Categories
Index

Nature & Us

Environment and man — are they separate or is man a part of nature? Different writers have interpreted nature and its forces in different ways over a period of time, in glory, in storm and at battle. Explore some of our selections on nature on World Environment Day… Enjoy our oeuvre.

Translations

One Small Ancient Tale

Rabindranath Tagore’s Ekti Khudro Puraton Golpo (One Small Ancient Tale) from his collection Golpo Guchcho ( literally, a bunch of stories) has been translated by Nishat Atiya. Click hereto read.

Bolai

Rabindranath Tagore’s Bolai translated by Chaitali Sengupta. Click here to read.

Songs of Seasons: Translated by Fakrul Alam

Bangla Academy literary award winning translator, Dr Fakrul Alam, translates seven seasonal songs of Tagore. Click here to read.

Poetry

Bodhi Tree by Sumana Roy

Click here to read

Seasonal Whispers by Jared Carter

Click here to read

This Island of Mine by Rhys Hughes

Click here to read

Observances by Michael Burch

Click here to read

Playlet

A playlet by Sunil Sharma set in Badaun, The Dryad and I: A Confession and a Forecast, is a short fiction about trees and humans. Click here to read.

Essays/Musings

Unbowed, She Stayed

Bhaskar Parichha gives us a glimpse of the life of Wangari Muta Maathai founder of the Green Belt Movement, which has  — through networks of rural women — has planted over 30 million trees. Click here to read.

Photo Essay: Birds & Us

Penny and Michael B Wilkes take us on a photographic journey with a narrative in San Diego. Click here to read.

Cyclone & Amphan Lockdown

As cyclone Amphan fireballed and ripped through Kolkata, Nishi Pulugurtha gives a first hand account of how she survived the fear and the terror of the situation. Click here to read.

Stories

This Land of Ours

Shevlin Sebastian captures man’s relentless struggle against unsympathetic forces of nature. Click here to read

Maya & the Dolphins

Mohin Uddin Mizan writes about Dolphin Sighting in Cox Bazaar, Dhaka. Click here to read.

A Fight

Eduard Schmidt-Zorner shows the struggle between man and nature. Click here to read.

Categories
Index

Borderless, April, 2021

Greetings from Borderless Journal for all Asian New Years! Click here to read our message along with the video and a translation of a Tagore song written to greet the new year, with lyrics that not only inspire but ask the fledgling to heal mankind from deadly diseases.

Editorial

New Beginnings

A walk through our content and our plans for the future. Click here to read.

Interviews

In Conversation with Arundhathi Subramaniam: An online interview with this year’s Sahitya Akademi winner, Arundhathi Subramaniam. Click here to read.

Sumana Roy & Trees: An online interview with Sumana Roy, a writer and academic. Click here to read.

Poetry

(Click on the names to read)

Arundhathi Subramaniam, Jared Carter, Matthew James Friday, Michael R Burch, Aparna Ajith, Jenny Middleton, Rhys Hughes, Jay Nicholls, Achingliu Kamei, Vatsala Radhakeesoon, Ihlwha Choi, Smitha Vishwanath, Sekhar Banerjee, Sumana Roy

Photo-poetry by Penny Wilkes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

With an introduction to Blood and Water by Rebecca Lowe, Rhys Hughes debuts with his column on poets and poetry. Click here to read.

Translations

The Word by Akbar Barakzai

Fazal Baloch translates the eminent Balochi poet, Akbar Barakzai. Click here to read.

Malayalam poetry in Translation

Aditya Shankar translates a poem by Shylan from Malayalam to English. Click here to read.

Tagore Songs in Translation

To commemorate Tagore’s birth anniversary, we translated five of his songs from Bengali to English. Click here to read, listen and savour.

Tagore Translations: One Small Ancient Tale

Rabindranath Tagore’s Ekti Khudro Puraton Golpo (One Small Ancient Tale) from his collection Golpo Guchcho ( literally, a bunch of stories) has been translated by Nishat Atiya. Click here to read.

Musings/Slice of Life

Pohela Boisakh: A Cultural Fiesta

Sohana Manzoor shares the Bengali New Year celebrations in Bangladesh with colourful photographs and interesting history and traditions that mingle beyond the borders. Click here to read.

Gliding along the Silk Route

Ratnottama Sengupta, a well-known senior journalist and film critic lives through her past to make an interesting discovery at the end of recapping about the silk route. Click here to read and find out more.

The Source

Mike Smith drifts into nostalgia about mid-twentieth century while exploring a box of old postcards. What are the stories they tell? Click here to read.

Lost in the Forest

John Drew, a retired professor, cogitates over a tapestry of the Ras lila. Click here to read.

Tied to Technology

Naomi Nair reflects on life infiltrated by technology, by Siri and Alexa with a tinge of humour. Click here to read.

Adventures of a Backpacking Granny

In Inspiriting SiberiaSybil Pretious takes us with her to Lake Baikal and further. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In Tributes & AttributesDevraj Singh Kalsi pays tribute to his late mother. Click here to read.

Essays

Reflecting the Madness and Chaos Within

Over 150 Authors and Artists from five continents have written on mental illness in an anthology called Through the Looking Glass. Candice Louisa Daquin, a psychotherapist and writer and editor, tells us why this is important for healing. Click here to read.

At Home in the World: Tagore, Gandhi and the Quest for Alternative Masculinities

Meenakshi Malhotra explores the role of masculinity in Nationalism prescribed by Tagore, his niece Sarala Debi, Gandhi and Colonials. Click here to read.

A Tale of Devotion and Sacrifice as Opposed to Jealousy and Tyranny

Sohana Manzoor explores the social relevance of a dance drama by Tagore, Natir puja. We carry this to commemorate Tagore’s birth anniversary. Click here to read

Photo Essay: In the Midst of Colours

Nishi Pulugurtha explores the campus of a famed university with her camera and words and shares with us her experiences. Click here to read.

Bhaskar’s Corner

Oh, That lovely Title: Politics

A short piece by Bhaskar Parichha that makes for a witty comment on the forthcoming Indian elections. Click here to read.

Stories

Pothos

Rakhi Pande gives us a story about a woman and her inner journey embroiled in the vines of money plant. Click here to read.

Elusive

A sensitive short story by Sohana Manzoor that makes one wonder if neglect and lack of love can be termed as an abuse? Click here to read

Ghumi Stories: Grandfather & the Rickshaw

Nabanita Sengupta takes us on an adventure on the rickshaw with Raya’s grandfather. Click here to read

Flash Fiction: The Husband on the Roof

Carl Scharwath gives us a story with a strange twist. Click here to read

Flash Fiction: Flight of the Falcon

Livneet Shergill gives us a story in empathy with man and nature. Click here to read

The Literary Fictionist

A playlet by Sunil Sharma set in Badaun, The Dryad and I: A Confession and a Forecast, is a short fiction about trees and humans. Click here to read.

Book reviews

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Reconciling Differences by Rudolf C Heredia, a book that explores hate and violence. Click here to read.

Nivedita Sen reviews Nomad’s Land by Paro Anand, a fiction set among migrant children of a culture borne of displaced Rohingyas, Syrian refugees, Tibetans and more. Click here to read

Candice Louisa Daquin reviews The First Cell and the Human Costs of Pursuing Cancer to the last by Azra Raza. Click here to read.

Book Excerpt

Excerpted from Raising a Humanist: Conscious Parenting in an Increasingly Fragmented World by Manisha Pathak-Shelat and Kiran Vinod Bhatia, the focus is on media and its impact. Click here to read.

Sara’s Selection, April 2021

A selection of young person’s writings from Bookosmia. Click here to read.

Categories
Interview

Sumana Roy and Trees

Sumana Roy

She loves trees and identifies with Tagore’s Bolai, who had an affinity for trees. She has written a non-fiction called How I became a Tree (2017), which is being reprinted now by Yale University Press. Sumana Roy is a writer who writes out her passion for trees and more. The draft of her first novel was long listed for Man Asian Literary Prize, but eventually, abandoned by her because she felt it was not good enough. She later authored a novel called Missing (2018), an anthology of poems called Out of Syllabus (2019), and a collection of short stories, My Mother’s Lover and Other Stories (2019). She also contributes essays regularly on various online forums and teaches in Ashoka University, near Delhi. Sumana hails from a small Himalayan town of Siliguri which impacts here writing in different ways. Her interview reflects how she lives by her convictions and looks beyond man made constructs in quest of an undefined Eldorado which is abstruse in itself. However, I am convinced, when she finds her Eldorado, her readers will probably be overwhelmed by the radiance of what she shares with the world. In this interview, she shares snapshots of her life as writer and her convictions.

When and why did you start writing?

I don’t think any of us can answer this question. I had no ambition to be a writer. I had not met a single writer in my life. In my middleclass Bengali life were people like my parents – teachers, bankers, officegoers, and the unemployed, looking for jobs. I wrote love letters for my friends in boarding school, and letters to the editor before that. Then I started studying literature at university, and I think I wrote nothing else except essays to pass examinations and the occasional letter to the man I would eventually marry. I say this just to reiterate that the idea of a writer as someone who could live an unremarkable life like myself wasn’t available to me at that time. I began working towards a PhD, and as I was living away from home, I hungered for the sound of Bangla. I began reading Bangla poetry and I felt something inside me loosen – I wanted to write like these poets had, but in English, the language I was most comfortable in. I kept the writing a secret from my family and the world. Only after I had submitted my doctoral dissertation did I begin sharing my writing with the world – by submitting to online magazines I liked reading, but also responding to most ‘Call for Submission’ pages that I came across in the early years of social media.

What gets your muse going?

Life. Living. I know this is a cliché and an unsatisfactory answer, but that is what it is – to live inside my writing …

Your first book is about trees. Tell us what egged you on to choose to write about trees and why?

I suppose it came from a disaffection – the Bangla word ‘bishaad’ would be more appropriate perhaps – for the social world, for the human in it. I wanted to live outside the emotion economy of social relationships. Groping for various possibilities, I realised that I wanted to live like a tree. I had been reading and living with plants long before that. I suppose I began seeing them differently after that epiphany.

Would you say your obsession with trees was similar to that of Tagore’s Bolai?

 I’ve written about Bawlai in How I Became a Tree. He is a relative, yes, among the many I discovered when looking for those who had felt the human-tree equivalence emotionally, intellectually, or, as in the case of Rabindranath’s story, intuitively.

You have also spoken of Nandalal Bose, the famous Indian artist who passed away before you were born in the book. Why him? Do paintings in general affect your writing?

I discovered Nandalal’s Vision and Creation in Santiniketan’s Subarnarekha bookstore. I might have seen it before, in Bangla, as a child, but much of it had disappeared from my consciousness. I was staying in a guest house in Ratanpalli. The full moon night of spring I still remember, as I do the curiosity of the mosquitoes. I found Nandalal teaching his students how to draw trees by constantly referring to the human anatomy – this analogical plant-human relationship seemed most natural to his imagination. That is how I found another relative in him.

To answer your second question, yes, art – and music – brings something to my life.

Your novel is about a missing woman. Parallels have been drawn between her and Sita. Why?

I don’t know who has drawn this parallel. What I do know is that I was interested in the life of the missing woman, a woman like Sita, in the world today. Why are battles fought and epics written around the missing woman? I did not make this comparison explicit, but always hope that the reader would, on their own, particularly because, like the seven adhyas (parts) of the Ramayan, the novel, too, is structured around seven sections – seven days in the lives of the characters.

If we perceive Rama as a democratic ruler who listened to his subjects, would you hold him guilty for abandoning Sita? How do you perceive him?

Rama was a king, not an elected representative, as we know. Even if he were, as you are asking me to imagine him hypothetically, I cannot see how anything can justify the demand on Sita to prove her ‘purity’. About abandonment, it is a personal matter between the two people involved. Using the narrative of abandonment of a woman to prove one’s purity as a ruler, as a democratically elected representative in our country has done recently, is as ridiculous as the State’s demand on Sita’s purity.

You are a professor too. You have been doing number of columns talking of educational values. What are the things you would want to see changed? And why?

I don’t think I’ve written about values. It’s a loaded word, and I feel incompetent to speak about it. What I have been writing against is the industrialisation of the curriculum, particularly in the English Literature syllabus, specifically the postcolonial syllabus.

What would I like to see changed in this regard? I’d like the structure of such a syllabus to be more egalitarian – in a real way – and not dictated by metropolitan impulses alone.

I remember your essay against long biodatas. Do you think reverting to past values where marketing oneself as a writer with a huge biodata was not a necessity would be relevant or possible today? Is this a construct of the publisher or the writer? Do you think the only the quality of one’s work without a publication history or academic excellence would allow a writer to get published?

The biodata is a marketing tool. The book can stand its own ground without us knowing where the author lives or what prizes they have won or where they studied. If there were blind submissions, without the name and bio of the writer, we might not be reading the same writers in the pages of The New Yorker or the London Review of Books – so much is published because of the reputation that attends writers. I think it is unfair to writers who are just starting out, and, most importantly, those who have not had many of the opportunities that their more well-published contemporaries have had. The snob value of the biodata also creates a hierarchy – it is against this that my reservation lies.

In your opinion, what is most important — fame, money or creative satisfaction? Why?  Can there be creative satisfaction without accolades of the external world? Would that be of any value?

I can only speak for myself. This has perhaps to do with one’s temperament. The three things you mention – ‘fame, money, creative satisfaction’ – may all be important for many artists, as it might be for a sportsperson or even a politician. I think I write just to be able to get away from the social world, to stay with myself, self-indulgently – that someone reads me in a world where so much of reading material is available for free is a gift from the reader to me. I don’t exactly know what ‘creative satisfaction’ is. It’s because I suffer from creative dissatisfaction. I dislike everything I have written or everything that I write. And yet I do not want to stop writing. So… I do not write for fame, money, or creative satisfaction. I write to make sense of my world, to protect myself from myself perhaps.

You often colour your writing with food and family. Why?

I enjoy a life of the senses, of eating. I like to cook and eat, but, most of all, I love to fantasise about eating – the things I want to eat, how I could make them, whether I will ever get to taste them, how to grow some of the produce, and so on.

My understanding of ‘family’ is not blood-bound. Those I love are my family, both humans and non-humans. They will naturally enter my writing.

Do you teach creative writing? Can creativity be taught? Is it any different from studying literature or language?

Yes, I teach Creative Writing at Ashoka University. Writing can be taught as much as music can be taught – both involve Riyaz(practice), which is what my writing workshops are meant to be. To be a singer one must first train to become a listener. And so, with writing – one must become a reader first. By this I do not mean that one has to read 52 books a year, but one must be mindful of how words work, how lines and sentences work through us, the senses in which literature comes to us, and so on.

Where are you located now? Gurgaon or Siliguri and does your locale impact your writing.

I live in Sonipat during the teaching semester. The rest of the year I am in Siliguri, which is where I always want to be. My surroundings affect me, and, by extension, my writing. This is true of everyone, I think? By this I do not mean that living in a small town will make me write about the idyllic life in contrast to a life in the metropolis. The sensory affects us and, consequently, our writing.

How do you juggle writing and teaching?

With a lot of difficulty, because there’s also housework and caregiving for the elderly. And yet, I now know that my students make me think of things that I wouldn’t have had I worked on my laptop all day.

What is your favourite genre in writing and why?

The poem and the essay, the shorter forms. I am also very fond of the letter and the interview as literary genres.

What are your future plans? Any more books coming our way?

I am waiting for the semester to end, to get away from the Zoom life, to rest my eyes, to play with my nephew and niece, to comb my mother’s hair, and, if the rains help, to plant a few moringa and jackfruit trees. I want to feel better, for my health to get better than what it has been over the last few months. I’m not thinking about books now.

This interview was conducted online by Mitali Chakravarty on behalf of Borderless Journal.

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Click here to read a poem by Sumana.

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

Categories
Poetry

Bodhi Tree by Sumana Roy

Bodhi Tree. Courtesy: Creative commons licence

Here you can come without brushing your teeth –
the Buddha and the fig tree have never needed toothbrushes.

The myths that surround places are like ambulance sirens –
patients, pilgrims and tourists are all the same.

One comes to trees to escape the pornography of waiting.
There must be something about sitting under a tree,
in the bandaged conflation between shade and shadow.
Other men chose exile in the forest, vanwas –
Rama, the five Pandava brothers, their wives.
Only Siddhartha came to a solitary tree, to escape desire.
A forest is a hiding place, where men compete with trees.
So Gautama stopped walking and closed his eyes.
The uselessness of eyes, of legs, of combs, of words –
all this the Buddha learned from this tree.

Today, only bombs are living Buddhas.
When one went off in Gaya, everyone ran,
everyone except the trees.
For death also demands walking.

Now, after the fret of flowering,
I only seek the tree’s heart.
Guns are seedless fruits,
the gardens full of traitor trees.
Now I am free.
Only I know that the tree is Buddha.
And that the Buddha was a tree.

First published in Granta Magazine

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Sumana Roy is the author of How I became a Tree, a work of nonfiction, Missing: A NovelOut of Syllabus: Poems, and My Mother’s Lover and Other Stories, a collection of short stories

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