By Juanita Kakoty
Sameera baji rushed down the narrow steep stairs of the building, her sandals going ‘clap clap’ with every step she descended, ignoring the pain in her knees that morning when every other day she cried out curses for the anonymous builder who planted these, what she called, ‘high rise stairs.’
She tore down the stairs of the scraggy yellow building calling out to her friend who lived in a small plot of land right across. Ameena baji! Ameena baji! Did you hear?
Ameena baji came out of the two-room humble dwelling into the courtyard and looked up. Thank God her husband had not succumbed to the lucrative temptation of selling their little plot of land to builders who have built stiff ugly buildings all over Shaheen Bagh such that if one wanted to stare at the sky, only a strip of it would peer through the mesh of buildings, or one would have to climb up to a terrace. But from Ameena baji’s house, one had the luxury to stare at a good patch of the sky from the ground – a rectangular piece of blue that soared above the pale yellow and grey buildings towering over her little plot of land.
There she saw Sameera baji at one corner of the second floor landing, leaning against the intricately carved black railing and looking down excitedly. The tenants living on that floor had tied a thick yellow synthetic rope above the railing from which hung a purple bed sheet with huge red and white flowers merging with each other, still moist. Sameera baji was so excited that she did not even push the bed sheet to the side. She stood there looking down at Ameena baji’s courtyard, the moist bed sheet clinging to her back.
What? Ameena baji cried out.
Did you get the white envelope? Sameera baji asked with a strange gleam in her eyes.
Big Daddy’s Chair (2017)
By Abha Iyengar
Big Daddy always sat on the big reclining chair with its long arms opened, his legs splayed across the arms, wide. He was a short man, but big and sturdy, and somehow his thick, muscular, hairy legs across those long arms seemed just right. At least to my thirteen-year-old eyes, for I had seen him reclined in this position, chewing his tobacco and scratching his chest, which, surprisingly, had no hair, ever since I was a child.
I noticed these things, because I have always been observant since my childhood, and this has stood me in good stead and in bad stead, depending on the situation. Like when I noticed how extra low my aunt would bend to light Big Daddy’s fire, exposing her breasts, which, compared to my mother’s non-existent ones, would attract anyone’s attention, and Big Daddy’s eyes were always drawn there. Aunt did little to hide them, and enjoyed his eyes on them. He would bend forward from his reclining position, chuck her under the chin, and smile, his fat lips widening across his protruding teeth, and his legs would twitch on the arms of the chair.
People Of The Sun (2016)
By Meghna Pant
Panchangam threw the coke can on the ground. There was a sound of crunch as the red can hit arid land. Its fizzy liquid trickled out. Sharda leaned forward and stuck her tongue out on it. Maybe she could get a drop? Quench her parched throat? But the brown bubbles had already sizzled away and she was left with her tongue on the ground, dusty and dry.
“If you sit, I’ll make you stand,” Panchangam said. “If you stand, I’ll make you walk. If you walk, I’ll make you run.”
He looked around at the gathering of villagers. They stared back at him blankly. The sun had burnt these villager’s faces to blend in with the land. Their eyes were buried under crow’s feet. Panchangam could see that their thoughts were dried out from feverishness.
The Veil (2016)
By Manu Mahajan
The girl would have been more beautiful had she not been sobbing for breath. She was attractive enough, though. Maybe it was the fear in her eyes that added to her vitality.
He had slept badly as usual. It had been almost sixty years since he had slept more than an hour at a time anyway. The nightmares tired themselves out after a few hours and faded when he awoke, finally and in the dark, heart pounding and eyes wide in fear and rage. He was used to this, so he had waited a few minutes as the images in front of his bloodshot eyes dimmed, as the veil lifted, as the other girl’s screams receded into memory again. His sister. “Prah ji, mainoo bachaa lo!”
Brother, save me.
The wine glass shatters. It’s Tuesday. It is the fifth glass shattering this week. After I Whatsapp Mom to clarify if shattering glasses bring good news or the polar opposite, I sweep the shards into the dust pan and wet a duster so that the minute particles that have escaped the broom will be absorbed by the cloth. I do it immediately for if I forget and if Kriti steps on it later, I would never forgive myself.
The tree wasn’t very tall, nor very wide, at least not as wide as these trees are known to grow. It could have been because of the little space it could draw sunlight and rain from, or because the owners of the house got it regularly pruned, to make it stay away from the walls on either sides of it. But despite the smaller frame, thin, scrawny twigs reached out like an old man’s hand holding out treats for the children. And under this tree, in the shade that it afforded and in the hope that it offered, stood the young girl, suddenly feeling those miles between here and home, and those months between today and then, fold up like a carpet. She could almost hear her mother shouting out to her to come back home before she got swollen up by wasp-bites.
Instead of looking at Facebook at work, perhaps flip open a paperback and have a nice diversion from the computer! You will find your eyes relax as they stop staring at a bright monitor, and your brains calm down from the buzzing of work emails and social media notifications. Forget about the terrible things local politicians say and your friends’ complaints about them.
Read Wild Animus.
Ghosts are Everywhere by Leanne Dunic (2015)
So far, it’s been a lonely journey. A shuttle takes me from Tokashiki port, down the narrow, bouncy road to the pension. We drive by homes with murals of puffers, clown fish, and parrotfish. A breeze puffs through the tall grass in the valley. The golden eyes of a goat watch our vehicle pass. As we ascend, gray sky contrasts the verdant mountainsides and the trees highlight the blue-green cove below.
Man on the Move by RK Biswas (2014)
Earlier in the day Bala had boarded a bus labelled with a placard that said “Chennai to Mahabalipuram” on its flat-topped forehead. He got in at the Koyambedu bus terminus at nine in the morning, a time he would have normally spent waiting for his office bus on any other day, along with a few other men and women like him. He was early and had a choice of seats. Instead, he chose to go right up to the last row, where the bus bounced the most. By the time passengers arrived and filled up the bus it was already a quarter to ten and he had dozed off.
Brandon pours himself a glass, and walks around the apartment. He toes the large reddish brown stain on the carpet that has been there since before you moved in, and writes his initials on the film of dust that covers the TV screen. You haven’t noticed the shabbiness of the apartment until now, when you see it through his eyes. You are scared that he will go into the bathroom and see the old, dirty vinyl that is curling up from a corner, suddenly aware that not everyone at this college has to live like you and Rahul and Radhika. There is nothing you can do in the half-hour before Dr. Drummond arrives. The boy comes back to the kitchen, and smiles at your roommates, who are sitting at the small card table in the kitchen, drinking tea before they head out to the library. Not knowing which part of you you’re supposed to be, you concentrate on the chicken curry instead, sniffing the smoke from the pot, trying to tell if you have gotten the spices right without tasting the food. You are reluctant to check the recipe you downloaded in front of everyone.
On the drive from the temple, back through Kanchanaburi town, Brightways thought of how completely Gai had been excluded. He felt as though he’d already won. And best of all, it had been Gai’s choice to stay at home. He needed the television. The airport takeover was approaching a political event horizon — the King’s birthday — and no one knew what would happen next. In some uncertain way Brightways felt the country was changing. Driving the pickup had made him feel more Thai, but now Thainess itself seemed up for grabs.
Chikna by Vikram Shah (2014)
He had almost forgotten about why he came to the city in the first place, so caught up was he in finding suitable accommodation and vocation. He was finally been able to rent a ramshackle room in a crumbling old two-storied structure (he could not even call it a building) in an area where city looked like town. There was the same jumble of electricity poles and the same red dust that settled over everything. It was only during the monsoon that it began to look like something else, when the base of the structures turned a vicious brown-black, a grimy amalgamation of sludge, sewage, bits of corroded iron from the exposed pipes and god knows what else. He found a job with the courier company, spending his days with a tote bag slung around his shoulders, delivering letters, bills, parcels, invitation cards, and financial reports of companies whose promoters lived and worked in that part of the city that looked and felt like the city.
Ivan went to Bangkok, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Shanghai and elsewhere. He compared present realities with the blog images’ shifting futures: some cities would thrive; others would take a dive. Headlines of acute global problems made Ivan feel both socially impotent and vicariously responsible. Did the bizarre blog mirror or orchestrate mayhem? Countries’ fortunes were on a roller coaster. The postings reminded him how one era’s wretched coolies become another age’s industry captains.
A Mistake by Akhil Sharma (The New Yorker, 2014)
Roadkill by Romesh Gunesekera (The New Yorker, Dec 2013)
The Penguin’s Song by Hassan Daoud (Asymptote, Oct. 2013)
Soulflight by Yoko Tawada (Asymptote, Oct. 2013)
Nawab Sahib by Banaphool (Asymptote, July 2013)
Tonight, in All the Bars by Ramo Nakajima (Asymptote, July 2013)
The Man with the Compound Eyes by Wu Ming-Yi (Asymptote, July 2013)
Me and Him and Chris on Northbound 101 by Lo Kwai Cheung (Asymptote, April 2013)
The First Memorable Poetry Festival of Dhiraj Ganj by Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi (Asymptote, Jan 2013)
Harlequin’s Butterfly by Toh EnJoe (Asymptote, Jan 2013)