Categories
A Wonderful World

Where “Divides of Class, Religion & Ethnicities Collapse”

Painting of Durga Puja. Courtesy: Creative Commons
Wherever I look, a golden light 
Suffuses a vision of holidays,
The festive sun rises in the woods
Of puja* blossoms drenched in gold rays. 
             -- Tagore, Eshechhe Sarat

This has been a favourite poem of many who grew up reading Tagore, lines that capture the joy and abandon of the spirit that embodies the celebration of Durga Puja, a festival that many Bengalis deem as important as Christmas, Chinese New Year, Diwali or Eid. It is a major celebration in Bengal and large parts of the sub-continent, though not in all parts.

The reason that reviving the lore associated with this fiesta has become very important is that it centres around women. Given the situation in Iran, where the battle over how to wear headscarves has turned bloody, murderous and violent, celebrating an empowered woman, even if mythical, takes precedence over all else. Mythology has it that Durga was empowered by weapons given to her by various deities, all of who were men, and then, she did what all the male Gods failed to do — destroyed a demon called Mahisasur. Rama too prayed to Durga for victory around this time. And on Bijoya Doushami, the last day of the Durga Puja, some celebrate Rama’s victory over Ravana and call it Dusshera or Dashain.

Taking up this theme of the narratives around Durga Puja and how it has been made into an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO is Meenakshi Malhotra’s essay on the festival. Part of the citation reads: “During the event [Durga Puja], the divides of class, religion and ethnicities collapse….” 

To bring to you a flavour of the Puja, we have translations of poetry by Tagore describing the season and of a poet who was writing before Rabindranath, Michael Madhusdan Dutt, by Ratnottama Sengupta, verses exploring the grief of parting Durga’s mother expresses as her daughter returns to her husband’s home. This is also a festival of homecoming for, like Durga, those living far from their homes return to the heart of their families. Rituparna Mukherjee has woven a story specially around this aspect of the festival. Journals in Bengal, traditionally, brought out special editions with writings of eminent persons, like Satyajit Ray. We have an interview with a writer who wrote a book on Satyajit Ray, an actor called Barun Chanda, to bring a flavour of that tradition along with the translation of a celebrated contemporary Bengali writer, Prafulla Roy, by Aruna Chakravarti. We hope you enjoy savouring our Durga Puja Special.

Poetry

Eshechhe Sarat (Autumn) , describing the season of Durga Puja, by Tagore has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read. 

Bijoya Doushumi, a poem on the last day of Durga Puja, by the famous poet, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, has been translated from Bengali by Ratnottama Sengupta. Click here to read.

Prose

A Mother, a Daughter & a Demon Slayer?, an essay by Meenakshi Malhotra, checks out the festival of Durga Puja against the concept of women empowerment. Click here to read.

Homecoming by Rituparna Mukherjee is a poignant story about homecoming during Durga Puja. Click here to read.

Nagmati by Prafulla Roy has been translated from Bengali as Snake Maiden by Aruna Chakravarti. Click here to read. 

Interview

Meet Barun Chanda, an actor who started his career as the lead protagonist of a Satyajit Ray film and now is a bi-lingual writer of fiction and more recently, a non-fiction published by Om Books International, Satyajit Ray:The Man Who Knew Too Much in conversation Click here to read.

Categories
Stories

Homecoming

By Rituparna Mukherjee

Sulakshana looked outside her window. It was still dark outside. The 25th day of September, it was Mahalaya[1]. She had set her alarm for 4 a.m. and had woken up much before that. Her mind was a sea of thoughts that day, not anxious, she had a sense of excitement that she hadn’t felt in months. Somehow the night leading up to Mahalaya, and the sound of Birendra Krishna Bhadra[2] from her ear plugs filled her with a potent nostalgia.

She was hungry. She looked at the plums on her dining table. They embodied autumn to her and autumn, in Edinburgh, was truly one of a kind. She had loved the changing colours of the trees when she had first arrived in the quaint city to pursue her masters in biochemistry seven years ago. She had escaped the city she had grown up in. Not because she didn’t love it. She did. Dearly. But she felt constricted there. A deep introvert, she felt her voice stifled amidst the din of family and over-achieving friends. She had not considered it an escape of course. She believed she was fulfilling a very middle-class dream, that of being the foreign-educated daughter.

She had always felt somewhat burdened by her name. Her name to her carried the expectations of her parents and family, which restricted her already timid movements. In the early days in Edinburgh, her friends and professors would respectfully ask the appropriate pronunciation of her name. She would shyly oblige and after a few trials and errors she became Sue. She didn’t mind. She somehow found it liberating, as if her limbs were cut loose of the excess baggage. She enjoyed the anonymity, the distant politeness, the cleanliness of the place, the beauty of the countryside and the gorgeous cafes. But in the utter silence of the night, Kolkata whispered to her in her dreams like a capricious child. She would often see herself walking its streets on the way back home from school, especially in the month leading up to the Durga Puja celebrations — where the city itself like a beautiful maiden would prepare for the days to come, each day bringing in a new adornment, a banner in one corner, bamboo stands of the pandals[3], skeletal at first would be brimful of the local artistry. She would wake up suddenly to the smell of shiuli and kadam flowers in autumn and be a little dismayed to find herself in a cold and windy city with barely any known faces.

Mostly, she missed her grandmother and mother. They were mirror images of each other. Sometimes she liked to think of herself as their reflection, but she didn’t want to be as quiet. She had just submitted her doctoral thesis and was suddenly at a crossroad again. She would have to extend her visa to stay in this country and until that was resolved. She could not leave. She had been promising her mother that she would come home for a short while since pre-COVID times. Her mother had stopped asking after a few months. She never broached the topic herself. It lay fermenting like old rice. Sulakshana was both ashamed and afraid to touch it.

She was getting good job offers in multi-national conglomerates that would have made her life easier. But her heart lay in research. Her situation was peculiarly prickly. She had managed to save some money during her tenure, but she knew she was in for large expenses. She wasn’t sure if she had enough not to be billed an economic migrant. She could not stand the ignominy. She could only work for 20 hours per week that had largely limited her income. She had earlier applied for a U.S visa only to be refused for not having a CV[4] on her. Her stellar academic record had not mattered. She recalled her father’s worried face while adding up the numbers during her Master’s application. She had to show all the money upfront, the tiniest mistake would mean instant denial. She knew she was in for another round of the same sore process. It was a dead weight tied to her limbs. She longed to be free.

Meanwhile Birendra Krishna Bhadra was chanting- “Kuber dilen ratna haar”- the God Kuber gave the Goddess Durga a necklace of gemstones. She smiled.  She would listen to the Mahalaya’s Mahisasur Mardini, the slokas or chants invoking the descent of Durga to Earth, from her childhood. The entire family would wake up at the crack of dawn and listen to the radio with rounds of tea and biscuit. She would sit huddled close to her grandmother, a part of her saree put protectively on her to prevent her from catching cold in the transitioning weather. Her grandmother would often ask her questions such as- “Accha[5], let me see if you have heard it well. What did the God Biswakarma give the Goddess?” Or, “Do you remember how many names the Goddess has?” She would never tire of these questions, or of making garlands out of shiuli flowers, her grandmother’s favourite. The other day when she spotted dhuna [6]in the incense department of the store in Edinburgh, her eyes watered with a pain she thought she would never know.

The Goddess had killed Mahishasur and was coming to her family. She knew she would have to decide soon. She could see the faint light of dawn spreading in the sky outside her window. That was the same everywhere. The story of the homecomingof Durga would always end with dawn, symbolic to her in so many ways. She felt a lump in her throat. Perhaps it was time to return home after all.      


[1] The start of the descent of the Goddess Durga from her heavenly home to Earth, her paternal home.

[2] Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991), a writer, playwright and radio broadcaster whose rendition of evoking Durga on her journey to Earth is one of the best-known and best-loved by Bengalis across the world.

[3] Marquee

[4] Curriculum Vitae

[5] Okay

[6] incense

Rituparna Mukherjee is a faculty of English and Communication Studies at Jogamaya Devi College, under the University of Calcutta. She is a published poet and short fiction writer. She works as a freelance translator for Bengali and Hindi fiction and poetry and is an editor at the Antonym Magazine.  She is also an ELT consultant and ESL author outside of her work and research schedule.

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

Categories
Contents

Borderless, August 2022

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

The Stars were Shining There for You & Me, for Liberty… Click here to read.

Conversation

The Making of Historical Fiction: A Conversation with Aruna Chakravarti unfolds the creation of her latest novel, The Mendicant Prince, based on the prince of Bhawal controversy in the first part of the last century. Click here to read.

Translations

Tagore’s humorous skit, The Treatment of an Ailment, has been translated by Somdatta Mandal. Click here to read.

Arise, Arise O Patriot! and Helmsman Attention! by Kazi Nazrul Islam have been translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Pus Ki Raat or A Frigid Winter Night by Munshi Premchand has been translated from Hindi by C Christine Fair. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Song of Hope or ‘Hobe Joye‘ has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Rhys Hughes, Ratnottama Sengupta, Mike Smith, Rituparna Mukherjee, Tony Brewer, Ahmed Rayees, Ron Pickett, Ramesh Dohan, Sister Lou Ella Hickman, Sambhu Nath Banerjee, Candice Louisa Daquin, Oindri Sengupta, Gigi Baldovino Gosnell, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Tanvi Jeph, George Freek, Michael R Burch

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In Mini-Sagas: A Dozen Examples, Rhys Hughes talks of a new genre with dollops of humour. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Istanbul

G Venkatesh has a stopover in the airport to make a discovery. Click here to read.

The Loyal Dog in Loyalty Island

Meredith Stephens makes friends with a dog in the township of Wé on the Lifou island, an ‘overseas territory’ of France. Click here to read.

The ‘New Kid on the Block’ Celebrates…

Dr Kirpal Singh ruminates over what led to the making of an island state, Singapore. Click here to read.

Remnants of Time Once Spent Together

Sayali Korgaonkar ruminates over loss and grieving. Click here to read.

Moonland

Rupali Gupta Mukherjee journeys through the moonlike landscape housing a monastery with her camera and a narrative. Click here to read.

King Lear & Kathakali?

PG Thomas revisits a performance that mesmerised him in a pre-covid world. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In A Bone in My Platter, Devraj Singh Kalsi shares a taste of running a restaurant. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

Suzanne Kamata writes a light slice from life in The Boy & The Cats: A Love Story. Click here to read.

Stories

Does this Make Me a Psychic?

Erwin Coombs tells a suspenseful, funny, poignant and sad story, based on his real life experiences. Click here to read.

Hard Choices

Santosh Kalwar gives a glimpse of hope for an abandoned girl-child in Nepal. Click here to read.

No Rain on the Parade

Tan Kaiyi goes on a hunt for the National Day Killer. Click here to read.

Until We Meet Again

Shivani Shrivastav transports us to Manali for a misty union. Click here to read.

The Hatchet Man

Paul Mirabile tells a story of murder and horror. Click here to read.

I am Not the End

Aysha Baqir takes on the persona of a computer to unleash a poignant and chilling story. Click here to read.

Essays

How Many Ways To Love a Book

Sindhu Shivprasad describes passion for books. Click here to read.

Hiking in the Himalayas with Nabinji

Ravi Shankar explores more of Himalayas in Nepal. Click here to read.

Freedom is another word for… Zohra Sehgal

Ratnottama Sengupta gives a glimpse of the life of Zohra Sehgal, based on the book Zohra: A Biography in Four Acts by Ritu Menon, and her own personal interactions with the aging Zohra Sehgal. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In Can We Create a Better World by Just Wishing for it, Candice Louisa Daquin dwells on the question to locate answers. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir by B. M. Zuhara translated by Fehmida Zakeer. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Michael R Burch’s poetry book, O, Terrible Angel. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Tagore’s Four Chapters translated and introduced by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Gracy Samjatsabam visits Mamang Dai’s Escaping the Land. Click here to read.

Aditi Yadav reviews Pallavi Aiyar’s Orienting : An Indian in Japan. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal visits Neelum Saran Gour’s Requiem in Raga Janki. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Rakesh Batabyal’s Building a Free India. Click here to read.

Categories
Poetry

A Vain Monsoon

By Rituparna Mukherjee

A VAIN MONSOON

Your thoughts make me vain,
It is not a kind emotion,
I try to look for myself
In every verse that inhabits your mouth,
Like a stranger, asking for directions
In the lanes of an intimate city
Littered with cramped shops,
Streetlights glimmering in latent desire
In your weak, wary eyes.

A city dwells in me.
You touch it through all seasons
With tepid drops of rain
Turning it muddy in places,
Heaving with warm sighs in others.
You knock on random doors at other times,
With furious hail and fierce winds,
Smashing glass,
Seeping through curtains wet,
Lying in pools of unquenched ardour,
Near my feet,
Too tender to be wiped dry.

Clouds of longing reign in dirty gutters,
Where I send you ruined poetry,
Folded neatly in childish boats,
Wishing they would travel
To your window,
Through which you glance in evenings,
At the golden redolent skies
That stretch between the two of us.

Rituparna Mukherjee is a faculty of English and Communication Studies at Jogamaya Devi College, under the University of Calcutta. She is currently pursuing Doctoral degree in Gendered Mobilities in west African and Afro-Diasporic Literature at IIIT Bhubaneswar. She works as an ELT consultant, translator and ESL author outside of her work and research schedule.

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