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Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2


Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2 60 pages

Reading Hour

short fiction essays verse reviews

Published, owned, and printed by Vaishali Khandekar, and printed at National Printing Press, 580, KR Garden, Koramangala, Bangalore-560095 Published at 177-B Classic Orchards, Bannerghatta Rd, Bangalore-560076 Editor: Vaishali Khandekar Editing Support: Arun Kumar, Manjushree Hegde Subscriptions, business enquiries, feedback: Ph: +91 80 26595745 Subscription Details: Print (within India only) or Electronic (PDF): Annual subscription Rs. 300/- (6 issues) 2 years subscription Rs. 600/- (12 issues) Payment via cheque / DD in favour of ‘Differsense Ventures LLP’ payable at Bangalore. Subscription form elsewhere in this issue. Online subscription: Submissions: Advertisers: Contact Arun Kumar at / +91 98450 22991 Cover Illustration & Design: Sandhya Prabhat Illustrations: Raghupathi N S Disclaimer: Matter published in Reading Hour magazine is the work of individual writers who guarantee it to be entirely their own, and original work. Contributions to Reading Hour are largely creative, while certain articles are the writer’s own experiences or observations. The publishers accept no liability for them. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of the publisher. The publishers intend no factual miscommunication, disrespect to, or incitement of any individual, community or enterprise through this publication. Copyright ©2012-2013 Differsense Ventures LLP. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any part of this issue in any manner without prior written permission of the publisher is prohibited.

Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2

Editorial What is this thing called love, wrote Cole Porter. Indeed various people might, at various points of time have raised the question. Some others might have asked, disappointed, ‘What? Is this thing called love?’ or puzzled, ‘What is this thing called? Love?’ Whatever form it may take, few will deny that love is as necessary to life as air. And since this issue coincides with the all too brief ‘Indian Spring’, we invited writers to submit love stories. The popular notion of love nowadays is a precarious affair conducted via cell phones, and walls and apps and what-not… one would think love is no longer possible without technology! But there was a simplicity to the love stories of our grandparents’ time and In Those Days is one such love-at-first-sight story whose course, needless to say, did not run smooth. Partition divided our country and separated lives, but An Inconvenient Arrangement is the story of a coming together occasioned by the partition. Still Life brings out how having someone to love becomes a reason to live even in the face of overwhelming difficulties. Another story explores how Simrit deals with a secret love that starts as a flutter in the stomach, and goes on to be quite The Stomach Ache. Set in north-east India, Someone to Call Home is the story of those who wander away regularly, like migratory birds, and those who wait for them to return. Among the essays, an Air Force Officer reminisces about a colourful journey to Namibia, a young writer is arrested by the fiery verses of 12th century mystic poet Mahadeviyakka, and a globe-trotting researcher finds his camera straying to the symbols of importance in various cultures. Jerry Pinto, who recently won The Hindu Literary Prize for his first novel, Em and the Big Hoom, discusses the book, and much more. Happy reading.



Contents Fiction


3 The Stomach Ache

8 Two Poems

rajani rajamani

niels hav

9 Someone to Call Home

jim wungramyao kasom

13 Invisible Woman adreyo sen

20 The Golden Trousseau

13 A Plea to Shakuntala

25 Spitting Image

15 Remembering

33 In Those Days

24 Things Remain the Same (on Holi)

46 Our Love

26 Of a Lesser Love

49 Still Life

45 Backward Steps

57 An Inconvenient Arrangement

56 Mine

aseem jha shruti rao

n g satish kalpana r j

padma prasad

abha iyengar

tanuj khosla

shruti rao

somnath mukherji anjali bhatia

mihir chitre

tejaswini kale

56 Take My Hand


snehith kumbla

28 Jerry Pinto

First Person


14 Shadows

16 Namibian Journey arjun subramaniam 39 Mystic Poet Mahadeviyakka manjushree hegde 42 Stumbling Into Iconography

27 Light

rinkoo wadhera

arul chib

47 Are

Cover Design: Sandhya Prabhat (sandhyaprabhat. com) Inside Cover: Pencil on paper by Prasad Natarajan, wildlife artist



you reading this?

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Get Reading Hour at your doorstep! Subscribe using the form on page 27 or visit Errata: [Vol 3 issue 1] The author of The Geometry of Escape was incorrectly named. the correct name is Rajani Rajamani. In The Moor’s Last Bastion, we had wrongly printed ‘That Alhambra had been the capital of a powerful moorish Caliphate’ which should have been ‘That Alhambra was the seat’. 3                               

Reading Hour

Fiction The Stomach Ache rajani rajamani

...Squatting, she pulled out a small potli from under her shawl, and set it down in the centre of the chulha. In her other hand Simrit held a small bottle of kerosene and a matchbox. She carefully placed the two beside her, and proceeded to open the potli. The contents of the bag, like jewels of every size, caught the dew and shimmered like cooling embers.

Film-maker, illustrator and lazy mum with more than a passing interest in all things food, when not in the kitchen Rajani spends her time spinning yarn in her tiny sun-fed home in Dubai.

Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2


Poetry Excerpts A Terrible Happiness

Of a Lesser Love

niels hav

shruti rao


If need be, if such a time arises I have to love some other I would wish it be of a lesser concentration– in a much more diluted form– …

niels hav

…I love you. And you tear out the plug. I love you. And you fling my book at the back of my head…

Backward steps mihir chitre

A Plea to Shakuntala n g satish Tell me Shakuntala Did you write to Anasuya and Priyamvada Of all that happened to you?…

Invisible Woman adreyo sen

…But she had never known How it was To not exist To enjoy a garish Invisibility…

Remembering kalpana r j

… My birthday I refuse to remember Since you can’t recall yours anymore …

Mine tejaswini kale … The lies I tell you are like blades in my stomach cutting furiously, tirelessly …

Take My Hand snehith kumbla … the first mud brown rush, then the crystal force of a cascade a pool where we float above rocks…

Things Remain the Same (On Holi) abha iyengar

…If you will come out of your den today Then I will anoint you with colours, for it is Spring… 5                               

Reading Hour

fiction Someone to Call Home jim wungramyao kasom


he unassuming romance picked up from where

they’d left it the previous year, when Thot pulled up his truck near the old hog pen where Wonya’s father kept the un-split oaks. There was a certain precision to his comings and goings. He showed up in winter like a migratory bird and vanished in summer. No one knew where he went and he didn’t keep track of his sojourns either. There were no stories or anecdotes from his trips to bridge the chasms of life that he’d lived elsewhere. Things remained unspoken.

Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2


First person Shadows rinkoo wadhera

…dance this way and that to watch how my blue polka-dotted frock flaps and twirls. My shadow does the same, only it is much more flamboyant. At dusk, the wind finally gusts the heat away and most of the light too – the scarecrow is reduced to a shaggy dwarf. The frock hangs limp. The next afternoon, the wind wakes again, and the handkerchief and the polka-dotted frock fan the breeze into a gentle rolling wave of pure joy…

Rinkoo has been a freelance writer, painter and teacher-lecturer for over a decade. At present, she is posted at Secunderabad.


Reading Hour

Essay Namibian Journey arjun subramaniam

…I chose Namibia for its diversity – game



seal whale

sightings and the splendidly


Namib Desert with its towering sand dunes, all within a radius of 400 kms. from the capital, Windhoek. With good roads and tourist infrastructure, Namibia makes an exceptional tourist destination for the discerning traveller. On a cold June morning (after all, it is the southern hemisphere), I bundled my family into the SUV and set off on the long road from Lusaka, capital of Zambia…

Arjun is a senior officer in the Indian Air Force. He is a fighter pilot and a Ph.D., who has written extensively in national newspapers and magazines. 8                               

Reading Hour

Fiction The Golden Trousseau aseem jha

There was a pattern to his visits. He never came unannounced. A pall would settle over our house the day the postman slipped in the letter heralding Sunil babu’s visit, through the front door. Father would meticulously scan the envelope to ascertain the sender’s name. If the letter bore the name of Sunil babu, he would look at it again, circumspectly. He would adjust his spectacles, and then hand the letter over to Didi2, in some mysterious apprehension.

Aseem is a free lance writer and translator (English/Hindi) who writes on literary and career issues. Short fiction is a favourite genre. He has been published in frontline national dailies.


Reading Hour

Fiction Spitting Image shruti rao

… Even during the happiest phases of his life, Bhargava wasn’t exactly happy. He was the sort of man who put everything into seeing each day through, as it came, leaving little time to contemplate things like happiness. Indifferent to expressive family members, a silent, kind, but formidable man to reckon with, he was what others would rather generously call ‘noble’. Everything he did was painted in a top coat of Honorable Intentions …

A 24-year-old literature postgraduate from JNU, Shruti works as an editor in book publishing. A poet and reviewer, she has been published in various international and national literary journals. Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2


Photograph courtesy Anmol Vellani

interview: jerry pinto Jerry Pinto lives and works in Mumbai. He has been a mathematics tutor, school librarian, journalist and columnist. He is associated now with MelJol, an NGO that works in the area of child rights. His published works include a book of poems, Asylum, and Helen: The Life and Times of an H-Bomb, which won the National Award for the Best Book on Cinema in 2007. His first novel Em and the big Hoom (2012) recently won The Hindu Literary Prize. Reading Hour interviews Jerry Pinto on his writing, and much more.

RH: In a recent book (Why We Write) several leading American authors share their motivations to write. Why do you write? JP: I write because I like to. I write because I want to. I write because I have to. I write because that’s what I know to do. I write because I have opinions and ideas and I want to broadcast them to as many people as I can. I write because, I suppose, I have been encouraged to by my first agent, Rashmi Palkhivala; by my first newspaper editor, Hutokshi Doctor; by my first publisher Ravi Singh. So would I still be writing if, like Emily Dickinson, I had met with almost nothing but 11                               

rejection? I don’t know. I like to think so, but I can’t be sure. Therefore, all my first reasons may simply be the exudates of a successful writing career. They may not represent the motivations of someone who has had only rejections and a growing pile of unpublished manuscripts. This makes me wonder. All those authors in Why We Write… those would have been big names, published authors, I suppose. Did anyone think to ask the unpublished writer: so what keeps you at it? The answer there would, I suspect be a lot more interesting, a lot more anguished. … Reading Hour

Fiction In Those Days padma prasad It was a warm, late March evening. The Neem tree in front of the house was ready to flower, its branches elegant with little clumps of white. Down in the street, a woman was selling flowers, her voice carrying on the breeze and blending with the children’s voices as they played with marbles and stones. I bent over the parapet wall to see if the flowers were good. Ethi, our rickshaw-man was pulling his rickshaw which was piled with three suitcases. A man walked behind him with one hand on the back of the rickshaw. I could not see his face clearly. His hair was black and shined down, with the wind making a curl on his forehead. He was tall, and wore a full sleeved white shirt and elegant loose flowing trousers. That was the style in those days. I felt awkward, staring at a man like that, but still I leaned forward. If only I could see his face properly. “Bend any further and you are going to land in the street,” Bama commented.

Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2

Padma is a writer and painter. She lives in Northern Virginia and is working on a collection of short stories. 12

essay Mystic Poet Mahadeviyakka manjushree hegde


lie awake in the small, thin-lit hours of the morning absorbed in the poetry of the 12th century Veerashaivas.

From nowhere, a line of Dorianne Laux’s Mugged by Poetry comes to me. “…(When I read a poem) I end up like I always do, flat on my back like a drunk in the grass, loving the world…” Sigh. What would Laux say if she chanced upon the couplets of these poet-saints? Or, in particular, the vachanas of Mahadeviyakka?

Manjushree reads a lot, and firmly believes in the transformative, explanatory and healing power of a good story. Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2



The Boddhisatva, ensconced in the infinity of the hills lining Borobodur, Indonesia, gazes out over the expanse of humanity toiling in yonder fields.

Stumbling Into Iconography arul chib Arul is a professor at Nanyang Technological University, lucky enough to have found coinciding trajectories in work and play. Photographs: Copyright Arul Chib


eing a communication scholar by training, and a researcher in developing countries by choice, I’ve had the opportunity to travel deeply, immersing myself into community life across the planet. Different lives being played out in communities remain a constant source of fascination, but my camera finds itself straying to the symbols these communities create to make sense of their worlds… A multitude of rock faces of Lokeswara reach out to the heavens at the Bayon Temple, Angkor, Cambodia. 14                               

Reading Hour

review Are you reading this?

Poet Francois Rabelais’ last words were, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps”. The idea of a ‘Great Perhaps’ forms an important theme in John Green’s debut novel, Looking for Alaska, a splendid coming-of-age tale.

Reviewed by Manjushree Hegde

Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2

In his wonderful book, The Five Love Languages, Gary Chapman introduces us to five distinct ways in which love is spoken and heard within a marriage. He calls these the five love languages and divides them into Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch.

Reviewed by Ritu Kaushal


Fiction Still Life somnath mukherji


uri had nothing – no family, no




possessions and not even a name. People called her Buri, or old woman. She had her man Buro. Both of them had practically forgotten each other’s original names. Nobody had called them by name in decades. Buro and Buri had been living in the heart of the metropolis for the last three decades. They had witnessed the growing traffic, the rising prices, and the increasing crowds of people. High-rise buildings had shot up like coconut trees on fertilisers, except that they never dropped their ripened fruits for Buri to gather. Somnath Mukherji is a social activist who writes about the lives of the underprivileged in India and other social issues. Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2


Fiction An Inconvenient Arrangement anjali bhatia

… On that sultry summer afternoon, someone came running to say that Santo and Khurram had been seen flying at each other by the village well. Slaps and scratches, and abuses in Pashto and Punjabi had flown freely. This was shocking enough, but the reason behind it was even more astonishing. “You refused to marry him?” I demanded that evening, following a sullen Santo as she went outside to milk the cows. Who can blame me? Even her parents couldn’t figure out whether to be dismayed or relieved. Her mother raved, “As if disgracing herself for four years with that meat-eater wasn’t bad enough, she had to show the whole village what a wild-cat she is! Do you” – turning to Santo’s father – “expect any boy from our caste to marry her now?” …

Anjali, a freelance writer, is a Lecturer by profession. Her articles on the arts, culture and environmental issues have been published in newspapers, and her debut novel is set for publication this year. Mar-Apr 2013 Vol 3 Issue 2


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Reading Hour Mar-Apr 2013 - Content Preview  

Few will deny that love is as necessary to life as air. The March issue brings you stories around love. Also, we interview author Jerry Pint...

Reading Hour Mar-Apr 2013 - Content Preview  

Few will deny that love is as necessary to life as air. The March issue brings you stories around love. Also, we interview author Jerry Pint...