Borderless, April 2023

Painting by Sohana Manzoor


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


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


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.


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.


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.



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.



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


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


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


A Dialogue with Stillness

Book Review by Basudhara Roy

Title: Ukiyo-e Days… Haiku Moments

Author: Bina Sarkar Ellias

Publisher: Red River

The wonder of art acknowledges and affirms the potency of stillness, its pregnancy vouching for a revelation that is both vital and imminent. Ambitious as the thought is, is it possible to engage in a dialogue with stillness, to distil the flurry of a day into the transcendence of a moment, and to transform that moment, in turn, into a metaphoric prism for the illumination of all our hereafters? In her recent collection of poems Ukiyo-e Days… Haiku Moments, Bina Sarkar Ellias can justifiably claim to have assayed each of these tasks with remarkable felicity and quiet grace.

A form of Japanese art that flourished between the 17th and the 19th centuries, ‘ukiyo-e’ is a composite of three words – ‘uki’ (floating), ‘yo’ (world) and ‘e’ (pictures), literally meaning “pictures of the floating world”. The ‘floating world’ referred to the theatre districts and (licensed) courtesan quarters that flourished in Japan’s major cities during the Edo period and constituted an important source of attraction for the nouveau-riche of the era. Inhabited largely by courtesans and the traditional kabuki actors, this floating world, despite its low status in the social hierarchy of the times, made its impact as valuable cultural capital, its sartorial customs and mannerisms becoming quite effectively, a rage among common people.

Since paintings could be afforded only by the prosperous, the ukiyo-e artists made a distinct historical move to democratise art by being the first to experiment with woodblock prints which could be produced cheaply and in large numbers, thus making ukiyo-e widely accessible to the  populace. Actors, courtesans, legends, folklore, and landscapes were some of the common subjects that marked this art, the heroic and the erotic being significant thematic notes within it.

Ukiyo-e Days… Haiku Moments revisits this memorable Japanese artform to bring to the reader a remarkable collection of 68 ukiyo-e by 28 artists from across the seventeenth to the early twentieth century, showcasing a delectable mix of the traditional and the modern in Japanese art and its unique blend of native and foreign influences. Compounding the effect of the Ukiyo-e here, is a set of 62 haiku by Bina that excavate, explore and expand the meaning and value of the artworks by bringing them into dense ekphrastic conversation with her own mind and times. “My haiku travels with each of the ukiyo-e works as a companion through this journey, responding with a deep kinship I feel with the artworks,” she writes in her Preface.

In this collaborative project of creativity, the haiku become a companion to the historical journey of the ukiyo-e, illuminating them in a transcultural framework which even as it asserts the omnipotent significance of art, helps draw attention to its omniscience across temporal and cultural divides. “To read a haiku,” says Jane Hirshfield, “is to become its co-author, to place yourself inside its words until they reveal one of the proteus-shapes of your own life.” As Bina places her contemporary and complex historical self within the sensibility of the ukiyo-e, her unravelling of meaning through the haiku becomes yet another act of seeking connection and consolation in an alienated world.

As a poetic form, the haiku establishes a constant romance with the brevity of expression on the one hand and the expanse of space on the other. Its sharp imagism helps to illumine both the moment and the emotional ambience that will render this moment organic in every context. Scale, speed, succinctness and surrealism can all work in concert within the seemingly fragile universe of the haiku to make it an emblem of and testimony to the wide-ranging historical forces within which it is birthed. The animated and tender conversation between colour, form and script in Ukiyo-e Days… Haiku Moments works similarly holding both word and beauty in suspension, mirroring the moment as self and self as moment, and asking us to return to the quintessential celebration of both:

you want to be free
but maya mesmerises-
locks all the doors

The haiku is, often, a lesson in perception. It is characteristic of the haiku to be profoundly epiphanic and in many of her pieces, Bina ascends to that level of quiet illumination wherein an inner truth becomes simpler by the sole virtue of its lucid expression. Art, life, hope, faith, poetry, war, human vulnerability — all emerge as important themes here. One cannot help noticing, however, the collection’s loving partiality toward women. Women and their myriad-layered lives constitute a recurrent thematic motif in these poems:

into the long night
her toil of pleasure-giving
a tale of two worlds

Since in much of the ukiyo-e, the women represented were courtesans, Bina brings a profound sense of tenderness and understanding in reinterpreting their situation for modern women whose lives, in different contexts, remain emotively the same. In their intensity and in the overall poignance with which these haiku delineate women’s ever-shifting roles in terms of profession, domesticity and relationships with the world, Bina evinces a deep knowledge of women’s spiritual multiplicity. To Torii Kiiyonaga’s delicate artwork ‘Bathhouse Women’, for instance, Bina, deflecting attention from the voyeuristic potential of the scene to give the bathhouse a larger cultural and political logic, responds:

a day for washing
wash away patriarchy
energise our souls

Another beautiful narrative turn in haiku is offered in response to Kitagawa Utamaro’s print ‘Naniwa Okita Admiring Herself in a Mirror’ in which Bina imagines a different (more youthful) face emerging from the mirror. While the mirror has mostly been used as a truth-telling device in literature and a means of shattering illusion, this particular mirror becomes a gateway to the discovery of the magical self within, unmarred by the winter of time:

i see a mirage
see my youth in winter years
does the mirror lie?

With Chobunsai Eishi’s ‘The Courtesan Hanaogi of the Ogiya Brothel’, Bina communicates thus:

within the prose
of her pleasure-house living
she breathes poetry

Here is a mature and perceptive weaving of art and life — a recognition of art as art and of life as life with the potential of building strong and tenable bridges across them. It is noteworthy how each haiku stands independently even as it adds a significant hermeneutic or experiential dimension to the ukiyo-e, imparting a certain luminosity to this book. There is a distinct sensation of time-travel in this collection, of moving through the slow whirl of centuries while remaining undivorced from the crises and flavours of the present:

we were not born violent
let’s repair ourselves

Empathy becomes a powerful voice in Ukiyo-e Days as Bina’s haiku touches raw spots within our shredding cultural fabric to draw attention to greed, war, exploitation and the relentless process of needing to find our integral human selves:

all the world’s armies
trained as cannon fodder
they live to die

In these delicate and consummately-crafted pieces, one finds doors open to deep investigation of the moment and what it stands for in life’s ever-shifting landscape. There is a stillness that the collection speaks from and to, a stillness that characterises both the ukiyo-e and the haiku as art forms. Invested with extraordinary visual and tactile charm and an interesting Preface that throws light on the genesis and growth of the ukiyo-e in Japan, this book accomplishes a unique synthesis between two valuable Japanese art forms, bringing to a connoisseur-reader the unforgettable enchantment of both.

Basudhara Roy teaches English at Karim City College affiliated to Kolhan University, Chaibasa. Author of three collections of poems, her latest work has been featured in EPW, The Pine Cone Review, Live Wire, Lucy Writers Platform, Setu and The Aleph Review among others. 



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

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