Categories
Contents

Borderless, March 2022

Painting by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

Where Have All the Sunflowers Gone?… Click here to read.

Ukranian Refrains

In When will we ever learn? Oh, will we ever learn?, Ratnottama Sengupta, comments on the current situation in Ukraine while dwelling on her memorable meeting with folk legend Pete Seeger, a pacifist, who wrote ‘Where have all the Flowers gone’, based on a folk song from Ukraine. Click here to read.

In Can Peace come Dropping by,Candice Louisa Daquin explores war and peace pausing over the attack on Ukraine. Click here to read.

Three Poems from Ukraine by Leslya Bakun. Click here to read.

Translations

Manush: Nazrul’s Lines for Humankind: Translated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Jibananda Das’s Where have all these Birds Gone & On the Pathways for Longtranslated from Bengali by Professor Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Munir Momin’s You & I translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Down the stairs by Nabendu Ghosh, a gripping story exploring the greyer areas of ethical dilemmas, has been translated by Sarmishta Mukhopadhyay with editorial input from Ratnottama Sengupta. Click here to read.

Autumn is Long, a poem written in Korean and translated to English by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Tagore’s Anondodhara Bohichche Bhubone (The Universe reverberates with celestial ecstasy)…translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Pandies’ Corner

These narratives are written by youngsters from the Nithari village who transcended childhood trauma and deprivation. A letter to God by Tanveer Hussain  uses the epistolary technique to asks questions that would be relevant for all humankind. It has been translated from Hindustani by Vritika Thareja. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read

Kirpal Singh, Rhys Hughes, Sutputra Radheye, Jay Nicholls, Uma Gowrishankar, Mike Smith, Anasuya Bhar, Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, Supatra Sen, George Freek, Pramod Rastogi, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Ananta Kumar Singh, Michael R Burch, Shaza Khan

Nature’s Musings

In Storms & Seas, Penny Wilkes explores birds and the ocean during rough weather. Click here to read.

Poets, Poetry or Rhys Hughes

In Tall or Short Tales, Rhys Hughes explores the absurd. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Eva Zu Beck & Marco Polo

San Lin Tun writes of how, in Yangon, he spends the lockdown watching a travel blog by Eva Zu Beck. Click here to read.

Messages through Space and Time

Meredith Stephens explores how the art of letter writing creates links across borders of time and place. Click here to read.

It’s Amazing the Things We can Do

Erwin Coombs takes us through his life in Egypt and has a relook at Nazi occupied Europe with a dollop of humour to come to an amazing conclusion. Click here to read.

An Existential Dilemma

G Venkatesh uses the laws of thermodynamics to try to interpret the laws that define life. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

Devraj Singh Kalsi ponders on his Visit to a Book Fair. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In Imagining a Possible Future: Filmmaker Felicity Tillack, Suzanne Kamata introduces us to an Australian film maker who is making films in Japan now and some are in Japanese. Click here to read.

Mission Earth

Kenny Peavy starts his column with Mama Calling, a cry to go back to living with nature. Click here to read.

Interviews

From the Himalayas to the Banks of Thames: In Conversation with Sangita Swechcha, a writer shuttles between England and Nepal and writes of her homeland. Click here to read.

At Home Across Continents : In Conversation with Neeman Sobhan, a Bangladeshi-born writer who writes of her experiences as an expat in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Italy and America. Click here to read.

Stories

The Man Who got Eaten

 Kieran Martin tells a tall tale or is it short? Click here to read.

Death Will Come

Munaj Gul Muhammed captures the wafting sadness of grieving in this short poetic narrative. Click here to read.

SofieMol

Sharika Nair paints a vignette of the past merging with the present in her narrative. Click here to read.

Faith & Fortune

Devraj Singh Kalsi shows how the twists of faith are aligned to wealth and fame. Click here to read.

Henrik’s Journey

Farah Ghuznavi follows a conglomerate of people on board a flight to address issues ranging from Rohingyas to race bias. Click here to read.

Essays

The Kaleidoscopic World of Satyajit Ray

Anasuya Bhar takes us into the literary world of Satyajit Ray, the world famous film director. Click here to read.

Are Some of Us More Human than Others ?

Meenakshi Malhotra ponders at the exclusivity that reinforces divisions, margins and borders that continue to plague humankind, against the backdrop of the Women’s Month, March. Click here to read.

The Observant Immigrant

In The Paradox of Modern Communication, Candice Louisa Daquin takes us through the absurdities that haunt modern verbal communication. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from Friends in Wild Places: Birds, Beasts and Other Companions by Ruskin Bond. Click here to read.

An excerpt of a short story by Yang Ming from Asian Anthology, edited by Ivy Ngeow. Click here to read an excerpt.

Book Reviews

Meenakshi Malhotra reviews Mahasweta Devi, Our Santiniketan translated by Radha Chakravarty. Click here to read.

Indrashish Banerjee reviews The Tombstone in My Garden: Stories From Nagaland by Temsula  Ao. Click here to read.

Keith Lyons reviews Asian Anthology: New Writing Vol. 1: Stories by Writers from Around the World, edited by Ivy Ngeow. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Why They Killed Gandhi; Unmasking the Ideology and the Conspiracy by Ashok Kumar Pandey. Click here to read.

Special Issues

Imagine… Click here to read our World Poetry Day Special.

Categories
Editorial

Where Have All the Sunflowers Gone?

Only when the cries of the wretched of the earth will stop renting the skies,
Only when the oppressor’s bloody sword will cease smearing battlefields,
			A rebel, weary of war,
			Only then I won’t stir.
…
I’m the ever-rebellious hero--
	Soaring over the world, all alone, head forever held high!

--  Rebel or 'Bidrohi' (1922) by Nazrul, translated by Fakrul Alam
Borderless: Digital Art by Ayaan Ghoshal
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
…
Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.         
 Shantih shantih shantih

-- Wasteland (1922) by TS Eliot

These lines reiterate values we would do well to live by in a war-torn, dissension-worn world where the need for a rebel to recreate a humane society that lives with values such as peace, generosity, acceptance, tolerance, compassion and restraint — is a felt need. The two great poems made history by remaining as popular a hundred years after they were written — ‘The Rebel’ by Nazrul and TS Eliot’s ‘Wasteland’. Nazrul defined a rebel as an iconoclast who breaks norms to find peace, justice and love for all, to move towards the creation of an ideal world. TS Eliot quoted from the Upanishads and ended with redemption coming with giving (giver perhaps denoted generosity), compassion and restraint. Despite the wisdom of these great poets and seers, war still continues a reality. The values remain neglected not just in as we see in conflicts, like the one in Ukraine that destroys lives, property and nature with intolerance towards differences, but also in our personal lives. Tagore also reiterated the same need for stepping out of personal, social, economic and political insularity. We carry a translation of a song that echoed this need while inviting participation in his ecstasy. He wrote:

Why do you sit in isolation,
Dwelling on self-centred issues? 

Tagore had not only written of the negative impact of isolation from the world but he led by example, building institutions that could lead the world towards pacifism with acceptance of diversity and inclusiveness. Sriniketan and Santiniketan were created to move towards these ideals. Many of the people he influenced or who studied in Santiniketan made history, like Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Satyajit Ray; many added to the sense of inclusiveness, like Mahasweta Devi, who other than her enormous work to integrate different cultures, also wrote a memoir about Santiniketan in Bengali. Radha Chakravarty, nominated for the Crossword Translation Award (2004) for In the Name of the Mother by Mahasweta Devi, has translated this memoir, a narrative which brings us close to Tagore’s ideals of the whole world being a family. How wonderful it would be if the world were open to such ideals and would behave like a global family and not go to war!  Mahasweta Devi, Our Santiniketan, which has been reviewed by Meenakshi Malhotra, reiterates Tagore’s vision of a planet living in harmony with the flora and fauna.

Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed another non-fiction by Ashok Kumar Pandey, Why They Killed Gandhi; Unmasking the Ideology and the Conspiracy. Parichha writes: “The finest point about this book is its storytelling…” The book review brings to mind in the midst of a war and violence that Gandhi had tried to erase this mindless destruction of lives, nature and cities with Ahimsa or non-violence. Will we ever rise up to it? Perhaps… We see strains of recognising the negative impact of insular outlook in writings like that of Temsula Ao, a Sahitya Akademi Award winner, according to Indrashish Banerjee who has reviewed her new book, The Tombstone in My Garden: Stories from Nagaland. Keith Lyons has reviewed Asian Anthology: New Writing Vol. 1: Stories by Writers from Around the World, edited by Ivy Ngeow, an exotic medley of Asian stories, one of which has been excerpted as well.

We are privileged to carry another excerpt from Ruskin Bond’s Friends in Wild Places: Birds, Beasts and Other Companions, a hilarious story about a pet tiger adopted by the legendary writer’s grandfather. What is amazing about Ruskin Bond’s writing is the love and compassions for all creatures great and small that colours the tongue-in-cheek humour he rolls out to his readers. If only we could think like Bond, there would be no wars. His writing, I feel, transcends political borders or ‘isms’, and laces with love and compassion tales of menageries of monkeys, snakes, mongoose, humans of different denominations. This excerpt is a treat we are giving Borderless Journal as the journal completes two years of its existence. We are truly grateful to Speaking Tiger for sharing this excerpt with us. But our celebrations this time are sombre as the war rages with incoherence accompanied by heart-breaking ravages.

The refrain from Ukraine has been taken up by Ratnottama Sengupta as she takes us through the past and present experiences of the devastated country, bringing in the views of the legendary folk singer and pacifist, Pete Seeger (1919-2014), who she had interviewed over a span of four days. The writer of ‘Where have all the Flowers Gone?’, a song based on an Ukrainian folk song, Seeger said, “The point is not to ask for yourself alone — one has to ask for everybody: Either we all are going to make it over the rainbow or nobody is going to make it.” Candice Louisa Daquin has also pondered on the justification of war, contextualising it with the current one along with her essay on the paradox of modern linguistic communication.

We have an exhaustive essay on the legendary Satyajit Ray’s creations by Anasuya Bhar. Malhotra has pondered at exclusivity reinforcing divisions, margins and borders to plague humankind, against the backdrop of the Women’s Month, March. Highlighting women in writing, we have interviewed two female writers, one from Nepal and another from Bangladesh. Sangita Swechcha lives in UK but her writing, till now largely in Nepali, often pines for her home embedded in the Himalayas whereas, an expat, Neeman Sobhan, shuttles between Bangladesh and Italy with the affluence and assurance of a privileged background.

Finding a way to override lack of privileges, deprivation and violence, are the youngsters of Nithari on the outskirts of Delhi where less than two decades ago other than poverty, savage criminality devastated the local populace. These youngsters transcended the suffering over time with help from volunteering NGOs to create narratives that amaze with their inventiveness and confidence. Tanveer Hussain from Nithari, self-motivated and self-made from a young age, asks questions that would be relevant for all humankind in a letter to God. It has been translated from Hindustani by Vritika Thareja of pandies’. This edition’s translations include Professor Fakrul Alam’s mellifluous rendition of Jibanananda Das’s poetry from Bengali to English, Ihlwha Choi’s Korean poetry and a Balochi poem by Munir Momin rendered in English by Fazal Baloch. Baloch had earlier translated poems by Akbar Barakzai, a great poet who departed on 7th March, depriving the world of yet another powerful writer who imbibed hope of a better future in his poetry. We are privileged to have hosted the translations of some of his poems and his last interview.

Another well-known poetic voice from Singapore, Kirpal Singh, has given us poignant poetry that can be applied to the situation that is leading to the wreck of Ukraine. Anasuya Bhar has  poetry, one of which despite being in the ilk of Nazrul’s great poem, ‘Rebel or Bidrohi’, questions gently mainly social constructs that obstruct the flow of harmony. Ryan Quinn Flanagan has pondered on the acceptance of a changed world. We have humour from Rhys Hughes in poetry and wonderful poems by Michael R Burch on spring. Jay Nicholls shares the last of her dozen Pirate poems as Blacktarn sails the lemon seas to fight pollution. Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal, George Freek, Sutputra Radheye, Mike Smith, Shaza Khan and many more have contributed a wealth of beautiful lines. Penny Wilkes has captured storms and seas with photographs and text and Rhys has surprised us with some strange, bizarre tales in his column.

We have musings from around the world. San Lin Tun, Meredith Stephens, Erwin Coombs, G Venkatesh have all brought in flavours of multiple cultures. Devraj Singh Kalsi has spoken of a book fair he visited in a semi-sardonic tone. He has also given us a short story as has Farah Ghuznavi – a truly borderless story which takes place in an aeroplane, in the sky where all borders collapse. We have more stories from Balochistan, US and India.

Suzanne Kamata continues writing on Japan as she  introduces us to an Australian film maker who is making films in Japan and in Japanese, called Felicity Tillack. Cultures are perhaps truly crossing borders as we can see Kenny Peavy, an environmentalist who moved from US to Indonesia start a new column with us called ‘Mission Earth’. We hope, like Tagore or Rousseau, he will help to revive our felt need to live with nature, acknowledge the nurture that we get from the planet to live in harmony with it and on it.

At the end of twenty-four months of existence – that sounds better than a mere two years— we are happy to host a melange of writers from across the borders and be the meeting grounds of writers and readers from across continents. I am truly thankful to all of you for helping concretise an ideal. Huge thanks to all the writers, artists, photographers and the readers for the contribution of their time, effort and love. And thanks to our fabulous team who continue to support the journal unwaveringly. I would also like to thank Sohana for the lovely visuals she generously shares with us. A special thanks also to young Ayaan Ghoshal for his digital art where hands reach out to support a truly borderless world.

As usual, all the content has not been covered here, I invite you all to enjoy our March edition of Borderless Journal.

At the start of the third year of our existence, let us march onwards towards renewed hope – maybe the Ukraine experience will take us closer to a war-free world with an awakening of a felt need for peace and compassion in a planet without borders.

In quest of a peaceful, humane world, I invite you all to continue being part of this journey.  

Mitali Chakravarty

Borderless Journal

Categories
Slices from Life

Eva Zu Beck & Marco Polo

San Lin Tun writes of how, in Yangon, he spends the lockdown watching a travel blog by Eva Zu Beck

Neither do I know Eva Zu Beck nor did I know Marco Polo, personally. But both of them are travellers who have impacted many. There is a difference between them because one is the traveller of 14th Century while the other is a contemporary 21st Century traveller.  Marco Polo had travelled through the kingdom of Myanmar but Eva zu Beck has not yet been to Yangon. 

One records his travel in a book or a diary while the other documents her travel by posting it on YouTube, Instagram, and other social media. I wonder who has got more followers, Marco Polo or Eva zu Beck? Or will it be a faux pas to compare like this?

Marco Polo, explorer and writer was a denizen of Venice as well as a Venetian merchant who travelled through Asia along the Silk Road between 1271 and 1295. His travels are recorded in The Travels of Marco Polo that is also known as Book of the Marvels of the World and Il Milione, c. 1300. 

It is a book that revealed to Europeans the mysterious culture and inner workings of the Eastern world, including the wealth and great size of the Mongol Empire and China in the Yuan Dynasty, while giving their first comprehensive look into China, Persia, India, Japan and other Asian cities and countries. 

He, in fact, dictated his stories to a cellmate named Rustichello da Pisa while in a Genoan prisoner of war. Notably and truly, his travel book inspired Christopher Columbus and many other travellers, ensuing after him.

*

You might not know Eva Zu Beck or you might have already known her. But, I think her name can precipitate some interest in you. As for me, I like to watch her vlog on YouTube and so, I plan to subscribe her channel later.

In fact, she is a young girl from Poland and she has travelled a lot for her vlogs. She says that she is a professional traveller and that means that she lives on travelling. I wonder if someone lives on traveling or not. 

*

Recently, I happened to buy a smart television, especially for my two children — for their education and entertainment. When the TV is available for me to watch, I switch channels one after another. 

These days, I like to watch new movies for getting rid of my boredom caused by stay-at-home measures of the pandemic. It is the only way to overcome that dilemma. If you lose your interest in life, imagine what living will be like. 

During this time, my taste in movies has noticeably changed. Now, I like to watch Russian, Iranian, Tamil movies among others. These films seem to be more artistic and better-developed than yesteryear’s movies to me. I feel that way because I had been a staunch fan of Hollywood, Bollywood and Kung Fu movies. I find new flavours in them and watch them again and again. Then, I like to watch documentaries and other interesting channels relating to travel, vacation, nature etc. 

During my surfs through the internet, I unintentionally found Eva Zu Beck’s vlog while I was on a lookout for engrossing channels to ward off my fatigue and weariness of the mind. Then, I found her vlog. I do not know what exactly attracted me to her vlog.

I watch one vlog and I have become hooked to her other vlogs one after another. She took me to new places I have not been before. Her charm and simplicity are part of her charism. She is not pompous, less of a show-off. The down-to-earth style nurtured by her is very well suited to travel blogs.

I like to follow her wherever she leads me to. She leads me on her cycling experiences across Poland to Germany for some days. It is a daunting task for her. Here in Myanmar, two years ago, the founder of Uncharted Horizon, a real lanky and strongly built man named Jochen Meissner went on a cycling venture from Yangon to Singapore in hope of raising funds for good causes. 

When I met him for an interview, he eagerly told me that it took them nearly a month to reach the destination. He briefed me that he would do the cycling to Nepal in the next year. He postponed it because of the outbreak of the pandemic. 

*

In terms of cycling, I find that Eva is a daring cyclist. She stops at camp sites for resting and carried on her cycling tour until she reached her destination. Even, she cried bitterly when she faced real difficulties, I felt sorry for her.

She explained that she was inspired by her grandfather, also a great traveller. She read out some texts from her grandfather’s notebook in a tent. It was truly inspirational. When I watch her explanation of how she got a million subscribers, I felt she really deserved it.

In one of her interviews, she answered that she gave up everything including her previous job to travel fully and to become a full-time traveller. I learnt quite a lot from watching her vlogs. Her vlogs gave me new experiences and new dimension to life. 

Nowadays, if I want to travel, I just need to switch on the YouTube channel and watch Eva’s vlog I don’t need to have passport or visa for travelling. It is one of the best things in life. I just watch her vlog and she will be my travelling guide and companion who will take me to places which I have never been or experienced before.

I feel wonderful because I feel belonged to those places and feel like I have become a global nomad while I am just sitting in my small living room without spending anything thanks to Eva Zu Beck.

San Lin Tun is a freelance writer of essays, poetry, short story and novel in Myanmar and English. His publications have appeared in several magazines such as Asia Literary Review, Kitaab, NAW, PIX, Mad in Asia Pacific, Mekong Review, Ponder Savant and others. He is the author of a novel “An English Writer.”

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

Categories
Myanmar Special

Rohingyas, Rifts and Peace

One of the countries often in news nowadays is Myanmar or Burma. George Orwell’s novel, Burmese Days (1934), showcased a society afflicted by racism, exclusivity, nepotism and ignorance. Was his depiction accurate? What has changed from then to now? While the international community looks on, waiting for the country to solve its internal crises, citizens are victimised not only by the pandemic but also by a military coup. Some of them have been stateless for some time now, thrown out altogether for being ‘a threat to Buddhism’. Jessica Mudditt, an author and journalist, who spent four years in Myanmar saw fit to voice her experiences within a country with 135 ethnicities. Her memoir, Our Home in Myanmar – Four Years in Yangon ( 2021), showcases a country where anyone can be displaced at any point like the Rohingyas. With 90% of the population following Buddhism, how is the religion, born of the compassionate quest of a prince to alleviate human suffering, being interpreted? Recently, in an interview, Muddit said, “Most people outside Myanmar assume that Buddhism is a religion of peace, so they don’t understand why so much violence has taken place, or that Buddhism can turn militant and be infected with extreme nationalism.”

This special showcases Myanmar from various perspectives: from that of an expat journalist, from a travellers’, a local writer’s and it even has a translation of a Tagore poem that reflects on the compassion of a Buddhist sage revered in Myanmar, called Shin Upagutta or Upagupta. Why should Shin Upagutta’s devotees resort to violence? Seeking answers, we present this selection from our treasury.

Content

The Tryst, a story poem about Upagupta’s mercy by Rabindranath Tagore translated from Bengali. Click here to read.

In Conversation with Jessica Mudditt: Keith Lyons discusses with  Jessica Mudditt her memoir, Our Home in Myanmar, and its current relevance. Click here to read.

Book Review of Our Home in Myanmar by Keith Lyons. Click here to read.

An excerpt from Our Home in Myanmar, describing the trials faced by expat residents and media. Click here to read.

A slice of life in Myanmar from San Lin Tun, reflecting local colours. Click here to read.

In Once Upon a Time in Burma: Land of a Thousand Pagodas, John Herlihy explores the magnificent sites of Mandalay in company of a Slovenian friend in the first episode of his quartet on his Myanmar, set in the pre-covid world. Click here to read.

In Once Upon a Time in Burma: Of Babies and Buddhas, John Herlihy takes us through more of Myanmar with his companion, Peter, in the second part of his travelogue. Click here to read.

Categories
Slices from Life

Infinite Possibilities & Mysterious Riddles

A new book launched this month enables unimpeded international travel with open borders. Readers can easily fly to destinations around the globe, as Keith Lyons finds out. 

There are no pre-screening forms to fill out, no health tests required, and no quarantines to endure. You don’t even need to mask up. That’s right, you could instantly be transported to another world, another country, another place. That’s the unexpected bonus for borderless readers in the The Whole Wide World (Sweetycat Press), a unique crime fiction anthology co-authored by different 80 writers, with each chapter set in a new location. 

Locations include Chennai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Kochin, and Kolkata, as well as the Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Japan. Through the wonderful medium of the printed word, access to exotic places can only happen virtually — through the imagination — rather than in real life.

The newly released detective book was written and produced during a time when most of the world’s 7.9 billion population have been under Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, stay-at-home orders or cross-border travel restrictions. However, armchair travelers and avid sleuths can follow the twists and turns of a transnational manhunt crisscrossing the globe. 

The plot centres around efforts to solve one of the greatest heists ever pulled off, with Detective Curly Knucklewad and his assistant Wanda Wowzer pursuing leads and clues in search of the thief who stole a secret recipe.

Authors selected for the anthology include award-winning detective writers, lawyers, TV news correspondents, and college English professors. There is even a Vietnam War Top Secret counter-insurgency writer and press agency photographer.

Sweetycat Press publisher and editor Steve Carr wanted the experimental project to highlight not just the 80 authors selected for inclusion in the book, but also diverse settings throughout the planet, ranging from Kolkata’s Chinatown to ‘Indian Switzerland’, Ooty. “The book is really a global initiative, with contributing authors from 18 countries around the world, including the United States, Australia, India, and Canada, as well as the Maldives, Nigeria, Israel, and Mexico. As a result, The Whole Wide World takes readers on a journey to nearly two dozen nations, as well as under-water, back to the 1970s, and to the final frontier: outer space.”

Mr Carr says although contributors were given a short brief with just two main characters and the master plot, and the book was compiled in the order the submissions were received, suspense is maintained throughout the novel. “Each chapter has a unique location, with every author bringing their own fresh perspective, voice and tone to the manhunt. The parts range from comic to chilling. Even though the locations jump around from one episode to the next, incredibly each instalment builds anticipation and follows on from the previous part, with the storyline remaining consistent.”

For some contributors, such as Myanmar’s San Lin Tun, English is not their first language: “With around two billion people speaking or reading English, I am pleased to have my work and my location represented in this global project. Many of the original Sherlock Holmes stories were adapted and translated into the Burmese language in the 1930s, so in placing my episode of the crime caper in Myanmar, I am following in the footsteps of that tradition. I have always wanted to write Yangon Noir, and this anthology gives me a chance to showcase it.”

The short action-packed episodes of ‘The Whole Wide World’ will have broad appeal, says Thailand-based travel writer Christopher Winnan, author of Around the World in Eighty Documentaries.”This new book about an international manhunt is a great idea, and in this post-pandemic world, it shows the value of co-operation and collaboration beyond borders, as well as the value of armchair travel in exploring the world in a more sustainable, zero-carbon way. The Whole Wide World joins the list of ‘must-reads’ for 2021 for any stay-at-home sleuth-hound, amateur private investigator or wannabe gumshoe. Ultimately The Whole Wide World is about re-discovering the joy of international travel and place, something almost all of us are missing right now.”

The Whole Wide World publisher Virginia-based Sweetycat Press (www.Sweetycatpress.com) was founded in 2020 to support and encourage new writers, and each year produces a Who’s Who of Emerging Writers. 

With some of the biggest names in crime fiction failing to make the cut and new debut authors among those shortlisted for the Scottish McIlvanny Prize this week, Mr Carr believes readers might discover some exciting new talent in the pages of The Whole Wide World, even if they don’t solve the case with Detective Curly Knucklewad. “Readers are fascinated by the characters, the tension of their relationships, and the unresolved mystery, as well as the broader themes of intellectual property theft, the quest for answers, and ultimately, human nature.”

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Keith Lyons (keithlyons.net) is an award-winning writer, author and creative writing mentor, who gave up learning to play bagpipes in a Scottish pipe band to focus on after-dark tabs of dark chocolate, early morning slow-lane swimming, and the perfect cup of masala chai tea. Find him@KeithLyonsNZ or blogging at Wandering in the World (http://wanderingintheworld.com).

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

Categories
Slices from Life

Nyaung Hnin Noodle

A vignette of life from Myanmar By San Lin Tun

Nyaung Hnin Noodle

The whole house was active preparing for my sister’s birthday who turned twenty that year.  The evening before, the family gathered to plan for the event, I heard she would invite her friends from school. They would come to our house around 9:30 am. Our house was located in downtown Yangon, a few minutes away from famous shopping center, Bogyoke Aung San Market (formerly known as Scott Market). Earlier, most of the streets’ names were buzzing with British nomenclature. But later, they reverted to Myanmar names because people did not fancy Anglicised names.

Mother called out, “Dear Thinza, have you finished making up yourself? Come out and help with these arrangements for your birthday.”

 Thinza replied, “Yes, mom, just a minute. I will be ready. Please ask Tun to help you a bit now.”

I was in my room, reading a book but I heard their conversations. I emerged from my room and went to the living room where mom was laying down tables to serve guests. When Mom saw me, she told, “Tun, honey, get inside the kitchen where your granny is preparing Nyaung Hnin noodle.”

As soon as I heard the word “Nyaung Hnin”, my mouth became watery and my appetite quickened. I did not know that mom would prepare Nyaung Hnin Noodle for my sister’s birthday. I thought at first that they would order some chicken and parata (flat bread made of flour) for the guests. But, in the last minute, they changed the plan.

I replied, “Sure, mom. I will go and help granny.”

When I entered the kitchen, granny was still cooking the noodle. I asked her, “Granny, is it almost finished? I am a bit hungry now.”

She smiled at me and patted my head gently. Looking at me cheerfully, she said, “You naughty boy! You are not supposed to help me, right? You want to eat it now?”

She was stirring the pot gently with a wooden ladle. The gravy was yellowish and I saw bits of chicken and some onions in the gravy which was boiling with bubbles appearing on its surface. Its smell was so good that I tried to suppress my taste buds. But, I could not control it and asked, “Granny, can I try some?”

Glancing at me with fake scorn, she scooped a spoonful of gravy and gave it to me. I put the spoon into my mouth after blowing off the steam and heat from the gravy. So tasty. I exclaimed, “Yummy!” and nodded my head several times with satisfaction. It was really delicious. Seeing the expression on my face, my granny smiled and asked me how the gravy was. Savouring the flavour, I nodded my head with approval.

Granny beamed a broad smile and said, “It will be ready in a few minutes. Just wait here.” She put some more ingredients into the gravy and stirred it gently again. The kitchen was full of the savoury smell of the gravy for the noodle.

As I wiped plates and spoons with a napkin, a thought came into my head. Although we had this noodle quite often, I did not know the story behind the noodle. Suddenly, I wanted to know the story.

My sister Thinza came into the kitchen just then.

“Huh, Tun, what are you doing here? You are supposed to be with mom.”

I replied, “No, mom told me to help granny. So, I came here.” After listening to my explanation, Thinza left the kitchen for the living room.

Then, I asked my grandmother. “Granny, we have been having this noodle for a long time. Do you know who invented this recipe, when and why?”

Looking at me strangely, Granny stopped her stirring for a while. “Huh, Tun. That’s a good question. Why are you asking this question so suddenly? You see, I am busy with this. I will tell you later. Give me a big bowl. I will pour the gravy into that bowl.”

Granny poured the gravy into the bowl and soon the bowl was filled up with the gravy. Granny unwrapped the flat noodles and put them into the plate. She tried to lay out everything such as fritters, chili powder, shredded onions, tamarind liquid in different plates and saucers.

There was a custom we followed to eat the Nyaung Hnin noodle. We needed to use our fingers to take noodle from the plate. They said that it would feel more flavourful that way. Another feature was that the noodle had to be yellow, not white. Normally, noodle was white in colour. I asked my granny, what made the noodle yellow. She replied that it was smeared with yellow ginger powder.

When all set, granny asked me to go and tell my mom. When I reached the living room, mom was already laid out four circular low tables. As soon as she saw me, she asked me to bring the cutlery in. I laid five plates for each table. Beside the plates, I put spoon and forks.

It was only for guests. For us, we would have the noodle with fingers. We knew that some of them found it inconvenient using their fingers while having the noodle.  Soon, Thinza’s friends came one after another. They exchanged greetings, giving her birthday presents. All of them were seated at their respective tables.

They conversed with each other and seemed very happy. Thiza was very pretty with her pink blouse and a nice trendy hairdo. Thinza was busy ladling the gravy into the plate in which noodle had been placed. She moved from one table to another.  Everyone liked it and they asked for more gravy and noodle.

It seemed that they enjoyed eating it. I felt proud that it our special family recipe. I wanted to know the story even more.

Meanwhile, my father came with a birthday cake. Thinza blew candles and everyone sang the birthday song.

They had cake and left. The birthday party ended around 11 a.m. Thinza asked for permission from our parents to go out with her friends. They wanted to see a new movie at the local theatre. My parents agreed and Thinza went out together with her friends.

I cleared up. My granny sat on her easy chair in the verandah of our apartment. The verandah overlooked a school compound with tall trees. It was quiet because it was school holiday.

I sat beside her and massaged her limbs. She looked at me and smiled. She knew I wanted the story. Lifting a cup of green tea to her mouth, she sipped a bit and cleared her throat and started her narrative.

Nyaung Hnin lived in a small village in an island called Balukyun which means ogre island. Actually, the word “Nyaung” is a Mon word and means “Aunty” which is a literal translation for the word. Normally for a Myanmar woman takes “Daw” which is an honourable title for a lady or a woman in seniority. The village’s name was “Tawkanar” which was a Mon word. There were over sixty villages in the island and it was peopled by mainly the Mon.

They grew paddy and fish because their island was surrounded by the fast-flowing Thanlyin River which flows into Andaman Sea. Nyaung Hninn lived very close to my granny’s house and was related to her. Nyaung Hnin was five years older than my granny. Before she started selling noodle in the village, she was a rice broker.

She normally went up to Mawlamyine, a port city across the island to sell paddy. It was in socialist times and the business of the port was booming and thriving because of the goods smuggled from Thailand. Back in early 19th century, British settled in that port city and we knew that even George Orwell, a well-known British writer, then known as Eric Blair had his aunt in that port city.

A view of Mawlamyine

Nyaung Hnnin’s business prospered till her husband died in a shipwreck. Out of sadness and despair, she stopped working. She was jobless until one day she found the recipe when she cooked this noodle. She had been interested in cooking from a young age. Mawlamyine women or Mon women had excellent cooking skills.

One day, Nyaung Hnnin prepared a noodle curry. While cooking, she put some ingredients which would go well with the curry. She stirred the curry a while. It became less watery and started to thicken. It seemed a kind of normal noodle curry.

But, she changed a little bit of ingredients creating a new dish of her own. She poured the gravy into the small bowl in which flat noodle was put. She put some pounded pea, a small spoon of tamarind, a pinch of chili powder. She stirred all well. She tasted it. It was so delicious.

Then, she thought of selling the noodle in the village as snacks. She could sell it in the morning, afternoon and early evening. They would love it. She was pleased with the thought.

Granny stopped for a while to sip her green tea again. She carried on, “Later, she taught me how to cook it after I asked her the way to prepare the noodle. People in the village simply called her noodle ‘Nyaung Hnin Noodle’. They liked her noodle very much. So, they gave it a name and so it went with her proper name. She started selling it in 1970s. So, it’s nearly fifty years now. But she passed away in 1980s.”

Nodding my heads to her recount, I visualized the image of Nyaung Hnin and her features. She might have been as thin as my granny who was active and mindful in everything. She loved cooking too. I thought that she might have had the same sentiments as my granny — to feed people with goodwill and they wanted people to have good food.

I realised that our family recipe came down from our cousin-grandmother and the recipe was not much known outside of our family and some village relatives. But we still enjoyed having the noodle. Time and her struggles only added to the flavour.

.

San Lin Tun is a freelance writer of essays, poetry, short story and novel in Myanmar and English. His publications have appeared in several magazines such as Asia Literary Review, Kitaab, NAW, PIX, Mad in Asia Pacific, Mekong Review, Ponder Savant and others. He is the author of a novel “An English Writer.”

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

Categories
Stories

Flash Fiction: A Curse

by San Lin Tun

It was shadowy in the forest. No sounds at all. Only some living creatures were crawling in the undergrowth, producing inaudible sounds. An inquisitive young man entered the forest with a smile on his face. He fancied that there might be some hidden treasures in the forest after browsing through a recent book on treasure hunting.

That evening he went to the edge of the forest out of curiosity. He did not know what dangers would confront him. He went in unprepared with bare-hands and curiosity. He also liked to gaze at trees, big and small. He wondered if the forest housed exotic and colourful birds as shown in the documentaries on television.

He was free of ancient fears and dogmas because he believed in science. He thought that a forest was only of trees and animals and there could not be any harmful or playful spirits lurking in the deepest, darkest corners.

He needed to tread carefully in the forest, he discovered, otherwise, he could stumble and fall on the protrusions made by the obtrusive roots of the big banyan trees. He suddenly started humming the lyrics of the Guns and Roses’ song called ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ in his mind.

After walking about thirty minutes in the forest, he thought that his throat was dry. He was thirsty. He looked for a stream to drink cold and clean water. He listened carefully to the gurgling sounds of a stream somewhere. Suddenly, he saw a butterfly flapping its wings gently in front of him. It aroused his sense of curiosity and wonder. The butterfly led him to the stream.

He was very happy when he found the stream. When he looked for the butterfly, it had disappeared. He thanked the butterfly in his mind from the bottom of his heart. He squatted at the edge of the stream and bent down to long mouthfuls of water. It completely quenched his thirst.

After drinking the water, he washed his sweaty face to refresh himself. Then, he felt a bit hungry and remembered he had not had enough lunch that afternoon. He thought that he would look for some fruits. Then, he found some wild, peachy fruits growing on a big tree near the stream.

He pondered whether to climb the tree to pluck them or hurl stones to bring them down? He found some pebbles in the stream and gathered them. He hurled those pebbles at the fruits. Some stones hit the fruits and they fell off the tree.

Happily, he picked up one big fruit and bit into it. It was tasty and so he bit it again and again. After having three or four fruits, he found his belly was full. He lay down on his back and instantly he fell asleep.

His sleep was punctuated by a strange dream. He found a gnarled and crooked-nosed, red, bulgy-eyed woman trying to talk to him. She had a long and curly nail which she tried to insert into him. It seemed that she was the guardian spirit of the tree.

Petrified, he yelled out aloud. But no one heard him. He was completely alone in the forest. He could not move his body a single inch. Gradually, the guardian spirit came nearer to him and tried to say something to him. He apologized to her for not asking for permission to eat fruits of the tree. But, she took another step towards him.

‘‘Arrrrrrr’’ – the sound was so loud, even the owls resting on the trees were startled and flew away. He knew that it was the end of his life. He tightly closed his eyes. He saw his feet start to turn into a flap of a bat. Soon, he was going to be a bat and sleep upside down. The guardian spirit would rear him as her pet.

He did not want that. But he did not have strength to fight back. Instead he had to yield to her because he felt that he was paralyzed. He noticed that his hands were changed into wings which had started to flap slowly. He could not resist the strength of the spell. Within a minute, he completely changed into a bat. It was a metamorphosis.

The forest seemed to have spelled its curse on him.

He tried to speak out. Comprehensible human language was replaced by the sounds of a bat. He understood that his life was gone, completely gone. He did not know how he would regain his human form. He blamed his own foolish fate because no one warned him against going into the cursed forest.

He knew that he should not have indulge his whim.

***

Daytime brought the young man back to his village in his own form as a human. He related the story to his fellow villagers who did not believe him and assumed that he was an exhibitionist buffoon trying to draw attention to himself. He insisted that he had really turned into a bat the night before because of the spell cast by the guardian of the tree. People laughed at his story and they thought that he had made it all up to gain importance and sympathy.

As darkness gathered the village into its folds, the villagers started to go back to their homes. Suddenly, someone noticed that the young man was missing, they could not see him. They called out to him. But there was no response.

 Only, a bat persisted in flying towards them, hovering up and down over their heads. It almost flapped on the scurrying villagers’ heads. There was chaos.

San Lin Tun is a freelance writer of essays, poetry, short stories and novels from Myanmar and English. Sometimes, he draws cartoons for fun. His writings has appeared in Asia Literary Review, Kitaab, Mad in Asia Pacific, Mekong Review, NAW, PIX, Ponder Savant, South East of Now, Strukturriss and several others. He has authored ten books including ‘‘An English Writer’’. He lives in Yangon, Myanmar.

Categories
Musings

Notes from Myanmar: Humans versus Viruses

A reflection on Covid-19 virus outbreak by San Lin Tun

Deserted roads in Yangon

Birds are at ease, showing no worries, looking down at the helter-skelter of humans, struggling and striving to survive under this ruthless virus’ attack. Before that, birds caused flu and migratory birds could not be seen easily. That time, people hated birds; they stopped bird watching for the fear posed by the threat of bird flu. Birds migrated from one end of the world to another, crossing boundaries, as was their natural tendency. Now, the Covid-19 virus is traveling almost throughout the world.

We normally tend to look for experts to resolve emergencies or crisis. Why are the experts silent while human’s freedom has been attacked by the pandemic outbreak? Have humans transgressed the territories of the virus or their liberty? Or is it retaliation for human follies? People think that their lives are cosy and fine within the contexts of capitalism and democracy. They have, however, in their complacent existence, forgotten to think of emergencies like pandemics, the outbreak of anti-heroes and antithesis to blissful living.

Governments only set regulations to restrict human traffic and impose lockdowns on cities, poured funds to regain faltering economies after earlier crises. Now, people are at a loss and they do not know to whom they should turn to. They are realising they have to rely on themselves. They might wonder where their heroes are. They feel repentant for having done nothing, only things to destroy or to jeopardize world harmony, pouring budgets to manufacture hazardous equipment.

The outbreak of virus has restricted all-inclusive human activities, moving freely within the compass of the world and even posing a threat to human rights. We have been attacked by unknown and unseen enemies which are too small to see but powerful enough to cause a havoc in the whole human population. Scientists are now racing to search for the vaccines to combat its outbreak. What about other professions and creative industry? They should also join in fighting against this virus outbreak. Food, clothes and shelter are the three necessary things for humans daily needs. Maybe they can think of ways to provide these.

Professionals worldwide should form a think tank to come up with good and genuine ideas to combat this existing threat. There might be some ways to curb or contain the spread.

People-to-people contact carries virus which transmit person to person. In sci-fi movies or novels, we will find these alternatives and the creative minds will think up the following:

  1. Why not design virus repellent/protective outfits to wear when you go out?
  2. Why not create self- air purifying masks?
  3. Why not invent virus scanning goggles?
  4. Why not produce virus detecting devices?
  5. Why not manufacturing super-booster pills?
  6. Why not . . .?
  7. Why not . . .?
  8. . . .?

All these gadgets are only available in Sci-fi movies or fiction.  If we have those in real world, our lives would not have been disrupted to this level. All solutions tend to prevent virus containment in food, clothes and shelter. The blue planet belongs to the human race. Viruses have only one purpose that is to destroy. They cannot travel, only humans carry them.

Humans do not know the number of them. But they know they are lethal. So, people fear. Fear deters human intelligence to think or create properly, causing panic in people’s minds. Then, it will be hard to be in touch with witticisms under these trying circumstances where so many are petrified by the fear and horror of it.

They know that their liberty is disturbed, and they lose their freedom. Then, they are looking for the stable system to cope with their crises. They know that the only way to end this crisis is to get vaccines.

As for a miracle, men like to look for philosopher stones or magic wands to alter the circumstances and create a virus free world. You can say fantasies can ring a note of hope that will lighten anxious minds and bring a sense of cheer to the depressed. As we ponder realistically or miraculously, we will definitely find a solution to wage the counter-attack on viruses. And, the virus crisis will end.

San Lin Tun is a freelance writer of essays, poetry, short stories and novels from Myanmar and English. Sometimes, he draws cartoons for fun. His writings has appeared in Asia Literary Review, Kitaab, Mad in Asia Pacific, Mekong Review, NAW, PIX, Ponder Savant, South East of Now, Strukturriss and several others. He has authored ten books including ‘‘An English Writer’’. He lives in Yangon, Myanmar.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely that of the author and not of Borderless Journal.