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Contents

Borderless, April 2023

Painting by Sohana Manzoor

Editorial

Can Love Change the World?… Click here to read.

Conversation

Keith Lyons interviews Asian Australian poet Adam Aitken about cross-cultural identity, and the challenges of travel, writing, and belonging. Click here to read.

Translations

Gandhiji, a short story by Nabendu Ghosh, has been translated from Bengali by Ratnottama Sengupta. Click here to read.

Khaira, the Blind, a story by Nadir Ali, has been translated from Punjabi by Amna Ali. Click here to read.

Clothes of Spirits, a folktale, has been translated from Balochi by Fazal Baloch. Click here to read.

Many Splendored Love, four poems by Masud Khan, have been translated from Bengali by Fakrul Alam. Click here to read.

Birds are Alive, has been written and translated from Korean by Ihlwha Choi. Click here to read.

Nobo Borshe or on New Year, Tagore’s poem on the Bengali New Year, has been translated from Bengali by Mitali Chakravarty for the occasion this April. Click here to read.

Poetry

Click on the names to read the poems

Michael R Burch, Vipanjeet Kaur, William Miller, Sutputra Radheye, Jim Landwehr, Namrata Varadharajan, Phil Wood, Akshada Shrotryia, Richard Stevenson, Abdul Jamil Urfi, Scott Thomas Outlar, Anasuya Bhar, George Freek, Malachi Edwin Vethamani, Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Rhys Hughes

Poets, Poetry & Rhys Hughes

In My Love for RK Narayan, Rhys Hughes discusses the novels by ths legendary writer from India. Click here to read.

Musings/Slices from Life

Magic of the Mahatma & Nabendu

Ratnottama Sengupta shows the impact of Gandhi and his call for non-violence on Nabendu Ghosh as she continues to emote over his message of Ahimsa and call for peace amidst rioting. Click here to read.

Kindred Spirits

Anjali V Raj writes of an endearing friendship. Click here to read.

Colorado comes to Eden

Meredith Stephens sails to meet more people in Eden. Click here to read.

Us vs Them

Shivani Agarwal talks of sharing the planet with all creatures great and small. Click here to read.

Musings of a Copywriter

In To Be or Not to Be, Devraj Singh Kalsi muses on food fads. Click here to read.

Notes from Japan

In Olives and Art in the Inland Sea, Suzanne Kamata explores the island of Sodoshima. Click here to read.

Essays

Charlie and I: My Visit to Corsier-sur-Vevey

Nirupama Kotru talks of her trip to Charlie Chaplin’s home and writes about the legendary actor. Click here to read.

The Wonderland of Pokhara

Ravi Shankar explores, Pokhara, a scenic town in Nepal. Click here to read.

Stories

Sparks

Brindley Hallam Dennis captures the passing of an era. Click here to read.

The Moulting

PG Thomas brings us a glimpse of Kerala — the past merging to create a new present. Click here to read.

The Book Hunter

Paul Mirabile gives a tale about a strange obsession. Click here to read.

Book Excerpts

An excerpt from What Will People Say?: A Novel by Mitra Phukan. Click here to read.

An excerpt from The Wistful Wanderings of Perceval Pitthelm by Rhys Hughes. Click here to read.

Book Reviews

Somdatta Mandal reviews Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s Independence. Click here to read.

Rakhi Dalal reviews Song of the Golden Sparrow – A Novel History of Free India by Nilanjan P. Choudhary. Click here to read.

Basudhara Roy reviews Ukiyo-e Days… Haiku Moments by Bina Sarkar Ellias. Click here to read.

Bhaskar Parichha reviews Japanese Management, Indian Resistance: The Struggles of the Maruti Suzuki Workers by Anjali Deshpande and Nandita Haksar. Click here to read.

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Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles

Click here to access Monalisa No Longer Smiles on Kindle Amazon International

Click here to learn more about our first anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles

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Editorial

Can Love Change the World?

The night has nearly come to an end.
The old year is almost past.
Under this dust, it will lay down
Its worn-out life at last.
Whether friend or foe,      wherever you go,
Old wrongs cast
Away. On this auspicious day,
Old grievances shed as the old year parts.

— Nobo Borshe or on New Year by Tagore

Art by Sohana Manzoor

Mid-April, Thailand celebrates Songkran and Cambodia, Thingyan — water festivals like Holi. These coincide with the celebration of multiple New Years across Asia. Sikhs celebrate Baisakhi. Kerala celebrates Bishu and Tamil Nadu, Puthandu. Nepal celebrates Nava Varsha and Bengal Nobo Borsho or Poila Boisakh. A translation of Tagore’s poem on the Bengali New Year in spirit asks us to dispense with our past angst and open our hearts to the new day — perhaps an attitude that might bring in changes that are so needed in a world torn with conflicts, hatred and anger. The poet goes on to say, “I want to tie all lives with love” but do we do that in our lives? Can we? Masud Khan’s poems on love translated by Professor Fakrul Alam explore this from a modern context. From Korea, Ihlwha Choi tells us in his translation, “Loving birds is like loving stars”. But the translation that really dwells on love bringing in changes is Nabendu Ghosh’s ‘Gandhiji’, translated by Ratnottama Sengupta, his daughter. The short story by Ghosh highlights the transformation of a murderous villain to a defender of a victim of communal violence, towering above divides drawn by politics of religion.

Another daughter who has been translating her father’s works is Amna Ali, daughter of award-winning Punjabi writer, Nadir Ali. In ‘Khaira, the Blind‘, the father-daughter duo have brought to Anglophone readers a lighter narrative highlighting the erasure of divides and inclusivity. A folktale from Balochistan, translated by Fazal Baloch, echoes in the footsteps of ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ — a story that can found in the Andersen’s Fairy Tales published in the nineteenth century. I wonder which narrative had come first? And how did it cross cultures retaining the original ideas and yet giving it a local colour? Was it with traders or immigrants?

That such narratives or thoughts are a global phenomenon is brought to the fore by a conversation between Keith Lyons and Asian Australian poet Adam Aitken. Aitken has discussed his cross-cultural identity, the challenges of travel, writing, and belonging. Belonging is perhaps also associated with acceptance. How much do we accept a person, a writer or his works? How much do we empathise with it — is that what makes for popularity?

Cross cultural interactions are always interesting as Rhys Hughes tells us in his essay titled ‘My Love for RK Narayan’. He writes: “Narayan is able to do two contradictory things simultaneously, namely (1) show that we are all the same throughout the world, and (2) show how cultures and people around the world differ from each other.” The underlying emotions that tie us together in a bond of empathy and commonality are compassion and love, something that many great writers have found it necessary to emphasise.

Mitra Phukan’s What Will People say?: A Novel is built around such feelings of love, compassion and patience that can gently change narrow norms which draw terrifying borders of hate and unacceptance. We carry an excerpt this time from her ‘Prologue’. Somdatta Mandal has reviewed Chitra Banerjee Divakurni’s latest , Independence. Starting from around the time of the Indian Independence too is Song of the Golden Sparrow – A Novel History of Free India by Nilanjan P. Choudhary, which has been discussed by Rakhi Dalal. The Partition seems to colour narratives often as does the Holocaust. Sometimes, one wonders if humanity will ever get over the negative emotions set into play in the last century.

Closer to our times, when mingling of diverse cultures is becoming more acceptable in arts, Basudhara Roy introduces us to Bina Sarkar Ellias’s Ukiyo-e Days…Haiku Moments, a book that links poetry to a Japanese art-form. While a non-fiction that highlights the suffering of workers by enforcing unacceptable work ethics, Japanese Management, Indian Resistance: The Struggles of the Maruti Suzuki Workers by Anjali Deshpande and Nandita Haksar has been reviewed by Bhaskar Parichha. The narrative, he writes, “tells the story of the biggest car manufacturer in India through the voices of the workers, interviewed over three years. They give us an understanding that the Maruti Suzuki revolution wasn’t the unmitigated success it was touted to be when they tell us about their resistance to being turned into robots by uncompromising management.” That lack of human touch creates distress in people’s hearts, even if we have an efficient system of management and mass production is well elucidated in the review.

To lighten the mood, we have humour in verses from Rhys Hughes and Richard Stevenson’s tongue-in-cheek dino poems. Michael Burch’s poetry explores nuances of love and, yet, changes wrought in love has become the subject of poetry by Malachi Edwin Vethamani and Anasuya Bhar with more wistful lines by George Freek highlighting evanescence.  Sutputra Radheye and Jim Landwehr bring darker nuances into poetry while Scott Thomas Outlar mingles nature with philosophical meanderings. We have more poetry by Ryan Quinn Flanagan, Abdul Jamil Urfi and many more exploring various facets of changes in our lives.

These changes are reflected in our musings too. Sengupta has written on how change is wrought on a murderous villain by the charisma of Gandhi in her father’s fiction, as well as this world leader’s impact on Ghosh and her. Devraj Singh Kalsi addresses food fads with a pinch of sarcasm. From Japan, Suzanne Kamata has written of a little island with Greek influences, a result of cultural ties brought in by the emperor Hirohito. Ravi Shankar takes us to Pokhara, Nepal, and Meredith Stephen expresses surprise on meeting a shipload of people from Colorado in the far reaches of the Southern Hemisphere while on her sailing adventures with beautiful photographs. Stories by moderns reflect diverse nuances depicting change. While Brindley Hallam Dennis writes of the passing of an era, PG Thomas integrates the past into the present to reflect how they have a symbiotic structure in the scheme of creating or recreating natural movements through changes wrought over time in his story. Paul Mirabile explores the darker recesses of the human existence in his fiction. As if in continuation, the excerpt from Rhys Hughes’ The Wistful Wanderings of Perceval Pitthelm seems to step out of darker facets of humanity with a soupçon of wit at its best.

To create a world that endures, one looks for values that create inclusivity as reflected in these lines from Charles Chaplin’s My Autobiography, “Mother illuminated to me the kindliest light this world has ever known, which has endowed literature and the theatre with their greatest themes: love, pity and humanity.” This quote starts off a wonderful essay from film-buff Nirupama Kotru. Her narrative carries the tenor of Chaplin’s ‘themes’ to highlight not only her visit to the actor’s last home in Switzerland but also glances at his philosophy and his contributions to cinema across borders.

Our issue rotates around changes and the need for love and compassion to rise in a choral crescendo whirling with the voices of Tagore, Charles Chaplin as well as that of twenty-first century writers. Perhaps this new year, we can move towards a world – at least an imagined world — where love will wipe away weapons and war, where love will take us towards a future filled with the acceptance of myriad colours, where events like the Partition and the Holocaust will be history, just like dinosaurs.

Huge thanks to all our readers and contributors, some of whom may not have been mentioned here but are an integral and necessary part of the issue. Do pause by our April edition. I would also like to give my thanks to our indefatigable team whose efforts breathe life into our journal every month. Sohana Manzoor needs a special mention for her lovely artwork.

Thank you all and wish you a wonderful April.

Mitali Chakravarty

borderlessjournal.com

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Read reviews and learn more about Monalisa No Longer Smiles: An Anthology of Writings from across the World by clicking here

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Excerpt

The Wistful Wanderings of Perceval Pitthelm

Title: The Wistful Wanderings of Perceval Pitthelm

Author: Rhys Hughes

Publisher: Telos Publishing

There is a shop somewhere in this town that sells bittersweet longing and I decided to seek it out and buy enough for the afternoon and perhaps the evening too. I wandered the streets of Figueira da Foz and if I happened to meet a stranger I asked them for directions, but no one knew where it was, though most had heard of it.

My yearning to find and enter that shop grew steadily more intense, and it now occurred to me that I already had what I wanted, a bittersweet longing for the building and the product sold by its keeper to his clients. But this simply wasn’t sufficient.

Perceval Pitthelm is my name and I’m sure you already knew this and I am English and a writer of adventure novels. I came to Portugal because I had been told it was a more tranquil land than my own in which to write a new book. This turned out not to be quite true. Nonetheless I was fairly satisfied with my circumstances.

I was a little lonely, indeed, but my health had improved. Originally, I planned to stay three months, but I now felt I would be here until the day of my death. Of course, that day might come with any particular sunrise. It could even be today. Fate likes to take us by surprise and teach us useless lessons. Who can say why this is?

At last, purely by chance, I found the shop at the far end of a dark and narrow alley that went nowhere else. The low doorway was covered by a curtain that I realised was a ragged flag and it tickled the nape of my neck as I stooped to pass under. I emerged in shadows and it required a minute for my eyes to adjust to the gloom.

Then I saw I wasn’t alone and that a man was sitting on a chair behind a long counter on which stood rows of oddly shaped jars and bottles. His teeth shone faintly behind a wide but unjustified smile. Most illumination came from the vessels in front of him, an eerie phosphorescence of many shifting colours. I took a step closer.

‘There is bittersweet longing in the glass containers?’

He nodded slowly. ‘Correct.’

‘I didn’t realise it came in liquid form.’

‘You can freeze it if you wish, then it will turn solid. You may heat it over a flame and inhale the vapour. But at room temperature it is a liquid that emits the glow of its own sad craving.’

‘Shall I drink it neat?’

‘Not if you are unaccustomed to it.’

‘I am English, you see.’

‘Of course you are. Drink it mixed with tea. ‘Saudade’ in its raw form is too potent for you. The effects are dramatic. All day and night you will stand on the shore waiting for something you may not even recognise if it arrives. Your hair will grow long in hours and float in the wind, whipping your face and urging it to gallop off your head, even if there is no wind at the time. So many tears will stream from your eyes that your cheeks must go mad from the excess of salt.’

‘I’ve never had mad cheeks! My features are sane.’

‘Keep it that way, Senhor.’

‘Yet I wish to taste bittersweet longing …’

He sighed deeply and said:

‘I understand and I won’t try to discourage you, but imbibe it slowly, a few drops only. This stuff is lethal. Mad cheeks have been responsible for much mischief in the past.’

I was intrigued and asked him to cite examples.

‘Well,’ he continued, ‘there was once a man named Dom Daniel and he drank against my advice half a bottle of distilled saudade and went off to stand on the beach, to weep, wait and gaze at sea, and his cheeks went mad and began swelling with delusions of grandeur and they became too big for his face and gravity tore them off. The tide dragged them far out and he assumed they were lost forever. Back home he walked, ashamed to own a face without cheeks and dreading the anger of his wife when she found out, but those lost cheeks of his didn’t drown or sink to the bottom. They kept riding the currents.’

‘And were washed up on a remote island?’

‘Indeed, Senhor! How did you guess? On an island off the coast of far distant Brazil they reached a new shore and they took root in the sand and grew into cheek trees, extremely tall and festooned with cheeks for leaves and those cheeks blushed deeply like overripe fruits and they were visible to the crews of passing caravels.’

‘Do they still sail caravels in Brazil?’ I asked.

He shrugged. ‘Why not?’

‘We are living in the modern era, that’s why.’

‘Oh no, Senhor! Oh no!’

‘What did I say wrong? What is my blunder?’

‘Saudade doesn’t permit one to remain in the present. It takes us back, my friend, to a time that perhaps never was real but has been lodged in our hearts since we were children, to a time and to places from that time. The magical lands that filled our daydreams, those visions of wonder and marvels, those gentle golden easy places, when we knew that travel was a miracle that would take us there one day, always one day, one day, yes, but never now, never soon. We just had to wait to grow up and the power would be ours. But we did grow up and nothing was as simple or fine as it should have been. The lands were gone, we couldn’t locate them on any map, for we had forgotten to look into our hearts, where they really were, slumbering and fading all the while.’

‘But what happened to those giant cheek trees?’

‘Nothing at all, Senhor.’

‘Didn’t anyone climb them?’

‘To pluck unripe cheeks, you mean? No! The cheeks blushed and the blushes were visible for many leagues across the ocean. Burning blushes that pulsed in the night like lighthouse beams. How do you think it made sailors feel? Sure, they could navigate using the blushes, but cheeks will respond to other cheeks like brothers.’

‘And also like lovers?’

‘Exactly that way! You are no fool, my friend. I knew it before and I know it again. The cheeks of the cheek trees blushed and the cheeks of the sailors blushed in sympathy. How embarrassing for grown men! How humiliating that must be in front of their comrades, all together with their scarlet cheeks pulsing and burning!’

‘And they began to avoid that island, to sail far around it, to take long detours out on the open ocean?’

‘You are perceptive. And saudade was to blame.’

‘The tale is intriguing.’

‘This really happened,’ he told me, and he sighed again, ‘so take care if you sip saudade, even if you dilute it with tea. This isn’t fake stuff, the bittersweet longing of actors in films.’

‘I listen. I have no desire to lose my cheeks.’

‘Oh Senhor! This stuff is intoxicating and throbs your soul as well as your heart. It must be swallowed only in drops. As for cheeks, they are perilous and weird, but let me tell you something. Knees are worse, much worse. Knees! Bear this in mind.’

I said farewell to Old Rogerio, for I already knew his name and in fact had spoken to him at length before. But saudade cares not for precision. It prefers the vagueness that frames a longing. One must never be quite sure what exactly one is yearning for…

About the Book:

Writer, explorer, inventor, fantastist … join Perceval Pitthelm as he takes you on a journey in the township of Kionga, self-propelled on a pair of massive, mechanical kangaroo legs. His stories may be wild, but his adventures are even wilder. In a riot of imagination and literary sleight of hand, Rhys Hughes presents an old-style adventure set in East Africa, Brazil and the Sahara Desert in this novel. We’re talking Philip José Farmer crossed with H Bedford-Jones meeting James Hilton by way of Karel Čapek (in his War with the Newts phase). And with hefty chunks of Flann O’Brien and Boris Vian thrown in for good measure!

About the Author

Rhys Hughes has been writing fiction from an early age. His first book was published in 1995 and since that time he has published fifty other books, nine hundred short stories and many articles and poems, and his work has been translated into ten languages. He graduated as an engineer but currently works as a tutor of mathematics. Having lived in Britain, Spain and Kenya, he is now planning to move to India. His poetry tends to be humorous light verse and offbeat lyrical fantasy, influenced mainly by Don MarquisOgden NashEdward Lear, Richard Brautigan, Ivor Cutler and Spike Milligan.

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

Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles

Click here to access Monalisa No Longer Smiles on Kindle Amazon International