Christmas brings not just the end of the year closer to us but also the spirit of loving and giving. The festival generates a feeling of hope in our hearts for a better New Year. The world links up together to celebrate this day which has a touch of beliefs from earlier times. Some connect to the festival with religious beliefs but others join in with the feeling of goodwill generated by the season, to celebrate in winter, summer or tropical weather with the same zest. In the same spirit, we at Borderless wish all of you fabulous Christmas holidays.
For your entertainment, we have put together some pieces which not only showcases writings around the festival but the spirit that revives hope unfailingly each year. As a special Christmas bonanza to our readers, we would like to also present a selection of a few eminent authors who have added lustre to the gems in our treasure chest.
InBridge over Troubled Waters, academic Sanjay Kumar tells us about Pandies, an activist theatre group founded by him that educates, bridging gaps between the divides of University educated and the less fortunate who people slums or terror zones. Click here to read.
In Lessons Old and New from a Stray Japanese Cat, Keith Lyons talks with the author of The Cat with Three Passports, CJ Fentiman who likes the anonymity loaned by resettling in new places & enjoys creating a space for herself away from her birthplace. Click hereto read.
With Christmas at our heels and the world waking up slowly from a pandemic that will hopefully become an endemic as the Omicron seems to fizzle towards a common cold, we look forward to a new year and a new world. Perhaps, our society will evolve to become one where differences are accepted as variety just as we are fine with the fact that December can be warm or cold depending on the geography of the place. People will be welcomed even if of different colours and creed. The commonality of belonging to the same species will override all other disparities…
While we have had exciting developments this year and civilians have moved beyond the Earth — we do have a piece on that by Candice Louisa Daquin — within the planet, we have become more aware of the inequalities that exist. We are aware of the politics that seems to surround even a simple thing like a vaccine for the pandemic. However, these two years dominated by the virus has shown us one thing — if we do not rise above petty greed and create a world where healthcare and basic needs are met for all, we will suffer. As my nearly eighty-year-old aunt confided, even if one person has Covid in a remote corner of the world, it will spread to all of us. The virus sees no boundaries. This pandemic was just a start. There might be more outbreaks like this in the future as the rapacious continue to exploit deeper into the wilderness to accommodate our growing greed, not need. With the onset of warmer climates — global warming and climate change are realities — what can we look forward to as our future?
Que sera sera — what will be, will be. Though a bit of that attitude is necessary, we have become more aware and connected. We can at least visualise changes towards a more egalitarian and just world, to prevent what happened in the past. It would be wonderful if we could act based on the truth learnt from history rather than to overlook or rewrite it from the perspective of the victor and use that experience to benefit our homes, planet and all living things, great and small. In tune with our quest towards a better world, we have an interview with an academic, Sanjay Kumar, founder of a group called Pandies, who use theatre to connect the world of haves with have-nots. What impressed me most was that they have actually put refugees and migrant workers on stage with their stories. They even managed to land in Kashmir and work with children from war-torn zones. They have travelled and travelled into different dimensions in quest of a better world. Travelling is what our other interviewee did too — with a cat who holds three passports. CJ Fentiman, author of The Cat with Three Passports, has been interviewed by Keith Lyons, who has reviewed her book too.
This time we have the eminent Aruna Chakravarti review Devika Khanna Narula’sBeyond the Veils, a retelling of the author’s family history. Perhaps, history has been the common thread in our reviews this time. Rakhi Dalal has reviewed Anirudh Kala’sTwo and a Half Rivers, a fiction that focusses on the Sikh issues in 1980s India from a Dalit perspective. It brought to my mind a family saga I had been recently re-reading, Alex Haley’s Roots, which showcased the whole American Revolution from the perspective of slaves brought over from Africa. Did the new laws change the fates of the slaves or Dalits? To an extent, it did but the rest as fact and fiction showcase were in the hands that belonged to the newly freed people. To enable people to step out of the cycle of poverty, the right attitudes towards growth and the ability to accept the subsequent changes is a felt need. That is perhaps where organisations like Pandies step in. Another non-fiction which highlights history around the same period and place as Kala’s novel is BP Pande’sIn the Service of Free India –Memoirs of a Civil Servant. Reviewed by Bhaskar Parichha, the book explores the darker nuances of human history filled with violence and intolerance.
That violence is intricately linked to power politics has been showcased often. But, what would be really amazing to see would be how we could get out of the cycle as a society. With gun violence being an accepted norm in one of the largest democracies of the world, perhaps we need to listen to the voice of wisdom found in the fiction by Steve Davidson who meets perhaps a ghost in Hong Kong. Musing over the ghost’s words, the past catches up in Sunil Sharma’s story, ‘Walls’. Sharma has also given us a slice from his life in Canada with its colours, vibrancy and photographs of the fall. As he emigrated to Canada, we read of immigrants in Marzia Rahman’s touching narrative. She has opted to go with the less privileged just as Lakshmi Kannan has opted to go with the privileged in her story.
Sharma observes, while we find the opulence of nature thrive in places people inhabit in Canada, it is not so in Asia. I wonder why? Why are Asian cities crowded and polluted? There was a time when Los Angeles and London suffered smogs. Has that shifted now as factories relocated to Asia, generating wealth in currency but taking away from nature’s opulence of fresh, clean air as more flock into crowded cities looking for sustenance?
Humour is introduced into the short story section with Sohana Manzoor’s hilarious rendering of her driving lessons in America, lessons given to foreigners by migrants. Rhys Hughes makes for more humour with a really hilarious rendition of men in tea cosies missing their…I think ‘TrouserHermit’ will tell you the rest. He has perhaps more sober poetry which though imaginative does not make you laugh as much as his prose. Michael Burch has shared some beautiful poetry perpetuating the calmer nuances of a deeply felt love and affection. George Freek, Anasuya Bhar, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Dibyajyoti Sarma have all given us wonderful poetry along with many others. One could write an essay on each poem – but as we are short shrift for time, we move on to travel sagas from hiking in Australia and hobnobbing with kangaroos to renovated palaces in Bengal.
While mostly we hear of sad stories related to marriages, we have a sunny one in which Alpana finds much in a marriage that runs well with wisdom learnt from Kung Fu Panda. Devraj Singh Kalsi has given us a philosophical piece with his characteristic touch of irony laced with humour on statues. If you are wondering what he could have to say, have a read.
In Nature’s Musings, Penny Wilkes has offered us prose and wonderful photographs of the last vestiges of autumn. As the season hovers between summer and winter, geographical boundaries too can get blurred at times. A nostalgic recap given by Ratnottama Sengupta along the borders of Bengal, which though still crossed by elephants freely in jungles (wild elephants do not need visas, I guess), gained an independence from the harshness of cultural hegemony on December 16th, 1971. Candice Louisa Daquin has also looked at grey zones that lie between sanity and insanity in her column. An essay which links East and West has been given to us by Rakibul Hasan about a poet who mingles the two in his poetry. A Bengali song by Tagore, Purano shei diner kotha, that is almost a perfect trans creation of Robert Burn’s Scottish Auld Lang Syne in the spirit of welcoming the New Year, has been transcreated to English. The similarity in the content of the two greats’ lyrics showcase the commonalities of love, friendship and warmth that unite all cultures into one humanity.
Our first translation from Uzbekistan – a story by Sherzod Artikov, translated from Uzbeki by Nigora Mukhammad — gives a glimpse of a culture that might be new to many of us. Akbar Barakzai’s shorter poems, translated by Fazal Baloch from Balochi and Ratnottama Sengupta’s transcreation of a Tagore song, Rangiye Die Jao, have added richness to our oeuvre along with one from Korean by Ihlwha Choi. Professor Fakrul Alam, who is well-known for his translation of poetry by Jibonanda Das, has started sharing his work on the Bengali poet with us. Pause by and take a look.
There is much more than what I can put down here as we have a bumper end of the year issue this December. There is a bit of something for all times, tastes and seasons.
I would like to thank my wonderful team for helping put together this issue. Sohana Manzoor and Sybil Pretious need double thanks for their lovely artwork that is showcased in our magazine. We are privileged to have committed readers, some of who have started contributing to our content too. A huge thanks to all our contributors and readers for being with us through our journey.
I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful transition into the New Year! May we open up to a fantastic brave, new world!
A short story bySherzod Artikov, translated from Uzbeki by Nigora Muhammad
Nilufar was overjoyed. Finally, sitting in front of the piano she was able to play the sonata of her favourite composer without a score and without making a mistake anywhere. She was excited as she had not been able to master it for weeks, and no matter how hard she tried, her efforts were in vain. In the end, her relentless and hard work paid off, lo and behold.
Now she could easily perform Rakhmaninov’s famous “re-minor” sonata in a long-waited first concert program without a score. She felt very happy. Sometimes she would go to her red piano, sometimes she would stare at the picture of composers hanging on the walls of the room and she would walk back and forth. She even wanted to dance on tiptoe like a ballerina. But she was ashamed and changed her mind. If her twins had been there, no doubt she would have embraced them, kissed their faces, and shared her joy with them. Unfortunately, they were in a boarding school. They would come during the weekend.
She wanted to share her joy with someone while she was preparing dinner. She could not contain it. That’s probably why she often glanced at the black telephone set on the shelf in the hallway. After a while she went to the phone. She picked it up and dialed the required numbers. Then the connection was restored, and a familiar voice was heard from the receiver.
“I’m in a meeting.”
“Are you coming home early today?” she said, not caring that her husband was at the meeting.
“What’s up?” her husband asked in surprise.
“Everything is good,” she continued. “If you come, I will tell you. I have a wonderful surprise.”
“Okay, I will come.”
Her husband’s voice stopped. She assumed the connection was lost. Although she was a little upset that the connection was lost, she dwelt on her success again and was in a good mood. She smiled contentedly as she looked in the hanging mirror in the hallway.
Nothing and no one could hurt her at the moment. Because she felt she had achieved a huge success for herself. To that day, she could only perform Beethoven’s sonata dedicated to Eliza, Brahms’ waltzes, and two or three of Chopin’s small nocturnes without score. But they were short musical compositions that any amateur pianist could perform. They did not require extra training or talent. Rakhmaninov’s sonata, on the other hand, was longer and more complex structurally. If these two elements was neglected, it would confuse the performer and force her to make a mistake, even when performed with a score.
“What’s the matter?” her husband said.
He had fulfilled his promise and returned early from work. Nilufar saw him and applauded with joy.
She was imagining that on the day of the concert she would be beautifully dressed and with a bouquet in her hands. This dream would soon come true too, she thought. She gently took her husband’s hand and walked towards the room where the piano was waiting. She entered the room and pushed the brown chair close to the piano. She asked her husband to sit on it. Her husband, who didn’t understand anything, sat helplessly in the chair. She stopped in front of the piano.
“I will play Rakhmaninov’s “re-minor” sonata without a score,” she said, sitting in a chair. “Listen carefully!”
She pointed her index finger at her husband like a child, her cheeks flushed with excitement. Then she put her finger in front of her nose and jokingly said “tss” to her husband. Then she began to play the sonata without a score. The mystery of music, which for centuries had shaken the human heart, comforted her and made her happy, embodied her pure love and painful hatred. The notes spread quietly through the room. This time the melody embodied the memories of the past in the human heart. The sonata always reminded her of her childhood. When she was a student at the conservatory, she was included in her personal program in various competitions. She remembered her all those performances during her childhood. It was the same a while ago and yesterday. It is the same now.
She would move her long and slender fingers over the black and white keys and play it flat. And sweet memories of a distant carefree and happy childhood wafted into her mind. Wrapping a white handkerchief around her mother’s forehead and baking hot bread in the oven, her heart sank for a moment as a prelude to memories. As a child, her mother always baked bread in the oven on Sundays. She was carrying a basket that was bigger than she was, and she couldn’t move anywhere near it. After the loaves were toasted and swollen, her mother would cut them up and throw them in the basket. And she would spread them out to make the bread cool faster. In the meantime, Nilufar would put cake bits in the pocket of her jacket. After that, she would enjoy eating these leaning on the apricot tree.
When the sonata reached halfway, the memories became more vivid. Lo and behold, she was tapping on the rotten wire in the street. She was small, like a squirrel. Her hair was blonde. Even then, everyone called her “blonde”. She was counting numbers non-stop, and her friends were hiding. After a while, she was looking for them everywhere. “Berkinmachoq,”* she sighed, her hands, which were constantly moving on the keys, suddenly weakened.
On summer days, she would not come from the street, ignoring the cherries hung by her father on her ears, and waving her hair, which was braided like willow twigs by her mother. She was much more playful.
If it snowed in the winter, it would be a holiday for her. She would make a Father Christmas with the kids in the middle of the street or play snowballs with endless fun. She would be on the sledge her father had brought her until the evening.
Not long after, she went to her uncle’s shop. He sold nisholda*. As a child, during the months of Ramadan, that uncle would always fill her bowl with nisholda . By the time she got home, she was licking the top of the nisholda with her finger. She would have a dirty doll in her arms and shoes with water on her feet.
“It would have been so sweet the nisholda,” she said casually. Then she recalled the days when she would go into every house with the children on the streets on the evenings of the holy month and sing the song of Ramadan.
We have come to your home saying Ramadan,
May God give you a son in your cradle...
They would sing that song. The song was long. Unfortunately, she only remembered the beginning. That’s how it would start. They would say it together with the children. Boys and girls sang Ramadan songs in unison, holding a long tablecloth from the corners, spreading it to collect money, sometimes sweets, fruits given by neighbours. The tablecloth was soon filled with what they had given. Then, sitting on a rock at the corner of the street, the children would evenly share the gifts. She often got apple and chocolate chip cookies. The coins were taken by boys.
Tears welled up in her eyes as the sonata was ending. The tears were for her childhood had that been left behind the parents who had died. Her bereavement was recent.
The sonata made her nostalgic and that is why she felt the need to master it. She had been performing this sonata a lot lately and with passion because she missed her childhood. This was also the reason why she decided to give a concert as a freelance artist. Probably, Sergei Rakhmaninov also missed his childhood in the United States during his years in exile. This is why he performed this sonata many times on tours in American cities and received applause. He deserved recognition. She looked at her husband questioningly after playing the sonata. There was a question in her eyes. The question was not “Did I perform well?” But, “Did you remember your childhood, too?” She also wanted to tell him about her forthcoming concert at the city’s House of Culture. Her husband was ignoring her. There was no interest in his eyes. Maybe, he was anxious or thinking of his own past.
“I play the sonata without a score,” she said with an open face because her husband didn’t speak. “I wanted to tell you that. I also wanted to say that next week will be my first concert in the House of Culture.”
Hearing her words, her husband stood up like a man in despair. He came to her, scratching his forehead and loosening his tie.
“I hate that habit,” he said, pressing the piano keys once or twice as if for amusement. “You always bother me for trivial things. For instance, I will not be able to attend the presentation of our new product tonight. I’m missing such an important event just to satisfy your whim!”
Nilufar sighed and bit her lips hard. She whispered as “I wish they were bleeding”, she didn’t want to let go of her lips between her teeth. Then she laughed sarcastically in her head and closed the piano indifferently. Her hands and red lips trembled. Her husband shook his head when he saw that she was silent and walked towards the door.
“By the way,” he said as he walked out of the door. “I have to go in the morning tomorrow. There will be a wedding at our general manager’s house. So, iron my gray suit. It has been on the shelf for a long time without being worn. It may be wrinkled.”
Involuntarily, Nilufar looked at her husband sadly. There was no trace of the joy that had filled her heart. She did not want to get up, she could not move at all, She felt as if a stone were tied to her legs.
“I’ll iron it until you’re done eating,” she said in a broken voice.
She tried not to hear the sounds ringing in her ears. But it was useless. The happy, spotless, and carefree voices of herself and the children, which had remained under her ear as a child, did not go away.
We have come to your home saying Ramadan,
May God give you a son in your cradle...
*Berkinmachoq: the game of hide & seek
*Nisholda: a sweet made in the month of Ramadan
Sherzod Artikov is from Marghilan of Uzbekistan. He was one of the winners of the national literary contest in 2019. In 2020, he published The Autumn’s Symphony in Uzbekistan. His book was translated to Spanish and English and republished in Cuba. His writing has been translated and published in anthologies from Bangladesh, Egypt, India and Canada.
Nigora Muhammad is from Namangan city of Uzbekistan. She studies at Namangan State University.
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