‘Who can free a captive bird mourning in his cage?
You must bring your own Freedom, O, Gardner.’
Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor
“I’ll be back early tomorrow, you don’t need to worry about me,” Syeda tried to sound reassuring. “He will protect us”, she said to Tariq, as she packed the oily turmeric rice in a large steel lunch carrier. She placed the container in an empty plastic cement bag, hoisted it on her head and took Mishaal’s hand in hers. The faithful were reciting their durood in the mosque after Fajr prayers. The golden thread of dawn had just emerged in the skies, and she embarked on this perilous journey to Srinagar.
Recently, Nepali-Indian origin author Prajwal Parajuly has been in the news for all the right reasons. His works have been nominated for some of the most prestigious literary awards in the globe.
Prajwal Parajuly (né Sharma) (born 24 October 1984) is an Indian author whose works focus on Nepali-speaking people and their culture. Parajuly grew up in the Gangtok, Sikkim region of northeastern India. His father is Indian and his mother Nepalese. He was educated at Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, and the University of Oxford. Before committing to a writing career, he worked as an advertising executive at The Village Voice. (Source)
In this video, Danish-based Irish writer T.A. Morton reads from her short story, Willie’s Chinese Funeral Urn, published in The Best Asian Short Stories (edited by Hisham Bustani and Zafar Anjum, Kitaab Singapore, 2019). More about the anthology can be found here.
The world’s most global literary prize – the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize is now open for entries and they are seeking unheard and unusual stories.
The prize is awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2,000–5,000 words). Apart from English, stories are also accepted in the Bengali, Chinese, French, Greek, Kiswahili, Malay, Portuguese, Samoan, Tamil and Turkish languages. Translated entries from any language into English are also eligible.
“Pack” from And the Walls Come Crumbling Down by Tania De Rozario (Gaudy Boy, 2020)
It’s rainy season by the time I’ve booked my flight and the weather is seeping into every aspect of my life. Above and around the house, it pours. Plastic groundsheets line the floor and plastic buckets catch drips from my leaky ceiling. Nothing seems to hold water these days and I feel as though I, too, am leaking. This is the fourth house since leaving my mother’s flat. Occupied for less than a month and already it is purging me out.
We thought this had been the one. But then again, for eight hundred dollars, any house would have been the one. You and I shared two rooms—one to sleep in and one to work in. We sublet the rest of the house to other artists who used the third room and the kitchen as workspaces. It was the ideal home. A place everybody could afford, in which beautiful things were created every day.
[ Pous – The ninth month of the Bengali calendar, from mid December to mid January]
It is three o’clock. Keeping aside the work in hand, I leant back in my chair. My handwritten long row of small words on the white sheet of paper – just like dead flies on a white wall; each line resembling a slithery black snake. I had finished one page after an hour of hard work. I have transformed an atomic part of the vast and unclear world of the thought processes in my brain, into decipherable human language – watered through eons of years, the developed feelings in symbols, in conversations. The process involves extreme anguish and pain. Despite that being so, I just have to go through it… I have to bear the pain through the whirling days and sleepless nights, through weeks, months, years upon years, until the day death will bring the last and ultimate respite. When I look at the sheets of paper filled with my handwriting, I shudder to the bottom of my soul. Words, words. Endless, unending words. Maybe these words are meaningless to everyone except myself.
Are there six people in this land who’d understand what I wanted to say upon reading my writings? The way I want my works to be read, will there be three men to read them? I know what happens. On a summer afternoon, closing the doors and windows of the room, turning the overhead fan on, the deputy homemaker lies down on the mammoth cot holding my book in her hands, (if she doesn’t have any boy or girl nearing the ‘about to be fallen’ age) then after reading two pages, the printed words become hazy, she turns aside and dozes off to sleep. The weight of her fat hands would squeeze the open pages of the book with three hours’ of sweat. And the guys from the public library vie with each other in order to get hold of my books; only the fortunate returns home clutching his prize within his armpits, jumping with joy, gobbles up the book from the first to the last pages – turning the pages like a madman, to get whatever he wants, whatever he understands, for which he has saved his pennies with extreme diligence. Instead of offering these at the pious feet of the screen’s gods and goddesses, he turns the pages of my books ravenously, in search of the same pleasure. Then after his disillusion, he creates various juicy stories and anecdotes about me and in this way, takes his revenge. I know, I know.
The scorching heat of the afternoon followed by the sudden downpour had made it difficult for the people to fly kites on the occasion of Raksha Bandhan. But now that the deluge had stopped, the people emerged on their roofs as ants emerged from their castle. The downpour had cooled the evening and cleared the sky and brought some relief to the people. The Trikuta hills and several other hills and mountains that surrounded the plain region betrayed their dominance. As far as one could see from the rooftops, the silhouette of the giant mountains didn’t fail to mark their presence. The beautiful sunset had created an ambient atmosphere of trance. Streaks of pink golden rays ran parallel above the stretched silhouettes of mountains. Everyone was taking in the cold breeze of August evening, conscious of the rhythmic movements of inhalation and exhalation. The various plants and trees surrounding the houses had not dried yet. Drops of water remained present on the leaves as morning dew. Just as a snail glides along the path slowly, the dewdrops on the leaves glided and merged into each other and eventually fell off the leaves into the soil beneath. The aroma of the earth that arose from the merging of aqua and soil stimulated the olfactory pleasures of the beings. The people had started coming to their rooftops from every house. Some people were here to play the sport; some were to help, and others were the spectators.
Two brown sparrows perched on the parapet undisturbed took note of their surroundings, contributing their part as spectators from different species. A purple sunbird perched on a high bough of a tree sang a song to summon his comrades to witness the once-in-a-year moment. The initiation of the event started with loud music on the loudspeakers. Pieces of electrical tape were being cut and wound on the fingers lest these get severed by the ‘pucca dor'(a string of either plastic or cotton covered by powered glass) which they had specially ordered. The people made sure that the triangle of the thread (kite knots) was perfectly aligned and anchored and they rubbed the dorsal side of the kite on their head and looked assertive as if their weapon of choice was ready to hunt others’ down. When the people were immersed in tying the kite knots, a tailor bird referred to as ‘darzi’ by the locals paid a brief visit to the lawns, and gardens of the neighborhood and retreated to its niche stitching leaves to make its nest. The helpers of the kite flyers held the kite from its horizontally opposite corners in their hand hiding their face and traced some steps back making the length of string between them tighten and on the count of three, gave a little push up which was then maneuvered by the kite flyers.
15 Books to Look Forward to in 2020/2021 from Kitaab
Kitaab celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2020. What started as a literary blog in 2005 has now grown to a credible indie publishing house, connecting Asian writers with global readers.
To mark this milestone in the journey of Kitaab’s life, we are announcing 15 titles that we are very excited about–they will be launched this year and next year. A few of them have just been released, and some will be released at the virtual Singapore Writers’ Festival this year.
Dreams in Moonless Night by Hussain Ul Haque (Eng. translation by Syed Sarwar Hussain)
This much-appreciated multilayerednovel spans the traumatic years of the aftermath of Indian Independence to the current apocalyptical state of affairs. Ittells the story of Ismael Merchant who even after losing his whole family in a communal carnage represents the intrinsic Indian passion for love and brotherhood.
This title will be virtually launched at the Singapore Writers Festival 2020.
In this video, India/US-based writer Namrata Poddar reads from her short story, Chutney, published in The Best Asian Short Stories (edited by Hisham Bustani and Zafar Anjum, Kitaab Singapore, 2019). More about the anthology can be found here.