July 2011

i.
Julie O’Yang
interview

“Sexual Love as an Antidote to Totalitarian Control”

In memoriam of those who perished on 4 June 1989 on Tiananmen Square. An accidental cross-examination with the Chinese exile author Ma Jian, who dares to remember China’s past in his novel “Beijing Coma.”
 
Big demolition prior to the Summer Olympics

The first time when I met Ma Jian, it was two years ago on a wintry day in Brussels. We were both at Europalia, Festival biennal des Arts et de la Culture hosted by the European capital. It sounds better than it is. While a cold wind blew outside the large windows of Royal Museum of Fine Art, the vibes inside reminded me somewhat of Commissaire Maigret coloured haphazardly with a child’s felt pen set. Two days before my publisher had phoned to ask me if I could help a Chinese author named Ma Jian, who was on the Continent to be interviewed by Dutch/Flemish media. “He needs an interpreter. You get paid for the job,” my publisher had said. Certainly, I had answered. The same afternoon I set out to do my research.

I knew Ma Jian from my high school years in China. His short story collection about Tibet, Stick Out Your Tongue, caused quite a stir at the time. “Stick out your tongue” is what a doctor says when you go to a hospital in China as part of forming a diagnosis. In his stories, the author portrayed a Tibet and Tibetan Culture in a harsh, unpretty but honest way, contrary to the popular, romantic version a la Heinrich Harrer. I don’t remember if I particularly liked the book, but back then I read China’s literary avant-gardists with gusto and devoured every letter that came my way. The fact that language became an enjoyable game, and the outcome excited me and brought me sensational shocks. Six months after the military crash on Tiananmen Square, I went abroad to study. Consequently, I lost track of the literary scene from my motherland as I myself was left to the hand of fate. I needed to fill some serious gaps, that’s for sure.
A quick consult on the Internet resulted in sufficient interviews and reviews featured in Guardian, The Independent and The New York Times as well as Chinese language media primarily from Hongkong and Taiwan.

Ma Jian was born in Qingdao in 1953. After political pressure, he quit his job as a photographer in 1983, travelled throughout China and later turned these experiences into his non-fiction recounts Red Dust. He moved to Hong Kong in 1987 but continued to travel in China. In 1989 he took part in the Tiananmen Square protests. He left to live in Europe in 1997, where he established his fame as a dissident writer – “Solzhenitsyn of China’s amnesiac surge towards superpower status” as Guardian wrote about him – which gave me an instant shudder of antipathy. Comparisons are odious. Comparisons of this kind underrate a writer and disclaim the literary quality of a work, if there is such intent present in his/her artistic toil.

I recognised a life course similar to mine except for the label part. Legacy of persecution and fear, that’s what we share from our past. Not a chummy begin I’d say; it is utterly depressing. Above all, after I left China, I quit Chinese language as a writer; I felt the need to move on. Ma Jian’s published novels are originally written in Chinese and translated by his wife Flora Drew, with whom he currently lives in London. I have consciously left my past behind, in which I refuse to indulge. As a writer and artist I’m reluctant to treat past experiences in a presupposed way, which I suspect and mistrust. In art, newness and boldness is not only vital, it is necessary as a way to keep the past alive. Familiarity is a trap. In my own creative works I have wanted to invent some sort of universality, which I stipulate in my approach with a pair of fresh eyes each time, each book. And so I decided to meet Ma Jian as an interpreter. I won’t say a single word between and beyond. I will shut up.
But sometimes life does offer surprises.
We spoke only five minutes after his interview was done. He said I was the best interpreter he had had yet. I was and am, I take pride in what I do and earn my crust with it.
“You speak Chinese beautifully,” he said. I stood in silence, astonished by his remark, since musicality was something I failed to discover in my mother tongue.
“But you write too, don’t you?” Someone must have told him so.
“Yes, I write… novels… in Dutch and English…” I answered hesitantly, gratefully.
“I want to read your writings,” he insisted. Politeness is half good manners and half good lying. Ma Jian has good manners, I have to find out about the second part.
I wrote down my www on a piece of paper which I handed to him, “Check out when you find a moment. I have posted a few chapters of my latest novel China Noir, which I translated into Chinese. The original was written in Dutch,” I added hastily.
We said goodbye. One week later I received an e-mail from Ma Jian. “I read the chapters on your website and liked the terse rhythm in your language,” he wrote. “Perhaps it’s only one of your styles. Your writing reminded me of Orff’s Carmina Burana.” All right, let’s face it. This is more than politeness. And again he talked about music! This is my big secret. I have learned to master all my languages through musical notes I discover in them. I sing them and find good music in each of them. It worked for me. I vocalise until I achieve Cecilia Bartoli’s effortlessness and Bianca Castafiore’s drollery.
Our contact continued through e-mail. I told him that I visited London regularly, and I liked the hand-made noodles with chilly bean sauce in Soho. He wrote back let’s have noodles next time and talk more about novel writing. Which we never did. Partly because I’m a slapdash mailer, but also because I was finishing a new novel, my first written in English. ( I had decided to quit Dutch for a few reasons but mainly I wanted to be read by an international readership.)
As soon as I finished my manuscript in 2010 around Christmas time, I sent Ma Jian the synopsis, telling him that I was looking for an agent. Shortly afterwards I found my present agent to represent my English manuscript Butterfly. I was relieved, my confidence went through the roof. Ma Jian didn’t answer until more than two months later. He mentioned the structure of my novel which he liked a lot. At this time several of my short stories had been accepted for publication in the U.S. I wrote Ma Jian to tell him this, and that I had found myself an agent.
“I’m considering to interview you,” I made a request in the same e-mail. “I want to talk to you about your latest novel Beijing Coma.”
I had read the book in English and was dazed by his style and mannerism with a heavier hand. Somehow his writing calls to my mind Virginia Woolf; a moon river tumbling down dark rocks of thoughts towards a new found land speckled with astral bodies of narrative pleasure. Nevertheless, when I received the Chinese/original version of Beijing Coma a few days later over the e-mail, I was STUNNED. My first thought was Tao Te Ching, not in terms of murky wisdom modern soothsayers savour, though. Ma Jian’s
writing in Chinese is connected, clear and unobscuring, the kind of lucent beauty one discovers in an ink
landscape from the Ming dynasty whose ever expanding perspective adds layers of meaning without losing a valid intention. In short, I found in there the poetic depth that has echoed through two thousand years of a literary tradition, from Book of Odes to Lu Xun.
“O’Yang, you are the one who master languages,” Ma Jian wrote in the accompanying message. “I would like to discuss with you about language as means of literary expression and experience. Translations trigger a growing interest in Chinese literature, and yet it feels often like a ribbon around a bomb blast of misreading and falsehood. I believe I have given too many interviews where the vital point of my writing is left untouched. From your distinctive writing style I expect you hold an unique outlook. Let’s talk about matters ignored by the ignorant.”

It’s time to address important questions.

J O’Y: Beijing Coma is about slaughter and forgetting. On 4 June 1989 on Tiananmen Square, Chinese security forces killed many of those who had over six weeks demonstrated for democratic reform. Estimates of the dead range from 1,000 to over 7,000. Yet you chose to write a densely detailed, panoramic fiction with a strong prophetic voice. You want to tell more than just a story with huge documentary value. Because this is how the so-called “ethnic”, “multicultural” fiction is treated by both literary critics and contemporary readers. How do you handle this denial of your, say, ambition, as a serious writer? How do you want to be read?
Ma: Tiananmen Massacre took place in the twentieth century. It is a tragedy frozen in the past. Sadly, life moves on, people forget. However, death touches only the flesh, “the wronged ones never can die” as an old saying goes. The Communist Party has done everything in its power to delete the history. Libraries are cleaned and archive are burnt as if to show us that nothing at all had happened in the night 22 years ago. Until today the Internet is censored in China. The 4th of June is a date gone missing. Even worse. In today’s China, anyone who would dare to touch the subject his life faces danger. Why? Because the rulers are afraid – they are afraid to forget the violence they have committed against mankind. In a sense the Chinese government is the keeper of the traumatic memory buried very deep, but yet none of us is able to put an end to it. Censorship is wasted. By writing Beijing Coma I wanted to revive the past. On the other hand, fiction is meant to draw a parallel reality. What I’m saying is that by creating a fictive truth, history will become more real because the writer has added flesh and blood to it. Western readers like to talk about the depth of a certain protagonist in my book; they worry about the decision he makes, and are moved by the loving character of the mother who is devoted to her comatose son. With the emotional space built around a story, the author enables his reader to access the past, with which s/he can relate with the present. The universal significance is born. After the publication of Beijing Coma, I watched literary critics on English TV channels discussing my work. They said the most stupid things I’ve ever heard. One of them even think that my book is a true documentation of the massacre, and could be no more than that because of its lack of literary imagination! I wondered if they have read my book! If these critics can read at all! My story tells about a coma patient who reveals his mental interior to us, blending impossible with possible, making the absurd of life bearable. The critics have missed the symbolism completely, namely, my comatose protagonist IS China and the Chinese. As for the readers. People choose to read a book for different reasons. In this case it must be the exotic, the outlandish they assume and impose on you. Misreading, yes, in both cases. But it is also arrogance.
J O’Y: English translation of your book recalls Virginia Woolf, not only the fluid, elegant style. I especially think of a sentence she said. “For what Harley Street specialist has time to understand the body, let alone the mind or both in combination, when he is a slave to thirteen thousand a year?” Beijing Coma is,
apart from an epic novel about China’s recent past, a story about the body, “sexual love as an antidote to totalitarian control”. Do you think the Chinese are able to recognise the physical emancipation you seek to communicate? It’s my understanding that sexual oppression is not a communist invention but a deep-rooted Chinese tradition represented by the Confucian School. What do you think of the current revival of Confucianism in China? How should we, as self-chosen exiles, react to the western readiness to embrace the murkiest, biggest export product called Confucianism from a totalitarian country?
Ma: My patient has sacrificed his body in order to keep the memory of the past alive. He is the one who preserves the Chinese conscience but yet he is considered dead by the living ones. The death of his body made it possible for him to confront himself and tell the truth others dare not to touch. His lifeless
body symbolises China that is the corpse princess flirting around a global stage of capitalism. As long as you can get business done, everything else is negotiable. Memory is suspended in the dark abyss between life and death, not being able to decide whether to die or live on. The thing is when your body dies, memories die with it. Da Wei, my protagonist realises that. While he is not in control of his own body, his oversensitive, overactive mind continues to function. In my book the only communication he is able to have with the world around him is through sex. People make fun of his sexual organ; men as well as women take advantage of him and make him their sexual toy. Later on he is even exploited by his mother who sells his urine! The question that should be asked here is: who is in coma, the patient or the society? In my book his erection has become a monument for China’s political persecution in the past, which has turned for profit, commercial shamelessness in the present. Confucianism oppresses the body and the individual. In our day Confucianism is cleverly adapted by the regime to serve the same purpose as it did in the past. In my book the younger generations seek sexual emancipation. It is a protest, but most of all sexuality lies in the heart of humanism. Subversive bodily acts demanding change. Obviously, the individual is beaten by a suppressive tradition in the end. Either it is the genuine Confucian School or the one faked by the regime, it is used as a weapon to kill China’s future. Chinese government is exporting Confucius and his ideas as a cultural product. It appals me because Confucius was in exile in his own time; he was seeking a spiritual home. Until his death he was unable to finish a single book. Thanks to his pupils we are now able to be acquainted with his teaching. During the Cultural Revolution Confucius was condemned, his grave was robbed and his offspring persecuted. Now the Party thinks they can use his name for a wicked purpose of subduing the Chinese people and pulling the wool over foreigners’ eyes.
J O’Y: At times the novel’s narrative feels like a dark comedy. For instance when Dai Wei’s urine is seen as a miracle cure and people all over the country come to buy it from his mother. It bears a message similar to Lu Xun’s short story Medicine. Then again, this is your witty accusation of China’s capitalism. You blend scene after scene the drama and terror of Chinese life with lyrical tenderness and a desolate, tragic sense. How do you relate your writing with the Chinese poetic heritage? Your reference to a Chinese classical work Book of Mountains and Rivers added not only a symbolic strength to the story. Which philosophical truth did you attempt to investigate and how universal is your Truth?
Ma: When the story becomes unbearable, humour is the solution as well as a mask of despair. During the ten years I was finishing the book, I delved into the subject matter. I have learnt to know that the state of coma is continually, ceaselessly fighting the two extremes of life and death. The research process became so agonizing and horrifying, to such an extent that I even considered suicide at some point. The joy of imagination couldn’t save me. In the end I sought liberation in humour that toned down the terror.
Ming landscape

China enjoyed a poetic tradition that was as diverse as it was complex. Tang poetry unites the natural world with the philosophical, the divine with the everyday. It uses colour, repetition, and parallelism to evoke the great beauty and vibrancy of the world that surrounded us. As for me, I used medical jargon in my story; words forgotten by literature. What I mean to say is that to achieve a poetic sense of beauty, one must dare to take risks and not repeat the past. Also I used The Book of Mountains and Rivers as a literary hyphen between time and space, between imagination and reality, between ideology and spiritual emptiness. But most of all, I want to convey the philosophical sense of time: do we ever possess time? What is Time? Albert Einstein said: “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.”

J O’Y: Tell me a little about your working process. Does the desire to explore certain topics come first or a character?
Ma: The story started as a poem of a couple of thousand stanzas. I saw a man lying on a rusty bed with a bird perching on his chest. I had no idea what was going to happen to him. As I began to tell the story in its present form, immediately I felt the need to cleanse, not out of religious fancy or the want to let go or even love. The bird in my story has no wings to fly; it’s an wingless and featherless creature. It knows no freedom and is naked and defenceless.
The patient in my story is based on my brother who slipped into coma on 28 May 1989. I looked after him while the student movement shifted from optimism to military crackdown outside the hospital window. My story came to me, another character turned up who is the mother of the coma patient. A poem had a plot. A few parallels dominate the entire narrative structure. The fate of the mother which echoes that of her son towards the end. Then, there is the tank versus the dozer, which is the timely icon of China’s capitalism. Politics in the past versus boundless laissez-faire of the present day. And finally, individual versus the Chinese state. All very sad and tragic. But why do the Chinese still keep hope after being beaten again and again?
J O’Y: Words mobilize our visual imagination. Like you, I am a visual writer, in contrast to the non-visual that tends to dominate the western tradition. Do you feel you are misread on this level of commanding
of the language and you are rejected because readers in our time still prefer mashed potato topped with a homey gravy? How important do you consider yourself – us – in today’s shifting literary landscape?
Ma: My book ended with the girl’s face flattened by the tank and become thick again on the asphalt because human flesh is resilient. We are resilient. For me literary imagination is visual, and should engage all our senses. In Beijing Coma, the patient feels alive through his ears. He “hears” life, he observes a world that is blind and soulless. He leads the reader into an imaginary landscape. In literature there is no difference between old and new, there is only the difference between explored depth and shallowness. The dilemma every serious writer faces is the struggle between his individuality and the expectation of the society. If our sorrow and misery be the key to our inner self, our suffering is to achieve the final exaltation that would give birth to love and compassion. How such a story is told depends on the experiences of each individual writer who considers his individuality worth fighting for. I maintain humanism and freedom of imagination as the final goal of literature.
Beijing Coma by Ma Jian (Chatto & Windus ISBN 978-0374110178) by Julie O’Yang © 2011   
ii.
N. Pillai
three poems


The First Cut [Doctor in the Making]

The whitish belly is a dome on the cutting-board –
Frozen frame mouthing an opaque cry.

The frog limbs cling, holding the empty air
Pleading against the pleasure of waiting steel.

The T-cut flap opens the membrane doors
First step wounding, to heal greater wounds.

Heartless, the heart and kidney systems lie –
Fleshed soft and gleaming, striking a nail in me.

I cut a prayer, blood colors this sketch
Painting a death, for a future living.

I hear the croak, feel the raindrops splatter –
Growl of thunder darkening, the etherized senses.

The body cell by cell dissolves in the air,
Clotting dreams, netting neurons in my sweat.

As the forceps fingers clutch the scream
The frog leaps and lands on my soul

Nuances of Board Room Beings

Subtle bubbles foam at the meeting
The oval egg breaks in the cold hum;
The silhouettes spring, the feral gleam sparks,
The silky folds of decibels tear up.

Words wrestle fingers, softly lay wreaths
Abacus of sales rattle, slide to ciphers.
Graphs cruise the hearts, dying on the MD’s cheek
Whizzing past teeth, down the painted tongues.
Anger powered, sarcasm driven snagging
The secretary’s nylons to his tie.
Busting Production, heaving marketing
Dragging the slumped sales in decibels.

One chews hungrily his lips, another
Makes lollipops of his pencils.
The icon on the others lap top,
Fingers a fish, in his neuron net
Red in the face, he waves his catch.

The smart one cascades his Niagara
To catch the rainbow in his boss’s eye,
The time watcher, plays tongue footsie with his teeth.
The new entrant dream-fingers his mistress
Lost in the memory of her diamonds.
The keen type keels over, flattened against –
Arguments, loosing shape and stewing in despair.

The token lady at the table top, ripples in waves
Echoes her executive shine, gleaming coins –
Lightweight, only seen and not heard
In the nuances of their word

Gloves

Delight gloved the infant’s hand,
Rolling, squeezing the gruel in squishy squeals.

Clock hands, grew up the lovely fingers
To cover up her skin.Yucky! ugh! with disdain,
From sun and wind and all dirt of living.

Gloves became the knights of digital armor –
Riding to the ladies rescue, to keep alive amour
Sometimes duenna, some times police.

Gloves are companions, full of compassion;
Protects old fingers from cold and cruel creases;
No tucks, nor botox nor scalpel can make young.

The pair of gloves married in holy matrimony –
One is lost, a spouse is lost forever
Born together, they die together.

iii.mradul sharma
poem


a little less than black
 

   
   i want to speak to you. 

   using words garbled up.
making no sense whatsoever.
no sentences. no punctuation. perhaps not even words.
and i want to keep speaking.
and i dont want you to try to understand.
or say anything.
i want you to listen not to the words i speak
but to the sound of them.
like i listen to the sea.
and i want you to look at me.
just like that. and not mean anything.
like i look at the sea.
and i want you to keep looking.
i will keep speaking.


iv.
Tapas Bandyopadhyaya
four poems


Forest 
Dreams


Dappled sunlight of the fragrant forest
measures the highs and lows
Filled in dust-coloured leaves.
Sentinel tree trunks lost in lofty windy dreams.
You begin to get undone
 
You let things be
 
You will the shadow of a tiger in every bush
A bird call takes your mind away
to pubertal breezes of love.
 
You would sleep that afternoon of squirrels,
curled in the after-love of trees,
to whispered ancient stories
floating hillock to swaying hillock.
 
But then the unseen ocean
Sweeps you to your counting table
To balance your books
of duties
And desires.
 
Do you dare?
 

ID

 
Then I wanted to look for the one I was
            before the wrong trainon the wrong night
from the wrong platform
 
Having paid my fine
Having forgotten my destination
Having settled in my corner
 
I wanted to look for my course
          before the hurricane
          before the revolution
          before the tsunami
 
The girl opposite
In the black and white photo
In black chiffon
Turned me to a kite
 
And I soared
          amid dreams of earthen lamps
          and cotton sari smells
          and patient rain.
 
She turned me into a corporate
And I became a rat
She turned me into a gentleman
And I became a Spitz
 
Thus, when the Inquisitor came
Asking for my ID
[as we rumbled over Sone]
          I was looking for my eyes
          I was looking for my destiny
          I was looking for the link
to nineteen seventy one.
 
So I gave him my college ID
I gave him my Voter ID
I gave him my job ID
I gave him my PAN card
I gave him my passport
 
But they put me away
Nonetheless.


 Is



Ashes float in the sunlight of the new rice

And the deep purple melancholy
That oozes from every pore of the earth
And congeals around the trunks of deceiving luminescent green
(leaping to low branches in evenings)
 
The empty cold wind turning
Turning on itself
And again
Floating on the new light of the new year
Can no more lead me astray
To her tripping alleys of pleasure
Of the mischievous running staircases to the terrace
Of skirts and knees and the warm surrender of laughter on my chest
Of her hair on my neck across her face of the salt of her kiss
Of the fullness of love.
 
No more.
For I who have traversed fifty cycles of the sun
Who has been drowned nine lifetimes
In the endless gutters of monsoon afternoons
Who has lost his steed and sword
And is condemned to ration queues for life
When on a wrong turn of the dice
Exchanged a Mohenjodaro of sighs
For the endless brook of her chitter chatter
Who in the endless wait for the yet unformed
Has watched kites as dusk condensed on her inconsolables.
 
Have worked it out (though not understood)
That only the Light
Is.
 
03/01/2008, 06/01/08, 27/2/08, 13/12/09

The Harvest
 
Chasing the colours of the whirlwind
You reach your trail
 
To the emptiness within
(Full of yourself)
The choking, aching loneliness
 
Dust on the rail coach
Dust on the table
Dust on the mirror
Your past life’s soap
 
The gravy is a nuisance
But it’s something to do.
Blankness makes coffee
Don’t know when it got cold.
 
The heat, the traffic
The sweat, the noise
The stink, the meeting.
The toad wants all.
 
Nine to nine
But the pennies count.
 
When tires out the night
On fb and TV
Switch off the light
 
Sleep recedes between
Eyeball and eyelid
 
In the blue moonlight
The steep step-well
The brink of poetry
Back to the tail.  
 
Morning’s on the groove
On the gravy trail.
 
13/6/2011
 

v.
Shriram Sivaramakrishnan

poem



Emptiness

 

Pushed down
by emptiness
I fell helplessly
to the bedrocks
crimsoning myself
all over the body,
cleansing my cells
of their sins;
and like a baby
I was born from
the womb, again.


vi.
Sunil Sharma
three poems


In the home for the elderly


The grey women sit huddled
Lost and blank
In the cold afternoon
In the verandah of the tiny shelter,
Like the dried-up lonely branches
Of trees in autumn,
Waiting,
Yet
Waiting for
None
In the
Wide-wide
World
That
Exists
Not
For
Them.
 
Love Strange

When it

Blooms
In the hard rock
It makes
The
Craggy
Stony
Thing
Brittle
and
Soft.
It
Makes
Folks cry
When
The Strange
Feeling
Strikes.
 
Love Strange
Can make you
See the reason
In hate
And
Make
Adversaries
Into
Old
Mates!
 
On long nights
 
On long silent nights,
After tedious arguments,
A remembered face
From lost times,
And —
A burning desire for
A
Dialogue
That revives
The Soul
Like
The errant
Rains
Passing over the
Desert!


vii.
Pravin Nair
three poems

To write poetry
 
To write poetry, is to taste your tears.
 
You realize sorrow can have a flavor too
– salty
: like salt, of salt,
the salt of the displaced, the broken earth,
of truths spoken too late, 
the living walking out of your lives, the empty hearth.
 
It is to watch the ceiling gather moss and converge,
to feel, as if on the verge,
a shriveled sun,
immersed in the solitude of the horizon.
 
It is to lick the claustrophobia,
of open spaces,
of  lovers, lifeless in their embraces.
 
It is about peeling your heart,
however painful it may be,
It is to open your eyes, to an uncommon art
: of making love, to melancholy.
 
To write poetry,
is to speak the language of the lonely.
 
Speaking of Attachments
 
The sun frets and mourns,
at the light-eyed day passing by,
and licks his ruptured wound,
while red, bleeds the blue sky.
 
The red then clots into a dark pore,
only to burst shadows on rocks,
(beneath which huddled lovers hide)
like dappled polka dots, on cute frocks,
or a million crabs, awash with the tide.
 
But the day after, the black still remains,
on the morning skin, as misty stains,
which stay back and remind,
of ties that will always bind.
 
Who Am I?

I melt away, 
moment by moment,
torment by torment, 
a snowman in the blaze 
of the scorching sin; 
peel my skin, 
a sap of regret oozes out; 
skin my soul, 
a blind man steps out; 
groping and rummaging 
through life’s current, 
feeling the light, 
but not seeing it.
 
Slit me 
and you will find,
a million impoverished mouths,
agape and hungry, 
begging to be fed. 
Smell me and the stench of 
dead, maggot eaten ghouls 
of my history slaps me in the face. 
Pierce me and thick blood shall trickle, 
from the nib of my spiteful thoughts.
 
I am the wasted giant star, now a white dwarf, 
I am centuries of looking away and not into the eyes of truth, 
I am jealousy’s handmaiden and greed’s midwife, 
I am a piece of scrap, relegated to oblivion’s bin, 
I am the mythic black serpent, that gobbled down the sun, 
I am guilty humanity, on the run.


viii.
Arturo Desimone

poem

Was it you

Was it you

Who scattered fireflies
in the meditation room
in the dingy un-vacuumed chapel
Was it you
I want to know
For I gathered them
I made a necklace out of them
I do not want to be a thief
I brought it with me
to the monastery in France
where they go to St. Therese
and Santita Teresa
I have carried them,
the burden of fireflies,
truer thans forms, heavier than
mercurial kilogram lies
pocketed, across streets
the Hostels the Hotels
the homeless shelter
the damp hells and dry wells
I have brought it
to Amsterdam
Tell me it was you
black girl of the island
where the dispossessed farmed
and city, oh Tamil town
of the firefly lights
and lamposts
that glow only with firefly
Tell me it was you
Who abandoned your eggs
While bending
and haphazardly shaving your legs
I do not want to return
what I have found
Let me keep my garland
Without bearing the face-stain
of a Thou-Shalt-Knot
Tell me you had kept them
under the Dhupatta
in the polyester of
green gauze brassiere,
the corpsicles now
eating light
photosynthesis
from the phosphor hairs
on your asphalt breasts
tell me so I can keep
the fireflies, seasoned
with
a splinter-atom
a fractal
of Saffran
Then I will saunter to
London
to your graze in
marigold-lots of King’s Road
 
I will wear kurta
the long top
Only this garb
is cleansed for your rain
I will not bring
a fractal
I will import
kilos
kilograms of Saffran
 
I will donate one firefly
under your parrot-tongue
that parrots verbs and vowels calm
and strong
as rainfly
fallling flightless deaths on kitchen
table‘s
albino formaica
I will import another
into you hairs again,
the third
will gain
immortal static frescoe
congealed in amber tree-sap
you secrete from the navel strands
 
your flightless rain
transfers down spidersilk Dhupatta
woven in the artha-rich Tamil-owned
forests where
a deer sauntered off,
got lost, vine-entrapped,
and in historical conflict with
golden-leafed, carbon bark
acquired her
irreducible black
 
(by pattern-faultline of such conflict
I chart and demarcate
calm migration to your
graze in King’s Road
from my
dream-damaged mattress
lacking contingent roof:
marking trail
with splinter-atom,
fractal, pebble,
and eventually, 1 heavier-than-ten-lies
kilogram of Saffran)
 

ix.

Swati Singh Sambyal

short fiction

Fourth Mistake

Times when something leaves a deep impact on the course of your life are the ones we term unforgettable. Years pass by and circumstances change, but the wound never heals, and it hurts at the most unexpected, unwanted moments.

I did not want to wake up with this thought but subconsciously, while sleeping, I used to go back in to a place from which there was no escape. I was short of breath and I splashed cold water on my face, but it wasn’t enough to relieve me so I thought a steaming cup of coffee would do. Weekend meant nowhere to go but to keep myself locked in the room, the four walls were a far more secure zone then the world outside.
I lay on the couch to let the winter sunshine fall on my face, and it was relieving, it felt like the rays from heaven, and I was lost!
October 28, 2007—I very precisely know the date because of him.
I’ll be all right Pa, don’t worry, I ain’t a kid, my friends will be joining me in Shimla, and I’ll keep you updated with my trip. I felt suffocated because I wasn’t a small baby, I was working and still dealing with an extra-protective father was something close to a nightmare at times. I remember the time when he shouted on my ex for no reason and the time when I had to go on a birthday party with my school friends and he came back to pick me up just after an hour. He never let me be free, and I loved my freedom, loved life—for sure it was about to take a new turn.
Excuse me, will you please shift—that was the first MISTAKE.
He didn’t shift an inch, not even a millimeter or the minutest fraction of a micrometer. Somehow I managed to take my window seat … a magazine covered his face and its contents proved what type he was … you know girls have this habit of typecasting men; the sober one, the perfect one, the dogmatic one, chauvinist, well he for sure was a typical snob….men with no concern for the opposite gender … or in his case even for his kin.
I knew that the next twelve hours would be darn pathetic and seemed my Ipod was the only rescue. So I loosened up my hair, which was so tightly tied into a pony that I was having a bad headache, and put the headphones.
I did not prefer to turn to my right, SECOND MISTAKE … I did!!
I cannot recall things as of now … it’s been thirty years … but what I still remember is his eyes. There was something about them … it was a mutual hate and admiration kind of feeling. I could dive deep into them for a moment and the other I was out like a splash of water all over me.
It was the most neutral expression that can ever exist between two people—we proudly call them strangers. The Volvo was moving at a smooth pace and sounds of The Weepies were taking me again and again to the abode of the hills. I knew this weekend will be like never before—my assumptions did not disappointed me either.
Where are you heading? He asked …
I turned again toward him, in a way as if I had an encounter with a dead frog. He was not ugly, but an amalgamation of good and bad … when you know this ain’t your way, but you still want to go there, to the deep woods. The species is dangerous and you know, I ain’t a heavenly forest but you hardly bother. There was something very attractive about him… and yes I was drawn toward that good-bad soul … he appeared contradictory.
“Hmmm…..Shimla!! What about you??” I was curious to know.
“Well you gonna bear me for the next twelve hours then …”he replied with a smile!!
And this time, I smiled back. Long story short, first impression ain’t the last ones at times….
The THIRD MISTAKE …
And we were able to strike a conversation. Music was my life and we did not leave behind any artist in our discussion. It was getting cold in the bus (AC never suits me) he lent me his jacket and we started off again. He told me about his life; about the fact that he loves being a wanderer, he had almost covered half of India and travelled to more than twenty cities abroad, and yes he had some amazing stories to share. I laughed and was inquisitive to know more about him.
There was this gradual interest which felt fresh and a bit odd at the same time. He loved making friends while on the journey as there was always something interesting to know about the other. He loved chocolates, loved his independence. He kept mentioning about how much less time he has and the fact that he would miss out on a lot—I did not understand why time was such a boundation for him.
I, on the other hand always loved listening, and speaking less. So as the seventh hour arrived he was done and coaxed me to tell him something about myself… 
I just could say “may be next time.” I mean some five hours left to reach our destination, I will surely tell you … the next time.
“Oh c’mon … OK, tell me what is the best and worst thing about today,” His eyes all set on my reply.
I felt as if he read my mind and he even knew what I would answer. But somehow, he rested his face on his hand and looked straight in to my eyes for the answer, glancing at my soul.
Well … ahhh … the best thing … I met you,” I smiled gently.
“The worst … ahmm … just five hours left,” and it ended with a frown…
He laughed aloud.
I gave him a look that you give when you are disgusted by somebody’s act as it was the last reaction I expected from him.
“Oh … ha ha … whoooooh. I am … sorry … I am overwhelmed by your answer. Just don’t know how to react. I mean it was nice to hear that from you!!”
“Honestly, I was watching you from the moment you came to the bus stop…nah nah..Don’t take me wrong…I was just overlooking and then from nowhere you entered like a flash … zeroing my vision to only you … keep wearing that smile on … looks pretty and makes your face glow!”
And rest … 
“Take this.” He gave me a piece of paper.
The next five hours we hardly talked. I was eager to open the paper and read its contents, but he had sworn me to only read it once we get down and bid adieu.
The hills and the fog made it a journey to bliss. We finally arrived.
That is what he said while getting down (he took his rugsack and stood right in front of me):
“Hey … I’ll never forget this… Thank you!!”
He kissed me on my forehead. I remember I closed my eyes and the moment I opened them to say something to him he was nowhere to be seen …
My friends were waving to me on the other side of the road, but I was on this side … looking for his glimpse … but he was gone …
I opened my eyes … the sun was no more warm and the chill was running through my veins; piercing me and making my bones hollow. Thiry years gone,  and it still is like a memory all fresh, like I just met him yesterday.
I opened the piece of paper he had given to me.
“A distance of one mile … one day … or even years is not enough to part something that is straight from the heart … for a life that would come to a full stop in no time … for the moment that I have captured in my eyes. Somewhere I hope I will always stay alive … in an aboard called your heart!! GOODBYE!!”
Those three mistakes lead me to him … I wish there had been a fourth one …


x.
Yolanda Lindsay Mabuto
three poems


I’m not a punching bag
 
I’m not a punching bag –
Bruised from the inhumane thrusts –
the silent blows that deny me my freedom.
Perhaps it’s a gesture of “power,” “fear” or “superiority.”
Perhaps a greeting from subtle manipulation or reality.
The intentions are dripping into the essence of deceit
I can almost feel the advancing pressure rising from my feet.
From “embrace” to “caress” to an “aggressive touch”-
the motions seem to be stranded on the isle of vindictive violence –
Punch real hard – Punch
Till you bleed.
Emotional perhaps –
But trapped in my own strength and morals –
I see no path for this deed.
It’s bordering on physical propaganda 
So repetitive  it forms a chorus of cries –
Tears stream  as I wonder why or
To whom do these threats belong
The flesh of our flesh – which attack –
Punch till you leak –
Till you break or ache.
Repetitive
Like a song.
Unnecessary
Yet my frame remains the playground of this affair –
The cries may remain unheard but the cry itself speaks
Entirely on behalf of retirement.
I’m not a punching bag.
 
The Flow of My Soul
 
Written in the palms of my fading haven
a script so weak.
Inscribed in the abyss of loneliness
are the words of my heart.
Like a dying river  flowing so meek
through my silent grave.
Perhaps the end
of my darkened nirvana.
The end to
the flow of my soul.
Leaking – the ashes of my past
Dripping – the cinders of my forgotten dreams –
I alone – walk the paths of burning pebbles
Aching beneath my feet.
Heartbreaking.
Perhaps too slow –
Too slow for my fingers to write in their sands
Too slow
To draw shabby castles in its air
Perhaps it’s the end –
The end
Of my soul.
 
Drowning in Lonely
Whispers swirl in a forgotten distance
a mishap of merciless fate and chance.
Fading into the midst of memories that never existed
where the footsteps of unreal reality anxiously stampeded.
A sunken heart, in the depth of pain’s forest
a home to desolation where lonely rests.
An unfamiliar breeze, rages in a deserted heart
and affection’s winds sway the emotions of pity in every part.
The wind’s heartbeat echoes in a place named nothing –
every pulse gathering guilt  I’m bleeding
no one hears, sees or feels  it’s merely a shadow
Darkened reflections of joy’s misery in this silent meadow
Still, serene, bitter solitude  this sanctuary of a single amplitude
Together remained unmarried to Forever,
and Endless slowly untied Eternal and Always,
In the company of alone  silence sings
Laughing with tears of friendless stings
Held tight by ghostly hands  drowning in lonely
Walking side by side with only me.
Steps that I hear echoing behind me are my own –
as I inhale the essence of being alone.

xi.
Swakkhyar Deka
fiction

How I almost got myself killed!

 
This is then the story of mine….a certain Mr. Nobody. Always out to find a “kick” and many a times landing with the foot in my mouth. But nevertheless always game for infusing some excitement into my otherwise mundane existence. I work in government health project on contractual basis (which adds to my insecurity and hence my need for cheap thrills!).
 
So as the fateful day panned out it brought a lot of new things to light. On a day when my frailties, my timidness and the general cowardice I have associated myself with, went for a toss, though for a couple of hours. It was a plan made quite in advance…..to get drunk and have some fun. Four of us went with the aim of having a nice time by the riverside with rice beer in hand. Got the office car sans the driver (one less man to drink…we liked it) to go for the field trip. We went with an intensity to visit the film screening programme run by us at a School at Bokakhat and head thereafter towards our main objective. And so we did. We went to the school, spent some time and then, without much ado, left for our colleague Tulsi’s home. The idea was to get the rice beer from his home (lucky chap…he can have it all the time) and go to the river bank to drink to our heart’s content.
 
That was the first time I would taste Ahom rice beer or the Xaaj and I was excited in anticipation of some forbidden pleasure. We bought some cucumber on the way to eat with the drink and reached Tulsi’s place. His humble parents were cooking lunch for us as Tulsi informed them in advance about our visit. He was told by us to get the “stuff” and make a quick exit. He got a flask full of the liquid and green grams, Naga chilies and salt for snacking with our cucumbers (ah! it looked so tempting on that hot and humid afternoon).  We told Tulsi’s parents that we would be back in an hour just in time for the lunch and headed straight to the river side. I was driving in absence of any one who could drive except Troilukya, who started learning only couple of days before.
 
We reached near the spot going by local boy Tutsi’s direction but only after traversing through a very potholed bumpy road.  Inhabited by Missing tribal people the place was surprisingly calm and devoid of any human activity apart from a lone boat floating on the river. May be it was time for their noon siesta after a heavy meal on a hot a day.  After a little scampering we decided upon a place to sit and opened our paraphernalia.
 
Troilukya: This is a nice setting (peeling the cucumber).
 
Me: oh man! This is amazing (making face as the strong tangy taste of Xaaj hit me. Yes I couldn’t resist and poured myself a glass and sipped)
 
Alit: Cheers to us and may the good times begin. (raising his glass to which nobody gave any notice and took a big sip)
 
Tulsi: Munching a piece of cucumber and drinking—Screw work..we will drink.
 
Troilukya: (Drinking) Oi Deka fill your glass (pointing to my empty glass).
 
Me: Hmm…yes sure( smarting from the strong taste of my first drink)
 
I start my second drink, almost forcing myself to believe that I am liking it.
 
Me: It’s so peaceful here man. I like it. I can spend my life here drinking like this. It’s better than sex. (Others chuckle)
 
Alit: I have so many problems in life. I find nothing in this job. But I can’t leave it also. I need to build a house back in my village.
 
Me: Shut up you bugger. Stop crying. Everybody has problems in life (wht’s happening…why am I blubbering?…my tongue is getting stuck..bloody hack…my head’s spinning…may be I had gulped down my 5th glass…I forgot the count)
 
Darkness (My eyes are closed…I hear sounds…they are talking…laughing…I am sleeping here on the grass…but I can’t get up…I don’t want to get up)
 
Me: Oye Tulsi, what’s up?…where’s Troilukya?
 
Tulsi:  He’ gone for a swim. Alit is there looking out for him. (he answered me without taking his eyes off from his camera as he was taking photos or videos of I did not know what)
 
Me: You buggers…why did you let him go to the river? That jerk will drown.
 
I can’t sit up. I should sleep. I lied down again. This grass feels so good. Freshly sprouting out of the ground, green and soft. Ah! I lied there face down and grass blades titillated my nostrils.
 
I did not know for how long I was lying there in that state. Memories came and went. Like many high speed trains passing through a dark tunnel. One by one.
 
For unknown reasons, memories of a long and intense session of love making in a shady hotel room kept coming back. Sex with my ex-girlfriend. The grass smelled like sweat dripping from her forehead when she was over me. There was a particular deodorant that she used….
 
I threw up. Oh my god. What’s happening to me? It’s coming out again. Ooh…I am puking like crazy.
 
The bouts subside. I feel little well. This Xaaj is really taking me for a ride today. 
 
I look for the others. I see them by the river, a little away from me, walking behind Troilukya, who is in his underwear and all wet. Thank god, he did not get lost in the water.
 
I couldn’t keep sitting. My eyes were closing and I lied down again. Thoughts came rushing.
Dad is here. What is he doing here? He was picking up the dry leaves and plastic bags from the ground, murmuring to himself and shaking his head in annoyance. The man couldn’t tolerate dirt. Why the hell he has to be so finicky about these things? He called me lazy and good for nothing. Aptly so, I guess.
Just relax Baba. Chill. Just come and sit here. Baba…
 
Trring trring….trring trring (my phone rang…where’s it by the way?..ah found it…relief)
 
My ex’s number was flashing on the screen of the phone as it kept ringing for a few seconds. Why is she calling now?
 
Me: Hello. (Is that my voice?) 
 
Her: Hi, what’s up?
 
Me: Nothing. Just out for some field visits. 
 
Her: But today’s not Wednesday. (she knows I have to go out on Wednesdays, bitch!)  
 
Me: Today is Saturday and I have work in the field. What’s the matter with you? I am a little busy right now. Please tell fast. (I can’t carry on talking like this man…I need to sleep)
 
Her: Nothing. Bye. She cuts off. (Bloody heck…as if I care..go to hell) 
 
I dozed off again as the smell of grass and cowdung hit me. I knew that the effect of Xaaj was not going to leave me any sooner as I was trying to gather my senses. But I also kind of liked the state I was in. 
 
What the..? who the bloody hell is doing this? I shouted in anger. (Somebody poured water on my head and it startled me)
 
I opened my eyes and saw Troilukya standing over my head (still in his underwear!) with a silly grin in place. Others were also gathering our things nearby. It was pack up time, I thought. I looked at my watch. 6.30. We came here…ok let me think…on 12.30. What happened to lunch at Tulsi’s place?
 
Me: Why on earth are you pouring water on me?
 
Troilukya: We need to go. Its getting dark and you were not getting up.( bloody bugger is still drunk…I thought..what with that silly smile?)
 
Me: I thought you drowned in the river. (Trying to sit up…I find no shirt on me). Where’s my shirt? Why the hell you have to remove it?
 
Tulsi: I took it off. You puked on it. So I washed it and kept it for drying. Now take this (handing me the shirt). Let’s go.
 
Me: I will have to drive now. Don’t worry guys. I am back and drive nicely.
 
Troilukya: No no. You come and sit in the car. I will drive. 
 
Me: Are you mad? How can you drive? It’s the bloody highway. We will all die. Don’t worry. I will drive.
  
Alit: Troilukya will drive. You are not in a state to drive. Don’t worry I will sit beside him and won’t let him drive fast. (I looked at Alit. His pot belly protruding out of his open shirt buttons and a look of nonchalance on his face.)
 
Me: Ok. Your wish. I will sleep a little. Then we will go.
 
Tulsi: No time to sleep now. Common let’s go. You can sleep in the car. (he held me tight as I was going to lie down again and started walking me to the car.)
 
I kept dragging my feet, leaning on him, towards the car (why the bloody car is so far away?)                     
 
 Me: Oye Tulsi. Don’t mind man. We couldn’t go to your house to have lunch. I feel really bad for that. I murmured in his ear. (I was getting my sense back after all!)
 
Tulsi: Hmm. Don’t worry. It happens. Some other day. You drank a little too much.
And it’s really strong.
 
I bet it was potent as hell. Now I remember Tulsi’s father telling him when we were about to leave on our rendezvous “Will you guys be able drink so much (looking at the flask full of Xaaj in his son’s hand). It is enough for a whole village.” To which we obviously did not pay any heed.
 
We all got into the car and Troilukya started driving slowly on the bumpy road. Alit sat in front. And we two were at the back. We dropped Tulsi at his home and I heard Alit and Troilukya apologizing to his folks. I sat there with my eyes closed as the Xaaj’s intoxicating effects were kicking back in.
 
We started moving again. Alit shouted as Troilukya narrowly missed hitting an oncoming truck. May be he fell asleep. He woke up with a start and rubbed his eyes. I felt the breeze on my face and hair. The car’s zigzag movement continued as Alit tried to navigate through the evening highway traffic.                            
 
I had no energy to talk or to do anything as so much puking left me weak. I only could think about how narrowly I missed getting myself killed. A sense of déjà vu hit me. Waiting outside the principal’s office after I was caught cheating in an annual test at the school in anticipation of something bad that would happen. The incomprehensible extent of punishment that would be meted out. The moment of not knowing.
 
But it’s good to lose control sometimes. I get tired of wearing the masks of propriety day in and day out. This is who I am. This is the real me. These moments of utter loss of control over me are the moments lived without any pretence.  No inhibitions. No fear. Only life. Pure and Raw.         
     
xii.
Biswajit Dutta

three poems

A Common Sight
Down the street,
Beside a neglected nook,
A tattered figure crouched
On his haunches emerged,
With a buried head in
Between his worn-out knees,
And with a face unnoticed, unseen.
The morning yawned
With commuting bodies and machines,
A common sight.

A Thought

When a flower loses its fragrance,
When the sky loses all its cloud,
When water loses its purity
And the moon loses its shine
No one feels the pain.

 
Rain and My Pen

With a sweet ache, I began to behold,

Tiny drops pouring on,

The roof, the rubbish, and the rubble.

A silent whisper, wash out with a force,

The dust on and the rust in.

 
xiii.
Sohini Basak
poem

Dreaming of Home (or April)What I remember of last April

is a lot of car-rides and a lot of rain.
This April I’m somewhere else,
and strangely enough, (betraying climate experts)
the rain clouds followed me here.

This afternoon,
I watched leaves fall—lazy, golden, piscine
when caught in the net of midday rays.
And I watched
someone else’s suitcase being packed,
homewards.

It’s quite easy to miss home.
All you have to remember:
a smell, some hands, a wickerwork chair,
the typical morning, a calling-bell
and then realize that you cannot open that door
at least not from here.

This evening,
 as I sit on the balcony ledge,
(the heat of the day hasn’t left the stone yet)
I try to figure out why Delhi is ‘two tall syllables’ to Octavio Paz.
And then I see a moon,
shaped just like the Os she contains (or do they contain her?)
only bigger, only brighter, only far away
and I see the translucent fish clouds
swimming over her, asking me to drift along.
It is a home sky up there, I’m glad it’s still the same.

Last April, I was home, wondering,
on a wickerwork chair in Barrackpore,
what this here I now am
would be like.
Last April, strangely, this here was a there:
Uncertain, in discussion, imagined a hundred times over.

Last April, I was home,
I was there

25 April, 2011

xiv.
M. Rohit
two poems

The Wind 

A wind puffed by the raising sun,
branched into my room,
shattered paper,
spilled ink,
galloped from corner to corner,
thudded doors,
disturbed the solitude, raped the room
made the world shaggy
and went away flapping the curtains,

as I saw the scene
pleading that wind to come again,
and do the similar thing
inside my body too!

Bell

Someone stitches a song with the wind,
do you know who it is?
She chuckles and shows me the scarecrow.

Someone screams silently, is that you?
She turns toward the naked girl
standing on hill’s top.

Someone is suiciding, do you know?
She sees the sun that is setting into
a valley of hallucinations.

Someone laughs with lifeless sarcasm –
who is that?
She shows me her wristwatch.

Silence become eloquent
a glass splinter, the thread vibrates

Can you hear that? The sound of bell?
She came closer and leaned her ear on chest
as doctor, and said
“Yes!”

old issues

(all from 2002)

xv.
Shoma A. Chatterjee

fiction

The Perfect Script

Like the hero in Polish filmmaker Kieslowski’s first feature film, ‘The Camera Buff,’ Rahul could not see anything without placing it in front of his imaginary camera. Camera angles and shots overshadowed his vision. He would join his palms, backside up, at the outstretched thumbs of either hand. Then, stretch out the rest of the palm straight-ahead to form three sides of an unfinished rectangle. He would then place this in front of his face, like the frame of a cinema-screen, to watch anything and everything, through this ‘frame.’ It is a familiar pose assumed by directors and cinematographers of the tinsel world. Some directors do it reflexively. Others, consciously, specially when other people, not from films, are around. Rahul did not belong to films though. He did not even own a still camera, not to talk of one that took moving pictures.

He kept his ears pricked, to pick sounds off his environs, wherever, whenever. Sounds of doors being slammed, closed, shut, banged, opened. Sounds of the television remote being clicked every other second, shifting channels from the staccato English of the BBC to suddenly switch over to the perfect Bangla of DD7 to the Bombaiyya Hindi of ZEE to pure Urdu on the Pakistani TV and the Yankee English of CNN. Sounds of birdcalls, chirping sparrows, cawing crows, and crowing cocks. Sounds of barking dogs and mewing cats and screeching mice. Kitchen sounds of the whirring mixer-grinder, vessels being washed at the sink, a leaking tap, fish curry being seasoned in steaming hot mustard oil, starch being sieved off the cooked rice in a giant-sized sieve, the shrill shriek of the pressure cooker, his mother barking out instructions to the maid. Sound of tea being poured out of an aluminum kettle into cups, often sloshing over into saucers to make a splash. Living room sounds – of the antique standing fan, a family heirloom that made its presence felt more by the loudness of its whir than by its speed. Or, the old radio (his father refused to give it up) blaring forth news of the day’s weather in a dead monotone sans emotion or pitch. Sounds of the grandfather clock’s chiming on the hour, the constant ticktock of the minute hand. Sounds of his father shuffling the pages of his newspaper, or talking to his sister in whispered tones, so that his mother wouldn’t hear. Pooja-room sounds of jingling bells, jangling of keys tied to his mother’s pallu, low-chants of mantras, blowing on the conch shell after the pooja was over, his mother washing the pooja vessels in the large basin filled with water. Bathroom sounds of the running tap, the shower in full blast from behind the closed door, the jangling of the flush chain being pulled and pulled and pulled, water gushing down the water closet, his sister belting out a Tagore song, tunelessly as usual, during a leisurely bath, clothes being washed and rinsed and beaten even when they defiantly refuse to ‘die.’ Day sounds and afternoon sounds and night sounds. Interior sounds within the apartment and ‘outdoor’ sounds from the immediate neighbourhood – the sound of a neighbour’s car being parked inside the garage under their flat, his brother wheeling in his Hero Honda onto the parking lot outside the apartment block, the sound of the neighbor’s daughter practicing sa-re-ga-ma on the harmonium – something he picked up from a Ray film long ago, or the couple next door forever squabbling in voices that grew louder by the minute, indifferent to their breach of their own privacy.
Sometimes, the strains of a beggar song floating in from the street outside, or the whimpering of a tantrum-throwing child followed by a few stinging slaps from his mother. He associated the smells to go with the sounds because he did not quite know how to ‘store’ smells. Like he still had not discovered the secret of storing ‘silence.’ He stored what he could, in the hard disk of his memory. To be drawn from and drawn upon, when the time came to make his dream film. He did not own a cassette recorder, much less a computer.

Rahul was jobless by choice. No amount of cajoling, begging, scolding or insulting by father, older brother, younger sister, could shake him off his obsession. He wanted to make the best film ever made. His friends had reduced him to a living joke. He had lost three wonderful girlfriends one after the other, in quick succession. They found his looking at them through that unfinished rectangle of his palms insulting and humiliating. Especially in a public place like a restaurant or a park or in the lounge of a theatre. Onlookers would watch for a minute, assume puzzled expressions and go along with what they were at. They probably dismissed him for a crackpot. Rahul knew he was not one. He had a dream like everyone did. Only, his dream was too big, too incredulous, too much of a fantasy for others to accept and adapt themselves to.

He wanted to go to the Film Institute in Pune after his graduation. His father would not hear of it. “We cannot afford it” he said, with more firmness than he actually felt. “I am going to retire in a couple of years. You had better pull up your socks and queue up at the employment agency for a decent job. We do not have anyone in the family in films. I do not want to begin with you,” his father said. Then, as usual, he hid behind the day’s newspaper, a regular escape strategy from disturbing family debates he did not know how to get out of. He did not like to argue with his younger son. It always led to raised voices, angering Rahul’s mother. She was far from the sati-savitri type. She was perfectly capable of walking out of the kitchen to go to the Ramkrishna Mission at Gol Park and listen to devotional speeches and songs. The family then had to make do with just dal-rice for lunch. Because Rahul’s sister went to work. Rahul’s father hated dal-rice. Besides, it turned the fresh, sweet-water fish he had bought from the market that very morning, tasteless and insipid within the coldness of the refrigerator’s freezing compartment. It happened all too often, though, because, like all Bengali families, they argued all too often. His wife, uncharacteristically named Sita by her parents, pampered and spoilt her kid son and did not care for others rebuking her favorite boy. “There is more of Hitler in you than Sita” he often told her, without result. With the solid backing of his mother, Rahul did not bother to queue up at the employment agency. He did not bother to respond to ads in the classified columns of newspapers either. He knew he was born to make the greatest and the best film ever made. A clerical post in a bank or peddling insurance or writing accounts was not up his street. Oh dear me, no!

Rikta, his last girlfriend, told him to meet the great director Satyajit Ray. This would give him ideas on how to go about realizing his dream, she added. So, one fine morning, Rahul climbed into the underground metro from Tollygunje, got off at Rabindra Sadan, took the rear exit, and ambled in his leisurely fashion, towards 1/1A Bishop Lefroy Road, where the great director lived with wife Bijoya and son Sandip. Ray’s official photographer, Hirak Sen tipped him about catching Ray in the morning. “It is the best time to catch Ray in an ideal mood” he had said. Rahul discovered that there was a personal elevator that took one directly into Ray’s living room. But the watchman wouldn’t let Rahul use it. Determined to fulfill his mission of meeting the great genius, Rahul took the stairs. He was unaware of the fact that visitors who took the elevator were automatically given ‘clearance’ to meet Ray. Those who took the stairs, were ‘eliminated.’ So, when the servant who answered the doorbell would not even accept his visiting card, Rahul brushed him aside with one shove of his strong shoulder and walked straight into Ray’s living room. The Nepali servant, now stacked against one of the walls of the narrow passage, gaped at this unexpected dismissal. Rahul turned back once to register how well this scene would turn if kept as a ‘freeze-shot’ in his dream film.
He’d add it to his script, he decided.

Rahul was speechless when he stepped into the room. The august presence of one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of world cinema seemed to rob him of the power of speech. There was the great master, Satyajit Ray himself, relaxed in his arm chair, pipe sticking out of his mouth, sketchpad resting on knees folded up to make a ‘table’, sketching away onto the sketchpad. Slivers of sunlight filtered in through the slats of the large window behind him, lighting up one side of his face, adding to the sculpted features, rough, uneven, dusky, and strong. The ‘picture’ was a live ‘translation’ of one of the thousands of photographs of the great master, photographer Nemai Ghosh had taken. Ray did not notice Rahul’s entry, so deeply absorbed was he in his work. Rahul was tempted to put up his palms and form his ‘camera’ rectangle. So before his hands rose in reflex, he shoved them determinedly into his pockets, and glanced around the room to divert attention. He realized that the left pocket of his trousers had a hole in it and a couple of fingers of his left hand stuck out, thankfully, beyond vision. He turned his mind away from those disturbing fingers and allowed his attention to wander across the room. The walls were lined with books, books and more books. There was the historic piano, its lid invitingly open, the keyboard on display, on one side of the spacious room, where Ray created many a hypnotic musical score for his later films. A book of musical notations rested on the ‘holder’ above. Rahul looked here and there for those famous visual scripts of Ray written and sketched directly into grocer’s accounting books bound in red cloth. But they were nowhere to be seen. Rahul simulated a gentle cough to attract attention. Ray bent his head to look up at him from the top of his glasses, waved his pipe at Rahul first, and then at the circular cane stool in front of him. “Boshun,” (“sit down”) said the great master in his golden baritone.

Voice touched with a slight tremor of nervousness Rahul never imagined he was capable of, he told Ray about his dream. Ray put down his charcoal pencil and listened to him patiently, as he puffed into his pipe from time to time. Rahul watched mesmerized, as smoke rose from the pipe in ambivalent circles, slowly fading away and out of the large window. The fingers sticking out of his torn pocket began to twitch, reflexively. When Rahul finished, Ray asked him to show the script he had written for his dream-film. Rahul could not. He did not have one. With the rather funny confidence Rahul had acquired over time, he said, “I don’t have a script, Sir. It’s all written inside my head.” The great director gently suggested Rahul put down in Black-and-White the script that he had in his head. “You come back and show me the script after you are finished. I’ll take a look” said Ray and went back to his sketchpad, as if the dialogue with Rahul had never happened.

Mridul Sen, another famous director, dismissed Rahul almost as soon as he met the director at his modest apartment near Hazra Road. Defining a vague arc in the air with his black pipe, a habit he had picked up in unconscious imitation of his one and only rival, Ray, Sen refused to listen to Rahul’s dream of a dream film. He laughed at Rahul. His cronies who had come in for a cuppa, laughed along with him. “Where’s the script, my dear boy, where’s the script?” he kept on asking, sounding like an ancient 78 r.p.m. gramophone record with the pin always stuck on the same line. Then, he turned to the human cutlery assembled around him and said, “this boy wants to make a great film and he does not even have a script, does not even have a script.” They laughed in chorus. An insulted Rahul made his way out, slowly, silently. The only sound that marked his ignominious exit was the click of the latch as he pulled the door close behind him against the soundtrack of chorused laughter, now partitioned off by the closed door. Unknown to him, Rahul’s body language had altered. His hunched shoulders and tired gait reminded one of Arnold Swartzenegger in `True Lies’. Of the scene where after overhearing his wife, he thinks she is having an affair because he has been neglecting her.

So drowned was Rahul in his thoughts, that he failed to notice a Cielo come rushing onto him. His dream may have got crushed under the car along with him. The driver, however, was more alert. She braked the car with a loud screech. Then, stepped out, trying to help him up. She gave him more than just a piece of her mind. “What are you doing, you rascal? I don’t mind one bit about your desire to commit suicide. But must you pick my car to be run under? Please, I’ve got a career and family to think of. Don’t be so bloody selfish, you rag!” Before Rahul could open his mouth in protest, he found himself being pushed into the backseat of her lovely Cielo. He noticed that a crowd had begun to gather around them. Before it could surround the car, she sped away quickly, taking him along to her spanking apartment at Mandeville Gardens.

Who do you think she was? Hers was a beautiful face, but Rahul did not recognize it. He felt there was something vaguely familiar about the way she threw back her head to shake off the mane of lustrous black hair, the curve of her full mouth, the curls neatly arranged around her forehead to conceal its broadness. But he could not put a name to the face. She was no ordinary woman. Her name was Sreelekha Sengupta. She was currently the best box office draw of commercial Bengali cinema. Rahul never saw Bengali commercial films. He did not know one star from another and wouldn’t know how to begin. Mainstream films, for Rahul, especially in his own mother tongue, were just so much wastage of precious raw stock, finely honed technical skill, and time. As they chatted over a cup of Espresso coffee she poured out of her imported Espresso machine into dainty cups of bone china, she told Rahul about herself, and about her dream. Rahul realized why her face was so familiar. It stared out of every other big-sized hoarding in the city at every street corner. The kiosks were flush with her face in close-up, wearing a different expression each time, at times, weeping away, at others, flashing a perfect set of teeth, or, in open-mouthed invitation to suggestive seduction. Rahul only saw the face, but did not care to read the credits. The face, then, meant nothing to him. Because the only Bengali films he saw were the ones made by Ray or Sen or Buddhadev Dasgupta, Gautam Ghose, Aparna Sen or Raja Mitra. He did not recall having seen her in any of their films.

“You’ve got to have a dream” said Sreelekha to Rahul, bringing him back to the present. She was quoting from memory, her lines from the latest film she was shooting for. “When you lose your dream, you die” she went on. Rahul, a voracious reader, knew at once that she was quoting from` A Story of Rose’. He put in his own contribution by adding one more line – “We have so many people walking around who are dead and don’t even know it” he finished, hiding his pride with a deep red blush, which however, revealed more than it concealed. Sreelekha was amazed. How did he know her lines? When Rahul told her, she realized that her lines had been plagiarized by the dialogue writer and she didn’t even know. This did nothing to embarrass her of course. So, she did not blush. One of the first lessons of stardom was never to be embarrassed by anything at any time. It was a lesson painfully learnt, and easily remembered. Having spent a good seven years in the film line, Sreelekha’s peaches-and-cream skin was not half as delicate and as fragile as it appeared on screen.

Sreelekha wanted to act in the best and the greatest film ever made, she told Rahul. She wanted to surpass Kate Blanchett in `The Titanic’, Susan Sarandon in `Step Mom’, Marilyn Monroe in `The Seven Year Itch’ and Sophia Loren in `Two Women’. But no director was prepared to listen to her. All they wanted was a fat wad of currency notes pressed into their palms before discussion could begin. They wanted to discuss the ‘script’ in rooms booked at lavish five-star hotels with the food and drinks of course, thrown in gratis. She did not tell Rahul about the other side of the bargain she was not prepared to submit to. Quite a few wanted to sleep with her. Being a star, she had a very different set of morals from mainstream people. But she was no longer at a stage where sleeping around was mandatory for any and every role. Besides, she had had her quota filled and was not ready to take in any more. “Why don’t you produce your own film with your own money?” Rahul asked her, though he had heard stories of the shark-like qualities star-families acquired as one of them hit stardust.

“I don’t have any”, she confessed. Her family took it all away, she added. In exchange, they let her live in this flat. “See this beautiful flat? My parents bought it for me and furnished it for me too, appointing Fareeda Khan to do the decor. You know, she flew all the way from Mumbai to Cal to do up my apartment and my parents paid for her ticket. Can you imagine?” she said proudly, waving her graceful arm in a liquid line to embrace the room. The walls had large-size photographs of Sreelekha in different poses. Some in Black-and-White, many in color. The Black-and-White ones, Rahul noticed, were shot with diffused lenses, with careful backlighting that created an ethereal halo around the head, investing it with the star-like quality of the unreal. The counterpanes and glass cabinets were filled with statuettes and medallions of all sizes and makes, inscribed with her name, awards collected by Sreelekha for her roles in different films. One of them, Rahul noticed, was the BFJA (Bengal Film Journalists Association) Best Actress of the Year trophy. And he did not even know her from her face!

Rahul did not know who Fareeda Khan was and why her name had to be so familiar. But for him, the dazzling decor was a bit unnerving. There were imitation chandeliers crafted out of fiberglass hanging from a false plaster-of-Paris-carved ceiling juxtaposed against textile lampshades bought off Cottage Crafts. Priceless crystal clashed with blue pottery from Rajasthan. A batik panel on pure silk was placed right beside a reproduction of a Picasso ‘blue’ abstract. A brass statuette of the Buddha stood alongside a Chinese Laughing Buddha in jade, arms raised in laughter. The velvet-covered settee had a stained glass center table and kantha-embroidered cushions. Rahul winced at this pot-pourri and mishmash decor that must have taken a neat packet out of Sreelekha’s hard-earned money. “I’ll never use this kind of decor for the interior shots of my dream film,” he told himself.

He vaguely guessed out of sheer common sense that this flat, and everything that went into it, was bought off Sreelekha’s sole earnings, as was the Cielo they had driven in. “They give me a monthly allowance that is quite generous, you know” she informed Rahul innocently. He did not care to ask her why she lived alone, and away from family. “Heroines may have their own standards,” he felt. After coffee, she offered him a Scotch-on-the-rocks from the well-stocked bar. Rahul graciously refused the drink. All these years, in his determination to break every rule in the film director’s book of values, he had rigidly kept himself away from the three well-known vices of filmdom – cigarette, wine and women. His girlfriends were simple friendships wrongly labeled ‘affairs.’ “I did not even kiss them” he said to himself, a bit remorseful in retrospect, for never even having made the attempt. He knew the girls would not have stood the test of time, dream film or no dream film. With a shock he realized, that with all his unconventional and radical dreams, he was still a virgin!

After a few more meetings, now secret by design, between Sreelekha, the star-actress and Rahul, the would-be director of his dream-film, unknown to Sreelekha’s parents, producers and gossip-writers, (since Sreelekha lived alone and only had part-time help coming in,) Rahul decided to rewrite the script of his life. He did not have to put pen to paper. He did not have to approach Ray to show him the script. Nor did Sreelekha have to ask for money from her parents to produce her own film. The two incorrigible dreamers just put their lovely little heads together to make the best film ever made. What’s more, it was a ‘live’ film, the first such film ever made in the history of cinema. It needed no re-takes, no editing, no cinematography. No studios, no sound-rooms, no recording studios, no dubbing. Yet, the dialogues were real, springing forth naturally out of impulse, no mouthing of absurdity or melodrama written down in premeditated calculation. No wipes, no fades, no mixes, no superimpositions. No jump-cuts and no match-cuttings. No flashbacks. No montages. Nor did it need the jugglery between financier and producer, distributor and exhibitor. No promos, no P.R. work either. All it needed was a bit of careful planning, choice of proper ‘location’ and a lot of post-production work in a ‘lab’ commonly called ‘home.’

In case you’ve not guessed it yet, Rahul and Sreelekha got married. They shifted to the relative anonymity of Bolpur, the picturesque little town where Tagore built his dream Viswa Bharati, the university at Shanti Niketan, in Birbhum district of West Bengal, a ‘location’ ideally suited to the lifestyle they chose and the ideology they lived for – dreaming forever. They bought themselves a lovely little bungalow with the money the sale of the Mandeville apartment brought them. ‘Post-production’ work consisted of two little children named Satyajit and Shabana, after Satyajit Ray and Shabana Azmi, ‘created’ with love, in that ‘lab’ called their bedroom, during night shootings. This was the dream-film they opted for, when the other one did not seem to be very functional. The best and the greatest film ever made. The perfect script ever written, or rather, not written.

How do they manage to make a living? Through Sreelekha’s contacts she had never exploited till then, they have built an empire in the underground hoarding and selling of cinema tickets of Hindi films in the black-market in Calcutta. They have thus created an avenue of employment for street urchins and runaways into Calcutta, conveniently distanced from direct contact with Rahul and Sreelekha and their two growing children, studying at elementary school at Viswa Bharati. The Cielo is still there. They have retained it as a tribute to the memory of that first meeting. It draws a lot of public attention in this small-town. But they know that with time, the locals will get used to it. Rahul will never rush into it absent-mindedly ever again. Because he drives it himself. You do not really need to drive around much in a small-town like Bolpur. He drives it on his weekly drives to Calcutta and back, sometimes with Sreelekha and the kids, mostly alone. His hands are now conditioned to be around the steering wheel of the plush Cielo. They no longer rise, either in reflex, or by designed intent, to make that three-sided rectangle with outstretched palms to simulate the frame of a shot, viewed through a movie camera.
 
(2002)

 
xvi.
LB Sedlack

five poems  (usa)
The 7-11 Connection 

My parents stayed in room 711
while they were in San Francisco
but they didn’t get the connection
– see we don’t have very many
7-11’s in the south where they’re
from although they do have
some in Virginia
’cause the last time I was there
– right outside of D.C.
(the District of Columbia)
I stopped in one off Quaker Lane
and I bought a Coke, a Ginger Ale
and a Peppermint Patty
plus 3 scratch tickets for the lottery;
when I scratched the tickets with my quarter
I didn’t win at all
’cause the odds are against me
as they were for the men who escaped
from Alcatraz – a.k.a. the Rock – in the
icy water not far from the Golden Gate Bridge
– my parents got to Alcatraz by ferry on a tour
with their friends from home – North Carolina –
since they bought tickets in advance by phone
after getting the phone number off the Internet
which holds the key to lots of information
but not without a doubt proof
of whether of not any Alcatraz escapees
ever survived – lived –
but if it were you and you made it
off the Rock
would you tell anyone just so you could go
back to jail albeit as a famous criminal
– probably not ’cause I don’t know about you
but I like having the freedom to buy Slurpees or whatever
at 7-11’s whenever I please, wherever I please
even if I have to cross a state line to do it.

Wild Onions 

Wild onions growing in an abandoned field
Divided by cement and asphalt.
To the right a furniture factory, and
to the left a house full of Mexican immigrants;
in front a decaying chemical lab,
and behind a loan office and Laundromat.

Once in a while a city employee
gets around to mowing it
on a weekday morning.

Every hour, every minute
Cars, trucks and kids on
Bicycles or skateboards go
around it, never through it –
always practicing avoidance –
never having to acknowledge its presence.

Still the wild onions grow keeping the
weeds, grass, sticks and rocks
company – absolutely content
to coexist even though
everyone else seems oblivious.

White Cars and Waterbeds 

My neighbors are washing their
car again even though it’s
white and not dirty; just
because it has rained they think
they have to rush outside on
the first clear day, and scrub off
every single speck
of mud, dirt, debris – whatever
may have stuck between the
hood and the windshield, or
on the wheels.

They’re oblivious to the
weather – far too cold for
washing cars with cold water
that could be used instead
for ice cubes or bathing or
cooking; they soak the plastic
with the hose, dripping drops
of pure, precious water into
the cement drive, down into
the grass.

On a hiking trip once we
buried ourselves in tall, dark
blades hoping to fill our
canteens enough to heat
something to eat over a
fire that we were never
able to build – not one
Boy Scout, Girl Scout between us.

Maybe we should’ve gone camping
with our folks more often; the
one time we did it was at
the beach, near the ocean
and there were no campfires –
only grills with charcoal.

The neighbor’s car is clean
now so they park it in their
garage; all safe, not exposed
to any of the elements,
especially rain.

Alien Showers 

An ice cold shower is something
not even a corpse would want to take
with every nerve tingling,
every blood cell freezing
and skin prickling with goose bumps.

A steel table for a towel,
leather straps for a washcloth
bright lights for a hairdryer
that could blow with a power surge
like a hot water heater –
fixable only by appliance repairmen.

The American Dream 

A German in America; putting in
the time – working hard, getting
promoted and becoming a citizen.

Toiling for hours, days and nights,
in a factory saving
every extra cent year after year.

The sons go to college, and the
family buys a house, still putting
away anything extra.

Years vanish, he retires and his sons go to work,
the mortgage is gone, the
extra savings are put to use.

Finally, the motorcycle – a BMW
from home – sits in the
driveway ready for long drives
in the mountains of North Carolina.
Now, the dream is real. 


xvii.

Niyati Mehta
four poems

Premature

April: Your fingers strum my hair
In your laughter this joy is mine.
A glance in the side view mirror
Confirms ‘this is no ordinary high’.
May: I awake, in an out of the blue
Dark night, to blush and be enflamed,
As I dance the suicidal eulogy
Of the odds, with the God of Love.
June: These numb scorched
Fingers struggle to stretch.
The weight of sorrow on an empty
Palm, wide open, cripples.
For now, this is all premature,
I love knowing I could trip and fall!

Go Your Own Way

Fleetwood Mac sang ‘loving you
Isn’t the right thing to do.’
I loved you.
I tried. I fought. I laughed.
I waited. I hurt. I smiled.
I loved you.
The picture is no longer pretty.
You do not understand.
It is not in the grey of the odds
And change but in your bearing.
Knowing it is time
To give in, and walk away
I let go,
Still loving.

Cappuccino Buddies

His loneliness haunts me
In the darkness of the day
It is a shadow
In the light of the night
It is my only companion.
His uncertainty attracts me
I feel it
Flowing with his spirit
It is our
Silent trademark.
Her pain I feel
It makes me feel like her
Lonely, mad, lonely
We walk on the edge
Taking turns to fall.

Five Minus Three

Audience on Two Levels
Stillness
The Muse enters.
The body pulsates
Movement breathes.
Pecked bud
Uncurled
Bounding within space
Communicating
in expanding rhythms
A circle.
Twist, turn, turn
Fingers protrude
Flitting passion … volatile conception … moonlit waves unfold…
silhouettes cast into space
Swirl
imbibe into the spirit.
Momentum
The self
Dawns
The circle is complete.
Enter within
A dew drop
A womb
Space
is extended in whirling spheres of consciousness.
On the edge
The railing
Stands locked on the past.
Self locked. Even the ‘beyond’ stands out.
Controlled within the spirit
the Present
Offers
Interacts
a symmetry
that allows every movement
to be its own.
Stretch
the manifestations of Wombic child = Grown adult
In fingers of creativity
And one foot on earth
Yearning
Contemplating
Fulfilling the need to hold on
the inner balance
of inter-dependence.
In waves of colours
I have grown
seen the world
Woven
Risen
to quest the aesthetic crest.
He bows. The Muse departs.
I stand. Applaud.
W a t c h
the words circle to a still.
This space is now yours.



xviii.

Mustansir Dalvi
two poems

If We Should Cease to Correspond

Must I return your trouble of flowers?
Whisk away your familiar shawl?
If we should cease to correspond.

There would be little left to see beyond:
I’d only watch time fade, as a thrall.
Must I return your trouble of flowers?

My bold nib would wither to a farce,
Blue tracery veins slow to a crawl
if we should cease to correspond.

Nothing stirs, nor will you respond,
How could you then see this child at all?
Must I return your trouble of flowers?

Push dead ink behind all the jars;
Bleed unreal impulses in the hall;
If we should cease to correspond.

These hedgerow senses, on which I fawned
still spread their bouquet despite your wall.
Must I return your trouble of flowers?
If we should cease to correspond.

Terna Circle

A car parked. It’s rear lights wink,
Reminders of derelict owners.

In the distance, yahooing jayriders
Doppler shift from buzzsnore to wail.

Regular joggers. Red laser lights flash from heels,
Part the twilight couples into epileptic trance.

Night at the circle. Streetlights clack
on. The florescent drone scatters fireflies.

Flat breath. Eyes squint at the intrusion of day.
Curses splatter the pavement with rusty stain.

Rat-arsed, he reaches into his pocket, and points.
The circuit reaches round to complete its orbit.
Auto-lock makes lewd whoopee, and all is calm.

Turning over on one side,
He shakes a wet trouser-leg from clammy skin,
And snores in the leeward darkness of his parked car. 

xix.
Brenda Porster
poem                                                                                

A Gypsy Mother’s Tale

Cast out we were
into the dark sailing away,
not towards, but together;
she exactly filled
the empty cradle of my arm,
a damp-warm weight her need only I
could meet, the dark vague depths
of eyes, the desperate searching,
the shell-clenched fists rosy
uncurling prawns grasping
my breast tentative
lips and then that clamping pull
of life from me to her, fulfilled
our mutual need, each to each
bound, in perfection
the circle closed.

When did I see she was not
there, her small weight gone
limp, suspended, all warmth
drained, the searching ended?
She no longer needed
me, while I was left, longing,
and my arm circling
empty? Chill terror clamped
my breast and suddenly I knew:
that they would come and
cast her down to depths
infinite she would drop
down never to be found
her tiny body unfurling,
waving anemone limbs
forever searching forever
exposed.

No! This could not be! I,
her mother, would provide
for her a warm covering, decent sand
and place, a collocation
of the mind, for both our needs, together
a final time, before I said
once more good-night,
good-night, my heart’s own dear,
and left her there.

Note: For burying her baby daughter on the beach of Apulia, where she had landed after escaping

from Kosovo, this ROM mother was arrested by the Italian police and charged with illicit concealment
of a corpse.
xx.
Bibhu Datta Mohanty (translation-Oriya)
Antaryami Mishra
two
two poems


From There                                                                                                                                                   

Does the childhood end, there?
Can this vagrant heart
remain charmed there?
How can I bid goodbye
to those commonplace memories?
Can you invite back
your intimate playmates,
to those very places, today
where you can dialogue with yourself,
exchange with your memories?
There sitting by ourselves,
we didn’t feel conscious at all.
I feel myself in communion
with my past when
I still remember your frown
after a heated-exchange,
the confession of my guilt
and the blooming of a smile
on your lips, so sweet!
What is this fear
that grows along with your flesh and body
on the slippery shore
of suspicion where
you place your foot
so cautiously, only
to soak your whole body, that has been
untainted until now!
 
Assurance

Let’s not spoil this brief meeting
by raising such issues
on which we differ.
After all, what can the Gandhian’s do
after they know about the earthquake
in the ‘Gandhidham’ itself,
if you question their competence?
What will the poets carry
in scripts if a seminar is organised
at ‘Bhuj’? What will be
the intensity of vibration
of that poetry in the Reichter scale
of apprehension and fear
of the hopeful audience?
How many runs
will Tendulkar’s bat yield
in the coming match
that you are waiting for so eagerly?
Will this be the end
of the march of victory
of the visiting team?
What do you think that
The opposition can’t argue in this budget,
in the new chapter of increase
in taxation by the ruling party?
There is yet no hope
of the yes-clouds of appointment
in the slashing down
of expenses in the order
issued from the capital
or in the thunder
of our ensuing arguments.
We don’t see you as before;
where are you hanging out these days?
Won’t you come for a while!
We’d again forget ourselves
in the ‘Nadiya’ rhythm,
in a revived, devotional dance party.
Don’t you feel uneasy,
sitting all the while,
in the corner of your home;
how can you lie in such a deep slumber?
Red and blue – all
are available free, here;
which one would you prefer?
After such a super Cyclone
and the earthquake
what else remains to be seen
in the new almanac?
If you believe, you’d
rather wait patiently
for some new possibilities
until the notification of the next election.

Kalpana Acharya
three poems

The Golden Cage

For once, at least,
release me from this
golden cage of your family
and its aura of heavenly happiness,
pull apart this silky curtain
of attachment without reason
before my eyes.
Unfasten that chain
of soaked affection, woven
with the anguish
of our loving expectations,
from the deep concern of my mind;
cut off in your own hand
that string of soft velvet
of your charmed fancies.
Let my desires fly
on their winged fancies.
For once al least,
my desires captive
in the golden dish, the silver urn
and the shining bunch of grapes
of your gifted acres;
let them fly unconcerned,
in the remote fragrance
of the sandalwood jungles
across that distant hill,

the home of the wild flowers.

The River and the Woman

O river! you are bound
to a vow from your very birth
that you won’t overflow your banks.
You’d be flowing on
in your snaky bed of sands
in your due course.
Like you also I am
a woman, forbidden to cross
the line of decorum,
the decent traditions
of my father and husband
while following the winding roads
of my own small world.
Your banks are sketched
with the sketch
of so many wounds of time,
of the burnt ashes of my ancestors,
of the crops destroyed
in drought and floods,
while I carry on my back
that dirty sack of memories,
the marks of a burning fight,
soaked with tear and blood.
I am almost buried
under a heap of tales of torment
of those escaped seasons,
in your sands,
while an under current
of some forgotten tune
of sweetness flows within.
I am branded
with an obsolete impress
of a wife, mother or sister;
a tune of an exile
in a lonely island moans within.

Grandfather: Legacies
(For Bibhu Padhi)

My brother returns
from a short trip
to Mochi Sahi square.*
His bulging pockets seize my eyes.
Crisp, round sweet-nuts
roll into my taste.
He wraps them out
with a generous smile
that Bhang alone can give.
His reddening eyes, matching walk
carry me away.
My nostalgia shapes into Grandpa
with his walking stick.

* A joint for traditional soft drinks prepared from raw Cannabis-Indica, called Bhang, a great favourite among the natives.

Translated from the original in Oriya by Bibhudatta Mohanty

xxi.
tbc recommends . . .

Muse of Murmur (Art & Poetry Ensemble)
edited by Subroto Bondo

This special 2009 edition of Muse of Murmur is “dedicated to Celebrated Telegu Poet, Seshendra Sharma, Master Brush-man Tayeb Mehta, and Artists and Poets who enriched this collection by bestowing their valuable creative pieces.”




Ankur Betagiri 
book launch




Basant Badal Deta Hai Muhavre, the Hindi translations of Ankur Betagiri’s English poems, translated by Rahul Rajesh was launched at India Habitat Center, New Delhi, on 30 August this year. Ankur Betageri is assistant editor of Indian Literature, Sahitya Akademi

contributors
Julie O’Yang is a novelist and visual artist based in The Netherlands. Born and brought up in China, she came to Europe in 1990s to study at the University of London. Then she read Japanese Language and Culture at the University of Leiden, Holland, and Nagasaki/Tokyo Japan. Her previous publications include short stories and novels in English and Dutch as well as a number of translations. Presently she works as a freelance writer, screenwriter and visual artist in different, international fields. Find out more about her and her exciting new projects on her blogsite http://julieoyang.wordpress.comNirmala Pillai is in the civil service. She have published two books of poems in English and a number of poems and short stories in various magazines in India like PEN, The Asian Age, Sahitya Academy’s Indian Literature, Bare root Review from Minnesota University, POETRY CAN, LITERATURE SOUTH WEST, UK, Kritya, The Telegraph, The Little Magazine, Cha; an Asian literary journal from HONG-KONG, etc. She paints and has held painting exhibitions in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Cochin, etc. Mradul Sharma (Age 24) was born and brought up in Gwalior and currently lives in Noida. She is an Engineer and had her professional education (B-Tech) in Varanasi (BHU). She has been writing poetry for some years and has an interest in literature. She has written a few articles and book reviews too. She likes to travel and has travelled a lot across India. Tapas Bandyopadhyaya is a poet based out of Kolkata. Shriram Sivaramakrishnan is from Chennai and consider himself a budding poet who is trying to learn this art called Poetry. Sunil Sharma is India-born story-teller, poet, critic, freelance journalist, literary editor, reviewer, interviewer and essayist. He is a college teacher. His debut novel, The Minotaur, is inching towards critical acclaim, and, short fiction and poetry are featured in many prestigious international and national print and online journals. He also edits NFJ (New Fiction Journal) and is on the board of many literary journals. Pravin Nair is a brand researcher who doubles up as a blogger and poet in his spare time. He is a new entrant into the poetry journal space and has only recently started exploring. Ever since this adventure began, his poems have been published in a few journals such as Gloom Cupboard, Fried Eye, Mused Bella Online Literary ReviewArturo Desimone (1984) was born and raised in Aruba (Dutch Caribbean) but is of Argentinean origins and has led a nomadic existence. He left high school at the age of 15 to work but took online courses in writing and world mythology with The New School University of New York. He now lives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This year he won a prize from the El Hizjra literary contest for immigrants writing in the Netherlands—his submission of a theater-play was the first English-language winner. At the moment he is working on projects inspired by his travels through Poland and Tunisia in 2011. This poem (Was It You?) was written on the train from Amsterdam Zuid World Trade Center Station, March 3 2011, Netherlands, written in homelessness and transference.  Swati Singh Sambyal is a Research Associate at the Centre for Science and Environment. She studied Energy & Environmental Engineering at UIT University. Yolanda Lindsay Mabuto (1988) born in Gweru (Zimbabwe) began writing poetry at the age of 9. After joining Young Writers, at 16 her first poem titled “A love story” was published. Since then, she has been published in 11 anthologies in Peterborough, featured in Applaud Africa magazine (Kenya), Zai magazine (Nigeria) Sentinel Literary Quarterly (London), Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey), Sentinel Nigeria, The Ghanaian Book Review (Ghana), lagos literary and arts journal (Nigeria), Saraba Magazine and Klorofyl magazine. She also holds 3 certificates of Poetry writing distinction. Now aged 23 she still continues to make poetry the center of her happiness. Her writing is inspired by the life of others as well as her own and it reflects the artistic craft of life’s pain and joy. Swakkhyar Deka works in the National Rural Health Mission, Assam, as District Media Expert in Dhubri District of Assam. His job requires me to make strategies for effective campaigns to make the people aware about different health schemes initiated by the Assam Government through NRHM. “Abarodh” was Deka’s first attempt at making a film, especially fiction. The writings of James Joyce and poems of T.S. Eliot are his inspiration. Abarodh won the best film award in “Commfest 2008”, a media student festival held in Assam University, Silchar, Assam. Deka made a documentary titled “OF LIVES…UNTOLD” in December 2009 about a Karbi Tribal village in the outskirts of Guwahati, where there is still no power, hospital, schools and mobile connectivity. It is an attempt to highlight the plight of these people and also the work done by a Karbi youth to set up schools there. Born on 1984, Biswajit Dutta hails from Chaibasa, a little-known town of Jharkhand in the district of West Singhbhum, the land of Birsa’s freedom struggle. He is with Human Resource Development Department of Jharkhand working in the post of Post graduate teacher. He has been teaching English to  predominantly  tribal students of this region for a couple of years. The published poems in The Brown Critique is his first poetic flight in the horizon of creativity. Sohini Basak is a second-year student doing BA English (Honours) from St. Stephen’s college and found The Brown Critique an interesting place to explore new Indian writers. Rohith, a young poet from India, a medico, who started his tender poetic journey at the age of 13 and never stopped penning from then. He wrote in different online workshops and poetry web sites and is currently writing in facebook, getting good criticism from poets and critics around the world. His poetry was published by a print magazine “Side Stream” from Newzeland. Shoma A Chatterji is a well-known journalist, writer and film critic from Kolkata. She has also translated an anthology of her mother, Sumita Gangopadhyay’s poetry (from Bengali) which was published by the Brown CritiqueLB Sedlacek’s poetry has appeared in more than 50 magazines and literary journals such as Facets Literary  Magazine, Unlikely Stories, Starry Night Review Literary E-zine, Blue Collar Review, Black Creek Review, The Sidewalk’s End, Paumanok Review, Portals, Write On!!, Muse’s Kiss, The Oak, Footprints, Red Owl Magazine, PKA’s Advocate, The Guild, IdioM, and New Works Review. LB has poetry forthcoming in Doggerel, Carpe Laureate Diem, Poetic License, and The Horsethief’s Journal. LB’s short stories and articles have appeared in FrugalSimplicity.com, Frugal-Moms.com, Ascent Magazine, Writer’s Choice, The Outer Rim, and Duct Tape Press. LB has an MA from Wake Forest University and is the Editor of  Pop Poets poetry publication. LB’s contemporary fiction novella Suicide Pumpkins was published last year.  Niyati Mehta has a BA degree in History and an MA in 19th Century Studies. She is currently doing research on one of Bombay’s oldest school – architecture, education and history since 1860s. She is does freelancing on the Arts and loves traveling and her true passion is poetry. Mustansir Dalvi is an architect and a teacher. He heads a College of Architecture in New Bombay. His poems have been published in POETRY INDIA: Emerging Voices, 1992, the POETRY INDIA: Voices of Silence, 1997; H. K. Kaul (editor, both); and in POESIS, Summer-Winter 1996. Recently, his poem ‘Choosing Trains’ was awarded First Prize in the Asian Age All Poetry Contest 2001. Brenda Porster is a poet and translator based in Firenze, Italy. Her poems have been (and will be) appearing in various magazines especially in Italy and of course in the Brown Critique. Her anthology of poems is also due for publication. Bibhudatta Mohanty, poet, short story writer and translator, teaches English in a college in Puri, an ethnic coastal district in Orissa, India. His works have appeared in well known magazines and periodicals like The Brown Critique, Poiesis, The Green Lotus, Pratilee, Bridge-in-making, The Journal of Poetry Society of India, The Sun Times, The Indian PEN, Mother India (Pondicherry), Indian Literature (Published by The National Academy of Literature), Kabya Bharati (American College, SCILET). Anthologies/Collections Indian Poets United. AIPC-2000 (Jointly by The Poetry Society [India] and the British Council).  

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