From her fifth-floor apartment window Neera could see the roof-top of the three-storied building that stood at some distance. She looked at the sun-drenched houses in the winter noon and wondered listlessly if people still used such gigantic mosquito-curtains like the one drying on the roof of the next-door. It looked like some green magic net big enough to catch a genie. And what were in those jars? Pickles, perhaps? Or maybe guava jelly? The child in her heart gave a shout of glee and, for a moment, she thought she had a whiff of her grandmother’s guava jelly emanating from the kitchen. But her grandmother had died years ago, and the house where she had lived was gone too.
The large pre-Pakistan era house that was her Nanabari, her maternal grandfather’s home, had been given to developers some years ago. While Neera could understand the practical reasons, her heart cried incessantly at the loss. The cluster of coconut trees standing at the bedroom-window of Neera’s apartment often made her sadder than ever even though she also considered herself luckier than most people of Dhaka where it was difficult indeed to get a breath of fresh air. But at her Nanabari, there were four such coconut trees. Images from her childhood when her uncles and aunts had made watches and spectacles for her with the tough and shiny dark green coconut leaves stood out fresh in her mind.
Not Native is a collection of short stories by Murali Kamma, an accomplished short story writer and the managing editor of Khabar, an American Indian magazine. The stories are of “Immigrant Life In An In-Between World” we are told in a subtitle on the title page of the book.
What is this ‘in-between world‘? It is the world created by migrants to America between 1983 and 2018 — both in America and India. Like the characters in his stories, Kamma with these narratives “straddles” between his country of birth, India, and the country he migrated to, America.
Kamma has divided his book into four parts — perhaps to focus on subjects that he felt were important for the immigrant population. The first part, ‘Sons and Fathers’ has four stories centering around the topic mentioned in the sub-heading. They address unique situations; in one the abandoned son on a holiday to India rediscovers his father in an ashram; in another death rituals of his father make the immigrant who returns to India feel more isolated and there is yet more tellings on the different worlds occupied by the fathers and sons. The one that is most poignant one, in which a bridge is built through generations, is set in US. The bridge is built with a story about the world’s oldest man and a proposed “interview” to be conducted by the granddaughter.
Jonathan Urqueta was born on 18 September 1991 in the Colchagua Valley, Chile. He was raised in Marchigüe, a huaso (country) village in the central region of Chile, where he learned the names of trees, got to know birds by their song, and had a hard and, at the same time fragrant, childhood soaked in criollismo (Creole). From the age of eleven he started travelling in Chile, from the south to the north, and passed through many transversal valleys, resting in some of them for a couple of years. He owes his survival to a couple of occupations that he learnt on his path. Today he works and lives in Vicuña, a town in Elqui Valley, caught in the eternal sun of the Norte Chico (small north). Always captivated by folklore and natural landscapes, regionalism and social questions, he has been writing since the age of fourteen. Urqueta has been working on publishing his poetry for the last couple of years.
As a researcher on contemporary translated texts, I was invited to participate in a prestigious two-week summer school on challenges of translation in July 2019, organised at the Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile. With my prior knowledge of Spanish and interest of many years in South American literature, this workshop gave me the perfect opportunity to delve into the beauty and strife of producing and examining translated poetry and fiction, in the esteemed company of some of the foremost, and emerging, translation studies academics and translators across continents. This is the 40th year of Chile-Singapore relations, making this text a privilege for me to pen. Cultural and literary events to bring together Chileans and Singapore residents, and to discuss pertinent issues, are being organised through the year
Poet. Photographer. Singer. Bearded botak (bald man). As an artiste, Marc can be best described as a living kaleidoscope. His creative work can be hard to pin down. So far, he has written and edited twelve books of poetry, the latest being Sightlines, a collection of poems and travel photography co-created with photographer Tsen-Waye Tay. He plays with a band, Neon and Wonder, and set numerous poems to music with his band mates. He is also active in Singapore’s poetry slam scene, and participates in regular sessions at Blu Jaz Cafe.
If that’s not all, he is passionate about photography and the principal photographer of Mackerel, an online culture magazine he founded. He also collaborated with well-known Singaporean satirical personality Mr Brown in an online video that made fun of a MasterChef judge who misunderstood the nature of chicken rendang. Responding to his criticism that the chicken was not crispy enough, the song playfully (shown in the video below) corrects the judge with an appropriate understanding of the Malay delicacy:
From the hills that surround the town it indifferently drifts. Upon bare soil and barren rocks, upon the base of trees, it sweeps. From my window this morning, the trees were grey, feathery and clinging like ghostly hands to the low clouds but now, in the wintry breathe of evening, they are like conquering warriors marching down shadowy slopes. My boots, hard and heavy, follow empty pavements. A car, a van, a bus, occasionally passes through our slushy streets. There is hardly a sound except for the click, click, click from the pedestrian crossing.
I’ve walked here all my life. I know every crack in the pavement, every blemish on the shop walls, every angle of the stooping buildings, every flutter of the koinobori, the carp-shaped wind-socks that now colourfully flutter high up over the gorge to mark the change of season. Hundreds there are, strung up on lines, but one has fallen far below and is stuck between two jagged rocks, one end flapping like a useless flag as the river tries to drag it away.
I’ve never left this place, this hot spring town where tourists flock like hungry gulls during the holiday season. There are better jobs elsewhere but I choose to remain a janitor at the high school. That’s all I’ve been these thirty- eight years. I’ll retire next month. They’ve kept me well past retirement age as I do a pleasing job. Now I have to go though as I’m too old.
With protests staged by environmentalists of different ages in many parts of the world, one is left wondering if this is not a major issue that needs to be addressed by the literary community over other issues as it links to our basic survival. These lines by Nicannor Parra, the famous Chilean poet, say it all.
The mistake we made was in thinking
that the earth belonged to us
when the fact of the matter is
we’re the ones who belong to the earth.
He redefined himself as an eco poet in the latter part of his career and said: “The eco-poet also works with contradiction, he defends nature, but he cannot fall into the trap of a new dogmatism. So there are some eco-poems which are apparently anti-ecological, like the following: ‘I don’t see the need for all this fuss, we all know the world is at its end.’ It must be kept in mind that any type of dogmatism, including ecological dogmatism, produces a hardening of the soul. To avoid this hardening, this new dictatorship, this new central committee, one has to denounce even ecological dogmatism. Paradoxically, this is also the soul regulating itself. The man who only affirms runs the risk of freezing up inside. Constant movement, vital motion is crucially important for me.”
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime,” wrote Mark Twain in Innocents Abroad.
And part of this broadening comes from the books that you read while traveling. A list of books with a new take on Pride and Prejudice set in 21 st century Pakistan, which is told “with wry wit and colourful prose, Unmarriageable is a charming update on Jane Austen’s beloved novel and an exhilarating exploration of love, marriage, class, and sisterhood”, could be an interesting read. What is interesting is that the novel hops centuries to find a parallel setting. Earlier, there have been Bollywood movies, Bride andPrejudice. And of course, ghoulish spoofy takes — Pride and Prejudice and Zombies(2016) based on the book (2009) by Seth Graham Smith. Darcy’s Story (1995) by Janet Aylmer was one of the first take offs on this classic by Jane Austen. Then there was The Pursuit of Mary Bennet: A Pride & Prejudice Novelby Pamela Mingle in 2013, which gave the story from Mary Bennet’s perspective.
On the way to office, Grandpa would peep in to find the little Neha sitting quietly in the corner, her red-nosed, big-eyed clown near the books, on the bare stone floor. He would say nothing and leave. As soon as the cook, that fat old lady, went out to chat with the neighbours, Neha, now empress of a silent cottage near the small railway station in the middle of the desert, winked at the clown and said: “Come on, let us play, my little brother.”
The clown, waiting for the invitation from his human mistress, would nod, jump up and down, roll and make faces at the puny girl. Neha screamed with laughter, eyes lit up. His red nose twitching, white hair under a faded cap, the ill-matched bright-hued tunic upon a thin body, the clown danced, his painted enormous eyes full of laughter and kindness. Neha and the clown played together in the silent house. When the cook returned home, the clown shrank back and resumed his place either on the iron table or the pile of the books. Neha sat quietly, staring out of the barred window, at the huge expanse of the moving sand and across the stretch of desert, at the village many miles away from the railway station, shimmering in the hot sun. Bare brown hills, except an occasional babool tree here and there, loomed up high in the arid landscape of hot sun, shifting sands and a cold moon.
Neera Kashyap’s short fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in various online and print journals in south Asia. Her poetry has appeared in Mountain Path, Kritya, Reading Hour, The Bombay Literary Magazine and Ashvamegh.
Diwali is celebrated by Indians all over the world — as Kali Puja, as Deepavali — exuding a festive spirit of joie de vivre. For some, it is the biggest event of the year, much like Christmas or Id. We invite you to enjoy the festivities with one such enthusiast, young Aishwarya Ganesh.
The lights lift my spirits and, with tranquility in my heart, my wings rise to the song of Diwali, to the scent of Diwali. Every year, this festival modifies the atmosphere itself sensually. The smell of the air circling us, the hue of the sky and the melody of nature — all herald the arrival of the festival of lights.
Diwali for me is a reflection of hope. It is the light that radiates the spirit of possibilities. It begins a week before the festival of lights. Our home is all ready for its wash and a grand deck up. The neighbourhood, the streets and the city sing a glorious song to celebrate the arrival of memorable times. Strings of lights dangle at the entrance of every household and lanterns swing in balconies. In addition, the smell of new garments and preparations for a variety of delicacies generate a festive scent. The city is thrilled with its shiny new gown — the golden, gleaming dress saved for a special occasion! It is all lit up in its new avatar and eagerly awaits Diwali. People flock to shopping malls and return with huge bags that are ready to give their home and themselves a fresh makeover! The season annihilates all negativity and promotes the spirit of togetherness.