The Stars were Shining There for You & Me, for Liberty…

Painting by Sohana Manzoor

“It just so happens that their[1] universes were different from ours: because why would their imaginations be constrained by a nation-state that would not exist for another thousand years?”

Anirudh Kansetti, the

These lines from a recent article on conquests carried out by the Indian subcontinent in ancient times brings to focus that earlier countries or nation-states as we know of them today did not exist till the industrial revolution set the concept in motion. In the month many countries in Asia celebrate their independent existence or rather the drawing of borders based on colonial mapmakers’ whims, we should perhaps relook at the way the world stands divided.

Is this what we want as humans? Where are we headed? While conquerors write the history, we tend to gloss over what is left unsaid. The millions who died crossing borders, in race riots and of hunger, starvation and disease in refugee camps is overlooked, or worse, used to justify the divisions that still hurt the residents of the sub-continent and try to destroy any sense of oneness among the human species. We tend not to forget the atrocities of the colonials but we overlook the violence of the mobs that incensed with hatred instilled by politics annihilated and murdered. Their story is reduced to “us” and “them”. In our mood of jubilation, the recent bombings in the Middle East and the Ukraine-Russia war have already been delegated to the newsreels. But these are all people who are killed and displaced without any justification for the need to do so. One of the things that George Orwell had depicted in 1984 was an acceptance of a constant state of war. Are we stepping into that frame of mind with our cold acceptance of the situation worldwide?

In the last century, many united against the atrocities of the empire builders. They wanted to rise above the divides. At least greats like Nazrul vociferously objected to the basis of divides that were used to draw the borders. Translations brought to us by Professor Fakrul Alam showcase such poetry as does much of Tagore’s own writing and actions. Tagore organised a protest march against the colonial proposal of Partition of Bengal in 1905 by taking a procession in which he encouraged Hindu and Muslim women to tie rakhis[2] on men from the other community and make them their brothers. Tagore put the welfare of humanity above nationalism as can be seen in his writings and speeches. Reflecting on humanity, we have Munshi Premchand’s powerful story, Pus Ki Raat or A Frigid Winter’s Night, translated from Hindi by C Christine Fair, dwelling on the sad state of peasantry under the Raj. In a bid to rouse people like the protagonist of Premchand’s story, Tagore wrote inspirational songs, one of which, Hobe Joye (Victory will be Ours) has been translated on our pages. We also continue sharing Rabindranath’s humour with a skit translated by Somdatta Mandal from Bengali.

Humour is also stirred into Borderless by Rhys Hughes with a series of mini sagas in his column and a trip around the world in eighty couplets. These couplets actually are more in number — I tried counting them — and are guaranteed to make you laugh. We have travel stories in plenty too. Ravi Shankar again treks to the Himalayas and brings us wonderful photographs of his journey and G Venkatesh stops over at Istanbul airport to find a friend from across the border. Meredith Stephens travels to a French colony called Lifou Island — sounds unbelievable as in the month we celebrate the independence of so many countries across Asia, there is still a country in the Pacific that owes allegiance to a democratic European power! But other than writing about the beaches, Stephens talks of a temporary pet dog while Suzanne Kamata gives us cat talk in her notes from Japan in a lighter vein — a very pleasant glimpse of life. Devraj Singh Kalsi brings a grin when he talks of his stint at trying to run a restaurant.

Interesting non-fictions from a book lover, Sindhu Shivprasad, and from PG Thomas who talks of King Lear performed a la classical Indian dance mode, Kathakali, by an international caste add to narratives that focus on bringing the pleasanter side of life to our readers. Such stories are a welcome relief in dark times when people find themselves caught between price hikes due to the pandemic and wars. An essay by Candice Louisa Daquin looks for a way out of the stresses of these times. Erwin Coombs gives us a funny, poignant and tragic classroom encounter which reminds me of the 1967 Sidney Poiter movie, To Sir, with Love. We have darker tones brought into our journal also with Aysha Baqir’s story on child exploitation, a sad but hopeful narrative from Nepal by Santosh Kalwar about the rejection of a girl-child by her mother and a horrific murder brought to us by Paul Mirabile.

Our poetry section this time flows over with poems from Michael R Burch, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, George Freek, Mike Smith, Gigi Baldvino Gosnell and even Ratnottama Sengupta, who has also given us a powerful essay on an acclaimed dancer called Zohra Sehgal whose life was changed by the Partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947, basing her essay on Ritu Menon’s Zohra: A Biography in Four Acts and her own personal encounters with the irrepressible artiste. Michael Burch has also shared an excerpt of his book dedicated to his wife, O, Terrible Angel.

An excerpt from B. M. Zuhara’s The Dreams of a Mappila Girl: A Memoir, translated from Malayalam by Fehmida Zakeer, brings us close to a community we know very less about in the Southern part of India. Meenakshi Malhotra has reviewed Tagore’s Four Chapters translated from Bengali and introduced by Radha Chakravarty, a book that is a powerful voice against violence in the name of nationalism touching on the independence of women, a theme that is reiterated in another book that has been visited by Rakhi Dalal. While exploring Neelum Saran Gour’s Requiem in Raga Janki, Dalal contends that the book familiarises us with a singer “who carved her own destiny and lived life on her own terms, in times when women were generally subjugated and confined to roles given by society”. Gracy Samjetsabam has visited Mamang Dai’s Escaping the Land, a novel that tries to weave issues faced in the Northeast of India and integrate it with the mainstream by stirring human emotions.  Bhaskar Parichha has reviewed Rakesh Batabyal’s Building a Free India, a collection of powerful speeches from the past.

Within the confines of the Raj, there was a long court case where a prince who had been declared dead resurfaced as a Naga sadhu[3], a claimant to the throne, this time not to abuse his power as of past but to be a sympathiser of the people in their tryst to fight the Raj. Aruna Chakravarti has woven a historical fiction around this controversy centring around the prince of Bhawal. In an exclusive interview, she tells us the story behind the making of The Mendicant Prince — her novel that was published just last month. Her responses could well teach us how to write a historical novel.

We have much more than the fare that has been mentioned here. Pause by on our contents page to take a look. My heartfelt thanks to the whole team at Borderless for helping with this issue, which we managed to get out in a shorter time than usual and Sohana Manzoor for her wonderful artwork. I am grateful to all our contributors as well as our readers. We could not have made it this far without all of you.

In the spirit of uniting under a borderless sky, let us look forward to cooler climes and happier times.


Mitali Chakravarty

[1] Guptas (4-6 century CE), Cholas (300 BCE -1279 CE) and other ancient rulers in the Indian sub-continent

[2] A festival held in August where sisters of all ages tie a talisman or amulet called the rakhi around the wrists of their brothers, who promise to protect them.

[3] Mendicant


Hard Choices

By Santosh Kalwar

The puppies’ mother accepted the baby girl, who was left in an alley unknown to anyone. The puppies all saw the baby girl and licked and jumped atop her. When it rained, the mother dog provided shelter for her and the rest of her pups. Then night fell, and the Nepalese streets were beset by dangers.

The alley was ripe with evils in the form of thugs and perverts. The mother dog knew that she had to guard her puppies. The men weren’t interested in the dogs, though. They were only interested in the tiny girl being protected by them. They wanted to hurt the girl. They enjoyed such distractions. However, the mother dog saw the girl as her own and growled at the men, baring her teeth. They got scared and ran away as the mother dog curled against the child, keeping her safe and warm until morning.

In a lowland region in southern Nepal, a girl child was a very different proposition for the human mother. She had not wanted to know the sex of the child. When she gave birth and the doctors told her that it was a girl, the entire room fell silent. There would have been celebration and adornment if it had been a boy. A hard decision would need to be made for the newborn girl that rested in her arms.

The mother wasn’t from a rich family and having a girl was forbidden. It was considered a curse on the family. Going home with the daughter would have caused an intense strain. Her husband would have deemed her a curse for giving him a daughter instead of a son and possibly leaving her for another woman that would give him a son. That didn’t include the intense financial strains to raise a girl in such a patriarchal ambience.

The mother looked down at the newborn daughter and knew that she would be living a harsh life no matter what. If she kept the girl, she could be left without money or resources to care for her. But as it was her daughter, she contemplated fighting for her. A girl in Nepal wasn’t only a curse to her husband’s family and her family. They would berate her and possibly disown her, leaving her with no husband and no family in her life.

First, this girl would not grow up with an education, for money would not be spent on educating a woman as she was seen to add no value to family coffers. On the contrary, the family would have to pay a large sum for her dowry. So not only would her daughter be subjected to illiteracy, but she also wouldn’t be able to marry a man who could care for her.

She left the hospital with the girl still in her arms tightly and was trying to make up her mind. When she came across an alleyway, she saw a mother dog taking care of all her puppies. This made the woman smile and cry. This mother didn’t need to think of the hard choices like she did. She knew she had to protect her puppies from harm, and the rest would work itself out, whether the puppy was a boy or a girl.

She felt lost staring at the dog protecting her babies. She looked at her own baby. She silently cried as she approached the alley and started to lower the baby to the ground. She didn’t want to leave her newborn baby. But, she felt left without a choice. She didn’t leave the newborn because she herself thought it was a curse for her and her family. She felt the baby would be unfortunate for being part of a family that couldn’t give her what she needed. She took off, walked fast, fearing that she would change her mind and turn around to grab the baby.

She lied and told her husband that a boy had died during childbirth.

Back in the alley, as the sun was rose, the baby was wailing, and the mother dog didn’t know what to do. She wouldn’t latch on like the other puppies and knew she couldn’t take care of her still, though she had compassion like a mother and tried to calm the baby down the best she could. Even her puppies didn’t jump and play rough, knowing that the human child needed a gentler touch. Finally, the noise from the crying baby drew the attention of a woman, who approached the child. The mother dog was weary and started to growl at the strange woman.

The woman only smiled and gently picking up the baby. The baby stopped crying. This woman didn’t know the baby or the dogs but saw what the mother dog was trying to do, though it belonged to a different species.

This woman had money and knew she could pay to educate the newborn and give her a decent life.

Santosh Kalwar’s new non-fiction, “Why Nepal Fails”, is forthcoming. His recent works have appeared in Every Day Fiction, Vine Leaves Press, 50-Word Stories, and Molecule. For more info, please visit: