The Blue Lotus Magazine Special Issue 3

Page 1

Lotus The Blue

Issue 24 Winter 2020


sridhar poluru celso pepito neleisha weerasinghe jayamanne amit dombhare jean marie kelly ramesh ramakrishnan iyer summer de guia wencyl mallari ron mariĂąas papia ghoshal ganpat majgaokar farzana rahman bobby c k lim asela abeywardene barbara mendes 1

colors of c



# 270 Mundull 1 Village, Sway Don Tel: 855 (0) 63965021; Tel: 855 (0) 122


l of art

Colors of Cambodia provides free art education for Cambodian children through our gallery and in local schools. We also host various workshops and lectures by local and internationally renowned artists and hold full-scale art exhibitions regularly. The art gallery at Colors of Cambodia features art by our students and teachers. Proceeds from the sale of art works by students, teachers, and our founder go directly to assist students and schools. Advanced art-training classes are offered to children showing special talent. Advanced teaching in drawing and painting is available to assist students in higher education, and to prepare them for a possible career in the arts. One long-term goal of Colors of Cambodia is to be able to offer scholarships to exceptional students.

ngKum Commune, Siem Reap District, Cambodia 214336 - Phany; Email:

siem reap, cambodia


contents p6











jean-baptiste phou the colour of desire

sridhar poluru

indian artist

celso pepito landscapes

neleisha weerasinghe jayamanne

imee ooi

metta sky concert

amit dombhare tribal warli artist

joan marie kelly/ramesh ramakrishnan iyer bark & flesh

summer de guia/wencyl mallari/ron mariĂąas seeing eye to eye

cover image by Sridhar Poluru, 2020


papia ghoshal bohemian

p106 ganpat majgaonkar


debotri dhar

book - love is not a word

p122 farzana rahman bobby



c k lim


asela abeywardene sri lankan artist

p156 shituma’s school of cookery dhaka


barbara mendes

queen of cosmos comix


Lotus The Blue

editorial This is the third ‘Special Issue’ of this magazine, produced from Cambodia, with thanks to Bill Gentry and Colors of Cambodia with the loan of their iMac. There seems to be no letting up of the pandemic, nor of borders opening anytime soon. Despite, or is that because of, the upheavals we are facing creativity continues to expand and embrace our lives. We are all indebted to the creative individuals and organizations who bring fresh insights into humanity and the world about us. I confess that creating The Blue Lotus magazine brings me much joy. It gives a warm glow to discover new people and be ‘blown away’ by their images, as happens with each issue. You will find that these issues are occurring more rapidly at present, this is because I need to take advantage of the loan of this computer. If I have to leave Cambodia without being able to access my main computer in Malaysia, there will be a gap in the issues Take care Stay safe

Martin 6



Jean-Baptiste Phou

The Colour of Desire


The Colour of Desire By Jean-Baptiste Phou

Growing up, I was addicted to sitcoms. When Gérard appeared in “Les filles d’à côté”, one of my favourite shows during the 90’s, I was in shock. It the first time I saw a gay character on TV. However, he was a comical character without much complexity, ridiculously effeminate and I didn’t totally relate to him. On top of it, all the people around me made fun of him: “Homo!” “Faggot!” “Freak!” I understood from a very young age that homosexuality was considered a perversion, so I decided not to tell anyone and felt terribly isolated. In the Parisian suburbs where I grew up, there were no other boys like me out in the open. As a teenager, I was convinced that I would end up alone, that my case was unique and hopeless. I wondered if this miserable and marginalized life that I was foreseeing, was even worth it. Only a few kilometres from where I lived, I heard of an idyllic neighbourhood in the centre of Paris called “Le Marais”, where handsome men would walk hand in hand and even kiss in broad daylight. It gave me a glimmer of hope. Not yet eighteen and in fear, I went to the bars of the French capital. I obviously didn’t fit in among the big buff guys, dressed in tight and trendy clothes, dancing to techno music. As a spotty teenager with complex issues, I was hugging the wall, completely invisible. To be honest I didn’t pay much attention to my appearance, to my skinny body or my geeky style. But this wasn’t the reason why I was rejected. No matter whom I met and how I met them, this was uttered over and over again: “Sorry, I am not into Asians”. That’s all I was to these people: “Asian” and apparently, this removed all possibilities for me to be desirable. Soon after, with dating websites, this was even written in the headline profiles: “No Asians, No Fems”. It was almost as widely spread as “No pic, no reply”. The gay scene seemed to worship a certain idea of masculinity, with big muscles, with chests, big “tools” and despise anything that wouldn’t supposedly conform to it. I thought I would find a community where I would be accepted and bloom. Instead, I discovered a cruel and excluding environment.






Then I found out about men who were only into Asians, whom I could meet at certain parties and on specific websites. I felt so excited! During the few dates that I had with these “Asian fans”, the conversations were all oddly similar: “Where are you from? Oh wait! … don’t tell me, let me guess … you don’t look like Japanese or Korean … hum … Vietnamese … that’s it, you look just like a Vietnamese!” “You were born in France? … So you’re a banana… yes a banana, yellow outside, white inside!” “Oh, you are Cambodian! How great, I just came back from Laos! People there are so poor but so happy!” “I looooooooove Asians!!” I thought that being desired for my ethnic background would be flattering. Instead, I felt diminished and turned into an interchangeable commodity. My first contacts with the gay scene were full of disappointment. The belief that I would be alone forever grew in me. But I couldn’t give up so easily, so early. There had to be other ways than the ones I had experienced so far. So I came up with a new strategy. I realised that it was “White” people who had elaborated this domination system to place themselves on top of it, that they turned all other “racial” groups into objects and refused to see us as people. So, from that moment on, I was determined to conquer the humanity that had been denied to me and to others by only dating the victims and outcasts of this system: non-White people. I still hadn’t reached the age of majority and I had already stopped considering relationships as just relationships, but instead as political acts and my body turned into my weapon. Nevertheless, I was careful not to reproduce the clumsy and awkward approaches others tried on me: to categorize or fetishize. That’s how I met my first boyfriends. They were important people I had been in love with, before being from the West Indies, West Africa or Latin America. These first years of my sentimental exploration were also the exploration of different types of body shapes, skin tones and hairiness. Yet there was a group who seemed to be totally out of reach: other Asians. Whenever I was trying to approach one of them, be they originally from China, Cambodia or Vietnam, I was hitting a wall. The way they expressed their rejection threw me off: “I would never


go out with another Asian: it would be like sleeping with my sister”. “But I am not a lesbian!” “Only White men can satisfy me!” Apparently, two Asian men together were considered something horrific, depraved, and inconceivable. I was staggered by this intraethnic racism and internalized racism. How did we reach this point of self-hatred? Being constantly cast aside, I too had started to hate this yellow (ish) complexion that represented the colour of disgust. At the age of 24, I went to Spain for my studies before finding a job there. It was also when I started to loosen my criteria. I stopped boycotting White men, telling myself that not all of them were racist oppressors. Well … the truth is, I wanted to allow myself all sorts of new pleasures. Sexy Spanish men … here I come! Ironically, when I worked in Barcelona, I met a White man from … France! A few months after we started dating, I received a job offer in Singapore and we decided to begin this next adventure together. Being Asian dating a White man, I was considered a Potato Queen, whereas my partner was perceived as a Rice Queen. Asians together were called Sticky Rice, while the term for White with White was Mashed Potato. Singapore being a diverse island, there were all sorts of dishes: Curry Queen for Indians fans, Satay Queen for Malays and Indonesian fans. These labels less bothered me than the different treatments my partner and I were getting. Whenever we would go out, doors were opened before him, people only talked to him, handed the bill systematically to him whereas they made me feel like his escort, when I wasn’t just ignored. In my social life, I always encountered the same unpleasant comments: - Your boyfriend found a job here and you followed him right? - No, it’s actually the opposite. - Oh ok. Well, he will have all the guys he wants here and he will leave you. The few times we went out together to gay bars, boys literally threw themselves at him, and some even pushed past me to talk to him. I experienced these micro aggressions with great violence. As for my partner, he didn’t always notice them or worst, he would deny them and that would create tensions between us. The day that he told me that he had had a “moment of weakness”


with a Singaporean man, something in me broke. He cheated on me, with another Asian. This hurt and obsessed me more than the cheating itself. Had I lost my sense of value? Our relationship that was already in bad shape fell apart soon after this episode. A few weeks later, we broke up. Along with the end of this love chapter, I resigned from my finance job and left Singapore. I am now in Cambodia. It is a new country, a new career, and a new life. In the past dozen years I had been living on and off in my parents’ motherland, I noticed a huge evolution in the relationships between men. During my first trips, the gay scene was very discreet. Most of the time, it was something taboo and hidden. There were only a few bars and obvious prostitution targeting foreigners. Then, with the rise of a youth more assuming, a new middle class, the spread of dating apps and images of attractive Asian men on the Internet and popular culture, relationships started to find another balance and Cambodians are now more interested in locals than in foreign sugar daddies. It was also in Cambodia that I lived brand new experiences. In the eyes of the men I met, I saw myself differently. I wasn’t perceived as “Asian” anymore and I no longer had to perform that role. I could be whatever I wanted, be myself, and even try new versions of myself. For the first time, I had the feeling that the racial issue didn’t invite itself into the bedroom. However, I don’t idealize these relationships. Being Cambodian from abroad, having light skin, entering another age category … there must have been other factors that played their part but that didn’t affect me anymore. It took this entire journey to get rid of the weight and limitation linked to my skin colour, be they real or imaginary, external or internalized. Along this quest of emancipation, I also stopped rejecting like I had been rejected. I give the benefit of the doubt even if I could be mistaken. I have often been disappointed, sometimes surprised. Thus, love came into my life once again, with a man I wouldn’t have let in if I had maintained my previous positions. A man I feel happy with, in peace, complete, despite our ethnic differences. The racial issue sometimes interferes in our personal and social


lives, but becomes a secondary issue that we have learnt to handle together, each of us taking our part. Most of the time we are simply living our everyday lives, with the joy and hardship of any couple. So, to this lonely, gloomy, angry teenager that I used to be, to this teenager in despair with dark thoughts ‌ I would like to tell him that he would be seen, he will be desired, and he will be loved for everything that he is.



Sridhar Poluru



Sridhar Poluru born in 1968 in Andhra Pradesh, India studied science and did his B.Sc. from Nagarjuna University, before turning to art and passed his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art in first rank from Andhra University. He worked at Kanoria Centre for Arts in Ahmedabad. A painter, his art comes in multimedia. With charcoal on textile and acrylic on canvas his imagery focusses on different subjects. The themes vary from day to day life, gender issues such as women’s empowerment, sati, child marriage, girl education and environmental concerns though he has also created work featuring divine forms and mythology. His work has been featured in exhibitions held in India. Sridhar currently lives in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and works from his studio at home.
















Celso Pepito landscapes

A graduate of Fine Arts from the University of the Philippines Cebu College in 1981, Celso Duazo Pepito believes that “art goes beyond the beauty it depicts.� His every art brings with it the three main reasons for his artistic creation: love of God, advocacy for a strong Filipino family, and concern for his country. His art manifests the Filipino spirit that he so wishes to promote and develop, finding inspiration in every opportunity he encounters in his daily undertakings. These are some of his rare ventures into landscape









Afternoon at Virginia



Interpreting Central Park's Bridge


Neleisha Weerasi

True blue iii

Rice Field

The fascination with the lotus plant started when I entered a group painting challenge during COVID 19. The challenge was to paint a flower a day and it was recommended to find one from your own surroundings and I could find only this small Blue lotus in my mother’s home-made pond. The painting came out really well which made me want to paint some more of it. So, I went looking for more ponds, looked on the internet and asked friends for reference images and that’s how the series started. Learning about its heritage and reverence in many cultures added further inspiration to progress in confidence in creating my artistic interpretation of the Lotus. It’s most significant aspect in my opinion is its beginnings within its surroundings. The lotus flower though idolized, cannot be what it is on 38

inghe Jayamanne

Small Seascape with Palm Trees

its own. It cannot be the beautiful bloom it is if not for the water, the mud, sun, air and the plant it is attached to. Each day as it reaches out of the water it is as if to say thank you to all these elements that make the lotus what it is. So, what I understand by it is that we should be grateful for the circumstances we have faced and the situations we are in, people we are part of and who are a part of us. They all make us who we are, they make us reach our full beautiful potential. “Be like a lotus. Let the beauty of your heart speak. Be grateful to the mud, water, air and the light.� Amit Ray


Seascape with coconut trees and beach,Sri Lanka



True blue


Close ups


True blue ii





IImee Ooi FRSA

Producer / Director / Music Arranger / Composer / Vocalist Malaysian music producer, composer, arranger and vocalist. Founder of IMM Musicworks in 1997, Imee Ooi has now released more than 50 albums of her own, and has produced countless musical works for Buddhist societies and organizations around the world. A devout Buddhist, Imee’s serenely pure voice and unique sense of musical arrangements has established her own genre, spreading the sounds of Dharma through Sutras, Mantras, and free composition that has transcended religious barriers and touched different cultures and age groups. Her music has also travelled to Europe and Russia, US and Canada, Australia and Africa, soothing and calming many hearts. Imee’s works have also been regarded as a significant milestone in the development of Buddhist music. With a wide range of composition sung in seven different languages, “The Chant of Metta”, “ Om Mani Padme Hum”, “The Great Compassion Mantra” , “ The Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra ” are among some of Imee’s most praised works. The composer and musical director of the musicals “Siddhartha”, “Above Full Moon- Master Hong Yi’s Biography ”, “Jewel of Tibet- Princess Wen Cheng ” and “ The Perfect Circle”, Imee is also the recipient for the Best Original Music and Music Director awards in the 2009 and 2010 Boh Cameronian Arts Awards musical theatre category. To spread The Dharma through music has become the life destiny of Imee Ooi.







Imee Ooi is gifted with deep appreciation of Eastern and Western musical masters. Her unswerving instinct in creating melodies for chanting ancient mantras and sutras is unique on this planet. She sings and composes with authority, the authority that cannot be learned at academy, but rather comes from the firsthand experience of Being / Creation, the authority that comes from experiencing first-hand the power of Bodhi, from ways of Buddha, in daily life. As a very-experienced musician in contemporary Holy Spirit music over 40 54

years, I know what is real and what is just marketing. Imee Ooi only does the real stuff. If new music in the temples (in which she has done plenty) reaches to try to include those outside the walls, then new music outside those walls may reach into the temples, to give authority back to those who are not so sure why they keep going. What is a revolution of Metta? The best one. And now, this is the fullness of time. Peter Moffitt (New Jersey, NY, USA - Music Director /Composer /Sound Specialist /Jazz Pianist) 55

Amit Dombhare Tribal Warli Artist



Amit Mahadev Dombhare was born in 1985 in Maharashtra and is a tribal warli artist. He learned this art from his grandfather. He has participated in several shows including Kala Ghoda Festival and Shilp Mela. He is a tribal warli painting artist. He calls it his family art and has learned it from his grandfather. Maharashtra is known for its Warli folk paintings. Warli is the name of the largest tribe found on the northern outskirts of Mumbai, in Western India. Despite being in such close proximity of the largest metropolis in India, Warli tribesmen shun all influences of modern urbanization.











bark&flesh Joan Marie Kelly Ramesh Ramakrishnan Iyer

Bark & Flesh Two artists Joan Marie Kelly and Ramesh Ramakrishnan Iyer share their work in a joint exhibition looking at interventions between the lives of humans and the lived experiences of trees. Both artists examine mankind’s habitat from a perspective of our reciprocal relationship with trees. Cycles of birth, life, and transformation are witnessed and depicted through the body of a tree. Unseen roots claim their own territory without man's rules and constraints. They hold securely, deep into the soil. Above the ground, vestiges of tree bodies recount histories, memories, and landscapes now reconfigured. Chopped, sprayed, burnt, manicured or longforgotten the tree navigates man’s desires, false needs, and social standards. Ramesh Ramakrishnan Iyer’s black and white photographs recount nightly expeditions into the urban tree quietly witnessing us. Moving past their looming bodies, with our masks and earplugs, we avoid them, discount their presence. Visible stumps are remnants of our attempts to extinguish them, flattened and hacked into a diminished existence no longer able to provide homes for feathered tenants. Negating us they become rampant terrain for worms and insects and seedlings. Joan Marie Kelly paints the devastation of the landscape, first starved of water then ignited into flames. What was always soggy soil became a dry alpine topography dreading inevitable spark. But the blackened trees and scorched earth instead ignite hope with the color of newly sprouted life that never did die but transformed. Kelly’s Boy from Kolkata’s life is one with a tree. The boy survives, is housed and protected by the tree. The tree is his storefront. The products he sells are gifts given from trees. Returning to Kolkata year after year Kelly watched the boy and the tree live together. The boy turned into a young man reliably securely seated under the same protective tree surrounded by his bananas. 68

Bark & Flesh Installation View


Past trees, Ramesh Ramakrishnan Iyer



Alone Yet Surviving, Joan Marie Kelly


Navigating Chaos, Joan Marie Kelly



I was a tree, Ramesh Ramakrishnan Iyer


I was a tree, ii Ramesh Ramakrishnan Iyer



Joan of Arc, Joan Marie Kelly


Listening Close, Joan Marie Kelly





Waiting is a trap, Summer de Guia

i don't care if it hurts i want to have control, Summer de Guia


Precious Glory, Wencyl Mallari




Inside of me, Wencyl Mallari


The Royal Misfit, Ron MariĂąas


The Scent of Pink, Ron MariĂąas


Georges Georges Rhumerie French Restaurant

Georges’ Lane, Krong, Siem Reap, Cambodia Call 096 861 7448 90


artist nomad performer poet rain-bird


papia ghoshal bohemian


Papia Ghoshal, bohemian By Martin Bradley

Papia Ghoshal (popularly known as Papia Das Baul) is a bohemian, if not by birth then by choice. This free spirited mystic woman lives in the capital of what was Bohemia – Prague, as well as in her birth country India (Kolkata), and in Britain too. Her life is one crammed with creativity, poetry, fine art, film-making, acting, performance, music and singing. In Prague, she has formed ‘Baishnav Tantra’ an Indian folk music group dedicated to rare original traditional ethnic Indian music, which is no surprise considering her studies in Indian classical music, Rabindra sangeet/folk music, and her Master’s degree in Indian music, and yet is still very much a bohemian in outlook. What is it to be a ‘bohemian’? Aside from residence in what was Bohemia (now Czechia, formerly Czechoslovakia with Bohemia in the west, Moravia in the east, and Silesia in the north), being a bohemian has become a badge of separation from the ‘norms’ of ‘normal’ society. Bohemianism, in popular parlance, is a result of the practice of an unconventional lifestyle. A bohemian lifestyle frequently involves music, art and literature and all that entails. It is argued that bohemians are nomadic, wanderers who seek notions of the spiritual. Those (bohemian) traits have been projected onto artists, poets, writers and salonists (gallerists) in places like Paris, during the 1830s and into the first decades of the 20th century. People such as the writer and poet Guillaume Apollinaire; the artist Amedeo Modigliani; the poet, artist and filmmaker Jean Cocteau; fellow artists Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso; writers Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and salonist Gertrude Stein all became associated with the unconventional bohemian lifestyle. Later bohemian was applied to the residents of sections of New York’s ‘Latin Quarter’ (at Charles Pfaff’s beer cellar), and literary salons across Manhattan. This was possibly due to the popularity of Fitz-James O’Brien’s short story - “The Bohemian” in Harper’s Magazine (1855). Later, bohemian was applied to London too, with the ‘Bloomsbury Set’ (Virginia Woolf; E.M. Forster; Vanessa Bell; G.


E. Moore; Roger Fry; Lytton Strachey; Clive Bell; Leonard Woolf; Sir Desmond McCarthy, and Arthur David Waley. After the First World war, bohemian was applied to North America’s Greenwich Village’s inhabitants, later to the post World War 2 ‘Beat Generation’ of Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jack Kerouac et al (the ‘hipsters’), and in the 1960s to the San Francisco ‘hippies’. The term “bohemian” has been likened to ‘gypsy’, mainly due to the lifestyle of gypsies (from Bohemia) settling in Paris. It is said that in the country known as Bohemia (Central Europe, a kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire) Ferdinand I (1545), King of Bohemia had banned gypsies (artistic and creative wanderers originally from the North West of India), and in 1697 Emperor Leopold I, King of Bohemia was to do the same. Having few places to stay in Europe the gypsies or Romani (Roma) tried and tried again to make a home in Bohemia. In the 1760s (in Hungary and Transylvania), Empress Maria Theresa began aiding gypsies to settle, and was continued by her son Joseph II (17801790) particularly in Moravia. Henry Mugger in his book ‘Scenes de la Vie de Boheme’ (Bohemians of the Latin Quarter, 1851, the basis for Puccini’s 1896 opera “La Boheme”) was very keen to distance the Parisian bohemians from the settled gypsies. Mugger wrote… “The Bohemians of whom it is a question in this book have no connection with the Bohemians whom melodramatists have rendered synonymous with robbers and assassins. Neither are they recruited from among the dancing-bear leaders, sword swallowers, gilt watchguard vendors, street lottery keepers and a thousand other vague and mysterious professionals whose main business is to have no business at all, and who are always ready to turn their hands to anything except good.” (Henri Murger. “Bohemians of the Latin Quarter.”

Just as the term bohemian is a misnomer so, in fact, is ‘Gypsy’. As wanderers, the peoples who often call themselves Roma, or Romani became objectified by various names including ‘Tartars’, ‘Heathens’, ‘Saracens’, ‘Greeks’, ‘Turks’, ‘Jews’, ‘Jats’, ‘Athingani’, ‘Atzinganoi’, ‘Romiti’, ‘Bohemians’, “Fools Styled Greek Bohemians,” ‘Pharaoh’s People’, ‘Egyptians’, ‘Luri’, ‘Zingari’, ‘Zigeuner’, and ‘Zotts’. The name ‘Egyptians’ became shortened to ‘Gypsies’. But while Gypsies may be bohemians, yet bohemians are not necessarily


Injured siddhartha


The cracked mirror The cracked mirror talks only about striving. Your face striving Your breasts striving Your stomach striving Your vagina striving Your eyes striving Your eye-water striving Your heart striving By standing in front of the mirror, your days of menstruation slip away.


continued from page 95

Gypsies. Nevertheless, while you might intimate that Papia Ghoshal conforms to the eccentricities of the modernist term ‘bohemian’ and, while some consider that there are correlations between ‘bohemians’, ‘Gypsies’ and Baul (such as proposed lifestyle and mode of dress) Papia Ghoshal maybe a bohemian in the loose sense of that term, but though she travels, is not a gypsy but a ‘Baul’. She has adhered herself to ‘Baul’ philosophy (from Bengal, India). She sings songs of Baul and songs emanating from Bengal’s most famous son, Rabindranath Tagore, too. The colourful (alkhallas) patchwork clothed Baul (derives from the Sanskrit “Batul,” or “vatula” which means mad, or afflicted by the wind) are akin to gypsies and/or bohemians and are itinerant, nomadic, wandering bards/minstrels who frequently perform with the Ektara (a popular simple one stringed musical instrument, Ek-one, Tara-string). They are nonconformists who praise love and dance out of the sheer joy of being alive. Tantrism; Buddhism; Hinduism, Islam and Sufism have all been associated with the Baul of Bengal. As part of a Baul performing troupe Papia Ghoshal is very much the Baul answer to Janis Joplin (dubbed the Queen of bohemians), with her husky but sensuous vocals and heartfelt facial mannerisms. Dressed in traditional Baul patchwork, red scarf wrapped around her neck, nose ring glittering as she plays and sings, this bohemian painter/ performer/poet enwraps and beguiles her attentive audiences. Often her paintings, originally created using watercolour and menstrual blood in the tantric tradition, are projected behind her though, in truth, she needs no additions to her magnetic self and her pounding musical accompaniment. On stage, she twirls like semazens (Sufic Mevlevis) but unlike those ‘Twirling Dervishes’ she is highly sensuous, a woman grounded in ‘shakti’ and moves as easily as the ophidian (Gerua) who accompanies her in life


Ankle bell


Dance of the body worshipping the space in SHUNYA, the VOID


Colours Our neighbourhood girls will show their nests Made from the white ties of petticoats; Orange orgasms and the menopause Bleed into foot-bands of yellow and black. Clothes rails shed scarlet bras Onto the neighbourhood’s blue alleys and out into its streets. Colours drain down every last body.

Little by little the girls in the alleys Shade off into black..


Blind Geometry The spent blue hue drips down the canvas The brush is falling asleep One dark arithmetic paves the way The blind geometry rules Awake only, the planet that’s next to grammar; And the text books are silent 


Magic storm



Love As if we are hacking a path through the darkness, As if we’re engrossed afterall this while by the moon’s refulgence, So long have I borne on my back my corpse As if I will listen once more To the ear-market struggle between grave and allegro, As if after all this while one comes and says Unknot your hem and run to me.


Ganpat Majgaonkar I always try to express my emotions through my paintings and, I derive immense pleasure when I am (painting sic) on canvas. Although art is a strong form of expression, all emotions may not be converted through art. When I paint, I find it important to draw that thin line between lust, creativity and purity. Art is to be comprehended by mind and is not meant to be analysed by intelligence. The deeper you feel, the cleverer a painting appears. Indeed art in any form enables us to explore ourselves & love ourselves. Whenever I paint trees, rivers, or a bird or even a flower, I feel this love towards them. I feel we share the same roots and why not? After all we all ore 'HIS" Creation. This planet is Almighty's canvas. We can only sit and admire his art and I for one cannot hope to recreate something so perfect. But, I can only dream like Vincent Van Gogh who said “I dream my pointing and then I paint my dream� G. S. Majgaonkar














“Why, I wondered, while watching the leaves change colour in the fall, were there very few serious yet engaging books on love, its many moods and multiple meanings?” From book’s Preface by Debotri Dhar

The many colours of love and desire—as they are in India today, and have been over the centuries, from the age of the Kama Sutra to the time of Tinder. ‘Love: more than pursuit, less than perfection,’ writes Debotri Dhar in her introduction to this book, and reminds us that love/ desire is as much art as accident, and as full of light and clarity as it is of darkness and confusion. In the twelve essays that comprise this thoroughly engaging, eclectic collection, scholars, critics, storytellers and journalists examine some of the myriad aspects of this emotion—its ‘complexities, in-betweenness’; its ‘being and becoming’. In the opening essays, we get a historical and cultural perspective on ‘traditional love’ through discussions of ‘swayamvara, arranged marriages, and desi romance’; ruminations on the immortal love of Radha and Krishna; and the story of a sexually desiring and desired courtesan or nagarvadhu. In the essays that follow, the politics of love is discussed and debated from a variety of angles: from the love jihad campaign against inter-religious marriage, to a critique of the savarna gaze in Indian cultural iconography and its meaning for inter-caste love; from India’s legal battle to decriminalize same-sex love, to the subversive threat in single women’s self-love. The book also includes intriguing and exquisite portrayals of love in literature—from Urdu shayari and the barahmasa (songs of longing for the twelve months of the year), to the city fictions of love through Rome, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Istanbul and Delhi. With essays by some of the most distinctive writers of our time, this delightful, wide-ranging volume certainly suggests that love is not just a word.


Extract From Debotri Dhar’s essay “Single Women, Self-Love, and the Gender of Waiting” from Debotri Dhar ed. Love is Not a Word: The Culture and Politics of Desire (New Delhi: Speaking Tiger, 2020). […] Of course, ‘Indian’ or bhasha literature is not a monolith any more than ‘Eastern’ or ‘Western’ or ‘English’ literature is. Instead, varied literary and linguistic expressions find their unique identity within a shifting field of meanings, of centers and peripheries, and the named and unnamed positions in-between. Edna O’Brien’s short story ‘Inner Cowboy’ from her collection Saints and Sinners, a more contemporary piece bearing witness to the rich literary traditions of Anglo-Irish literatures, offers an interesting instance of a man who waits for love. ‘Flat, watery land. Big lakes, little lakes, turloughs that filled up in the rain, and rivers a red-dish brown from the iron in the soil.’ This is the Irish countryside of cut turf, mist and flying dust that is home to the story’s main character, Curly. Peaceful, talks-to-himself, works-hard-and-does-not-quit-even-when-kicked-and-called-a-retardby-his-boss Curly, who prefers the dun-brown bogs to the black, gritty quarries. Curly, briefly a hero after having delivered a calf, suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of the law for helping a friend hide some money that belongs to the big men with shiny chrome cars and shinier wives. He goes missing in the bog, his body stiff and blue from being in freezing water for hours when it is finally discovered. Curly, who always wanted to do something really wild, and to have a girlfriend to love. Love here is blue—blue as water, as watery land, as big lakes of hope and little lakes of despair—inking its absence through his life, and death; an eternal wait for living, and for love. Another interesting male character who waits for love is the Tiger, in the allegorical novel The Tiger’s Wife by Belgrade-born Tea Obreht. The author’s family left Yugoslavia when the war broke out, and war forms a charred backdrop to this tale that imaginatively weaves myth, history, and politics. A tiger escapes from a zoo bombed by the Nazis and heads for the fictional mountain village of Galina, whose inhabitants include the brooding butcher-musician Luca, his deaf-mute wife, and a young boy. Luca, hounded by his own demons, inflicts unimaginable terrors on his wife, mangling her ribs, scalding her skin, bludgeoning, breaking her body and soul. Luca disappears one day; and when she begins to stroll smilingly around the village, bruiseless and free, and her belly begins to swell, the village is rife with gossip that ‘The tiger is her husband. He comes into her house each night and takes off his skin’ (p. 219). Even the famed hunter Darisa, there to kill the tiger, hallucinates that he stands ‘in front of the house of the tiger’s wife and watched the return of her husband, broad-shouldered, red skin glinting in the moonlight, cross the square and come down the road, the night behind him drawing in like the hem of a dress. The door of the butcher’s house would open, and then, through the window, Darisa could see the tiger rise upright and embrace the girl…’ (p. 260). To the young boy who grows up to be the narrator’s grandfather, however, ‘the baby was incidental. He had no need to guess that it was a result of some drunken stupor 120

of Luca’s, or rape by some unnamed villager, and that the baby had been there before the tiger had come to Galina’ (p. 220). Instead, he longs for his Shere Khan, both real and imagined, and wonders why the villagers cannot understand that the cold, hungry tiger means no harm, that he sees ‘the girl as she had seen him: without judgment, fear, foolishness, and somehow the two of them understood each other without exchanging a single sound’ (p. 220). When the girl doesn’t come, the tiger waits. He agonizes when he has to go ‘a week without the warmth of the village and the smokehouse smell of her hair, though he had found faint traces of her in the air now and then, almost always at night’ (p. 261). When the pain of separation could no longer be borne, ‘Once or twice he had gone to her, had tracked her down in the blackness of the trees, but she had always led him back’ (p. 261). Can this tender story of a woman and a tiger—interspecies love, as it were— have a conventionally happy ending? Of one thing we can be sure: male, but not human, and entirely unschooled in the gendered rituals of ‘civilized’ society, the tiger is able to love, to surrender, and to wait, with the fullness and humanity that perhaps only an animal sometimes can. […]

Debotri Dhar

Dr. Debotri Dhar is an author, editor, essayist, novelist, columnist, educator, and world traveler. Her books, scholarly and fiction, include the essay collection Love is Not a Word: The Culture and Politics of Desire (New Delhi: Speaking Tiger, 2020), edited with introduction; her single-authored Postcards from Oxford: Stories of Women and Travel (London, Kolkata); The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 (Singapore, Kitaab, 2018; judged and edited with introduction); the novel The Courtesans of Karim Street (New Delhi: Niyogi, 2015); Education and Gender (Bloomsbury Academic: New York, London, New Delhi; edited with introduction), among several others. Her stories such as "A Flute Called Radha" (Penguin Random House), "Meeting Sabita" (Every Day Fiction), "Snakes" (Honourable Mention, Glimmer Train) and others have been published in literary magazines and anthologies worldwide. Debotri is the founder of the Hummingbird Global Writers' Circle, a transnational literary traveling initiative to foster a love of books and ideas, cultural exchange, and global understanding through free themed readings with local communities. Dr. Dhar earned a Masters' degree in Women's Studies, with distinction, from Oxford University, a PhD in Women's and Gender Studies from Rutgers University, and currently teaches Women's Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 121

Farzana Rahman Bobby

Birds in foliage.


Farzana Rahman Bobby was born in Jamalpur, Bangladesh, and is passionate about her art and about ecology. She completed her BFA in the Department of Print making, University of Development Alternative, Dhaka, and then achieved her MFA in the same department. Since her graduation she has (in 2019) held her first solo ‘print making’ exhibition (The Soul of the Soil) and was lauded by Dhaka’s good and great creatives. This continued a theme that runs through the bulk of her work as exquisite works prints, mixed media work etc. – that of nature, its depletion and its ruination by man. 123






Tree trunk in a forest 2






Tree trunk in a forest

Tree trunk in a forest


The Novice


CK Lim CK Lim was born in a small town called Bentong, in Malaysia. He has had a love of photography since he was in secondary school. His father gave him the gift of a Yashica MG1, but Lim had to save all his allowance to buy films, and for printing, as he was poor. Lim taught himself and gradually picked up the skill of photography. He enjoys his photography life and has become a full time photographer and photography trip organizer (since 1998). He always says that "Painting is an art of adding, Photography is an art of subtracting. It is to explore simplicity from a complex environment”. He is a travel photographer and was awarded the ‘TOP10’ world travel photographer and winner of the ‘Professional Asia Traveller Photographer’









Novice monk





Asela Abeywardene My earliest memories consist of encounters with nature: the sounds and sights of plants, trees, all sorts of creatures and elements that govern our world. As a child I began to identify and draw parallels between nature that surrounds us and nature within us. I could see that the way we are human beings: what we feel and do are minute parts of a symphony, a rhythm that nature creates. In everything that I saw, heard and felt I could sense a story that was waiting to be told. My love for stories is the basis of my art. My attempt is to express stories: stories that are created in my mind by observing human nature and Mother Nature and the stories that I have heard from all sorts of sources. When I read or listen to stories: whether they are fiction, non-fiction, folk tales, religious stories, or historical stories, I twist and turn them in my mind to find hidden meanings and deeper roots. I am always fascinated by the human condition: it’s complexity, vibrancy and vigour never fail to amaze me. All my art work stem from these cues that I observe and the stories that I tell myself. For me when I write, paint or sculpt, thoughts, emotions, dreams and visions flow from some deep place within me to my fingertips as symbols. Symbols that help me express my innermost feelings and thoughts. The outcome is my Art. As an artist I work with diverse media. This blog contains my paintings, sculpture, pottery, photography and some of my poetic work and portrays how my poetry and visual art inspire and stimulate each other. Teaching children enables me to be introspective: to go back in time and at times to a beautiful, hidden place of innocence and laughter. I love experiencing how each one of them develop their unique artistic characteristics and ‘grow up’ as creative individuals. I have used this as a platform to display some of their works. Asela Abeywardene








Fragility 9







Fool on the Hill








Shituma's School of Cooking Dhaka


Mejbani Gosto


Pabda macher Jhol 158



Bangladesh cuisine Shituma Zaman is many things to many people. She is wife, mother, daughter, senior lecturer, scholar and last, but certainly not least, the founder of ‘The School of Cooking’ on Facebook, on Youtube and available for home cooked Bangladesh food for delivery in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A valuable asset to Dhaka in these pandemic times. What makes Shituma’s cooking so exemplary is her intimate knowledge of her craft, honed through the years under her mother’s tutelage and her husband’s requests, she demonstrates a strict adherence to Eastern Bengal food traditions passed down through her family. From Beef and moong dal curry to Bengali Chicken bharta and Egg Luffa bhaji, Shituma literally delivers the goods when it comes to good Bangladesh food. Photography by S.M.Ismail Labyn 159


Cingri Bhuna 161

Shahi Halim 162



Chicken Halim 165

Kacci Biriani 166



Mugh dale dim Shomahar 169

Shahi Firnni 170



Barbara Mendes

Queen of Cosmos Comix “The “Jewel” story has the Hippy Horses inventing and selling a machine that tunes in real Divine beings; then with $ From sale they take kids along to (at the time Forbidden!) Tibet, where they all attain enlightenment. After that, they can Fly and they can see the Divine Beings without any machine.” Barbara Mendes NB Om mani padme hum is spoken within our studio and is the universal mantra of love and compassion. Its meaning is “Hail, the Jewel in the Lotus”. ... MANI, meaning jewel, symbolizes the factors of method - the altruistic intention to become enlightenment, compassion, and love.





Barbara Mendes was born on January 30, 1948, and studied art throughout her childhood. After graduating from NYC’s High School of Music and Art in 1966, she published stories and covers in Underground Comix under the name Willy Mendes in the early 70’s. In 1980, she graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of California at Riverside. Ms. Mendes invented her style of “Epic Paintings” in her youth. Her large canvases are filled them with hierarchical, narrative imagery and brilliant colors; woven into intricate compositions. Her paintings have been exhibited in numerous solo and other exhibits since 1973 in NYC, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Florida. Multiculturalism and all aspects of womanhood were favourite subjects until 1992, when the artist painted a mural in a Sephardic synagogue in Los Angeles, and was introduced to her own glorious heritage. The study, practice and celebration of Torah Judaism eventually became the driving force in both her Life and Art.


martin bradley

singapore 2012


Martin Bradley is the author of a collection of poetry - Remembering Whiteness and Other Poems (2012) Bougainvillea Press; a charity travelogue - A Story of Colors of Cambodia, which he also designed (2012) EverDay and Educare; a collection of his writings for various magazines called Buffalo and Breadfruit (2012) Monsoon Books; an art book for the Philippine artist Toro, called Uniquely Toro (2013), which he also designed, also has written a history of pharmacy for Malaysia, The Journey and Beyond (2014). Martin wrote a book about Modern Chinese Art with Chinese artist Luo Qi, Luo Qi and Calligraphyism from the China Academy of Art, Hangzhou, China, and has had his book about Bangladesh artist Farida Zaman For the Love of Country published in Dhaka in December 2019. He is the founder-editor of The Blue Lotus formerly Dusun an e-magazine dedicated to Asian art and writing, founded in 2011.

malaysia 2012


bangladesh 2019

hilippines 2013

china 2017

malaysia 2014



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