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Jul-Aug 2013 Vol 3 Issue 4 64 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: readinghour@differsense.com 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: readinghour.in Submissions: editors@differsense.com Advertisers: Contact Arun Kumar at arunkumar@differsense.com / +91 98450 22991 Cover Illustration & Design: Sandhya Prabhat Story Illustration: Satish Kumar 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 ©2013-2014 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.

Jul-Aug 2013 Vol 3 Issue 4

Editorial We look forward to the monsoon with great anticipation every year. This year, the advent of the rains has seen disaster overtake some parts of the country, which is not only tragic but also a terrible reminder of how vulnerable we ultimately are in the face of nature’s fury. Those of us experiencing only the munificence of this monsoon must be doubly grateful. This new issue of Reading Hour brings you some interesting write-ups. Stuti Das takes on a serious topic: gender identity. G Karunakar, who has undertaken solo journeys to a hundred countries, writes about his visit to Bali, Indonesia. Roopina Coutinho worked in London before moving to New York – she negotiates the culture shock with humour and optimism and shares her diary with us. Suneetha Balakrishnan interviews talented poet-novelist Anjum Hasan, on her writing and forthcoming work. The stories within are wide-ranging, as they usually are. So we begin with a story about a goose, set in Kerala. We then move to the Punjab, and the travails of a mother who searches for a missing son. From there we are back in south India again, with a woman on her deathbed, wondering when the final hour will strike and who will call it. A dysfunctional family and a canny mother cat make their appearance next, followed by a girl, too attractive, in the room of a young man in Delhi. Then there is old Inambhai who tells children stories with happy endings. We also feature a translation from Hindi, of the story of a retired civil servant who is obliged to stay with his bureaucrat son, in spite of their ideological differences. There are several poems that we’re sure you will enjoy. So, like the busy executive on the cover who picks up his book and escapes out of his office window, to float away on a raincloud, we invite you to enjoy a reading hour too.

~Editors facebook.com/readinghour readinghour.in

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Contents Fiction

Poetry

3 White Goose

6 Thalassemia

7 Healing the Improbable

6 Mother

16 Love of Earth

15 Once

24 Mummy Cat

28 The Telephone is a Plastic Thing

34 The Room of a Young Man

47 Unborn

44 Inambhai

52 To My Son

53 Along Which Path

59 Far Out

renu balakrishnan

smitha sehgal

neera kashyap krupa g e

mohd junaid ansari smitha sehgal

rumjhum biswas

rumjhum biswas

anubha yadav

subhash chandra

simon jackson malini seshadri

sumati lal saxena, translated from the Hindi original by abha sah

m mohankumar

59 Solitude

m mohankumar

Essays 11 The Gender Straitjacket stuti das 29 Island of a Thousand Temples g karunakar

first person

Light Stuff 41 Recipe: Pride of the Garden sarah rand

42 Jackfruit

alaka yeravadekar

50 New York Diary roopina coutinho

48 Are

Interview

60

you reading this?

Last Page

21 Anjum Hasan suneetha balakrishnan

Get Reading Hour at your doorstep! Subscribe using the form on page 40 or visit http://readinghour.in. Cover by Sandhya Prabhat (sandhyaprabhat.com), Freelance Animator/Illustrator with an MFA degree from the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Asia. Inside cover photograph of the Besakih Temple at Bali, Indonesia, by G Karunakar 4                               

Reading Hour


fiction White Goose renu balakrishnan

Renu is a creative writing teacher based in Mumbai. Her first novel is to be published shortly.

I

couldn’t see Mum among the people who trickled out of Kochi International Airport at midnight on Tuesday,

January 5, 2010. Where was she? I wriggled my fingers free yet again from Pum’s grasp. She grabbed them back at once. Where was Mum?

This is the last warning. Better grades or the goose goes!


fiction Healing the Improbable neera kashyap

Neera has published stories for children. She interprets ancient texts for contemporary readers and now writes fiction as a means to creatively understand social and political issues.

Ikk ōnkār satināmu karatā puraku nirapǎ’u niraver akāl mūrat ajūnī sepàng gurprasād1

K

artar Kaur murmured the words under her breath, aware both of their sanctity and the constriction in her throat that persisted

despite the repetition. Sometimes she could continue repeating the mul mantar2 without a break for half an hour but mostly she would falter, grope for the next phrase, and lose it in a sudden shortness of breath, in the tense exhaustion of her mind. Even when the repetition went on for a while, her mind struggled to invoke onkar, the one constant, the universal creator.

Jul-Aug 2013 Vol 3 Issue 4

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fiction Love of Earth krupa g e

Krupa is a Chennai-based journalist and writer with two books to her credit (Hands of Art and StopOver Chennai). She was shortlisted for the César Egido Serrano Foundation, Madrid’s Flash Fiction Prize.

W

hen you live with someone for the entirety of their life, you develop a sense of clairvoyance about them.

Their comings and goings, their feelings. Even lying in a bed in a hospital room, I could tell she was coming. It could have been the flip-flopping of her sandals, her perfume, or maybe I’d just known her too long – all her life from the very day she was born to be precise – I couldn’t tell how, but there she was.

How brazen a show of affection this was!

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Reading Hour


fiction Mummy Cat rumjhum biswas

M

Rumjhum’s fiction and poetry have been published all over the world. She has won prizes and accolades in India and abroad.

itra looks up from her math homework at the sound of heavy cardboard boxes hitting the

floor. Mother’s back! Her upper lip curls, unconsciously imitating the brindled tabby sitting on the sill and hissing at an unseen predator. The cat seems perennially in the house these days; Mitra reckons she must’ve found a secret nook inside, helped by Muni of course. The cat has a flaccid stomach with pinched wet teats, and is thin and always hungry-looking. But whenever Mitra extends her hand in a pretend gesture of generosity, and says “tchuk, tchuk, tchuk” in what she hopes is a coaxing tone, the cat hisses and goes spiky all over.

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Reading Hour


fiction The Room of a Young Man anubha yadav

A

Anubha is a writer, academic, film-maker in New Delhi. She teaches at Delhi University. She has published in several journals and newspapers.

corner of the small park could be seen from the

kitchen window. Amla soaked in the soothing orange of the setting sun, balancing herself on the very tips of her toes as she peeped from the window. Every time she went up on her toes, crescent sized heels emerged from under her sari. Crooked broken lines ran busily across them, like long ant trails. Two buildings stood on either side of the park with the evening sun setting in the centre. It seemed as if the two buildings had entrapped the ochre ball, guiding it off the sky, slowly dissolving it into the light

Sucharita often sat outside the door with her cup of tea and biscuit and wondered if he ever got up from sleep.

brown mud of the park. 9                               

Reading Hour


fiction Inambhai subhash chandra

Subhash retired as an Associate Professor of English. He has been published in India and abroad. He is interested in the short story format, but is working on a novel simultaneously.

N

obody knows who they are and where they’ve come from,” mumbled the wife.

“Why are you curious about their lineage? If they’re nice people, that should be enough for us,” said the husband, a teacher in a nearby school. “They appear to be Muslims. Why did they choose a house in a Hindu mohalla1?” “Why should their religion bother you? They seem to be poor. Perhaps this dilapidated one room house is all they could afford.” His hunch was right. The house had lain abandoned for some years. The owner had migrated to Pakistan in the wake of the Partition and his nephew here wasn’t too bothered about it. When Inambhai approached him, he was glad to part with it for whatever Inambhai could afford, which was a pittance.

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Reading Hour


fiction Along Which Path sumati lal saxena translated from the Hindi original ‘Kis Raastey Par’ by abha sah

Sumati began writing in 1967 and has been published in all the top Hindi literary magazines. Abha taught English in a Junior College in Mumbai for 16 years. She is now a freelance translator.

E

ver since ten this morning there has been a rat-a-

tatting going on in the room. Half the window grill is being cut out to fit in an AC. And Mr. Chaudhry is bursting with irritation. This loud tinkering is not the only cause… oh no, several disturbing thoughts agitate his mind these days. He mutters to himself, these boys, they are government employees but want to live like industrialists.

Jul-Aug 2013 Vol 3 Issue 4

This talk of ‘the middle path’ never ceased to intrigue him… Mr. Chaudhry knew of only two paths – one right and the other wrong. And he laments the path he is treading these days…

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poetry Thalassemia Once smitha sehgal

Mother

mohd junaid ansari

TheTelephone is a Plastic Thing rumjhum biswas

Unborn simon jackson

Smitha is a professional who celebrates literature, law and life with equal zest. She lives in Delhi.

Junaid is a final year B.A. student in Delhi. He has written for newspapers and college magazines.

Rumjhum’s fiction and poetry have been published all over the world. She has won prizes and accolades in India and abroad.

Simon writes poetry, plays, films and music. He has won 11 national and international competitions and awards for poetry. He lives in Edinburgh. and is currently teaching in Cairo.

To My Son malini seshadri

Malini is a former columnist and freelance writer / editor based in Chennai.

Far Out Solitude m mohankumar

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Mohankumar’s poems have appeared in leading literary journals in India, and he has published 7 volumes of English poetry. He retired as Chief Secretary to the Government of Kerala.

Reading Hour


interview Anjum Hasan in conversation with suneetha balakrishnan

Photograph: Zac O’Yeah

Suneetha is a writer/translator/journalist working in English and Malayalam. She has translated Jaishree Mishra’s ‘Rani’ and Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘Interpreter of Maladies’; and written for The Caravan, The Hindu Literary Review, Indian Literature, among others. Anjum Hasan’s debut collection of poems, Street on the Hill, was published by the Sahitya Akademi in 2006. She went on to publish her debut novel, Lunatic in My Head, in 2007 and it was shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award 2007. Her second novel, Neti, Neti , published in 2009, was long-listed for the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize and shortlisted for The Hindu Best Fiction Award in 2010. Moving from verse to long fiction to short fiction, Anjum’s short story collection, Difficult Pleasures, was published in 2012, and Anjum made her second appearance in The Hindu Best Fiction Award short list. This also marked Jul-Aug 2013 Vol 3 Issue 4

the first time on the prestigious list for a short story collection. Difficult Pleasures was also nominated for the 2012 Frank O’ Connor International Short Story Award. And it’s a full circle of achievements for Anjum now, as her creative non-fiction appears in Granta magazine. Anjum lives in Bangalore and is currently Books Editor for The Caravan magazine. Her partner, Zac O’ Yeah, is a crime fiction and travel writer who is currently making waves with his new book. Here, Anjum is interviewed for Reading Hour by Suneetha Balakrishnan. 13


essay The Gender Straitjacket stuti das

Stuti is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology at Stella Maris College, Chennai.

“People changed lots of other personal things all the time. They dyed their hair and dieted themselves to near death. They took steroids to build muscles and got breast implants and nose jobs so they’d resemble their favorite movie stars. They changed names and majors and jobs and husbands and wives. They changed religions and political parties. They moved across the country or the world - even changed nationalities. Why was gender the one sacred thing we weren’t supposed to change? Who made that rule?” – Ellen Wittlinger, Parrotfish

A

video clip uploaded on the video-sharing website YouTube opens with the host – a news anchor with

Toronto’s CityNews – walking into a cocktail lounge with a fashion model who has of late garnered much attention after appearing on the catwalk in Paris in an haute couture bridal gown for the French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier. They settle down for an interview. “So when I look at you,” the beaming host tells the model, “I see an absolutely beautiful, ridiculously tall, lean, gorgeous woman.”

Jul-Aug 2013 Vol 3 Issue 4

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essay Island of a Thousand Temples g karunakar

Karunakar has served the Govt. of Karnataka as Law Officer for 3 decades. Travel is his hobby and he has travelled solo through a 100 countries.

W

hen Jawaharlal N e h r u

visited the diamondshaped island of Bali, he poetically called it the “Morning of the World�. Landing in Ngura Rai International Airport, Bali, all I

Mahabharata battle scene in a roundabout in Kuta Statue of Gatotchgaja in Denpasar

desired was a quiet vacation amidst its famed beaches and emerald-green rice terraces. Little did I realize then that I would end up scouting the island, visiting several major Hindu temples among the hundreds scattered around and observing their religious practices. These temples stand testimony to the true spirit of democracy that governs the Islamic state of Indonesia. Jul-Aug 2013 Vol 3 Issue 4

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first person New York Diary roopina coutinho

Roopina is an IT professional working in the finance industry. She is originally from Mumbai, and presently works in New York.

DAY 1 My fascination with this city began when I was 13 years old and first heard Liza Minelli croon “New York, New York”. Right away I knew I wanted to be a part of this glamorous place that never slept, and to make it there, so I could prove that I could make it anywhere… and now, three decades later, here I am making that ‘brand new start’. Strangely, all I can think of is what I have left behind: my home, my friends, the comfort of the old and the familiar. My hotel is just off Wall Street. Sadly, it is more Travellodge than Ritz… still, it is very ‘New York’ in that you can get a yoga mat delivered to your room!

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Reading Hour


light stuff Recipe: Pride of the Garden sarah rand

Sarah is a psychiatrist who celebrates her love for people and nature through her writing and photography.

It was labelled ‘Fakhr-e-gulshan’ (pride of the garden) by Khusrau. The great poet Ghalib composed an entire masnavi (narrative poem) in praise of his beloved mango wherein he says: Aur dauraaiye qiyaas kahaan Jaan-e-sheereeN men yeh miThaas kahaaN (how far can we imagine, when the mango is sweeter than life itself )

Jackfruit alaka yeravadekar

T

Alaka is a writer, trainer, and consultant. Her poetry and photographs have appeared in print and online magazines.

he first thing that you notice is the smell. The strong sweet odour assails your nostrils and can drive away

anyone but the most dogged visitor – or a true jackfruit connoisseur. Why a connoisseur? Well, this fruit is not for everyone. It is a developed taste.

Jul-Aug 2013 Vol 3 Issue 4

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review Are you reading this?

The Razor’s Edge Somerset Maugham

Laurence “Larry” Darrell is born into a world of lawn parties, polo ponies, and rich relatives who wave benignly from the shade of a cocktail shaker. Larry, at a very young age, runs away from school and gets into the air corps.

~ Reviewed by Manjushree Hegde

Lunatic In My Head Anjum Hasan

‘Lunatic In My Head’ spans a year in the lives of its three protagonists Sophie Das, Aman Moondy and Firdaus Ansari. 8 year old Sophie Das lives with her parents and a soon-to-be-born younger sister in Shillong. Sophie’s father is an out of work teacher, too principled to consider tuitions and as a consequence, the family is behind on the rent.

~ Reading Hour review

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Reading Hour


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Reading Hour Jul-Aug 2013 - Content Preview  

Images from the island of a thousand temples; a wonderful selection of short fiction and poetry; an interview with the talented Anjum Hasan;...

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