Categories
Index

Borderless, May 2021

Editorial

And this too shall pass… Click here to read

Translations

Songs of Seasons: Translated by Fakrul Alam

Bangla Academy literary award winning translator, Dr Fakrul Alam, translates six seasonal songs of Tagore. Click here to read.

Temples and Mosques

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s fiery essay translated by Sohana Manzoor. Click here to read.

Purify My Life

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poem, Purify my Life, translated by Shahriyer Hossain Shetu. Click here to read.

Waiting for Godot by Akbar Barakzai

Akbar Barakzai’s poem translated by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Solus

Aditya Shankar translates a poem by Sujith Kumar. Click here to read.

The Last Boat

Tagore’s Diner Sheshe Ghoomer Deshe translated by Mitali Chakravarty with an interpretation in pastels by Sohana Manzoor. Click here to read.

Poetry

Anasuya Bhar, Scott Thomas Outlar, Saranyan BV, Matthew James Friday, Nitya Mariam John, RJ Kaimal, Jay Nicholls, Tasneem Hossain, Rhys Hughes, Vatsala Radhakeesoon, Ihlwha Choi, Himadri Lahiri, Sunil Sharma, Mike Smith, Jared Carter

Nature’s Musings

Photo-Poetry by Penny & Michael Wilkes. Click here to read.

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

Lear and Far

As a tribute to the 209th anniversary of Edward Lear, Rhys Hughes writes of his famous poem, ‘Owl and the Pussycat’, and writes a funny ending for it rooted in the modern day. Click here to read.

Stories

If at all

Shobha Nandavar, a physician in Bangalore, depicts the trauma of Covid 19 in India with compassion. Click here to read.

First Lady

Rituparna Khan gives us a brief vignette from the life of one of the first women doctors in India, Dr Kadambari Ganguly. Click here to read.

Mr Dutta’s Dream

Atreyo Chowdhury takes us into the world of unquenchable wanderlust. Click here to read.

Neemboo Ka Achaar or Maa’s Lemon Pickle

A compelling flash fiction by Suyasha Singh hovering around food and a mother’s love. Click here to read.

The Literary Fictionist

In A Lunch Hour Crisis, Sunil Sharma raises humanitarian concerns that though raised in a pandemic-free world, have become more relevant and concerning given our current predicament. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Serve the People

Danielle Legault Kurihara, a Quebecker in Japan, writes of differences in rituals. Click here to read.

Why I write?
Basudhara Roy tells us how writing lingers longer than oral communications. Click here to read more.

The Quiet Governance of Instinct

Candice Louisa Daquin, a psychotherapist, talks of the importance of trusting our instincts. Click here to read more.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Nations without NobelDevraj Singh Kalsi takes a fresh look at national pride with a soupçon of sarcasm and humour. Click here to read.

Adventures of the Backpacking Granny

In Visit to Rural BaoyingSybil Pretious travels to spend a night with a local family in rural China in a ‘hundred-year-old home’.Click here to read.

Essays

Four Seasons and an Indian Summer

Keith Lyons talks of his experiences of seasons in different places, including Antarctica. Click here to read.

Rabindranath and the Etchings of His Mind

Anasuya Bhar explores the various lives given to a publication through the different edited versions, translations and films, using Tagore as a case study and the work done to provide these online. Click here to read.

My Experiments with Identity

Tejas Yadav explores identity from the context Heraclitus, Rumi down to his own. Click here to read.

Can Songs be the Musical Conscience of a Film?

Prithvijeet Sinha uses Gaman (Departure), a Hindi movie around the pain of migrant workers, as a case study to highlight his contention that lyrics and songs convey much in Indian films. Click here to read.

Bhaskar’s Corner

In Manoj Das – The Master Storyteller, Bhaskar Parichha pays a tribute to one of the greatest storytellers from the state of Odisha, India, Manoj Das( 1934-2021). Click here to read.

Book Excerpt

Excerpted from A Bengali Lady in England (1885): Annotated Translation with Critical Introduction to Krishnabhabini Das’ Englandey Bangamahila by Nabanita Sengupta. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

A review of Feisal Alkazi‘s memoir, Enter Stage Right: The Alkazi Padamsee Family Memoir by Rakhi Dalal. Click here to read.

A review of Shakti Ghosal‘s The Chronicler of the Hooghly and Other Stories by Gracy Samjetsabam. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Raising a Humanist by Manisha Pathak-Shelat‘s and Kiran Vinod Bhatia. Click here to read.

Interviews

Communication scholars and authors, Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia, discuss how to bring up children in these troubled times, based on their book, Raising a Humanist, which has just been released. Click here to read.

Sonya J Nair of Samyukta Poetry talks about the Samyukta Research Foundation and its affiliates and its festival, Anantha. Click here to read.

Sara’s Selections, May 2021

A selection of young person’s writings from Bookosmia. Click here to read.

Categories
Essay

Can Songs be the Musical Conscience of a Film?

Prithvijeet Sinha uses Gaman (Departure), a Hindi movie around the pain of migrant workers, as a case study to highlight his contention that lyrics and songs convey much in Indian films.

 As my essay dives into the realm of the personal intermingling with the universal, I have found that the quintessential point of a space, definitive of our existences and livelihood, flows seamlessly in our lives. A collective omnibus houses our private churnings, moving from one point to another as life scripts new adventures of the mind and the spirit to discover valuable assets and find that sacred space — a home to give refuge to our true and innate selfhoods. The idea of the heart as home of our fiercely personal torrents of thoughts is something I adhere to. As such, the heart is a lonely island and much as personal journals and diaries have a secretly lush inner world to communicate, the subtle and implicit art of songwriting is the external synonym and outlet that universally connects our inner world with the outside.

 The functional meaning of a song is actually born out of the discerning of listeners. Khairun, the lonely young woman at the heart of the film, Gaman (1978), is one such example in a sea of millions around the world, one of countless women left to tend to the hearth while the responsibility of corralling finances snatches their men away from them prematurely. Such is the dilemma that a newly annointed marital union becomes essentially a platonic one, testing the sombre beginnings of this lifelong intertwining of two strangers. As if it’s a rite of passage for their individual selves after they have taken their vows in the public eye and been pronounced as man and wife. They burn for that warmth and familial touch of companionship with these songs sung by playback artistes (conveying from the prism of Khairun) becoming spiritual constants when the physical reality of them staying together is rendered impossible. Through her fortitude and its equal mirroring in her husband’s predicament in the city, we find the power of this union to sustain itself in two different places. Their mindscapes merge and Khairun is a conduit for this film’s portrayal of pain of separation and social anxiety. As if she has a telepathic connect with her beloved as when, through voice-overs, we find her letters informing Ghulam of her own angst and her brooding face and eyes loom over Bombay’s skyline.

 It’s the language of our soul or Aatma as we call it in Indian canon.  We are not alone then. There is no conflict in this union and the words, it seems, flow out of our own being.  The beauty, melancholy and dignified distance invested in them bring the pining heart and the hopeful soul together in perfect tandem.

In Gaman, both protagonists live in the shadows of crumbling aristocracy, in a village in North India where the present is bleak and like a ghost informs the poor population about its impending desolation. In a post-colonial nation, the humbler occupants of this social compartment still have survival to contemplate upon and their lands and farming have given them no respite from debts. As the central characters are Khairun (the iconic actress, Smita Patil) and Ghulam Hasan (another stalwart actor, Farooq Sheikh), the film shot in the erstwhile Muslim and predominantly secular princely state of Kotwara, could be reflective of the dilapidated shells of a centuries old lineage which may have had connections in the past and seen better days. But rampant unemployment, educational lacuna and a hand-to-mouth existence contextualize a move to the big city for the man. The name Khairun itself has a certain melancholic ring to it, I think and Ghulam as his name goes becomes a slave of his fated new beginnings.  Their taciturn marital bond is presented in brief moments together.

 In simple but rousing poetry, the real challenge of moving ahead in the big city while leaving behind the rustic stronghold and a real home is poignantly conveyed.  Identities are at stake and have to find a home, even if it is the most modest resort of reassurance. The womenfolk have no real say or stake in this scenario and Khairun’s silence is a witness to that. The song then that appears is ‘Aap ki yaad aati hai raat bhar’ (Your memories were all that remained all night long).

Composed by Jaidev, written by Makhdoom Mohiuddin and sung iconically by Chaya Ganguly, who won the prestigious National Award for playback singing, love and longing are two sides of the same coin. When I heard this song few years back, it came like a lilt from beyond, the central melody captivated me and made me croon its perfectly structured lines. There was a distinct local character to it and the realism of the situations converged with the romanticism of natural images. These images were stages in their marked separation and the passage of time was invoked. The opening lines translated are, “Your memories were all that remained all night long, moist eyes kept smiling all night long.”  The stoic quality of internalization is very succinct here. “Muskurati Rahi”( a smiling wayfarer) in feminine form reflects the mindset of Khairun, the young bride and woman. There is a brevity of conveying the lull within the heart’s storm. A pensive directness addressed to oneself in isolation and to the beloved is like a pithy interior monologue; a missive to the one who yearns for an established bond.

The song is unique as it’s one of the few ones to begin with the chorus or central refrain which clearly elucidates its personal nature of pathos. The first verse continues with the imagery of the still night and dark, private chambers of the heart where longing is given rest and an assured hand. It goes like, “the flames of pain were burning/alighted all night long /melancholy’s flicker was trembling throughout.”

 The fickle spirit is putting up a brave front and is vulnerable, spending its time in contemplation. From the opening plucking of strings, which I think is the instrument santoor and burgeoning flutes, the intimate incandescence of the couple is set into motion in a composition set in the pure classical mold. Khairun’s dialogue travels all the way to us. There is a shine to their passion for each other which refuses to interfere with their earnest pursuits. 

The second verse is more tilted towards romanticism. Its mesmerising notes are referenced with the flute to symbolise love and its dimensions. In Indian lore, Krishna played the flute for self-definition and courtship. Here, its transcendental spell is cast on a lonely soul as attested in the lyrics, “the tuneful, charming notes of the flute/come as reminders of memories all night long.” The speaker is in third person and omnipresent thus the personal becomes the universal and the use of night imagery can make it the last moorings of an individual before sleep gets the better of her/him and every recollection is committed to memory’s animated storehouse. The invocation of the flute is a sweet token for the promise of every stable relationship. The foundation has to be lovely and full of warmth even though it is an ephemeral ideal.

The talent of the lyricist here is that these escape from falling into a basket of random cliches as its essence is in Urdu poetic tradition.  Look at those plangent eyes of Khairun, deep vessels of wait and ceaseless langour, akin to an Amrita Shergill paintings.  

The mystery of the night has direct approximation in the next verse, “the night moon entered depths of the heart/ its glow illuminated the night.”  The moon is a personal symbol as it’s cast in the image of Ghulam for Khairun and vice versa. The unattainable height of its location is related to the profound number of miles separating husband and wife. Its dim light is the only source of illumination thus hope is enshrined in these lines for the little kernel of happiness that may bless them sooner or later.  The desire for union is prevalent here. In the video of the song, notice how the lyrics pertaining to moonlight are juxtaposed with streetlights and neon lights of Bombay where Ghulam drives a taxi for a living and Khairun tends to the household lighted by a dim bulb. Light plays a crucial role in their overlapping narratives. Winter has set in the village and Bombay is the metropolis on whose streets Ghulam has to ply his cab. 

Finally the gypsy heart that celebrates isolation and is detached from unnecessary expectations finds its way in the final verse, “a lover wanders around lanes/ a voice echoes all night long”

 This is not the blabbering of a madman but the deep call of the soul’s recesses. Should both Khairun and Ghulam adopt detachment till they are united or celebrate their individual and in a larger sense collective isolation? Their private musings do their bidding for the heart. The head and heart dilemma is hence paramount.  The lover’s wandering minstrel like ways approximate the private reserves of love and longing. Dual interplay of inner and outer personas match wits and still lucidity is sought and achieved in the quietude of this composition via slender, elegant employment of guitar, drums and flutes.

 Chaya Ganguly’s voice dominates the sway of restrained pathos and hope here while Smita Patil’s eyes and Farooq Sheikh’s stoicism endure as he posts letters and Khairun holds them. ‘Seene Mein Jalan, Aankhon Mein Toofaan’ (A burn in the chest/ a storm in the breath) captures the rush and milling crowds of big cities where individuality hankers for identity while ‘Ras ke bhare tore Nain’ (your eyes are full to the brim) addresses the aesthetics of longing from the same soundtrack. The playbacks by Suresh Wadkar and Hira Devi Mishra respectively are pitch perfect.  The panorama of humanism under duress finds its true form and content in the direction of Muzaffar Ali (auteur of iconic Umrao Jaan), cinematography of Nadeem Khan, lyrics by Shahryar, writer Hriday Lani and crisp editing by Jethu Mundul.

The music of Gaman won Jaidev a National Award too for best music and deservedly so. The film also won a special mention accolade.

Gaman in Urdu signifies transit, passage, migration, departure or movement but I was surprised by how according to Zen Buddhist currency in Japanese, it is an equivalent of stoic endurance and patience. These markers ultimately are a natural corollary of movement of any kind. The music of Gaman is a perfect amalgamation of the personal and universal and devolves meaning to the idea of distance. Timeless musical exemplifications like these simply don’t exist anymore. It is the soul of Khairun that ultimately guides us to that point of personal transit.

Prithvijeet Sinha has been prolifically publishing works of various hues in journals and magazines like   Cafe Dissensus, Confluence, The Medley, Borderless, Wilda Morris’ Poetry Blog, Screen Queens, Rhetorica Quarterly, Lothlorien, Chamber Magazine, Livewire  among others. He believes writing to be the true music of the soul.

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

Categories
Poetry

Windows

By Prithvijeet Sinha

There are some windows,

like the one Manani* stood by,

with her sweet morning voice calling birds from all the surrounding trees,

to feed them her open heart’s musings

and a little bit of the loneliness she felt,

perched up here on the topmost floor.

.

She was a bird herself,

frugal and simple to a fault,

opening windows to the eastern sky

when the sunrise came to her inner eye

like the first stroke of the universe,

so essential to her at that age.

Living in two spare rooms,

with a prominent prayer house and a central kitchen,

her own birdhouse of sorts.

Just enough for her,

guarded most securely by a balcony and the worldwide open,

free and independent like her.

.

Her window to the world,

her soul left open to be free,

like the leaves and a cluster of beloved sparrows close to her feet

as they kept all her last wishes and secret correspondences in their tiny bosoms.

They sat with her at noon everyday,

peeking at each form and shade of clouds,

as she seemed to imitate the arch of that nose or the impression of that face,

from her family tree in the sky.

**

They come to me by this same window today,

tiny heads poking in and searching for a manifestation of her spirit.

She has simply flown out from here, l tell them,

with no inkling of her final moments or a destination.

.

She came to me with a whiff of the winter chill,

in my windowless room,

by the open partition between roof and yard,

as if arrived to say that her pulse had fallen,

that she had prepared her final prayers before her bath,

and her crop of falling, open hair was her only garment and adornment in that image,

on that fateful day.

.

She was here to say,

she had come out of her two rooms,

out of that forever open window,

held up by her coterie of birds,

right into the soft trillings of my heart.

.

Now I’m here,

vacating her sparse space

and the soul of her freedom

as a solitary sparrow comes to me,

staring at me with a slight right tilt of her head,

just like you always did when in joy.

Something tells me the myth is correct,

you have become one of your own

and come as a winged messenger,

telling me you will always be here.

.

And I’m glad it happens to the soul in flight,

the window of your spirit forever open for correspondences.

For there are some windows which trace our ancestry of memories,

from one distant line to our loved ones in heaven.

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NOTE : * the term of endearment ‘Manani’ used in the second line of this poem refers to the Indian compact of mother and maternal grandmother, Ma+ Nani, with which I called my grandmother. This poem is written as a tribute to her and the window of memories she has left open for me ; the details here are all culled from real life observations

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Prithvijeet Sinha is from Lucknow. He is a post graduate in MPhil, having launched his writing career by self publishing on the worldwide community Wattpad since 2015 and on his WordPress blog An Awadh Boy’s Panorama besides having his works published in several varied publications as Gnosis Journal, Reader’s Digest, Café Dissensus, Confluence, The Medley, Thumbprint Magazine, Wilda Moriss’s Poetry blog, Screen Queens, Borderless Journal encompassing various genres of writing ,from poetry to film reviews, travel pieces, photo essays to posts on culture . His life force resides in writing and poetry is his first and only love.

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

Categories
Review

The Circle of life: The Silence of Motherhood

A review of the movie Hazaar Chaurasi ki Ma (Mother of 1084), based on a book by Mahashweta Devi by Prithvijeet Sinha

Bengal, long considered to be the literary, artistic and social fuel for India’s colonial and post- colonial demeanours, has particularly fascinated cinema’s conscious annals. Satyajit Ray, Aparna Sen, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Gautam Ghose, Tapan Sinha and their likes all found a level playing field here to sound timely sirens and orchestrate photoplays celebrating its collective regional character, with finesse of the highest caliber.

Mainstream Hindi cinema, too, has often turned to Bengali talents like Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Bimal Roy and Shakti Samanta apart from several stellar musicians, to find beacons of time-tested reverberations in its hundred year sojourn and counting, with the flint of creative risk taking crossing thresholds of language and alighting corners of the mind deep in slumber.

Mahasweta Devi’s Hajaar Chourashir Ma in Bengali (1974)

Hazaar Chaurasi ki Ma (Mother of 1084, released in Hindi in 1998) based on iconic Bengali writer Mahashweta Devi’s eponymous novel, is another betokened facilitator of Bengal’s political and social gravity, veering towards its not so distant Naxalite past and post-communist undertow. Director Govind Nihalani’s power-packed screenplay is a further rejoinder to the porcelain vapidity of educated middle classes and is a heartfelt diagnosis of personal loss and extermination of identity, finding its bruised heart in actress Jaya Bachchan’s tacitly mounted well of emotional ebbs and lows.

***

Structurally, Hazaar Chaurasi ki Ma uniquely evinces the ‘coming of age’ trope for Sujata Chatterjee (Jaya Bachchan) in a manner few works are meant to do. She is a solitary wanderer trudging along life’s thorny paths, right from the initial shot of her younger self walking in to the maternity centre in time for her delivery for her youngest child, all alone. Within the seemingly genteel but cloistered, moth-balled utopia of the bhadralok, the quintessential Bengali gentleman, she has been assigned her status, in observing the holy rite of passage necessary for survival: to observe the vow of silence, almost akin to a ritual.

Owing to this, she has spent years building walls of inconspicuous silence around her, hidden behind iron curtains of her household’s clashing beliefs and veneer of respectability. Bachchan’s essentially benign yet melancholic look sheds light on her feeble social standing that has been overruled by materialism and of course patriarchy. We have all been in the throes of this reality and so we recognise it on the part of our mothers.

A corollary to this is the gender specific clutches of egoist hubris which hold sway over her husband Dibyanath (Anupam Kher), a man ruling his family with an iron fist. On one end of the spectrum, Sujata is financially independent in terms of her designation of a working woman (she is shown to work in a bank) but it’s a consolatory one and deeply ironic to her general station in life. On the other end, her life-force rests in the lively spirit and unimpeachable trust she shares with her youngest son Brati (Joy Sengupta), a bond oblivious to the Chatterjee’s stiff posturing and restricted worldviews.

He is like a ray of sunshine falling over a wilting flower, giving Sujata the opportunity to fully breathe rather than gasp for her moment of reckoning. So, it’s natural that Brati is looked down upon as a black sheep by his father and siblings. His opinions and unorthodox bent of thought question the rest of the family’s air of ‘liberal conservatism’ in which their worldly desires cloud their larger humanity. This relationship is, hence, one where both mother and son plot a diurnal escape from their bleak personal realities, present in the conversations they have and look of mutual fondness being showered on each other.

Brati is more so at a crossroads in his young graduate years where all that he can dream of is to change the world and bridge social gaps. It’s this ideology which ends up becoming his mortal enemy and bites him in the face, in a culture where regimentation abet conformity while iconoclasm of any kind is brandished as another substitute for a death sentence. A breach in the bond between Brati and Sujata ensues as a result of his secretive identity and the appendage of the Naxalite movement’s heyday spreads like a wildfire in the Chatterjee household.

Set as it is in the timeline of the seventies, Sujata’s world comes crashing down when she is helplessly made to receive the painful title of Hazaar Chaurasi ki Ma, a mark of Brati’s dead body, his last remnant. In view of this realization, Sujata traces the grey alley of moral complexities where she has to negotiate the blanks left as open wounds by her beloved son, now a disgraced individual and rebel trampled upon by society functioning on selfish resignation. She questions her silent, muffled existence, the Naxalite cause as a transmogrifier of an intensely clustered class hegemony and the mindsets prepared on a whetstone of rage and dissatisfaction.

As she negotiates these agendas peculiar to her predicament now, she attempts to find her true calling as a woman of reserved strength, with an unfaithful husband and a thankless coterie to boast. Nandini (Nandita Das), Brati’s sweetheart and fellow revolutionary and Seema Biswas, as his slain friend Somu’s mother, authenticate the undulating, challenging terrain of personal awakening for Sujata as mother, guardian of her son’s lost dignity and posthumous legacy. In the process, the sequencing vocalises the resurgent and still fledgling voice of reason, especially one accorded by females.

***

The colour red; red of the Communism epoch of Bengal, red of the young fervour of Naxals, red of a hapless woman’s external shringaar (make-up) and the circle of life symbolized by the bindi on her forehead, then becomes a visual signifier of great agency.

There are a volley of questions the movie bounces off its omnibus and in the mesh of political churning, there is a grave personal tragedy simmering inside Sujata’s crestfallen demeanour. She is a woman of the world, beaten down by words and decrees of society and yet traverses the unfamiliar land of discovery in her middle age to make a breakthrough. This cinematic adaptation thus is genuinely propulsive though a bit long-drawn and in its performances, mines gold out of its socio-political concerns.

However, above all, it is the actress Jaya Bachchan, whose silences speak the language of passive melancholy. I reiterate that its a reality we recognise as we see in all our mothers.

Prithvijeet Sinha is a writer who belongs to the multicultural, literary hub of Lucknow, an artistic haven since centuries. A student of literature having completed his M. Phil two years back, he has been writing and publishing his poetic works and essays on the worldwide community Wattpad since 2015 and since June 2018 has been contributing his articles on various facets of cinema and culture on his WordPress blog An Awadh Boy’s Panorama. His works of various hues including poetry, film and book reviews, travel pieces, letter to the editor and opinion pieces have appeared in journals and magazines like Reader’s Digest, Gnosis Journal, Cafe Dissensus Magazine, Cafe Dissensus Everyday Blog, Confluence Magazine, Thumbprint Magazine, The Medley, Wilda Morris’ Poetry Blog. He has been published on Cafe Dissensus Everyday, The Medley, Screen Queens and Confluence in 2020 so far. Poetry is his first love and judicious defence against mediocrity while cinema and music are bulwarks to guard his conscience.