sheldon Dias

Sheldon John Dias was born and raised in Kolkata. The city, with all its chaotic grandeur and unyielding magic, has left an indelible mark on him. He acknowledges its shortcomings, yet celebrates its chaos. He has been teaching in Dubai since 2016. Sheldon began his career as a journalist before moving to the Education industry. He was associated with Trinity College, London before taking the leap to Dubai. Sheldon has dabbled in the creative Arts and has worked as an Assistant Director in a few plays in Kolkata before writing and directing his first play at The Short and Sweet Theatre Festival in Dubai. He is currently working on his first book where he attempts to experiment with various forms of literary expression.

By Ronald Tuhin D’Rozario

 

I have never been intrigued about the world of ornithology nor by the phonetics of a Horbola ( a Bengali word covering the sounds of birds, animals and other things of everyday life) but can identify the sounds – call, hum or chirp — of certain birds that have a strong attachment to my childhood memories. Humans have this unfailing dependency on instincts which make them to try to classify everything that their senses gather. Just as I have dissected the DNA of light depending on their changing textures during different times of the day into thin, thick, bright, warm  and dull, I feel an urge to relate each call of these birds to various ragas signifying a different hour of the day. My usage of the word, ‘to relate’ now creates a ‘relationship’ between me and the birds as — ‘relatives’ converting their calls into a recital around the sphere of my consciousness. Crows, pigeons, sparrows, parrots and bulbuls are some of the birds whose sounds have grown with me like my age.

As I write, my thoughts intensify into an introspection of my life with these birds. Apart from their sound heralding the advent of a season, a wakeup call at dawn or just making  me aware of their presence in my vicinity, I realise that during various stages of my life, there have been some birds whom I have caged for my amusement and there have been some I have consumed on my plate.

Quite strangely now in all these years, for the first time, a deep sense of guilt gnaws at me. In order to justify my belief in my own guilt, I begin to accept the punishment given by avians. When a bird has spoilt my shirt with its dropping or stooped low enough to slap my head with a wing during their flight, I accept it as an expression of disgust over certain habits of mine.

Book Review by Rakhi Dalal

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Title: My Mother’s Lover and Other Stories

 Author: Sumana Roy

Publisher: Bloomsbury India, 2019

Sumana Roy’s book How I Became a Tree, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Sahitya Academy Award (Non-fiction) for the year 2019. Her novel Missing was published in 2018 and poetry collection Out of Syllabus in March 2019. My Mother’s Lover and Other Stories, a collection of fourteen stories, is her fourth published work.

The blurb of the book describes this collection as stories about people suffering from curious ailments. Interestingly, the book starts with this quote by Roland Barthes:

‘I have a disease; I see language.’

This makes it seem as if the author at the start of the collection confides to the reader her own ailment. Perhaps her observations and thoughts translate into words compulsively and take the form of language. Perhaps it is the inevitable metamorphosis of images, definite and indefinite, into words in her mind, which eventually shapes into stories, essays and poems. Through these stories, she seems to contemplate ordinary people’s peculiar ailments, which do not draw much consideration in the conundrum of conventional continuance.

Palestinian literature seems to be slowly peering out towards the limelight. And now the curtains will lift in New York from March 27-29, 2020,  for Palestine Writes, a festival featuring writers from the war torn country.

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New York School of Visual Arts

The New York’s School of Visual Arts and New York University will host the festival. More than seventy writers, artists and intellectuals will take part in this festival.

If you are wondering why a Palestinian Literature Festival is being held in New York and why now, here are the answers.

Book Review by Amit Shankar Saha

 

The Mark Front Cover

 

Title: The Mark

Author: Bitan Chakraborty (translated from Bengali by Utpal Chakraborty)

Publisher:  Shambhabi The Third Eye Imprint, 2020

Bitan Chakraborty is a writer, translator, editor of the Bengali print journal, Atibhuj, and the founder of Hawakal Publishers. He has authored six collections of prose and poetry. The Mark is Bitan Chakraborty’s second collection of short stories to be translated from Bengali to English. The first translated collection, published in 2016, was called Bougainvillea and Other Stories.

Utpal Chakraborty, a teacher of English literature, a bilingual poet and author has translated the seven stories in The Mark. Even though translation of a work of fiction is not as taxing as the translation of poetry, yet to convey in a language that is not native to the culture depicted in the stories is in itself a daunting challenge. Utpal Chakraborty has  overcome the challenge and given the readers of English fiction a book that can speak for itself.

There is something inherently contradictory in trying to capture the sense of reality through fiction. It is like trying to paint an orange blue. And yet it is the blue colour that will attract the viewer if the painter is able to convince the viewer that it is indeed an orange despite being blue. At some point Bitan Chakraborty does exactly that. As a painter of blue oranges, Chakraborty creates within the framework of literature an illusion of reality which is seamlessly congruent with the reality itself. This dissolution of the frame that divides the fictional and the real is what art is all about.

Interestingly, both the translated volumes of Chakraborty’s short stories have forewords by the noted American poet and editor of the journal Harbinger’s Asylum, Dustin Pickering. The titles of the forewords of the two books are self-explanatory: “The Magic of Magical Realism” and “Stranger than Fiction” respectively. There is little of magical realism in this volume and yet the fiction that Chakraborty creates has a strangeness, for it is only reality that can be stranger than fiction. It is a strangeness akin to the absurdity in the dramas of Samuel Beckett.

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Institute National Des Langues et Civilisations Orientales INALCO, (Paris) has included acclaimed Urdu novel Rohzin in its academic study from the recent semester. Rohzin is the fourth novel by Rahman Abbas and the one for which he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award for 2018.

It was published in 2016 at the Jashn-e-RekhtaDelhi and has been widely debated in India, Pakistan, The Middle East, Canada, Switzerland and Germany.

Many scholars and literary critics consider Rohzin to be the most beautifully and creatively written novel in the recent times in Urdu language. Critic and former President of Sahitya Akademi (New Delhi), Professor Gopi Chand Narang, said that Rohzin is an important turning point in the history of Urdu fiction. Sahitya Akademi Award-winning literary critic, Nizam Siddiqui, has said that no novel as major as Rohzin has appeared in the second decade of the 21st century in Urdu.

By Mitali Chakravarty

Aruna pic

A versatile woman of arts and letters, acclaimed and celebrated, Aruna Chakravarti’s writing has been acknowledged by awards like Vaitalik Award, Sahitya Akademi  Award and Sarat Puraskar. Chakravarti talks of interactions with greats like writer Sunil Gangopadhyay and actress Sharmila Tagore to discuss her books and translations in festivals. Her books are often a protest against social ills which linger beyond the past. Her first novel  The Inheritors ( 2004, Penguin)  was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and her third, Jorasanko ( 2013, Harper Collins) received critical acclaim and also became a best seller. Daughters of Jorasanko ( 2016), a sequel to Jorasanko, has sold widely and received rave reviews.  Her translated works include an anthology of songs from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitabitaan, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Srikanta (which won her the Sahitya Akademi Award) and Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Those days, First Light and Primal Woman: Stories. Chakravarti was the  Principal of a prestigious women’s college of Delhi University for ten years. She is an academic, creative writer and translator with fourteen published books — three novels, one book of short stories, two academic works and eight translations.

22fa274f-4a0d-4c09-8935-35685fae7e7eChakravarti’s latest work, a novel titled Suralakshmi Villa, published by Pan Macmillan this year, will be her fifteenth book. The launch scheduled for 25th February, 2020, in Delhi’s  India International Centre will have a panel discussion on the book by eminent academics for half-an-hour followed by a multi-media presentation of an excerpt from the book created by the author herself. In this exclusive, Chakravarti talks of why and how she writes and more.

 

Since when have you been writing? What inspires you to write?

I used to write prolifically as a child. Poems and stories would pour out of me in a joyous, unthinking stream and I loved the feeling it gave me.

Things changed when, after joining the English Honours course in college, I was introduced to the academics of literature, taught the principles of criticism and how to distinguish good writing from mediocre. I became disillusioned with my work. I found it wanting on so many counts.  I felt I was useless as a writer. Self- criticism is good but, in my case, it verged to the point of negativity.

I stopped writing altogether.

There was a gap of twenty-five years before I picked up the courage to write again.

To answer the second part of your question my juvenilia reflected whatever I was reading at the time, mostly poems and stories written by English writers, and was hugely imitative. But my adult work is derived directly from living experience. It is from the world around me that I draw inspiration.

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

The sulphur gas hissed and smoke was issuing every few metres from the porous rocks. The clouds churned in the sky with lightning in ugly shades of grey black. The landscape lay broken and crying from the third cataclysm.

But what scared Rangar the most wasn’t the dangers on the land but what lay ahead.

The road, once upon a time it may have been a road, was broken. It was littered with potholes, rocks lining hot mud pools that steamed and an occasional geyser of magma. His blistered feet hurt, even wrapped in multiple layers of clothes. He looked up at the path he was following up to the mountain which was still spewing smoke and gases into the air.

How did the witch Manap survive here, he thought?

By Tamizh Ponni

“Hey, don’t go too far,” yelled Rekha, adjusting her hat. The popsicle in her other hand was melting with all possible haste not letting Rekha relish it at her own pace.

“I am good. Jeez! I am a grown-up now! Stop being nannyish!”replied Madhu as she carefully collected the sea urchin shells. They fascinated her for some reason. With an enclosed dome-like structure and a muricated exterior, they resembled Madhu’s actual persona.

“You get back here now. It’s not safe in there,” Rekha yelled not paying any heed to her daughter’s backtalk.

“Ma! I am 35. Treat me like an adult. Pleaaaase…,” Madhu begged with a babyish pout. Now that her hands were almost full with the precious collection, Madhu was frantically looking for a place to unload.

“Age isn’t going to magically instil maturity in you or stop me from protecting you,” Rekha replied dryly, biting her popsicle.

“Protect me from what? Ocean waves?” asked Madhu jokingly and chuckled.

“From your own silliness. Now come back. Let’s enjoy the view and the waves from here,” said Rekha patting on a spot next to her on the beach mat.

“Alright, Alright,” Madhu sighed and returned. She wanted to sit for a while too. The cool, salty breeze calmed her mind and helped her take her mind off the previous week’s madness. She wanted to discuss it particularly with her mother but didn’t know how to begin.

As Rekha opened the box containing egg Samosas, the aroma of its filling fuelled Madhu’s hunger. She gladly took one and took a sizeable bite. Munching on the lunch, the duo were devouring the fresh sea breeze with their legs stretched.

“Is something bothering you?” Rekha asked without looking at her daughter.