Vol.1, No.1 February 2013
LAKEVIEW International Journal of Literature and Arts
Sacred Heart College, Thevara
LAKEVIEW International Journal of Literature and Arts Vol.1, No.1 February 2013
Sacred Heart College, Thevara
Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Vol.1, No.1 February 2013 Published by Writers’ Forum Sacred Heart College Thevara, Kochi, India Only the copyright for this collection is reserved with the editors of Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts. Individual copyright for artwork, prose, poetry, fiction and extracts of novels and other volumes published in this issue of the magazine rests solely with the authors. The magazine does not claim any of those for its own. No part of this publication may be copied without express written permission from the copyright holders in each case. The magazine is freely circulated on the World Wide Web. It may not be sold or hired out in its digital form to anybody by any agency whatsoever. All disputes are subject to jurisdiction of the courts of the Republic of India. © Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, 2013 Cover Art – Mariam Henna Cover Photo – “Looking Through The Glass” by Collins Justine Peter Page Settings – Mariam Henna Editorial Board – Jose Varghese, Aravind R Nair, Mariam Henna, Collins Justine Peter, Alan Summers, Bill Ashcroft, George Szirtes, Mel Ulm, Rana Nayar, Sanjukta Dasgupta, Sudeep Sen
Editorial It seems a writer’s profession is no more a lonely one. There is even an element of glamour attached to it these days, for the right or wrong reasons, thanks to the huge royalties, sensational book-launch events and the ubiquitous literary festivals where writers become objects of worship. However, it still calls for extended hours of lonely reflection and unique insights from life experiences to create a good work of literature/art. The Writers’ Forum of Sacred Heart College has always been searching for the quiet, introspective creatures who could someday become writers known around the world. We have creative writing workshops, informal reading sessions and interactions with visiting writers. We run the college blog ‘Heart-Bytes’, which features the creative works of our members and anyone who wants to share the Heartian creative spirit. And we have occasional creative writing contests that draw in response from across the world. The idea to have an international journal of literature and arts has thus been a natural outcome of our efforts. I am indebted to all the members of our eminent Advisory Board, who were glad to join us in our effort to feature worldclass works of literature/arts along with the humble works of our emerging writers/artists. A word of gratitude to Hanif Kureishi, who has given us the consent to republish his story “Weddings and Beheadings”, and all the nationally and internationally acclaimed writers for giving us their original work. I thank all the participants of our creative writing contests for giving us an opportunity to choose from their brilliant work. Writers’ Forum members have worked day and night to make this journal a reality. Aravind R Nair, our Associate Editor, and Mariam Henna and Collins Justine Peter, our Student Editors, have put in a lot of effort to make the first edition of Lakeview a grand affair. Mariam has doubled as a cover-art and lay-out designer as well, and I must mention that her work is impeccable. We look forward to bigger, better editions of Lakeview in the coming years, and wish you happy reading as we take a little break before accepting submissions for the next issue. Jose Varghese February 2013
In This Issue Sudeep Sen (Poetry) Kargil Winter Banyan Hanif Kureishi (Short Fiction) Weddings and Beheadings
1-2 3 4
George Szirtes (Poetry) The Voices
Bijay Biswaal Paintings
K. Satchidanandan (Poetry) Beginnings Shauna Gilligan (Short Fiction) In Three Days
Balbir Krishan Paintings
Rana Nayar (Poetry) A boy who turned his back on the world A Song for an Unknown Daughter My father died twice Kirpal Gordon (Short Fiction) Go Ride the Music
Sofiul Azam (Poetry) Time and Memories
Mike Keville Photography
Mohammad Zahid Photography
34 35 35
Gerrard Williams (Poetry) For Mr. Jo
Alan Summers (Essay) The G-force of Blue| Touching Base with Gendai haiku
Indran Amirthanayagam (Poetry) After The Will Rimbaud (From the End Chronicles) Infinitive
Prathap Kamath (Short Fiction) Jacoba Came to COnquer
Meena Alexander (Poetry) At the Shrine of St.Naum Gotland Lilac
52 53-54 54-56
80 81-82 82
Ananya S Guha (Short Fiction) School
Sunandan Roy Chowdhury (Poetry) My Republican Hero Arab Evening Malini’s Marigolds
85 86 86
Sethu John Paintings
Ananya S Guha (Poetry) Doorsteps Ode Saturdays
89 90 90-91
Antonio Casella An extract from the novel: An Olive Branch for Sante Mohammad Zahid (Poetry) The Voice of Silence Jude Lopez (Short Fiction) In a land of broken promises A Drop of Liquid Hope The City of Lights Abdul Saleem Paintings Michelle D’ Costa (Short Fiction) The Midnight Act
Naina Dey (Poetry) Solitude Shantipura Kulpreet Yadav (Short Fiction) Mr.Pain and my ex girlfriend
Glenn Andrew Barr (Poetry) Blood-Sitter
Hari Krishnan Paintings
Aishwarya K R (Poetry) Heading for the Hills
A.V Koshy (Short Fiction) The Scarecrow
Archana Kurup (Poetry) Silver Recollections
Nepa Noyal Tharappel Photography
Minu Varghese (Poetry) Angst
Barry Charman (Short Fiction) Roots
98-103 103-104 104-105
Rosemary Tom (Poetry) The Final Flight Airy Hope
Maria Issac Paintings
Mariam Henna (Poetry) Tears of the Fallen Bird Markus Sailer (Short Fiction) Violet Beach
Nepa Noyal Tharappel (Poetry) Bride
Krishna Girish Photography
Jesto Thankachan (Poetry) A Legless Soldier Talks to a Pair of Boots
Collins Justine Peter (Short Fiction) Pilgrimage
Aswin Prakash (Poetry) Sky Smiles
Mariam Henna (Short Fiction) Caged Dreams True Abode
Silpa Sajan (Poetry) The Dead Red Rose
Kalpana N.S Paintings
Abhijith I.S (Poetry) Running to Paradise Just a Dream
Vessislava Liubomirova (Short Fiction) Freezing Heat
Jose Varghese (Interview) with Michelle Cohen Corasanti, author of The Almond Tree
Reshma G.S (Poetry) The Eternal Love
List of Contributors
C.S Jayaram Paintings
Kargil Ten years on, I came searching for war signs of the past expecting remnants — magazine debris, unexploded shells, shrapnels that mark bomb wounds. I came looking for
ghosts — people past, skeletons charred, abandoned brick-wood-cement that once housed them. I could only find whispers — whispers among the clamour of a small town outpost in full throttle — everyday chores sketching outward signs of normalcy and life. In that bustle I spot war-lines of a decade ago — though the storylines are kept buried, wrapped in old newsprint. There is order amid uneasiness — the muezzin’s cry, the monk’s chant — baritones merging in their separateness.
At the bus station black coughs of exhaust smoke-screens everything. The roads meet and after the crossroad ritual diverge, skating along the undotted lines of control. A porous garland with cracked beads adorns Tiger Hill. Beyond the mountains are dark memories, and beyond them no one knows, and beyond them no one wants to know. Even the flight of birds that wing over their crests donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know which feathers to down. Chameleon-like they fly, tracing perfect parabolas. I look up and calculate their exact arc and find instead, a flawed theorem.
Winter Couched on crimson cushions, pink bleeds gold and red spills into one’s heart. Broad leather keeps time, calibrating different hours in different zones unaware of the grammar that makes sense. Only random woofs and snores of two distant dogs on a very cold night clears fog that is unresolved. New plants wait for new heat — to grow, to mature. An old cane recliner contains poetry for peace — woven text keeping comfort in place. But it is the impatience of want that keeps equations unsolved. Heavy, translucent, vaporous, split red by mother tongues — winter’s breath is pink.
Banyan For Jane Draycott As winter secrets melt
for a calligrapher’s nib
with the purple sun,
italicised in invisible ink,
what is revealed is electric —
letters never posted,
notes tune unknown scales,
cartographer’s map, uncharted —
syntax alters tongues,
as phrases fold so do veils.
terracotta melts white, banyan ribbons into armatures as branch-roots twist, meeting soil in a circle. Circuits glazed under cloth carry alphabets
Weddings and Beheadings I have gathered the equipment together and now I am waiting for them to arrive. They will not be long; they never are. You don't know me personally. My existence has never crossed your mind. But I would bet you've seen my work: it has been broadcast everywhere, on most of the news channels worldwide. Or at least parts of it have. You could find it on the Internet, right now, if you really wanted to. If you could bear to look. Not that you'd notice my style, my artistic signature, or anything like that. I film beheadings, which are common in this war-broken city, my childhood home. It was never my ambition, as a young man who loved cinema, to film such things. Nor was it my wish to do weddings either, though there are fewer of those these days. Ditto graduations and parties. My friends and I have always wanted to make real films, with living actors and dialogue and jokes and music, as we began to do as students. Nothing like that is possible anymore. Every day we are aging, we feel shabby. The stories are there, waiting to be told; we're artists. But this stuff, the death work, it has taken over. We were recommended to this kind of employment; we can't not do it, we can't say we're visiting relatives or working in the cutting room. They call us up with little notice at odd hours, usually at night, and minutes later they are outside with their guns. They put us in the car and cover our heads. There's only one of us working at a time, so the thugs help with carrying the gear. But we have to do the sound as well as the picture, and load the camera and work out how to light the scene. I've asked to use an assistant, yet they only offer their rough accomplices, who know nothing, who can't even wipe a lens without making a mess of it. I know three other guys who do this work; we discuss it amongst ourselves, but we'd never talk to anyone else or we'd end up in front of the camera. Until recently, my closest friend filmed beheadings, however he’s not a director, only a writer,
really. I wouldn't trust him with a camera. He isn't too sure about the technical stuff, how to set up the equipment, and then how to get the material through the computer and onto the Internet. It's a skill, obviously. He was the one who had the idea of getting calling cards inscribed with WEDDINGS AND BEHEADINGS. If the power's on, we meet in his flat to watch movies on video. When we part, he jokes, "Don't bury your head in the sand, my friend. Don't go losing your head now. Chin up!" A couple of weeks ago he messed up badly. The cameras are good quality, they're taken from foreign journalists, but a bulb blew in the one light he was using, and he couldn't replace it. By then they had brought the victim in. My friend tried to tell the men, "It's too dark, it's not going to come out and you can't do another take." But they were in a hurry; he couldn't persuade them to wait—they were already hacking through the neck—and he was in such a panic he fainted. Luckily the camera was running. It came out underlit, of course—what did they expect? I liked it—Lynchian, I called it; but they hit him around the head and never used him again. He was lucky. But I wonder if he's going mad. Secretly he kept copies of his beheadings, and now he plays around with them on his computer, cutting and recutting them, putting them to music, swing stuff, opera, jazz, comic songs. Perhaps it's the only freedom he has. It might surprise you, but we do get paid; they always give us something for the trouble. They even make jokes: "You'll get a prize for the next one. Don't you guys love prizes and statuettes and stuff?" It's all hellish, the long drive there with the camera and tripod on your lap, the smell of the sack, the guns, and you wonder if this time you might be the victim. Usually you're sick, and then you're in the building, in the room, setting up, and you hear things from other rooms that make you wonder if life on earth is a good idea. I know you don’t want too much detail, but it’s serious work taking off someone’s head if you’re not a butcher; and these guys aren’t qualified, they’re just enthusiastic—it’s what they like to do. To make the shot work, it helps to get a clear view of the victim’s eyes just before they’re covered. At the end the
guys hold up the head streaming with blood, and you might need to use some handheld here, to catch everything. The shot must be framed carefully. It wouldn't be good if you missed something. Ideally you should have a quick-release tripod head, something I have and would never lend to anyone. They cheer and fire off rounds while you're checking the tape and playing it back. Afterward, they put the body in a bag and dump it somewhere, before they drive you to another place, where you transfer the material to the computer and send it out. Often I wonder what this is doing to me. I think of war photographers, who use the lens to distance themselves from the reality of suffering and death. But those guys have elected to do that work, they believe in it. We are innocent. One day I'd like to make a proper film, maybe beginning with a beheading, telling the story that leads up to it. It's the living I'm interested in, but the way things are going I'll be doing this for a while. Sometimes I wonder if I'm going to go mad, or whether even that escape is denied me. I'd better go now. Someone is at the door. (Published earlier in Zoetrope All-Story, Volume 10, Number 4.)
The Voices One voice was picking itself off the floor, another was ringing bells at the front door, a third was shouting nonsense. There were more. The voice of the old woman on the stairs, the voice of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, the voice of the man minding his own affairs. The voice that held itself like a frail glass, the voices on the train that we watched pass, the breaking voice at the back of the class. It was the night. A crowd of voices. Streets with dogs and poor, the barks and brays and bleats, reiterations, cries, endless repeats. We heard the voices speaking very low, familiar voices that we didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know, the voice that stuck, the voice that once let go. Let go, the voice said. Letting go is best. Stray lines, the overheard, the voice addressed, and so into the night with all the rest.
Bijay Biswaal Rockstar
Acrylic on board - 24 x 18 inch
Acrylic on canvas - 60x36 inch Mother Earth is predominantly blue in color - the color that symbolizes the infinity of the sky, boundlessness of air and the bottomlessness of the deep blue sea. Through her encompassing and forgiving nature, she creates, nurtures and sustains life. Can we afford to take her for granted? I wonder.
Acrylic on Canvas - 14x20 inch A quick study on the mad rush for a seat in the general compartment. Location: Railway platform in Gondia, Maharashtra
Acrylic on canvas - 29X22 inch Wanted to capture a wet look on the cemented platform at a sleepy railway station near Bilaspura, Bhatapara. The sky was pregnant with dark clouds and I was surprised at the wonderful result.
For U.P. Jayaraj,friend, writer ,radical, died of cancer in 1998. ‘ Can beginnings alone make a poem?’ ‘A poem is always only a beginning.’ ***** Twentyfive years ago we sat On the green school lawns holding together our hands cold with snow. Then there was fire. Five people warmed themselves in the fire and laughed; five sat around and wept. The fire killed five foes, the fire consumed five friends. As the fire went out, the snow came back. Now once again I hold your hand, your hand is cold, my hand is cold there is no fire any more 2 My flock of crows is swelling. Let me strew for you this sacrificial rice * of half-boiled words. But how do I identify you? Will one of your feathers be white?
* As a community custom, ritual rice is cooked and strewn on the courtyard in death anniversaries to feed the crows, supposed to be the dead kin.
3 The world does not end with your departure. Nor can the world that has already ended end again. But the violin leads us to stars and the rifle to death. 4 You died an infant for only infants have faith in the world 5 Watch out: enemies have started praising you. Your bones will consecrate their idols. Even an angel with its wings on fire is not as helpless as the dead. 6 When did we see the picture of that perplexed soldier, his bayonet entangled in roses? Or was it a sandal tree with an unsheathed knife? 7 We were fish of the land yet could not know our people * even as the fish know land. 8 Iron. Glass. Fire. Water. Word: what material shall I choose * Mao compares the revolutionary among the people to fish in water.
for your statue? One rusts, another breaks, others go out, dry up, fall silent… nothing of man remains. 9 Death turns us into objects. You Become a clock. To let everyone know time every moment. I hear you ticking in my room. I shall become a long sleep to be awakened by your alarm; but ring only when my dream is over. Will you then awaken me into the past, or future? ***** ‘Why do I alone survive to mourn the dead?’ ‘Once you too go there will be none even to mourn’. 1998 (Translated from the Malayalam by the poet)
In Three Days Monday Death, like birth, can be laboured and take the night to come. It came to 51 Green Lawns, at five past four in the morning. “He could have waited, you know.” “What time would have suited, Mel? Ten? Just before midnight?” “Come on, you know what I mean. We’ve been up all night and now we can’t even go to bed because we’ve got to get the papers sorted, make the phone calls....” Her voice trailed off. “We’ll just do what we did for Mammy’s funeral. A notice in The Irish Times, specify no flowers, donations to some charity and anyway, we’ve time for a little rest.” “We could go with the Independent. They’ve a bigger readership, don’t they? More people might come to the funeral, then.” “Let’s just rest, now.” The sisters, Mel and Rose, five years between them, stood, hands on hips, by the grey steel bed where their father lay dead not yet an hour. Both avoided looking directly at him, even though they’d stayed all night, each at a side of the bed, holding a hand, alternating silence with a song or a prayer. Mel was the elder, the more sensitive. She wore her black hair cropped short framing her face, with large hooped earrings in gold crowning her neck. She’d been described as a sweet child. Whatever they meant by that, she thought now. Sweet was the one thing she knew she wasn’t – she was practical, business-like. Rose was named after their mother who’d died undergoing a hysterectomy three years ago. She’d had a massive heart attack during surgery and though they’d done everything they could – don’t medics always? – she’d died. At least it was peaceful, Mel, Rose and their father John had reasoned afterwards. Rose was a nervy type, vulnerable, they said, and quite beautiful. Despite this beauty, she’d never married. She had
made love with a man, once, and wondered what the fuss was about. When he rolled her over onto her front, she thought for a split second she remembered someone saying, giggling, that only certain types of girls did it that way. But it was too late to turn around then. When he’d finished doing his thing, he’d spoken. “Rosebud,” he’d said, “you are just wonderful.” “My name is Rose,” she’d replied crisply. She told Mel to say she was out when he arrived at the door or telephoned. He gave up after two weeks and she never heard from him again. Sometimes she’d think back and smile to herself; at least she had loved, somehow. She’d become set in her ways; everything had its place and its time. It calmed her to know the order of things, to know what was next, but in the last few weeks before her father died she’d felt restless. The chaos of the floral patterns or navy and white stripes on her new dresses expressed her dawning confusion. * The sisters slept for almost four hours. Rose swung into action first. She’d made a To Do list before sleeping: Ring the papers Sign the forms Ring relations Register the death Call the doctor Buy a headstone Buy ham for the sandwiches When Rose woke, she tut-tutted to herself; she’d have to put an order on that list, although, she smiled, she had still managed to cover the essentials in her exhausted state. She put on her fluffy lilac dressing gown and went into the bathroom where she washed her face with lukewarm water. She thought she should wash her father’s face. But first things first; she always brushed her hair before breakfast. She looked at her reflection as she passed the bristles through her hair. The flowery pattern on the back of the brush was almost completely faded
and what had once looked like fine silver outlining the curves of the handle now looked like cheap, chipped imitation. But using it brought her comfort and sometimes she thought she could catch the scent of her mother, a hint of lavender or the smell of her sweet pea perfume. She shrugged at the black circles under her eyes; she’d looked the same for a few years. She was forty but could be taken for an old thirty something or even, on a dull day, a young fifty something. She turned as she heard her sister’s footsteps coming down the ten stairs to the bathroom. “You in there?” “Yes.” “Hurry up. I’m dying.” “Dying.” “Come on.” “Just about ready.” She finished brushing and scooped out the hair. She squashed it on top of the used cotton wool balls. They sparkled with the electric blue of her sister’s eye shadow in the plastic bag the green of spring inside the grey wicker basket. She smoothed her hair with her hands and took a deep breath. “We’ve got to get moving, wash his face, call the doctor,” she said to Mel. “Well, good morning to you too, Rose,” Mel said as she grazed past her and went into the bathroom. “I’ll be out in a minute.” “I’ll put the kettle on.” Rose trudged down the next set of steps slowly, pausing, thinking she should go to her father, say hello, touch his forehead; it would be horribly cold now, she thought. But she continued on down to the kitchen. She shivered. It was cold, this morning, or maybe it was the shock. It was June. It was Monday. And she had also to ring work and tell them the news. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs, tracing her finger over the spiral pattern in the carved banister, mahogany; her mother had always insisted on polishing it every week. She rubbed it with the sleeve of her dressing gown; that was better, it shone. She walked over to the hall table and as she picked up the receiver she could hear Mel coughing again, that deep, chesty cough with the spitting and hawking that came after it. Mel disliked doctors and refused to go; you couldn’t make her do anything so Rose had stopped pleading with her. They were
both adults and had their own responsibilities. She dialled the number. “Hi, Cheryl.” Rose nodded into the phone. “Hmm. It’s happened.” She paused. “No, no arrangements just yet. Thanks. Yes. We’ll be putting a notice in the papers.” She sighed. “I don’t know. Probably Wednesday.” She hung up and went into the kitchen where Mel stood with her hands on her hips. Rose filled the kettle directly from the tap and pressed the round button which lit up red. “Are you going to clean him or will I?” Mel sighed. Rose shrugged, suddenly feeling irritated. “I’m making breakfast.” “You could have said.” “Mel, I just did.” “Have you called anyone?” “Work.” “I’d better ring in, too.” Mel worked as an office administrator three days one week, two days the next. She didn’t need the money from full-time work and preferred to have the time now and half a pension later rather than wait for some unguaranteed future. “Sure who knows if I’ll even live to 65,” she’d say with a laugh to anyone who asked, “and if I do, I’ll deal with it then.” “They won’t miss you until Thursday.” “I know they won’t miss me but Mary’ll be waiting for the news.” Mel looked at Rose’s back, hunched, older than her years. She was fiddling with the bread. Putting it into the toaster and taking it out again, mumbling that it wasn’t right. She shook her head. Rose had applied for and was granted the special three-year career break from her position as an accountant in the public service and was due to leave in two weeks. She believed in serendipity, she said, and informed Mel when their father came home that his death would bring good things for them. She felt there was a breeze, like spring, blowing through her hair. Mel worried quietly that Rose was on the verge of a breakdown. “But how will you survive?” Mel had asked. “Survive? I’ve saved over the years and I still have a job to go back to.”
Mel pulled back from offering to help her with the toast. “I’ll just ring Mary.” Mary was Mel’s best friend who lived on the other side of the city. They worked together and holidayed in Greece and Turkey every summer where they hired cars and island hopped. Rose, however, spent her holidays feeding the ducks in the canal, walking and reading. She prided herself on the number of books she could get through in a few weeks off and the local librarian, a young man with a shy smile, always gave her one or two extra for the time. She thought of his smile often; he trusted her and quite liked her, she believed. Finally the toast went in straight; the kettle had boiled. She counted the spoons of tea-leaves: one for her, one for Mel and one for the pot. She stirred it rigorously and replaced the red lid. It was a new teapot she’d bought, a Denby, reduced to half price in Roches’ Store’s sale. She liked how the berry-red was visible from any part of the kitchen, calling you. Mel came into the kitchen, blowing her nose, her eyes red. Rose looked and looked away again. “I rang her,” Mel said quietly. “She had a go at me for not cleaning him up last night.” “We were shocked,” said Rose. “Both of us,” she added, pausing slightly before awkwardly embracing her sister. Mel nodded and wiped the tissue across her wet eyes. “We’d better get moving.” “Let’s eat, first.” “Like they say on the planes: look after your own air supply before attending to young children.” Mel managed a weak smile. “We’re orphans.” Rose nodded, furiously buttering the toast. “This spread is great stuff,” she said. “Look how it spreads on the toast without breaking it, not like butter.” * “How about this: John Murphy of Rathfarnham,” Mel read from where she’d written a draft of the Death Notice, “died early morning 4th June peacefully at home from a long illness. Sadly missed by his daughters Melissa and Rose and his extended family. Removal from house to Rathfarnham Church
at 5pm Tuesday 5th June. Funeral after 11.30 Mass Wednesday 6th June. Family flowers only. Donations to Focus Point.” “What extended family?” Rose asked. Mel shrugged, tears in her eyes. “It sounds good.” “Scribble it out.” Mel scribbled the line out with a black pen. It reminded her of colouring when she was a girl. She always coloured with pen or pencil, the sound of the ink or scrape of the sharpened pencil completing the picture made her feel safe. “Why are you writing his Death Notice on the back of the cereal box?” “I had the last of the Rice Crispies yesterday and this just goes into the recycle bin, okay?” Rose pulled her wraparound cream cardigan tighter and took a flowery hankie from its sleeve. She dabbed the corners of her eyes and sniffed. “It’s just so, so undignified.” “What’s undignified is keeping the face cloth we washed father with because it was your favourite one.” “It is.” “I know but Jesus, Rose, you can’t hang onto that.” Rose pursed her lips. “Are you going to ring The Independent or shall I?” “I’ll do it.” “I’ll get the food for tomorrow. So. Ham. Bread. Milk. Extra tea bags. Cheese. Some cakes. Anything else?” “No, that’s it I think. Don’t get much, though.” Rose nodded, stuffing the hanky back up her sleeve. “Doctor Walsh said he’d come,” she said quietly. “That’s nice of him.” “Yes.” Her voice was a whisper. “And Mary will be there.” Tuesday The sisters ate breakfast in silence. They’d dressed their father in his best suit, a dove grey with a shimmer to it and a knitted red tie. He would have been happy. Ben from the undertakers had called around to help them prepare for the removal that evening. He smiled saying he was
sorry for their trouble. “He was old,” explained Rose, unnecessarily. “It’s best for him.” Mel put her arm around her sister. “Grief is a strange thing,” she said. “It can even hit you before your loved one dies.” Ben nodded. “Grief is my business,” he said. “He had cancer,” Mel added. “He was in St. Luke’s but then we’d nursed him at home.” “It must be terribly hard watching your father die,” Ben said, looking at Rose. “He was lucky you looked after him like you did. Both of you, I mean.” Rose nodded, fiddling with her hanky, red and pink florals wrapping themselves around her fingers. “He was,” she said studying Ben. He looked forty-something, a similar age to her, his hair shining like her father’s suit. He looked smart; he’d ironed his shirt and his hair was cut close to his head. She flushed a little. “Thank you,” she ventured. “Thank you for your help.” “Just doing my job,” he said, clearing his throat. “So, we’ll be back to collect him at four.” “Yes,” said Mel. “Is that time enough? Is there a crowd coming to the house?” The sisters looked at each other. “No,” Rose said, her eyes smarting. “No, just immediate family.” Wednesday Although the sun was shining, it was a cool June morning and Rose decided to wear her cream wraparound cardigan over her long black dress. Funerals were no time for patterns or stripes. She would wear her black pearl necklace and matching earrings that Mel had brought back from one of her more exotic holidays. She tied her long hair up in a bun, the strands of grey catching the light. “You look lovely,” Mel said, stroking her hair. “Remember how he used to say that to us? That we looked like two lovely ladies?” Rose smiled, taking Mel’s hand. “And we are.” “You could find someone,” Mel said. “He never stopped you.” She turned away. “I know you thought he stopped you.”
“I never went away so…” Mel sighed. “Nobody asked you to stay, I mean – ” “You know,” Rose interrupted, “he must be smiling up there. What a pair we make. Now don’t tell me you’re thinking of going in those jeans?” Mel looked down at her black jeans which she’d teamed with pointy black boots. “They’re my good ones,” she said. “Come, you’re a lady, let’s dress you like one.” * The two sisters walked into the almost empty church, linking arms. Two sisters wearing long black dresses; one with pointy boots, one with dainty pumps. The priest cleared his throat at the pulpit and nodded towards them. On Rose’s insistence they sat in the exact place they’d sat with their father for their mother’s funeral: the front pew on the right-hand side. Rose clutched Mel’s hand. “It’s okay,” she whispered. Mel nodded, feeling the ground was starting to slip beneath her. Ben and three of his staff carried the coffin out of the church. Mel insisted that he come to the graveyard and then back to the house. There, a neighbour, Mary, Cheryl and a grand-uncle whom they hadn’t seen since their mother had died, sat on the edge of the sofa. They balanced china plates on their knees, rows of pretty cups and saucers with boiling tea sitting on the table in front of them. Nods and half-smiles flew around the room, filling the awkward silence. Ben looked from Mel to Rose. “See if you can help with Daddy’s bed upstairs,” Rose asked Ben. “If you’ll excuse us,” she added as she left the room, bristling as she felt Mel follow. “Didn’t you put an announcement in the papers?” he asked, tugging at his tie. “Well,” started Rose. “John didn’t have many friends,” put in Mel. “He was sick for such a long time.” “So the nurse I was speaking to said,” Ben answered. He scratched his head. “Is the HSE not going to take back that
hospital bed?” Mel and Rose looked at each other. Rose shrugged. “We can use it as a spare bed. It would be a shame to see it go. It’s been part of the house.” “These things take time,” Ben said. “Your poor father died in that bed. It’s hard to let go.” The sisters held hands and nodded. Ben shuffled his feet. “When are you going back to work?” Ben asked. Rose’s face transformed into a beam. Mel thought she’d never seen her look so alive. She released her hand. “Well,” Rose began. “I’m actually about to embark on a three year career break.” “Sounds great. What are you going to do?” Rose glanced sideways at Mel. “I’ll just go downstairs and bring round more sandwiches,” Mel said. She cleared her throat and left the two standing by the empty bed. “Have a guess,” said Rose looking at his clean fingernails. He’d even filed them so there would be no sharp edges. “Gosh,” he began, scratching behind his ear. “I’m useless at these things…travel?” “Nearly,” said Rose, grinning. “Renovations?” he ventured. “Truth is,” Rose said, her fingers flying to her head to comb lose strands of hair, feeling ashamed, suddenly. “I don’t know. What I do know is that I’m forty. I’m alone. I’ve no one to care for now.” “I’m sorry,” said Ben. “It’s none of my business, really. You must excuse me.” “Aren’t you hungry?” asked Rose, watching how his lip curled slightly. He shuffled his feet again. Something about him reminded her of the man in the library even though they didn’t look remotely alike. Ben nodded. She held out her hand. “Come, come eat.”
Time and Memories “Let everyone know, I lived a very happy life.” – Kemal Bey in Orhan Pamuk’s The Museum of Innocence 1. As I grew dumb, blasted by their sneers, you asked me for a happy poem. I’m the one who always ends up drowning in sadness. I press seeds of pain for the desired drop. You know the frozen ink is useless and my fingers, numb, can’t just as crawl well on the keyboard. I confess I had the sun-drenched warmth, glitters from a fleeting grace, even the smiles those masters took pens to immortalize. Now things have frosted over, the frost harder than stone. To hide the hurt, I do a hell of a lot – this art I’ve inherited from them. Now smell me – the urn of my heart’s embers, and tell if another Phoenix will rise out of the ashes. 2. Things turn to chaos. No one ever wants to miss the bliss of love even if it turns bitter. I’m sick and tired of the old clichés: everything’s flimsy, nothing’s solid. This time I’ve traveled so far into love, with no care for logic’s supremacy or intellect’s. How so quick reason’s mountains of ice melt in love’s heat like summer’s and evaporate!
I slithered into the vacuum left by him. The Phoenix rose from your heart’s embers. Hurdles there were at every bend and thorns to tread on at every step. You let water spill over the ignited fire in me as if you’d to. My thirst left my throat burning. 3. When the sun is sunk in the waves, you come all the way to me – the hard boulder made of reeds on fire. Then you drift again, the living iceberg – cold fumes around you. You come like a snow-woman in the sun and your melting lips can’t get me cooled off inside, for yours is the fire I stole like Prometheus did. And now I’m the kiln of flames, burning … but you stand over there, smiling – cold outside on your naked body, and inside of you resides the fire I stole. I was hotter like desire, hurling spears of fire against the peaks of ice. With Coldie, I turn cold, hot with Hottie. I didn’t find fire and cold so infectious before. 4. Words explode, sometimes they don’t like duds on battlefields. Words of a comforter feel like feathers and words of a curse cut like knives. Words like frustration are darkest. Sweetheart, as I plan to build the tallest skyscraper with the words I acquired and borrowed, you say only words cannot make you rise above this vaster world of grief and guilt.
How can I make you understand that the words I utter are not mere promises? They will grow up into actions. Wait for them, and do not fly away to the other shore where words will crowd around you like crabs. Don’t forget even silence is a scary word there. 5. I read about exile in islands, in jungles and in weird places hundreds of miles far from boroughs and bazaars. And the insularity in each of them always got me terrified in the end. I’m exiled from your body as if I were one dreaded by despots – implacable and incorrigible. I’m forgetting the intimate language of lips, fingers and thighs; for you know verbosity’s not enough. Anxieties punctuate each sentence full of exile. How can I learn without this language that cherished calm? Do not ruin it, dear. (Certainties of extinction are today’s cluster bombs!) What remains is the verbal dexterity of dryness and drought – waiting for the monsoon rains. 6. Unheard-of cold around, but none’s concerned. Not that snow’s falling, not even the chilling rain in sight. No question to get firewood burned to fight this cold of loneliness, murderous as Cain. I’m famished. But I do not expect to dine with hallucinations – weird from every sane angle – nor is fearsome frost melting and going down my spine an excuse of getting down to your warm triangle.
Since dawn, I’m wondering how longer I’ll be paring myself down to you when I’m fast graying. Arrogance makes you a character in the deaf story when we both need the sap and to be greening. All our warmth an anaconda’s going to swallow – with us having to be digested in a darkened hollow. 7. These are the times when poison and honey taste alike. And I’m beginning to taste the poison in a honeycomb you yourself were. I’m the author of that love which you illuminate with guilt and agonies, of the thirst you rather slake with your hatred. An Ottoman or a Mughal miniaturist you are, and of a technically different mindset! You’ve blackened out the pages we worked together on. Either out of your whims or for the choice you made in secret. This wisdom gets me to explode like gunpowder. How can I say Come live with me and be my love when my heart flames up in fire of jealousy? 8. The roads that map my journeys in love are for others as well. I stepped on them, knowing some in the past had done and others in the future would do. Nothing’s mine at all. This eats into me. What’s detestable turns me on quite remarkably. Suspicions nail me down on the trust I built after sweating hell of a lot
as if I desired the magnitude of liberty – eternal or whatever it likes to be. Others suggest I pull out from within and hurl my ego you once vaporized in our orgasm. My love’s a failure, which still fortifies my ego – a shield against arrows, swords and spears. 9. At the last meeting, I squeeze your hand, remembering all the pleasures we proved with kisses and the sheer orgy in those colder cabin nights – a perfect chemistry we made of love and sweat. It all changed when we ended up an indifferent couple. I remember all the pretty glimmers when I know the sunset brings memories of light – a promise of loneliness and of my grief’s frenzy in the dark. Was that ever needed for us, the singling out of a verse we later wrote with our mutual doubts? Ever lonelier at the terminus, I stand – watching vehicles go like you to a destination far away. I might have been the verb of each and every folly but I ain’t ever that shrewd of a cool womanizer. 10. Ploughs, spades, harrows and scythes – all rust. Tricks of the farming are lost, and bitter urbanity makes a bitter sample of me. Before our little-left trust gets the rust on it, I want to be yours again. The sanity as I may lack it, or the vanity you have enough of, suggests we look at ourselves mirrored in love. Many times I had fever always with a terrible cough which just ended up stirring my desire for you dove.
Without me, the moon will be rising for lovers snaking around each other. This warmth in sweat is life, and the thought of its shining use still hovers. I may sing like a crow but less cacophonous in a duet. Like your palm with lines crisscrossing like rivers, I want you to read me again, with some warm shivers. 11. Gold, do not go somewhere else before I die. I’ve seen so much of things crumbling and flowers on the ruins not blooming. I’m just a conch with sea-memories, and sigh that I am diseased with the melancholy of not having you in this earthly pursuit. Everywhere engulfed by a mad bruit, I miss your torture or your love more sadly. Some part of me remains empty and cold. I cannot write of the sun’s brightness out there, with coldness creeping into me. Desire that I once had has shut its wings. Just hold me still before I see the curtain drawn. Remind me of that greenness on the lawn. 12. I’m not out of folly’s cocoon yet. Swollen big with grief, rage and regrets, I didn’t know life would shower me with kind threats. I wanted light brimming over with dreams and I’ve to be glad you often pushed me off to writing things out like sapphires for posterity! I can’t say my tears will ever be diamonds. Go if you like while I stand guard on the world
where humans – as if the Devil’s progeny – prowl on streets and drench their hands in blood. Do not see these horrors, rather you’d better go home and sleep at ease. I’ll sprinkle upon you grace. I’ll be sitting up like a cabbage in the deep freeze. Watch out and look for excuses to say Chill Out. 13. Sweetheart, as from the pages on Icarus with his molten wax and feathers off the wings, on Sysiphus hard-pressed with a boulder up the mountain, we learn about the flight and fall onto the raging water, and about the climb to be taken forever from every dawn to dusk. That toil of destiny – a futile search for a Neverland where every time downright falling in love with each other, we come together and dream of things that will never happen. Oh, it’s our laden eyes that only see life as a big monochrome nicely embossed with dark doom and despair as if dirty blotches on the newly-washed drape.
After the Will Let us settle a few matters before
for rubbish pits of history, but something
the crows swoop down. The will is in my office
as Yeats said, to perfection brought.
drawer. The painting behind my desk
In the post-modern age, condemned to step out
shows a tree against a changing sky
on the Boston street again and again, yet
at evening, blue to red to mauve,
I will end, unlike Leary, on television,
and a single leaf falling, that looks
but quietly like the smoke of exhaust,
like a bird and will fly regardless
water condensed in the engine, let out
of my passing. I have spent too much time
in morning, a final emission
analyzing shards of memory, a lot written
of hothouse gas that inspired poetry.
Rimbaud (from the END Chronicles) We too have our Rimbaud, whiskered away in Berlin, sporting a beard, plays guitar still, has children, wife, knows steel and Europe like a scale or a fret, his fingers. When shall we visit him? To say, let us make amends, wounds are long-scabbed, faint the scars, omissions that dug into the historical heart, but thirty years later, what do we have to lose, as the man said in his books of theory, as I declare to my children now, but our various chains?
Infinitive Distilled, flotsam flipped out, impurities strained, clear glass of hydrogen and oxygen in water, this gift you carry that keeps me going while I flail on against potentates and their armies. Thank you, dankjewel, obrigado, merci, gracias, what I have gathered, wandering through the fields of languages, trying to make home a simple infinitive like to love or eat or drink.
Jacoba Came to Conquer a languorous kiss — the faintest smell of ocean — salt-lipped breeze, pleading — Sudeep Sen. "Kiss" In front of the Portuguese fort at Thangasseri in Kollam, whose colonial name was Quilon, Amal Albuquerque and Jacoba Van Goens stood scaling its fallen height, as the Arabian sea split its head on the rocks of the seawall behind them. The fort was of a majesty, if one could stretch the imagination to four and a half centuries backwards to conjure up the battles fought and the treacherous treaties made to cast the net on the spices, the fragrant gold and diamond of Kerala. But in the present, it was a mutilated ghost, a melting zombie of the colonial past. The Portuguese fort in Thangasseri was in ruins in a culture that had not learnt to preserve the vestiges of past, may be because its past had been nothing to be proud about unlike the European. Amal had heard that the Europeans tended their civilizations’ past glory etched in the monuments of bygone ages, as if it were a priceless treasure. “They know how to value the past”, a professor in his college used to say with a disgusting glee. But what was there to be proud of here, when the past lay embedded in ruins that had never been yours primarily! Amal stood at the ruins where you feel entombed, gnawing at the past. Where you feel bound to history that has determined your being in the world. He sensed an imaginary chain creeping around his body like an ivy creeper, encircling his legs and torso, fastening his hands to his sides, immobilizing him. History’s Ivy that was it! From where he stood he could see whatever was left of the sixteenth century fort. About twenty metres away from the sea arrested by layers of black rocks that made the seawall, the fateful rocky mass of the promontory rose. Over those high rocks was founded the first ever monument of foreign invasion on Kollam. It lay now dilapidated, a far echo from what it had originally been.
Or that was how he put it to Jacoba who was standing by his side, her eyes narrowed down by the oppressive light of the sun. He had brought her there as per her own wish. He stressed the fact that it was the Portuguese, and not the Dutch, who were the first Europeans to make inroads into Kerala. He felt a certain sense of superiority at that moment over Jacoba, the Dutch lady visiting his house. It was a feeling of the power of knowledge that enabled him to belittle her national pride which, he imagined, gave her that sexy majesty of bearing. He looked sideways to see how she took it. From the low point on the rocky seashore she too had been studying the ruins. She reacted only after a few seconds. The evening sun glowed on her glassy rose cheeks as she narrowed her eyes on him. “Who were the Europeans to come first to India?” Jacoba asked him. She pronounced her ‘t’ like ‘th’ in ‘think’ or ‘thick’. “Well...” Amal had not expected that. He knew she had outwitted him. He knew history had not been his first love, though he had liked flirting with it. He could only risk a wild guess. “Oh, how thoughtless of me! Portuguese were of course the first Europeans to step in India by sea route. And they entered India through Calicut in Kerala. Not Kollam. Calicut was where Vasco da Gama landed in 1498. However, others had come before them by land.” “Umm, you have done your lessons well,” she tapped him on his left cheek with a smile that showed her teeth that were arranged in a neat order. Her long pink fingers on his cheeks gave him a tickling sensation somewhere in his loins; he wondered how that could be! She pronounced her ‘d’ as ‘th’ in ‘then’ or ‘they’. Jacoba had sized him down again. He should not have presumed to show off to her. Especially without knowing what she actually was! It was most likely that she was a scholar of history. “Did you say you like the Portuguese better than the Dutch?” she asked him, beginning to climb the steep rise of the promontory. Now when did he say that? Amal wondered. He decided to maintain a discrete silence. She looked back at him and smiled without showing her teeth this time. He could only stand like a stupid fool not knowing how to react. He stood silently with
his back against the windy sea, watching Jacoba scale up the rock towards the ruins. “Come on Amal,” she called to him turning around. She was wearing a cream denim jeans and a white cotton sleeveless top that exposed her navel whenever the wind blew it up. He loved the perfume she emitted, the smell of which brought to him the image of a tulip garden he had seen in the Tamil movie “Anyan,” maybe because he had subconsciously associated Jacoba with the tulip gardens for which her country was famous. Did tulips have a fragrance? He never knew. Probably they didn’t have. Yet that was what her smell brought to his mind. Little did Amal know what tulips actually meant! As he followed her up towards the ruins, Amal remembered that he had been there only once before. That was when he had been a little boy of eight studying in his fourth standard at Deva Matha Convent School, run by Latin Catholic nuns. Sister Bertilla, his class teacher, had taken the entire class one afternoon to see the Portuguese fort, and from there to the light house, which was built by the British. He now had only a faint memory of that afternoon. He could not recollect the frontal view, the view of the fort from the sea side. Instead, he remembered something like a ruined staircase somewhere inside the fort, and Sister Bertilla’s shrill voice crying “Careful... careful don’t fall!” He had the faint memory of their visit to the lighthouse too, that same afternoon. It seemed that the whole class walked the distance from the fort to the lighthouse in Thangasseri. Again he could not recollect the details of the walk. Only that the class had walked in a line, and that Sister Bertilla had a twig she had cut from some branch on the way with which she tried to scare the boys and girls into obeying her, not to get into the middle of the road but to keep to the side. But her efforts had only a funny effect on them, as they laughed at each of her threats. He believed she too was laughing. He also remembered the disappointment they had had, when at the lighthouse they were not allowed entry. He had forgotten why. Jacoba had reached the bottom of the ruins from where rose the high wall whose plaster had come off probably scores of years ago. She lowered herself and extended her arm to him. He felt ashamed to be offered help to climb. Yet, the sight of her naked, white, fleshy, arm that tapered down to the long
fingers with polished conical nails defeated his pride and let him grasp it, and allow it to help him climb up to her level. She did not appear to be in a hurry to let his hand go from hers. She did not seem to be aware that his hand was in hers. He allowed it to remain there. He savoured the moist and soft warmth of her inner palm in which his hand rested. Her fist was smaller than his. “This looks like the central tower of the fort,” she said raising her eyes to the top of the wall. On the top of the wall there were minaret-like protrusions, some of them broken down to half or less than half of their original size. There were three windows like openings on the wall. The structure projected forward from there and had two walls on either side, of which fifteen metre high remains stood on the left side, while only the basement was left of the one on the right side. From that elevated point she lost herself like a leaf in a wind in the vast expanse the blue sea and the seashore which lay like a crescent lined by rectangular settlements of fishermen with concrete roofs and pink walls. Jacoba Van Goens was the Dutch lady who had come to Amal Albuquerque’s house for a brief stay from Ontario, where his father’s brother was living. When she had slated out this visit to Kerala, his uncle asked his father whether he could accommodate her at his house during her sojourn at Kollam. She was his uncle’s friend in Ontario, where they were working at the same University. His father had said yes to his brother, and had himself gone to Ernakulam airport to pick her up. When his father drove their WagonR into the porch, both Amal and his mother Rosa had peered through the windscreen eager to get a look at the blue eyed ‘madamma’ who was visiting their house. His father, David Albuquerque, was very eager to get out of the car and help her with her luggage. He hurried past Rosa giving her a half smile and shyly avoiding her eyes to where Jacoba stood smiling and nodding at her hostess and her son. The white lady, he had noticed, was of his father’s height, that was about five foot ten, and two inches shorter than himself. As his father introduced her to him, she came and hugged him steeping him in her tulip smell. He felt a little nervous about her height which he felt was almost equal to his own. He had never associated himself with a woman of that height. So he kept his eyes
lowered, while returning the hug weakly putting his hands on her shoulders. His mother stared at his father who had a perpetual smile of admiration pasted on his lips as he regarded the movements of his guest. The laughing wrinkles around his eyes got deeper as his face beamed with appreciation for something in the Dutch woman who looked about thirty years old. David Albuquerque had grown mysteriously younger during the day. His usual sluggishness had given way to an oomph, which showed itself in the youthful gesture of passing his fingers through his salt and pepper hair and in the twinkling fresh light in his eyes. His forty eight years sat light on him, allowing his body to be as sprightly as that of a thirty five year old man. Amal smiled at himself seeing his mother’s suspicious glances at his father as she hugged Jacoba. Now it was the second day of her visit. She had been with them for about twenty five hours by then, he calculated taking note of the time on his watch which showed four in the evening. “It is the sea that connects people. What do you say Amal?” “Only the sea? What about the air?” “Ah, yes. You are smart.” She smiled and scanned the sea shading her eyes from the sharp evening sun with her hand. “I was speaking of the sea of the mind Amal.” “I see.” “And air traffic; is it a very ancient development in history?” He wanted to ask her if she was making fun of him. But looking at her profile which wore a serious expression as it read the sea like a poem, he decided to answer her seriously. He knew her beauty would warp all his natural reactions. “No, it is a recent one.” “It is the sea that brought me to you.” “The sea of the mind or the sea of water?” “The sea of the mind that rises like water and eats up the land.” “Are you a poet?” She did not answer to that, but only gave him a lingering look into his eyes giving him the sensation of a movement in his loins again. Instead she asked, “What are those pink boxes?”
“They are the flats of fishermen. They had lost their houses during the tsunami in 2004. The government built them.” “The sea gives and takes,” she said as she put her right hand on his shoulder and drew him playfully to her and hit his cheeks softly with her head. “Amal, let’s go behind this wall.” She started moving along the side of the wall. He followed her. He watched her behind as she balanced carefully on the slope. Her jeans were tight enough to outline her long shapely legs. Her hair was in brown curls that reached her shoulders. Behind the wall there were no stairs of his reminiscence. Where had the stairs gone? Why had Sister Bertilla cried “Careful careful don’t fall?”! Instead, there was only an open space behind the central wall. This was what was left of the Portuguese fort which had once been about four hundred meters long and half as much wider. A space where one could listen to the wind whisper the history learnt by rote and tempt one to marvel if one heard some interpolations to the known text in the whisperings. “It must be somewhere here…,” Jacoba said running her eyes across the space which had been occupied centuries ago by the fort, but was now private property through encroachments, where coconut trees stood slanting like hammocks towards the sea. “What?” he asked. She did not say anything, but walked around the area feeling thoughtfully the bricks of the wall with her pink fingers. Amal thought she was trying to bring back to life a time that had died in the sixteenth century. She had put on a beauty that radiated its warm rays towards him. He went to her drawn by the fragrance of the tulip garden. “It is the Dutch that destroyed the fort,” Amal said, with a restlessness that pained him. The wind threw strands of her brown hair on his face. He allowed them to remain there, caught on his two days’ growth of beard. She turned towards him looking up into his eyes. “When was that? Who was the Dutch man who did that?” He floundered again. He knew only that the Dutch aggression on the Portuguese fort took place in the seventeenth century. He knew that from the faint memory of a class at school
where his English teacher had mentioned it for some reason he had forgotten. “You should find that out Amal Albuquerque. It will disclose a few things to you,” Jacoba said. He wondered if he sensed a shade of mockery in her voice when she articulated his surname. What was there in those details that would be of any interest to him! He nodded his head hesitantly, still swimming in a pool of red tulips. They caressed him from all sides now, and he would have never wanted to come out of it. “You still owe your sympathy to the Portuguese in this age Amal? Is it because you are a descendent of the Albuquerque’s?” Jacoba’s question threw him out of the spell she had cast on him for a moment. He took a couple of steps back instinctually and smiled. Maybe he had a secret admiration for the Portuguese because his surname was Portuguese. Alfonso de Albuquerque was the Portuguese Governor of Goa. Among the Anglo Indian community of Thangasseri, his family had been the only one with a Portuguese surname. He did not know, neither did his father or mother know, who was the Portuguese Albuquerque that originated their family, or who was the Indian woman who received the Portuguese seed that began their family, and when. They had been living with that name in Thangasseri, a colony of Anglo Indians who were a minority among the population largely made of Latin Christians. They too owed allegiance to the Catholic parish headed by the Bishop of Kollam Diocese, and attended the mass at the Infant Jesus Church, built by the Portuguese. Since Portuguese history of Kollam ended in early sixteenth century, and the British dominated the region from the middle of the eighteenth century, people were in the habit of attributing g everything colonial to the more recent British. Thus the families that had the blood of the colonizers were all called Anglo Indian after the Anglicans who had their longest colonial presence there. But these families could have had the DNAs of the Portuguese and the Dutch too. It was also a known fact that there had been several families who managed to cook up an Anglo Indian lineage to avail of the minority privileges granted by the government to that group. However, Amal
Albuquerque was sure that he had original Caucasian blood in him. His looks would prove that. He had slightly brown hair, a pale white complexion, broad bony frame, a bluish tinge to his eyes, and the above average height. His friends had nick named him “Sayippu”, the white man, and he did not dislike it. “The Dutch came here for the same reason as the Portuguese. For trading. They conquered in the process. What made them conquer and what made you conquered ... is it something in the blood?” Jacoba said with a smile and giving him a straight look. “Let us forget the past Amal. What we are is in our blood, and no amount of thinking shall change it.” Amal watched the reddening sun at the horizon that looked as though fixed in the window on the wall of the ruins. He knew she was attacking him in ways that he did not have the power to defend himself. He had by now realized that she was intellectually superior to him, but the proposition seemed unacceptable to his learning. Was she again provoking him to say something foolish? “So it is all biology?” he risked asking. “I am a Canadian of Dutch origin. You are Portuguese, partly of course, and you live in India. Our histories had clashed in the sixteenth century, and we stand now at a place where the clash took place five hundred years ago. And my people conquered yours...” He could not help smiling. What was she driving at? Why was she retelling history like child’s prattle? Jacoba took a rolled cigarette from her wallet. She winked her left eye at him with a quizzical smile that again made him pleasurably uncomfortable in his loin. The smoke that curled up from her mouth and the roll had an unfamiliar smell that raised him from the ground gently into the air. Jacoba came so close to him that her breasts touched his chest. She exhaled a deep puff of smoke on his face. He broke into a cough. Her laughter rang like the waves that broke on the seawall in a long jazz. “Marijuana,” she said. “Come on, have a pull Amal,” she held the roll to his mouth pressing herself against him. The sun had sunk into the waters casting a film of darkness that steeped the fort and its surroundings in a lack of clarity that dissolved
shapes of things one into another. Amal felt he was going to explode against the soft pressure put on him by Jacoba’s breasts and belly. He opened his mouth, and as she held the cigarette between his lips he pulled a mouthful of smoke and inhaled it deeply. For a moment he saw the curls of smoke coming out from his lungs forming fast changing inchoate shapes over Jacoba’s head that was now resting on his breast. “Didn’t I conquer you Albuquerque?” he heard her voice reverberating inside his ears. A tongue entered his mouth like a snake and probed its fleshy insides in a coiling motion. Amal Albuquerque was drawn into a vortex in whose whirling motion he could sense warmth and moisture enveloping him with a sticky tenacity. His hands ran over a field of soft mounts and shrubby valleys, and in an oblivious abandon his body danced to a hitherto unknown rhythm. His sensations took on a thorough and exhilarating focus as though he were balancing on the point of a needle that was moving on its axis as it went around in an oblong orbit. Jacoba had slid out of her attire like a moulting snake. Her body, glistening in the moonlight, crawled under the mounting shadow of Amal whom she had guided to nakedness during his dip into the psychedelic chasm. After a while, with her ancestors coming alive in her blood, she strode him in a journey that exploded into the liquid joy of conquest, during which time Amal had dipped further into the darkness of passive submission that had once engulfed his forefathers. Before leaving, she collected his clothes and kept them neatly folded beside him. Climbing down the promontory, she stood gazing at the sea for a brief moment and sighed, after which she dissolved into the darkness on the road that skirted the sea, and made for Amal’s house. Amal was steeped in moonlight when he opened his eyes. First he saw a high wall rising beside him into the sky where the half moon glowed gleefully down on him. Then a wave of disorientation churned his stomach as he sprang himself up. To his horror he saw that he was stark naked. It took him a few moments to broom his brain clean of the residue of the daze that clung to it. Then the evening sun and the ruins of the Portuguese fort and Jacoba Van Goens and her marijuana joint
limped back to his consciousness. The cold wind shocked him back again to the reality of his nakedness. He peered into the darkness of the ground and groped around with his hands. His trousers, shirts and briefs were neatly arranged one over other close to where he was standing. As the clothes passed over his body he began to feel a burning pain on his elbows and knees. He paused to run his fingers over the pain. His fingers got moist, and as he took them to his nose he smelled blood. He had bruises there. There was no sign of Jacoba Van Goens! He ran all over the inner side of the fort looking for her. Then he came onto the seaside carefully measuring his steps along the side of the wall as he had done earlier in the evening following Jacoba. He looked at the sea with a pounding heart. It looked like an infinite black carpet being heaved up by a subterranean wind. The stars made a diamond studded canopy that fell on the far end of the sea like a colossal wave. The lighthouse of Thangasseri blinked three times consecutively from its height on his right. He could see the yellow specks of light coming from half a dozen fishing boats at the sea. He had no idea of the time. Amal ran the brief distance from the seashore to the road skirting it. The road and the bus junction were empty. He ran to his house. “Where the hell were you all the time?” his father asked holding the door open for him. He kept his head low staring at the floor. “How mean of you to leave our guest on the beach like that?” his father’s voice hardened. “On the beach?” “Didn’t you run away with your friends leaving her there?” “Well... I...” Rosa came out to the drawing room. “Do you know what time it is?” He looked at the clock on the wall which showed fifteen minutes past one. To his shock Amal came to know from his parents that Jacoba left soon after she had come home. His father had arranged a taxi for her to go to Alappuzha, the neighbouring district, which was her next destination on the itinerary. Amal could not sleep a wink with his mind crushed into a
pulp by Jacoba. He stared at the ceiling fan that span with a clicky noise. He tried to recount what had happened. Jacoba’s soft breasts touching his chest, the smoke from her joint engulfing his face and then his nakedness. What had happened in between? He touched the bruises on the elbows and knees. The blood was still fresh over them sticking on his fingers. Sometime during the night Jacoba’s suggestion to look for who was the Dutch man that seized the fort dawned on him. He switched on his computer and searched the Net for the history of the Portuguese fort of Kollam. In one of the sites Amal read, “The Dutch East India Company began to despatch ships to India from 1595 onwards and after many encounters with the Portuguese and their allies they succeeded in establishing their power in several places in India. Under Admiral Van Goens, Quilon was captured in December 1651.” Admiral Van Goens . . . so Jacoba Van Goens was no ordinary tourist after all. She was the historic Dutch admiral’s descendent who had come to re-enact the ancestral battle in a very different way on the land that was his mind and body – Amal mused winking at the air. He eagerly surfed to another site and lapped up further history with a smile dawning over his face. “. . . to renew the campaign on the Malabar Coast in 1661, a Dutch fleet was despatched to Cochin under the command of Admiral Van Goens. It captured Quilon on 7th December and laid siege to the Cranganore fort on 3 January 1662. Finally they landed troops at Vypeen. They built a fort called New Orange and bombarded Cochin from there. A battle was fought in front of the Mattancherry Palace and Cochin forces were forced to withdraw with heavy loss in men and material. Van Goens compelled Rani Gangadhara Lakshmi to recognise her deposed nephew as the King of Cochin. In the meantime, the Dutch converged on Portuguese Cochin from three directions. . . ” A cold breeze carrying the salty mist of the sea entered Amal Albuquerque’s bedroom. A whiff of tulips wafted past him invoking sensations that lay submerged in the deep recesses of the fort of his mind. He heard battle cries and twangs of clashing steels coming from the direction of the sea. As he sank in the bed again he wondered if giving in could be a joy after all.
For Mr. Jo There’s a bench in a sandy corner of Hampstead Heath, Where on occasion, to seek some relief Under the wide spreading arbour of the accompanying tree I sit, well we sit, Max and me. The tree - an oak – rustles away As through its leaves the London winds play And in canine company I lose myself in thought. My mood, is sombre, dark and unremitting As Max pants away, the two of us sitting Where many an owner and owned has sat before And looked at the butts on the concrete floor. The bench could tell stories, if not of wood Of other close friends. Of men who sat and scratched their dog’s ears Hoping that could some how, temporarily, still their fears. Sitting - but only just for a while – A cigarette’s time, one last wry smile. We stand to leave, and I turn to see An inscription. Who wrote it – not important – But wonderfully said, “For Mr Jo and his dogs, Dead, Gloriously dead. “ Who was this man? What brings him close to me? Just a bloke who loved his lads? And cleaned their coats and wiped their pads And sat beneath the same old tree Where we have sat, Max and me.
Was there a prior bench With a less poetic turn ? And what did it say, and did it burn? And one day, beneath this tree Will someone please think of me?
Photo credit: Jose Varghese
Balbir Krishan Mumbai Attack
Mix media on paper - 26 x 26 cm
Mix media on paper - 26 x 26 cm
Mix media on paper - 26 x 26 cm
A boy who turned his back on the worldâ&#x20AC;Ś Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m like a boy Who with back on the world Sits ponderously, Facing the ocean His eyes lost in the mist of mountains His gaze moving from earth to heaven Skies lowering themselves to his size Spreading like a canopy over his shrinking world The ocean waters flowing silently No turbulence anywhere in sight No agitation of the mind No restlessness of the heart No flutter of the soul, either Time is perhaps grinding to a halt Waters are melting into the mountains From whence they come Who knows, whence they go. On looking up He finds it all turn into a blur, The waters The mist The mountains And his gaze. Perched on the assurance of a hard stone He ponders on and on, And moves from one to the other Returning to himself Or his stony structure Framing his existence, Echoing a name That may ultimately drown in the mist Or float on the cloud-borne skies Or leave foot-tracks in an unknown, dark forest That runs through the mountains Somewhere far out and deep
A Song For An Un-known Daughter You’re a child of my twilight years Never born to me, Only visited in a dream Or was it a vision? I never heard you yelp in pain Or groan in agony. I never sang you lullabies Or told you bed-time tales I wasn’t around when your pencil was stolen Or your doll went kaput. I never cuddled you like a doll Or rocked you to a quiet slumber I never drew margins in your notebooks Or solved crazy puzzles for you I wasn’t around as a peacemaker When your brother or sister fought you Pulling and tugging at your pony-tails I wasn’t around when your teen troubles started Or the pimples sprouted on your face I didn’t see you through any of those days Of your childhood and youth When you missed your mother Or defied your father Only sometimes, you told me stories of exile I could never understand Though I saw the long haul of pain And loneliness lurking in your eyes I had no recipe for your silent questionings Only sometimes, when I reached out, hesitatingly My words fell short, and my actions failed O daughter of mine! You never let me pay the debt A father often owes his child Instead you chose to awaken your good karma To help you through trials of life Cast in gold, your soul now shines In everything you say or do The other day,
When you came in a dream or a vision Or whatever it was Flashing messages of ‘moksha’ to me I was wondering, Who is the taught, and who the teacher? Who, the giver and who, the receiver? Now, I’m not too sure If you are only a child of my twilight years Or my long lost mother, holding my little finger Leading me back to the same track From where I had once started out
My father died twice I had thought, we all die once But I was wrong My father died twice. First time, A sudden heart attack Flattened him to the ground As he stood watching over the pot His morning tea coming to a slow boil His patience cracked, and something snapped; When my mother walked into the kitchen She thought he was lying supine In a somewhat awkward, stiff posture, Doing his morning yoga Or prostrating before an unknown God; No time to rush him to the hospital Death had called, unbidden, dragging him away. All his life he’d wished to die, A willing martyr to no cause, But when it finally did strike It was as though he lay protesting, Begging and pleading, not to take him away. My mother had no choice, nor did we Like obedient sons we never were, while he was alive We had returned home to collect his ashes in an urn To safely deposit them in the deep waters of Ganges,
Washing off all the grime of our soul In the muddy waters; Stepping into the orange light We had felt pure and sanctified. Though bones and ashes lay clinging to our melting flesh We had felt strangely relieved Leaving the source of our life behind, As though tons of lead, resting upon our breast Had slipped away. It was hard picking up the shards of our shattered lives; Learning to live without our father Was somewhat like living in a roofless house, Everything leaked, Even an ordinary rain threatened to drown us When sun beat down mercilessly Huddled together like school children We cried to keep ourselves warm and cheerful Little betrayals of faith and trust Kept our cash registers ringing through the day Sharp, piercing arrows of light So difficult to keep the count That night seemed serene, in comparison, Not as terrifying and spine-chilling it often is. Then one day, My father returned, As unexpectedly as he had left. Walking right into my heart This time, He found a niche, a permanent place; Occasionally, he’d sit there, Frowning at my grandfather, Kicking up a row, starting a fight, Pulling swords out of the scabbards, They’d often fight their battles at my expense. Slowly their battles became fiercer. Turning my heart into a battleground, Father’s Id milling around in futile chase, Clashing hopelessly against grandfather’s Superego. I watched these battles from the margins, Father roaring like a lion in a cage,
Grandfather staring back in impotent rage, His rheumy eyes, darting helplessly Only sometimes, his religious piety seeped through The carbuncles on my father’s flesh; The battles raged endlessly, Searing the edges of my heart, Burning holes into the walls of my mind; Phantoms danced in the dark, lonely corners Feeding my fantasies, troubling my soul So bad it was that I’d begun to wish Oh, God! Why don’t you just let my father die? Why doesn’t he just leave it to me to decide, How to live this life, no longer mine. Then one night, It happened, again I saw the funeral of my father in a dream. It was as though the funeral bells rang twice. We’ve all heard of the Second Coming of Christ But the ‘second going’ of a mortal Is nowhere even in the dreams of dead scriptures. That night, my father died again, Now, I’m truly fatherless, Feeling as though I’m myself, the first time ever… A beginning of a new end, or the end of a new beginning, I do not know. All I know is, My father has died twice, Once, the way we all do, silently And next, with all its ceremonial trappings, Inside the debris of my heart. Now if ‘anyone’ tells me, People taste of death but once, I laugh and snigger as I walk away, Thinking how little we know of our ‘goings’ and ‘comings.’
Go Ride the Music After a long day of classical Indian singing and dancing, Ganga Ghose spent Wednesday evening sprawled out on her bed in her dorm room at Benares Hindu University listening to American jazz on the radio. She wrote down the names of the artists she liked, and the next day while working in the music library she researched further, moved by how much their unique biographies were one with the lyrics they sang. When a tune took hold of her, it played non-stop in her head, but by learning about the singer—the performances and the personal details— Ganga began to understand the social and musical context that gave birth to such intense flights of sorrow and joy. Such was the path that led her to impersonate the great gal jazz singers. Invited by the owner of the Blue Sadhu, a jazz club in Varanasi, to sit in with the band, Ganga’s new understanding delivered a fuller embodiment of a song’s mood and lent greater facility to her interpretation. When the band and the owner asked her back, she felt this confirmed the change happening within her. She had her weekly radio show to thank. Each broadcast ended with “San Francisco: Music out of Time, Time out of Mind,” a program that deliberately avoided chronology to better deliver jazz as a collective lifting up of a folk music into a classical expression that used to maximum advantage every riff and rhythm, instrument and melody that came its way. Having had little contact with American culture, it wasn’t until she looked up the names, dates, venues and bands that the music took shape as a living spiritual entity. Her jazz research was a lot more intriguing to her than her classes for the repetition of exercises that were part and parcel of the performance studies curriculum did not suit her temperament. Blessed with impeccable pitch and a great first take, she didn’t seek to nail a perfect performance when she sang a raga; she searched instead for a deeper openness within her, a place where the raga’s ascending scale and descending scale sang itself through her. This was the gift of her teenage years
singing with Purna Das Baul and his mad merry band in Bengal. Whether the lyrics of Kabir or Tagore, since they sang that the illusion of a personal self was Maya’s greatest hustle, that under our competition to be tops there was only the divine making love to the divine, Ganga learned to give up the quest to be the best and lose herself in the song. Still, the over-trained undergrads in her scholarship program with their gossip and one-upmanship often left her feeling cynical about everything except the music. Mondays were stormy, Tuesdays just as bad but Wednesdays were worse with their mid-week group-grope progress reports that made her late for her job. So with her friends far away and her dorm mates clueless, she came home from work on Wednesdays, fixed herself a brandy, her drink of choice to loosen her vocal chords, and took to performing for her radio. Ganga hummed along, made notes and sang harmony, but when the last selection was played, Side Two of The Brothers Grip Salute Duke & Strays, she turned intensely quiet. Astounded by the improvisational dexterity of the alto sax, trumpet and trombone, how each summed up the previous player’s ideas before launching into new avenues, this ensemble mood kept growing as the piano player served up glorious gems of Ellington and Strayhorn in his comping and in his solos. By the time the band came to the last song in the suite, “Come Sunday,” Ganga was weeping with joy. Yes, she decided, this is what music really is: not dominance, envy or competition but presence, openness and exchange. The way the band listened to one another was the quality she had been seeking in her university study but to limited success. By contrast, this trio of brothers blended notes beautifully, but they also knew how to make use of the pianist’s suggestions in inter-galactic directions. As the show bid its listeners to not go gently into that good night, she turned off her radio and floated on the melody of Duke’s haunted “Come Sunday” which continued to play in her head. Finally, after a few hours it faded to a hum and then stopped completely. Hoping to get some sleep, she turned over onto her other pillow and lay still. “Go ride the music,” it said in the dead of night, clear as a human voice. She acknowledged her resistance was low. Strange things
happened when her resistance was low, but she was wide awake now, her skin bristling as if she had just heard a ghost. She checked to make sure the alarm was off, and to be extra certain, she pulled the cord out of the socket and then back in. Looking out the window, she saw that nothing moved; everything was silent. It was the hour before dawn, considered most auspicious for meditation, but an inanimate object had spoken four words to her. Go ride the music. Should I go to the infirmary, she wondered. Am I nuts? Overworked? Not getting enough love? “Pardon me, Gangaji,” Hari Bhajan said and cleared his throat. While supposedly on duty in the music library the next day, Ganga had dozed off amidst a pile of books in the main reading room. Sleeping on the job was an offense worse than tardiness. Looking over the titles strewn about the desk where her head lay, he added, “Interesting research. May I ask for what class?” “It’s not for a class.” “But this is serious stuff, auditory hallucinations.” “Is it of interest to you as well, Dr. Bhajan?” “It’s your interest that fascinates me.” “What fascinates me is a 1963 interview the American poet Allen Ginsberg gave to the Bengali Gazette when he was in India. He claimed to have heard the voice of William Blake speaking to him out of time in his Harlem apartment. Apparently he’d been racking his brain re-reading Blake’s poem, ‘Ah Sun-flower! Weary of Time,’ trying to break its code, and at the moment of a self-induced orgasm he heard the deep voice of the dead English poet reciting it and understood it for the first time. After that, his life was never the same.” “Does that mean this actually happened?” “Well, when asked about Blake’s notion of seeing eternity in a sand grain, Ginsberg said that besides being a poet and engraver, Blake dealt in rare, obscure manuscripts and held the connection to secret traditions from ancient Persia that spread everywhere over the centuries, only declining in the West as it flourished in India, namely the science of musical sound joined with lyric poetry to transmit a spiritual healing to listener and singer alike, independent of caste, creed or color.” “How does this healing happen, did Ginsberg say?”
“It starts with the breath but involves the combination and permutation of seed syllables repeated around consonant clusters in rhythmic fashion which causes the tip of the tongue to stimulate certain meridian points along the roof of the mouth, like a psycho-linguistic force field connected to the pituitary and pineal gland. To swim in the ecstatic sound is the actual healing transmitted from singer to audience and back and needs no other authority but one’s own ears to partake of its mystery. The bhaktas ‘ride the laya’ or sound current, and the voodhun ‘ride the loa,’ the spirit dwelling in that drum rhythm.” “Fascinating, Ganga, but why research auditory hallucinations?” “Because I’ve just had an auditory hallucination.” “What did you hear?” “My silent radio told me to go ride the music.” “Do you know what that means?” “Tell me.” “It means you’re fired.” At another age or in another life, Ganga might have been furious, crushed or driven to plead for her employ. Instead, she took it all in stride, as if she were already riding the music, and when she sat in with the band on the week-end she got out of her own way and felt the music singing through her just like she had hoped. When they asked her to come back next week with her own charts of her favorite tunes, she felt inspired. So, indebted to “Music out of Time, Time out of Mind,” which ran a series on great female vocalists recorded in the Bay area, she began to build her book, singer by singer, week by week: Bessie, Billie, Ella, Sarah, Lena, Anita O, Nancy with Cannonball, Carmen, Nina, Betty C, Janis J, Miriam, Abbey, Aretha, Celia C, Cassandra. Word spread about Ganga at the Blue Sadhu, how she not only looked but sang, flirted and joked with the audience just like their jazz heroine. After a few weeks the club was packed. The owner wanted her there every Saturday night but only agreed to pay her a percentage of the door. Still, it was way more money than the library, and the exposure deepened her investigations into the music. Her highly developed skills bore fruit to her in new ways. Thanks to Hindustani vocal training, she could hit any note, high or low, her jazz singers hit. Her forte in improvisation found a
new home in scatting and vocalese. In addition, Bharata Natyam, the form she has been studying all her life, the oldest and most widely danced style in India, was designed to manifest the divine entity she was dressed up to portray and whose legend she acted out with precise hand and footwork amidst the placement of arms and the movements of eyes and eyebrows, all synchronized in tala. By mastering the ten postures of the body, thirty-six of the hands, nine of the neck and thirteen of the head, she discovered that currents generated by repeated rhythmic movements of her body brought a powerful mojo to her performance, and from her non-stop hours listening to these women sing, she could, by way of make-up, mudra and mimicry, manifest their murti on the bandstand. So she sang and danced every morning, and every afternoon she poured over books by or about Ginsberg and Blake. Every Wednesday evening before the music came on she told the radio what she made of it all—their poems, arrests, libertarian politics, restless lifestyles, quests for spiritual experiences and searches for inspiration—for it now held a new kind of light. No longer worried about being wrong, nuts, too imaginative or cursed, she found her suspicions confirmed: many everyday people in normal lives experienced para-normal events. She observed that it wasn’t that odd things happened that mattered; it was what people made of the event. Most people were afraid so they denied the event and the odd things stopped happening. But not in her case. On a beautiful spring afternoon Bhajan noticed her deep in Blake’s “Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in the quietest part of the library. He sat down next to her as if they were old friends and said out of the blue, “We’ve taken notice of you.” “Is that so?” “Just so, and we’ve a proposition for you, mem sahib.” “If it’s about giving me my job back, no thank you.” “I fired you from that job to offer you this one.” “That’s not as clear to me as it may be to you, Dr. B.” “The job’s about going to the States.” “I don’t want to go to the States.” “To enrich your jazz studies.” “But I’m not in school for jazz studies.”
“Join me for chai?” Over tea and sweets in the cafeteria, Bhajan looked for an opening. “May I be candid, Gangaji? My agents have seen your sets at the Blue Sadhu.” “The head librarian has agents?” “I’m a householder with mouths to feed, so please do not confuse my day job with my real life. I’m president of a group called Just So, and I need your help.” “Just Sew—are you tailors?” “We take our name from the state the Buddha dwelled in: tathagata, a condition we translate as suchness, or just so.” “So why dress like a Brahmin?” “The sacred thread is an excellent disguise for a Buddhist revolutionary at BHU.” “Well, I’m no Buddhist revolutionary.” “That’s why we want to hire you.” “How come I’ve never heard of your group?” “We’re a secret cell of agents holding fast to the liberating insight Gautama gave us, that we already have the Buddha nature within us, or as he put it, ‘Don’t think anything was attained when I attained enlightenment.’ If everyday people understood this, the whole religion game that preys on us would be over, not just the killing of other sentient beings because they may hold a different view than you, but the justification of aggression for alleged enlightenment training when there is no one to save and nothing to do but laugh at our striving and conniving to get at who we’ve always been anyway.” “I’m not sure what this has to do with me.” “The Just So Society would like you to represent us at an international world congress of religions about to take place at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. Sri Ramakrishna had encouraged Vivekananda to attend the first congress in Chicago a hundred years ago, and he stunned the audience with his eloquence.” “I’m no eloquent stunner; I have classes.” “I’ve gotten you excused from class. The completion of the assignment will give you more than enough credits so you can graduate on time.” “But I love my week-end gig at the Blue Sadhu.”
“I can pay enough so you can stay and absorb the Bay Area jazz scene.” “Dr. B, you need a spy. I’m just an impersonator.” “An underground society intent on doing away with the abuses of religion needs someone with an agreeable and calm nature, an observer who can keep what she sees secret as well as blend in with the scene, a curious and intrepid woman who can seduce for information and who can impersonate anyone if necessary but who won’t take sides.” “So that’s the gig? Attend in stealth mode?” “Yes. You must never mention the Just So Society.” “Then how to I explain why am I at the conference?” “Your radio told you to go ride the music. Here’s your visa and ticket.” The next day Ganga boarded the afternoon flight for San Francisco. She felt serendipitous, having never flown in a jet before, and looked down the aisle. The non-stop flight was full of Varanasi’s leaders bound for the world congress: Buddhists, Parsis, Jains, Vaishnavs, Sikhs, Sufis, sadhus, sunyassins, Shivaites, yogis, nagas, babas and matas of all stripes and with all manner of paraphernalia: face paint, incense, tee shirts, mala beads, prayer wheels, banners, iPod kirtan, virtual samadhi headphones, little puja shrines that popped out of attaché cases—the passengers reveled in the accoutrements Hari Bhajan lamented as unnecessary as legs on a snake. “Cooperate and you won’t die,” a voice came over the public address. “We’re hijackers in the name of the Contra-Tantras!” Ganga heard a gun shot. The door separating first class from the cockpit opened. “Get in here,” a bearded man said to her at gunpoint, handed her a first aid kit and pointed to the bleeding leg of the captain sitting next to the co-pilot tied up in duct tape. While Ganga stopped the blood, cleaned and dressed the captain’s wound in the tiny compartment, the three hijackers argued among themselves. Finally the tall male said calmly to beard, “All I’m saying is you shouldn’t have shot him.” “Only in the face of catastrophe can we know if our devotion is sincere.” “You both have said too much,” the female concluded.
Ganga pieced together from their tirade that they were American Buddhists practicing a radical meditation technique called Contra-Tantra. If Tantra could be called the yoga of opposites uniting a whole greater than its parts, Contra-Tantra sought to challenge the whole by creating existential terror, moral divide, philosophical uncertainty and homeostatic upset. Performed to help the practitioner confront the Madyamika doctrine that every proposition is ultimately unknowable, their teacher held that only by a deliberate act of losing one’s moral compass can one find one’s way. Before she could learn more, beard opened the cockpit door and walked her back to her seat. The passengers were in the aisles, trying unsuccessfully to call on their cell phones, expressing ironic opinions to one another about the condition they were in, making distinctions in doctrine but united in boisterous disagreement with hostage-taking as a reliable spiritual path. “Contra-Tantra? Please explain.” “I’ve never heard of such a lineage or practice.” “In Nicaragua perhaps, but not Bharat!” “But in the name of Buddha, why hurt the captain?” “They can’t be real Buddhists.” “What’s a real Buddhist?” “One free of the arrogance about real or unreal.” “Who are you calling arrogant?” “Real Buddhists wouldn’t hijack an airplane.” “How do you know?” “Do priests have sex with boys?” “Where is this headed?” “To hijacking the world congress of religions.” “They’re not hijackers. They’re performance artists.” “No, they’re action heroes and you’re the villain.” “Because we represent our practice at the world congress?” “I doubt they’re headed to the world congress.” “Artists or Buddhists, they’re hijacking bullies.” “Who are we to know heroes from villains?” “Heroes make headlines, and these guys make headlines.” “The fruit of their practice is they’re in your face.” “But they don’t even practice the path of meditation.” “Maybe they just don’t practice the same path you do.”
“The path is easy for those without preferences.” “Their path is to disturb someone else’s!” “They’re frauds!” “They’re American. What did you expect?” “India hasn’t sent enough frauds of her own already?” “But they represent religion. Isn’t that bad enough?” “Condoning this in the name of any religion is nuts.” “Look, there is no god. Why can’t we get over that?” “Who else can we blame our animal nature on?” “And they are the animals and we the blamers?” “They’re just brothers and sisters in pain.” “Give that pious bullshit a rest, will you?” Hearing this, the hijackers came out of the cockpit and got involved in the discussion. Perhaps it was their automatic weapons or the eloquent logic of their predicament or the fact that they had shot the captain in the leg, but the hijackers were not interrupted, not even by this audience. As they told their whole story, the passengers expressed sympathy. “We understand you don’t want to meditate in a cave.” “The world exists to test the limits of your practice.” “But shouldn’t there be limits to testing the limits?” “Your teacher wants you to land the plane?” “On a private island in the Caribbean?” “Have you ever landed a plane before?” “How did he get a private island in the first place?” “Do you think he may be trying to use you?” There was no end to their commentaries on the dialectic of teacher and student. Even the old matas had tales of guru hooligans to tell, of money deception and carnal advantages taken, of hearts broken and spiritual intentions misunderstood, of one student dead from suicide because the roshi wouldn’t stop screwing his wife, of other students dead from the AIDS virus, their teacher knowingly infecting them but keeping it a secret nonetheless, and of other students banished from the community for reporting these facts. It was a very human predicament high in the sky, and Ganga saw the resolve of the three breaking down. They were in a Contra-Tantra moment. “All right,” beard said to Ganga, “we’ve heard from everyone on the flight but you. What do you think?” “I recently heard a silent radio tell me to go ride the music
so you have every right to consider me crazy, but I say that it’s not the event per se that matters but what we make of it. And the only thing we can agree on is the quality of your commitment to your practice. So I have a gift in honor of your commitment.” “Don’t try and confuse us,” the woman said. “We don’t need your gift,” the tall one added. “I would venture that in the spirit of the world congress everyone on this flight has a gift as well, perhaps one of their meditation aids, to remind us that it’s all one practice, no matter how much we get caught up in ideas to the contrary.” “Why should we accept your gifts?” beard asked. “Something given freely in the spirit of honoring your commitment may mean more to your teacher than something stolen, which could bring him trouble with the law. Landing a hijacked plane on his island could result in problems with airline officials. They like to get their jets back. Why not let us fly you over the island and then you can parachute out? This way you prove your devotion to your teacher, your good will to us and— since you’re not stealing anything, bringing only yourselves and the gifts we’ve given you—your skill in testing the limits of your teacher’s sincerity as well?” The Contra-Tantras thought this over and agreed. So it came to pass that the three jumped out of the sky somewhere west of the Cayman Islands in the Greater Antilles, their parachutes blossoming white above their teacher’s palm tree-lined island. The passengers de-planed in Vera Cruz to great fanfare as cameras hunted Ganga. Hailed by the bandaged captain as the heroine of Flight 164, Ganga was awarded a cash gift by the airline and her story made the evening news in the United States. Although she managed to keep the Just So Society a secret in all the interviews, she’d blown her cover. Her ability to spy on the world congress was compromised, so she decided not to board the flight the next day. She told the press that last night she had fallen in love with the musicians singing songs of such longing that it reminded her of the Bauls of Bengal. She decided to ride the music province by province in Mexico, making her way to San Francisco slowly. In response the government gave her a visa and a free rental car.
Her first stop was San Miguel de Allende, a quaint colonial town in the mountains that may have once been an international art colony but now seemed like a gringo ex-pat hang. She parked the car and walked around stopping in front of a stately hotel which overlooked the main cathedral and zocalo. “Ganga Ghose, venga,” the hotel owner said and pulled her out of the street and into the lobby. “I am Marta. With much pleasure I offer you, heroine to my daughters, free of charge, the presidential suite of the Hotel del San Francisco. My family wants to meet you, but go now to our bar jardin for a preview of the festival de jazz opening tonight at the Teatro de Musica. Tell the purple padre I sent you.” Ganga took her key, thanked Marta, walked into a shaded garden and sat down amidst bougainvillea and fragrant jasmine which climbed the walls of the bar. A quartet was playing Charlie Parker’s “Yardbird Suite” from a small bandstand under a banyan tree. The pianist sounded familiar, especially how he turned one tune into the next. “That was one of Neal Cassady’s favorites,” a wizened man with a gray ponytail in a purple tee shirt with a white minister’s collar said from the drum kit, “and why we like to say, Bird lives, and like Bird, Neal knew how to go ride the music. He died on the railroad tracks outside of town. Here’s one of the only recordings we have of him.” Ganga was glad to be sitting down for the recording hit her eerily like a memory she ought to recall but could not. It wasn’t just the easy outpouring of Cassady’s improvisational chatter, but the way he sewed it together seamlessly, connecting her relative, Sri Aurobindo Ghose, with Edgar Cayce, a ‘48 Packard speeding cross country with Jackson Pollack’s action painting, Jelly Roll Morton’s Spanish tinge and the wide sweep of Arabia while the Grateful Dead riffed in the background. When the song ended the reverend wished everyone a good seat later and to go ride the music. The crowd dispersed and Ganga approached the graybeard. “What do you mean, go ride the music?” “What does it mean to you?” he said, packing his drum kit. “You said it twice.” “Did I? Maybe I don’t have a clue.” “Are you the purple padre?”
“I’m just an old conga player.” “Why am I supposed to meet you?” “Marta sent you? You have a car?” “Yes and yes.” “Maybe I do have a clue. Can you give us a lift?” “Who’s us?” “Meet my friend Ghost Wakefield, piano player from the Crescent City.” “I thought it was you ticklin’ out of ‘Yardbird Suite’ and into ‘Blues for Alice.’” “What makes you say that?” “It reminded me of how you slipped out of ‘Bloodcount’ and into ‘Come Sunday’ with the Brothers Grip---stunning stuff.” “That little blue bridge, you dug that?” “I haven’t forgotten it. Your tribute CD to Duke and Strays changed me. “Oh? How so?” “It’s why I’m here: to go ride the music. My name is Ganga Ghose, vocalist.” While they shook hands, the padre got back to working it, “Ghost sat in with us as a favor to Marta. He flew in from New Orleans to play with that acid jazz band with the human beat box and the baritone sax in from Oakland. They’re the feature tonight.” “What’s the name of the band?” “Go Ride the Music.” “I might if I knew what their name was, reverend.” “Go Ride the Music is the name of the band.” “Is this a joke? Are you guys making fun of me?” “Let’s talk in the car. We’ve some festival business at Aguas Calientes.” On the ride out to the hot springs, Ganga didn’t press it. Instead of small talk, she asked to hear American folk music. When the padre pulled out a handful of CDs, she chose Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding. She loved the title track and before it was over, the reverend connected it to Woody Guthrie’s “Pretty Boy Floyd” and said Dylan had lost his moral compass with rock and had returned from his motorcycle accident renewed in folk and blues roots which allowed him to tell such beautiful parables in simple but moving song forms. Each tune gave
the padre’s theory more weight. He showed Ganga the cover of the CD, pointed out the faces of the Beatles hidden in the tree bark and said this was in response to the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s with its mug shot of Dylan among the screen’s greatest, that roots mattered more than stars. Ganga noticed something else. “Though he looks younger, that’s my teacher, Purna Das Baul, on the cover!” “Allen Ginsberg, champion of many things Indian, convinced Albert Grossman, Dylan’s manager, to record the Bauls. Maybe Dylan put them in the photo to celebrate their folk tradition with the re-discovery of his own. What do you think, Ganga?” From that moment on, her whole adventure rolled off her tongue in one long ramble. From running with the Bauls as a wild teen to her college music program, from hearing her radio talking to her after Ghost played “Come Sunday,” from fearing she was nuts to reading Ginsberg’s experience of Blake, from practicing scales all her life to impersonating the great gal jazz singers, from losing her job at the library to becoming a spy for the Just So Society, from the Contra-Tantra hijack to the airline’s cash prize, from getting pulled off the street by Marta to being told to seek the purple padre, neither man blinked an eye. She pulled into the parking lot. While they entered the office where they sealed the deal that would give jazz fest guests a free pass on Sunday, she looked around the grounds, empty of people. After awhile she saw a naked Ghost and padre set out for the hot springs, so she took off all her clothes, put them in a locker and walked up to the pianist and drummer as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Hand in hand, the three of them walked steadily this way and that as the canal twisted and turned. When the water deepened and came up to their waists, she noticed the elevation of the land had changed. They lingered for a long while in the warm waters of a large pool shaded by two tall hillside mesquite trees. Just as she thought to engage the padre, he swam to the far corner, entered a tunnel and was gone. So she turned her attention to Ghost. “G-man, is your band really named Go Ride the Music?” “Yes, thanks to you. I only met the musicians yesterday. We went into rehearsal and liked what happened. Afterwards,
sitting at the bar watching the news, the captain of your flight narrated your bravery, how you explained that a radio had told you to go ride the music and how you then charmed the terrorists into parachutes. At that moment in walks the festival producer to ask what band name to put on the program, and the cats all looked at me so I said, Go Ride the Music.” “All right, if we’re that connected, let’s play together some time.” “How about tonight at the Green Parrot after the show?” “Bet to that. I’ll be there.” Ganga half-swam, half-walked to the tunnel’s entrance and stepped out of sight and sun into cool pitch darkness. The water from the hot springs felt warmer than the air so she tied her hair up in a rishi knot and hunkered down until all but her head was underwater. Paddling down the tunnel, adjusting to the dark, her eyes caught in the stone images from the day mixed with bits of last night’s dream. When she could see no light at either end, the walls of the passageway began to breathe like muscles slowly contracting. A primordial dread entered her bloodstream, and when she closed her eyes and opened them she knew: she was in mother’s birth canal. She loved her mother, and her mother said she was a smooth delivery, but the walls seemed to be closing in. Like the Contra-Tantras she knew she was at the end of what her compass could do for her. So she took the remedy she prescribed for them: she inched her way forward to her jump-off point. Fighting off panic she pressed on and soon saw light up ahead. As the passageway opened she stepped out of the tunnel and into the circular, high-ceilinged cave. At its center, an island of rock rose evenly above the water. Light filtered down from an adobe turret’s large windows forty feet above. She swam to the island, climbed up the warm, sun-drenched rock and lay down next to the former pastor on the sun-drenched rock. “Do you find it odd that a radio spoke to me?” “Not after living in Haight-Ashbury way back when.” “But go ride the music?” “That’s actually the refrain Marty Balin and Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane sang on ‘Wooden Ships,’ a Crosby-Stills song of the late Sixties, but I’d need a time capsule to give
you the lost-at-sea sense of what we were up against as clergy with young men from our congregations drafted into war and the mean insistence on winning it at any expense, the titanic certainty that might was right, the lack of conscience or sense of karmic consequence. It was as if the country had lost its moral compass, but the music reminded us of what could be. I remember when Miles Davis opened for Crosby, Still and Nash and covered their tune ‘Guinevere’ with his trumpet on a wah-wah peddle looping Balakrishna’s sitar and Airto’s Amazon jungle sounds. It was a wild ride and Cassady was in the audience with his ballpeen hammer swinging like a cool daddy, an American original, with Blake’s eyes of flesh, eyes of fire, not just a Merry Prankster but a rebop reminder of Bird, Diz, Monk and Miles, a bridge to the underground side of the Forties, as well as Ginsberg and Kerouac, called to ride the loa or holy spirit or other world coming through, and so in the gospel sense we all died, like Mahalia Jackson sings, to be reborn in glory, Lord, I’m goin’ home one day to tell my story.” She studied the sunlight illuminating the back wall of the cave and felt herself to be nothing more than a dust grain falling through space but no longer afraid of giving herself completely over to her wildest impulses. Later that evening in the teatro her fate would be sealed. Go Ride the Music would open the set with “Daydream” and it would be “Music out of Time, Time out of Mind” all over again. Woven within the sound waves, she would sense ancestors dancing in the air above the bandstand. Ghost would serve up all sorts of invites for riding the music, and later at the piano in the Green Parrot after the show, he would do the same for her. She would call Cyndi Lauper’s “Time after Time” and out it would flow, not an impersonation but the real thing, her deep and true sound, how his left hand would shape her liquid refrain, “If you’re lost you can look and will find me, time after time,” while his right hand would sprinkle constellations of bright moments. Later, they would meet up in New York and work together for real, and after that, the whole kit ‘n’ caboodle. But right now, bathing in a shaft of sunlight that limned her brown Bengali body with a warm glow, she realized why she’d listened to her radio and rode the music this far from her homeland. She felt of the moment born, naked at last in her own skin.
The G-force of Blue | Touching Base with Gendai haiku Gendai: 現代 (hiragana げんだい, romaji gendai) : the present day, modern times, today “Through the horrors, persecutions and travails of war, the postwar gendai movement arose [ ] — creatively mixing ancient with contemporary aesthetics, language and philosophy.”
What is gendai haiku to a non-Japanese person? It didn’t arise out of the horrors of war outside Japan, though most countries during the 20th Century suffered some aspect of war or other type of suffering. The 21st Century has provided no relief from the wars and persecution, closed minds, fear, a cultural awakening to gross misconduct by our pillars of society, and blunt opportunistic profiteering. Is gendai haiku a protest poetic? No. “Such questions as how a nature poetics might deal with urban contexts, species extinction, globalization, mechanized war — and, questions of the relevance of haiku (if not poetry) to modernity are implicitly addressed by [ ] poets [ ]: Hoshinaga’s indigenous mytho-animistic conception of kotodama shinkô, Tsubouchi’s linguistic concept of katokoto, and Hasegawa’s ‘world of mind,’ [which] hopefully offer new avenues of insight for haiku, ecocriticism, and literature as a whole.” Both above quotes from Gendai Haiku Project Précis: Aims by Richard Gilbert, Ph.D Faculty of Letters, Kumamoto University, Japan http://gendaihaiku. com
The Gendai approach, I feel, is a companion to consider, alongside the more familiar haiku we find comfort in, along with occasional senryu, which often have a satirical bite to them, and appear similar in brevity to haiku.
“Kiyoko Uda has been at the forefront of haiku’s growing popularity among younger poets for the past several decades. She recently became president of the Modern Haiku Association-the most avant-garde of Japan’s major haiku organizations.” William J. Higginson, author, The Haiku Handbook, The Haiku Seasons, Haiku World.
Kiyoko Uda says of gendai haiku: “It should be our method that we create haiku which match the times. This is not a new idea and was prevalent in the old days; even Sanki Saito wrote about it before the association existed. Sanki believed: ‘To the difficult question ‘what is new?’ I will answer: the new means how the emotions of today’s society and people are expressed to fit the times. The haiku must be innovative in any time. So we should begin and continue to express the emotions of the people of this time and generation.” Kiyoko Uda, President, Modern Haiku Association, Tokyo, JAPAN (Gendai Haiku, S.21.10) English Translation: Akiko Takazawa
teki noka kazu dake no nogiku o mochi kaeru bringing back wild chrysanthemum – only the number of enemies Uda Kiyoko
Richard Gilbert and Itô Yûki (trans.) 2007 Note: The Chrysanthemum Throne is the name given to the position of the Japanese Emperor; in Imperial Japan, small arms were required to be stamped with the Imperial Chrysanthemum, as they were considered the personal property of the Emperor; the chrysanthemum is the
seasonal flower of September; the formal surrender of Japan in WWII (2 September 1945); and September was regularly a key month throughout World War Two for Japan.
Many pre-Gendai haiku poets of the New Rising Haiku movement (shinkô haiku undô), were tortured, sometimes causing death, because they produced a voice against the clamour for war. We need to clamour against something now and again, if not just the risk of stagnancy in a still relevant genre such as haiku that requires to appear current in both its poetics and its social link to people of the new century. For all of us, in time of war, both domestic and foreign, even our internal workings can be in conflict with what we do and cause in our external lives. Pharmakós the name you scratch inside Alan Summers Publications credits: Does Fish-God Know (Yet To Be Named Press 2012) Note: This allusive haiku touches on a senior military officer’s poem after witnessing the 911 Pentagon attack. His poem is now part of the joint renga and art project led by writers and artists such as Bob Holman and Jeff Koons.
麦よ死は黄一色と思い込む むぎよしはきいっしょくとおもいこむ mugi yo shi wa ki isshoku to omoikomu wheat – realizing death as one color gold Uda Kiyoko (宇多 喜代子) Richard Gilbert and Itô Yûki (trans.) October 29, 2007
corn chaff realising oil as one colour Alan Summers Publications credits: Does Fish-God Know (YTBN Press 2012)
Gendai haiku in Japan is written by perhaps just over a third of the haiku writing population, and covers a wide variety of subjects, and often includes kigo. Surreal gendai haiku is a parallel genre or sub-genre as many gendai haiku are raw unforgiving social realism covering modern/contemporary topics. Tohta Kaneko, influenced by Issa, combines the nature of Issa with the nature of his ongoing contemporary society of post-war Japan. “Mr. Kaneko believed that Issa obtained the greatest degree of sensitivity to life, what Mr. Kaneko calls “raw perceptions of living beings.” ( ikimono kankaku).”
Part I: The Romance of Primitivism: Tohta Kaneko’s Ikimonofûei, Notes from the Gean 13: June 2012; VIEWS, Jack Galmitz pub. Cyberwit ISBN 978-81-8253-314-1 (2012)
Shinishi hone wa umi ni sutsubeshi takuan kamu dead bones into the sea I chew pickled radish Tohta Kaneko English version Alan Summers
This haiku is about the horrific aftermath of WWII Japan suffering atomic attack radiation in some parts, and food shortages and extreme poverty across Japan. Pickled radish is very loud when chewed, like bones being crunched, and human bones were disposed of in the sea. Hunger, and no choice but to dispose of so many bodies, became an unforgiving duet of death and informed much of Kaneko’s post-war work. Where are our dreams, where do they go in war? While everything changes nothing changes, and the gendai practitioners are keen to capture this disparity in our supposed civilisations utilising any contemporary phenomenon in their path. Where in fact does religion end and science take over, should it, will it?
apple genome I decode into petals Alan Summers Publication Credit: Adventum Magazine (Issue IV January 2013)
Gendai haiku isn’t just about the horrors of war, that may never leave some of us, or of all the cruel social issues that abound in this world: But should we be allowed to overlook how we’ve dragged the excesses of the 20th Century into this new opportunity of the 21st Century? plum blossom blue sharks also visit this family garden Tohta Kaneko English version Alan Summers
Blue sharks are also Requiem Sharks, and a Requiem is known as Mass for the dead, while the Latin also means “rest”, so perhaps the sharks are blossom viewing? The plum blossom is associated with the start of spring, because they are some of the first blossoms to open during the year: In the Tokyo area, they typically flower in February and March. Dhugal Lindsay suggests the blue sharks are playful suggestions of a weak new spring sun. Perhaps then, blue sharks are neologistic seasonal words adding humour to potential kigo, that many Japanese writers try out every year. “While, given the clear seasonal reference, it is not difficult to grasp the sense-impression of biting cold from the Daliesque image of blue sharks in the garden [. . .] demanding a [. . .] bold imaginative leap on the part of the reader. Like much of the best surrealist art, it manages to be at once powerfully disturbing and humorous.” Philip Rowland (“Surreal Haiku?”, Roadrunner 9.3)
As humans, we often enjoy nature within a park or on a ramble, or within a natural history documentary, if we are no t the actual film crew, but really many of us are unnerved by the
raw stuff invading our own personal and private spaces e.g. Hirst’s butterflies disturbing the exhibits people Alan Summers Publication Credits: Roadrunner 12.3 (2012)
I observed people at Damien Hirst’s exhibit at the Tate Modern become intimidated by butterflies around them. Despite flying/floating slowly and delicately around a constrained space of light, beautiful, harmless and fragile, the butterflies had people spooked, visibly uncomfortable. Was the whole purpose to make the audience an unintentional art installation, their uneasiness on display? Are we too removed from nature in its real state, in an over mechanised, gadgetized cushioned world, rarely admitting to conditions elsewhere that are contrary to a 21st Century experience? Gendai haiku is evolving in the West, and will inform and complement, not compete or threaten the currently accepted haiku genre format. We carry many memories, and I wonder if we still carry too much of our lizard brain? The human LizardBrain has been evolving for around 285 million years, and is similar in power and concept to the total brain capacity of a modern lizard. Gendai haiku is perhaps another way around the lizard brain still in us, and its approaches may in time be a welcome travelling companion, alongside more familiar haiku practices. chestnut moon shifting in my memory ghost floors Alan Summers Publication Credits: Roadrunner 12.3 (2012) The G-force of Blue | Touching Base with Gendai haiku is a project for the Amazement & Intensity Course and book-in-progress by Alan Summers, and in memory of Shimada Seihô (1882-1944) who died from his torture treatment as a poet.
At the Shrine of St. Naum In a place of rock and dry weather trees, Close to a lake called Ohrid Etched on a map we had never seen We found the river Treska: A bruised tenderness, a lingering in moonlight. Our spirits leapt in sweat stained cloth Sparrows bristled in the mulberry tree, Such tiny things, birds in a tree Afloat in a light which has no source. Your hands the color of light which has no source. You stroked my spine, that childhood spot Where I was hurt, hard against a monsoon wall When mulberries stained even sand. I kneel at a healerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s shrine, cup my ear to polished stone, I try to catch a lost heart beating. You stand there watching me, Your back against the fresco of a man Torn apart by stout ropes Sempiternal torment of the damned. Naum of Ohrid, Teach us how to reach those we love, How not to weep, How to give praise When slow rocks quake. Note: The river Treska is in Macedonia â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the word treska means fever.
Gotland For Cecilia Edefalk I was on an island where few birds call. Green trees swirled in the wind The door to my studio tore off Stones struck clouds, church bells echoed – Earthly unsettlement. Forced to go on, what did I do? I pulled down a wall, Set up another with pasteboard, Tacked a strip of mirror all along the floor Till white plaster was afloat, gravity unhinged. The lights I had set up fell to one side I stepped through the mirror to touch her – She was that sort of being, what was the word You gave me – sakshi, yes that. No one would see her seeing I thought Without themselves being altered in some way So in the end she could have a chance Of being saved from all the body remembers. I took the face, making it very precise, Filling in the eyes with several strokes, Reddening under the lids – fire turned to blood, Each element as the Gnostics tell us, Resolved into its own roots. The neck of course is simple and straight. She is in a white dress as usual, A child whose mother
Takes pleasure in dressing her well. In the end my hands were pocked And bruised with paint And when I lifted them off the canvas I felt something warm, Very like torn skin fluttering off.
Lilac If you hold the door post And I steady you so you donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t fall, Youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll see the gorge where it grows, As bound in breath Mauve petals blow.
Ananya S Guha
School He was sitting in front of a house. It was a slum, dirty houses lined in a room. Inside a voice called out. What are you doing, dreaming as usual? And you have not gone to school today. He thought of the school, that lousy decrepit building with that nosy old man as a teacher. Half the time he could not understand what he was saying, as he always mumbled. Forget him he thought. He did not reply. He looked wistfully at the blue skies and the sun shone brightly enlivening his spirits. For once he thought of going out and playing in the village field near the pond. But he knew that the voice would call again. He started dreaming. He thought of the day when he could go to the city and see a movie, or better still eat in a restaurant, or still better get a job and settle there. He had two younger brothers and one younger sister. But could he leave them, could he? The voice emerged once again. It was his mother calling. Come inside and do some work. As usual you have not gone to school. He played truant because he hated the school. Its dilapidated building, its rusty doors and its creaking blackboard. There was a television somewhere inside but he hardly could get to see it. They were told that lessons would be telecast but he hardly remembered viewing them, he longed to see at least one of them. But the old hag, the headmaster, the teacher all rolled into one hardly gave them that opportunity. He just frowned at them and wrote something on the blackboard. Sometimes he wrote a sentence and asked them to pronounce which is the noun, the verb and the adjective. He did not understand them nor did he understand the cantankerous old man who did not like him, and who would berate him at the slightest opportunity. Moreover, his habit of looking below his spectacles irritated him to no end. Today he had decided to take a holiday. His father was out in the paddy fields. His siblings had gone to the school. But who could he play with? His friends were all missing, perhaps they too had gone to school. Again the voice shouted,
come in and have some food, have your milk, you have not eaten since morning. Fasting he replied, fasting. He was 13 to 14 years old, fairly tall for his age and slim. He had ruffled hair which kept on being what it was because he did not like to comb it properly. He hated the comb, he hated the mirror and he hated going to school. Especially, that old hag who hardly taught and did not know he was saying. One thing he liked although, was the play ground. Sometimes he lingered on there till late after school. He would like to go and sit by the shed, near the play field and after a few games of football or seven stones, he would simply love to sit by the shed and dream. Dream, not of going to college, but going to the city for a job. He was awakened from his reverie. A shaft of people were running past towards his house and crossing it. Some were running towards the opposite direction. Someone said that someone has been shot. Someone said that the police van had arrived. Reluctantly he left the place and went inside. You are so late the mother shouted. You can now have your lunch. He had a long nap that afternoon. In the evening he heard from his father that the old hag in the school, the headmaster and teacher was shot dead. By whom? he asked. By terrorists, his father replied. He mother started crying. He was 14 years old, and this was the first time that he heard the word. His friends told him the next day, it is surprising that you haven't heard of this word before. He started dreaming.
Sunandan Roy Chowdhury
My Republican Hero You took me to the brigade grounds Not to one of the mass meetings of Red revolution. I had gone for Nehru’s India To salute the Republic Day march. You had placed my little self on your shoulders I could see the khaki men in long march We could hear the bugles left behind by the Raj And the dry grass smell of January wafted by The republic had found In you, a foot soldier You marched left and right A long life of salute. Life’s long march Took you away We do not meet any longer Every evening, as we did in our long life. In my day’s evening, I am still the little me I want to stand on your shoulders The mind wants to find a hero In the crowd of khaki men. (Translated from the Bengali original by the poet)
Arab Evening Seas call me every now and again Water hugs the Malabar The call from far away land Breezes through the still evening The cacophony of the boat's engine The neons lit in sea-city The water drunk in love My heart overflowing in beats Morning and noon flooded with night Green ways all around Malini walks hand in hand In the silent sun of the sea-land
Maliniâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Marigolds Marigolds â&#x20AC;&#x201C; yellow, red, saffron The bed strewn with marigold flowers Fragrance showers my body Dream flowers wash away stagnation Malini, the one who plucks flowers Lives in a distant village She comes in the morning, and at times when night turns evening She comes smiling silently with the stars Malini loves me Talks slowly and quietly She plucks flowers with care I live in flower bed for times to come.
Ananya S Guha
Doorsteps... Waiting for you at doorsteps is love requited, love of hands feet and faces many eyed, love of the flower in my hands cupped for a wait a marigold dream the tree of so many ablutions, so many purposes to serve, to wait for a love of reclusive dreams a torment of the storm passing by the sea of uncanny quiet. To wait. The sea is not troubled today only waits, only licks lips only is a bystander to the love of a storm which eludes a doorstep where we are waiting. Come adorn me with a thorn let this only be a passing wait. Doorsteps are many, ruinous archetypal, history's unlettered truth of crumbling remains...
Ode Will the pain of these hills lessen ancient, primeval, these hills welcome us to the mountains where the earth's crust is hidden yet in oblivion, these hills search for an antidote even as, this city cringes for more, the rush does not abate, not in the rainbow hued colours. There was a time we called you a hill station the quest for a city is magnanimous, even opulent as wide, starry eyed you view the hills in transit should they still be a part of you, should they? In my supine thoughts, there is a maelstrom, which dies every time these hills echo, the plaintive call of crows, trees nestle by the tempestuous wind and the rains only spoil ethereal truths, but they are needed we say. We need, yes the hills bearing tremulous pains of past and the rains whistlling like wind to foil spurious moments. But the people do not look at these searing hills lest a moment be lost, and I orbit between eternity, time and these hills of plenty. A teardrop is simply, reminiscing those boyhood excursions of a song.
Saturdays You do not spell doom only, blue eyes as my head whirls in fantasy of what you were, I were in those oblivious days of oranges
and a fireplace of steaming fog baked rice, home made butter to feed hungry souls and the armchair to run around with the imaginings of the cricket bat, and a deflated football to kick around, the fun of bang-bang a make belief game of cowboys. For you and your penurious days winter or summer monsoon or autumn your blue dovetail winds remained as calm as the Sundays following, with whispers of some death in a lake housed sometimes for suicides.
Extract from the novel: An Olive Branch for Sante Brief synopsis Young Australian journalist Sara-Jane Giffen goes to Sicily and meets Sante, a brother she did not know she had. So begins the story of two young people on a journey to uncover a shocking secret and a past that extends over two fascinating landscapes half a world apart. Set in Australia and Sicily, this novel explores questions about identity, love and redemption. * In this extract set in Sicily, Don Alfio (who was to become Sante’s stepfather) looks back to the events 18 years ago when Sara La Rocca arrived from Australia and got a job looking after Alfio’s terminally ill mother. Sara came into his life at a time when his mother’s chronic illness had taken a turn for the worse. Twenty-one year-old Sara La Rocca was hired to look after her. Don Alfio, then a strapping thirty-six year-old with a fondness for flamboyant women, hardly noticed the dark, waif-looking girl with intense black eyes. Just days after her arrival, his mother, a devout woman, called Alfio into her room. ‘I just want to tell you this young woman is pregnant. Now, I don’t want you to send her away, I am growing fond of her. And another thing, you will not take advantage of her, unless, that is, you have honourable intentions in her regard.’ Alfio was crestfallen. His mother hardly ever spoke to him about such matters, since he had chosen to live what she called a dissolute life. She understood his weakness. Her long-departed husband had been a womaniser, so she could hardly expect anything else from her son. Alfio accepted his life was flighty, but what could he do?
Had he been gifted with artistic talent, or even a head for business, then yes, it would have been a pity to waste it. But he knew his only talent was for appreciating life’s many pleasures: food, conversation, good company and women. Ah, women he did love. Of course, he had to accept that, in his mother’s strict religious code – her code, not his – he was a sinner. In his defence he could say, to the Supreme judge when he got to the other side, that he hadn’t just taken pleasure, he had given pleasure also. So while he admitted his life was shallow, at least he could not be accused of entirely wasting it. That would be unforgivable. His sick mother’s words must have planted a seed, or rather given him her eyes with which to look at Sara. And he saw in her a strength he had not seen in all the women he frequented. Alfio’s courtship of Sara La Rocca was conducted over the fast-receding body of his mother, and Sara’s expanding belly. It wasn’t easy for Sara, whose only experience with one man had been traumatic, to accept this man’s attentions. For Alfio, who had dealt with sophisticated and willing women, adept at the game of love, Sara was a new challenge. Amorous looks, suggestive phrases, subtle physical contact as he brushed past her in the corridor – all of these had no effect. And yet the more she ignored him, the more eager he became. Her coldness fed his passion. He stopped going to Palermo to attend society functions and fashionable houses. Instead he took a personal interest in the family citrus orchard, which in those days was his sole source of income. At night, he came home and took his coffee at Ciro’s, where he knew people were beginning to talk about the delicate situation, because by this time Sara’s condition was beginning to show. Devotees who went to early morning Mass on Sunday could not help but notice. People naturally assumed Don Alfio was the father, but couldn’t understand why the woman was still in the house. Otherwise, why had he not married her? It did not occur to them that Don Alfio might not be the father, or even less likely, that she may not wish to marry him, the most eligible bachelor in San Sisto. Don Alfio’s persistence was making little impression on Sara. If she thought about it, and that was rare – for she was
too busy to think at all – she found Don Alfio frivolous and lacking in character. Although she could see how a lot of women might find him attractive, she didn’t. Of course she couldn’t say this to Alfio, there really was no point in unduly hurting his feelings. But some explanation was needed. One day, while Donna Rosamunda slept on a chair by the fireplace, Alfio came back from Agneddu with a pannier of early figs. ‘Figs already!’ cried Sara, who had a real weakness for them. Alfio held out the basket to her and she took a fig, smiling. He was encouraged by her obvious relish. He watched Sara squeeze the top of the fig with her thumbs and forefingers, then split it down the middle and pop the two halves in her mouth. As she savoured the flavour, making appreciative noises, she licked her lower lip. On seeing the flesh smeared over with sweet fig juice, Alfio could not hold back and he made a clumsy attempt to kiss her. Instinctively Sara recoiled and gave a muffled shriek. Luckily the old woman slept through it. ‘Don Alfio…’ ‘Please, call me Alfio.’ ‘Don Alfio,’ Sara insisted, ‘I am hired to look after your mother. Please don’t take advantage.’ Don Alfio went red with outrage; that his intentions should be grossly misjudged offended his dignity. ‘I assure, Sara, I have the greatest respect for you.’ ‘You don’t know anything about me.’ ‘Only that I am in love with you. I don’t wish to know anything else.’ She grabbed him by the wrists – her skinny fingers hardly reached halfway around their thickness – and held him at arms’ length. She looked straight into his eyes. ‘Don Alfio, I’m going to have a baby.’ ‘I know.’ ‘You do?’ ‘Yes, I knew it from the first day,’ he lied. ‘I am sure there is a story. But frankly I’m not into stories. All I want is to be allowed to stay by you, in the same way as you have sat by the bed of my poor mother.’ ‘Well!’ She gave such a burst of laughter it made her look her age, for the first time since her arrival. ‘You are not an invalid,
for a start.’ ‘I will make myself an invalid, to get me your notice.’ He was so earnest, like a child begging. Sara, who had held herself together for four months, suddenly felt something inside her rupture and the tears gushed. She began to tell him about that night of fear in far off Australia, the hurt and shame. Before she had even got to mention names, Don Alfio placed a finger over her lips. ‘Don’t. I don’t wish to know. If you will have me, I will marry you tomorrow and this child will take my name.’ How could she say no? Sara married Don Alfio, not out of love, but out of his need and her gratitude. Love would come later; this was God’s direction. She could see that. Alfio was a good man, what she lacked in love, she made up with plenty of care and affection, and in time it became indistinguishable from love. They were married in Sant’Antonio Abbate, the tiny church on the rocky hill on the outskirts of San Sisto. It was a very small gathering, but large enough for the news to get around town, that Don Alfio and ‘the Australian’ had a shotgun marriage. Everyone thought it was the best thing, although they found it difficult to believe that Sara, who looked so serious, so devout, could have been involved in that sort of thing out of wedlock. The unanimous agreement was that Don Alfio had seduced the girl, the old lecher, which did not surprise anyone, and then hired her to look after his mother, to get the full measure. But at least he had done the honourable thing and married her. Not long after the wedding, Alfio’s mother died. He was distraught, but as his mother’s ornate hazelnut coffin went into the Marzano family crypt, he consoled himself that, partly thanks to his mother, he now had a devoted wife. It was more than he had hoped for. Soon he became father to a beautiful son. Which was just as well, because following some tests he had for a prostrate inflammation, the doctors discovered that his sperm count was so low as to make him virtually sterile. This suited him fine, for Don Alfio had one truly outstanding talent: the ability to enjoy life. The last thing he wanted was to be strapped with the responsibility of a large family. As his Alfa Romeo reached the Piazza Chiesa Madre – which in the village was referred to simply as Chiazza, because it
was not merely the only piazza, but the only flat surface in the area, for which reason it was always used by town kids as a sports pitch on which to kick a soccer ball – he looked up at the window of his home. No sign of lights. Good. He didn’t want to feel his wife had been waiting up for him. And Sante was home too; his Fiat Punto was there, parked right under the balcony with the ornate wrought iron railings. He parked the car outside the portone, and walked across to the Bar Ciro for his tucking-in coffee. There were just a few customers at the Bar, Carmine and Paolo, the Borrello cousins who spent their evenings there since their wives had died in an accident at the Forcina. And Fausto, the bus driver, who had just done his last run from Milazzo. Ciro the owner was also sitting down at one of the tables, and looked as if he had not had a good night’s sleep in months. Alfio downed his corretto, and called out a collective farewell. ‘Signori, buona notte.’ ‘Buon riposo, Don Alfio.’ Once inside, he checked to see the light was off in Sante’s bedroom. So as not to awake his wife, he undressed in the passage, down to his cotton vest and underpants, slipped quietly in the bedroom and laid his tired body next to Sara. Carefully, he tucked his arm inside her smooth thin one and took her hand to his chest, right in the centre where he knew his very soul resided. And he felt all warm and cleansed. Sara was the port to which he would always return, always. She was his touchstone, his redeemer. Ah, how he loved his wife!
The Voice of Silence There are moments when I hear An inaudible silence in its aphonic tone When someone speaks to me And there is none around save me. The words are harsh, sarcastic Which purge me down to my soul And lay me bare before some unseen mirror Where I see my infirmities, naked, Like scars scathing and raw And my nostrils fill with a stench Whilst some secret scalpel dissects me I gasp for breath As this asphyxiation pulls me out of the reverie …….am I my own foe? (This poem won honourable mention in the September-October 2012 Poetry Competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
Photo credit: Balbir Krishan From the series: This is not dark life Acrylic on canvas - 25 x 54 inch
In a land of broken promises The last time he learned how to love, it ended in bitter failure, teaching him the delicate nuances of losing love and how to endure a loveless life. The man-boy who looked frustratingly younger than his years spent countless hours trying to figure out what went wrong, what caused the two hearts that beat as one to abruptly lose all synchronization he so ardently nurtured The rains continued, adding to the grim delight of the days that saw bitter conflicts. She was always in no mood and rightly so, for his breath often brought forth the demons of intoxication, she and her father and her father’s father had ever so scrupulously expelled. “I’ve forgotten what its like to talk to you” she said with despair and disapproval all over her face. He did not reply for a reply, a mere reply was not what she wanted. She wanted to be loved the way he promised her, the unconditional love a mother gives to her suckling babe, that was what she wanted and nothing less. * It took Miguel a month after they both met to sum up the courage to give her a call. The night they met had been one of the strangest love-at-first-sight-moments he could think of. “You look lovely” he said to her, in a voice reeking of confidence that had literally shocked him to a point in which he could no longer speak to her that night. Pulling him closer she smiled and dragged him, the temporarily mute, toward her lips. They kissed and kissed and kissed and later made love. “How old are you?” she asked him, teasing him with an air of seriousness. “Old enough to get you into bed” came the reply. She loved his immature wit and held him close, fighting off the advances of the winter cold.
Just before leaving he took the pain of scribbling a few lines onto a piece of paper. She remained faithful to that piece of paper, for quite some time at least. * If he could take back all those bitter moments they had conjured up he would have done it without a moment’s hesitation. But time wouldn’t allow it; his actions were already inscribed into the gigantic chronicle of life. How shameful! Months into their marriage Miguel laid his hand on her. It wasn’t right, he knew it but he had done it and now nothing could be done about it. “Are you happy now?” she said sobbing. “This is what it feels like to be married, a swollen eye that’s what marriage does. Anyways you couldn’t do anything else properly with me, so at least you get what you wanted. Some man you are!” “I want to be a writer. A real one” he told her paying no attention to her insults and bitter sobs. This utter indifference would grow to consume them both wholly but they did not know that then. She stared back at him not knowing what exactly to say. “I don’t know why or for what all that what happened happened. I swear.” Miguel could speak with a lot of tenderness and it won her over. “You touch me like that again…” her voice broke off fighting the tears. Miguel went close to her, held her in his arms and gently stroked her hair. They lost track of time, in each other’s arms time no longer dominated. “You’re one of the most wonderful writers I can think of” she whispered confused and took out a wrinkled piece of paper. Neither the sands of time Nor the strong arms of the clock that ticks Will drown my love or separate me from the perpetual you A week later he handed Mr. S Kumar, the last piece of writing he would do for the old man and his Newspaper. “What the hell do you intend to do?” he asked trying to hide that contemptuous look that frequented his face. “You just got married,
did’nt you? You sure you want me to open the envelope? You sure kid?” When the hell did he become “kid”, Miguel thought to himself. He told him that he wanted to be a full time writer and spending eleven hours a day writing reports about the lack of proper sanitation and corrupt Netas were not helping. Kumar gave him a look that was quite familiar and roared an obscenely long Hokay! Do what you please! He did what he pleased and went back home self-employed. The next morning as she lay tucked away beneath a layer of warmness he slipped out to greet the rising ball of fire. To his dismay Ra had other plans, it rained shamelessly till noon. He decided to put his thoughts to paper. Words eluded him at first then they all together disappeared. It was a bad start. At around eleven as he got ready to go to bed he could see her reflection on the bedroom mirror. How pale her skin was now getting. Her breasts began to sag and her disfigured self somehow made him blame himself. Was this what a day of self employment did to her? Or was this what living with a delusional drunk could do to ones body? Miguel gulped down half a glass of Cognac and decided to make love to her, right then and there. She deserved it. The nights grew warmer and as their union’s inevitable end approached something quite unexpected happened. The angel Gabriel appeared in a dream to Miguel with some more- thangood news. “Fear not for thou hast found favour with God” the radiant creature spoke. “But I am all but good” Miguel replied. And in his dream his wife no longer occupied the space in their bed next to him, instead there lay piece of boneless flesh from whose bosom came forth the tender love and care he dreamed of. Pointing towards that which lay next to him Miguel uttered “Do what you please” and he woke up drenched in sweat next to her. It was the days of the unexpected. A few days later after her being continuously sick throughout the preceding mornings she was deemed pregnant. “How are you feeling?” “Was this planned because if its not there always a way you know!” “Can he afford it?” “Should I come down to take care of you?” “Is he still drinking? Don’t let him smoke in the house. You know that
don’t you?” said the Maharani to the Princess, who continually tried to evade and at the same time answer the questions that came like swift arrows over the telephone line. This was their chance at a better life. Life sought to redeem and liberate them from the bitter life that they led all this while. There were a few scares throughout the journey, at times the money wouldn’t last and at times his sober self wouldn’t. They made it at last but only one was aware of it. Miguel had completed his first collection of short stories titled ‘Stories on How to Cope with a Loss’, and had finally gotten himself printed. One thousand three hundred copies sold so far, allowing him to have a decent sum when added with what she chipped in. After a couple of false alarms came summer’s babe, healthy and beautiful, always smiling but lacking wise men to offer gifts. The house was to say the least celebratory. Her health had deteriorated and he had lost interest in the silent child. “Even today?” she demanded staring at his glass in hand. The age of silence dawned. No answer was given for she had asked a question of pure rhetoric motivation. The second book, of two novellas, was near completion when in a hideously violent rage (thanks to all the litres of gold he had gulped) he chose to set fire to it. The tales that were to be told were lost forever. When an artist chooses to burn his own soul he literally commits suicide. For he has sinned against his own flesh and he becomes the vile being he so awfully did not want to become. The days that followed were those of unkempt hair and to curb the crisis the Maharani and her envoy were called in. After a brief cold greeting she stepped in, to man the captain-less boat, to avert it from disaster. “This is not how you do it. No..no..stop! I’ll show you.” The commanding voice of the Maharani instructing her incompetent daughter echoed throughout the rooms as he sipped and scribbled his way from day to day. To everybody’s surprise the infant, still nameless, and for that matter let’s call it Adalgisa, meaning promise, one fine morning just ceased to be. She went back into the world of smiles and she was devastated. Miguel plunged deeper into the abyss of sorrow and contempt. It was now too far to turn back.
In envy of a still-born child was welcomed warmly in his bookish circles. The six page long poem celebrated death. The woman in the poem gives birth to a child still-born and rejoices, for she felt that birth was unnatural because the innocent babe was to be forced into a chaotic world, a world filled with immense terrors, the child was better off dead. For many months had I treasured Your presence and your gentle kicks Reminding me from time to time Of the bliss within You are at a loss Losing what you love The cold unwelcoming world, In which I am trapped Has to my relief not welcomed my Love “I hope you don’t really mean it?” she had said shocked beyond comprehension when her eyes came across her husband’s ghastly self. It was almost a year since their child had died and not much was spoken now. From time to time they would spend time in each other’s company. But the bond was no longer there. It wasn’t going to last long. “If I didn’t mean it, then I wouldn’t have written it” he said in utter defiance. “You’re right. Children are much better off not knowing men like you. Its dead and I’m glad.” This was the last he would here from her lips. After his last poem words once again eluded him. “It’s not really a problem you know. Bah! What do you know?” Miguel once said in response to all the opposed him, his wife, his drink and his health. The man-boy looked more like man-old and any remark that suggested that was met never in good faith. A year later, three days after he had turned thirty, and a year since he had not seen his wife, he was asked to sign a few papers. The papers that sought to liberate the perpetual you he had so coldly treated all these years. “You don’t have to leave me. You don’t” he pleaded over the phone. “I don’t have to. But I’m…I just want to” and the line was cut. The rhythmic dialer
tone seemed to whisper in his ear over and over again the one name that could make him sob realizing his loss, a lifetime worth of mistakes, his life. When it was time to sign the papers he had forgotten his name. Miguel, such a simple name it was but still frustratingly out of his reach. Nameless was he during those dark hours and so he re-christened himself Hope and signed the papers. And just as he tucked those stiff printed sheets into the folder, a small plebeian piece of yellowing paper came to sight, a piece quite shameful in comparison with grand papyrus sponsored and used by the Civil Courts that specialized in undoing the doings of Cupid. It read lines that were now surreal and incomprehensible but it did still have its effect. It reminded him that his perpetual she was now gone, only her scent remained, her scent mixed with smell of Gin and his sweat.
A Drop of Liquid Hope I sat in silence. The wind grazed my hair and honoured my nostrils with the stench of the seven seas. There were others too, who were seated unmoved in a spell of inactivity sharing silence with me. The sky filled with dark smoke merged easily with the stagnant liquid of the sea, indistinguishable in colour they united and held their bond. An uneasy sight for others, but I begged to differ. Out of the two, the one that sat away from me kept dropping rocks into the murky water. The object hit the water, no ripples formed and sunk quietly into darkness. Life was something similar, in the end all that awaited one was darkness. There was nothing more to it, we inhabitants of light in our quest to find brighter lights move into darkness. The stranger moved her neck a few degrees bringing me into her field of vision. “Is it always like this?” “It gets darker” I could tell my reply was quick to bring in anguish to her heart. “It wasn’t always like this!” “There were better times?” “Times where one could see through the water” “Just the like in textbooks”
“Something like that” She shifted her gaze and so did I. Her friend however did not bother to break the silence. Content with the murky water he sat there. The clouds grew darker; the source could be seen now. The colossal vessel that floated like the fishes that lost interest in swimming now came into view. Leaving a trail of blacker black, it ordered fishes to rise up and show respect. The fishes rose and the girl’s heart sunk. A few silhouettes scrambled on board. I remained still, while one shrieked and the other dropped another rock. A rock added to the grave of blue, maybe it fell on Neptune’s grave. I did not know, I didn’t want to know. The beast leaked black, sons and daughters of Neptune rose in awe. I still remained unmoved but the girl got up and stood for a while. She motioned towards the edge that separated wet from dry and emptied her bottle of water. The clear liquid vanished quickly unable to fight off the evil that lurked in every corner of its new home. She turned towards me and said “May be that will help.” (This story is the winner of the October-November 2011 Short Fiction competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
The City of Lights When night came, the city of Light shrouded by a canopy of darkness hid itself from the prying eyes of the world. Even I knew that when night came and the sun rested, each and every object in the city would have to succumb to the wishes of that familiar canopy of darkness. Tired from their uneventful routines of day, their lives that had turned into a mere habit demanded from them rest and rest in the warmth of darkness was what they got. As the dwellers of Light slept, twisting and turning in their beds caressed by darkness and stroked by slumber I sat plotting. It was not easy choosing between the two. I must say that I had put myself in a rather awkward position in which any decision made turned out to be a paradoxical and contradictory
one. Rebecca lay there motionless as I whispered into her ear “Are you awake?” Silence answered. But I already knew the answer. “Are you cold?” The palms that had stroked my hair a million times were cold as ice. “I know you are tired, get some rest.” Indeed she did get some rest. Not a muscle moved and even her nostrils (thanks to my persuasion) welcomed inactivity. When I met the Other a few days back a few sparks flew. Sparks that sought to expose the barbarian within, even Anna who was just six could see the change that took place in Daddy’s eyes. Darkness entered the room bringing with it a kiss planted on my lips along with a wave of different scents that accompanied her. Anna was asleep and in stealth I decided to disappear, to get lost in the labyrinths of my guilt, accompanied by the Other and clothed by my sin. I stretched out my hand and found the arms of Darkness, she moved forward and I could feel her warm breath on my neck, it was ironic that not even the perfumes of Persia could hide the stench of its breath. When I left with Darkness by my side, I had ceased to notice the little details of that all too familiar room. Anna stood there concealed from my sight as a witness to the actions that had now caused quite a few sparks to fly around the room. The sparks with time grew as my Anna watched, turning more bolder and finally breaking free like a butterfly from a cocoon. The wood work were the first to accommodate the flames that were seldom seen in the city, the upholstery next, and slowly those white hot bastards called flames started to devour the entire room, as my love watched helplessly my un-awakened half. Apart from the homes that were consumed by flames, there were no broken homes in the city of Light. (This story is the winner of the December 2011 Short Fiction competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
Watercolor on paper - 25 x 18 inch
Water color on paper - 12 x 9 inch A sight from an old age home - An old man looking afar, with the hope that his children would come back.
Watercolor on paper - 12 x 25 inch
Remnants of an Era
Watercolor on paper - 12.5 x 9.5 inch Rediscovering the history that lies beside the remains of Cochin. My homeland, Cochin, is enriched with a variety of culture. Winner of the Lalithakala Academy Award in 2010.
The Midnight Act Aakash found company among tombstones. He had no friends. His parents didn’t know why not to believe him when he said he was going for a night walk after dinner. After all he had digestion problems. Aakash walked his way to the neighbourhood graveyard. He made himself comfortable on his favourite spot surrounded by The Pinto’s family tombstones. They had passed away in an arson incident. But none of them had reduced to ashes so they were buried instead. Their relatives were glad that they had at least had their last rituals as Christians. Like that was their most important concern. Aakash didn’t know them very well for he was only a kid when the incident occurred. The more he grew up the more he became interested in the mystery of their death. He realised that he found their company in the graveyard more interesting than their living relatives’ At least they were honest, their graves assured him of truth rooted in the ground unlike the fake sorrow of the living floating above them hoping to remind them that they still existed. He parked his bottom on a soft grassy spot and munched on his apple. Mary Pinto was eight years old when she died. He closed his eyes and listened to the midnight graveyard air and he realised he could only listen to his munching. So he flung his half-bitten apple at a bush for the benefit of rodents, closed his eyes again and tried hard to listen to what Mary was telling him. Mary said, ‘I always wanted an older brother like you who would just listen to what I have to say.’ Aakash replied, ‘I’m all ears dear.’ Just then her father, Jerry Pinto intervened, ‘Do you even realise I’m right here? Don’t you dare talk to this boy. He is not your brother. He is a Hindu.’ Aakash pretended he didn’t hear him. His alarm rang. It
would have stunned anyone else in the eerie night air. But not aakash. He whispered to no one in particular, ‘I’ll be back tomorrow same time. Ciao.’ Aakash’s parents had found a girl for him. They knew he was quite lonely and decided that if they delayed any further in finding proposals for him he would die a virgin. Sneha was a curvy Hindu Brahmin, very in sync with his parents requirements. His parents urged him to take her out after dinner at their house probably for an ice-cream. He told them he would take her for his midnight walk. They raised their eyebrows but Sneha found it exciting. So she was a modern Brahmin. They walked hand-in-hand out of the door and she whispered into his ears, ‘Where are we going?’ He only smiled and Sneha was even more excited. To mince the swelling silence between them she said, ‘You’re very bold to take me out like this. I like bold guys. Most guys I have met only listen to their parents.’ ‘Well you are my parents’ choice right.’ He said holding her fingers tighter and she blushed. ‘Okay so we are here.’ He let out a sigh. ‘This a graveyard Aak..’ she perked her ears for any sound. ‘Don’t be afraid. I’m with you na.’ he urged her. ‘Okay if you say so. But wait are you going to bury me alive?’ she cocked her head. ‘Maybe. If you want me to.’ He winked. She laughed loudly piercing the still graveyard atmosphere. He took her to his favourite spot. As he helped her sit down, he heard Mary whisper, ‘I hate visitors other than you. And now you will only listen to her. Not me.’ Sneha let her hair loose. ‘What a breeze.’ And she caressed her hands for she was getting goosebumps. Aakash could make out that she was pretending to be comfortable despite being in the midst of the graveyard. ‘Why are you doing this? You could tell me if you’re feeling uncomfortable.’ he asked. Sneha pretended to be confused, ‘Why am I doing what?
In fact I should ask you that. Why did you get me here out of all places? Like this is the most romantic place on earth.’ ‘Don’t dodge my question. You know what I’m talking about. And as for romance it is a very quite place don’t you think? In the midst of nature..under moonlight’ ‘And tombstones’ she interrupted. ‘I don’t feel comfortable with all of them staring at me like I’m not welcome.’ ‘Who all?’ ‘These ghosts around us of course. The family.’ ‘Ah! The tombstones! Don’t worry they are only voices not faces. Chill! And I’m sure they won’t bother you with their voices either. It’s just me they like.’ ‘Duh! I can see that. Wait..’ Sneha raised her eyebrows and looked at him to gauge whether he was being naïve on purpose so that she wouldn’t be freaked out. She finally said, ‘You’re telling me you can’t see them but only hear them? Aakash, the girl is sitting on your lap and staring me down right now. And I think also showing me her middle finger. But I doubt she knows what it means. Why don’t we demonstrate its meaning to her right here right now?’
Solitude There was a time when birds had tongues A time of singing brooks and whistling trees Those were my dragon days. As I sat misty-eyed on the edge of my Peter-Pan dreams I felt the first prick of desire the harbinger of mortality Bringing with it my monthly pains Pains that grew tentacles Climbing uterine walls, perforating the heart With fears and grievances Blind suckers deaf to my whimpers As I hung suspended in the well of death. It has taken days, months, years For my desires to become opaque, immovable A burden to be carried to a distant oasis Save for a momentary shower, a flash of some miracle happening in another world A perennial slogging, a perennial wait A perennial solitude till the last breath. (This poem is the winner of the September-October 2012 Poetry Writing competition of SH College Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Forum)
Shantipura This is Shantipura. Our quaint old Shantipura With roads unpaved An inconspicuous speck on your frayed maps Our Shantipura of dim lights and long power cuts Where the jackal’s howl mingles with the parrot’s long ti-ti-ti even at midday Where you hear the rustle of bamboo leaves as you curl up beside your hearths Like a baby in its mother’s womb Our Shantipura wakes up to the crows’ call We too wake up to the whiff of our mother’s steaming rice-pot As milk-white Mangala fidgets impatiently in her shed We skip down to the pool where the buffaloes bathe Grey-black giant rocks that wallow in the sun while a heron balances itself My little brother tries to catch tadpoles that stare blank-eyed among the reeds With a shallow dish smuggled out Eager to enjoy our weekend’s holiday to the hilt Look how he at first impatiently then playfully flings the limpid water Making it rise like a wave semi-circular Droplets of wave sprinkling me as well As I stand almost knee-deep Anxious lest he falls We scamper and shout all day long Till we hear our mother call The sunset resounds with the twitter of the sparrows Bare-bodied shepherd boys whistle for the stray calf As the shadows grow thicker and darker over our quaint old Shantipura. (This poem is the winner of the December 2011 Poetry Writing competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
Mr. Pain and my ex girlfriend Pain is a dangerous partner—it hurts, stays latent for some time, and hurts all over again. Can you get rid of pain completely? Can you? Can you say, ‘Okay here, Mr. Pain, I have had enough of you, I have allowed you to screw my mood so many times, so many bloody times. Can you now please stop cohabiting with me? Please? Go find someone else?’ But Mr. Pain just stays, staring like a dumb child who has forgotten all his naughtiness. It’s not the physical pain I am referring to. It’s about a loss—that bereavement you experience when you lose a person. Or when you get uprooted from a place. Or when you are forced to kick a habit you loved, however harmful. Mind you, this Mr. Pain remains invisible to the outside world. All organs, limbs, body functions coordinate well and you look healthy, so others think you are OK. Have you lost your girlfriend too? If yes, you will sympathize with me. If you haven’t, she isn’t your girlfriend for real. OK, the last bit was to make you laugh. (If you got scared, you are normal too). Serious business: Losing a girlfriend can unleash Mr. Pain. Yes, that painful Mr. Pain, who has been living in your body. That Mr. Pain. Now if you have a question it will be: How did I deal with Mr. Pain when I met my Ex-girlfriend? Is that your question? Cool! I never, for a moment, thought meeting my ex girlfriend after two decades would be simple. When the evening began, it seemed nice and good. Maybe because she didn’t look herself—neither did I, perhaps. We started with our awkward ‘hellos’. She looked like someone I knew maybe, like from another time, another planet, and it felt peculiar. But Mr. Pain stayed inside, latent. I stared at her closely, after we had discussed the weather—Delhi should have been colder in October, she quipped,
and I nodded—ordered tea and she explained how much she hated to arrive in a city to be caught in endless traffic jams. (I had turned down her request to pick her up from the airport on the pretext of being busy. Her skin seemed to have been chewed by time, and her hair was limp in its ability to flow across her shoulders and to me it looked like a lost waterfall. And though she still looked pretty, she didn’t look quite like her. Time strutted by as the sun pushed itself out of business for half a day paving way for a million lights—lampposts , cars and scooters on the road, shop windows—and yet it seemed neither we nor our surroundings came to know that night had fallen. Our conversations died later and I floated in a timeless abyss. It was like meeting a stranger. Until Mr. Pain decided to step out of its hibernation and reminded me that I and my girlfriend had gone different ways. It was mutual and it felt right two decades earlier. By the time I realized that I indeed loved her, my girlfriend was gone. There was no trail. And since Mark hadn’t introduced facebook and in India computers had just arrived and not many used them to communicate, my running in panic didn’t help. Suddenly—I remember clearly now!—losing her hit me real bad. So I started looking for her in the other girls I dated: smelling their hands, messing with their hair until it formed an exact curl, the way it did on my girlfriend’s forehead, and coaxed them to dress like her. Very soon there were no girls left to date. Turned a loner, I took to drinking and someone introduced me to hashish. I thought I was the loneliest and the saddest person in the world. I sunk deeper and deeper into my own crisis. As Mr. Pain went latent for a sabbatical, I forgot about her, like she existed somewhere faraway. I bought new clothes, changed my college and kicked the alcohol habit. It wasn’t easy to start anew, but there was a reason. I had met a pretty girl, who didn’t smell quite like my girlfriend, or had her hair falling in a curl on her forehead, or dressed like her, but she was wonderful company. She made me want life. Made me make fun of the world for her. Made me ask her for everything I ever needed from a female. We watched movies, trekked together in the jungle nearby to pick the discarded peacock feathers early in the mornings
and climbed on mango trees to pick the just ripe fruits in the middle of Delhi summers. She was a great friend. Life seemed like a beautiful circus, of which I was the master and she my only assistant, and the world all of animals, inferior, meeker than us. As soon as I had a job, we married and started a family. If I say we were one hundred percent compatible, I would be lying. We had differences, our issues, our egos got hurt several times, altered, transformed, but like all married people who wished to remain married, we resolved our issues, talking about them, telling each other our respective ‘sorrys’. Back to the moment. My ex girlfriend has agreed that we should go to a disco. We have nothing more to talk, so I think the music will help. We hit the best disco in the city. It begins with beer. Until we realize we need something better. We turn to scotch and take to the dance floor. At first touching her body—that touch, that touch, yes that sexy touch—brings an awkward feeling but soon it seems like I have been dancing with her all these years. Her smell, the small of her waist, it all wakes me up and I get transported back in time. She tells me she knew all this while where I was and she chose not to talk to me because she respected that I was married and stayed with my wife who had nothing to do with our painful decision. I get into a rage. How can she be so, so stupid. Had she approached me, she could have threatened our marriage, she insists. This dumb female who loved me crazily, watched me calmly go on with my life. At this moment Mr. Pain ejects from my body and looms overhead. This is so good—I fear it will stay outside forever now. ‘Are you married, I ask her?’ It’s difficult to control my anger but I do it remarkably well. She nods. She wants to use the restroom and I laugh at the recall that she always had to pee before anything exciting happened between us. My ex girlfriend doesn’t return for fifteen minutes. I run to the basement, outside on the road, but there is no sign of her. She’s gone, eaten away, sucked into the time that existed before. I get back to the bar and drink some more. Why did she have to go, come back and go again? Soon I am drunk and I
Photo credit: Bijay Biswaal
am not sure if I am dancing with her, or is it my wife, or it is a girl I won’t remember tomorrow. When I stagger back to my car, thrown by the bouncers from the bar, I am certain she is evading me, staying out of sight. I sit in the car, wait, until I wake up and it is a bright morning. At home when I meet my wife, I am wondering where Mr. Pain is. I can’t feel it any more inside me, even though my head throbs like there are a million frogs living in there, croaking and urging their mates for sex. Mr. Pain is gone I think, taken all the dumbness away, perhaps forever. If there is one person in the world who can get him back, it is my ex girlfriend and I have a feeling she won’t. Goodbye, Mr. Pain.
Glenn Andrew Barr
Blood-Sitter Every day I sit in blood, Awaiting that eternal thud. Skin-suit burns so deeply strong, Silky fear and deathly song. Tried in vain to leave this place, Bodies scream and tear at space. People I have seen before, Show me life I can’t ignore. Soul echoes born within a storm. I hear their fear, I can’t get near. Would I want to? Get away from me. Blood soaks a hidden glove, Fear the other me! Nothing here is born of love. Hate from now will help me learn, Just how much a heart can burn. (This poem won honourable mention in the September-October 2012 Poetry Writing competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
Aishwarya K R
Heading for the Hills Droplets falling from heaven; My thoughts are heading for the hills, They have come to a halt at my childhood, Oh, thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a sudden stop. Woven by my brother, childhood was the prettiest time. Butter-flying with him was my best loved pastime, Hunting for new places always resulted in the same stamping ground. But river always fascinated me with her cuddling ways, She offered me her petals of water. To make me happy, brother flipped little waves; springing as colored images. Tiny sprinkles touched my innocent cheeks, gave me a breezy essence, Imprinted in my mind those sparkling drops, forming the shape of a crescent. My little skirt hugged the wavy rhythm of life, Swaying like a flower which was thrown up by the breeze, I grabbed his hands and walked through the itinerary of happiness. Mind and body suffused in the chillness of age, I lost my sense somewhere between the pebbles. Regaining it, I stood at the bank of memories, Staring at the black and white memories flowing through the river, I found that nothing was left. Petrified by the years of grief, I dropped off my innocence And merged with the rest, Fleeing with time, those tiny waves waved goodbye to me forever... (This poem won honourable mention in the December 2011 Poetry Writing competition of SH College Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Forum)
Dr. A.V Koshy
The Scarecrow The scarecrow stood there in the midst of the green field of paddy. Its head was a black pot and it had a face, - eyes, nose and a wide smile that would scare away children and birds supposedly - painted on it with white paint. It always smiled, showing a row of broken, perfectly hideous but impressive teeth. It had seen much and become old, ragged and dirty. The wind made its empty arms flap. All around the lovely sheaves of waving grain would rustle in harvest season, as its torn white shirt's arms, now brown and black with age and dust, flapped. In younger days it had seemed merry, now it only had a melancholic tinge; the sound of that flapping. The birds had taken all its hay away from inside through vents in the dress and the stuffing - whether pillow, cloth or cotton - soon fell out. It was only a caricature of a scarecrow now. One day it fell down and its one leg was taken away for firewood and the rest of it also burned. Once, long ago a mother bird and her little birds had built a nest on the scarecrow, and the scarecrow had loved it. Those were the happiest days of its life. Now it was dying, in the fire. It thought of those days wistfully. The white, painted, fixed smile on its face that was never lost was the last thing to start running off its face in drops, with its eyes too, so that it looked as if it was crying and its mouth was being replaced by an expanse of increasing blackness. The pot cracked and crackled and broke into shards finally in the heat of the fire. The birds wondered at the gap in the field where the scarecrow had once stood, for one or two days, a gap only they noticed, while the sheaves of paddy still waved quietly, and the skies still looked multi-hued and changing. The birds missed not having something to take hay, twigs and dried leaves from for their nests. They did not know that soon the field itself would be replaced by a high-rise. Thus, with its death, all scarecrows finally went out of our lives without anyone even knowing about it, with no media coverage or anything else; “’not with a bang but a whimper.” On its unwritten epitaph the words did not include ‘unforgettable’ or ‘memorable.’ It was the last scarecrow.
Silver Recollections A spray of silver Leaping in an arc Sprinkling sunshine In rainbow sparkles Soaking the skin Drenching the soul….. Teasing the heart Into remembering An era long gone…. Buried under a heap Of new memories And experiences…. Struggling to surface Evoking recollections Of an age of innocence Freedom and harmony… An age of beauty And joy in simple things…. A moment frozen in time Still…. and fluid Lost… but within reach Happy…. tinged with sadness In another lifetime…. Another existence….. (This poem won honourable mention in the December 2011 Poetry Writing competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
Nepa Noyal Tharappel
Angst Chaos and confusion. Muffled groans deafening. Sighs and screams mingle. Fire and fumes subside. Foul smell and ashes remain. Soul captures the fire and immolates the self. The inflamed spirit crushes up the body; unbearable pain and angst, endurance becomes impossible. Pride melts, ego shatters, pains reveal their horrid countenances, helplessness team up with vulnerability, strength and determination give way to inertia and incapacitation. (This poem won honourable mention in the September-October 2012 Poetry Writing competition of SH College Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Forum)
Roots The tree was sinking, of this they were sure. Far beneath them, they saw the lava churning, and knew the tree was done. They had climbed as high as they could, up the tallest tree they could find, and now they had to stop, and reflect. The man who’d worked the land was a stout man, who looked at all the fire and thought of the animals that couldn’t climb. Above him was the man who’d dealt money, sweating in his suit, a uselessness of words tumbling from him as he stared, eyes grotesque, at the base of the tree. Above him was the man who’d spoke for God, who tried to finish broken prayers. Gone was his recent superiority, his assuredness assuredly done. His face was pressed to the tree, as if it was taking confession. Last rites given to flesh from wood, and suddenly not the reverse. Above him was the man without portfolio. The man who had talked, as if for all, and only now run out of words. He’d offered everything he had for the chance of salvation. He threw a gold watch, a bulging wallet, into the wastes. He watched as they quickly burned. He divested himself of these things, as if they were poisonous, and recognised as corrupting. Above him was the woman who’d taught. She was young, and her hair, tied back practically, revealed green eyes, the last green in all the world. Quiet, she had poured out her bitterness, she had turned out her anger. She had climbed, not to escape, but to catch the breeze a last time. To be in the feeling of a certain calm. To be in the arms of something living as she died. The ecstasy of a death that might bring peace. Around them were rolling hills of fire. Tumultuous crops of writhing, hissing, steam-snakes. Below, the blackened-red, reddish-black tides licked against the roots of the tree, and it gave thought to its passing. Roots curled, and the tips of leaves quivered, reaching out blindly, and without question. The sound of dying had passed. All that remained was the gentle surf of fire. Slowly, the tree gave way at last. The man who’d worked the land cried for it, the man who’d dealt money screamed now nothing could be bought. The man who’d spoke
for God begged to be heard, and the man without was silent, dumb. The woman wondered, were they the last to be silenced? Would the silence fill her up? With truth? With echoes? Would she be transformed? Were they to transcend or merely end? Down there, a recipe like that from which she’d first been cooked, was preparing her answer. She tried to sing, a last echo of her world, of its mark, but there were too many songs to remember. So she poured out the songs, and filled herself with the vision. Fire and roar. And above, the birds circling as if they knew of somewhere to land. Somewhere that was or was yet to be. And the world wound down, with the sighing of burnt offerings, the slow surrender of pain to grace. And the fire rose higher than any man ever made. Beyond comprehension, as most terrible things are. The sort of fire that warms a God’s hearth, or drives a devil out. Though such things were beyond knowing, the woman thought, as she passed to other things. Fire knows. At the end, fire knew everything. (This story is the winner of the September-October Short Story Writing competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
The Final Flight Darkness seeps in, smooth as water. Windows are forced shut. The cage is bolted. Wings cut off, rendered useless. Trampled upon by ignorant, unworthy feet. Faith is a stranger. Revolt! But, combat seems futile. Notions so deep; flux unthinkable. Sands of time do not repair. I cling like a bird that will never take flight, gazing, petrified. There is relief. Yes, there is relief in the End. Farewell. Soaring upwards I fly in glory. Free. Free from the tedious chains of life. (This poem is the winner of the October-November 2011 Poetry Writing competition of SH College Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Forum)
Airy Hope The river sparkled then. Trees stooped low in greeting. Joyous, unadulterated creatures. Delighting in all things. Besprinkling arcs of happiness, they trot, unceasing. Powerless, yet powerful; unaccountable to convention. Owners of nothing, yet of everythingUnabused trust, untarnished innocence. Searching for this flowery meadow, I walk, hoping to retrieve In a world of stumps and blight, unaware of having lost it on the way. (This poem won honourable mention in the December 2011 Poetry Writing competition of SH College Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Forum)
Tears of the Fallen Bird Gazing out into the night sky Desperately seeking for her lucky star That always shone bright and Stood out among the rest! Yet today, hiding behind the clouds It was nowhere to be seen Her heart clouded with deep regrets Etched into her soul! Mother Earth mirroring her emotions, A slight breeze, Sorrow in the wind Thunder struck, Rain fell with The intensity of the pain she had Cleansing her mind of all evil From the darkness of the past Giving way for the sun to rise Strengthening her soul With rays Of hope, Awakening the Bird of joyful chirpings within her, Filling the Dark World With the innocence of sweet music Letting go of Her search for the star! (This poem is the winner of the October-November 2011 Poetry Writing competition of SH College Writersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Forum)
Violet Beach John sat on the beach. It had rained and though he looked for a dry spot he felt that his trousers got wet slowly. He did not not do anything about it. His eyes fixed a point in the grey of the harbour. The border between the heaven and the water was unclear in the mist. In his shaking hands John held the letter which changed everything, the letter which made him go to the beach instead of his work. `I’m free now,´ it said, Ì’ll arrive on the 30st of October, there is so much to say, but I don’t want to do it in this letter, it is better we talk when I’m there.´ John’s knees where shaking when he recognized his father in a skinny figure with grey hair and bony hands, ascending the steps of the bus. His mother burst into tears. It has been almost three years now. John had been a little boy when they took him. Innocent. In that very night he got much elder. He had to work every day after school, his childhood was over all in a sudden. Still they had not enough money for much more than tapioca. But his mother wanted it like this. She spent all the money on sending him and his little sisters to school. She didn’t want it to spoil their future. They went to a restaurant to celebrate the reunification of their family. The father stroked the hair of his son, he took one of his daughters on his knees. He asked a lot of questions about their family busines which mother and children somehow had maintained during his time in jail. He told funny episodes about his fellow-prisoners. He smiled and laughed a lot. Only once a black shadow hushed over his face. When the mother asked him if he was tortured. `No,´ he said `of course not.´ After a few hours they ran out of things to speak about. They brought the girls to bed. John proposed to got to the beach. The sun was setting and colouring the clouds in an unreal violet. They sat there. United. At last. Why had it taken so long? (This story won honourable mention in the October-November 2011 Short Story Writing competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
Nepa Noyal Tharappel
Bride Her face so soft and loving Body wound in silk lining Head to toe adorned in gold Antiques owned by her grandma whoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s so old Merry and joy all around the place Nobody noticed her cheerless face She looked around in sorrow If anyone was willing to borrow Her place for one single night So that she could ease her fright She wanted to look happy and gay But she got more sad and grey She sat oblivious of their admiration Subjected to her own distraction When her hair was decorated with flowers She was ticking her hours Her mind was not still She kept gazing at a bird on the window sill She got up when she was all set Deciding that she wont fret Albeit, when asked, she smiled But her eyes missed its twinkle by a mile.
Running to Paradise I have to stray to find a place to fill my thirst To view the truth and my soul in a different light I’m gonna fly away and leave your side its my only choice Don’t come along you might fall behind I’ll see you soon To see the moon At its fullest bloom I left paradise To face my fears to live my dream couldn’t hesitate Left my memories in history to rot away To live my life how I choose till I fall I couldn’t cry coz I turned away ‘nd never looked behind Left it all behind for a memory and a quiet lie
In another life In another dream By a different name Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll call out to you By a different voice please come along Hand in hand to our destinies we will walk. Heaven, Good bye!
Just a Dream There you stand Smilin' at our friends Radiating that smile Which used to send Sparks up and down my core. Five steps away yet a million miles away. You seem back Peppy as always. Like you've never known love nor the one you've loved. But here I lie, still in the abyss In a crater created by me and you You came, you left Just to show me, the hole in me Which before you came, I never knew existed. There you stand , laughing; With thine angelic voice Music to my heart but between us now, an invisible wall stands ...
Freezing Heat Bare feet on the cold tiles of the veranda. The cold slowly was going up her child’s fragile body. The short white gown wasn’t able to heat her blood up. When you’re about completing four and staying completely by yourself at night, no thoughts that can warm you up exist. The house was burning but the tongues of fire were making her thrill. Her hands were ready for a hug but remained hanging in the cold air. “Sylvia, Sylvi-a-a!” – the girl heard someone calling her by name. At that moment she recognized the voice. “Run, gotta run,” – thought Sylvia. But where? The fire was in front of her and the unknown, hidden in the cold arms of night, town – behind her. Sylvia started feeling how fear made her big blue eyes water. They resembled two mountain lakes – calm at the surface but nobody knew what was hidden at the bottom. The girl fell on her knees and let the memories lend on her fragile consciousness. * Sylvia still couldn’t understand why her daddy – the millionaire Joe Phil - had lied to her. Why did he put that ugly wax doll in a coffin and made her say farewell to mummy? Then… then he started being tardy and not smelling as her father. It was unknown but frightening smell. One night her father, accompanied by a very young woman, came home much earlier. He said, “Meet each other, my girls!” and ordered Sylvia to be a good child. Since then she had always been cold. Because of the young woman’s claims. Because of the young woman’s complaints. Because of the fear of some punishment she didn’t deserve. By the loneliness to be with people who didn’t like her. *
“Sylvia, where are you little rat?!” – the freezing voice came closer and closer. The closer it came, the more she felt the bliss of the flames. They didn’t hurt. They didn’t blame. They slowly started their gentle song. A reminder of her mother’s voice was the last sound she heard. The last thing she saw was a figure resembling her father but all over in flames. * A year later the rich widow of Joe Phil hired workers to start reconstruction of the burnt house. The only thing she couldn’t overcome was the nightmare of her stepdaughter’s hands reaching out for a hug. (This story won honourable mention in the December 2011 Short Story Writing competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
The Eternal Love When tomorrow starts without them, Don’t think they are apart For every time we think of them They’ll be right here in our heart! God said to them “this is eternity And all I’ve promised you Today for life on earth is past But here starts the new” They promise no tomorrow, But today will always last And since each day is always the same, There’s no longing for the past. Those we love don’t ever go away, They walk beside us everyday, Unseen, unheard, but always near Still loved, still missed and very very dear!
When Mama went to Work
A Legless Soldier Talks To A Pair of Boots The nagging, unorthodox, slippery tongue of my thinking, matchless, leather boots shocks me now in an absence... My boot was the son of a dead percussion instrument, pseudo-womb of repressed reverberations in a spell-bound trauma. They recast him to fit to my feet as an obedient silence. But his paralysed, glittering bodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s coarse soul lain blessed with its adamant, pithy tongue of violence. My boots could recite the tyrannical fate of rascals from the life of his molested mother, in a verse from Shakespearean tragedy. I prepared myself to die in a cold prison with these burnt flesh where me legs started, and the black sediments precipitated in the unused vessel of soul. I argued a lot; read a lot, strived and starved to save the tongue of my boots. But the epic of enigma within me, the injected peril of power, killed my bootâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s hidden tongue last day. Now I too search for my drowned words of the soul, in a plague-like silence.
Collins Justine Peter
Pilgrimage The train was moving from trashy scenes to surprises. I was in it. My mind moved much faster than the train. In the midst of fiction readers, I made a quick search in my pocket dictionary. My intention was to find the exact meaning of the word ‘pilgrim’ and an answer to the question whether I am on a pilgrimage. The dictionary defines a pilgrim as a person who travels to a holy place for religious reasons. Life reveals its meaning through the course of one’s own lifetime, which is sometimes a matter of his/her meaningful existence in society. At certain phases of life we live to generate wealth, popularity, and self esteem. At certain other phases we live in order to dump those possessions which make for nothing but a barren life. The probability for human beings to create unique spheres of life is higher than in other animals. Spheres of acquaintances are what we create mostly. It includes family, friends, colleagues, and all those intimate relationships. These spheres are a necessity because they produce meaning and worth to our social living. In families we share duties, love, bonds and friendships, where the exchange of our experiences become colourful and lively. But there is a strict law for all this to take place. If that law is violated, those social spheres get converted into a hellhole towards which we drag ourselves and stop living. The law is - never allow the worldly pursuits to creep into your intimate social spheres. If it does, families will have to move to family courts and friendships to break-up parties. Now, where does the pilgrimage begin and where does it end? It begins when all our ignorance, mistakes, negligence, wrong choices evolve into deadly weapons against us and when refuge and shelter become mere question marks. We begin to reach out to where we went wrong, to the people to whom we did wrong , to the memories to which we were unfaithful ….all by ourselves. Reaching out in order to rectify and cleanse in places where we were mistaken and wasted; to live the rest of our life with the happiness of a thousand sunrises. And now, where does the pilgrimage end? Is there a clear answer to this
question? The happiness of a thousand sunrises never comes as a whole and thus we have to pursue it, through a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage that never ends. The train is heading towards Maharashtra where I must go and reach out my hands to a destitute centre. A centre where I left my parents ten years ago just to cherish my marital life, which breathes no longer.
Photo credit: Mariam Henna
Sky Smiles I wish you were there with me when I became a star in the sky. I wish you were there with me when I felt alone up high. I wanted to know the reason for your pain which has kept me wondering all my life. Now that i dont exist in your world of joy All that keeps me wondering is your smile. I was alive once and I wished for your smile, Now that Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m gone, I wish for the same. I was alive once and I prayed to the stars to give you a spark that would keep you alive. Times may change; the world may end But my love for you will never bend. I see you from here, high above the sky You look at me, but fail to realise who I am. Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m not sad, but I aint happy Because all I want is to see you smile. I wish you weere there with me when I became a star in the sky. I wish you were there with me when i felt alone up high.
Theresa: Tears streamed down her face as she knelt down at the church, earnestly praying to God to give him a second chance to live. As she said a silent prayer, images of the distant past flashed before her eyes, and she wondered if she would be able to walk out of the church with a new life, leaving out the haunting past. It was the fateful jouney to the hip city of Bangalore that changed their lives forever. Being the best of friends, Jonathan, Theresa and Rehaan had decided to build up their dreams in this happening place. The busy city life, teenagers in hip clothing, girls smoking in street corners, guys dancing and drinking in pubs enthralled them. Little caring for the consequences, they ended up jumping into this menacing world of drugs and alcohol. Building a journalistic and photography career went down in their list of priorities. Slowly they began to lose themselves. Jonathan: Standing outside the ICU room, willing Rehaan to survive through this, I fell into a reverie of thoughts wishing there was a time machine to alter the turn of events.I remembered everything about that night way too clearly - the late night party; Theresa, high on weed, laughing and dancing with other guys; Rehaan jealousy smitten walking out of the house, drunk and doped while I tried hard to keep my senses clear. Everything happened within the span of seconds as I rushed behind to stop him. Rehaan, speeding away in his bike, failed to see a car coming from the opposite side and hit straight onto it. The image of him lying on a pool of blood is a memory that still haunts me. Theresa: My ears rang with the chant of prayers. My eyes took in an air of despair. The scent of agarbattis hit me with such force that I found it hard to breathe. My lips tasted the saltiness of tears that had started streaming down. Although the house was filled with people, I couldnt feel anyone around me. While the
my senses tried hard to digest the blur of events, the sixth one kept knocking on my head and telling my heart that something was terribly wrong. Rehaan, the love of my life, was lying all pale, draped over in white cloth after “Yama” sucked the life out of him. I kept staring until everything around went black. Seconds later i could feel my heart hammering inside my chest like a football. Sweat was poring down my forehead as i jolted awake trying to contemplate the events and the realization that it was a dream struck me with the force of tsunami waves. It was 4 PM and there was a message from Jonathan on my phone which read : “He’s gone” . I curled myself in a fetal position and just let all the tears out. Jonathan: When the funeral rites were over, he walked out of the mosque with his head held low and the thought that he would be seeing his best friend for the last time gave his heart a squeeze. The question “what went wrong” kept replaying on his head as he finally got the strength to message Theresa. Without any prior thought, he walked towards their favourite hangout that had a view of the sea and sat there, calmed by the breeze, thinking of their happy lives before that fateful journey. The wind mirrored their sorrow, as each of their dreams and lives were devastated leaving nothing but deep regrets! (This story won honourable mention in the October-November 2011 Short Story Writing competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
True Abode He looked around, a hapless victim of poverty, like a deer searching for better pastures of grass to feed on. Weak from hunger and helpless before the forces of nature, he took refuge from the scorching heat of the sun under a tree at a park near the centre of the town. The busy sounds of the town-life soon began to fade off as he settled into a slumber instigated by the lullaby of the voices around him. The moon soon took its course over the town, emitting dark shadows around. An eerie silence settled in accompanied with the faint rustling of the leaves, the echoes of the winds
and the vicious howls of the wolves. Being in a dilapidated state, it took all the strength within him to find his prey for the night. The houses on North Lane embarked a rich look of sophistication, the kind where families sat down together for quite, elegant dinners served by the butler. The South Lane was the abode of homes rich with love and laughter. The West Lane was the heaven of the poor, trying hard to survive on a meagre income. His crusade around the city, made him more cynical of life, as the poison of loneliness swirled around his soul. Having eyed around in vain for the safest option, he opted for the house on the North Lane that portrayed the quietness of a tomb. Breaking in with the swiftness of a deer, he quickly devoured over the remains of the food kept inside the refrigerator. When the rumblings in his stomach died down, he looked around fascinated at the wealth of arts and artefacts that made up the house-likemansion. His mind wandered off for a second with a flicker of hope of fate providing him with a chance of luxurious living. His own silhouette that constantly followed him around left him feeling frightened and the decision was made to take his leave from the house. During his attempt to get out, the burglar alarm (a sneaky and luxurious setting of such mansions) suddenly went off and he was caught red handed by the master of the house. After the interrogation by the police, who also indulged happily in hasty beatings, he was sentenced to serve his time in the dark cells of the prison. Looming out large, like a true symbol of hell, it is at this place where the man found his true abode of shelter. (This story won honourable mention in the September-October 2012 Short Story Writing competition of SH College Writers’ Forum)
The Dead Red Rose Through the shattering windows Here comes the cool breeze I can feel the fragrance of my red rose Which I love like anything. The absence of moon and stars Makes the sky dark Like a flash light, here comes The gorgeous lightening. The chattering rain and the smell of wet soil reminds me of the first days in my school. My roses are weeping I stare at them through my window panes The fallen petals look so dull with drops of water Next morning when I open my eyes I see my maid sweeping away those petals I think of my life those petals Like that dead rose I weep for a long time thinking of my rose.
Jose Varghese interviews Michelle Cohen Corasanti, author of the bestselling novel The Almond Tree Jose Varghese (JV): How did The Almond Tree materialize? Michelle Cohen Corasanti (MCC): The idea for The Almond Tree materialized when I realized that a writer can reach into readers’ hearts and change them forever. I grew up in a Jewish, Zionist family where we were taught that after the Holocaust the Jews found a land without a people for a people without a land and made the desert bloom. We were also taught that the Jews were always persecuted due to no fault of their own. In high school I went to Israel and learned that what I had been taught was a lie. I was horrified to see how the Palestinians were treated. I wanted to devote my life to help bring about a just peace. But there was little that could be done at that point. Once I read The Kite Runner, the line about how history, politics and religion are virtually impossible to overcome, I got the idea for my story. During all my years involved in the conflict, one of the only glimmers of hope I saw was at Harvard where a Palestinian and Israeli were working together with a Nobel Prize winner. I could see how strong they were when they combined forces and decided to build my story around that seed. JV: When exactly did you think of writing about Ichmad? Why did you choose to write from a male perspective, and how challenging was it? MCC: I don’t think I ever chose to write in the voice of a male Palestinian Muslim. When I went to write the book, I put myself in his shoes and became him. I knew who the protagonist was at the core. It was so natural because I heard the stories from Palestinian males. I was at their houses. I saw how they lived, how they were treated, where they came from. JV: As one can see, it’s not at all a fabricated story. How much of reality is there, and how did you fictionalize it? MCC: The vast majority of the novel is fictionalized reality. I wanted to put a name and a face on the news. We often hear five were injured or two were killed or about thousands of
political prisoners.I wanted to show that they are someone’s mother, brother, sister, father. For example, I got the idea for the protagonist from someone I knew at Harvard. I’ll call him Hasan. His father helped a refugee who snuck back into the country to plant weapons and was sentenced to 14 years. Hasan was twelve at the time, the oldest of nine with an illiterate mother. He was forced to become the breadwinner of the family. He was only able to attend school infrequently, but it was enough because he was so gifted in math and science. He received a scholarship to attend the Hebrew University. There, in an environment of publish or perish, the Israelis recognized his genius and embraced him. Initially his first advisor for his masters was right-wing and racist, but when Hasan helped him publish more than he ever had, the professor embraced him. In fact, for his PhD, a top Jewish Israeli professor became his advisor and when Hasan graduated, he helped Hasan get a post-doc at Harvard with a Nobel Prize winner. The Israeli professor paid for the other half of the post doc so that they could continue working together. I changed many aspects of the story. The Palestinians inside Israel were ruled by the military government until 1966 so they were under similar laws to those of the Palestinians in the occupied territories starting in 1967. The protagonist is born in 1948 so he grew up under Israeli military government so the conditions were more like those of the occupied territories from 1967. Most of the events actually happened, but again I fictionalized reality. Obviously, Nora was killed like Rachel Corrie. On many occasions I had to tone down reality because if I was to tell what really happened, no one would believe me. For example, an Israeli pushed a Palestinian man and his son who were working at a construction site off a scaffold. The father fell on barrels of rocks and eventually died from his injuries. The son managed to grab onto a pipe until they were able to rescue him. Instead of having Abbas die from his injuries, I just had him crippled. JV: Did you attend any creative writing course in order to create this highly readable novel that strikes a chord with the hearts of readers from across the world? If you did, how useful were they, to make you a better writer?
MCC: When I decided to write this novel, I thought it would take three months. I said to myself if Khaled Hosseini, a medical doctor, could write The Kite Runner, then surely I, a lawyer trained in writing, would have no trouble. Twenty-one writing courses, six editors and seven years later, I finished the novel. I absolutely couldn’t have written this book without the writing courses. When I first wrote the book, I just wrote a story. There was no dialogue, no hooks, no cliff hangers, no complex characters, no tension. Basically I took every course from dialogue, character development, word painting, grammar, plot and so many more. Also, I think one has to learn to read like a writer. When reading, one has to keep analyzing how the writer made one feel a certain way. I read all the best sellers to see why they were best sellers. I read all the classics to see why they endured the test of time. I wanted to bring about social change so I read books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin that helped end slavery in the US. My goal in this book was to change the way that people saw the Palestinians, particularly in the United States because I think that for there to be change, the US has to change its policies. I wanted to humanize the Palestinians and show why we should celebrate differences and focus on our commonalities to advance humanity. I wanted to reach as many people as possible so I knew that I would have to keep my language simple. Most Americans want a fast-paced gripping story and the message has to be sent through the back door. I knew I would have to plant seeds and appeal to human values. I understood if I started to try and prove facts, I would enter into a bottomless pit. JV: Do you advocate creative writing courses to budding novelists/writers? MCC: I most definitely advocate creative writing classes. I think the best ones: 1. Tell you what needs to be done, 2. Show you examples of it in famous books 3. Have a component where in each session you have to write something pertinent to what you are working on, say dialogue, that needed to be submitted to the entire class and everyone comments. Feedback was critical for me.
JV: There are striking parallels and paradoxes in the depiction of women characters in the novel, though it is mainly narrated from the viewpoint of a male protagonist. Are these female characters based on people you know? How much of you were transferred into them? MCC: First I will admit that the absolute hardest character for me to write was the Jewish American human rights activist. In retrospect and with hindsight I can say that I wanted her to be everything I wished I could have been, but failed to be. I was unable to give her any flaws. No one likes a perfect character. Everyone hated her and eventually, I found a way to give her the most courageous death I could. In writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe tried to appeal to white women because she thought they would be more sympathetic to the plight of the blacks. So she had, for example, Eva, the purest girl who sees Uncle Tom the slave as a human being and is against slavery. She is angelic. Stowe made her into a heroine to give women someone to try to emulate. I tried to do that with Nora and Justice. I wanted to give examples of women who didn’t judge a person based on their religion. On the other hand, I portrayed Professor Sharon’s first wife as a nasty racist and their marriage ends in divorce. As far as the women are concerned, Mama was based on women I met, particularly the mother of the scientist form Harvard. I didn’t do that to put her down. I did that to try and show how far he had come. His achievements in my mind are even greater considering the distance he transversed. I got the idea for Ichmad’s second wife, Yasmine, from a class on Arabic literature that I took in college called eastwest. The class dealt with what happens when an eastern man goes to the west to study, meets a western woman, falls in love, comes back to the east and is pressured into an arranged marriage with an eastern woman. Typically he is blinded at first by the west and he looks down on his own culture until he learns to appreciate how much his eastern wife brings to the table and then he realizes they are cut from the same cloth. As far as Ichmad is concerned, when he meets Yasmine, he is still not over Nora. He doesn’t appreciate her until she has his son and then once he sees how great she is with his son, he realizes they were cut from the same cloth.
Ichmad’s first love from the university was beautiful and brilliant, but she was forced into an arranged marriage. Many of the other women were based on people I met or read about over the years. JV: What is the focal point of your novel? Is it the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seen from a new perspective? How far could you justify/critique both sides? MCC: I think when I wrote this book, my target audience was Americans though I knew I needed momentum from the rest of the world to really push this novel to become a bestseller. As a Jewish American, who lived in Israel for 7 years, who has degrees in Middle Eastern studies and law with a specialization in human rights and international law, I felt I would be a hard force to dismiss. I didn’t want to argue the facts because those are easily manipulated and truthfully they would probably bore many Americans. I wanted to show what Zionism meant to the Palestinians. I wanted to shatter stereotypes and give the Americans a little Palestinian boy who they could love and root for and want to succeed. My book wasn’t about casting blame or advocating hatred. I wrote this book to show how strong we could be if we just pooled resources and worked together instead of focusing on differences and destroying each other. In fact, many people see this book as much bigger than the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Anyone who has ever encountered hardship can relate. My father-in-law was born during the depression. His father was a new immigrant. They lost their house to the bank, but my father-in-law went on to build a very successful company. He saw himself in Ichmad. JV: Is scholasticide a wide-ranging phenomenon that comes out of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Do you know of any such particular cases in real life? MCC: The scholasticide I discussed in Gaza in the book was based on reality. Out of all the areas Israel rules, I think their scholasticide policies in Gaza are the worst. In the US the whites denied the slaves education. The Nazis also used such policies. JV: Does the novel have a clear message to Israel? MCC: The clear message to Israel is that we didn’t survive the
Holocaust to go from victims to victimizers. Never again means never again for anyone, not just Jews. The lessons we should have learned from the Holocaust were not how to have a pure country, but that we can never be bystanders to human suffering. If Israel wants to have a Jewish country in the heart of the Arab world on land that was occupied by another people the vast majority of whom were not Jewish, they will have to murder, steal, persecute, oppress and all the other policies that go along with ethnic cleansing. My message is it’s better to have a secular democratic country where everyone lives together with equal rights instead of a racist, oppressive country. JV: Is the characterization of Professor Sharon/Menachem totally fictitious? MCC: The character of Professor Sharon was based on a combination of two professors I had heard about. One was racist who learned the value of a brilliant Palestinian student and his love for science and desire to succeed surpassed his racism and another whose love for science was of utmost importance and he had the brilliance to do something about it. JV: Can one expect people like him in today’s world? Is it easy to transform people’s deep-rooted outlooks? How did you make the transformation of him convincing in the novel? MCC: I think when you get to know someone on the personal level and have respect for their abilities and see how such abilities can benefit you, it breaks down stereotypes. I think that friendships flourish when there are common interests. This is especially the case for true scientists whose love for science can overcome such obstacles. I think that unless people have met someone who is a true scientist they may not be able to understand how science can be a bridge. I happened to see it with my own eyes. Someone doesn’t come from abject poverty and overcome obstacles such as racism and discrimination and make it to Harvard as a post-doc for a Nobel Prize winner unless he possesses certain characteristics: a brilliant mind, a deep passion for science, intense focus, and a willingness to put science above all else. I didn’t write about something that happens every day. If this were the case, the conflict would have ended. I am writing about the rarest of instances. The perfect
storm when all the stars just happened to line up. This is by no means the norm. JV: Were you afraid, at any point of time, that your attitude to the Israel-Palestinian conflict could turn out to be controversial? MCC: What I have found is that the Zionists who read The Almond Tree have been transformed for the most part and are able to see the Palestinian perspective because I appeal to Jewish values. The people who have had a problem with my book are the ones who have not read it and refuse to read it because they don’t want to hear anything but Zionist propaganda. I call for people to embrace our common humanity. I don’t feel that is controversial, but there are always irrational people who will try and whip something up. I am afraid of those people, but I want my children to know that I did see injustice and I tried to do something about it. Every time I get scared, I think of all the children that are suffering and I find the strength because I’m more afraid for what will happen if I don’t speak the truth.
Michelle Cohen Corasanti
List of Contributors Abdul Saleem
Abdul Saleem is a painter-cum-cartoonist. His paintings were inspired by the impressions and reflections of his experiences and insight. Born in Kochi, Kerala in India. He bagged the State Award for Cartoon and the Gold medal for watercolor painting by Kerala Lalithakala Akademi in 2010. Though Watercolor is his forte, he works with Acrylics and Oils as well, mainly on abstract themes. Abdul Saleem belongs to that set of artists for whom art is both a means of expression and living. He experiments with all forms of art, including Cartoons, Caricatures and Digital arts.
Abhijith I S
Abhijith I.S is currently pursuing his Bsc.Physics at Sacred Heart College, Thevara. His favourite pastime is writng poetry,short stories and blogging about Scifi movies. His lucid yet alluring use of words reflects a creative talent beyond that of an ordinary science student. He is currently working on his first novel â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Paradise Lostâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. His blog:http://dreamnotesmark-1.blogspot.in/
Aishwarya K R
Aishwarya K R completed her B.A English Copy Editor from SH College, Thevara. She resides in Alleppey, Kerala. She could not pursue MA as she got a job in SBI. English language was her passion from childhood which took on a full creative swing when she joined SH for her degree. She has written numerous poems and short stories. Books are her trusted friends.
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Ananya S Guha
Ananya S Guha lives in Shillong and works in the Indira Gandhi National Open University as an Academic Administrator. He heads the IGNOU Institute For Vocational Education and Training (IIVET), Shillong. He has almost 32 years of teaching, academic and administrative experience. He is a writer, poet and columnist. He has six collections of poetry in English and his poems have been published in India and world wide in print as well as online. He has also written articles and papers on education, distance education, vocational education, skills development and corporate social responsibility. He has contributed to newspapers such as The Telegraph, The Times of India, The Shillong Times, The Assam Tribune, The Hindu etc. He writes articles online and blog consistently on different websites. Of late he has started writing flash fiction and co-edits an online journal – eFiction India. He also writes for children at www.bolokids.com. He holds a Doctoral Degree on Modern English Literature, the novels of William Golding. Prior to joining IGNOU, he taught in St. Edmund’s College Shillong in the capacities of Lecturer, Senior Lecturer and Head Department of English. In IGNOU he worked in various capacities: Asst. Regional Director, Reg ional Director/Deputy Director, Joint Director and now in a Director equivalent position (Officer on Special Duty). Writing both popular as well as research articles is his forte. He has also been reviewer for International Journals on education, distance education and corporate social responsibility. One of his articles has recently been published in a UNDP Publication on Volunteering; the book was released on 7th December, 2012. Eminent people of the country such as Gulzar, Natwar Thakkar and Vandana Shiva have contributed to this book. His poems have been published in four anthologies, the latest being “Harper Collins Book of English Poetry” edited by Sudeep Sen.
Antonio Casella was born in Italy and migrated to Australia when he was fifteen. Unable to speak English he attended night school while serving a five-year apprenticeship in an iron foundry. On his return from a labouring stint in the infamous asbestos mine in Wittenoom, he enrolled at the University of Western Australia. He published his first novel in 1980. His short stories have appeared in magazines and newspapers in Australia and overseas. He completed an MA in Creative Writing at UWA
and Ph.D at Murdoch University when ‘An Olive Branch…’ was written. He was writer in residence at the Australia Council’s Whiting studio in Rome in 1996.
Archana Kurup, an employee of Indian Overseas Bank. She is a bilingual writer who has won various prizes in creative writing for her essays, stories and poems in English and Hindi.
Aswin Prakash is pursuing BA English copy editing at SH College,Theavara. He loves writing stories and poems.
A V Koshy
Dr Koshy A.V. is an established author and writer who is a poet, critic, short story writer, prosateur and artist. He has a doctorate in Samuel Beckett’s Poems in English from the University of Kerala. He has published a monograph of essays called Wrighteings: In Media Res with A.V.Varghese, a book called A Treatise on Poetry for Beginners and has several published research papers and articles to his credit. He has also published poems in different parts of the world in poetry journals, magazines, e-zines and anthologies. Recently, a poem of his has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for Poetry in USA for 2012. Three more of his books are slated to be published in 2013.
Balbir Kishan hails from Bhagpat in Uttar Pradesh. He did his M.A. in Fine Arts from Dr. B.R.A. University Agra, NET (Visual Art) from U.G.C., New Delhi and M.Phil in Fine Arts from Dr. B.R.A. University, Agra. Balbir lost both the legs in a train accident in 1996. His paintings show the confidence which he has gained as an artist and a human being. He has won numerous awards including the 82nd All India Art Exhibition by AIFACS, New Delhi, in 2010.
Barry Charman is an English born writer, currently living in North West London. He is a past winner of the London Writers Competition “Promis Prize.” He has had short stories published in a Smashwords anthology, Flash Fiction World, Microhorror and has a blog on barrycharman.blogspot.com. He is currently working on a children’s novel and an adult novel, and is looking for an agent.
Bijay Biswaal is currently working for Indian Railways at Nagpur. Born in a lazy small town called Pallahara, in Angul district of Odisha in the year 1964, he took to painting like a duck takes to water. An art addict from childhood, he started his tryst with this beautiful art world with humblest of media as a charcoal off the chullah his mother used to cook on or if he was lucky enough with a chalk and pencil. Although he has never received any formal training in painting, his works reflect a purely professional approach. Biswaal loves nature in its myriad forms. The earth, water, sky, rocks, twisted trunks, intricately entangled roots of trees seem to form an integral part of his creative works. Through roots he finds connection with the nature.He has, to his credit, numerous artistic achevements including his caricature being awarded the first prize at the Sonia Manmohan International Caricature contest held in 2010. His Lord Ganesh painting was selected for display at Camlin All India art contest 2011 at Mumbai.
Collins Justine Peter See Editorial Board
Born in Ernakulam, Kerala 1948 Post graduated in English Literature. Studied Painting, Graphics and Sculpture at Kerala Kala Peetom, Kochi. Held solo shows and participated in several Group exhibitions since 1975. Written and published several articles on art and literature. Presently lives and works in Ernakulam.
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Glen Andrew Barr
Gerrard Williams is a Welsh Author and Film Director. An international TV journalist for over 30 years, Gerrard is married with two grown-up children and lives in Northern France. He is currently working on the sequel to his best-selling non-fiction Book, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Grey Wolf - The Escape of Adolf Hitlerâ&#x20AC;? with his co-writer Simon Dunstan.
Glenn Andrew Barr, United Kingdom. He recently attained a Merit for his Masters Degree in Creative Writing at the University of Portsmouth, England.
Hari Krishnan is currently pursuing B.Sc Computer Application in SH College, Thevara. Although he has not had any formal training in art, he has done many works in pencil drawing. He is also passionate about dancing.
Playwright, screenwriter, novelist and film-maker Hanif Kureishi was born in Bromley, Kent in 1954 and read philosophy at King’s College, London. His first play, Soaking the Heat, was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1976 and was followed in 1980 by The Mother Country, for which he won the Thames TV Playwright Award. In 1981 his play Outskirts won the George Devine Award and in 1982 he became Writer in Residence at the Royal Court Theatre. His screenplay for the film My Beautiful Laundrette, directed by Stephen Frears, was nominated for an Academy Award. He also wrote the screenplays for Sammy and Rosie Get Laid and London Kills Me (1991), which he also directed. His film My Son the Fanatic was adapted from his short story included in Love in a Blue Time (1997). The film was first shown at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. His play Sleep With Me (1999) was first performed at the National Theatre in London in 1999, and was followed by When the Night Begins (2004), produced at the Hampstead Theatre in 2004. Kureishi’s first novel was the semi-autobiographical The Buddha of Suburbia, published in 1990. It won the Whitbread First Novel Award and was produced by the BBC in 1993 as a four-part television series. His second novel, The Black Album (1995), explores some of the issues facing the Muslim community living in Britain in the 1980s. Love in a Blue Time, his first collection of short stories, focuses on a series of characters working in the media. Intimacy (1998), a novella was produced as a film in 2001. His second short story collection, Midnight All Day (1999), continues to explore very personal issues about human relationships and sexual desire. Further works include Gabriel’s Gift (2001), Dreaming and Scheming: Reflections on Writing and Politics, and The Body and Other Stories, both published in 2002, My Ear at His Heart, 2004 and The Word and the Bomb (2005). Hanif Kureishi’s latest work is the play, Venus (2007) which was made into a film starring Peter O’Toole, earning O’Toole an Oscar nomination.
Indran Amirthanayagam (http://indranamirthanayagam. blogspot.com) is a poet and U.S. diplomat. He writes in English, Spanish, Portuguese and French. His books include the Paterson Prize-winning The Elephants of Reckoning and the forthcoming Uncivil War. His awards include fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the U.S./Mexico Fund for Culture. His Spanish poem
“Juarez” won the Juegos Florales of Guyamas, Mexico.
Jesto Thankachan is currently pursuing his III year degree in BA English Copy Editing. He is an avid reader and has a particular interest towards theories in literature. He has won many prizes for writing at the college level.
Jude Gerald Lopez
Jude Gerald Lopez is a 6th semester literature student at Sacred Heart College, who has a deep love for creativity and all forms of artistic expression. He has completed working on his debut novel When Lines Blur and has published short stories in the college blog. His flash fiction works, The City of Lights and A Drop of Liquid Hope were both selected as the wining entries in Heart-bytes’ monthly international flash fiction competitions. He also has a blog, http://www.clocksandcrystalballs.blogspot. in/ which he regularly updates with his own short stories and poems. The works of Oscar Wide, Albert Camus, Umberto Eco, Franz Kafka etc are of immense interest and have had quite an influence on him as a writer.
Kalpana N.S is pursuing her second semester BA English copy editor course at SH College, Thevara. Her interest lies in drawing and painting.
Born and raised and living in New York City, Kirpal Gordon is a freelance writer. Regarding Eros in Sanskrit, Home Planet News noted,
“Gordon’s hand is unerring as he looks straight on in the face of loss and makes of it a lovely melody.” Regarding Speak, Spake, Spoke, the book’s companion CD, All About Jazz wrote, “Precise of word and rhyme and ready of wit, Gordon’s pairing poems with pearls of jazz and his erudition in world lit add further dimensions to his verbal inventions.” Of Ghost & Ganga: A Jazz Odyssey, three interweaving novellas, Poetry Bay wrote, “Language at its finest---healthy, whole, playful and incisive, the mature work of a master word slinger who Huck Finns his way down a Mississippi of song, of jazz, folk and blues.” Of Round Earth, Open Sky, a psychological suspense thriller and sci-fi road novel, Museum of American Poetics noted, “By far, the best novel I’ve read of my generation, Gordon has created a work of holy parables.”
K Satchidanandan is one of the best known Indian poets. A Malayalam poet, essayist and translator, he is also a bilingual critic and editor, with a doctorate in post-structuralist poetics. He was Professor of English at Christ College, University of Calicut, Kerala, editor of Indian Literature, and later the Chief Executive of Sahitya Akademi. He has been associated, as editor with Katha, Delhi and the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature. He edits the poetry quarterly Kerala Kavita in Malayalam and the series of translations from South Asian literature, The South Asian Library of Literature in English. He retired in 2011 as Director and Professor, School of Translation Studies and Training, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi. He is on the Advisory Board of Indian Literature Abroad, and in National Executive of the National Translation Mission, both Govt of India initiatives. He has 21 collections of poetry, 16 collections of world poetry in translation, four plays, three travelogues and 23 collections of critical essays and interviews (all in Malayalam) besides 4 books of essays in English. He has edited several anthologies of poetry and prose in Malayalam, English and Hindi. His poetry has been extensively translated into 17 languages. He has won 21 awards for his literary contribution including Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award (4 times) and Kumaran Asan Award (Chennai). He is a Fellow of the Kerala Sahitya Akademi. Satchidanandan has represented India in several
literary events worldwide and has been honoured by the Governments of Italy and Poland. He has also been an activist for secularism, environment and human rights.
Krishna Girish is pursuing her degree in BA English Copy Editing at SH College, Thevara. She completed her schooling at Our Own English High School, Sharjah, UAE. Her interests lie in painting and photography.She is currently pursuing her second semester in BA English Copy Editing. Her interests lie in music, painting, photography, contemporary dance forms and theatre. She is also an avid traveller.
Kulpreet Yadav is the founder-editor of Open Road Review. His latest book, ‘India Unlimited – Stories from a Nation Caught between Hype and Hope’, is forthcoming in Jan 13. He lives in New Delhi.
Maria Isaac Maria Issac completed her schooling in Bhavans Vidya Mandir, Eroor. She is currently pursuing her second semester in BA English Copy Editing. Her interests lie in music, painting, photography, contemporary dance forms and theatre. She is also an avid traveller.
Mariam Henna See Editorial Board
Was born on 13th of July 1988 in Landsberg am Lech. His Father Johann Sailer is a firefighter, his mother, Christa Sailer, born Schuster, was a hairdresser. He chose the art branch of the Fachoberschule, a kind of professional high school which does not award the general school-leaving exam, in Augsburg. After his 2008 school-leaving exam on the Rainer-Werner-Fassbinder-Fachoberschule, he decided to get a teaching qualification in English and History for high schools at the University of Augsburg. He did a Semester abroad at the SH College Thevara in 2011. In his spare time he goes biking, very long tours, for example, in 2008 to the French Mediterranean coast.
Meena Alexander’s work is widely anthologized and translated. She has published six volumes of poetry including Illiterate Heart (winner of the PEN Open Book Award).Her forthcoming book is Birthplace with Buried Stones. Her book of essays Poetics of Dislocation appears in the Michigan Poets on Poetry Series. Her poem `Impossible Grace’ was the basis of the first Al Quds Music Award and was performed in Jeruslaem. She has received awards from the Guggenheim, Fulbright and Rockefeller foundations and the Arts Council of England. She is Distinguished Professor of English at CUNY Graduate Center and Hunter College. www.meenaalexander.com
Michelle D’costa was born on 21st October 1991, an Indian raised in Bahrain.She is an avid reader and an aspiring writer. She wishes to touch the hearts of many through her writing. Every feeling is universal; we just need to recognise it. She continues to inspire and be inspired. As a child her poems were published in Young Times Magazine, UAE. Her short story bagged the second place in an international cultural youth festival ‘Harmony’ in Bahrain in 2008. Her poem ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ won the Flow for all poetry competition 2009.She has done a certificate credit course in Creative Writing offered by Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, India.At the end of the course she was asked to submit a collection of her poems and secured an ‘A’ for them.
Mike Keville lives in London. His interests are Haiku, Haiga and Photography.
Minu Varghese is a lecturer in English at the College of Applied Sciences, Dhanuvachapuram. She is a bilingual writer and translator. Her poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies, and her translation of a Finnish children’s book (from English to Malayalam) is scheduled to be published in early 2013.
Mohammad Zahid comes from a small but beautiful town, Anantnag in Kashmir. He is a Banker by profession and has been writing poetry since last twenty years. His poem, ‘The Addict’s Lament’ was selected in the program” The Sound of Poetry” featuring 33 poets from all over the world by the International Library of Poetry Florida USA in 2001. His poem ‘Panacea’ features in the anthology “ The Best Poets & Poems of 2002” by the same organization where his other poems, ‘Posterity Prays’ and ‘The Crimson Dusk’ have been selected as Editor’s Favourite Poems. He has also been published by the Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art Culture & Languages in several issues of their quarterly journal “Sheeraza”. His poetry also features on the poetry website Muse India where his work has been richly reviewed by the fellow poets. His poem “Amante Egare” was awarded Special Mention Prize in the Unison Publications-Reliance Time Out Poetry Awards in Bangalore in 2011. The poet also features in TIMESCAPES a collection of poems by 33 Indian poets released by Unisun Publications and Reliance Timeout. His poetry has been selected in
the International Poetry Festival Guntur for the last five years consecutively where he also participated in December 2012. He also presented his poetry in the Hyderabad Literary Festival 2010. He is also scheduled to read his poetry at Hyderabad Literary Festival 2013 as well. He has passion for photography and likes to capture scenic landscapes through the lens.
Dr. Naina Dey is Assistant Professor (Dept. of English) at Maharaja Manindra Chandra College, Kolkata under the University of Calcutta. She is a critic, translator, reviewer and creative writer.She has authored books of critical essays on Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and Christopher Marlowe’s “Edward the Second”, and has edited Virginia Woolf’s “A Room of One’s Own”. Her PhD thesis entitled “Real and Imagined Women: The Feminist Fiction of Virginia Woolf and Fay Weldon” has been released in book form from Calcutta University Press.She was awarded the “Excellence in World Poetry Award, 2009” by the International Poets Academy, Chennai in 2009. She was invited to be a member of a team of Indian writers (below 45) to be felicitated jointly by Sahitya Akademi and Visva-Bharati University on the occasion of the 150th birth centenary of Rabindranath Tagore in December, 2010. She has been anthologized in Roots and Wings : An Anthology of Indian Women Writing in English, Kerala.
Nepa Noyal Tharappel
Nepa Noyal Tharappel is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in English Copy Editing at SH College, Thevara. Her interests are reading, writing poems, music and photography. Her creative skills has won her many prizes at the college level.
Prathap Kamath lives at Kollam, Kerala. He holds a doctorate in English literature from Mahatma Gandhi University, and is Associate Professor of English at Sree Narayana College, Kollam affiliated to the University of Kerala. He has published a collection of poems Ekalavya: a book of poems, and his poems have appeared in several journals of national and international repute. He has published two collections of stories in Malayalam.
Blood Rain and Other Stories, his first collection of stories in English, is to be published in April 2013.
Rana Nayar See Editorial
Reshma G.S is pursuing her second semester in BA English Copy Editing at SH College, Thevara. She loves writing poems.
Rosemary Tom, born and brought up in Cochin, had completed her UG at Stella Maris, Chennai. She is currently pursuing Masterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Degree at SH College, Thevara. Her interests lie in reading, literature, good movies and dancing.
Sethu John is pursuing her degree in BA English Copy Editing at Sacred Heart College, Thevara. She loves to draw, particularly with charcoal. She loves fashion and is also a keen traveller.
Shauna, originally from Dublin but now a Kildare resident, has worked and lived in Mexico, Spain, India and the UK. Her work has been published widely and she has given public readings of her fiction in Ireland and USA and has presented on writing at academic conferences in Ireland, UK, Germany and USA. Her debut
novel Happiness Comes from Nowhere has been described by the Sunday Independent as a “thoroughly enjoyable and refreshingly challenging debut novel”.
Silpa Sajan is currently pursuing her degree in BA English Copy Editing at SH College, Thevara. She loves to write poems. She is a good singer as well.
Born in Sherpur District, Bangladesh, in 1981, Sofiul Azam has earned Honours and Masters in English Literature from Rajshahi University. He has authored three books of poetry titled Impasse, (Dhaka: Pathak Shamabesh, 2003), Home Thoughts from Home (Dhaka: Ulukhar – Little Magazine Publication, 2009), In Love with a Gorgon (Aarhus: Les Editions du Zaporogue, 2010 and County Claire: Salmon Poetry, Oct. 2013) and edited Short Stories of Selim Morshed, (Dhaka: Ulukhar, 2009). His poems have appeared in literary magazines and journals across the world such as Poetry Salzburg Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Magazine, Le Zaporogue, Catamaran, Lowe Prose & Poetics, Both Sides Now, The Journal, Orbis, The Cannon’s Mouth, Monkey Kettle, Forward Press, Conversation Poetry Quarterly, Boyne Berries, Deep South, Grey Borders, Postcolonial Text, Protocol, Trillium Literary Journal, The Cartier Street Review, Word Salad Poetry Magazine, Red River Review, Debris Magazine, The Flash Review, Apollo’s Lyre, etc. and some are anthologized in Journeys, Poets Against War, Poetry for Charity Volume 2, etc. Moreover, he is now working on his next collection of poems Earth and Windows: New and Selected Poems as well as on a book of short interlinked stories. He loves to write creative non-fiction and his first non-fictional prose turns out to be A Double-born Kid’s Tale – a work in progress. His research interests include postcolonial theories with reference to cultural politics and emancipatory aesthetics in the domain of postcolonial literatures across the globe, and he is writing “Not Afraid of Double Rejections: Notes on a Cultural Translation in Postcolonial Literatures.” Now he lives in Dhaka and teaches English at Victoria University of Bangladesh, having taught it before at Southeast University and at Royal University of Dhaka.
Sudeep Sen See Editorial Board
Sunandan Roy Chowdhury
Sunandan Roy Chowdhury (b.1969) is a publisher, translator, poet and academic. His most accomplished work is English translation of Banalata Sen, a book of poetry by Jibanananda Das, the most important Bengali/Indian poet since Rabindranath Tagore. Among his translations into Bengali are ek skulmaster, tar stree o ek marxbadi, Norwegian writer Dag Solstad’s novel Genanse og verighet, and lal premer angti – finlander chhoto golpo, an anthology of short stories from Finland. Personal loss in 2009 led him on to the poetry road. Chupnagar, his first collection of Bengali poems was published in 2012. He writes both in Bengali, the language of his heart and English, the language of his mind. Politics and philosophy find voice in his poetry and so does love. His poetry has been published in English (The Brown Critique, Delhi and Knot, USA), Finnish (Suomi PEN, Helsinki) and Slovene (Sodobnost, Ljubljana). A student of history in Presidency College, Calcutta and at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, he holds a PhD in education, with specialization in Indian higher education policy, from Delhi University. He was a fellow of Open Society Institute, Budapest and has lectured on contemporary India and Europe in universities and institutions in India and Europe. He has authored Campus Nation: Student Activism and Social Change in Slovenia, Poland, India and Bangladesh (Worldview, Calcutta, 2006) and was co-editor of Islam and Tolerance in Wider Europe, (CEU Press, New York, 2006). His articles have been published in Mainstream (New Delhi), Ha’artez (Jerusalem), Dagens Nyheter (Stockholm), Mint (Mumbai) and in FT.com (website of Financial Times, London), and Matrubhumi, (Kozhikode). SAMPARK, the literary-academic publishing house Sunandan Roy Chowdhury founded in 1999, is devoted to bringing out English and Indian language translations of literatures from all around the world as well as books in social sciences and humanities. The YOUNG SAMPARK imprint was launched in 2012 to publish children’s books in English and Indian languages.
Vessislava Liubomirova Savova
Vessislava Liubomirova Savova is from Bulgaria. The author is a member of the Union of Independent Bulgarian Writers since May, 2011 and has published academic books and collection of short stories and poems.
Editorial Board Chief Editor Jose Varghese
Jose Varghese is Assistant Professor of English at Sacred Heart College in Kochi, India. His PhD focuses on Post-Colonial Fiction (select novels of Salman Rushdie, Shashi Tharoor and Rohinton Mistry) and he is also working on a research project on the works of Hanif Kureishi. His collection of poems ‘Silver Painted Gandhi and Other Poems’ was listed in Grace Cavalieri’s Best Reading for Fall 2009, in Montserrat Review. His poems and stories have appeared in Indian and international journals like Chandrabhaga, Kavya Bharati, Postcolonial Text, Muse India, Poetry Chain, Re-markings, Dusun, Asia Writes, Wordweavers and The Four Quarters Magazine and in the anthology On Viewless Wings (California). He has won the second prize for Wordweavers Annual Flash Fiction contest. He has done a Faber Writing Course in London under Marcel Theroux and Hanif Kureishi and writes for Thresholds: Home of the International Short Story Forum, Chichester University, UK. He was an invited author at Guntur International Poetry Festival 2012 and Hyderabad Literary Festival 2013. His forthcoming book is Silent Woman and Other Stories, scheduled to be published in 2013.
Associate Editor Aravind R Nair
Aravind R Nair teaches graduate and postgraduate classes in English Literature at Sacred Heart College, Thevara. He did his masters at the University of Hyderabad and has an M.Phil from The English and Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad. An odd assortment; he counts himself an avid fan of sf, anime, alt rock and Egyptology. He steers clear of ‘serious’ literature. However, he feels that the occasional classic is an occupational hazard!
Advisory Board Alan Summers
Alan Summers, a Japan Times award-winning writer, has had work in Japanese short form poetry win awards, and been translated into 15 languages for twenty-one years. He is a former General Secretary of the British Haiku Society; a Foundation Member for the Australian Haiku Society, and is Director/Lead Tutor for With Words. He is currently a co-haiku editor for Bones Journal (new and gendai haiku); and an Anthology Editor for Yet To Be Named Free Press. Does Fish-God Know (Winter 2012) is Alan’s collection of short form verse and gendai haiku.He is also busy on a children’s fiction novel; an adult crime thriller, as well as The Kigo Lab (an experiment with Western season words for haikai literature as full-blown kigo for eco-critical writing). Alan’s Area 17 Blog: http://area17.blogspot.com With Words: http://www.withwords.org.uk
Bill Ashcroft is a renowned critic and theorist, founding exponent of post-colonial theory, co-author of The Empire Writes Back, the first text to examine systematically the field of post-colonial studies. He is author and co-author of sixteen books and over 160 articles and chapters, variously translated into six languages, including Post-Colonial Transformation and On PostColonial Futures and Caliban’s Voice. He holds an Australian Professorial Fellowship at the University of New South Wales, Australia, working on the project “Future Thinking: Utopianism in Postcolonial Literatures.”
George Szirtes was born in Budapest in 1948 and came to England as a refugee in 1956. He was brought up in London and studied Fine Art in London and Leeds. His poems began appearing in national magazines in 1973 and his first book, The Slant Door, was published in 1979. It won the Faber Memorial prize the following year. By this time he was married with two children. After the publication of his second book, November
and May, 1982, he was invited to become a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Since then he has published several books and won various other prizes including the T S Eliot Prize for Reel in 2005. Having returned to his birthplace, Budapest, for the first time in 1984, he has also worked extensively as a translator of poems, novels, plays and essays and has won various prizes and awards in this sphere. His own work has been translated into numerous languages. Beside his work in poetry and translation he has written Exercise of Power, a study of the artist Ana Maria Pacheco, and, together with Penelope Lively, edited New Writing 10 published by Picador in 2001. George Szirtes lives near Norwich with his wife, the painter Clarissa Upchurch to whose website this is linked. Together they ran The Starwheel Press. Corvina has recently produced Budapest: Image, Poem, Film, their collaboration in poetry and visual work.
Mel Ulm is the editor and founder of The Reading Life, a premier Asian based literary book blog with over 100,000 visits a month. He is an internationally published philosopher. His posts on Indian literature have been recommended by The Economic Times of India and he will be a regular contributor to the Journal of the Katherine Mansfield Society.
Rana Nayar is Professor and Former Chairperson, Department of English & Cultural Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh. His main areas of interest are: World Drama/Theatre, Translation Studies, Literary Theory and Cultural Studies. A practicing translator of repute (Charles Wallace India Trust Fellow & Sahitya Akademi Prize winner), he has rendered around ten modern classics of Punjabi into English, ranging over novels, short stories and poetry. He was awarded First Prize, in an All India contest, organized by Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi for his translation of Baba Faridâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Shlokas into English. Among other works, his translations include those of Gurdial Singh, Mohan Bhandari, Raghbir Dhand and Beeba Balwant, published by Macmillan, National Book Trust, Sahitya Akademi, Sterling, Fiction House, Katha and
Unistar et al. Apart from this, he has one collection of poems Breathing Spaces (Unistar, Chandigarh) and three critical books, i.e., Edward Albee: Towards a Typology of Relationships (Prestige, New Delhi, 2003) and Inter-sections: Essays on Indian Literatures, Translations and Popular Consciousness (Hyderabad: Orient BlackSwan, 2012), and Gurdial Singh: A Reader (Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2012) to his credit. Moreover, he has directed over twenty major, full-length productions, and acted in almost as many.
Dr.Sanjukta Dasgupta, Professor and Former Head, Dept of English and Former Dean, Faculty of Arts, Calcutta University, teaches English, American literature and New Literatures in English. Recipient of the Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship and several other awards and grants, she was also the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Writers Prize jury panel ( 2003-2005). Her published books are The Novels of Huxley and Hemingway: A Study in Two Planes of Reality, Responses : Selected Essays, Snapshots ( poetry), Dilemma (poetry), First Language ( poetry), More Light (poetry)Her Stories (translations), Manimahesh ( translation), The Indian Family in Transition (co-edited SAGE )), Media, Gender and Popular Culture in India: Tracking Change and Continuity ( lead author, SAGE, 2011) Tagore: At Home in the World ( co-edited 2012, SAGE). She is the Managing Editor of FAMILIES : A Journal of Representations Awaiting Publication in 2013: Radical Rabindranath: Nation, Family and Gender in Tagore’s Fiction and Fils.( lead author, Orient Blackswan) Editor:Golpo Sankalan (Contemporary translated Bengali Short Stories) ( Sahitya Akademi)
Sudeep Sen [www.sudeepsen.net] is widely recognised as a major new generation voice in world literature and ‘one of the finest younger English-language poets in the international literary scene’ (BBC Radio). He is ‘fascinated not just by language but the possibilities of language’ (Scotland on Sunday). He read English Literature at the University of Delhi and as an Inlaks Scholar received an MS from the Journalism School at Columbia University (New York). His awards, fellowships & residencies include: Hawthornden Fellowship (UK), Pushcart Prize nomination (USA), BreadLoaf (USA), Pleiades (Macedonia), NLPVF
Dutch Foundation for Literature (Amsterdam), Ledig House (New York), Sanskriti (New Delhi), Wolfsberg UBS Pro Helvetia (Switzerland), Tyrone Guthrie Centre (Ireland), and Shanghai Writers Programme (China). He was international writer-in-residence at the Scottish Poetry Library (Edinburgh) and visiting scholar at Harvard University. Sen’s criticallyacclaimed books include The Lunar Visitations, New York Times, Dali’s Twisted Hands, Postmarked India: New & Selected Poems (HarperCollins), Distracted Geographies, Prayer Flag, Rain, Aria (A K Ramanujan Translation Award), Ladakh and Letters of Glass. Blue Nude: New & Selected Poems | Translations 1979-2014 (Jorge Zalamea International Poetry Prize) is forthcoming. He has also edited several important anthologies, including The HarperCollins Book of English Poetry, Poetry Foundation Indian Poetry Portfolio, Poetry Review Centrefold of Indian Poems, The Literary Review Indian Poetry, World Literature Today Writing from Modern India, The Yellow Nib Contemporary English Poetry by Indians, Midnight’s Grandchildren: Post-Independence English Poetry from India, Wasafiri New Writing from India, South Asia & the Diaspora, and, Lines Review Twelve Modern Young Indian Poets. His poems, translated into twenty-five languages, have featured in international anthologies by Penguin, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury, Routledge, Norton, Knopf, Everyman, Random House, Macmillan, and Granta. His words have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Newsweek, Guardian, Observer, Independent, Telegraph, Financial Times, Herald, London Magazine, Poetry Review, Literary Review, Harvard Review, Hindu, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Indian Express, Outlook, India Today, and broadcast on BBC, PBS, CNN IBN, NDTV, AIR & Doordarshan. Sen’s newer work appears in New Writing 15 (Granta), Language for a New Century (Norton), Leela: An Erotic Play of Verse and Art (Collins), Indian Love Poems (Knopf/Random House/Everyman), Out of Bounds (Bloodaxe), and Initiate: Oxford New Writing (Blackwell). He is the editorial director of AARK ARTS and the editor of Atlas. [www.atlasaarkarts.net]. In January 2013, Sudeep Sen was the first Asian to be honoured to deliver the Derek Walcott Lecture and read from his own work as part of the Nobel Laureate Week in Saint Lucia.
Student Editors Collins Justine Peter
Collins Justine Peter is now pursuing his III year undergraduate program in English Copy Editor. He has proven his calibre in fiction writing, photography and film-making. He profusely contributes his short fictions to college blog and has received awards in inter-collegiate photography competitions.
Mariam Henna, born in Ernakulam, is a passionate reader and an ardent creative writer. Her work ‘The Two Sisters’ has got published in the Children’s Magazine. She has won various prizes for creative writing at the school and college level. She is currently pursuing her degree in BA English Copy Editing. She loves to write poetry and short stories. She is currently working on her debut novel.