Critically acclaimed, award winning author Rahman Abbas needs no introduction. A Mumbai based fiction writer whose book Rohzin won the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 2018, Abbas is known to captivate the readers with unique storylines and unforgettable characters. Since his debut in 2004 with Nakhalistan ki Talaash ( The Search of an Oasis), he has penned one masterpiece after another. From winning awards to having his books translated into various foreign languages, he has done it all. Rohzin was not only the first Urdu novel to be discussed in Germany, it was also adopted as a part of Urdu curriculum in INALCO. Sometime last year, he won a research grant for his next novel and travelled to Europe. 

Tan Kaiyi in conversation with Tunku Halim: The Dark Lord of Malaysian Horror

In Tunku Halim’s illustrious career in horror writing, his beginning could be the strangest story of all in the history of the genre.

His first ever published work was Everything the condominium developer should have told you, but didn’t, containing his musings on buying condominiums during the Klang Valley real estate boom in the ‘90s. He followed that up with a sequel, Condominiums: Purchase Investment & Habitat, before publishing his first ever horror novel, Dark Demon Rising, in 1997. The hero of the story is Shazral, a city lawyer, who returns to his home kampong to attend his father’s funeral. It is there that he realises that he has been given a supernatural inheritance, in the form of a Hantu Penanggal, a Malay nocturnal vampiric entity.

In recent times, the ‘Opioid Crisis‘ has taken the world by storm. When one says opioid crisis, the immediate questions to come to the mind are, What is it about? What is this opioid dependency so many medical practitioners seem to be talking about?

Today, we have with us Dr. Aafaque Akhter, one of the co-authors of the book Opioid Odyssey which aims at answering all of this and much more.

Rituparna Mahapatra in conversation with Tishani Doshi

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Photos credits: Carlo Pizzati

“Girls are coming out of the woods,/ wrapped in cloaks and hoods,/ carrying iron bars and candles/ and a multitude of scars.”

“Even those girls / found naked in ditches and wells, / those forgotten in neglected attics, / and buried in riverbeds like sediments / from a different century”.

These lines from the title poem of Tishani Doshi’s book, ‘Girls are coming out of the woods‘ in 2017, came at a time when the world, India, in particular was waiting to explode & rage at the heinousness towards the ‘female’. Doshi painted an imagery about what it meant to be a woman; the dangers of being one, on a larger canvas, talking about women brutalised and murdered ; their stories refusing to be forgotten. It touched the nerve of a society attuned to not ‘speaking out’. This book went on to be shortlisted for the Ted Hughes prize in 2018.

By Ratnottama Sengupta

So much of sci-fi uses science as a starting point and then uses fiction to fill up the gaps in our present knowledge. We use what we know today to imagine a different tomorrow –- a better tomorrow — for the world. Still, sooner rather than later, sci-fi that looks out-dated as science fiction becomes a scientific fact. Don’t we all know that Sage Valmiki wrote in Ramayana of the Pushpak Vimana ( mythical flying chariots in Hindu lore) and the giant bird Jatayu that clashed in mid-space aeons before the Wright Brothers wrote their names into aviation history or before the Central Science Laboratory in UK estimated that worldwide, the cost of bird-strikes to airlines had soared to US$ 1.2 billion annually!

But why does this possibility of fiction becoming a fact excite me? Admittedly because of my association with Me and I, which my father, well-known author and scriptwriter Nabendu Ghosh, had written for his two grandsons, and was translated by my son Devottam Sengupta for his grandpa’s birth centenary. Published by Hachette India, the novel breaks the barriers of space and time. Let me quote from the synopsis to give readers a glimpse of this. “They all had the same question for Mukul: ‘Why didn’t you recognise us? And why did you look so dark?’ Mukul was perplexed. The day had started as any other Sunday morning would, with him going out to meet his aunt, his friends and his mentor Noni Kaku of the Telescope. But when everyone, including his own parents insisted that he was lying about his whereabouts, Mukul had to look around for this imposter. And he found Lukum, who had travelled light years to meet his intergalactic ‘twin.’ Little did Mukul know that he had set out on the longest Sunday of his life…”

Dear Readers,

First of all, I want to thank you for your continued support over the years. We cherish your messages, emails and advise. They guide us and encourage us immensely.

Frankly, your being by our side is our greatest strength.

As many of you might recall, we began our journey as Kitaab, which means “book” in many Asian languages, in 2005 as a space to celebrate and critique Asian writing. In the digital world, there was very little material or info available then on matters of Asian writing and writers! Google was still coming up and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were in their infancy, at least in Asia.

Reviewed by Mitali Chakravarty

Felix Cheong - B-Slides and Backslides

Title: B-Sides and Backslides: 1986-2018
Author: Felix Cheong
Publisher: Math Paper Press by Books Actually
Pages: 95
ISBN 978-981-11-7304-2

B-Sides and Backslides is the award-winning Singaporean poet Felix Cheong’s collection panning the development of his poetry from 1986 to 2018.  In the foreword, the poet writes, ‘These are pieces which… could not find their place in my published volumes.’ The title alludes to ‘the flipsides’ of his poetry. He compares them to the B-Sides of Beatles’ albums, which often had songs that were really interesting but not top of the charts. They remain an interesting part of a creative process. However, he claims that he has not ‘blackslid even if it might appear so,’ and in that spirit, his poetry touches our lives with its humour and variety.

The book is divided into different periods of his development as a poet. In “Juvenalia”, the section tracing his development as a poet for the first nine years, he says, ‘In various voices and versions, I have been trying to rewrite Prufrock the past thirty years…’ However, through the course of his poetry we can see how he transcends the torpor of the procrastinating Prufrock (“Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, T. S. Eliot, 1910) and the angst generated by Hollow Men (T. S. Eliot, 1925) to become a caricaturist of Singapore life, politics and culture. In “We are the Salarymen”, with an epigraph of the first two lines of Hollow Men, he concludes,

We maybe the hollow men,
but the least we own
is our honesty to know
we have the means to fill
and fulfil this emptiness,
unlike you,
stuffed fool and full of yourself,
little more than moans and bones
on a high horse galloping
with the weight of a lost world.