Title: The Last Cherry Blossom
Author: Kathleen Burkinshaw
Publisher: Sky Pony Press, 2016
Sumiyo placed her chopsticks on her hashioki and said, “I do, too, Yuriko-chan. I believe it is time for us to return home to Hiroshima.”
I turned from looking out the window and exclaimed, “We can go home to Papa? Really?”
“Hooray!” Even Genji had finally lost interest in day after day of cows in the pasture.
“I can’t wait to see Machiko, too! I have to hear all about her work at the plane factory,” I said. I got up and began to bring the empty dishes to the sink.
“Well, it definitely is too quiet around here,” Aunt Kimiko agreed.
Sumiyo stood up from the table and said, “Good. Then the decision has been made, and we will leave tomorrow morning. We will arrive in time to surprise your papa when he gets home from the office.”
By Hanish Rahane
Every day was exactly the same in the village. Well, every day is generally exactly the same everywhere… even amongst the urban dwellers of the here and now. But at least the city streets are brightly lit at night. “They make one forget the drudgery of one’s mundane existence.” Mira thought.
Mira was the guest speaker at the Police Academy’s passing out parade. Well, one could say that her speech was the reason she was there. But that wouldn’t be entirely true. The real reason may have very well been something else. Mira was beyond the musings of cause and consequence. Her past, a testament to this fact, now stared her in the face.
Mira sat with Satish, a new recruit, having dinner and asked him questions. She could not help interrogating the younger ones. But Satish was prepared for her questions. At the young age of 24, Satish had progressed further along his career than any of his peers. He was intelligent, ambitious and had a way about him that had instantly made her think, “He has what it takes.” He would certainly make a fine policeman. As Satish sat there patiently, talking to her, Mira began to see glimpses of her young self within this brave young man. It made her think about the early years of her life — in a land far from the here and now.
By Nishi Pulugurtha
Being a caregiver for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s Disease for many years now is a very difficult task but then it has taught me a couple of things – it has taught me patience (loads of it) and it has taught me to take things as they come. There is no one way to deal with someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, there is no sure shot way of being prepared for things, each day brings with it new difficulties, each day throws up challenges that one has to learn to deal with, to take in their stride. One needs to read a lot on the condition to understand it, find out as much as possible about ways to deal with it, ways to care for a loved one, but one is never ever really prepared for what the next morning, or afternoon, or evening might throw up. This is a dear one, who is now changing so much, so the pain and trauma of seeing her go through all of it is always there, that is something one never comes to terms with.
As I am trying now to deal with being house bound, I cannot but live in the moment, an idea I think everyone should ponder over. This is time to take things into account, to deal with things in the best way one can. As news of the shutdown spreads, I see people trying to find ways and means to deal with it. An academic and translator puts up a Facebook post where he says that he is planning to have online readings done using an online platform. He shares the link and asks whoever might be interested to join in, from any part of the world. Time differences no longer matter, as all or most are housebound. The group meets online every alternate day, I have not been part of it as yet due to my poor internet bandwidth. Maybe, I will, one of these days.
Book Review by Namrata
Off the Shelf by Sridhar Balan
Speaking Tiger Publishing
Every book has a lot of people involved in it. Of course, a writer is at the core of it all but once the writer is done writing it, we have the beta-readers and editors who polish it further to make it publishing ready. Furthermore, we have the cover designer, typesetter, marketing team and many others who work on giving it the final shape before we the readers get to hold it in our hands. Off the Shelf by Sridhar Balan is an ode to all those people (invisible hands) who work on a book to make sure it reaches the readers in a beautiful package, inside out.
Sridhar Balan is a senior professional in the publishing industry with decades of experience in the Indian publishing industry. Having worked with Oxford University Press and Ratna Sagar P Ltd, he has also been a literary columnist with several Indian newspapers. Currently, he is a consultant with Ratna Books, an imprint for translations.
Off the Shelf has a beautiful beige cover with a bookshelf and a cosy reading nook as the backdrop. For any book lover, the cover depicts a piece of heaven they always crave for. Endless rows of books filled with titles of all types, stories, poems and essays all calling you hither to listen to them is exactly how a book lover sees heaven as.
Title: Suralakshmi Villa
Author: Aruna Chakravarti
Publisher: Macmillan, 2020
Links : Amazon
Two days went by. On the third, Ayub drew up at an ancient stone ghat slippery with moss and lichen.
‘Why are you stopping at this God-forsaken spot?’ Muneera exclaimed. ‘We’ll get nothing here.’
‘The next ghat is two and a half miles away. And it’s already past noon.’
Suralakshmi, Pratul and Tara looked around. All they could see was dense forest without a sign of human habitation. The trees had crept right up to the bank. Yet there was a wide stone ghat which, though crumbling in parts, had obviously been impressive once.
‘What is this area called?’ Pratul asked.
Book Review by Mitali Chakravarty
Title: The Last Cherry Blossom
Author: Kathleen Burkinshaw
Publisher: Sky Pony Press, 2016
“Cherry blossoms are like life itself—so beautiful, yet so fragile that they bloom for only a short time.”
These lines, ethereal and poetic in intent, sum up in spirit the story of the young adult book, The Last Cherry Blossom. This book, authored by Kathleen Burkinshaw, seems to be impacting the world with its peacekeeping efforts as it is now a United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs Resource for Teachers and Students. Burkinshaw has recently spoken at the United Nations in New York City.
The Last Cherry Blossom has received much acclaim. It has been nominated for the NC School Library Media Association YA book award and 2019-2020 VSBA, 2018 & 2016 Scholastic WNDB Reading Club selection, and Finalist for NC Sir Walter Raleigh Fiction Award, 2018 Sakura Medal, Japan, and SCBWI Crystal Kite Award (southeast region).
The narrative recreates a beautiful world that was ruined by the nuclear bomb blast in Hiroshima on August 6th 1945. Burkinshaw herself is the daughter of a survivor — a hibakusha. The Last Cherry Blossom brings home to the readers the loss, the pain and the suffering that a nuclear war generates through generations. Kathleen Burkinshaw herself suffers a neurological disorder due to her mother’s exposure to the atom bomb.
G.Akila juggles the muse, work, home and a nine-year-old daughter. She engages in free verse and the Japanese forms of haiku and haibun written in English language. She has read and conducted workshops in writers’ carnivals organised in Hyderabad and her works have been published in anthologies and several reputed online and print journals. She has presented poetry at various reading events such as the Hyderabad Litfest 2019, Goa Arts and Literature Festival, 2016, TEDx -VNR VJIET College, Hyderabad and the Young Writers Festival 2017 edition of Sahitya Akademi. She is also an active member of the Twin City Poetry Club, Hyderabad. Her poem ‘Stains’ is one of the ten poems shortlisted for the Womeninc Sakhi Award 2018. Currently, she is deciphering contours of a dream in her first manuscript of poetry.
By Sohana Manzoor
It was just a dialogue from a movie that Shimana was watching unmindfully. She was worried over her little girl in the ICU. On the screen, a young woman was whimpering, “But I don’t know how to be a mother. You know everything—words, hurt, every pain and joy in your child’s life.”
The other character, a slightly elderly woman, answered with glowing eyes and just the hint of a smile, “You’ll learn.”
She suddenly felt she had no air in her lungs. Mother? Who? She was no mother. She had left behind her child long, long ago. And she had never regretted the decision she had taken as a young girl. Now she had everything– perfect children, a loving husband, a good job. What was she thinking? Was she thinking of that small make-shift operation theatre? The smirking nurse and the grim doctor who warned her that she might have complications later? She was two-and-a-half months pregnant. She was eighteen and unmarried.
Shimana shivered, and Nibir turned to her immediately. “Are you okay, Shimu?”
Yes, of course. She was fine. Only her daughter, Nrita was at the hospital diagnosed with pneumonia. It was quite severe and Shimana blamed herself for not noticing it sooner. She gave a wobbly smile at the tall man bending toward her with a frown of concern on his brows. It took years for her to build up the confidence with which she walks beside him. In the initial days of her marriage, she did not know what to make of her husband who was handsome, had a very good job and was too busy to give her time. Shimana could not really complain because he provided her with every material need, gave her a handsome allowance and encouraged her to study further. But he barely stayed at home and she felt that his heart was elsewhere. Shimana struggled with her own problems and did not have the courage to tell him anything about herself. After a year into her marriage, she decided to enrol in an interior designing program.
Book Review by Aditya Shankar
Title: A Brief History of Silence
Author: Manu Dash
Publisher: Dhauli Books, India. First Edition, 2019
Manu Dash is a poet, editor, translator, cultural activist and director of OALF (Odisha Art & Literature Festival). He writes in Odia and in English. In 1974, he joined Anam – a literary movement by a group of writers – engaged in searching the socio-cultural roots of the land where he lives. His works include two collections of poems and short stories and four collections of essays. He edited Wings Over the Mahanadi, an anthology of eight Odia poets writing in English (Poetrywala, Mumbai). He edits The Dhauli Review (www.dhaulireview.com), a tri-quarterly of Indian writing, and runs the reputed publishing house, Dhauli Books(www.dhaulibooks.com).
Manu Dash’s poetry collection, A Brief History of Silence, speaks from the warmth and intimacy of the womb—the womb of ideas, the womb of words, the womb of corridors in isolated cancer wards. With womb as the pedestal of speech, the choice of silence and meditation becomes a natural choice of language for these verses. Without a choice, Buddha is an obsession for the inward-looking verse. Songs from the womb must sing about beginnings (‘Zero’, ‘Rain’) and ends (‘No Rain’, ‘Obituary’). These poems cannot help but be obsessed about the shape of formations, the evolution of outcomes (‘Hellhole homes’, ‘Headlines’), and about each step forward.