By Devraj Kalsi

When parents admit their child to an English medium school run by the Catholic community, the primary objective is to instil in the child discipline and moral values, gain access to the best environment to gain proficiency in English, and develop a liberal mindset that prepares the young mind to face the challenges and complexities of the modern world. The pupil is told again and again that he is here to imbibe the best. But as the young impressionable mind enters the teenage years, the school authorities find an irresistible opportunity to start talking about issues that should not arise inside a secular campus. The missionary institution, though it behaves secularly as much like any elected government in the country, ends up vitiating its professional pursuits with personal agenda.

Although I learned to see God as a more amiable persona in the Catholic school, it wasn’t too long before I realised that this was the beginning of a subtle crash course to preach the merits of their religion. My first awakening happened when I was told to love God more than fear Him. Usually, in traditional North Indian households and many others perhaps, there is a deeply ingrained, though flawed tendency to view the creator as a temperamental dictator who can turn your life upside down any moment. His power is something to be feared all the time.

Here was the first opportunity to view the Omniscient as someone who has created me to enjoy his creations and I should, therefore, be fond of Him all the time – just like a friend to reach out to. From the ivory tower, the creator was brought down to my level – just for me. I did feel an urge to share dreams and desires and wishes without nursing doubts that He would deny those to me. God himself became a temptation for me. The relationship with Him developed along friendly and compatible lines; I saw Him as user-friendly because human qualities were given priority and the complexities and conflicts between believer and provider had been fairly rationalized and sorted out through prayers and monologues.

By Imteyaz Alam

the-sleepwalkers-dream

“I’ve begun moving mechanically like a zombie, like a sleepwalker. And everything appears to be like a bad dream . . . nothing but a sleepwalker’s dream.”

The Sleepwalker’s Dream is the first novel in English by prolific Assamese writer Dhrubjyoti Borah. He is one of the eminent writers in Assamese, and has received several awards, most notably the Sahitya Akademi, a prestigious literary award of India. Being a practicing medical doctor, Borah deftly deals with the psychology of individuals and groups. The many shades of human persona are finely depicted by the author. Loyalty and treachery, cooperation and suspicion, discipline and defiance, love and lust are in the nature of human beings, and the same is displayed in this remarkable work of fiction.

Through the novel, the readers peep into Bhutan’s beautiful valley of lush green forests. The readers travel through tortuous terrains, the inclement weather and high mountains and deep gorges. One gets acquainted with the climate and topography of the region. The novel also showcases birds and animals of this Himalayan country.

The Sleepwalker’s Dream is a political novel. It is a story of a group of insurgents brought together by a quirk of fate. Most of the members fall into the trap as the raging fire swallows up combustible materials in its vicinity. A little strip of silicon – a SIM card issued in the name of June, the lone member of the rebel group, lands her in the underground movement. Similar is the story of other members of the contraband group.

By Neeti Singh

image2

‘The Silk of Hunger’ by Vinita Agrawal is a collection of 30 crisp elegiac poems embedded in urban sensibility, a wide range of symbols and thick metaphor. This collection of poems which is dedicated to the poet’s late father, makes a tidy offering – like a bouquet of the finest of roses in shades of black to burgundy – it is an epitaph that is both an offering and a coming to terms with loss, absence and the finality of death.

These tightly knit poems that are somber in tone and brilliant in terms of poetic craft and structure, deeply move and nourish as they foray with surgical precision, through symbol, narrative and objective inquiry, into the emotion or experience at hand. Mostly pain, separation and death – be it the death of an animal, a planet, a town, a relationship or a father – the loss must be faced and purged squarely so that a catharsis can be achieved and a closure struck by both the grieving poet and all of grieving humanity.

To overcome personal loss and the separation of death, Vinita settles with immanence –

‘Adieu

(father, and)

Yet there will be no separation

no parting, no distance

You shall live through me.

Somewhere each of us shall feel this warmth

In the cold cold rain.’

‘Invertebrate Beginnings’, the very first poem establishes the fact of circularity – in the beginning is  embodied an end ‘I wish I could feel right now/ what I will feel at the end.’ In this poem Vinita tropes upon the pond of life with its sunny surface shine and dark belly depths. The rich fusion of sensuality and experience that sculpts and extends the central metaphor of the poem showcases Vinita’s unique idiom and stylistic strengths. To quote a few lines from the poem, that I enjoyed immensely :

‘What I want is deep

The thick bottom of wet earth at the pond’s belly

Where the mud tightens over your ankles

In a fist like grip, making us revel in its hold

So that you know you are planted in it –

A lotus stem – delirious with feeling’s water.’