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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

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Editorial

We Did It!

That good things happen despite darkness, despite prognostications of doom, that light glimmers hope if you strive to focus on your strength in hard times is borne true both in fiction and in life. Perhaps, we cannot get back the old ways (but is that what we want?) but new paths emerge. Old gives way to new. And while trying to gather pearls of human excellence — borne not of awards or degrees but of bringing out the best, the kindest, the most loving in human hearts — we managed to create with a team an outstanding anthology. Woven with the writings of old and new — we created a tapestry together that the editor in chief of our publishing house said was “classy, literary, engaging and international”. That one of the oldest and most reputed publishing houses in India with bookshops countrywide took it on was also an unusual event! We are truly grateful to Om Books International, Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri and Jyotsna Mehta along with all our writers and readers who made our anthology a reality, and to Radha Chakravarty and Fakrul Alam for the kind words they bestowed on our effort.

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

Please greet our first anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles, with love and friendship. It could be the perfect Christmas gift in the spirit of the season! And as the blurb says, “it will definitely bring a smile to your face because it is a celebration of the human spirit.”

The anthology is different from our journal in as much as it has a sample of an eclectic collection that has been honed with further editing and has some new features. Most of the writing is from our first year and showcases our ethos, except for Lesya’s poetry and interview. Lesya Bakun from Ukraine is still on the run, looking for a refuge — she cannot return home like you or I can. Her family is scattered across number of countries. Her cousin, who was guarding the factory at Azovstal, was taken prisoner. We included her story in the anthology hoping to create global empathy for refugees as the numbers will increase not only due to war but also due to climate change.

The reason we felt a hardcopy anthology was a good idea was because nothing beats the joy of having a bunch of interesting reads in the warmth of your hands (especially where internet cannot reach or is unavailable). In any case, books with the feel of paper, the rustling whispers which carry voices of leaves can never be replaced as Goutam Ghose had also said in his interview which is now part of our anthology.

And that is why we celebrate more books… this time we feature Singaporean prima donna of literature, Suchen Christine Lim, with her new book Dearest Intimate, a novel that spans more than hundred years including the harrowing Japanese invasion during World War II. She shared sound advice with writers: “Suffering is good for the writer. It will deepen lived experience and expand the heart’s empathy.” And perhaps that is what is echoed through the experiences of the other writer interviewed on our pages by Keith Lyons. This is a writer who not only brought out his own books but was a regular contributor of travel pieces for Frommer’s and National Geographic traveling to unexplored destinations — Christopher Winnan. Another writer Lyon had interviewed recently, Steve Carr, has passed on. We would like to convey our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.

We have a number of books that have been reviewed. Reba Som reviewed Aruna Chakravarti’s Through the Looking Glass: Stories that span eras spread across time. Somdatta Mandal has reviewed Shehan Karunatilaka’s The Birth Lottery and Other Surprises and Bhaskar Parichha, Rahul Ramagundam’s The Life and Times of George Fernandes. Basudhara Roy has written of Afsar Mohammad’s Evening with a Sufi: Selected Poems, translated from Telugu by the poet and Shamala Gallagher, verses that again transcend borders and divides. We have an excerpt from the same book and another from Manoranjan Byapari’s How I Became a Writer: An Autobiography of a Dalit, translated from Bengali by Anurima Chanda.

More translations from Bengali, Balochi and Korean enrich our November edition. Fazal Baloch has translated a story by Haneef Shareef and Rituparna Mukherjee by Shankhadeep Bhattacharya. We have the translation of an inspirational Tagore poem helping us find courage (Shonkho Dhulaye Pore or ‘the conch lies in the dust’). Another such poem by Nazrul has been rendered in English from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. He has also shared an autobiographical musing on how he started translating Tagore’s Gitabitan, which also happens to be his favourite book. More discussion on the literary persona of TS Eliot and the relevance of his hundred year old poem — ‘The Waste Land’ by Dan Meloche adds variety to our essay section.

Evoking the genius of another outstanding artiste, Kishore Kumar, who happened to pen thought provoking dialogues in some films, is Shantanu Ray Chaudhuri’s essay, review of a recent book on the legendary actor-singer and an interview with the authors. Infringing the boundaries of literary with popular culture and art and integrating all forms into a wholistic bundle has been part of our ethos. In that spirit we have a musing by Prithvijeet Sinha on Edvard Munch’s famous painting called Scream. We have non-fiction from Australia spanning Meredith Stephens’s recent brush with Covid, Mike Smith visits a Scottish beach in the footsteps of a novelist, Ravi Shankar has given us a poignant piece for a late friend and Candice Lousia Daquin talks of the existence of bi-racial biases. In contrast, Suzanne Kamata sent a narrative that bridges divides showcasing a German wife of a Japanese scientist that draws us to conclude that biases erode over time to create an acceptance of bi-racial people. Devraj Singh Kalsi brings in humour with his funny narrative about a guitarist. Rhys Hughes writes in a lighter vein on Indian cuisine in his column and spouts more funny poetry bordering on the absurd.

Jared Carter has shared beautiful poetry on murmuration in birds and we have touching verses from Asad Latif for a little girl he met on a train — reminiscent of Tagore’s poem Hide and Seek (Lukochuri). Michael R Burch has given us poems setting sombre but beautiful notes for the season. We host more poetry by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Quratulain Qureshi, Jim Bellamy, Gayatri Majumdar, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Alpana, Jonathan Chan, Saranyan BV, George Freek and many more. We have stories from around the world: India, France and Bangladesh.

Gathering all of your thoughts in strings of words from all corners of the world, we present to you the bumper November issue of Borderless Journal . Thank you all for sharing your thoughts with us. Thanks to Sohana Manzoor for her fantastic painting and more thanks to the whole Borderless team for seeing this issue through. We would not have been able to do the anthology or these issues without each one of you — writers and readers.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

There is always hope for a new tomorrow!

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

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

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Review

The Life and Times of George Fernandes

Book review by Bhaskar Parichha

Title: The Life and Times of George Fernandes

Author: Rahul Ramagundam

Publisher: Penguin /Allen Lane

“Always for the people and never with the establishment”- that sums up the persona of George Fernandes. One of India’s firebrand leaders, Fernandes (1930-2019) lived his life fully and with resolve. He was a multifaceted personality: a trade union leader, a socialist, and a powerful orator. No other politician in India had risen to such heights of popularity as Fernandes was. A down–to–earth politician, he has left behind him an unparalleled legacy.

The Life and Times of George Fernandes by Rahul Ramagundam is one of its kind biographies – well-researched, colossal, and one which tells the story of a leader in minute detail. It is hard to find a biographer so immersed in the subject that it becomes a monumental work.

Reads the blurb: “George Fernandes is popularly known for leading the All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) in 1974 and calling upon its approximately 1.7 million employees to strike, which brought India to a halt for twenty days. Often described as a rebel, he pursued every cause he took up with passionate devotion, heedless of the many ups and downs in his life. From the early years of fighting for the rights of the dock and municipal workers of Bombay through the Emergency, which he resisted by going underground, to his last private decade as a bed-ridden Alzheimer’s patient, his fights were always persistent and single-handed. It chronicles the story of George, who rose from the streets of Bombay to stride the corridors of power.”  

If Fernandes was known for trade union militancy, politically he was dauntless. A rebel political leader, he was an anti-capitalist dreamer. George could call Bombay to shut down and rose from its streets to become India’s Defense Minister.

In this amazing biography, Ramagundam records George’s political evolution and traces the course of the Socialist Party in India — from its inception in the 1930s to its dissolution into the Janata Party in the late nineteen-seventies. In the process, the book explores the trajectory of India’s Opposition parties that worked to dislodge the long-ruling Congress Party from its preeminent position in the thick of the emergency. 

Ramagundam received his doctoral degree in modern Indian History at Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was associated with a grassroots movement in the united Madhya Pradesh for many years. Presently, he teaches at a Delhi-based university and also is the author of Gandhi’s Khadi and Socially Excluded.

In the prologue, Ramagundam writes: “The book tells the story of India s tortuous post-Independence building and the role of George Fernandes in it. In some ways, the book presents a contemporary history of India through the lens of George’s life and his political work. The story has George’s political emergence at its center but does not emanate merely from his perspective.” 

Explaining the basic objective of the book, the author says, “This is not a narrative of events – however defining they might have been. A biography is a chronicle of an evolutionary process and not a conglomeration of self-standing events in the subject’s life. Events shall feature here, as they are bound to be in a book dealing with a political personality. But more than the events, the book is a delineation of processes that define Indian politics. It delves deep into the evolution of India where George lived and worked tor. He also attempts to enter the political mind and probe the political choices George made.” If the book tries to present an insider’s account it also strives to construct those processes with documentary evidence and oral testimonies.

Divided into a dozen chapters with acronyms, a chronology of events, dramatis personae, and a guide to sources, there is nothing that the author has not covered about George’s action-packed life.

From his Christian beginning to the revolutionary road, George’s Bombay days, the sobriquet that George earned — More Dangerous than the Communists– the most hunted man, George’s underground days, how he was chained and confined, the gritty years — the book has all that Fernandes was made of. But it is in the last chapter (‘They Hate My Guts’) that Ramagundam exposes the double-speak of leaders who were close to Fernandes. 

Says the book: “The pedigreed hated him. The plebeians felt jealous at his powerful expression of their predicament with a perspective they lacked. Left with Bihar alone, the English-speaking socialist imports (J.B Kripalani, Asoka Mehta, Madhu Limaye, and George) won there because of their national and wider outlook to the disadvantage of the homegrown socialists. Sooner or later, to survive in Bihar politics, when caste-parochialism was raising its monstrous head all over, it was inevitable that George would have to depend on the accruing local elements and accord them primacy.”

This particular incident was one of the saddest ones in George’s life and was played out in full glare then. Ramagundam recollects the episode in the book: “In the 2004 general elections, Nitish Kumar made his return to Muzaffarpur, where he won, but in 2009, when he again desired to stand for election from the same constituency, his party headed now by Sharad Yadav, a front of Nitish Kumar, denied him a nomination. As a consequence, a fumbling George, Alzheimer’s disease already having taken some visible grip over him, was made to fight the election as an independent and he lost his deposit, denying him a graceful exit. The unsavoriness of George contesting the election against his party was opposed by his family members, who blamed Jaya Jaitly for it. Michael Fernandes wrote to Jaya about it and asked her not to make a mockery of him. And, after the election, in which he not just lost his deposit but showed up as decrepit his inability to campaign exposed to the world, Leila Fernandes put out a public statement expressing her displeasure at the goings-on in his life and politics.”

Concludes Ramagundam: “George Fernandes lived a life driven by a commitment that was experientially born, he had ideologies to believe in, and for most of his life these ideologies seemed to be personified in his endeavors and struggles, but beyond that, he lived a life of experiences, up close and personal, that is left for future generations to sort out and sift through, and learn from.” 

Comprehensive, evocative, and unputdownable, this definitive biography of George Fernandes is a tour de force. It is not only the biography of George Fernandes but also an account of the times gone by in contemporary India.

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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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