Short Story: Leap Day by Utkarsh Sharma

Winter had worn off like an old sock, and an urgent, prickly summer under the garb of spring had creeped in. February had grown like a welt that year. Amin did not know if it was the sun’s temperate gaze or the flames from the shops underneath that were causing this rise in temperature. He, and the six members of his family, were perched at the roof of a two-storey house - the Trivedi Villa, a two storey building of a grossly utilitarian fashion; they were tenants on the first floor.

“Who knew,” Amin thought to himself. “Those were all stories back then.” That which he saw seemed to him truer than the stories that his family - his parents, their parents, his aunts and uncles - had muffled with sibilant utterances at dinner tables and family unions at Eid. The reverberating screeches held up in those voids of conversation seemed anticipatory or rather a product of years of one who has listened to them and realised their incomprehensibility. Amin had been following the news about student presence on the streets since December; he had even participated a couple of times himself without his family’s knowledge but after a photograph of him protesting appeared on the family group, his movements were greatly restricted.

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Ruminations: My Wardrobe’s Memories By Sekhar Banerjee

In this personal essay Sekhar Banerjee seeks to explore the emotional history of an individual and a country through Bollywood – the Hindi film industry in India.

Wardrobes are always a secret place, much like the hideout that you used to build with your Ma’s or aunts’ sarees below the largest table in the house. Those were the days of large joint families in India with uncles, aunts, cousins, parents and grandparents, and also of ornate, mostly black, wooden wardrobes in respective families under one roof. It was an ecosystem in itself. 

Seeking and building a hideout then, wherever that might be – in the unused attic or beneath the healthy shade of a household tree, was not a pastime for the children but a desideratum for them to be alone for some time somewhere. Much like the adults in the family. Wardrobes, too, smelt of privacy, some mystery back then.  And they enclosed a sense of calm and timelessness wrapped up in perfumes and naphthalene balls. But, wardrobes are never large enough to hide for the children or for the adults or a family. They never were. The dark insides of wardrobes can only shelter our small parts.

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Short Story: The Elephant Ride by Arunima Hoskote

“Elephant!” Gautam shrieked, raising his voice by a few decibels, stretching his seven-year vocal cords to the maximum they could reach. His joy knew no bounds as he saw this huge pachyderm come out of the corner, magnanimously waving his royal trunk to and fro.

Megha and Rishi knew there was no controlling him with an iron fist anymore. They must get him an elephant ride before their picnic at the children’s park was over, or else they would be subject to a wailing that would break all previous decibel records. There was no escaping this one, they thought, as they rolled their eyes at the magnificent animal in front of them, carrying a bunch of excited schoolchildren and gently ambling his way around the park.

Elephants are liked for many reasons, one of them being that they are a rare sight, even in India, which is a famed destination for elephant rides and elephant trunk baths. They are usually a favourite among young children, who like everything about them, including listening to their favourite stories of the elephant-headed god Ganesha. Their huge, paunchy bodies and frivolously swaying trunks add to the curiosity and intrigue they pique in young children, especially the ones like Gautam, who have grown up on their fair share of their favourite Lord Ganesha stories. 

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Organized by Bhopal-based Rabindranath Tagore University in collaboration with the Tagore International Centre for Arts & Culture, Bhopal , Vishwarang is a unique literature, art and music festival in India. The festival focuses on art and literature in English and Hindi along with many other regional languages as well.

This year, due to the pandemic, it will be held online from 20th November to 29th November

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Book Review: The Four Colors By Ankur

Rakhi Dalal reviews The Four Colors – a poetry collection by Ankur and tells us how through these poems the poet ruminates over the images nestled in memories – streaked with hues embodying the essence of life. 

The four colours

Hawakal Publishers, July 2020

Our thoughts and emotions, like things around us, seem to be carrying colours of different hues. Even words that we use for their portrayal are tinged with shades of colours. Though, they are not as stark as colours in Guthrie’s Four Color theorem since they don’t map the territories of the world. Instead, they sketch the contours of mind – places where confined realms don’t exist, where porous spheres make the occurrence of feelings and ideas more circinate due to their tendency to turn up when recalled or encountered again. In any art form, the illustration of these notions corroborates the contemplations occupying a mind in a particular instant. And since their appearance may perhaps be not linear, they might get imbued with various tints.

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Bookmarked: The great Indian novel- An epic Blunder By Ramlal Agarwal

In this literary essay, Ramlal Agarwal talks about Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel and how text of the epic is twisted beyond recognition turning it into a disappointing experience for the reader.

Shashi Tharoor’s The Great Indian Novel has come in for high praise in India and abroad, and is already in its fifth edition. Khushwant Singh called it one of the most significant books in recent times. Washington Port reviewed it on its front page and the Times London, called it a tour de force

Tharoor humbly explains why he calls his novel The Great Indian Novel. He further states, his primary source of inspiration is the Mahabharata. Since Maha means Great, and Bharat means India, he calls this novel The Great Indian Novel

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Ruminations: Am I A Victim? by Stacy Pinto

In this personal essay, Stacy Pinto struggles untangling the complexities of a three year long relationship, and the decision to call herself a victim from events and circumstances that came around at the end of the relationship. 

We were lovers, for 3 years. Maybe more if you count the previous years of best-friendship, and the year after when we struggled to untangle our lives from each other; we didn’t want to, but knew we needed to. We were kids, 18 and naïve, now 22 and still naïve, but hopeful and wiser. One a possible victim, the other sickened by a superiority complex. Wiser, nonetheless. 

I was in the 11th grade studying humanities when I met him. I spent those last two years of school trying to fit in, finish first in school, complete college applications, SAT’s and English proficiency tests, travel with friends I spent most of my childhood with. Most of all, I spent a lot of time telling my friends stories about the different events that happened in my life; the weddings I attended, people I met on vacation. I would reel them in, and they would listen intently, elbows on knees, hands cupping faces, eyes wide with amazement, heads nodding in understanding, the ooo’s and aah’s, gasps followed by ‘oh my god Stacy, are you crazy!’ followed by endless laughs. I loved the attention. I continue to portray this tornado-that-is-my-life narrative, and continue to get calls for updates from friends back home. But with quarantine, things have become muy boring (I learn Spanish at snail’s pace too!) and I miss the drama in my life, which is probably why I choose now to finally detangle this beautifully toxic yet lovingly gentle relationship that ended a year ago. Maybe it’s an attempt to keep the narrative alive, or maybe it’s just a cathartic way of letting go. 

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Short Story: Little Blue Pills By Abdul Elah Abdul Qader – Iraq (Translated from the Arabic by Essam M. Al-Jassim)

Face tense, hands frantic, Mariam tried to cleanse her flesh and her soul by scrubbing at the warm stickiness contaminating her thighs.

As she did, the truth struck her: she was no longer a virgin. 

The man she had been forced to recognize as her husband had mounted her for the fourth time that night, before she could recover her breath or dignity. He had ravished her body and spirit in a depraved assault that splintered the remains of her purity. 

During the ordeal, she had felt like nothing more than a concubine at the mercy of a lustful man who only cared about exploiting her for his carnal pleasure. It disgusted her to see him behave as if it were his first and last night with a woman; however, this wasn’t Ghalib’s first marriage. 

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Book Review: India Dissents Edited by Ashok VajpEyi

Bhaskar Parichha reviews ‘India Dissents: 3,000 Years of Difference, Doubt and Argument’ calling it an invaluable guide in the long fight for an open society and the full realization of the fight for the freedom of Indians in a free India.

  • Edited and with an introduction by: Ashok Vajpeyi
  • Publishing House: Speaking Tiger
  • Year of Publishing: 2020

Dissent – expressing opinions at variance with those commonly or officially held – is very much in the air these days. Sure, it has always been there in the Indian context. Dissent is not evil after all.  Seeing through the Gandhian prism, for example, dissent might actually bring out the best in the Government against whom the right to dissent is being exercised.

When you have a whole book on dissention, it is bound to be of more than ordinary interest. Edited and with an introduction by poet, essayist and literary critic, cultural and arts administrator, and a former civil servant Ashok Vajpeyi,‘India Dissents: 3,000 Years of Difference, Doubt and Argument is a politic   book on the question of dissension except for a load of recent voices of opposition.

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