange inability to will myself to get up from wherever I had perched at times during the difficult phases. In those times, I would think of red having gone from me. Once I got better, I could put those images into words.

‘Red loses the deeper it goes
And here the kelp and pale coral
        Here silence’

Green (Was struck by the contrast … mother’s rage, green, closing day green): ‘The colour of a closing day …The colour of one mother’s rage’. I do see the connection it has with nature. I also see how nature and a certain vicious protectiveness, especially that which is expressed in a paranoid postpartum state, are inseparable. Motherhood is natural, it is dangerous. The image of the snake on her nest and the way ‘her heart spreads its hood’ comes from a very personal encounter with that sort of anger –which one can do nothing about because it is locked and loaded in case of danger to one’s child. It is a primordial thing. I was very prepared for postpartum depression, so a state of constant, protective anger took me by surprise. It never fully slithered away though. Or rather, it hasn’t yet.

Blue: ‘seas no longer churning wine-dark … Spring draped flat over March … above all memory of the womb’. For ‘Blue’ I could not look past its role in culture, specifically gender. Also, how its symbolism has changed. Some cultures may never have categorised it as a colour and that is so fascinating as an example of how words have such power even over what we see so much of. When Homer described the sea as ‘wine dark’ it was understood to mean blue. It did confuse people for quite some time, that description. This is one of the theories, of course, but it stayed with me: that blue became part of certain languages much later. The poem then explores the link between blue and boyhood. Once, pink was a masculine colour. I suppose people saw that rosy shade as too visceral for young boys then, perhaps too close to the violence that comes just before the guests flood in to coo at a newborn. When you think of the sky and the open ocean it may be easier to forget the nature of birth and blood. Such a stark contrast to life and life-giving. To womanhood.

Yellow: ‘we live between forests … cage small birds in our mouths…’ The poem ‘Yellow’ started out with a different placeholder name: Canary. That’s why the mention of the bird for safety as we go digging deep into the rock for what our predecessors set in stone. The past comes with dangerous problems just waiting to be inherited. The image of having canaries in our mouths was to lay emphasis on how our words, our voices may be all that we have to signal danger when we find ourselves so deep in problems created by evils of the past.

Black: ‘…to a world so tepid green, the fireflies sail white … nothing is as still as you…’ The poem ‘Black’ on the other hand has more to do with very current problems, such as psychological ones, but also others – I wanted that part open to interpretation. What is does specify though is struggle. The way one might gather blood of skin of an assailant one struggles against is reflected in the opening line: ‘You, with nights under your fingernails.’ The rest of the poem moves from a shower stall, where the person, ‘you’, is drained far beneath what they know, to a place that is alien and unfamiliar. Haunting with a strange light, and places you beneath everything you know and remember: like a mute spectator. Unable to move. It ends back in the shower where:

In fogged-mirror silence
  Is as still as you

Here is that stillness, that silence. This poem lets me confront it, like a pair of gloves keeping me safe as I study something I know to be tricky. Sometimes frightening.

White: ‘mogra … fragrant in their grief, we wear white in yearning … and like this we are sky’. With ‘White’ on the other hand the meaning is rather clear. We do wear white for mourning. Or ‘yearning’ as I see it. There is a softness I wanted to keep, given the subject here – death. I am an atheist, but I do believe in a peace that nothingness can bring. This is why I never write about spirituality – I would not know what to say. The beauty to me lies in the difference between nothingness and emptiness. In death you perceive the world in a way that is no different from how the mogra does. Or the smoke. Or the air.

Do you follow the contemporary poetry scene in India? How tough was it to publish a volume? Did it help being a part of a publishing house? Do you think that there is a lot of puerile wordsmithery that gets passed off as poetry on social media and self-publishing platforms … or do you see that as a boon?

I enjoy most contemporary poetry published in India. So many poems by Indian poets in India read like magic. I will say that social media poetry, though, is not for me. But it is working for many. Most of us don’t really have time to sit and chat about how we feel these days, and on social media all you get is quick and easy content to consume. I can see how the poems on certain platforms help people slow down as they scroll. I cannot say what is and isn’t art, but I know these works, often presented in a way that is easy to read and understand, are serving people. They would not be so popular otherwise. That said, I am still waiting for other forms of poetry to appear on mainstream accounts.

About publishing the book: I had a huge advantage. As a writer and editor, I need to show all my work that I intend to publish, to my publisher. I am extremely fortunate that Udayan Mitra liked the poems. I wouldn’t want to publish anywhere else in India because I know that we at HarperCollins India put authors first. Why go anywhere else?

Not many people know of your connection to Dharmendra ji. Since many of us are aware of his skills as a poet in Urdu, have you read his work, and more importantly what does he think of your poetry? Can we hope for the grandfather’s poetry translated by the granddaughter?

I think my Instagram account has made the connection clear to anyone who might look for me on the Internet. He was also kind enough to endorse the book and support it on social media and for that I am so grateful. I do not have any of his talent, but I am confident that I will always have his blessings. The same is true about my uncles. Many of their admirers and followers bought books, or at least wrote to say they would – that is one of the best ways of supporting poetry, which is always hard to sell. As for my grandfather’s poetry – with great sadness I must admit I know very little Urdu. I cannot read the script at all. If I could, I would love to translate his work, because I know he puts so much of his heart into every verse, just like he puts his soul into every character he plays on screen. I do want to publish his poetry – if only he would let me!


(Published in multiple sites)


Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri is a film buff, editor, publisher, film critic and writer. Books commissioned and edited by him have won the National Award for Best Book on Cinema twice and the inaugural MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Moving Images) Award for Best Writing on Cinema. In 2017, he was named Editor of the Year by the apex publishing body, Publishing Next. He has contributed to a number of magazines and websites like The Daily Eye, Cinemaazi, Film Companion, The Wire, Outlook, The Taj, and others. He is the author of two books: Whims – A Book of Poems(published by Writers Workshop) and Icons from Bollywood (published by Penguin/Puffin).



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

Click here to access Monalisa No Longer Smiles on Kindle Amazon International