Page 1

CLRI CONTEMPORARY LITERARY REVIEW INDIA – journal that brings articulate writings for articulate readers. CLRI Print Edition ISSN 2250-3366

December 2012

Editor-in-Chief: Khurshid Alam

Rs. 20.00 / $1.00


December 2012

contents

1. KHURSHID ALAM ............................................................................................................................ 2 Common Mistakes That Writers Often Make ................................................................................... 2 2. LING HOI CHING BELLE................................................................................................................. 5 Nothing to Envy ................................................................................................................................ 5 Carp-Ikisukuri ................................................................................................................................... 6 In the Middle of Sea ......................................................................................................................... 8 3. NEELASHI SHUKLA ...................................................................................................................... 10 Diwali .............................................................................................................................................. 10 Afternoons ...................................................................................................................................... 11 Beneath the outlines of water. ....................................................................................................... 14 4. SOURADEEP ROY ........................................................................................................................ 16 Twilight, of a different kind ............................................................................................................. 16 Mountainous Meditations ............................................................................................................... 17 5. A.J. HUFFMAN .............................................................................................................................. 20 And the Butterfly Affects................................................................................................................. 20 Spared the Immaculate White ........................................................................................................ 21 6. RAMESH ANAND .......................................................................................................................... 23 Haiku Poems .................................................................................................................................. 23 7. RICHARD LUFTIG ......................................................................................................................... 26 Luck ................................................................................................................................................ 26 Pruning a Limb ............................................................................................................................... 27 8. ANTHONY J. LANGFORD ............................................................................................................. 28 Power not trust ............................................................................................................................... 28 Contra............................................................................................................................................. 28 Add to Check Out ........................................................................................................................... 29 Hope Perseveres ........................................................................................................................... 31 Shed ............................................................................................................................................... 34 9. JANET YUNG ................................................................................................................................ 36 In the Calm ..................................................................................................................................... 36 10. ASHOK PATWARI ......................................................................................................................... 39 Vendetta ......................................................................................................................................... 39 11. DEBOTRI DHAR ............................................................................................................................ 44 The Concept of Death in Tagore’s Gitanjali ................................................................................... 44 12. DR. DIPTI GUPTA ......................................................................................................................... 55 Multiculturalism in India .................................................................................................................. 55 13. LANDSCAPES BY JEAN-ACHILLE BENOUVILLE ....................................................................... 69


December 2012

contents 14. SHAHANA ROY ............................................................................................................................. 73 Ashalata’s Last Note ...................................................................................................................... 73 15. BOOK RELEASES ......................................................................................................................... 78


December 2012

editorial

Digital medium is not simply a medium, it is a space to our life. All its shortcomings stand tiny before its advantages. It is the best alternative to saving paper, thus to saving plants and forests. It is the fastest means of communication, you can fly your documents and files across the globe in no time and at no costs. You can share your heart and mind to the world without coming under any hammer. – Khurshid Alam, Editor-in-Chief, Contemporary Literary Review India

To enquire for placing ads, contact us at: contemporaryliteraryreview@yahoo.com

1


December 2012

editorial 1.

KHURSHID ALAM

Common Mistakes That Writers Often Make

Amateur writers are often bogged with some common mistakes, many of them for long.

1. Writers Have New Idea Many amateur writers are lost in their own world that they have a new idea to offer to the world. I would like to cite my own thought when I was still a young student. I used to think that the idea I got was original and unique and others do not have that idea. But when I grew and explored about it I found that the idea has been expressed by some other writers years ago, some ideas were century-old and composed in a far better way than I had thought. To clear whether your idea is unique the writers must read widely, do research in the same genre and same topic, create or join a group of writers to share the idea. New ideas are rare but they do exist. Moreover if you understand that your idea is not that new as you thought you can give a new angel to your idea. 2. They Have Fantasy Most writers particularly those who newly venture into writing limit sharing their writing and thoughts between their friends and relatives who have either little knowledge in the field or want to make the writer-friend feel happy. Such writers have a fantasy to their writings and are not in a position to clear out the weeds in their writing. Writers must share their writing with some seasoned writers or experts so they get genuine criticism and suggestions. For, good criticism keeps you going but bad criticism keeps you improving. 3. Writers Are Blind to Criticism Many new writers are blind to criticism. They think that they have a different idea and so it is the only way to express. They think that those who criticize do not like a different script or are jealous. As soon as you get criticism, think why you receive such criticism. Instead of getting fussy, you should analyze the criticism. Soon you will find that you get a new light and rework your writing for better.

2


December 2012

editorial 4. Many Think Writing is Easy Writing is a hard discipline and you grow only with practice and time. So make a routine that you write regularly rather than waiting for inspiration or a divine drive. Even if you do not have a topic you should write on simple and well known topics so if you do not grow on ideas you still grow on the craft of writing. 5. Don't Know How to Begin or End When you have an idea and want to weave a story with it, do not begin from anywhere without a plan. First create a plan to structure your story and move along the structure. You can begin and end where you should with a good plan. 6. Expand Language Style Writing is intimately associated with a language. Never think you have a high degree in the language you write so you have mastered the language. Do learn language, style, how to express in a better way. Read those writers who are famous for using best language. Expand your style and explore language. 7. They Don't Invest Many writers I have come across take writing as a part time job, even those who have published a number of books. They shun from buying books and investing in writing. Take this as if you want to become a doctor you have to take admission in a medical college and then study the entire course where you make many experiments and thereby invest a lot. Are you ready to study writing in such a lab where you invest time and money a lot? That makes the difference!

3


December 2012

poems

At one time poetry was a large part of mainstream readership. The public seemed to lose interest with the advent of gaming and the Internet, and now the Internet can be the avenue of restoration of this important genre of entertainment and enlightenment. – Jack Huber, Poet & Author, http://www.jackhuber.com

To enquire for placing ads, contact us at: contemporaryliteraryreview@yahoo.com

4


December 2012

poems 2.

LING HOI CHING BELLE

Nothing to Envy Potato chips, instant noodles and, of course the legendary Malaysia-imported chicken-savoured waffles are forbidden at home. Mum is the faithful gate. I steal a time to go out to eat my favourite prawn crackers. I imagine when the cream is topped on the crepe, it can tell you stories, from how chicken gives eggs to what strategy Kim Jong Il uses to make each of his people believe their stomach full. An in-time photo in Facebook perfects my imperfect smile, and I make it as my profile picture. The very second my mum calls me to stop showering, no electricity, she yells “out” not “stop” or “off”. Rain sesames at that very second—they said it is because the Dearest Divine Father Kim Jong II the Most Honourable has just stepped into the parched field. Siberian snow and that of Japanese should be whiter than Chosun’s, not purer, nevertheless. Russia’s onions, the signature domed castles, are nearer to them than Pyongyang’s one-and-the-only revolving restaurant—but they said that those castles are built for clowns; their restaurant, which on the top of the pyramid-style hotel, is built for their future generation for a more consummate life and, not 5


December 2012

poems the least, smile. Beside Barbara Demick’s book Nothing to Envy, I want to date a North Korean friend in Facebook to tell her my dream of the searing cotton tree near the Amnok River in her country. The red makes me fall in love with her: puppyish red, enthusiastically simple.

Carp-Ikisukuri (after Henri Cole’s Sardines) Flipping the eye of a scab to see and holding up the twitch; backing and fronting the cut with curls and blossoms; splashing the slices with mercifullyslipped salt to keep them moving on bones; then setting a little scenic boat to hand them over,

6


December 2012

poems like dedicated tissues of a virgin to prove her innocence. I think: I must not doubt her virginity. I must not feel owing anything to her. But then, eyeing her, eating meticulously like timid nerves twining with skin faithful to the sting and cut, I also think: If I were her mother, I’d prefer that was me.

7


December 2012

poems In the Middle of Sea (For Dr. Ronald Chen) An urchin under my chin the meanest easing of uneasiness follicles suffocated with spikes pick up my senses, I’m infinitely reducing in the extending wild Sparse bars of sunshine can’t be trespassed my face is imprisoned the release under the shade of clouds is random and transitory A grain of sea salt the agglomerating vibrancy within an ocean a primitive generosity, rooted in the lithosphere, opens the original sense of space Dragonflies, occasional dips, stir up the chances, which are as sharp and short as the juncture between their tails and the water, playing with my sensitivity Bubbles rush to appear, for being crushed for another rush along my sway; building up the collapsed, collapsing the built-up— they need no stable perch but a momentum Between me and the shore is an exhibition of space, a continual exploration of being confined and going beyond the confines; I’m afloat to grow with the rhythm of waves

8


December 2012

poems Belle, Ling Hoi Ching is a graduate from the University of Hong Kong, and has completed her master of arts in Creative Writing in the University of Sydney in 2008. She has a special interest in writing poetry and short stories. Her favourite novelist is Haruki Murakami, and her beloved poems are those which can capture insightful images with in-depth philosophical meanings.

9


December 2012

poems 3.

NEELASHI SHUKLA

Diwali A bucket of oil, And a mound of earth, I burn you, With shredded bits of paper, A notion of festivity, Crumpled by the genuineness of rains, I burn you, With all that misguides me. When the sun shines, Celebrations cease. It’s the dark, Which simulates mimicry, Huh, that stupid sun. I burn you, With all that the orange idiot brings. There is smoke, It’s like a snake, With neon shades.... Cyclically, Flesh burns, Cyclically, A bucket of oil hangs, Coins, like empty vessels, Make noise. Every year, Something sweet floats on my tongue, Every year, I burn you. 10


December 2012

poems Afternoons The biscuit sun exists. I have seen it. My son has chewed bits of it. It’s so soft and humble. It melts in the mouth. But I see no sugar around. Maybe his tongue plays tricks. Or maybe he has learnt that gimmick from the black clown we had. By the way he was our cook. He made sumptuous turkey. I am not like the other Feudal women. I let him eat in the kitchen after dark. Tim liked him. By the way, Tim is my son. I went for motion pictures. They were also called black and white. I am not a blonde. The Brunette in me thinks that they are not black and white. They are black and grey. Tim is four years old. He has a bike. Jim makes him ride it. What a delight to watch him saddle his horse. Thank God, he’s a boy. Samantha said, Jim is a boy too. I say shut up. He is our cook. Then I remember my nanny. She told me the sun was orange. But when I grew older, I discovered it was yellow. Then one day I asked her 11


December 2012

poems Why she lied to me. She said she didn’t. It was orange and even red in the part she came from. Then I told my teacher. She spanked me. Nanny was black. I was baking cookies once. They came out hard. I refused to eat them. Tim puked after he did. I did the sensible thing after that. I gave them to Jim. My neighbour’s wife calls me so generous. She says she keeps a bamboo stick with her. You never know with servants. Time runs so fast. I was watching this song on MTV. I am 50 now. A black boy surrounded by black and white skimpy girls. He’s topping the billboard. But what a pity. He doesn’t sing at all. He just mutters breathlessly. Rhythm and poetry I can write much better. Then there is this girl. Making songs on an umbrella. But c’mon The flat noses can’t be pretty. What has the world come to? I look out of my window. It’s not summer anymore. The sun is like the moon. Both pale, mellow. 12


December 2012

poems It loses its luster. But I still find the luster in my pastWhen I recount Tim riding his bike. But Tim never cared for a sunbath. Or anything else. He’s married a Blonde now. It’s lucky to be the only brunette in the family. And then the sun sets. When I sleep, I dream of it. It doesn’t even come out orange. It’s biscuit. And Tim relishes it. Then Tim’s face blurs. I don’t see him at all. Instead, I get all my luster back. I discover the biscuit sun exists. And it’s prettier than anything I have ever seen. It’s been a long time. I see a man standing with open arms. After all that has happened in the past. He’s not violent. He’s not grey and black. He is full of sparkle. He lives where the biscuit sun exits. And I smile in my sleep. The man is Jim.

13


December 2012

poems Beneath the outlines of water. In a fish market. I step on flesh, Geese and buckets of tomato, Cherry, Apple, and bell pepper red, Blood. Naphthalene balls, Swallowed. Gulped down, With acid, Phenyl, Or the butcher’s knife, The woodcutter’s axe maybe… You dissected my mind, Into cabaret piecesA hideous, Finless fishWith a sword within the scales, -Hung, In the pungent, Dark, Fish market. A hat soiled in fish eggs, Piscean prophesies, And more disgust, Oozing baskets of rust, A bid for every lust, I smile, You smile. We are stones.

14


December 2012

poems

Neelashi Shukla is currently pursuing economics honours at St Stephen's College, Delhi. She is an avid poet and occasionally writes some prose.

15


December 2012

poems 4.

SOURADEEP ROY

Twilight, of a different kind It's twilight. Of a different kind. A twilight experienced through the translucent reflecting windows of a train. Another mindless journey without a destination. But with an objectiveto escape from the everydayness of everyday life. The traction lines appear curved. They seem to waltz because of their diminishing distance as we're progressing. The orange spots reflected from the lighted lamps on the rail lines are racing with the Rajdhani. The horizon is now a neon lit collage of towns. Take me out of this air-conditioned locker. Let me breathe in a bit of twilight.

16


December 2012

poems Mountainous Meditations I The lake is still. So still and blue that it seems the sky has descended down into this lake, at the base of the mountains: A picture enlarged from the least attended photography exhibition. II The hill town in twilight provides a few sparks in the descending darkness as if that so-called artist who happened to create the world added strokes of yellow, red and white to the hill he had initially painted grey as an afterthought.

17


December 2012

poems III Like a white shawl wrapped around, the mountain is covered with dense fog. Only one little clump of a piece of discarded cloud is left behind the rest: a fluffy cotton ball caressing the wounded greenish yellow landscape. IV Like a caterpillar the river meanders between the mountains. Contrast Along the river bank, leafless rotten yellow trees; above them, fresh green pine trees instructed to maintain a one-arm distance. Orography The facade of the mountain cliffs is like an old man's wrinkled face. This is how I determined a mountain's age.

18


December 2012

poems Familiarity The anonymous tree stretches its arms wide open, and red Arjun flowers blossom all through this dry stretch. I don't know the tree's name, but I think we're familiar. Assurance It was a difficult trek ahead. The leaves nodded in unison. And I moved on. Snowstorm Cold cotton balls flying all around. Shades of Grey Snowfall. Ice on grey gloves.

Souradeep Roy is a second year student of English literature from Scottish Church College, Kolkata. Apart from writing poems, he is also associated with Bengali Group Theatre for the last eight years under the tutelage of the late thespian Rama Prasad Banik. Some of his poems have been published previously or awaits publishing in print or online by Static Movement, Magnapoets, Nivasini, Frog Croon, Blackmail Press, Wordland, Foliate Oak, Riverbabble and Nazar Look.

19


December 2012

poems 5.

A.J. HUFFMAN

And the Butterfly Affects Electric flowers flood a dream that already sunk sideways. Around a corner, a shadow whispers, “save me” backwards into a mirror with no glass. “Half-fool,” the night resonates in rippled mock rainbows. In the distance, a treacherous wing recounts with a solitary beat . . . At the next dawn she rises anonymously bathed in resonating blue.

20


December 2012

poems Spared the Immaculate White You fucked me stupid. Now I am numb. With the knowledge of your body. Consuming my senses. I am a flame. Of pain. Painting this bed. You brushed me. Gone. But you have forgotten the memory of your fingers. They are blind and acutely dumb. To the notion of estrangement. They repeat my motions. In ritualistic flow. Watching as the ghost of my ass rises from the ash. The rest of me feigns to follow. However oddly and empty. In this newly reflective skin.

21


December 2012

poems

A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida. She has previously published four collections of poetry: The Difference Between Shadows and Stars, Carrying Yesterday, Cognitive Distortion, and And Other Such Nonsense. She has also published her work in national and international literary journals such as Avon Literary Intelligencer, Writer's Gazette, and The Penwood Review. She can be reached at: poetess222@live.com.

22


December 2012

poems 6.

RAMESH ANAND

Haiku Poems 1 new year's eve . . . rangoli patterns in the street 2 new year’s wishes sprouts between the concrete slabs 3 spring’s end my infant fingers the fallen petal 4 garden sprinkler . . . my infant steps with the flow 5 sound of fountain . . . my infancy echoes in her rhythm

23


December 2012

poems 6 rolling out of the rice fields – the remaining snow 7 train pane mist she rubs on the other side 8 rice fields . . . bent woman reaping gossip 9 twilight spreads . . .the jasmine petals in the garlands shop 10 autumn dawn -she sees a white hair in my mustache 11 autumn dawn -mother serves white rice on an almond leaf 12 winter deepens ... lungi shivering on 24


December 2012

poems the beggar's face

Ramesh Anand authored Newborn Smiles, a book of Zen poetry published by Cyberwit.Net Press. His haiku has appeared across 11 countries including Print Journals, Magazines, Anthologies, Japanese Newspapers, E-Zines and E-Journals. His Long Verses have been published by The Enchanting Verses Literary Review, Muse India EJournal and Magnapoets. His haiku has been translated in Serbian, German, Croatian, Tamil and Japanese.

25


December 2012

poems 7.

RICHARD LUFTIG

Luck I remember you told me that there was only so much of everything in life to go around: Love. Money. Land. Luck... So when I found that penny, heads up in the dust, (tails and the luck won't work), I stowed it in my pocket promising to keep it forever.

Today, when they told me how you died--alone in that flat corner of the city where love never suckles or rears its young, I dug deep in my desk, behind years of dust, pulled out that penny and wished I had shared.

26


December 2012

poems Pruning a Limb It always comes as such a surprise when an oak limb turns dead. But only last spring we sat under one of the other full branches and said how that old limb seemed to produce less buds, less leaves from year to year, turning death on itself like gangrene from branch tip inward to trunk. We recalled how we planted this tree with its sister, same size, same day but how only this one took, as if determined to survive Midwest drought, winter cold, and blight, bound and determined to grow along with our children who dug the hole, planted the roots and watered it, then walked away to live their own separate lives. How shocked they would be if they were here to witness its ongoing death, to learn all lives don’t play out exactly the same, that some of us simply are destined to die in the place where we‘ve been sown. Richard Luftig is a recipient of the Cincinnati Post-Corbett Foundation Award for Literature and a semifinalist for the Emily Dickinson Society Award. His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals in the United State, internationally in Japan, Canada, Australia, Europe, Thailand, Hong Kong and India and have been translated into Japanese, Polish, German and Finnish. One of my published poems was nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Poetry Prize. He can be reached at: luftigrl@muohio.edu.

27


December 2012

poems 8.

ANTHONY J. LANGFORD

Power not trust We can not pretend Any longer As you and I know That silence is our friend and enemy While they march forward in pretence And rule And the truth that was once so easy to disguise Is now in every movement Betraying me I hope you fare better.

Contra I’m angry Why am I angry I’m sad Why am I sad I’m hurt Why am I hurt I desire Why am I full of lust I’m disappointed Why did I trust them so I don’t believe it 28


December 2012

poems Yet I know what I heard I want to have faith But I know how things really are I could be more positive But then it wouldn’t be real I want to be more truthful Without lying to myself Or anyone else I find it hard to go on On a track of lies Don’t you?

Add to Check Out My Holier than thou has dropped Scattered from my persona I’ve given up on the Defence (A dead fence) And pretence. I’m an empty casket Waiting for the body I’m nothing new But a freight train Towards the shed Without any goods. If only the cargo could be loaded In a way to allow An event unfamiliar A complete special offer. A surprise package 29


December 2012

poems Without the packaging. I’m weary of my shell Is there not an option 2? Purchase and Check out Without Checking out? An enduring sigh Even knowing why.

30


December 2012

poems Hope Perseveres The Little Flower It's Shape so Youthful It's green Stalk And Orange and Yellow Petals Sweet Aroma So Vibrant in Color And Textures Perched at the Edge of the Garden By the Trees Arriving in Spring Eager to Please Quick to Grow Hungry for Growth. Soon its New Size Places it just into the Shade Combined with the Shifting of the Sun Days Emerging into a new Season And the Trees Rob It Of Much Life Giving Light The Flower suffers a little Drawing extra water Through the Soil And It Goes On. The Winds Come And they are Arid And it does not Rain And all the Garden Suffers Though an Occasional Watering 31


December 2012

poems Keeps them in Check. Though the Soil is Uneven And water does not Settle On this One little Flower Whose wilting more than before And the Water runs off Favoring Others Next to It Who Merely Happen to Be At the Right Place At the Much Needed Time. Now the Sun shifts again And the Trees lose Some of their leaves And the little Flower is Exposed Again Baking It Perseveres But its Struggles Have Sapped its Strength. It barely makes it through The Summer It's Full Potential Not Reached. Yet is still has Hope. And Goes On. The Autumn Comes And it's leaves Droop And Fall One by One And again 32


December 2012

poems The Sun is Unkind Or rather It's not that the elements Conspire But that the Flower's Position Was Merely Unfortunate. It Perseveres The Soil Slips Away And its Owner is simply Careless and over looked this one seemingly insignificant Flower And Part of its Root System Is Exposed Vulnerable Weak. And the Winter Arrives bringing an Unforgiving Frost And This Time There is no denying The Inevitability of it All It was always Meant to Be Such Promise And Hope Maintained Illusions Reality is This. It's Death is Slow But Sure.

33


December 2012

poems Shed Fragments of Us Fall With Time Like Shedding Skin Being Lost Never to Fully Return But in its Place Something New Not Dissimilar But Partly Alien... Parasitical And we must get to know the New Us All over Again For the Good and Bad Of It Until Next Time.

Anthony J. Langford lives in Sydney, Australia but grew up in the country Victoria, running through the bush, swimming in the river and embracing imagination. It is this upbringing which has kept his writing grounded. The aim of his writing, no matter what genre, is to explore the truth of people. th

He has had numerous stories and poems published, including in the 25 Anniversary Edition of Verandah. He is currently working on his seventh novel, though patiently searching for a publisher. His novella, Bottomless River has just been released through Ginninderra Press. He lives with his partner, baby daughter and three step-children and has traveled extensively throughout the world, made short films which have screened internationally and now makes video poems.

34


December 2012

stories

Flash fiction is fiction with its teeth bared and its claws extended, lithe and muscular with no extra fat. It pounces in the first paragraph, and if those claws aren’t embedded in the reader by the start of the second, the story began a paragraph too soon. There is no margin for error. Every word must be essential, and if it isn’t essential, it must be eliminated. – Kathy Kachelries, Founding Member, 365 tomorrows

To enquire for placing ads, contact us at: contemporaryliteraryreview@yahoo.com

35


December 2012

stories 9.

JANET YUNG

In the Calm In the wake of Ruby’s departure, the calm that settled over the house continued to amaze Wayne every time he opened the front door, arriving home at the end of another dreary day at work. The first day, he’d called out a tentative “Hello,” half expecting either Ruby or one of the kids to come storming from their respective hideaways, where they’d sought refuge from each other, and begin a running litany of complaints. When the kids were little, the squabbles were easily settled. Someone had purloined a toy from a sibling, another fallen and scrapped a knee, or committed a minor act of aggression against another. As they got older, though, the incidents became more serious and Ruby’s admonition of “wait till your father gets home,” was an empty threat, the delinquent off-spring responding with a shrug intimating no one cared. And, no one cared, including Ruby who along with the kids didn’t seem to respect Wayne very much. A far cry from the girl he’d fallen in love with, the girl who seemed to hang on his every word regarding his dreams and aspirations. With each passing year and addition to their family, she grew less interested in what he wanted, but he couldn’t blame her. He became consumed with simply providing, not nurturing. That wasn’t the way he phrased it. Ruby was the one who told him that not long before she announced she was moving out. “What?” Wayne was stunned. “Now the kids are gone, we don’t have anything in common anymore.” She stood in the middle of the living room while he was watching Monday night football, drinking a beer. Dinner had been uneventful, a minimal exchange of conversation, Ruby filling him in on one of the kids’ latest problems. No hint of things to come. “Are you listening to me?” she’d asked half way through the meal, Wayne noticed for the first time how shrill her voice had become. “Of course,” he smiled weakly hoping he could get out of the kitchen before the game started. He’d been running behind all day, the result of an alarm clock malfunction. “What did I say?” she demanded, her over plucked eyebrows arched to new heights. “Horton is in trouble.” She made a huffing noise, clearly indicating he’d chosen the wrong answer. 36


December 2012

stories “Patricia, not Horton.” “Oh, sorry.” The clock over the stove was ticking away the minutes furiously and he only wanted to excuse himself to the sanctuary of the front room, feet on footstool, beer in one hand and remote in the other. It had been his Monday evening ritual their entire life together. She’d never had a problem with it till tonight. Ruby talked while he tried to quickly digest the rest of his dinner. He was weary of the kids and their problems. “Maybe we should stay out of it,” he offered when Ruby came up for air halfway through the tirade about Patricia and her boyfriend. “What?” Her eyes were on the verge of popping out of her head and he wished the phone would ring, distracting her from the pending confrontation. “They all are over twenty-one, is all I’m saying. Maybe they should sort it out for themselves.” Ruby gave him a dirty look, threw her napkin on the table and grabbed her plate, leaving the table. “I guess dinner’s over,” he said to her retreating form and sat there for a couple minutes, anticipating her return and rejoinder once she‘d had time to come up with something spiteful. When she failed to do so, he counted his blessings, cleared his spot on the table and headed for the living room. Sometimes, she’d go to their room and not come out till the next day, forcing him to spend the night on the couch. When the last child left, she sought refuge in the room of the latest one to fly the coop. Settling on the sofa, he’d wondered, at times, if they’d ever leave. For people who seemed so unhappy to be living under his roof, they’d been slow to seek out better digs. The game had barely started, when Ruby stood in front of him delivering her declaration. He wanted to ask her to move out of his line of vision, but figured it would go quicker if he sat there and pretended to listen to her as well as the running commentary from the game. “Whatever,” was his answer to everything spewing from her lips and he knew, instantly, that was the wrong response. The next evening, he returned home to find the place deserted. Walking through the house calling, “Ruby,” with no response he thought she’d gone to stay with one of the kids who needed her. It wouldn’t be easy to narrow down who that might be since they were all in need. He changed clothes, slipped into a pair of old sweats Ruby had tried to persuade him to toss. Not finding much in the refrigerator, he dug out the phone book and ordered a pizza, answering “for delivery,” when the clerk on the opposite end inquired “pick up or delivery.” She sounded surprised by the delivery option since Ruby always made Wayne pick up the pizza. 37


December 2012

stories “Well, things are going to be different around here,” he told the receiver once he’d hung up and settled in the living room. The living room didn’t look much different since Ruby’s departure. A few magazines and papers were scattered on the floor. They’d added onto the place at Ruby’s insistence while the kids were in grade school. Wayne was of the opinion larger families than theirs had managed in the house before them, but she couldn’t be persuaded otherwise. “They’ll need room to entertain their friends when they get older,” had been her rationale. He’d gone along with the plan reluctantly, doing a lot of the work himself at night and on weekends. In retrospect, he supposed all that space only encouraged them to stay. And, once they’d finally departed, the walls seemed to echo the emptiness Ruby must feel. For a moment, he could almost empathize with her. Then the feeling was gone. “What a waste,” he grumbled about to tidy up the place and then realized it was something he could do on his own time. No one here barking orders or making demands when all he wanted was peace and quiet. The door bell rang and paying for the pizza, Wayne settled in to enjoy his dinner and the tranquility enveloping the place. Sometimes, life could be good.

Janet Yung lives and writes in St. Louis, MO. Her short fictions have appeared in several online publications. Most recently Epiphany Magazine On-Line and The Feathered Flounder. She can be reached at: nickyung@charter.net.

38


December 2012

stories 10.

ASHOK PATWARI

Vendetta What happened on the farm was not only a terrible shock to the whole Amish community, but it also became a top media highlight of the day. Veiled in their own cocoon the community always thought they do not belong to the outside world, but with this unfortunate incident they realized how human tragedy crosses all barriers and how everybody who heard about it was grief stricken. An unnatural death of an innocent Amish young boy caused by a maniac, who literally butchered the boy in pieces, was something which drew extraordinary attention and sympathy from across the country. Young Joshua, a 12-year old lad from a small Amish village in Lancaster county, was returning home from his farm. While crossing the small rivulet and turning towards the direction of his house, half a mile away, he kept looking at the magnificence of the evening sun gradually dipping down the horizon. Before he could shift his attention from the horizon, his head was hit by a heavy blow and he lost consciousness. The assailant was a maniac who later shot himself dead. The homicide became a news item for rest of the world particularly for the residents in the Pennsylvania state. Most of the people felt sorry but forgot about it soon. Joshua’s family was devastated and their neighbors shocked. Once again the cultural practices and the life style of the Amish community came under limelight. The news channels gathered around the local church and the small hamlet of houses where Joshua’s family lived for live telecast of the story. Apart from the victim’s family and the media, there was one person who closely followed the story with interest and the events that followed the brutal murder of the innocent kid. Abdul Jabbar Khan was from a remote village in Mardhan, in the north-west frontier area on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. He did not suffer any personal loss from this incident, neither was he a human right activist to question the unsafe environment and lack of security in such godforsaken places where Amish population has been living a 18th century life style within the territory of the most powerful country in the world,. He had no faith in the legal system and therefore found no reason to wait for the forensic report to come and get along the legal battle. He firmly believed in instant justice, blood for blood and an eye for an eye. He was least interested in knowing the victim or his community. But he was getting emotionally involved with this story, he was not sure why he was glued to the television since he heard this news. It triggered something in him, something which bothered him, hurt him. He remembered his elder brother Najib, who was almost the same age as Jashua when Habibullah’s men killed him. Jabbar was barely 3 years old then, he did not clearly remember his brother’s face. Najib used to make 39


December 2012

stories him sit on his shoulders and run around in the backyard as his ‘horse’ singing him a Pashto folk song. When Jabbar heard the news on the television, his pathan blood started gushing through his blood vessels like a tsunami and repeatedly splashed in his mind. His fists got stiff and his teeth clenched. He could wait no longer. Najib’s faint outlines crossed before his eyes several times making strange gestures, as if screaming…vendetta…. Jabbar …vendetta! Jabbar loudly shouted in the air as if responding to Najib’s call, “Yes, vendetta!” and he immediately reached for his AK47, hidden under the carpet for a month now! *** Jabbar not only inherited his hot temper and daredevil traits from his ancestors who were traditionally known to be hot blooded tribals within the so-called feudal section of the Afghan society, but also he lived with a promise to execute a task which remained unaccomplished so far, a promise he made to his dying father. “Vendetta Jabbar, vendetta. Promise me you will do it….. you have to do it… promise me Jabbar… you will eliminate their seed….” Jabbar’s father Razaq was hardly in his early forties when he died of multiple bullet injuries. Razak, unlike his ancestors, never wanted to continue the family feud with Habibullah’s tribe. He regretted the blood shed from both the sides over four generations. Soon after Razak took over as the chief of his tribe he decided not to strike first and tried his best to convince Habibullah and his men to stop this game of hatred and revenge. But before he could see any signs of success, innocent and unarmed Najib was mercilessly killed by Habibullah’s men. Razak got wild but consoled himself to wait and eliminate the enemy in one master stroke. Razaq and his men chose the most appropriate time to attack Habibullah and his family. Razaq was also killed in the armed fight but had no regret or remorse when he died. He had killed Habibullah and his sons and grandsons but was disappointed because he could not eliminate Habibullah’s progeny. Habibullah’s youngest grandson, Irfan, escaped the massacre as he had accompanied his mother that day to see his grandparents at Kandhar. Despite a meticulously planned strike, Razaq had narrowly failed in his mission! “You have to kill Habibullah’s grandson before he gets married…” Razaq was very clear about what he wished. “Kill the last of the Habibullah’s progeny and then only we can live in peace……” Jabbar was not even 6 when his father left him with this noxious task to accomplish. Jabbar grew up in the beautiful surroundings of Mardan with only one goal in his life — kill Irfan before his marriage. Irfan’s mother took her son away to some unknown place and never returned. Jabbar continued to cultivate the hatred and revenge against Irfan; and prepared himself for the task over several years. Soon after Jabbar turned eighteen he left his home to track and nail Irfan. It didn’t take him too long to know Irfan’s whereabouts in Kandhar and then in 40


December 2012

stories Kabul. Jabbar lost no time in hunting for him in Kabul. But he narrowly missed Irfan as he left for the United States before he could reach him. Irfan was a doctor now. It took Jabbar more than a year to arrange his visa to the United States and then follow Irfan from Los Angeles to Chicago and finally located him in a New York hospital. It was just a day before when Jabbar actually saw Irfan face to face, busy talking to a patient. For a moment Irfan looked like an angel to him. Wearing a white coat, with a stethoscope dangling around his neck and a divine smile over his face, Irfan was counseling a sick old man. When Irfan patted that old man’s back, Jabbar could see compassion and righteousness over his face. Irfan no longer resembled anybody from Habibullah’s clan. He did not even look like a pathan. For a while Jabbar felt like complimenting Irfan for his achievement. But the very next moment his muscles stiffened, his fists clenched and a storm of hatred poured out from his eyes. After a long circuitous trail his victim was in front of him. He was very close to accomplishing his goal. He had not only found his victim but was relieved to know that Irfan was still unmarried. Just a bullet would do, he reassured himself. Eliminating Irfan could end the family feud for ever. He was quite confident about it. He was making preparations for the final act when the Amish boy was killed in Pennsylvania. **** Jabbar was not sure why he felt so compelled to turn his television on when he had already decided to leave for his final destination with AK47. There was a live news clip from the cemetery where Joshua’s mortal remains were laid to rest. Joshua’s family members looked shattered but composed. One of the reporters spoke to a neighbor who was attending the funeral, “What do you think about the person who killed this innocent boy?” The neighbor sighed and replied, “The killer is dead now. May his soul rest in peace. We are worried about his family.” he continued after a pause, “his wife and two young children, they have no source of income. We are thinking how we could help them……..” Jabbar was shocked to hear this answer from a person who closely knew the deceased. He could not believe his ears. How can people be so forgiving? That too for such a ghastly act! “No… this is rubbish…. this is not done…..” he echoed to himself, “this is wrong ….. there can be no sympathy for somebody who hurt you like this” he firmly grasped his gun, his eyes dazzled by swiftly moving images and outlines as if he was watching a kaleidoscope. These images quickly transformed in to faces and outlines, Najib, Razak and Irfan !

41


December 2012

stories “No, I will not pardon him… I will kill him…..” he shouted, “no mercy for the enemy…. no mercy for Irfan…. he has to die……” Jabbar suddenly started behaving like a maniac talking to himself loudly and the grip on his gun became stronger and stronger. He was about to leave the room in a fit of rage and revenge when he saw another news clip on the television. The news reporter was talking to Joshua’s father. “The killer is dead. So we cannot punish him. But if he were alive what punishment would you seek for him”. Joshua’s father cleared his throat and controlled his breaking voice. While looking up in the sky he slowly moved his trembling lips, “I forgive him….” “Will you forgive your son’s killer?” “Yes… I forgive him” Joshua’s father started moaning, “… because if I don’t forgive him Jesus will not forgive me…..” Suddnely Jabbar felt as if he was sinking in a deep sea. He experienced intense throbbing in his ears. The word ‘forgive him’ almost pierced his ear drums. An invisible force gripped his right hand and the only words which echoed in his ears were “forgive him…..forgive him…” Jabbar felt his right hand rigid and frozen. The kaleidoscopic pictures in his mind quickly started changing to different forms. He could see innocent faces of Joshua and Irfan superimposing on Najib’s pictures, echos of ‘vendetta’ started fading away from his mind and gradually replaced by loud appeals of ‘forgive him Jabbar, forgive him. He is innocent. He hasn’t done anything wrong. Forgive him…!” Gradually Jabbar started losing the grip over the gun. When he sat down on the bed he felt lighter with his head for the first time in his life as if some divine power had off loaded something from his mind!!

Ashok Patwari is a Pediatrician and Research Professor in the Department of International Health, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston. Earlier he was Professor of Pediatrics at Lady Hardinge Medical College, New Delhi. His short stories have been published in leading Urdu journals since 1968. His compilation of Urdu short stories, "Kuch lamhe kuch saayey", won him the Delhi Urdu Academy award in 2005. He has also published a compilation of Hindi short stories,"Behta Paani" in 2009. Ashok Patwari can be contacted at: akpatwari@gmail.com

42


December 2012

criticism

I criticize by creation - not by finding fault. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

www.gentlyread.wordpress.com

To enquire for placing ads, contact us at: contemporaryliteraryreview@yahoo.com

43


December 2012

criticism 11.

DEBOTRI DHAR

The Concept of Death in Tagore’s Gitanjali ‘On the day when death will knock at thy door what wilt thou offer to him? Oh, I will set before my guest the full vessel of my life – I will never let him go with empty hands. All the sweet vintage of all my autumn days and summer nights, all the earnings and gleanings of my busy life will I place before him at the close of my days when death will knock at my door.’ - Gitanjali [1] In a very disturbing 1916 essay on Rabindranath Tagore, Paul More sees in Tagore’s writing an ‘effeminate feeling of defeat, a pacifistic waiting by the roadside and puddling in sentiment,’ and far removed from what More sees as the ancient traditions of India. While describing Tagore as ‘nice and pretty,’ More ultimately dismisses his works as the ‘spiritual pap’ of as an ‘effeminate Romanticist,’ warning against taking Tagore too seriously and instead looking for hope from ‘philosophers who at least have the advantage of being virile.’[2] While some critics around the world may share More’s imperialist and chauvinistic reading of Tagore, it may be safe to assume that Tagore’s admirers far outnumber his critics. Indeed, as Asia’s first Nobel laureate, as a prolific poet, novelist, playwright, composer and artist, and as a towering intellectual and cultural icon, his vision and his work were not limited to his native land of Bengal but in fact ‘moved audiences and readers from Japan to Canada, from the Baltic Republics to Argentina,’[3] and still continue to be revisited and reinterpreted. This paper is a brief analysis of the concept of death in Gitanjali, Tagore’s Nobel Prize winning collection of prose poems. If the charges of defeatist, pacifistic and effeminate were to be applied to Tagore’s writing in general, by howsoever misinformed a critic, these charges can only multiply manifold when speaking of Tagore’s conception of death. Indeed, a superficial reading of Gitanjali may seem to suggest passivity towards life and an almost-morbid welcoming of death. However, this paper argues to the contrary. It begins with illustrating how Gitanjali celebrates life, its point of view being shaped by the intersecting influences of pantheism, Hindu Upanishadic thought and Tagore’s liberal Brahmo Samaj upbringing. Thereafter, it briefly examines Tagore’s larger political and socio-moral philosophies, demonstrating the link between these and his understanding of death. Going on to use Tagore’s conception of death in order to critique Emile Durkheim’s famous writing on suicides in India and on the connection Durkheim makes between pantheism and suicide, I show 44


December 2012

criticism how Tagore’s poetry welcomes death only when life and all its missions have been successfully concluded. In contrast to the rigid binary categories of classical liberal thought, death in Gitanjali thus emerges as a relational concept, as an affirmation rather than a negation of life, and in death lies the joyous celebration, rather than the dissolution, of the self. * It is perhaps impossible to appreciate Gitanjali’s celebration of death without first understanding its joyous celebration of life, and the intersecting ideas of pantheism, classical Upanishadic thought and the non-ritualistic teachings of the Brahmo Samaj that shape this relationship between life and death. While More’s imperialist reading yields essential differences between Tagore’s writings and what he terms the ancient traditions of India – a reading that I shall refute in the following pages – he is partially correct in the following observations: ‘In place of Tagore’s delight in the waves of change, the alternations of birth and death, there was in the heart of the ancient Hindu a yearning to escape into a region of unchanging peace. In place of the dreaming dissolution into Nature and of waiting for her “perfume of compromise,” there was a distrust of the world’s visible beauty as of a snare for the soul. In place of surrender to the lulling charm of illusion, there was a temper of austere renunciation.’[4] I use the term ‘partially correct’ because renunciation has never been a simple matter, no matter how simplistically one might understand ancient Hindu thought. For instance, if one were to speak of the Purushartha Chatushtham or Four Cardinal Principles of Hinduism – dharma, artha, kama, moksha – one sees immediately how ancient Hindu thought lays emphasis not just on abstract categories such as dharma and moksha but also on the more tangible, this-worldly goals of artha (material pursuits) and kama (sensual pleasures). In its conception of Varnashrama Dharma or the four stages of life, renunciation or sanyas was the final stage that ideally came only after the first three stages - brahmacharya (the student-phase), grihastha (the stage of the householder) and vanaprastha (partially withdrawal from material pleasures and a move towards the simpler life of the forest) - had been successfully concluded. Thus while material and sensory pleasures maybe framed as maya (illusion) by many Hindu philosophical traditions, members of society are not completely held back from their enjoyment. That being the case, I would however concede that More may be correct insofar as this enjoyment of maya was to be regulated, and ultimately subsumed by a larger life path that guided the individual towards austerity and renunciation.

45


December 2012

criticism In contrast, Tagore’s understanding of life-as-maya is less austere and more playful. This is not to claim that he does not understand the illusory nature of desires and pleasures in the here-andnow as illusion; as he says in the following lines: That I want thee, only thee, let my heart repeat without end. All desires that distract me, day and night, and false and empty to the core […] However, Tagore’s response to maya is like that of a child - a child who does not seek to control the world or to compete with his fellowmen and amass great wealth. Rather, he revels in the world and its pleasures with spontaneity, innocence and joyful abandon. ‘On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous. On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances. They build their houses with sand and play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds. They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.’ Tagore celebrates life and its limitless possibilities, never ceasing to be amazed by nature’s bounties and the gifts that this world and this life hold for us. Elsewhere he says: ‘The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless glades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers. It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow. I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.’[5]

46


December 2012

criticism At the same time, he reminds us that: ‘The child who is decked with prince’s robes and who has jeweled chains around his neck loses all pleasure in his play; his dress hampers him at every step. In fear that it may be frayed or stained with dust, he keeps himself from the world, and is afraid even to move. Mother, it is no gain, thy bondage of finery, if it keep one shut off from the healthful dust of the earth, if it rob one of the right of entrance to the great fair of common human life.’[6] This celebration of life through an unfettered appreciation of nature, of hard toil, and of oneness with humanity seamlessly links up with Tagore’s idea of God. Tagore is a pantheist; like many nineteenth century romantics such as William Wordsworth, his work is couched within the philosophy that god and nature are identical. At the same time – and quite contrary to More’s reading of Tagore as removed from Indian traditions - Tagore’s poetry is infused by the classical Hindu understanding of the universe as a totality, of a single cosmic consciousness enervating the world, and of ultimate unity between the atma (individual soul) and the parmatma (the divine soul, Brahman or the Eternal One). In fact Vedanta, the primary philosophy of the Upanishads which is also the most philosophical and speculative of all Hindu philosophies, foregrounds the one eternal, absolute and transcendent reality called Brahman. While different strands of Vedanta differ as to their conception of the relationship between Isvara (God) and Brahman, Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta argues that it is maya that makes Brahman appear as Isvara. In reality, there is no difference between the individual atma and Brahma, and it is in the knowledge of this non-duality (advaita) that salvation (moksha) lies. Of course, Tagore’s liberal Brahmo Samaj upbringing also exerts a very strong influence on him. The Brahmo Samaj stood against Brahmanical orthodoxies, denouncing the caste system, the subjugation of women as well as such practices as idol-worship. It is as a result of all these influences that we see in Tagore’s poetry a denunciation of rigid ritualistic approaches to religion and an embracing of more spiritual, humane values. ‘Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee! He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the path-maker is breaking stones. He is with them in sun and in shower, and his garment is covered in dust. 47


December 2012

criticism Put off thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil […]’[7] In other words, Gitanjali, like much of Tagore’s other poetry, is filled with exuberance at being a part of this ever-changing and wondrous thing called life, and with a joyous celebration of being alive. At the same time, Tagore lays out for us the more-fulfilling ways of living life, emphasizing spirituality and humanity as opposed to organized religion, and the exquisite beauties of the natural as opposed to the material world. That Tagore’s celebration of life is integral to an understanding of his ensuing celebration of death becomes all the more apparent when we examine the socially-engaged manner in which he lived his own life and the political and moral philosophies he actively propounded. Thus, as a poet and thinker, Tagore did not remain confined to thinking and writing in the privacy of his own palatial house. Instead, in the form of his school Shantiniketan, he actively designed a tangible world out of his thoughts for the younger generation to enter and to enjoy. He refused to call Shantiniketan a school though; he called it an ashram, a safe space for young minds to experience simplicity of life, oneness with nature, music, poetry and art, and a sense of spiritual harmony with oneself and with the universe. The Englishman W.W. Pearson, who taught at Shantiniketan, speaks of how an average school day began with the students being awakened before sunrise by the school choir singing rabindrasangeet.[8] After taking a bath by the wells in the school grounds, they sat under the trees, later chanting verses from the Upanishads. There were no classrooms at Shantiniketan; instead, all lessons happened in the open air, to allow students to experience the beauty of nature. When the day turned cool, the children played games, followed by a chanting of evening verses; later, some form of entertainment such as storytelling; and then bed. In an extremely articulate essay on the educational spirituality of Tagore, John Pridmore argues that even if Shantiniketan may later have been somewhat subsumed by the commercial aspects of modern society, Tagore’s lofty ideals slowly being corroded by the ideas that he had always repudiated - a compartmentalization of subjects, a competitive regime, and a marginalization of the creative and the exploratory – Tagore’s vision cannot ultimately be measured by how successfully it was implemented.[9] According to Pridmore, what matters more is that he looked back on the shortcomings of his own schooling and attempted to craft a better way; howsoever short it fell, Shantiniketan did ultimately reflect Tagore’s vision of what schools must be if children are to find meaning and fulfillment relationally, and to grow to love this world and everything in it rather than merely plundering it for profit.[10] This relational thinking of Tagore - the relationships that we have with ourselves, with one another, with nature and with the universe – also permeates his political ideology, translating into a symbiotic relationship between the east and the west. Thus while he has often been charged with being unpatriotic – a peculiar charge to be leveled at a man who renounced his knighthood in protest of the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre – what he really stood against was the 48


December 2012

criticism aggressive Eurocentric brand of nationalism that was rapidly finding its supporters in anticolonial India. This is clearly the brand that More endorses when he rejects Tagore in favor of ‘more virile philosophers,’ and we would do well to remember that it is precisely this virile, hyper-masculinist western ideology of nationalism, often adopted uncritically by postcolonial nation-states, that has been the cause of much war and political oppression worldwide. Tagore was not just gentler but also far-sighted; he could well anticipate the problems this kind of nationalism would, in time, create. Hence he advocated a political philosophy which Martha Nussbaum terms cosmopolitanism, Isaiah Berlin terms internationalism, and Amartya Sen applauds for its emphasis on pluralism, freedom and reason.[11] According to Saranindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore’s political philosophy does not merely yield a postmodern tolerance for alterity but aspires to dissolve instances of otherness altogether through hermeneutic absorption and assimilation.’[12] This is in contrast to classical liberal thought which is structured upon binary categories (mind-body; culture-nature; man-woman; life-death) that ultimately create oppositional, hierarchical and antagonistic relations. For these reasons, many scholars concur that Tagore’s socio-political critiques hold wide-ranging significance for current global challenges, whether political, cultural or environmental. From the above discussion, Tagore’s celebration of, and critical engagement with, all the facets of life – creative, spiritual, social, emotional and political – becomes clear. So, for this sensitive poet who emphasizes relational unity and for whom the physical and the metaphysical are not polar opposites but rather part of the same continuum, it is hardly surprising that life and death should also be considered in relational terms. Thus, instead of the classical liberal understanding of death as the end of the physical body which, in a sense, houses life, Tagore’s understanding of death is that of an extension of life, a continuity, a journey from one shore of the river to the other. Gitanjali provides us a very evocative description of this journey: ‘I must launch out my boat. The languid hours pass by on the shore – Alas for me! The spring has done its flowering and taken leave. And now with the burden of faded futile flowers I wait and linger. The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady lane the yellow leaves flutter and fall. What emptiness do you gaze upon! Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air with the notes of the far-away song floating from the other shore?’[13] In speaking of death, a common metaphor used in Gitanjali is that of death as a wedding between the human and the divine soul. For that reason, there are many such references to wedding garlands, to the exchange of glances (referring to shubhadrishti, or the first glance between the 49


December 2012

criticism bride and the groom), and to the journey a bride undertakes, after parting from her parental house, in order to finally be united with her beloved groom. ‘At this time of my parting, wish me good luck, my friends! The sky is flushed with the dawn and my path lies beautiful. Ask not what I have with me to take there. I start on my journey with empty hands and expectant heart. I shall put on my wedding garland […]’[14] The same theme is repeated elsewhere, when the poet says: ‘O though the last fulfillment of life, Death, my death, come and whisper to me! Day after day have I kept watch for thee; for thee have I borne the joys and pangs of life. All that I am, that I have, that I hope and all my love have ever flowed towards thee in depth of secrecy. One final glance from thine eyes and my life will be ever thine own. The flowers have been woven and the garland is ready for the bridegroom. After the wedding the bride shall leave her home and meet her lord alone in the solitude of night.’[15] However, this waiting for, and celebration of death, should not be taken to mean that Tagore was in favor of voluntarily cutting life short. This is a very important point that cannot be emphasized enough. The poet does repeatedly ask whether it is ‘time’ for him to depart: ‘I have had my invitation to this world’s festival, and thus my life has been blessed. My eyes have seen and my ears have heard. It was my part at this feast to play upon my instrument, and I have done all I could. Now, I ask, has the time come at last when I may go in and see thy face and offer thee my silent salutation?’[16] However, his poetry demonstrates a very high degree of self-awareness, a profound and responsible realization that death is to be welcomed only when life and all its missions are successfully concluded. Thus he says: ‘The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day. I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my instrument. 50


December 2012

criticism The time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set; only there is the agony of wishing in my heart. The blossom has not opened; only the wind is sighing by. I have not seen his face, nor have I listened to his voice; only I have heard his gentle footsteps from the road before my house. The lifelong day has passed in spreading his seat on the floor; but the lamp has not been lit and I cannot ask him into my house. I live in the hope of meeting him; but this meeting is not yet.’[17] This becomes a particularly important point to note in light of imperialist writing on suicides in India as well as on the connection made between pantheism and suicide. A trenchant example is sociologist Emile Durkheim’s 1897 work On Suicide, which analyzes the collective tendencies undergirding suicide in different cultures. [18] On Suicide attributed a specific type of suicide – altruistic suicide, or suicide that is committed in societies characterized by insufficient individuation and excessive collective integration – to what it smugly describes as ‘inferior societies’.[19] Citing colonial India as a classic example of such a society, he says: ‘Altruistic suicide is strikingly different from egotistical suicide. The former is linked to that crude morality that considers worthless whatever interests only the individual, while the latter derives from the refined ethical code that sets the human personality so high that it can no longer be subordinated to anything. So, between the two is the distance separating primitive peoples from the most cultivated of nations.’[20] So in speaking of suicides among the Hindus of India ‘who were freely killing themselves under the influence of Brahmanism’[21], Durkheim says that suicides are common in India among ‘a species of savage, uncouth men to whom they have given the name sages.’[22] In a gesture of discursive colonization, Durkheim thus goes on to read into suicides in India ‘the moral characteristic of the primitive’.[23] Further, in speaking of pantheism, Durkheim acknowledges that pantheism does not necessarily produce suicide; however, he says that if what constitutes pantheism is a denial of individuality, such a ‘religion’ can only arise in societies where the individual does not count for anything, and so a connection does emerge between a pantheistic organization of society and altruistic suicide.[24] It is clear that Durkheim’s words echo those of missionary discourses, parliamentary debates and European scholarship on the orient, all of which cast Indians as victims of their aberrant culture. In disagreeing most emphatically with his imperialist understanding of Indian culture, I would say that classical Hindu philosophy is anything but ‘primitive’; instead of pitting individuals against each other, systems of philosophy such as the Vedanta develop self-realization and relational modes of thinking and being, thus exhibiting the refined thinking that is necessary for society to coexist in harmony. Instead of the exploitative relationship between man and nature that characterizes modern industrial societies of the west, a relationship that is governed by a fear 51


December 2012

criticism of death and therefore by the idea of the individual as forever in threat from the natural order and needing to conquer it, they establish a seamless continuity between the social and the natural order. Death is inevitable; the poet does not just accept but also embraces this natural fact, looking forward to death once life is successfully concluded. As he says: ‘[…] now the day has dawned and the lamp that lit my dark corner is out. A summons has come and I am ready for my journey.’[25] Further, the poet knows that the world, its cycle of days and nights, its seasons, the ebb and tide of its oceans, will all go on as they were even after he is dead. Yet this knowledge only serves to allow him to focus on the things that are truly important. ‘I know that the day will come when my sight of this earth will be lost, and life will take its leave in silence, drawing the last curtain over my eyes. Yet stars will watch at night, and morning rise as before, and hours heave like sea waves casting up pleasures and pains. When I think of this end of my moments, the barrier of the moment breaks and I see by the light of death thy world with its careless treasures. Rare is its lowliest seat, rare is its meanest of lives. Things that I longed for in vain and things that I got – let them pass. Let me but truly possess the things that I ever spurned and overlooked.’[26] It is not also that the thought of death does not induce fear in him. It does. But as he says: ‘Death, thy servant, is at my door. He has crossed the unknown sea and brought thy call to my house. The night is dark and my heart is fearful – yet I will take up the lamp, open my gates and bow to him my welcome. It is thy messenger who stands at my door […].’[27] Death is the final messenger of the unity that for Tagore is god, self, beloved, nature and the universe. It brings the news of a new journey, at the end of a life loved well and lived fully. Hence Tagore is more aptly says that ‘[…] Because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well.’[28] For the poet, death is ultimately not a negation of life but its affirmation, and in death lies the joyous celebration, rather than the dissolution, of the self. ‘The question and the cry “Oh, where?” melt into tears of a thousand streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance “I am!”’[29]

52


December 2012

criticism References: ________________________________________ [1] Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali (Calcutta: Macmillan, 1970), p. 88. [2] Paul E. More, ‘Rabindranath Tagore,’ in The Nation Vol. 103, No. 2683, Nov. 30, 1916. [3] Joseph T. O’Connell and Kathleen M.O’Connell, ‘Introduction: Rabindranath Tagore as Cultural Icon,’ in the University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4, Fall 2008. [4] More, 1916. [5] Tagore, Gitanjali, pp. 64-65. [6] Tagore, Gitanjali, pp. 6-7. [7] Tagore, Gitanjali, pp. 8-9. [8] W.W. Pearson and M.C. Dey, Shantiniketan: The Bolpur School of Rabindranath Tagore (New York: Macmillan, 1916), pp. 53-54. [9] John Pridmore, ‘The Poet’s School and the Parrot’s Cage: The Educational Spirituality of Rabindranath Tagore’, in theInternational Journal of Children’s Spirituality, Vol. 14, No. 4, November 2009, pp. 355-367. [10] Ibid. [11] For a discussion of cosmopolitanism, as well as for a detailed analysis of Nussbaum’s and Sen’s position in the light of Tagore’s philosophy, see Saranindranath Tagore, ‘Tagore’s Conception of Cosmopolitanism: A Reconstruction,’ in the University of Toronto Quaterly, Volume 77, Number 4, Fall 2008, pp. 1070-1084. [12] Ibid. [13] Tagore, Gitanjali, p. 17. [14] Tagore, Gitanjali, p. 86. [15] Tagore, Gitanjali, pp. 83-84. [16] Tagore, Gitanjali, pp. 13-14. [17] Tagore, Gitanjali, p. 11. [18] Emile Durkheim, On Suicide trans. Robin Buss (London: Penguin, 2006). Original work published 1897. [19] Durkheim, On Suicide, pp. 234-247. [20] Durkheim, On Suicide, p. 245. [21] Durkheim, On Suicide, p. 241. 53


December 2012

criticism [22] Durkheim, On Suicide, p. 235. [23] Durkheim, On Suicide, p. 241. [24] Durkheim, On Suicide, pp. 244-245. [25] Tagore, Gitanjali, pp. 85-86. [26] Tagore, Gitanjali, pp. 84-85. [27] Tagore, Gitanjali, p. 79. [28] Tagore, Gitanjali, p. 87. [29] Tagore, Gitanjali, p. 10.

Bibliography: 1. Durkheim, Emile, On Suicide trans. Robin Buss (London: Penguin, 2006). 2. More, Paul E., ‘Rabindranath Tagore,’ in The Nation Vol. 103, No, 2683, Nov. 30, 1916. 3. O’Connell, Joseph T. and Kathleen M.O’Connell, ‘Introduction: Rabindranath Tagore as Cultural Icon,’ in the University of Toronto Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 4, Fall 2008. 4. Pearson, W.W., and M.C. Dey, Shantiniketan: The Bolpur School of Rabindranath Tagore (New York: Macmillan, 1916), pp. 53-54. 5. Pridmore, John, ‘The Poet’s School and the Parrot’s Cage: The Educational Spirituality of Rabindranath Tagore’, in the International Journal of Children’s Spirituality, Vol. 14, No. 4, November 2009, pp. 355-367. 6. Tagore, Saranindranath, ‘Tagore’s Conception of Cosmopolitanism: A Reconstruction,’ in theUniversity of Toronto Quarterly, Volume 77, Number 4, Fall 2008, pp. 1070-1084. 7. Tagore, Rabindranath, Gitanjali (Calcutta: Macmillan, 1970).

Debotri Dhar earned a Masters, with distinction, from Oxford University (UK), and was an Excellence Doctoral Fellow at Rutgers University (USA.) She currently holds a teaching position at Rutgers University, where she teaches courses in feminist theory and South Asian Studies. One of her key areas of research interest is gender and death in South Asia. Debotri has been the recipient of several academic awards and honors, has given papers at conferences worldwide, and has several publications to her credit. In her spare time, Debotri writes fiction.

54


December 2012

criticism 12.

DR. DIPTI GUPTA

Multiculturalism in India Abstract Multicultural concerns have long been the part of India’s history and traditions, constitution and political arrangements. Much of the writing on Indian history, culture and politics are marked by some kind of multicultural concern. The central question addressed in this paper is how a vast multi-ethnic country in terms of religion, language, community, caste and tribe has survived as a state placed in relation to the failures of many less diverse and plural post-colonial and “socialist” states, India’s record of relative political unity and stability seems remarkable indeed. It is argued that at the heart of the resolution of many ethnic conflicts in India lies a set of multicultural state policies. The Indian Constitution as the fountain source of these policies can be said to be a basic multicultural document, in the sense of providing for political and institutional measures for the recognition and accommodation of the country’s diversity. In the post-independence period, the major form of political recognition of territorially based ethnic identity of the people has remained statehood within the Indian federation. The paper also points out that the recent Indian debate on multiculturalism has yet to take cognisance of the rationale behind the institutional measures for the political accommodation of identity, difference and community, which has been responsible for India’s survival as a state. Multiculturalism in India India is among those societies in the world, which are culturally diverse. It consists of people from all the major religions of the world – Hindus, Muslims, Christians Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Zoroastrians (Parsis). The Hindus constitute about 82% of the entire Indian population, while 149 million Muslims reside in the country which makes them the second largest population of Muslims in the world. Religious diversity is coupled with enormous linguistic and cultural diversity. The 1991 census shows that 114 languages were spoken by a community of at least 10,000 or more; of these 22 were spoken by more than one million people. The state lists 630 communities as Scheduled Tribes, and some of the identified communities, such as Kukis, are themselves internally heterogeneous, comprising several different tribes. There is therefore religious and cultural diversity of enormous dimensions in the country. In 1947, at the time of Indian independence, the political leaders and the makers of constitution took note of this diversity, and they made a framework that would provide for a unified but culturally diverse nation state. 55


December 2012

criticism Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, admonished on August 9, 1942:“Hindustan belongs to all those who are born and bred and who have no other country to look to. Therefore, it belongs to Parsis, Beni Israels, to Indian Christians, Muslims and other non-Muslims as much as to Hindus. Free India will be no Hindu Raj; it will be Indian Raj based not on the majority of any religious community but on the representatives of the whole people without distinction of religion” (cited in Sharma 1994: 107).Jawaharlal Nehru repeated the same point in India Today and Tomorrow: “India is a common home for all those who live here, to whatever religion they may belong — they have equal rights and obligations. Ours is a composite Nation”. The composite and inclusive character of the nation is enshrined in the constitution in several articles. Multiculturalism is neither a political concept nor a philosophical theory that tells the place of man in the world, but is a perspective or a way of viewing human life. Multiculturalism is neither a political concept nor a philosophical theory that tells the place of man in the world, but is a perspective or a way of viewing human life. Its central insights are three, each of which is sometimes misinterpreted by its advocates and needs to be carefully reformulated if it is to carry conviction. First, human beings are culturally trained as they receive upbringing and live in their own culture and spend their lives and make social relations in a culturally derived system of meaning and significance. This does not mean that they are determined by their culture in the sense of being unable to rise above its categories of thought and critically evaluate its values and system of meaning, but rather that they are deeply shaped by it, can overcome some but not all of its influences, and necessarily view the world from within a culture, be it the one they have inherited and uncritically accepted or reflectively revised or, in rare cases, one they have consciously adopted. Second, different cultures have different systems of meaning and visions of the good life. Since each has its own limitations to realise human capacities and emotions and has an access only a part of the totality of human existence, it needs the help of other cultures to understand itself better, expand its intellectual and moral horizon, stretch its imagination, save it from narcissism to guard it against the obvious temptation to absolutise itself, and so on. This does not mean that one cannot lead a good life within one’s own culture, but rather that, other things being equal, one’s way of life is likely to be richer if one also enjoys access to others, and that a culturally self-contained life is virtually impossible for most human beings in the modern, mobile and interdependent world. But it does not mean that all cultures are equally rich and perfect or that they cannot be compared with others or critically assessed. All it means is that no culture is altogether worthless. Every culture deserves at least some respect because of its creative energy and its members. No culture is perfect and so no culture has the right to impose itself on others, and that cultures are best changed from within.

56


December 2012

criticism No culture is perfect and so no culture has the right to impose itself on others, and that cultures are best changed from within. Third, every culture has its own distinct qualities and reflects a continuing conversation between its different traditions and strands of thought. This does not mean that it is devoid of coherence and identity, but that its identity is plural, fluid and open. Cultures grow out of conscious and unconscious interactions with each other, define their identity in terms of what they take to be their significant other, and are at least partially multicultural in their origins and constitution. Each carries bits of the other within itself. This does not mean that it has no powers of selfdetermination and inner impulses, but rather that it is porous and subject to external influences which it assimilates in its now autonomous ways. Culture can be said to be a heterogeneous compound made up of various components, giving it variety and colour. In India multiculturalism warrants that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. Multiculturalism or cultural pluralism is the basis to the notion that all citizens are equal. In India multiculturalism warrants that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance gives each Indian citizen a feeling of security and self-confidence, making them more open to, and accepting of, diverse cultures. India has embraced diversity, or cultural pluralism in both policy and practice. The Indian Constitution which is the fountain source of many state policies can be said to be a basic multicultural document, in the sense of providing for political and institutional measures for the recognition and accommodation of the country’s diversity. Cultural diversity is viewed as one of India's most important attributes, socially and economically. Through multiculturalism, India recognizes the potential of all citizens, encouraging them to integrate into their society and take an active part in its social, cultural, economic and political affairs. Our advantage lies in having been a multicultural society from our earliest days. Our diversity is a national asset. India contains entire globe within its borders. Multiculturalism is a relationship between the state and the Indian people. Our citizenship gives us equal rights and equal responsibilities. By taking an active part in our civic affairs, we affirm these rights and henceforth strengthen India's democracy. The essence of inclusiveness is that we are part of a society in which language, colour, education, sex and money need not, should not divide us. Although members of these groups are in principle free to participate in its public life, they often stay away for fear of rejection and ridicule or out of a deep sense of alienation. A multicultural society cannot be stable and last long without developing a common sense of belonging among its citizens. Although equal citizenship is essential to fostering a common 57


December 2012

criticism sense of belonging, it is not enough. Citizenship is about status and rights; belonging is about acceptance, feeling welcome, a sense of identification. The two do not necessarily coincide. One might enjoy all the rights of citizenship but feel that one does not quite belong to the community and is a relative outsider. This feeling of being fully a citizen and yet an outsider is difficult to analyze and explain, but it can be deep and real and seriously damage the quality of one’s citizenship as well as one’s sense of commitment to the political community. It is caused by, among other things, the manner in which the wider society defines itself, the demeaning ways in which the rest of its members talk about these groups, and the dismissive or patronizing ways in which they treat them. Although members of these groups are in principle free to participate in its public life, they often stay away for fear of rejection and ridicule or out of a deep sense of alienation. In India people of different cultures are given equal rights by the constitution, whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Parsis, Sikhs or from any other culture, all are equal before the constitution. In Europe, democracies evolved against the backdrop of considerable cultural homogeneity. The classical liberal wisdom also advocated indifference to social and cultural identities. It suggested that the law should not take note of the identity of a person; instead all individuals as citizens must be treated alike. Identical treatment, or equality before the law, was regarded as the sine qua non of a liberal democracy that signalled the absence of discrimination on grounds of religion, race or gender. This was the liberal model before the Indian leadership, and it received serious consideration. However, in a situation where social and cultural identities had been mobilized, there were several imponderables. Some communities had received separate representation under British colonial rule; moreover, colonial rule ended with the partition of the country and the creation of a separate homeland for the Muslim community. Even though a significant number of this community chose to stay back in India, there were several anxieties about the future of the Muslims in a Hindu-dominated society. The Muslim community which was in a minority position at that time was to be protected and assured of all rights, common to other communities in India. Independent India had to address these anxieties and its leadership was called upon to make good its promise to ensure equality for all communities. There was also the issue of lower castes—communities that were excluded from the rest of the society and denied access to social and economic goods in society. Faced with this complex reality, the political leadership was confronted with the need to innovate and boldly rethink some of the received truths of liberalism. The constitution of India was made thus in a way that it gives equal importance to all individuals and all communities. What was distinctive in the approach that India adopted at this time was that it linked equality for the individual with equality for diverse communities. It began with the understanding that equality for individuals required that different communities within the polity should exist as equals. The presence of diverse communities was thus acknowledged. Indeed, the existing cultural diversity was deeply valued. It was felt that respect for the individual requires respect for the diverse beliefs and ways of life that these persons embody. Besides, the individual 58


December 2012

criticism could not possibly exist as an equal if the community to which he or she belongs were disadvantaged or marginalized in the public domain. It is essential for the existence and progress of an individual that he or she should be accepted and given equal chances in every domain of life. But only making of laws is not everything for the existence and progress of minority communities. It was therefore argued that, while the principle of equality before the law was extremely important, it was not enough. If equality was to be actualized in practice, then members of minority communities should have the liberty to lead a life in accordance with their cultural practices. In concrete terms this meant that minority religious communities needed religious liberty and protection against the threat of cultural homogenization. Similarly, different linguistic communities needed opportunities to promote their culture and identity; and the lower castes had to be assured access to social and public goods. Over the years this orientation has been suitably encapsulated in the slogan Unity in Diversity. Cultural homogeneity is not, in other words, seen as a necessary condition for forging a political identity as a nation state. Unity in Diversity is a slogan, which is the wish and dream of the constitution makers. It means that India is united as a nation, at the same time having cultural diversity. Unity in Diversity articulates the sentiment that India can be a strong and unified country while simultaneously affirming its cultural diversity. Cultural homogeneity is not, in other words, seen as a necessary condition for forging a political identity as a nation state. The commitment to this norm has been put to test at various moments in the country’s history, and the experience of the past 55 years has highlighted the complexities involved in keeping this pledge. The route India embarked upon at the time of independence has been a difficult and arduous journey, but it seems to have been a step in the right direction. In the challenges that have confronted the Indian state, what stands out is that the willingness to experiment with different ways of accommodating diversity has enabled the country to remain a strong and unified whole. Most political analysts in 1960s and 1970s had predicted the fragmentation of India. If they have been proved wrong it is primarily because the existing framework of democracy makes room for diversities of various kinds—religious, linguistic and ethnic—in many different ways. India is a country where religious diversity is maximum in comparison to other countries. India has no official or established state religion. Most other states in its neighbourhood affirm a religious identity: Pakistan and Bangladesh are Islamic states; Sri Lanka gives a special status to Buddhism; and Nepal is a Hindu state. India, however, has no established religion and this is the first sign of its commitment to treat all communities as equal. This is supplemented by the constitutional provisions that protect religious liberty. Article 25 gives all religious communities the right to ‘profess, propagate and practice’ their religion. It is pertinent to note that the right to propagate one’s religion was included in deference to the concerns of the minority communities, 59


December 2012

criticism particularly Muslims and Christians, who maintained that preaching and propagating their faith was an essential part of their religion. Indian constitution has been framed in such a way that it accepts and respects the dignity of all religions. While most societies grant individuals the right to religious belief, in India communities enjoy the right to continue with their distinct religious practices. Perhaps the most significant part of this is that in all matters of family, individuals are governed by their community personal laws (Larson 2001). Religious communities also have the right to set up their own religious and charitable institutions; they can establish their own educational institutions, and, above all, these institutions can receive financial support from the state. Taken together, these are ways by which public recognition has been granted to different religious communities and space made for them to continue with their way of life (Mahajan 1998). On the symbolic plane, policies pertaining to the declaration of public holidays, permissible dress in educational institutions and public jobs, and the naming of public places also acknowledge and give due recognition to the different communities living in India. India is the second most populous country (population now over a billion) after China, and socially and culturally the most diverse in the world. Formed over many thousands of years as a country of immigrants who brought their own cultures and traditions, India’s diversity is proverbial. Although predominantly inhabited by ‘Hindus’ (over 82 percent) who are regionally rooted, plural in beliefs and practices, and divided by castes and languages, India’s population also includes a large proportion of world’s Muslims (about 12 percent), as well as Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians and Jains constitue a notable population each. Linguistically too, India is very diverse. It is the home of some hundred languages and dialects and, so far, eighteen languages have been ‘officially’ recognised and placed under the Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution. There are, however, sizeable sections of the population, most notably in the NorthEast, who are a majority in their locality but whose first language is not yet ‘officially’ recognized. Most of the states have some dominant ethno-linguistic and ethno-religious groups (Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir, North-East); although within each of them there are religious and linguistic minorities. The fact that today most of the states of India correspond, by and large, to ethnolinguistic or ethno-religious groups has been achieved through major reorganisation of territories in the 1950s and 1960s. Given that some kind of ethno-linguistic factor is the prime criterion in according statehood, scholars have tended to see the reorganisation as part of a multicultural state-building process in India. This of course does not mean that each of the reorganised states is unilingual. On the contrary, states are multilingual and diverse. The process of reorganisation only simplifies the reality, to a great extent. But even today, throughout India, linguistic minorities live under a state dominated, demographically but in other ways too, by a majority linguistic group. For example, Tamil Nadu, one of the early major successes of linguistic (Tamil) sub-nationalism in independent India, had in 1991 3,975,561 Telegu speakers (7.1 percent) and 1,208,296 Kannada speakers (2.2 percent) (Pandharipande 2002). Occasionally, minorities 60


December 2012

criticism speaking “unrecognized” languages have demanded statehood with different degrees of success. Such demands have often been made by those linguistic groups mainly concentrated in a particular region of a state where the group has a strong sense of its distinctive identity. The success of such movements has depended on the strength of the political formulation of their demands by the elites and a host of other factors. While religious diversity was openly celebrated it was hoped that a shared language, in the form of Hindi written in the Devanagri script, would be the binding cement. Hence, the constitution declared it as the national language of the country with the proviso that English, which had been the language of administration, would continue to be used for all official purposes of the Union for which it was used previously. Thus, in the initial years, homogeneity was likely to come through language, and the choice of the Devanagri script subtly privileged the Hindu community. This framework came under challenge shortly after independence. Several states in the southern part of India resisted the imposition of Hindi as the national language. At the same time there were strong movements across different regions of the country for linguistic reorganization of regional boundaries. The Union state initially resisted both demands but eventually, with some reluctance, agreed to allow English to continue as the language of official communication along with Hindi. If states did not wish to communicate in Hindi they could continue to use English. Even more significantly, the Union state accorded recognition to linguistic communities so that communities occupying contiguous territory could constitute one state. “India’s struggle for national survival is a struggle against herself. As a civilization and as an integrated cultural whole, India has shown a power of survival rivaled only by China. But multilingual India's separate territories have failed as consistently as Europe's to hold together as a separate political unity ... India is a whole world placed at close quarters. Nowhere do so many linguistically differentiated peoples, all of them so self-aware, all numbered in millions and tens of millions, confront each other within a single national body politics” [Harrison 1960 page 4]. Today the constitution recognizes 18 languages as official languages of the Union state in addition to Hindi and English, which enjoy the status of national languages. Recognition for specific languages has not always been easy. It has come after strong popular movements, but what has become evident is that, despite liberal apprehensions, the creation of linguistic identitybased states has not weakened the nation state. If anything, it has strengthened democracy, made it more inclusive, and given opportunities to previously excluded groups to share in the political decision-making process. This has strengthened India and minimized discontent against the Union. It is not so that India paid attention in the sphere of religious and linguistic diversity only, besides religious and linguistic diversity, India paid some attention to the diversity embodied in tribal ways of life. The constitution makers saw that it is also essential to give importance to the welfare and progress of some tribal communities of India. The constitution identified some areas where tribal communities lived with some form of ‘protective segregation’ as ‘excluded’ or 61


December 2012

criticism ‘partially excluded’ regions. Here, the free movement and passage of outsiders was curtailed, and within the identified area tribal communities were given special rights to govern themselves in accordance with their customary law and distinct social and religious practices. In this way, cultural difference and diversity were protected; but to ensure that these communities are not entirely segregated or from the Indian polity, separate representation was provided to members of Scheduled Tribes. Separate representation was intended to bring in the voice of these communities without undermining their cultural distinctiveness. Indeed, it was to protect the latter that certain identified regions, and areas within a regional state, were given special status. Over the years, the special status has enabled vulnerable communities to survive and protect themselves from large-scale influx of ‘outsiders’. In areas, for example in Tripura, where similar provisions for exclusion and protection for tribal communities did not exist, their share in the total population has fallen enormously, with migrants, particularly from the neighboring regions both within and outside the country, coming in. The special status accorded to these communities and regions brought into effect what has since been called asymmetric federalism. What this means is that the constituent units of the federal polity do not all enjoy identical powers. Some, on account of their socio-cultural needs and political history, enjoy special powers. Article 371, clauses A and G, of the Indian Constitution, for instance, gives the states of Nagaland and Mizoram special rights to govern themselves in accordance with their distinct social practices, customary laws, and community control over ownership and the transfer of land and its resources. Special status has also been granted to the state of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the accession treaty signed at the time when this state joined the Union of India. Special efforts were being taken by Indian Government for the protection and development of tribal communities. Over the years, the Indian state has also introduced new political and administrative structures, in the form of multi-level federalism, to accommodate the special concerns of communities within a region. To take an example, in response to the demands of the Bodos – tribal populations living in the plains of Assam as distinct from the hill tribal communities – the Bodoland Autonomous Council was formed in 1993. This was intended to give the Bodos within the state of Assam an institutionalized structure of autonomy, with powers to legislate on 38 identified subjects, including matters related to education, ethnic and cultural affairs, and social and economic issues. Institutional arrangements of this kind have also been applied in other parts of the country: the Telengana region in Andhra Pradesh is a case in point. Such frameworks of governance have, by and large, been developed in response to popular mobilizations and struggles. The success of these arrangements is heavily dependent upon the attitude of the different levels of the federation. But there is little doubt that the willingness of the state to experiment with such frameworks of federalism and decentralized governance has played a significant role both in meeting minority aspirations and minimizing ethnic discord. Linguistic communities and tribal populations, particularly when they are concentrated in a given region, enjoy some political rights. These rights have promoted diversity while simultaneously deepening democracy. 62


December 2012

criticism But there is some complexity in the accommodation of cultural diversity. The complex framework India has used for accommodating different kinds of diversity can be summarized briefly as follows. Religious communities enjoy extensive cultural rights but no separate political rights. Identified linguistic communities enjoy cultural rights as well political rights. In many regions they form the federal units which have some degree of political autonomy to govern themselves. Tribal communities, particularly in the Hill regions, have special cultural rights, political rights of separate representation and the right to govern themselves. There is a lingering mistrust, or liberal anxiety, about granting political rights to religious communities. In any case, most religious communities are scattered throughout the country. Linguistic communities and tribal populations, particularly when they are concentrated in a given region, enjoy some political rights. These rights have promoted diversity while simultaneously deepening democracy. Past five decades experience has underlined the need to accommodate cultural diversities in the public arena. But the path India has pursued has also drawn attention to the problems that we may confront in realizing this goal of accommodation. The cumulative experience has yielded some valuable lessons that we should reflect upon as we confront issues of peaceful coexistence in democratic politics today. The common tendency when addressing questions of cultural diversity is to treat given communities as near-natural groups, with clearly identified boundaries that demarcate them from other communities. Similarly, when we speak of cultural diversity, it is usually assumed that the communities to be accommodated are empirically given and there is little room for dispute there. These are assumption in the contemporary discourse on cultural diversity that must be scrutinized and interrogated. India has cultural diversity in the sphere of religion language and culture. Each kind of diversity, whether of religion, language or tribe, has been subject to construction, both by the state and by the agents themselves. Through its practices of enumeration and codification, the state has created categories that form the basis of recognized diversity today. The Hindi language includes within it several dialectics and related languages, such as Bhojpuri and Maithli. In the case of personal laws, too, the Hindu community includes Sikhs and Buddhists also while these communities see themselves as distinct religious groups. The state is not the only actor here. Identities have at times also been constructed and reconstructed by the agents themselves. The Nagas, for instance, have created an identity for themselves by forging together and bringing into one fold seven different tribes. Examples of this can easily be multiplied. The relevant point is that identities that exist and which are seeking equal space in the public arena are far from natural entities. We need to approach the issue of coexistence and accommodation by taking note of this, and recognizing that issues of identity cannot be settled by merely referring to history or the original position. The need of present time is political – normative and institutional solutions that take note of communities and identities as they exist and accept their claims and requirements. It cannot be said that India has not taken any step in the solution of these questions of cultural diversity. Over the past 55 years India has moved in this direction, albeit with some initial 63


December 2012

criticism reluctance. The problem that persists is that, in a country where there are more than 100 languages in use, it is almost impossible to give equal status and recognition to all languages. Hence, which language receives official status or a territorial jurisdiction of its own has been subject to political construction. It is communities with a greater degree of political and economic power that have succeeded in obtaining recognition. So far, no tribal language has been given the status of an official language, even though some of them have more than 1 million users. Likewise, recognition has taken many different forms. Not all languages that are recognized in the Eighth Schedule of the constitution have a demarcated territory. While languages that have what may be called a ‘home state’ have consolidated and flourished, the status of languages that have been recognized but have no corresponding state is dependent primarily upon the rights granted to internal minorities within a region. There is a need for various supplementary policies, eventually, if diversities have to be nurtured. Formal recognition must be buttressed with such policies as second-language status, the option to receive education and official information in the language of the minority, and the facility to address the authorities in one’s own language. In India, space for diversity has been appropriately made in the constitutional and legal structure, but policy measures needed to back that structure have often fallen short of expectations. The constitution, for instance, provides that in areas where a minority community constitutes more than 30 per cent of the population, education should also be provided in the language of that minority. But this provision has not always been implemented; in some cases second-language status has not been accorded to the language of the minority for long periods of time. Hence, the task of protecting diversity is more complex and challenging than meets the eye. In the first instance, formal recognition for the languages of the minorities is itself contested within the nation state. Even when this hurdle is overcome, a web of policies is needed to ensure that formal status translates into actual reality on the ground. This is not always easy and is dependent upon the will of the political party in power and the extent of mobilization on the issue. Sustained commitment along with innovation and bold initiatives is required to accommodate diversity. But internal minorities have sustained themselves and linguistic diversity has been nurtured in India even when the Government has done little. This has been possible because minority communities, both religious and linguistic, have the right to establish and administer their own institutions. There are today a growing number of minority institutions using their own language as the medium of instruction. This has helped to provide options for minorities within the region as well as the general population. At one level, it appears that the general framework India has used to accommodate different kinds of diversity can have wide applicability. Linguistic diversity is formally recognized and brought into the public arena; specific linguistic communities have also been transformed into regional majorities through the territorial re-organization of state boundaries. Hence, many more citizens have the option of receiving education and competing for public jobs in their mother tongue. Similarly religious diversity is duly acknowledged and communities enjoy considerable 64


December 2012

criticism religious liberty; and the diversity of tribal ways of life is also acknowledged. Yet, even as we take note of this, it is necessary to add that accommodation of diversity can take many different forms. What is the appropriate form for a particular country depends on a number of co-existing conditions, the most important being the history of the nation state and the relationship between the state and the community in question. Whether religious communities are to be accommodated with some special political rights, and whether linguistic communities are to be granted special cultural rights but no corresponding jurisdiction in a given territory, are matters on which the decision taken needs to be context-based. The debate on multiculturalism has also considered the relation between multiculturalism and the Indian nation-state. Many scholars have tended to use the concept as a point of departure for reexamining and reassessing the relations between minorities and the Indian state. Post-modernist multiculturalism, positions itself outside or across national boundaries. Critical multiculturalism raises questions about the structures of power as well as the very need to add multiculturalism to the democratic project. But none of the above models of multi-culturalism applies to the Indian case because none can come to grips with the diversity of the Indian subcontinent, which does not quite conform to a multi-ethnic state. At the same time, the rise of multiculturalism has meant the end of the “grand vision” of the culturally homogeneous nation-state, of national integration. While it is true that multiculturalism has posed a challenge to the uncritical and arrogant ideas of homogenisation and national integration around the world, it is doubtful whether the problem can be seen in such absolutely binary terms. In many countries, multiculturalism has been taken as a corrective to the excesses of the one-sided nation-building process that has tended to privilege the majority and to marginalise the minorities. The Indian nation-state project has been heavily influenced by a Brahmanical and uncomfortable oppressive content. As far as the rise of the Dalit (backward caste) movements in India since the 1970s, is concerned despite decades of so called economic development and progress, the social status of the Dalits has not changed for the better. The elite vision of ‘national culture’, she concludes, has increasingly marginalised minority groups. So far the Indian debate around multiculturalism has remained sociological and normative. It has raised questions about the place of minorities in the nation-state, and the vexed issue of community identities. In so doing, it has highlighted the structural limitations of the nation-state project in India and its implicit ‘ethnic bias’ — ‘ethnic’ content of democracy. But the debate has generally failed to address the key question identified at the beginning: what is the secret of India’s unity and integrity, its diversity and complexity notwithstanding? Even though the exact nature of India’s “national” identity may be suspected, the boundaries of the political community blurred – and often empirically untenable – but what is beyond dispute is that India has been relatively successful in resisting disintegration. This is largely a political question, which essentially involves a political recognition of identity. Ultimately this calls for an examination of the political institutional arrangements for the protection and maintenance of identity.

65


December 2012

criticism What can, however, be said at the general level is that the states that are unable to formally recognize their internal diversity, and those who seek to weld a strong nation state on the basis of a single cultural identity, are increasingly faced with identity-based conflict. And, perhaps even more importantly, when such conflicts are ignored or suppressed with the might of the state, they tend to take on a more violent and intractable form. The longer and more violent the conflict is, the less will it be possible to resolve it by granting some special cultural rights. Often what is needed, is special political rights along with accommodation on the cultural and symbolic plane. The experience of India highlights two other elements that also need to be mentioned here. Multiculturalism can best flourish when there is an accompanying spirit of inter-culturalism. First, formal recognition of diversity by the state is indispensable; it can minimize the disadvantages faced by a community in the public arena and create new opportunities for it. But state policies of cultural homogenization are just one site of disadvantage and discrimination in society. Often minority communities suffer because they are stigmatized and represented negatively in the cultural history of the nation. Hence, policies seeking to promote cultural diversity need to be accompanied by a positive acknowledgement of the contribution of minority communities. Multiculturalism can best flourish when there is an accompanying spirit of interculturalism. Greater exposure and interaction between communities needs to be fostered in order to overcome negative stereotypes. If multiculturalism suggests official recognition for different languages, inter-culturalism requires that the majority be encouraged to learn the language, and with it the literature and culture of a minority, and vice versa, and that the minority be encouraged to learn about other minorities as well as the majority. The majority community sees the accommodation of diversity as ‘appeasement’ of the minority and the minority remains vulnerable and diffident, unable to contribute significantly to the public and political life of the polity. Second, the commitment to cultural diversity has been challenged very fundamentally by episodes of communal violence, where members of one community are systematically targeted by another. Even though incidents of communal violence have decreased over the years, they remain a permanent reminder of the vulnerability of the minority communities. Communal violence not only vitiates existing bonds but also generates a feeling of mistrust among communities. It thrives by systematically demonizing the ‘Other’, and this undermines even existing structures of interaction. What is strengthened, on the one hand, is intra-community rather than inter-community bonds and, on the other, a traditional and more orthodox leadership, which is more insular and hostile to the expression of differences within the community. The paradox then is that, while cultural diversity finds space in the public arena, inter-cultural 66


December 2012

criticism dialogue and interactions have diminished. The majority community sees the accommodation of diversity as ‘appeasement’ of the minority and the minority remains vulnerable and diffident, unable to contribute significantly to the public and political life of the polity. The point that must be emphasized here is that policies that promote cultural diversity are not in themselves sufficient to check communal violence. Ignorance about the other certainly provides a fertile ground for breeding sentiments of hatred and animosity. But the presence of diversity in the public arena is not a sufficient deterrent against systematic victimization of the other. In situations of communal violence, what victims require is strong and quick action by the state to protect the life and property of the targeted community while simultaneously punishing the guilty. In seeking this, the victims are not asking for special treatment; rather they wish to be treated like any other citizens. They want their basic rights as citizens to be protected. Communal violence suggests that they are not being treated like others; they are being singled out on account of their identity. In sharp contrast to this, to protect cultural diversity, sameness is deemphasized. The reference usually is to the predicament and special needs of a minority community. The latter seeks recognition for the difference it embodies. Peaceful coexistence of different communities therefore requires both a vigorous defense of the basic rights of individuals as citizens and an institutional and normative framework that acknowledges and values diverse ways of life. The latter often entails special consideration for members of a community, in the form of exemptions from existing legal codes or recognition for specific cultural institutions and practices. In other words, it is not an either/or situation. If individual rights by themselves provide little protection against forces of cultural homogenization, then accommodating diversity through special consideration for vulnerable groups also neglects the primary concerns of individuals as citizens. It is only when both sets of concerns are suitably addressed that democracy is deepened and multicultural polities are nurtured and made more sustainable. References: 1. Harrison, S. India: ‘The Most Dangerous Decades’, Princeton University Press: Princeton. 1960. 2. Larson, G. James (ed.), ‘Religion and Personal Law in Secular India: A Call to Judgement’,Social Science Press. New Delhi. 2001. 3. Mahajan, Gurupreet. ‘Identities and Rights: Aspects of Liberal Democracy in India’, Oxford University Press, New Delhi. 1998. 4. Nehru, Jawaharlal. ‘India Today and Tomorrow’. Indian Council For Cultural Relation: New Delhi. 1959. 5. Pandharipande, R.V. ‘Minority matters: Issues in minority languages in India’ International Journal on Multicultural Societies 4(2), 2002. 67


December 2012

criticism 6. Sharma, S.C. ‘Communal Harmony, the Constitution and Indian Working Class’, in Grover, V. / Arora, R. (eds). Development of politics and Government of India, Vol. 10. Deep and Deep: New Delhi.1994.

Dr. Dipti Gupta is an Assistant Professor in Professional communication subject with Anand Engineering College Agra, U.P. and has been awarded Ph.D. from Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University Agra, U.P. India in 2007.

68


December 2012

arts 13.

LANDSCAPES BY JEAN-ACHILLE BENOUVILLE

Jean-Achille Benouville (July 1815 – February 1891) was a French painter widely known for his Italian landscapes.

Colosseum

69


December 2012

arts

Capri

70


December 2012

arts

Paysage d'Italie

71


December 2012

arts

A Roman Villa

72


December 2012

preview of an anthology 14.

SHAHANA ROY

Ashalata’s Last Note Introduction: Drops of the Ocean is a collection of fifteen short stories about childhood. Through the ages of 3 to 17, the children in these stories, like all of us, go through some of the most definitive experiences of their lives. Ashalata’s Last Note is one of such stories taken from the anthology written by Shahana Roy. I turn fifty today. Wonder if Akhil or Pushpa will remember; and bring me something nice to eat. My door is kept locked from outside. The only time I go out is for my monthly visit to the doctor. My poor, suffering Akhil. I cannot really blame him for launching his tirades at me; blaming me for everything: failed exams, failed jobs, failed marriage, failed investments; but I just can’t stand his whining! Nowadays when he starts off, I just start singing to myself. ‘Mad, how can one talk to someone who is mad’ – he sighs and leaves me in peace. At least he doesn’t pay for me. Mad or not, I know I have my own money; and my own house. Mad or not, I can sign a check well enough. But I am not allowed to drive any more. Akhil has taken my car. He drives me to the doctor and to the bank. For the rest, old Pushpa takes care of my household. She gives me a bath, feeds me with a spoon, tidies up the mess of papers in my room each morning. Akhil has told her to keep a watch over me; see that I don’t try to take my life. How strange, I think, when he would be the most relieved to see me go! But mad or not, I am not going yet. I still have so much to write! I now write the old – fashioned way with pen and paper. Since the day I flew into a fit and threw the computer on the floor smashing it to bits, I do not have a single electric gadget in my room. Akhil took away the phone, the printer, the TV, the music system. A few days later I had the fan, lamp and tube lights in my room dismantled; told Akhil to might as well take it all. I work by candlelight. Akhil says the room is as hot as a furnace. I never notice. Akhil decided to keep me locked, ever since the day when I had walked out of the house and started walking. Towards Bandra. I suddenly wanted to go to Bandra. After twenty minutes I was tired and sat down on the pavement. This is where Akhil had found me. Pushpa got an earful from him. That was the last time I ever went out alone. Two years ago. Or was it three? But I am not mad. Do all mad people keep saying that? How can I be mad? Yes, it’s true I don’t remember where Akhil works, or his ex – wife’s name, or to wipe my mouth after eating, but that’s because I am thinking, always busy, so busy thinking....my pen cannot keep up with my mind...my hand shakes...I lie down. 73


December 2012

preview of an anthology I remember every single detail of my life – right down to the time when I was only three. It is said that we don’t carry memories of our childhood before the age of four or five; yet I distinctly remember my third birthday. Kheer and mangoes. This very house, our tiny one bedroom flat in Wadala. Ma and Nani crooning to me. And then He came. To me, He looked like God. Tall, dark, dressed in spotless whites, with well-combed hair and such a handsome face; with just a hint of a double chin and pot-belly. Quite like the photo of Krishna in our kitchen. He glanced at me, that’s all. He lived not very far away; in Bandra. His mansion is called ‘Abhivyakti’. I used to pass by it every now and then when I was older; often taking a detour to pass by it. But on that day, my third birthday, I did not really know who He was. Not until he started shouting at Ma, Nani. Many words I did not understand. Ma was sobbing. Where would they go? And why? After all those promises? Voices getting louder. Nani getting hysterical. His storming out in a rage. Kheer forgotten. Brusquely told to go to sleep, even though I had just woken up a little while ago. After that, it seemed that He was always present in my life. In my school, the older girls would point and stare at me and then whisper His name. Ma changed my school three times. I studied in kindergarten till I was six.... But I never dared to ask Ma about Him; I was too afraid to learn the truth. You see, till that time I didn’t know that everyone was supposed to have a father. Ma was a dance extra, worked in many hit films. I always shut my eyes when she came on screen behind the heroine because I can’t bear her pasted smile, the loud makeup, the gaudy dress, so different from how she was at home. Like hundreds of others, Ma had run away from home to Bombay when she was sixteen to act in movies. To me, she was the most beautiful woman in the world, but only when she wore her simple cotton saree and I could see her face freshly scrubbed, and smell the shikakai in her long tresses. Never when she danced on screen. At some point she had got acquainted with Him. He promised her the world. Took her to meet directors and producers. Bought her pretty trinkets. Vowed his life for her. Then I was born.. Things started unravelling; a wife and two daughters surfaced; media started sniffing...it was a scandal He could ill afford. Ma reconciled with her widowed mother who agreed to come to Mumbai to take care of me. Her hopes of getting a lead role were dashed. The directors who fawned on her when He was around now told her she didn’t have the right looks. Truth was, single mother as a heroine of a Hindi movie? It was preposterous! How did I learn all this, you wonder. One bitter truth at a time, gleaned here from Page 3 gossip, there from a careless word dropped by Nani. I loved going to school. I loved to scribble from an early age, I quickly learnt the alphabet. Soon I was going around the house, pencil in hand, scribbling on the walls, the floor, every surface I could find. As I grew older, I wanted to read, and write, more and more. We didn’t have much money; so I never had any story books. But I would devour the stories Nani would tell, about princes and kings and talking animals.

74


December 2012

preview of an anthology He still would come every now and then. He never noticed me; I would always be sent down to the park with Nani while He was there. These visits always would end in a fight. I would know by the look on Ma’s face or her red eyes. She would talk to no one for several hours after he had left; then Nani would quietly give her a cup of tea, stroke her hair and gossip about our neighbours long enough for Ma to calm down. Somehow, I felt it was all my fault. Had I not been born, maybe He would have taken care of Ma? I was about twelve when He entered politics. We would see him on TV with his wife, dressed in white khadi, garlanded in marigold, riding in jeeps and bowing and smiling to people. He stopped coming to our house completely. It was during this time that Ma became ill; very weak. She could not go to work for days. She tried contacting Him but His PA refused to even recognise her; although he had come to our house many times. We started eating only one meal a day. I still remember the perpetual hollowness in my belly. Nani would give me some dry poha at night. I finally had to quit school. Nani dressed me in my one good frock and took me to meet a producer Ma used to work for. Begged him with tears in her eyes. He yawned. I think that was the day, that was the exact day, that something broke in my soul; a scar that would never heal. I started working as a dance extra. I would wear heavy makeup and high heels to look older. Thankfully I was tall for my age and had long hair that I had styled. Nani would stuff my chest with cotton to make my breasts look bigger. Three, four shifts a day. Medicines for Ma, and for Nani as well now. But still at night, I wrote, I had too. I borrowed old newspapers and magazines from neighbours and taught myself newer words, better grammar. One day, I saw an advertisement for a story writing contest. I sent my story and won the first prize. To this day, after so many awards and recognitions, that little certificate is still my proudest possession. Because that would be the only award of mine Ma and Nani would ever see. I showed the certificate to Ma. The look in her eyes, the smile on her face made her more beautiful than ever. ‘Ashu...I feel...I feel like I am in heaven today. I am so happy!’ and true enough, she chose that very day to go to heaven. She was barely thirty five. Nani left soon after, more of a broken heart than a broken body. I was sixteen years old and alone in the world. One day I got a chance to dance in a movie which starred Him. After losing the Assembly elections he had returned to movies; and wore a wig, dark glasses and dyed moustache to look young. There had been quite a lot of speculations about His several affairs and illegitimate children. He denied them all strenuously, swearing on the lives of His children. So there I was, dressed in an orange lehenga, dancing to the loud music. He was dressed in an orange suit; serenading to His lady love. The dance director shouted at me, “Hey you! Where are you staring! Look in the camera! And smile, for God’s sake!’ I snapped. Even as the cameras were rolling, I screamed at the top of my voice and ran out of the studios leaving everybody stunned. I don’t think He saw my face. ‘Just another attention – seeker’ the director must have told Him apologetically. 75


December 2012

preview of an anthology I never returned to the studios. I stayed in my apartment which thankfully Ma had paid for fully; and wrote and wrote. I never wrote about my own life. I made up children’s stories about princesses and astronauts and magicians and adventurists like Nani used to. And then, I started on my first novel. It won several prizes. Then another. I started travelling to different cities, villages, countries; and wrote about them all. I started making some money; that brought friends. Arun was a journalist. He was kind, gentle, friendly...I could feel my nerves relaxing in his company. I would lie with my head in his lap, reading aloud my story and he would listen with eyes closed; music would be playing. It was a court marriage. Arun’s family boycotted; my family didn’t exist. I had told Arun that both my parents had passed away a long time ago. Akhil was born; life was so sweet that I was terrified of it all being taken away from me. Till my success as a writer became too much for Arun’s ego. The media which adulated me also started digging dirt about me. Arun confronted me and I told him about Him. He used that as an excuse and then started a whole era of daily humiliations, insults. Money squabbles followed. He started drinking more and more. His mother to this day, accounts his death due to cirrhosis of liver to me. I moved back with Akhil to Ma’s house in Wadala. I was once again sought after in parties – the glamorous, rich, critically acclaimed and single – once – more writer Ashalata; only twenty eight years old! I was never interested in any man again. I was going fast beyond the realm of caring, about anything. If I published my stories now, it was only for Akhil. I couldn’t bear the thought of him not getting proper education. Although Akhil hated studies. Despite all my efforts, he was a laggard in school. He never read anything I wrote. Then in one party, I was introduced to Him. He was fifty – six; exactly twice my age. He had no clue who I was. He smiled and chatted to me. His eyes took a long look all over my body. I felt raped twice over. He invited me to dinner. I dropped my glass; my hands were trembling so much; and walked out. I stopped going to parties and award ceremonies. Akhil dropped out after one year in college; got a job as a sales executive and moved out. I stopped publishing. I never stopped writing but I never sent anything to be published; despite repeated requests. The royalties of my books were enough for me and Pushpa’s salary. Of course, I had nothing more to offer to Akhil. Akhil moved out five years ago. He has just gone through a painful, and expensive divorce last year. Six months ago He died of pulmonary failure at the age of seventy – seven. The President, PM, and hundreds of others wrote elegies. He was, apparently ‘a great soul, whose purity shone through in his acting and in his social work’. I stared outside my window the whole day; feeling numb. I felt neither sorrow nor joy. I cut his obituaries into tiny shreds with a pair of scissors. Akhil has told Pushpa that scissors are dangerous for me and has had them taken away. Well...happy birthday to me. I close my eyes and make the same wish I have made every year since I was three. I wish that just for a few minutes, I were three again and Ma said, ‘Ashu – 76


December 2012

preview of an anthology meet your father’; then I would rush into his arms and he would kiss me on the cheek, and I could say, ‘Baba’, just once. Just for a few minutes, to be three again. Ah! The baby next door is crying. It’s hungry for milk. Where the hell is his mother – can’t she hear him? The baby’s always hungry exactly at 6 in the morning; time for me to get up. Pushpa will bring my tea any minute now; today I won’t sip it with a spoon like soup, I’ll tell her. It’s my birthday, after all! Epilogue: Renowned author Ashalata Sharma passed away recently at the age of 50 in Wadala. The reclusive writer who had been ill for some years, had a cardiac arrest after accidentally spilling hot tea on herself and suffering burn injuries. She is survived by her son, Akhileshwar Sharma.

Shahana Roy is the Director, with T.I.M.E. Bhopal and Indore. She has written a collection of short stories. She can be reached at: shahana_roy@time4education.com.

77


December 2012

new book releases 15.

BOOK RELEASES

Book Title: NEWBORN SMILES Author: Ramesh Anand Category: Haiku and Free Verse Poetry Publisher: Cyberwit, Allahabad, India ISBN-10: 8182532787 ISBN-13: 978-8182532786 Published Year: 2012 Edition: Paperback - 8.3 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches Pages: 72 Price: Rs. 150/Book Title: The Street Of Mists Author: Mariam Karim Category: Fiction Publisher: Vitasta ISBN 978-81-925354-1-8 Published Year: 2012 Total Page 224(PB) Rs. 295

Book Title: My Little Boat Author: Mariam Karim Category: Fiction Publisher: Vitasta ISBN 978-93-80828-26-8 Published Year: 2012 Total Page 236 (PB) Rs. 295

78


December 2012

new book releases Book Title: KEYS IN THE RIVER – Notes from a modern Chimurenga Author: Tendai Mwanaka Category: Fiction Publisher: Savant Books And Publications ISBN: 978-0985250621 Published Year: August 2012 Pages: 252 Edition: 8 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches Pocketbook Price: $16.95 Book Title: THE YELLOW NIB Author: Multiple Editor: Sudeep Sen Category: Poetry Publisher: Queen’s University Belfast ISBN: Published Year: August 2012

Book Title: THE REVOLUTION AND OTHER STORIES Author: Vinay Capila Category: Story Anthology Publisher: Angus and Graphers Publishers Pvt. Ltd. ISBN: 978-93-80254-05-0 Published Year: 2012 Pages: 293 Edition: Paper Back

Price: $8.99/£5.65

79


December 2012

new book releases Book Title: MACHIAVELLI FOR MORAL PEOPLE Author Pavan Choudary Category: Politics/Management/Self-help Publisher: Wisdom Village Publications ISBN: 978938070112

ISBN: 9789380710303 Published Year: Pages: 150 Edition: (paperback) / MRP Rs. 125/. (Hardback) /MRP Rs. 175/. Book Title: THE ARTIST AS MYSTIC Author: Alex Stein Category: Criticism Publisher: Onesuch Press, London. ISBN: 9780 9872760-4-9 Published Year: 2010

Book Title: MAKING A POEM Author: Vihang A. Naik Category: Criticism Publisher: Allied Publishers Limited, Mumbai, India. ISBN: 81 - 7764 - 584 – 6 Published Year: 2004 Edition: Hardbound

80


December 2012

new book releases Book Title: LOST IN SEATTLE Author: Bruce Louis Dodson Category: Fiction Publisher: Shiva Delivers (May 6, 2012) Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc. ASIN: B00819TZVM Published Year: 2012 Pages: 345 Edition: Digital (Amazon) Book Title: IN THE HIMALAYAN NIGHTS Author: Anoop Chandola Category: Fiction Publisher: Savant Books and Publications, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA. ISBN 978-0-9829987-0-0 Published Year: March 2012 Pages: 286 Edition: Pocketbook - 6" x 9" Price $16.95.

81


December 2012

editor’s talk CLRI December 2012 brings out a fine collection of poems, stories, criticism, a book preview, and book releases. We have cleared all the entries submitted till July 2012. We have communicated to all the writers whose materials have been either selected or rejected. If I missed out any, please note that those who submitted till July 2012 have been read and those that have not been selected stand rejected. Please do not submit the same entries later. Each month we receive huge submission and it is our endeavor to include as many pieces as possible. However we run out at the border of our limitation. This month the selection was about 55% of all the entries submitted. To ensure we expose more writers we have made a slight change in our selection process. We make a long list of the entries and then we finalize the list. Some may get the notice that their materials have been provisionally selected but until the issue is finalized, any material may be rejected at a later stage. We have reading cycle each month for each issue. We read the materials according to the dates they are submitted, so we cannot make a decision until we work on the current reading cycle. It takes about 4-6 months for poetry entries and 3-4 months for other categories to turn up for the current reading cycle. Also we notify to all the writers when we decide on the entries. Hence please do not bother until you get the notification, your material may be on the table before an editor. However if it is more than six months since you submitted, please inquire with us. We believe good comments keep us moving and bad comments keep us improving. Always share you views on our issues and topics whether good or bad. We believe good comments keep us moving and bad comments keep us improving. The philanthropists, P Gopichand and P Nagashushila at JKC College, Guntur, Andhra Pradesh have been organizing poetry festival of international level for the last five years where writers and poets from around the world come to read out their poems to the audience. This year the festival will run for two days from 12-13 December 2012. Meet me there on the first day. Cheers!

82


December 2012

editor’s talk

To enquire for placing ads, contact us at: contemporaryliteraryreview@yahoo.com

Subscribe to Contemporary Literary Review India — journal that brings articulate writings for articulate readers.

CLRI is published online per month, in digital versions occasionally, and in print edition (planned to be quarterly). Its print edition has ISSN 2250-3366. Subscribe to our CLRI online edition. Our subscribers receive CLRI digital copies directly into their Inbox, get print copies free of cost whenever they come out during the subscription period, and are waived off any reading fee towards our print editions. You can become our subscribers any time you prefer.

83

CLRIDec12  

CLRI December 2012 brings a fine collection of an editorial by Khurshid Alam, POEMS by LING HOI CHING BELLE, Neelashi Shukla, Souradeep Roy,...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you