A glimpse from Anuja Chandramouli’s Mohini – The Enchantress (Published by Rupa Publications India, 2020)
Prelude: A Hint of Hope Borne on a Dream
The storytellers tended to go into raptures describing her sublime, flawless beauty, waxing eloquent about the perfection of her form and features, not to mention the heaviness of her bosom, supported as it was by an impossibly narrow waist. Captivating eyes with so much depth that most wanted nothing better than to plunge into those twin orbs, exploring the secrets within for the rest of time; lustrous tresses that cascaded in waves of silk, nearly caressing the earth over which she glided with effortless grace; luscious lips that mischievously promised endless delights and so on and so forth.
Though they were mostly males who could not or did not want to look beyond the sumptuous perfection of her physical attributes, none of it was an exaggeration. For she was bewitching and her beauty had a power of its own, which could simply not be discounted. And yet, when it came right down to it, her beauty was almost beside the point.
In this literary essay, Shaswato Sarcar explores Edgar Allan Poe’s works highlighting how Poe flourished because of his unprecedented approach and narrative technique, which was one of a kind.
Even though Edgar Allan Poe was considered as one of the most popular figures in the genre of ‘Romanticism’, he did introduce the audience of that age to a completely distinct style and genre of his own. He was known around the world and still is, because of his signature genre of ‘psychological horror’. Though the Victorian era was flooded with horror story writers, still Poe flourished because of his unprecedented approach and narrative technique. His narrative style was one of a kind. He made sure that his readers were as much moved by his storytelling as by the context.
Poe was a pioneer of Macabre. He completely transformed the genre of the horror story with his masterful tales of psychological depth and insight not envisioned in the genre before his time and scarcely seen in it since.
Playing at an agonizing volume, our neighbour’s music-system jarred me from my sleep. I opened my eyes into the direct glare of an angry sun, punishing me for daring to paint all night. Keeping my curse under my breath, I could hear grandmother climbing up to my bedroom on the first floor. My almost bedridden Dada, and Dadi lived on the ground floor. I knew I was about to receive a lecture. She was currently gathering steam, so I muffled my cursing to save my skin from a lashing tongue.
“Arif, are you awake?”
“Yes Grandmother, good morning.”
“The morning is over, come down for lunch. Made your favourite Qeema (minced meat) and Aloo Stuffed Parathas.”
Her heavy-footed gait retreated down the stairs before I followed. She waited for the meal to be over to launch in. As I poured tea from the pot, she said, “Arif, you slept late again? What were you up to, all night?”
NYC-based literary non-profit Singapore Unbound announces the 4th Singapore Literature Festival which is happening online from October 1st to 3rd, 2020. The festival is open to all. The theme for this year is ‘Politics of Hope‘. Going online for the first time, this independent, biennial festival brings together Singaporean and American authors and audiences for lively conversations about literature and society. The Singapore Literature Festival is conceived and organized by a group of Singaporean volunteers—writers, artists, and creatives—who call New York City and Singapore home.
Dr. Sutanuka Ghosh Roy explores Sanjukta Dasgupta’s Sita’s Sisters calling it a poet’s exhortation of womanhood.
ISBN: 978-93-87883-89-5 ( Paperback)
Published by Hawakal Publishers, Kolkata-India.
Price: INR 300. $11.99
Sita’s Sisters is the sixth book of poetry by Sanjukta Dasgupta, former professor, head and dean, faculty of Arts, Calcutta University. She is a poet, critic and translator. She is the recipient of numerous national and international grants and fellowships and has lectured, taught and read her poems in India, Europe, USA and Australia. She is a member of the General Council of Sahitya Akademi New Delhi and Convenor of the English Advisory Board, Sahitya Akademi. Her published books include Snapshots (poetry), Dilemma (poetry), First Language (poetry), More Light (poetry), Her Stories (translations), Manimahesh (translation), Media, Gender andPopular Culture in India: Tracking Change and Continuity, SWADES—Tagore’s PatrioticSongs (translation), Abuse and Other Short Stories, Lakshmi Unbound (poetry) 2017.
Anusree Ganguly writes a literaryessay exploring two novels (Jagari & Beloved) highlighting how both are a window into deplorable social conditions and say something about the herculean courage of its men and women.
Two masterpieces – ‘Jagari’ (The Night Vigil, in Bengali) and ‘Beloved’ – but both have a common thought as its takeaway – to have an upside-down world, made awry by outside forces, put right by combating fear with courage, once, to taste life at its toughest and, two, sometimes to look death in the face. If Jagari (author: Satinath Bhaduri) answers the imperative of “Who’s awake?” with the spirit of the one who owns his mind, even if the body is not free to roam; then Beloved (author: Toni Morrison) answers the imperative of the ‘red heart’ – the love for all experiences, good or bad, intensified by the fear of desolation that inheres in love displaced – by answering the stirrings of ‘rememory’ with love for life, and sometimes for death. Jagari is not just the story of an imprisoned freedom-fighter’s family (each chapter a look into the strength of the human mind – the husband, wife and the two sons – in distress but never sinking in it); and Beloved is not just the story of a slave who is also a runaway from the unhappy condition of slavery. Both authors evince an interest in the human being as survivors against ailing times taking a fall in life without fear, yet arms opened wide for memories or ‘rememories’.
A glimpse from A Bend in Time – Writings by Children on the Covid-19 Pandemic (Published by Talking Cub, children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger, 2020)
Introduction by Bijal Vachharajani
Right now, according to the good folx at UNESCO, globally about 1.3 billion children and youth are at home, as schools and colleges shut to try to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The children in this book’s pages are among them. As is most probably you, the reader.
These twelve children and young adults reflect so many thoughts, questions, narratives. The depth of their thoughts doesn’t astound me—children are way smarter than groan-ups. But not all children get to tell their stories. Not all of them have access to the Internet, to facilities, to online schooling, to socially distanced homes and neighbourhoods. While some are safe at home, so many have had to walk for miles to get to their homes. Inequalities have come to the forefront, and it’s vital that privilege be examined and challenged. And so many children in this book are thinking about that.
In this deeply personal and moving essay, Manish Gaekwad talks about his experiences of growing up in a brothel and being queer
I was five when the boys started petting me and kissing me in places other than my flushed cheeks. Once, when I was at home in Kolkata, a lady peeped through the door and saw that a boy older than me was lying on top of me and rubbing himself vigorously in ways that adults do. He must have seen someone do it to his mother. He was trying to replicate it to see where it goes.
It went sore.
His mother thrashed him. My mother thrashed me. I did not understand why I was being beaten for doing nothing. I was merely lying down and I don’t recollect how I got there. I did not have words then to express what I felt. I sensed that what was giving the boy pleasure was not acceptable to adults.
Soon, I too got a taste of that pleasure.
We were disappearing behind curtains, playing hide and seek in the afternoon when the women were sleeping after lunch. We were kissing and fondling behind those curtains, in plain sight of the very women who had objected to it. A boy once pulled my trousers down and shoved his face in my crotch. Another time he spooned me under a quilt where we were hiding to be startled. My body tingled with the thrill of these secret games. The games children saw adults play through peep holes.
I have to dress myself in red today. Sorry Somesh, for being unfaithful to you. I could have fought them all but for our children. They say I must agree to their plan. They are both so grown up now – Jia and Sahil! They advise me on everything as if I am a little child. But marriage? No! No! That cannot be! Everyone tells me that I have been married to Pratik for years. But why do I draw a blank at that? Pratik is nice, familiar, comfortable; we even share the same house! Just the other day I had to chase him out of my room – he was lazing around as if he belonged there! And then there is that wedding album! They carry a hundred of our wedding pictures – happy moments frozen in four by six glossy papers. Such vibrant colours – if only my memory was as sharp as these. But memory fails me. It becomes as fuzzy as a Delhi winter morning, unfocussed, blurred yet somewhere just within reach. Only I have no access to it. By the way, have you ever known anyone who forgets her own wedding? All of them forget that I am a widow, Somesh’s widow. It is not for me to marry. I remember pishi, my father was so protective about her, yet could he save her from a heartbreak? She left eating fish, gave away all her ornaments, wore only white and remained buried under the weight of various rituals and customs. She looked like a ghost biding her time in this world. Wasn’t this the fate of all widows? Wasn’t this what grandfather told her, she being the apple of his eyes? I remember feeling so sad for her. I wanted to find a prince charming to take her away from this repressive world. When I said that to her once, she smiled – a smile of such sadness that my heart shattered into a thousand pieces. I never repeated it to her again. But look at my own children – harping about their own mother’s wedding in which they too claim to have participated! Disgusting, yet I cannot bring myself to be angry with them for a long time. If they are mistaken, it is my duty to lead them to the truth.