Categories
Stories

Yet, Forget Me Not…

Short story by actress film-maker Aparajita Ghosh translated from Bengali by Ratnottama Sengupta

Aparajita Ghosh

Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday dear Rishi…

Today Rishi turned five. The slicing of the cake is celebrating that. This is to be followed by dinner.  Pulao*, mutton curry  and sweets. The four-five guests present all know each other. They are people who frequent this household. Snigdha kaki*, Pranab kaka*, and the young man Friday of this building. 

“Ananya, here’s your share of the cake, ” Bharati mashima* stretched her hand to offer it to me. How adorable she looks, this young lady of 70 summers! Red bordered white sari, a large bindi on her forehead, that endearing smile playing on her lips.  I took the cake from her and glanced at Rishi’s photograph. A chubby little boy, a headful of raven hair, happiness in his smile and sharpness in his eyes. He is in Hyderabad. In all likelihood, he is cutting a fancy cake in a bustling party. Probably he is not even aware that he has a Grandmother and a Grandfather. 

Holding on to the cake, I walked across the room to sit next to meshomoshai*. Long flowing snow white beard. A curious lack of guile marks  the face of this 84-year-old man. “Do you know dear,” he was telling  me, “Bharati has called so many times, to simply hear the kid’s voice. No one answered the phone. Not once…” 

That no one will pick up the phone is clear to everyone by now — save mashima and meshomoshai. After Kinkar da*‘s death, the day Kanchana left with Rishi, she had expressly said that no one should attempt to contact her in any way. She wanted to retain no link with this household in any manner whatsoever. 

Kinkar da was only forty then. It was the midnight of a sweltering July day. The call from the Police Station had come to our house. Later we got to know that ours was the last dialled number in Kinkar da‘s phone. Around 10 pm he had called to tell Maa that he had picked up a quality Hilsa, so we should lunch together the next day. Kinkar da‘s car was spotted on EM Bypass, crumpled like a tin toy car. Even before he could be taken to a hospital he had…

The post mortem report held the excess of alcohol in his blood to be the cause of death. Kanchana held Mashima and  Meshomoshai responsible for his death. “They not only put up with his bohemian ways, they even boasted about it.” And that was partly if not wholly the truth. They never objected to anything their son did. On the contrary, they took pride in their son. 

But, then, there was sufficient ground for that. Kinkar da was a renowned linguist. He was good at painting. His byline was a regular feature of many newspapers. Almost every week he was giving a talk on diverse platforms. All in all he was nothing short of a celebrity. In actuality he was a down to earth person. He would always dress in khadi kurta* and lose pajama. And always, he sported thick framed glasses. 

Kinkar da often took me out in his car. We would chat endlessly over puchkas*. Yes, he was senior to me by many years but he was more like a friend. He was my Confession Box. I looked up to him like my own elder brother, my dada. Even now I remember him on Raakhi* and Bhai Phonta*

“What’s the matter Anu? Why are you sitting still with the cake in your hand? You’re all right?” I was startled by Snigdha kaki‘s voice. “N-no no, I am fine,” I hastily replied. “Here, I’m having…” I was born in this very Suman Apartment, so all the elders in this building complex have a sense of belonging about me. And I love that. But this day is so very different that I am unable to enjoy anything. Haltingly I headed for the bedroom. A baba suit was resting on the bed — along with it, a Teddy bear and a pink coloured envelope. Rishi’s birthday gifts. 

Just like the four previous years, this year too these will be sent. I will myself courier them, and they will come back to me. Unlike the first time, that year it had been returned to the sender — mashima. Consequently, for three days and three nights, she did not utter a single word. Only, from time to time, she sat staring fixedly at Rishi’s photograph. The next time onward, I have been putting my flat number in the sender’s column. Like the last three years in all likelihood  this year, too, the gifts will lie hidden in my almirah.

I took out the letter from the envelope. mashima‘s handwriting. 

     Dear Dadubhai*,

Today you turn five. You must have grown in these years and learnt to speak full sentences. I hope you are learning Bengali too, dear child? Do master the language — your Grandpa has tons of books, you will read them all — some day. I have baked a cake for you today and cooked mutton-pulao for everyone. Don’t you be sad — when you come down here I will cook them again for you. We will also go out to visit all the attractions of this city. You have barely seen Kolkata. You just grow up fast and come visit us…

Much love and blessings to you shona*.

Lovingly – yours Thammi*

Just think! After all this I must lick the mutton pulao off my fingers. This day is to me no less than a punishment. So many times I have thought of going away somewhere to avoid the celebration. I don’t, only because of these two oldies. Take a look — they have put up balloons everywhere and done alpana* on  the floor at the entrance. Poor Rishi! He will never even hear about this. 

I did call Kanchana once. I had suggested that she come on a visit with Rishi. She had cut me short with her terse retort: “I will not let the dark shadows of that house spoil my child’s life. Spare me this request Ananya. If you do, I will be forced to sever all connections with you too.” I’m not sure what connection I have with Rishi and Kanchana. Still, I must admit, she does take my calls. But that is about all. 

“Ananya, don’t forget to courier the gifts tomorrow. ” I had not realised that mashima was standing by my side. I nodded in assent. “I had saved Rs 500 in my piggy bank, you know!” mashima continued to speak, “That’s why I could buy the Teddy. And don’t you like the dress? dadubhai is v-e-r-y fond of red!”

“How do you know that? You have not set your eyes on him since he crawled.” But the moment I had spoken, I bit my tongue in remorse. What’s this? What have I done! But mashima was offering an explanation: “Kinkar was very fond of red. Don’t you remember how many of his kurtas were in red? Rishi also…” the words trailed off as her voice choked with emotion. 

I held her in a tight hug. I couldn’t control myself either — I let my tears flow freely down my cheeks. 

It was well past midnight when I returned to my flat, after lending a hand in serving dinner and cleaning up afterwards. My parents are away at Santiniketan. So I permit myself this bit of ‘late night’ outing. Besides, I was having a tough time going off to sleep. Kinkar da, Kanchana, Rishi, mashima, meshomoshai — they kept crowding before my eyes…

Trinnng! Tring tring… T-r-i-n-ggg…. The constant ring of the calling bell woke me up. Is it for real or am I still dreaming in sleep? No, the bell is still ringing — and someone is also banging on the door. Must be Kamla. How many times I have told her not to wake me up early on Sundays? What is the tearing rush about? “Kamla come back later,” I was on the verge of telling the person on the other side of the door. I stopped mid-sentence as it wasn’t Kamla at the door, it was the young caretaker. Fear was writ over the face that was glistening with sweat. Before I could speak he said,  “Didi* please come up to the terrace right now!”

Before he had finished an unknown fear compelled me to race up the stairs. As I reached the landing I saw the two oldies, flopped on the terrace, crying away ceaselessly. I went across and sat down next to mashima. “See?” mashima turned towards me, “See how happy Rishi is?”

I could not make head or tail of what mashima was saying. I have yet to courier the gifts. So, did Kanchana make that elusive call?? mashima’s pallu* was all over the floor. Her hair was dishevelled. I can’t remember ever seeing meshomoshai so worked up over anything, not even on the day Kinkar da passed away! With her left hand mashima held me in a tight grip — and with her right hand she was caressing the red Rangan that stood in a pot at one end of the terrace. “See how it is bursting with flowers! This plant has never blossomed before, and today?!”

Three years ago, when this Rangan was planted, mashima had christened it ‘Rishi’. That sapling was smiling at the world today, with flowers on every leaf. Is it actually Rishi saying, “I am doing fine Thammi and Dadu. You too stay well!”

*Pulao — Indian fried rice

*Kaki — paternal aunt

*Kaku — paternal uncle

*Mashima — maternal aunt

*Meshomoshai — maternal uncle

*Da/dada — elder brother

*Khadi Kurta — a long Indian shirt made of homespun popularised by Gandhi

*Puchkas — savoury snack

*Rakhi — Indian festival to jubilate brother-sister ties

*Bhai Phonta — Indian festival to jubilate brother-sister ties

*Dadubhai/Dadu — grandfather

*Shona — darling (Gold)

*Thammi — grandmother

*Alpana — designs made on the floor with ground paste of uncooked rice, traditional folk art

*Didi — elder sister

*Pallu — loose end of the sari that drapes over the shoulder

*Rangan — ixora

Published originally in Bengali in December 2017 issue of Batayan, a Magazine of West Bengal Motion Picture Artists’ Forum.

Aparajita Ghosh, an actor and television anchor has done her Master’s in Mass Comm. She writes stories, has written plays including #Life, which was staged at multiple venues in Kolkata. She has directed Dance of Joy, a documentary on Rabindra Nritya, screened in Dhaka and Singapore, besides India, and the feature film Mystic Memoirs, screened in Kolkata International Film Festival 2019. Dance of Joy been to 7 international festivals and won 2 awards. Mystic Memoir as of now has been selected for 5 International festivals and won one award.

Ratnottama Sengupta turned director with And They Made Classics, on the unique bonding between screenwriter Nabendu Ghosh and director Bimal Roy. A very senior journalist, she has been writing for newspapers and journals, participating in discussions on the electronic media; teaching mass communication students, writing books on cinema and art, programming film festivals and curating art exhibitions. She has written on Hindi films for the Encyclopaedia Britannica; been a member of CBFC, served on the National Film Awards jury and has herself won a National Award. The former Arts Editor of The Times of India is also a member of the NFDC’s script committee. Author of Krishna’s Cosmos and several other volumes, she has recently edited That Bird Called Happiness (2018/ Speaking Tiger), Me And I (2017/ Hachette India), Kadam Kadam (2016/ Bhashalipi), Chuninda Kahaniyaan: Nabendu Ghosh (2009/ Roshnai Prakashan).

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

Categories
Poetry

Marathi poetry by Sanket Mhatre

Poems by Sanket Mhatre translated by Rochelle Potkar

Sanket Mhatre
Grandma: a line from a poem


In grandma's wrinkles are embedded various footmarks of my childhood, running from cow dung-plastered courtyards of the past up until the polished verandahs of the present.

Grandma puts forth a flower of life to death, every dawn.
Sotto voce-ing slokas, she wades through the transit-vessel of instancy and gets lost every day 
into the thoroughfare of the city.

The stems of her fresh memories have cultured 
into our blood-vein civilization.

Father continues to write about the city,
about its poets,
its houses,
about the brink-of-breakage bones in his body.

My grandma however
unspeakingly, begins to expand into the city in Father's poems
or transforms into a sparrow, perched on one of his lyrical lines.
 
I have prudently salvaged grandma's sloughed bark.

Every day I peel off one of her wrinkles and un-crease a poem.

Today too I have done the same thing.













Flash...

Now in any instance, Nature
will take control from our hands.  

At any moment will come a storm,
will come a tsunami.

Rivers will flood 
or be lambasted by earthquakes,

and fissures will form over the earth's soul and surface.

Because in Jerusalem that small boy, when hounded
with a gun's barrel between his two eyes 
a finger on the trigger, 
said just this much: “I’m going to tell God everything.”

On humanity never such devastation was spat.
That's why don't search for reasons when clocks 
freeze time. 

Soundlessly, just soundly sleep 
thinking of your body a response 
to the teeny boy's last cry.

Sanket Mhatre is a well-known bilingual poet writing in English & Marathi. He has curated Crossover Poems – a multilingual poetry recitation sessions that unifies poets from different languages on a single platform. Apart from this, Sanket Mhatre has been invited to read at Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, Poets Translating Poets, Goa Arts & Literature Festival, Jaipur Literature Festival, Vagdevi Litfest and Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan. Besides curation & recitation, Sanket Mhatre has also created Kavita Café – a Youtube Channel that combines cinematic vision with visual poetry.

Rochelle Potkar is an alumna of Iowa’s International Writing Program (2015) and a Charles Wallace Writer’s fellow, University of Stirling (2017). She is the author of Four Degrees of Separation and Paper Asylum – that was shortlisted for the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2020. Her poem ‘To Daraza’ won the 2018 Norton Girault Literary Prize UK, and ‘The girl from Lal Bazaar’ was shortlisted at the Gregory O’ Donoghue International Poetry Prize, 2018. Her unpublished poetry book The Inglorious Coins of the Counting House was longlisted at the Beverly Prize Poetry Book Award, 2019, UK.  

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

Categories
Poetry

Poetry from Nepal

By Bina Theeng Tamang and translated by Hem Bishwakarma

Bina Theeng Tamang

My Father

Ere yesterday,

I could not see my father

He turned up—

While I had been to collect the sun

.

For the second chance,

He turned up at daytime, yesterday

Oh! I’m sorry, I could not see him

For I went out

To seek a morsel of food

.

Perhaps,

He will turn up this evening

Yet, I am walking out to reap the time

I know, I would not see him yet again

.

My father had to take me

To a hospital

Lifting a spiky sun on his head

Along the bank of the Rapti River

.

I am here —

Showcased as a city-marionette

Grasped by a lollypop so tight

.

He used to look into the sky

With a deep sigh!

I used to look at the city

.

He used to ask briskly

Groping money —

Earned selling the Kulfi

“Which did you like, dear?”

.

He used to laugh

With the face shattered by helplessness;

And the chest stroked by fate

Then he would say,

“You are my heart

How would I live heartbroken?”

.

After four to five years of his avowal

He let his heart

To a strange person

.

He is unwell nowadays

However,

He comes to see a piece of his heart

.

How would he know?

For seeking a mouthful bread

Sometimes for collecting the sun

And frequently to reap the time

The Heart rushes ever

In the marathon of life

.

We may not see each other

In the next visit, too!

.

Bina Theeng Tamang is a writer from Kathmandu. She is an author of two books, Chhuki, a story collection and Rato Ghar, a poem collection. She is an awardee of different Nepali awards.

Hem Bishwakarma is a writer and translator from Nepal. He has poetry and short stories translations, and poems in Nepali and English published to his credit. He mostly works on Nepali-English translations.

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

Categories
Poetry

Krishnokoli

A translation of RabindranathTagore’s Krishnakoli Ami Tarei Boli by Rupa Chakravarti from Bengali to English

Rabindranath Tagore

Krishnokoli

I call her Krishnokoli, the village folk simply call her dark-skinned.

One cloudy morning I saw her on the meadow, the dark doe eyes of the dark-skinned girl

Head uncovered, long unplaited hair hanging down her back

Dark? However dark-skinned she be, I have seen her dark doe-eyes

.

The day slowly faded under dark clouds, two dark cows were lowing

So, with anxious steps, the dark girl hurried out of her hut

Looked at the sky raising her eyebrows, listened to the rumbling thunder.

Dark? However dark-skinned she be, I have seen her dark doe-eyes

.

The East wind gusted in, sent waves dancing through the rice field.

I stood alone at a corner of the meadow, there was no one else in the field

Did she look at me? Only I know and the dark girl knows.

Dark? However dark-skinned she be, I have seen her dark doe-eyes

.

In May dark kohl clouds gather in the northeastern corner of the sky.

Soft dark shadows descend on the tamal* grove in June.

On an August monsoon night, my heart suddenly fills with joy.

Dark? However dark-skinned she be, I have seen her dark doe-eyes

.

I call her Krishnokoli, despite whatever she is called by villagers.

I saw her in the Moynapara meadow, the dark doe-eyes of the dark-skinned girl.

She did not raise her sari to cover her head, she did not have time to be shy

Dark? However dark-skinned she be, I have seen her dark doe-eyes.

*tamal: Bay Leaf tree

Krishnokoli sung by the legendary Suchitra Mitra

Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1941) was a brilliant poet, writer, musician, artist, educator – a polymath. He was the first Nobel Laureate from Asia. His writing spanned across genres, across global issues and across the world. His work remains relevant to this day.

Mrs Rupa Chakravarti is a prolific, multi-faceted persona. Mrs Chakravarti has been an internationally celebrated teacher, having taught English language and literature at KG-Class XII levels at international schools in New Delhi, Dhaka, Windhoek, The Hague, Rotterdam, Moscow, Brussels and Ljubljana. Her expertise includes teaching English in Primary, Middle School, IGCSE A-levels and IB English B. She has also served as a Language Consultant in Business English to multinational corporations like Janssen-Cilag in Milan. As a trained ESL teacher, she has served as Coordinator in several international schools globally. She has been Advisor-Consultant to the Bridge International School in Kolkata to upgrade their teaching and academic management practices to conform to best international standards.

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Categories
Review

Vignettes of Bengal

Book Review by Gopal Lahiri

Title : One Dozen of Stories

Author: Naina Dey

George Steiner says, ‘Every language is a world. Without translation, we would inhabit parishes bordering on silence’. In her fascinating book titled One Dozen Stories, Naina Dey captures the shades and tones of Bengali short stories written by well-known storytellers into the folds of English language and gives it her own distinctive stamp. One can not only see Bengal in her words, but also can smell it, feel its very texture.

Sanjukta Dasgupta, the eminent writer and academician, has rightly said, in her Foreword, “The translator of the twelve short stories in this collection has exhibited both sense and sensibility in her selection of the short stories originally written in by some of the best storytellers of Bengali fiction. Naina Dey’s training as a literary critic and translator become obvious as the authors, whose short stories that have been selected for translation cover a wide trajectory.”

Short stories, can also be a welcome diversion from the barrage of images we’re often submitted to in long narratives. The writers feel sometimes it’s worth showing less and hiding more and that is the essence of the short story. Through the power of observation, Naina Dey takes hold of the essence of the stories “each equally griping in intensity” and gives it to the reader with a power that is, paradoxically both strange and familiar. She portrays the influence of images and their seductiveness and their complexities as depicted in the original with expressionist clarity and feelings.

One Dozen Stories includes translation of selected stories by Rabindranath Tagore, Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay, Ashapurna Devi, Narendranath Mitra, Suchitra Bhattacharya, Nabakumar Basu, Anita Agnihotri and Esha Dey.

The twelve stories offer astounding depictions of desire, dream, love, belief and the power of the natural world and the translator tracks the inner monologue of an impoverished world with skill and purpose. There is no dream fog about these stories. There is no slapdash, no satire, no postmodern signs and flashes either.

Naina Dey has mentioned in her ‘Introduction’, “Edgar Allan Poe, considered the father of the short story and its first critical theorist had defined what he called the prose tale as a narrative which can be read at one sitting from half an hour to two hours, and is limited to ‘a certain unique or single effect’ to which every detail is subordinate.”

The stories in this collection are appealing in their richness and variety, in the sharpness of their perceptions and the clarity of even their complicated psychological unpicking and above all in their stylistic forms.

Tagore is a master storyteller and his stories are associated with events of our life that touched. Dey has selected two poignant and powerful short stories of Tagore. In ‘Shesh Puroshkar’ (The Last Reward), Tagore excavates the flaws and examines the truth to heal wounds and reward thereafter. The settings feel fresh because the author refuses to draw on worn-out descripted tropes with a thing of shreds and patches.

 ‘Streer Patra’ (The Wife’s Letter) is a landmark short story in Bengali literature.In the life of poor Bindu, Tagore has infused portrait of several generations of tortured and exploited women in Bengal. The deprivation and the denial are all encompassing. The protagonist, Mrinal, unearths the suppression that women undergo and renounces the injustice meted out to the young girl Bindu. Mrinal leaves her house, as a mark of protest at the atrocities against the women and becomes a free woman at the end.

You had cloaked me in the darkness of your customs. Bindu had come for an instant and caught sight of me through the hole in that veil. With her own death, she had ripped at the end my veil from top to bottom. Today I emerged and saw that there was hardly any place where I could keep my pride. Those eyes that had beheld and loved my neglected beauty, now look at me from the entire sky. Mejobou is dead now.’”(Steer Patra)

For readers looking for a more interesting story with twist at the end, ‘Chor’ (Thief) written by Narendranath Mitra, an accomplished short-story writer, shows the relationship between two enigmatic characters who embark on unusual life path; the husband, a kleptomaniac, compels his innocent wife to steal. The story shows pleasure cannot sustain either itself or any meaning.

Today Renu was truly her husband’s worthy consort. This was what Amulya had been wishing for all these days. Today was his day to rejoice. But Amulya was frozen stiff in his wife’s tender embrace. It was as if every beauty, every charm had disappeared from this earth. And those familiar arms which encircled his neck were not the bangle-laden slender arms of a beautiful young woman- they had become loathsome, defiled.”(Chor)

Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay’s ‘Puimacha’ (The Spinach Vine) is a captivating investigation of the life. The author depicts human fallibility and the tragic ending with the untimely death of Khenti, the eldest daughter of Sahayhari. Families dissolve through vagrant desire and inner disconnection. Relations between mother and son becomes insensitive and fail to cohere at times.

The depiction of a family’s routines, rituals, and idiosyncrasies in the midst of rule is reflected in Ashapurna Devi’s deft and gripping story ‘Chinnamasta’(The Severed Head). The power of apprehension and its scaring presence is a theme of the story. The broken down, disheartened, surging negative energies emanating from the Hindu widows, echo through the story.

“In the women’s circle, the newly widowed wife’s fare held the same interest as the manners of a newly-wed bride… Frequently therefore, one found Kanaklata, the eldest of the Lahiri wives, Monty’s mother, appearing at opportune moments at Jayabati’s house.” (Chinnamasta)

Nabakumar Basu’s ‘Faydaa‘ (Gain) grapples with harsh effect of generation gap where everyone is under suspicion and the artificiality of the modern life especially while staying abroad. Lives are shaped by ordinary neglect: of spouses, of children and of selves.

Esha Dey’s three stories ‘Anya Jagat Anya Nari’ (Another World, Another Woman), ‘Lapis Lazuli’ and ‘Satilakhi‘(A Devoted Wife) centre on the beliefs and variances in life laced with humour and warmth. Her stories are delicate, unfixed and evanescent. These qualities render it an exclusive place among the narratives and reflect on a way to attain a life without boundaries.

Suchitra Bhattacharya’s two stories are all about the power of life sketches, their lightness and complexities as well. In ‘Atmaja’(The Son), the mother and son relationship being at once compulsive and embryonic, and the mental and physical disentanglement is suggested in unsettling details. It is poignant and the ending is tragic. ‘Ashabarna‘ (Discrimination) portrays the hollowness of the middle-class life with dark undertones of class difference.

In ‘Ranabhoomi’ (Battlefield), Anita Agnihotri conjures a natural chemistry from the start with the historical context of the battle of Plassey and the emblematic mango tree and keeps the dramatic tension till the end. The writer is especially good at capturing its longings while the historical, the political, and the personal overlap within society are clearly evident in the story.

“No one remembers, no one remembers anything. Place, history, time…they themselves get entangled in the web of antiquity and remain silent covered with dust.

Abraham will remember. His mother’s anger, his sister’s ill-humour, his wife’s tears and keep them hidden in his breast like the mango tree struck by the cannon-ball!’(Ranabhoomi).

Translation from one language to other always poses a challenge to convey the nuggets of nuances of the original language. The key to the translation is the choice of words and the need of transporting the soul of the culture into another language. Dey finds her vein of expression by attending to the miniscule details and offers new areas that goes beyond the prevailing.

One Dozen Stories is striking, impressive and of significance even now. The readers will feel the desolation and misery and the sweat and tears that run through the stories. The cover page is impressive. This immensely readable book offers us the chance to escape into a world that is worth a revisit.

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Gopal Lahiri is a Kolkata- based bilingual poet, critic, editor, writer and translator with 21 books published mostly (13) in English and a few (8) in Bengali, including three joint books. His poetry is also published across various anthologies as well as in eminent journals of India and abroad. He has been invited in various poetry festivals including World Congress of Poets recently held in India. He is published in 12 countries and his poems are translated in 10 languages.

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

Categories
Excerpt Poetry

Poems from My Father’s Face by Chandra Gurung

Chandra Gurung’s poetry translated by Mahesh Paudyal

My Father’s Face

Two eyes glitter like the sun and the moon

In that face

A kite of self-confidence keeps flying

Beautiful orchids and rhododendrons bloom

Combating the storms of calamities

.

On that face

A sun rises every morning to carry the burden of a new day

And returns, at the end of the day

Hiding every line of sorrows

Carrying little parcels of joy

Making the house and the patio bright

.

On that face

Narrow are the eyes that read the world

Pug is the nose that looms with raised self-respect

Wrinkled are the cheeks where joys and sorrows glide

Chapped are the lips, where smiles stage a march-past

And the entire Mongol identity has been smouldered by heat.

.

But I am delightful

Happy beyond telling

When everyone says:

“You look exactly like your father.”

.

Trust

Since you are back

Take those roses on the table

And kindly adorn them in the hearts.

Let the fragrance of love waft from it.

.

Bring out on the veranda

A pair of chairs;

Let’s spend some intimate moments.

Also place a bottle of wine, and two glasses

On the table;

We shall spend

Some moments of life, talking.

.

Look!

My weary rags

My books, pen and paper abandoned like an orphan

The stubs of cigarette littered like unclaimed corpses

And the scratched mirror—

All await for a single touch

From you.

.

This dark evening

You showed up at my doorstep all alone.

At this moment

Every nook of my heart

Is filled with love, ripple by ripple.

.

Leave it!

Let that window remain open at least

It reflects my heartfelt belief

That you would certainly turn up.

.

Desert: A Life of Mirage

There is not a single bright line of smile

On the broad canvas of the face

No butterfly of joy flutters on the cheeks

Desolate is this desert

Like a garden where all beauty has wilted.

.

There are dry tufts, devoid of life, everywhere

Dry hands of wind come to caress youth

The eyes accumulate dead excitement

And looms a mound of desolation

.

The youthful sun comes to face, eye-to-eye, all day long

The wind teases again and again

The desert longs to allure a traveler with its youth

Dreams of enchanting someone with its gestures

The desert is like a bride’s dream

Living in anticipation of a loving embrace.

.

Its breasts are decked by green date palms

A youthful cactus is tucked on its ears

And the desert stands in a long caravan of desires

Like a life of mirage

.

All is well

Everything is fine.

Just now,

My children in immaculate uniform

Have been taken to school

By a house-boy their age

.

My parents are happy in an old-age home

I am off from the pack of my siblings

My better half spends time watching TV serials

My home has hosted peace pervasively

From this, we can perceive that

All is well.

.

Since a prayer room in the home accommodates

A bunch of deities

It has been long that praying has been a rare tale

Doesn’t it mean

Everything is fine?

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Nothing ever tortures my heart

I don’t meddle in others’ affairs

And keep myself away from such trifling hassles

And thus, do not bother myself in vain

It’s true:

Everything is fine.

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I keep my own ways

Act amiably with all

And keep myself away from problems

For this reason

Everything is fine.

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I carefully maintain my looks

Dress up myself decently

And follow healthy dietary habits

In fact,

Is everything really fine?

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All these poems are excerpted from Chandra Gurung’s upcoming book, My Father’s Face, with the author’s permission

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Chandra Gurung is a Bahrain based Nepali poet.  He has an anthology of poetry to his credit. That was published in 2007. The second anthology of his translated poems titled My Father’s Face will be published from Rubric Publishing, New Delhi.  He has passion for translation as well. He has translated Hindi, English and Arabic poets into Nepali. He has also has translated some of the Nepali poets into Hindi. His works (poems and articles) have found space in many online and print magazines including More of my beautiful Bahrain, Snow Jewel, Collection of Poetry and Prose complied by Robin Barratt (UK), Warscapes.com and many leading Dailies in Nepal.

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Mahesh Paudyal is a Nepalese writer, translator critic and Assistant Professor of English at Tribhuvan University. His works basically foreground local epistemic traditions and Eastern mythological richness. He has published novels, stories, poems, plays and songs both for adults and children and has extensively written critical works. His major translations include Sheikh Mujiboor Rahman’s Unfinished Memoirs and Prison Notes into Nepali, Silver Cascades, a collection of Nepali short stories and Dancing Soul of Mount Everest, representative modern Nepali poems. He is the Executive Editor of Roopantaran, a translation-based journal of Nepal Academy.

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

Categories
Stories

Nazuk

By Syad Zahoor Shah Hashmi translated by Fazal Baloch

This is a chapter from Nazuk, the first novel written in Balochi language. It was first published in 1976 and has been translated into Urdu and Persian. It depicts everyday life and experiences of the people living around the coastal area of Makkuran especially Gwadar and its surroundings.

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The old man fell ill and stayed in bed for around eight days. He recuperated later, but remained quite frail and weak for a few more days. Nazuk looked after him like her father. Whenever she did him a favour, she would recall her father. But she was surprised to notice that sometimes the old man would slide into deep thoughts, and tears stream down from his eyes.

When he finally regained his strength, he expressed his desire to leave for his home but Nazuk did not let him go. She said: “Look uncle! I am a woman and alone with my two children. I don’t have anybody to chat with to while away the night. Ever since you have arrived, I feel like my father has returned. I would rather be glad to see you here. We would live like father and daughter and share our grief and sorrows with each other. From today onward you are my father and I am your daughter”.

The old man’s eyes welled up. He held and kissed Nazuk’s hand and broke out crying madly. Nazuk was astonished. After having consoled and comforted him she said: “Father! I am going to ask you something but don’t mince your words.”

“Come on my daughter. If I wouldn’t tell you the truth, then who would you think I am going to?”

“It’s alright. Whenever I speak to you, all of a sudden, your eyes well up. Why?”

“Yes my daughter. It is a long tale. I had a daughter whose name too was Nazuk. But she was pitilessly forced to die.”

“How did it happen?”

“Ah! I don’t know how to begin the story, daughter. Whenever, I look at you, I recall my poor daughter and can’t hold back my tears. I had never been as poor as I am now. Once I owned three boats. One I rowed myself and for the remaining two I hired two sailors. I was in fine fettle then. One night I was asleep when the anguished cries of a woman joggled me awake. It was coming from my neighbor’s house. I knew her husband had gone to fishing at sea. I jumped over the wall and found someone trying to make advances at her. It was dark and I couldn’t see his face clearly.

“I grabbed him from his waist and lifted him up and slammed him on the ground. He held his breath right there and I assumed he was dead but a moment later he beguiled me and sprinted out of the door. Some receding footfalls followed him. I knew he was not alone. I lit the lamp. The woman’s shirt was in tatters. I asked her about the man but she feigned ignorance. She also pleaded with me not to mention this incident to her husband otherwise he would divorce her. I assumed she knew the man but was afraid to disclose his identity. Till this day I haven’t shared her story with anybody.

“Six month later, one night, one of my sailors woke me up. He told me that he had docked my boat somewhere on the shore but it had disappeared. We went there and exhaustively searched for it but all our efforts ended up in smoke. Someone had stolen it. Six month later, they repeated the cycle and stole my second boat. Each time I went to village’s elder, Shugrullah. He was at a loss himself that nothing had been stolen from anybody but only me. His son Gazabek, who was sitting there, said: “You might have wronged someone and now they are paying you back.”

“I didn’t say a word. Nor I was offended by his remarks. But I lamented that I had been robbed of my two boats without any reason.

“A few months later Shugrullah’s brother invited all the sailors at the launching ceremony of his boat. One by one all the fishermen, were turning up at the seashore. Shugrullah’s son was lashing everybody with a whip to move quickly. He walked over to me and without any warning whipped me. And I without any delay lifted him up in the air and hurled him on the ground. For a moment he held his breath right there on the ground and a while later he sprinted off. I assumed he was the very man who had broken into our neighbor’s house on that distant night. When I grabbed him I felt the same plump body in my arms. His follow through further convinced me that he was the very man who had stolen my boats. Though I never accused him in public, between the lines I tried to throw hunches at Shugrullah. But as poor’s truth is always taken as a lie, everybody castigated me instead. Thus I kept quiet. It was followed by another tragedy. May God let nobody witnesses such doom. I wonder if you know, Gazabek enticed my young and innocent daughter Nazuk.”

“Father! Should I ask you something?”
“Yes daughter.”
“Well, what is your relationship with Zaruk?”
“Zaruk? Her aunt was my wife. But why are you asking this question?”
“It means your daughter Nazuk was Zaruk’s cousin who died at childbirth. It all happened because of Gazabek.”

“Yes, my daughter,” the old man broke into tears.

“Now I know it is the tragedy with your daughter that often makes you cry. From today onward I am your Nazuk, your daughter and you are in place of my father. No doubt God is great. Gazabek and his family will have to pay for the wrongs they have done to you.”

For a whole year the old man stayed with Nazuk. She looked after him like her late daughter. When the old man fell ill, he would anxiously grumble, “O God how long will it take your millstones to grind? The revenge you extract after I am dead will not bring me any relief.”

As luck would have it, the next day news spread that last night a thief broke into Gazabek’s house and cleverly left without leaving any trace behind. Next night everybody was on the alert yet he hoodwinked them and broke in again. When the old man received the news, he desperately called out Nazuk.

“Nazuk! Come on Nazal! Come on my mother!”

Nazuk hurried towards the old man and asked him anxiously: “Yes Abba I am here. Tell me what’s the matter?”

“Nazuk my daughter! I wouldn’t lament at all if God takes my life at any moment now.”

“What are you talking of? What happened?”
“Hey! Don’t you know what happened?”
“No. Tell me what is the matter ?”
“Daughter! Gazabek’s family has been dishonoured. A woman in his house is having a secret affair with a man.”

“That’s not fair father. The man who forced himself must have been only a thief.”
“No my mother! He was not a thief but a shrewd man and Gazabek was well aware of everything but lacked the courage to reveal anything. Indeed your millstones grind late but they grind fine. Thank you, O Holy Lord!”

A few days later the old man was summoned by God’s glory.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. IT CANNOT BE REPRODUCED IN FULL ON FACEBOOK OR ANY OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA — PLEASE DO USE THE ONLINE LINK ON SOCIAL MEDIA.

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Syad Zahoor Shah Hashmi (1926-78) is known as the pioneer of modern Balochi literature. He was simultaneously a poet, fiction writer, critic, linguist and a lexicographer par excellence. Though he left undeniable marks on various genres of Balochi literature, poetry remained his mainstay. With his enormous imagination and profound insight he laid the foundation of a new school of Balochi poetry especially Balochi ghazal which mainly emphasises on the purity of language and simplicity of poetic thoughts. This school of poetry subsequently attracted a wide range of poets to its fold. He also authored the first ever Balochi novel ‘Nazuk’ and compiled the first comprehensive Balochi-to-Balochi dictionary containing over twenty thousand words and hundreds of pictorial illustrations.

Fazal Baloch is a Balochi writer and translator. He has translated several Balochi poems and short stories into English. His translations have been featured in Pakistani Literature published by Pakistan Academy of Letters in 2017 and Silence Between the Notes — the first ever anthology of Partition Poetry published by Dhauli Books India in 2018. His upcoming works of translation include Why Does the Moon Look So Beautiful? (Selected Balochi Short Stories by Naguman) and God and the Blind Man (Selected Balochi Short Stories by Minir Ahmed Badini).

Categories
Stories

The Awaited Mother’s Day

By Sandhya Sinha (1928-2016)

Translated by Ratnottama Sengupta

Surabhilata was beside herself with joy as she strode up the stairs of her elder daughter Anuradha’s residence on Park Street. Anuradha’s husband Soumendra was an eminent lawyer, good looking and well-respected. He lived in his ancestral house striking a happy balance with his parents. Anuradha cared for her in-laws, looks after their needs, and had taught her own children to love and respect their Dadu and Thamma.

Surabhilata entered the house to find a stellar congregation in the drawing room. Her younger daughter Bishakha was there with her just-returned-from-US husband Dibyendu. Surabhilata’s husband’s nephew, Aloke, is the bosom friend of Dibyendu – not so surprising that he had joined them with his chubby and cheerful wife Radhika, who happens to be the daughter of Surabhilata’s younger sister. What fun!

“You here all by yourself?!” Anu and Bishakha chimed in unison the moment their mother stepped in. “Didn’t bring Baba along?” Her sons-in-law were well aware that Surabhilata had a keen sense of self-respect and dignity. They cut in, “And why not? It’s so good that she’s come over today – when we are all here together!”

Bishakha and Radhika have both been raised by Surabhi like siblings. The two of them came over and sat down flanking her on either side. Short and plump Surabhi was used to covering most of her sojourns on foot. That day, as usual, she had alighted at the corner of Park Street and walked down this distance. But, that day, she was perspiring.

“Why didn’t you call up once?” the daughters complained. “We would have picked you up. So much trouble! Aren’t your son and daughter-in-law at home? Why didn’t they drop you?”

Surabhi replied that she did not inform Anup that she was going to visit her daughter. “And why fetter my freedom of movement!”

Surabhilata’s husband Shantimoy Sen was a highly placed Government Servant who was soon to retire from his job. Anuradha had been married for almost 15 years. Bishakha for about five years. Their only son Anup, second of the siblings, had been married for less than two years. Both Surabhi and Shantimoy adored on the daughter-in-law. The reason? Both her daughters were extremely good looking – they had taken after their father. Anup was a copy of his mother – perhaps that was why they had a tough time getting a pretty, educated, stunning- bride for him despite his academic qualifications and a well-paid job.

Surabhi and Shantimoy were on the verge of depression. Almost by a divine intervention a proposal came out of somewhere – and she was a dream come true. There was no question of dilly-dallying any more. Another six months and the younger son-in-law Dibyendu would have come back from the States but no, they did not wait for even that. In the midst of summer, they ceremonised Anup’s wedding with great fanfare. And the Trinity of father, mother and son seemed to find salvation in the newly wed Bride. Pray why not? Chandana was not only fair complexioned, she had light eyes that seemed to smile at you all the while. The slim and sunny girl won over everyone soon as she arrived. She was Shantimoy’s ‘Mamoni’ and for Surabhi she was ‘Gopal’.

“Whoever’s heard of addressing the daughter-in-law as Gopal? It’s a term of endearment for grandchildren,” said her sister Madhabilata to Surabhi. “Don’t go over the top even in showering affection,” she cautioned. “Excess of anything is bad even for the health of a relationship.”

Bishakha and Anuradha could not agree more. Both of them are married to only sons but their mothers-in-law still ruled over both their households, their wish continued to be the command for the sisters. “All the rules are only for us!” they whispered to each other. “How we feared Maa! Now, the bride has changed Maa’s personality…”

“What to do!” Surabhi would smile. “The minute I set my eyes on her, I noticed the mischievous smile in her eyes – and was reminded of the baby Krishna. That’s why I address her as ‘Gopal’. But dears, she takes no offence on that count. She is also a convent-educated, modern girl.  With her parents she has travelled through America, not once — but twice. If she has no problem with my calling her Gopal, why are you so bothered? She is so happy if you visit us and the children are so full of Mami, Aunty!”

In fact, Surabhi’s house was always filled with visitors, relatives and friends of every age and gender. Surabhi was soon to retire from her job, and so was increasingly busy with Women’s Welfare and Literary Circle. Every now and then she was occupied with penning her thoughts – if not a speech. Shantimoy was not too pleased with these ‘Social Welfare’ activities at the cost of familial welfare. “But what to do?” Surabhi had an infallible logic: “My children are all grown up, well raised and doing well on their own. I have fulfilled all my responsibilities. I don’t take any money from you nor do I waste money on any luxury. So why should anyone grudge my spending time in these activities?”

The sons-in-law fully supported her endeavours. Her daughters were also in her favour: “We have earned our various degrees but writing still doesn’t come easy to us. To top it, Bengali seems to be a particularly tough language to express ourselves in. So, if Maa is good in this, why object? Chandana is so keen about cooking, she’ll be able to handle the kitchen…”

Surabhi wasn’t exactly prepared for what this entailed. Chandana was keen to experiment in the kitchen but it all had to be organised by Surabhi, personally. “This is missing”, “how can it taste authentic without that” — each ‘lacking’ prompted Shantimoy to rush to the market. Every evening Anup and Chandana went out. “This is the age to enjoy, let them do so…” Surabhi and Shantimoy were in agreement on this. Dinner? Surely Surabhi could take care of that; she was not going out, was she?

But when Surabhi had to attend a Sahitya Chakra or some other literary meet? Or, perhaps a Ladies’ Circle gathering? Most of these were scheduled in evenings after the office hours and finished late. So invariably Surabhi would be back only at 10 pm, to find Anup-Chandana were yet to return. Or if they had, she was too tired to step into the kitchen. So Shantimoy has set the table for four and waited with a long face. On some days a kith or kin would drop in. If she asked her ‘Gopal’ to serve tea or sherbet, she would not pull a face as much as Shantimoy or Anup would. Surabhi would recite the lines from Tagore to herself: “The courtiers complain a hundred times more than the king himself…”

Chandana’s mother happened to be a very prim and proper lady. Ever so often she came to visit her daughter – accompanied by her Americanised nephew, Ratul. He had gone to the United States on some deputation or the other but the four months he spent there were enough to turn him into a Mr Know-It-All! Anything that does or can happen within the Americas – he knew all about it. Surabhi had yet to fathom how he managed to mutate himself in mere four months and replace every custom and behaviour learnt over 28 years with new ways, new likings, new lifestyle.

Still, Surabhi was pleased when they visit because her ‘Gopal’ was delighted, even if Anup was visibly discomfited. Just a day before Chandana’s mom and Ratul had terminated their week-long stay and gone back to Ghaziabad. Surabhi was too preoccupied with her chores to call up or chat with her daughters. She had overheard some whispering about going to some destination of her choice in order to celebrate her impending 60th birthday. Dilapidated remains and undated temples had always been of much interest to Surabhi. Panchalingeshwar in Balasore district of Orissa had a forceful rivulet running down a mountain slope. Under the waterfall in the midst of verdant green, you could reach out to touch the five Shiv Lingas that were supposed to be the icons of sage Parasuram in the distant past! Ever since she heard this, Surabhi has been lamenting that there had been no occasion for her to visit the site. And so Soumendra and Dibyendu had been planning to give their mother-in-law a surprise Birthday present — a trip to Panchalingeshwar. To plan that in secret, the fivesome had gathered that day. Surabhi’s sudden appearance led them to change the topic of discussion within the flutter of an eyelid.

Radha smiled as she enquired of Surabhi, “What have we learnt anew about the US of A, Mamoni?”

“Yesterday at the dining table Ratul spoke at length about Mother’s Day Celebration in America. Gopal let out, ‘What a coincidence? The 12th of May happens to be Mamoni’s birthday! So we will celebrate Mother’s Day on a grand scale. Don’t entertain any other programme that day Mamoni – I’ll be really upset if you do!’”

This was what had brought Surabhi rushing to Anuradha’s house. She would be the protagonist of that day’s celebration.

“It will be a day of all play. No work,” her Gopal had declared.  

Bishakha raised her arched brows on hearing this. “What are you saying Maa? A full day’s holiday? Your Gopal has not, out of sheer love for you, requested you to prepare a signature dish for her? I hope it won’t transpire that you refuse to join us on a special outing that day and ‘Mr America’ Ratul ensures that you get left out of Chandana’s ‘Mother’s Day’ do!”

Surabhi could not take kindly to Bishakha’s snide remarks.

“Why are you so full of negativity?” she asked.  “Only last night Chandana’s mother and Ratul returned to Ghaziabad. Is it likely that they will come back in five days flat?”

“What did your son say on hearing his wife’s plan?” Anuradha asked Surabhi.

She replied, “Gopal is quite naughty – she did not elaborate exactly what she plans to do, or where… ‘All in good time’- she kept repeating with a Monalisa smile. ‘Wait till 12 noon of 12th May – you’ll know it all.’ None of you ever celebrated a Mother’s Day – are you jealous because Gopal is planning one?”

“Why would we Moni? We’re happy so long as you are happy. Whether your Gopal has planned it or us is immaterial.”

“You know what,” Surabhi now shared what had been on her mind. “I am myself keen to see how Gopal celebrates the day centred round me. She has never had to take full responsibility of anything. She spoke with such enthusiasm in front of her mother and brother! How would she have felt if I had not accepted her proposal? So great was her excitement that Ratul burst out, ‘Oh Chandana, you are such a spoonfed silly babe! The Mother’s Day is for your mother.’ Gopal was furious, ‘So what?’ she’d asked.”

May 11 arrived. In the evening, on their way to Panchalingeshwar, Soumendra and company stopped at her house with a sari, a gold-covered nowa, the auspicious bangle for married women, and two kilos worth of Manohara Sweets. They pressed on the calling bell and got no response. They peeped in to see no lights were on, either on the ground floor or the one above; only a single lamp in the courtyard was keeping the darkness at bay. All of a sudden an unknown fear gripped Anuradha and Bishakha – they tugged at the iron grill and shrieked, “Maa! Maa!!”

Surabhi’s voice brought them back to normalcy.  She rushed out of the kitchen trying to hold up her pallu with pea-paste smeared hands and stopped short on seeing them. “What’s the matter?” they called out in unison.

 “No one at home? Where’s Raghua? Hasn’t Baba come home from office? Where’s Anup- Chandana? What are you doing in this darkness?”

Surabhi smiled to cover her embarrassment. “Won’t you come in? Or do you want to finish your interrogation at the gate? Raghua has been in bed with high temperature for the last three days. So I have sent him off with his brother to see the doctor. Gopal has gone out with your Baba to streamline her top secret arrangements for tomorrow. Anup had to leave for Pune this morning to attend an important conference. That is why you see no one at home. This past hour I have spent in grinding peas to make kachori – that’s why I could not switch on the lights. See how you’ve worked yourself up for no reason!”

“But why bother to make kachoris when Raghua is indisposed?” the daughters demanded of Surabhi. “What could I do?” she lowered her voice to explain. “Gopal was so keen, she said, ‘Mamoni your kachoris are to die for! Why not prepare about 100 kachoris and 50 banana-flower chops? Incomparable! Everything else I’ll manage!’ I couldn’t refuse her, you know! Everything’s ready, first thing tomorrow morning I’ll fry the chops and kachoris and store them away in a hot case. Dum Aloo is already done – why don’t you kids try some?”

Bishakha, being the youngest, still spoke to her mom. “Listen to me, I say; there’s still time for you to pack and come with us. This Panchalingeshwar trip was planned because you are so keen about the destination – and you want to spend your birthday in the kitchen frying kachori and Mochar chop! Make sure that you are not left at home while the others make a feast of these!”

“Don’t you dare to think evil,” Surabhi scolded her daughter. “Go on and enjoy yourselves without a single care. When you’re back I will tell you how I enjoyed Mother’s Day!”

They waited for another 15 minutes, but since Shantimoy and Chandana were not back, they set out just the way they had come, creating hullabaloo. Surabhi put the latch on the door and paused. She felt that she had unwillingly created a grudge in her daughters and sons-in-laws.

“What!” Shantimoy burst out when he heard about the Panchalingeswar trip. “You let go of such a golden opportunity?! hope you don’t have to regret this decision…”

But he just wouldn’t divulge what has been planned for the next day. He simply said, “I am honour bound not to utter a word about it. Have patience: it bears you the sweetest of fruits.”

On 12th of May Surabhi was up really early.

She had a bath, finished her prayers and entered the kitchen. She fried the kachoris and chops, and packed them neatly. The dum aloo and chutney had been already put away the previous night. Now she placed the box of sweets next to them.

Chanadana came down the stairs neatly dressed and holding a bouquet of flowers in her hand. She touched Surabhi’s feet, gave her the bouquet and said, “Mamoni I haven’t brought any sari or jewellery for you because I wish to give you what you will truly enjoy. Please don the sari that Didi has got you and be ready by about 1 pm. Baba will come directly from his office. I am going in your son’s car – someone will pick you up sharp at 1. I’m taking the food with me – they’ll all lick their fingers to the bones! I’m feeling awful that I could not help you one bit – I had to run around so much to arrange everything on a grand scale! You will see for yourself when you get there Mamoni.”

Chandana spoke at one go, picked up the car keys and left. Just as Chandana started the car the phone rang. Shantimoy called out – “Your phone, ducky!”

Surabhi noticed that Chandana stood at one corner of Shantimoy’s room and spoke into the phone, intermittently pausing to listen. Almost five minutes later she put down the phone and drove off. From the kitchen itself Surabhi could sense that something had gone awry with Chandana’s plans for the day…

“Who was that on the line?”  she called out to Shantimoy. “What were they talking about?”

“No idea.”

While leaving for his office Shantimoy told Surabhi, “It’s a red-letter day for you! Wish you the best of luck and many, many happy returns of the day. See you in the evening.”

“Where are we to meet?”

Shantimoy put a finger on his lips as he replied with a sly smile, “Top secret!”

In a flash Surabhi could almost see Shantimoy of forty two years ago – when they had just got married. She shut the main door and sat down on the cane chair in the veranda. She could see the years in her mind’s eye… So true! She would complete six decades! It seemed just the other day when she left her degree course incomplete to step into this household as a bride. Time, the Ultimate Helmsman, had rowed her life upstream, through every conflict and inclement tide…

Presiding on a pile of unleashed memories Surabhi had perhaps released herself into the past. She was forced to return into Time Present by her parakeet parroting, “Oma, where’s my food?”

Chandana, in her hurry, had probably left her pup locked in her room – that too was barking its head off. Surabhi was back on her feet with soaked gram for the parakeet. Soon as she let out the pup it started jumping around her feet, indulging in his favourite game of tugging at the end of her sari. She fed him with biscuits and milk, then entered her room to dress up for the day.

A glance at the watch startled her. It was 12 noon already! The car would be here at 1 pm to pick her up. Her heart was aflutter with anticipation and the uncertainty of it all. Still, she got dressed as fast as she could. At the stroke of 1 she locked all the rooms and came down to the ground floor hall with her vanity bag. Waiting for the car to arrive she took a deep breath. Waiting is one act that doesn’t let you rest in peace. Time does not wait for anyone, the watch tells us. Surabhi could not focus on anything and started worrying. Where was she supposed to go? Chandana had not told her anything, nor had Shantimoy. The surge of excitement she had been riding on these past few days was losing its sheen. A sense of disappointment was raising its head. To quieten it, she started leafing through 100 Images of Maa Sarada. Every time she read this spiritual biography she felt at peace with herself and the rest of the world…

Surabhi did not realise at which point she had fallen asleep. The relentless ring of the telephone woke her up. She sat up with a start, fearing the worst.

“Where were you all this while?” Shantimoy at the other end sounded extremely worried. “Listen, an unexpected situation has developed – and it’s rather disgraceful. Knowing that you would love to watch the solo ballet of Mamata Shankar, Chandana had booked four front row seats days in advance. I entered the hall at the start of the show and found Chandana’s mother and Ratul in the seats meant for you and Anup. They arrived in the afternoon, and that is why the car could not go to pick you up. I have no interest in watching this show but Chandana is feeling miserable. Tell me, what should I do? We are the elders – we must excuse them even their lapses, right?”

Surabhi wasn’t prepared for this. She could only think of a line from Mother Sarada’s biography: “If you desire peace in life, don’t find faults with others. Instead, look for the faults within you…”

Calmly she spoke to Shantimoy, “No, why will you come away without watching the ballet? But listen, you have the front door keys, please don’t wake me up as you come in.”

No matter how much she tried, Surabhi could not look for the faults within herself. The rush of ceaseless tears just would not let her do so. Her Gopal had already got an inkling of this on that sudden phone call, so why did she keep up the pretence? Was it because she is only her mother-by-marriage?

Sandhya Sinha resumed studies 17 years after marriage, completed her Masters in English, embarked on a teaching career and retired as a senior English teacher from the women’s college, Nari Shiksha Niketan.Many of her articles were published in the magazine of the Bangiya Sahitya Samaj in Lucknow, of which Sucheta Kripalani was a founder member. At the age of 75, she embarked on a career of authorship, having successfully played the roles of a mother, a social worker, mentor, community leader, spiritual aspirant. Through these years, in her free hours she would put her thoughts, ideas, convictions and experiences into short stories and essays. Now she turned her spare time habit into a full-time vocation of love and remembrance which she would gift to her children and grandchildren.

Ratnottama Sengupta turned director with And They Made Classics, on the unique bonding between screen writer Nabendu Ghosh and director Bimal Roy. A very senior journalist, she has been writing for newspapers and journals, participating in discussions on the electronic media; teaching mass communication students, writing books on cinema and art, programming film festivals and curating art exhibitions. She has written on Hindi films for the Encyclopaedia Britannica; been a member of CBFC, served on the National Film Awards jury and has herself won a National Award. The former Arts Editor of The Times of India is also a member of the NFDC’s script committee. Author of Krishna’s Cosmos and several other volumes, she has recently edited That Bird Called Happiness (2018/ Speaking Tiger), Me And I (2017/ Hachette India), Kadam Kadam (2016/ Bhashalipi), Chuninda Kahaniyaan: Nabendu Ghosh (2009/ Roshnai Prakashan).

Categories
Poetry

The Girl Who Went Fishing

By Biju Kanhangad

(Translated by Aditya Shankar)

Beneath the blue waterline,

father’s catch basks in the sunlight: a fish.

The gray-black of crows shroud the pale oar.

Reddish crabs reach the shore, transcending

the festered basket discarded by mom.

In the houseboat, the yellow flowers on

the worn rouka* are still wet.

Unable to submerge the shark, remnants of

the blue spreads into the sky, bawls.

*Bodice in Malayalam, can also be used to see connections

Biju Kanhangad is a poet, painter and post graduation in Malayalam literature. In 2005, he represented Malayalam in the national poetry seminar conducted by Sahitya Akademi. He was awarded the Mahakavi P poetry prize (2013), Moodadi Damodaran prize (2015), Joseph Mundassery Memorial Award (2017), Thamarathoni Kavita prize (2020) and other awards of repute. Thottumumbu ManjayilayoKanhangdu, Azhichukettu, June, Ucha Mazhayil, Vellimoonga, Puliyude Bhagathaanu Njanippozhullathu, Ullanakkangal, Ochayil Ninnulla Akalam, Mazhayude Udyanathil are his anthologies of poems. Essays: Vaakinte Vazhiyum Velichavum, Kavitha Mattoru Bhashayaanu. His poems have been translated into English, Hindi, Kannada, and Tulu.   

Aditya Shankar is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominated Indian poet, flash fiction author, and translator. His work has appeared in international journals and anthologies of repute and translated into Malayalam and Arabic. Books: After Seeing (2006), Party Poopers (2014), and XXL (Dhauli Books, 2018). He lives in Bangalore, India.

Categories
Poetry

New York & more…

Poems by Pavol Janik, a virtusoso of Slovak Literature

(translated by James Sutherland Smith)

PAVOL JANIK | VIRTUOSO OF SLOVAK LITERATURE 


NEW YORK 


In a horizontal mirror
of the straightened bay
the points of an angular city
stabbing directly into the starry sky.

In the glittering sea of lamps
flirtatious flitting boats
tremble marvelously
on your agitated legs
swimming in the lower deck
of a brocade evening dress.

Suddenly we are missing persons
like needles in a labyrinth of tinfoil.

Some things we take personally –
stretch limousines,
moulting squirrels in Central Park
and the metal body of dead freedom.

In New York most of all it’s getting dark.

The glittering darkness lights up.

The thousand-armed luster of the mega city
writes Einstein’s message about the speed of light
every evening on the gleaming surface of the water.

And again before the dusk the silver screen
of the New York sky floods
with hectoliters of Hollywood blood.

Where does the empire of glass and marble reach?
Where do the slim rackets of the skyscrapers aim?

God buys a hot dog
at the bottom of a sixty-storey street.

God is a black
and loves the grey color of concrete.

His son was born from himself
in a paper box
from the newest sort of slave.


A DICTIONARY OF FOREIGN DREAMS


At the beginning it was like a dream.
She said:
“Have at least one dream with me.
You’ll see – it’ll be a dream
which you’ve never dreamt about before.”

Descend deeper with me,
dream from the back,
dream retrospectively
in a labyrinth of mirrors
which leads nowhere.

The moment you come to the beginning of nothing
you’ll dream an exciting dream.

Frame it
and hang it in your bedroom.

So it will always be before your eyes
because a dream which is removed from the eye
is removed from the mind
in the sense
of the ancient laws
of human forgetfulness.

Dream your own.

Dream your dream
which is reflected on the surface 
of a frozen lake.
A dream smooth and freezing:

Grieving keys,
a downcast forest,
curved glass.
The tributes of mirrors.

The rising of the moon
in a dream of water.

Recoil from the bottom
of the mirror’s dream.

In the gallery of dreams
then you’ll see
a live broadcast from childhood
fragments of long-forgotten stories.

Because our obsolete dreams
remain with us.

Don’t be in a hurry, dream slowly, completely
until you see the crystalline construction
of your soul
in which dreams glitter.
- intentionally and comprehensibly like flame.

Perhaps you’ve already noticed
that new dreams always decrease.
They wane.

Soon we’ll light up
in the magical dusk
of the last dream
the despairing cry
of a starry night.

Pay a toll to the dream’s
deliverance from sense.

You repeat aloud
the intimacies of secret dreams,
with the dull gleam
of your persistent night eyes
you explicate a mysterious speech of darkness.

You dream, therefore you exist!


UNSENT TELEGRAM


Inside me a little bit of
a blue Christmas begins.
In the hotel room it’s snowing
a misty scent – of your
endlessly distant perfume.
We’re declining bodily
while in us the price
of night calls rises,
waves of private earth tremors
and the limits of an ocean of blood
on the curve of a lonely coast.

*New York has been translated to 21 languages

PAVOL JANIK | VIRTUOSO OF SLOVAK LITERATURE 


NEW YORK 


In a horizontal mirror
of the straightened bay
the points of an angular city
stabbing directly into the starry sky.

In the glittering sea of lamps
flirtatious flitting boats
tremble marvelously
on your agitated legs
swimming in the lower deck
of a brocade evening dress.

Suddenly we are missing persons
like needles in a labyrinth of tinfoil.

Some things we take personally –
stretch limousines,
moulting squirrels in Central Park
and the metal body of dead freedom.

In New York most of all it’s getting dark.

The glittering darkness lights up.

The thousand-armed luster of the mega city
writes Einstein’s message about the speed of light
every evening on the gleaming surface of the water.

And again before the dusk the silver screen
of the New York sky floods
with hectoliters of Hollywood blood.

Where does the empire of glass and marble reach?
Where do the slim rackets of the skyscrapers aim?

God buys a hot dog
at the bottom of a sixty-storey street.

God is a black
and loves the grey color of concrete.

His son was born from himself
in a paper box
from the newest sort of slave.


A DICTIONARY OF FOREIGN DREAMS


At the beginning it was like a dream.
She said:
“Have at least one dream with me.
You’ll see – it’ll be a dream
which you’ve never dreamt about before.”

Descend deeper with me,
dream from the back,
dream retrospectively
in a labyrinth of mirrors
which leads nowhere.

The moment you come to the beginning of nothing
you’ll dream an exciting dream.

Frame it
and hang it in your bedroom.

So it will always be before your eyes
because a dream which is removed from the eye
is removed from the mind
in the sense
of the ancient laws
of human forgetfulness.

Dream your own.

Dream your dream
which is reflected on the surface 
of a frozen lake.
A dream smooth and freezing:

Grieving keys,
a downcast forest,
curved glass.
The tributes of mirrors.

The rising of the moon
in a dream of water.

Recoil from the bottom
of the mirror’s dream.

In the gallery of dreams
then you’ll see
a live broadcast from childhood
fragments of long-forgotten stories.

Because our obsolete dreams
remain with us.

Don’t be in a hurry, dream slowly, completely
until you see the crystalline construction
of your soul
in which dreams glitter.
- intentionally and comprehensibly like flame.

Perhaps you’ve already noticed
that new dreams always decrease.
They wane.

Soon we’ll light up
in the magical dusk
of the last dream
the despairing cry
of a starry night.

Pay a toll to the dream’s
deliverance from sense.

You repeat aloud
the intimacies of secret dreams,
with the dull gleam
of your persistent night eyes
you explicate a mysterious speech of darkness.

You dream, therefore you exist!


UNSENT TELEGRAM


Inside me a little bit of
a blue Christmas begins.
In the hotel room it’s snowing
a misty scent – of your
endlessly distant perfume.
We’re declining bodily
while in us the price
of night calls rises,
waves of private earth tremors
and the limits of an ocean of blood
on the curve of a lonely coast.

All these poems are excerpted from his book, A Dictionary Of Foreign Dreams

Mgr. art. Pavol Janik, PhD., (magister artis et philosophiae doctor) was born in 1956 in Bratislava, where he also studied film and television dramaturgy and scriptwriting at the Drama Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts (VSMU). He has worked at the Ministry of Culture (1983–1987), in the media and in advertising. President of the Slovak Writers’ Society (2003–2007), Secretary-General of the SWS (1998–2003, 2007–2013), Editor-in-Chief of the literary weekly of the SWS Literarny tyzdennik (2010–2013). Honorary Member of the Union of Czech Writers (from 2000), Member of the Editorial Board of the weekly of the UCW Obrys-Kmen (2004–2014), Member of the Editorial Board of the weekly of the UCW Literatura – Umeni – Kultura (from 2014). Member of the Writers Club International (from 2004). Member of the Poetas del Mundo (from 2015). Member of the World Poets Society (from 2016). Director of the Writers Capital International Foundation for Slovakia and the Czech Republic (2016–2017). Chief Representative of the World Nation Writers’ Union in Slovakia (from 2016). Ambassador of the Worldwide Peace Organization (Organizacion Para la Paz Mundial) in Slovakia (from 2018). Member of the Board of the International Writers Association (IWA BOGDANI) (from 2019). He has received a number of awards for his literary and advertising work both in his own country and abroad.

Pavol Janik’s literary works have been published not only in Slovakia, but also in Albania, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Mexico, Moldova, Nepal, Pakistan, Poland,  the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of China (Taiwan), Romania, the Russian Federation, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, the United States of America and Venezuela.

James Smith Sutherland is a writer, critic, poet and translator.