By Mehreen Ahmed

Blood oranges were endowed with a certain pigmentation. I called it the fruit’s pizzazz, because of its lustre, which defined it and gave it the distinctive characteristics of dark flesh. I wanted it to grow in mother’s orchard. But the gardener said it wouldn’t grow here, because the climate wouldn’t allow it. If the blood orange didn’t flourish in this soil, then neither did many things in this culture. All these nefarious old customs and habits that had become fossilised, resisting change, inhibiting growth.

One afternoon, I sat in the balcony of mother’s house. A brilliant midday sun shone yet another monsoon day. I took a sip of lemonade my mother made with the orchard’s freshly squeezed lemons. Lemons, which grew in our orchard. I was recovering at her place, from an illness. Lemons and limes were not the only citrus that grew in this orchard, oranges too. Except, the blood orange.

The monsoon winds whipped up my spirits. The orchard revitalised as the winds touched it to a new glow. The wet fern unfurled along the mossy edges on the orchard’s brick fence. Nature’s drama ensued. These were months of recapitulations. They always were. Recapping past events that happened not only in my life, but also in the lives of the others. A maid once worked in our house some years now. I don’t know, I found myself thinking about her without a reason. Her loyalty had far surpassed that of any other who worked for us then. Her name was Lily. She was our loving Lily of the Valley. She possessed an exceptional quality of gritty honesty.

At a press conference last month, the Islamic Foundation of India announced their decision to build a mosque in Sahranpur  that would outdo all others in splendour. The foundation plans to collect Rs 100 crore from the 10 crore Muslims  who vote in India. This money will be used to build a bulletproof, earthquake proof mosque with engineers brought in from Belgium. The structure will be made of glass, wood, steel, silver and gold with 11000 laser lights adding to the glitter, they claim. In this essay, read what Sahitya Akademi Winner Ather Farooqui has to say.

 

Let me begin by bluntly saying that to criticize any issue, however fake or farcical it is, related to Islam is quite dangerous. Indian Muslims are quite averse to any introspection even regarding the worst social evils; unfortunately no Muslim organization that has an impact on Muslim minds tries to address this. The role of religious leadership in this regard has been along expected lines.

A significant chunk of literate Muslims, particularly the neo-educated, are no different from, rather worse than, the erstwhile elite which was pro-establishment. Of these educated Muslims, the alumni of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), who still take pride in calling themselves Old Boys, form a sizeable portion. Their association world over is officially called AMU Old Boys Association with few exceptions of AMU Alumni Associations.

Clearly, they don’t consider girls a part of society. Educational backwardness of the community is the subtext of every discussion on Muslims, without any effort to address it. For example, AMU alumni across the world relish a grand dinner on the birth anniversary of the founder Syed Ahmad Khan every year. If they remember their founder over a cup of tea and spend the same amount on education, they can build a university every ten years or establish at least three functional intermediate inter colleges in different parts of India.

Apart from marriage and other institutions, we see wastage of money by the impoverished community on the same pattern as the Hindu middle class. The ugliest among them is the tradition of animal sacrifice on Eid.

I am in no way criticizing the right of sacrifice on Eid-ul Azha, popularly known as Baqar-e Eid or Bakar-e Eid, where flaunting money on most expensive goats has now become fashion more than religious duty. This can be rationalised in two ways: sacrifice male goats that are reasonably priced, and, in case of families with many members who are obliged to make a sacrifice, replace the goats with a buffalo. The calculation is simple; one buffalo can be sacrificed for seven people. Not all seven need to be from the same family. So, any seven people can contribute. It was a trend some twenty years ago, but now it is a social stigma even for those who cannot afford mutton for guests in the normal course. Worst is the competition to sacrifice the most expensive goats.

I was not surprised when, about fifteen days ago, after the debate on the Supreme Court Ayodhya judgment had subsided, there was an announcement from the people of Saharanpur about building a grand glass mosque with a hundred crore budget. It was all over the media, but did not attract attention of the social media tribe that started the day abusing the RSS or making mockery of the Prime Minister and the BJP government.

Reviewed by Amalia Clarice Mora

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Title: The Delicate Balance of Little Lives

Author: Jessica Faleiro

Self-Published, 2018 (supported through a grant from the Government of Goa’s Directorate of Art and Culture)

 

The Delicate Balance of Little Lives is a short story collection by Jessica Faleiro, the award-winning Goan author of the Afterlife: Ghost Stories from Goa.

This collection offers a glimpse into defining moments of five women whose lives intersect. The proximity of defeat is a central theme in all the stories; the women are close to falling off the edge of their lives but, somehow, never do. Instead, they navigate through the solemn and unexpected and even the catastrophic (rather than overcoming “triumphantly”). They enjoy the small mercies and secrets that prevent them from losing their hold on stability, but which are also the reason they have to cling so desperately to this stability in the first place.

There is Suzanne, a once well-known concert pianist whose fame and musical confidence have waned with age.  Alcoholism is her stealth, insidious disease, but alcohol is also an elixir that provides her with the confidence to play at her only gig as a hotel lobby musician. Liquor dulls “the sharp edges of her feelings”, the cruelty of a lover who keeps her at bay, and the memory of a past lover, Rohan, who had asked her to quit the drinking — and the piano playing that necessitated it — but who was unwilling to give up a vice of his own.

25898828._SX318_Literature about the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bomb blasts has been around for quite sometime. But it is perhaps the first time that the story of a hibakusha has been told for middle-grade readers in America with Kathleen Burkinshaw’s novel, The Last Cherry Blossom.

The novel is the story of Burkinshaw’s mother, Toshiko Ishikawa Hilliker, who was victimised by the nuclear blast during her own childhood. She married an American and moved to USA and never spoke of her nuclear war experience till at the end of her life when she saw her daughter forced to quit her career because of a debilitating neurological condition as a result of her mother’s exposure to the nuclear blast, eventhough Hilliker had been at “ home” in Japan and less affected. 

Burkinshaw has put down her mother’s story as she heard it. The novel also evolved as we are told: “At age 12 in 2010, Burkinshaw’s daughter, Sara, came home upset one day after classmates said the infamous mushroom cloud that had engulfed Hiroshima was ‘cool’.

‘The need for human connection and emotion is timeless, and I don’t think the kids who were talking about that mushroom cloud were doing anything to be cruel,’ Burkinshaw said. ‘They just didn’t know. They needed to have that connection.’”

51YT0qpqu0L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_imageThe Anarchy,  the latest book by William Dalrymple, has been seen as an “ energetic pageturner” in The Guardian and stayed for some time on top of the Asian Age Bestseller list. The book portrayed how the British India Company was a pre-cursor to multinationals.

Dalrymple himself is a recorder of history around the Indian subcontinent, has reviewed another book which shows how conquest linguistically over rides the existing culture and languages Richard M. Eaton’s India in the Persianate Age 1000–1765.

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

But I won’t give this up for I have worked tirelessly for months to become a Patangi. Because I have come to believe in their war. Because I need the money.

Night after night I have scrubbed my Jashn with neem laced fireflies, said a prayer over her tiny head and bundled her off into the Sleep Shield which I smuggled in when we moved here—my secret within the whole secret of The Tower where anything with extreme cryogenics is forbidden. Our early days here were overwhelming. We found an empty flat in one extreme corner of the thirty-fourth floor. The windows were broken. I slept on the floor. Jashn slept inside the Shield. I kept her there for as long as possible, sometimes waking her up only for the sparse meals. What else was there to do? Other than wait and survive in this cold, torn up and seemingly hostile place. New refugees came in droves. The stench of homelessness grew. Yet in the thrum of humanity and suffering I kept warm. And there was hope in those early days. That he would come.

Fatima (2)

Fatima Ijaz, is currently teaching English and Speech Communication at Institute of Business Administration, Karachi. She is an English  graduate from Hartwick College, N.Y and York University, Toronto. She also holds a Master in English Linguistics from Eastern Michigan University. She won first prize at the Mclaughlin Poetry Contest in Toronto, 2007. Her work was featured in a poetry and art collaboration for #NomeansNo at the Music Mela, Islamabad’18 and at Art Baithak, Karachi University in March 2019. Her work has been published in Zau, Red Fez, Rigorous, The Write Launch, Abramelin, Della Donna, Whirlwind, These Fragile Lilacs, Writer’s Asylum and Praxis magazine.

 

By San Lin Tun

 

Irrawaddy Literary Festival (ILF), a non-profit venture, is renowned not only in Myanmar but also in South East Asia and the rest of the world. Since its inauguration in 2013, the festival has hosted writers of international repute like Vikram Seth, Jung Chang, William Dalrymple, BBC journalist Fergal Keane and photojournalist Thierry Falise as well as those from Myanmar including Dr. Thant Myint-U and Pascal Khoo Thwe. The following and ensuing years saw more writers and authors across the world such as Louis de Bernières, Anne Enright, Barnaby Phillips, Ratna Vira and Margaret Simons participating in the festival. The venue has been in Mandalay, the second largest city of Myanmar. The festival is a major attraction for writers, agents and literary enthusiasts even from the non-literary community.

The fifth ILF 2019 was held in Mandalay at Mercure Mandalay Hill Resort for three consecutive days from Nov 9 to Nov 11 from 9am to 7pm. Local and international writers attended the festival. The theme of the festival this time was ‘Youth and literature’ to promote literary enthusiasm in the younger generations.

This festival has been an occasion when literature crosses national borders and the local and international writers meet to create an awareness of each other’s concerns and cultures. A fusion of literatures from varied countries adds colour and vibrancy to the festivities. Such exchanges lead to a heightened awareness of current literary trends.

By Shreya Gupta

 

kiara_rishi_shreyaguptaThe doorbell interrupted Kiara’s flow of thoughts. She moved towards the door and looked through the peephole. Instantly she had a smile on her face. She opened the door halfway to see Rishi in his business suit holding his laptop bag and a takeaway package which she knew contained her favourite sandwiches from a stall near his office.

They shared a glance as he entered. Kiara took the package from his hand and went into the kitchen. Meanwhile, Rishi kept his bag down and took out an envelope and  placed it on the table.

Kiara offered him water and kept the plate with sandwiches on the table.

“Look what I received today,” he said passing the envelope to Kiara.

He drank water while she opened the envelope.

“You remember Piyush, my chachu’s (father’s younger brother’s) son. He is getting married in two weeks from now.”

“Oh! that is nice,” Kiara skimmed through the invitation.

“Yes, it is. Now, Let’s eat fast. I need to get back home early today to book our tickets,” said Rishi, taking another bite into the sandwich.

9/11 has always been a date to dread ever since 2001 when the New York twin Towers were bombed down by a terror attack. This year too, 9/11 left a feeling of dread in the hearts of many as the Supreme Court gave a verdict on the Ram Janmabhoomi issue… In this article, Zafar Anjum traces the Ayodhya  movement from the 1990s to pause on a pertinent question he had asked in his short story published in 2015, ‘Kafka in Ayodhya’ — “…what is more pleasing to God? Your temple after destroying a mosque or the suffering of those whose place of worship you destroyed?”

While TV journalists and anchors dissected the verdict and its fallout, my mind briefly traveled back to 1992, the year the Babri Masjid was demolished. I was studying at Aligarh Muslim University then. The Ayodhya movement was at its peak and we knew that something sinister and violent was going to erupt, so we made our way to our hometown in Bihar in late November. I was at my maternal grandfather’s place when the news came of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. We saw the then Prime Minister of India Narasimha Rao appear on TV and offer apologies and shed some tears. Later on, we learnt that Rao could have done more to stop the demolition but he chose not to. Through Rajiv Gandhi and later through Rao, the Congress Party had, wittingly or unwittingly, made its own contributions to the Ram Temple movement.