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Call for Submission: The Best Asian Short Stories Anthology, 2018

Kitaab is seeking high quality short stories for The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 anthology to be published in 2018. Well-crafted stories with innovative characters, gripping plots, diverse voices.  Contemporary or historical, realist or fantasy, serious or humorous. Women-centered stories and social justice themes also very welcome. Give us mind-blowing originals.

The best three stories (decided by the editor) will get cash prizes or Amazon vouchers (worth $50 each)! All selected contributors will each receive 2 complimentary copies of the final publication.

The Best Asian Short Stories 2018 anthology will be edited by Dr. Debotri Dhar on behalf of Kitaab, Singapore. Debotri is an academic, essayist, novelist, editor, and columnist. She obtained a Bachelors degree from Delhi University, a Masters with Distinction from Oxford University, Ph.D from Rutgers University, and teaches at the University of Michigan, USA. Debotri’s curated and edited a book on Education and Gender that was published by Bloomsbury Academic (London, New York) in 2014. A curated collection of essays is forthcoming. Her novel The Courtesans of Karim Street (New Delhi, 2015) was praised in a slew of newspapers and shortlisted for a Young Writers’ Award. Her work has been published in journals and anthologies worldwide. In 2017, Debotri founded the Hummingbird Global Writers’ Circle, a travelling literary series to promote books, cultural exchange and global understanding.

Rules and regulations

Submissions between 3000-5000 words should be e-mailed to debotri_kitaab@outlook.com and kitaab.sg@gmail.com. Submissions must be made to both ids to qualify.

Asians of all nationalities living anywhere in the world are eligible. By ‘Asian writers’, we mean all writers who belong to the continent of Asia. Non-Asian authors who have resided in and written extensively about an Asian country will also be considered.

Submissions must be MSWORD (.doc/.docx) attachments, typed double spaced in legible fonts, preferably Times New Roman 12. The submission should also be pasted within the body of the covering mail. The subject line of the email should read as: Submission/TBASS/author’s name. Please include an author bio note of 100 words. Up to two submissions will be considered from each writer.

Previously published work in print or online (including blogs, magazines or other online fora) will not be accepted. Translations are welcome, provided prior permissions are taken by translators from original authors. Simultaneous submissions will be considered. Please intimate us immediately if the story is accepted elsewhere.

Deadline: April 30, 2018

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Excerpt: The Courtesans of Karim Street by Debotri Dhar

The Courtesans of Karim Street by Debotri Dhar, Niyogi Books, 2015, 2018 pp.

Chapter One

Excerpts from a Diary

Delhi, India, 1981

courtesansToday the walled city smells of turmeric. It sits in tiny orange heaps in the courtyard…earthy, pungent, slightly bitter. Last week I went to Khari Baoli, the spice market; I know all about the uses of turmeric. Other spices too, jaiphal and javitri and zaffran, their names rolling off my tongue like ancient Indian chants. Away from Amma’s cat-eyes, Shakuntala steals a pinch of the turmeric, mixes it with milk and smears the paste over her face. In the evening, she will glow like a firefly. She runs after me, her palms a bright, laughing orange, but, as always, she cannot catch me.

Outside, the sun glowers and the sky burns a gaseous blue. Houses in gaudy colours perch one on top of another.This is Shahjahanabad, the old city built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the seventeenth century. Back then the city was surrounded by a wall, I am told, its gates ironclad and fiercely guarded by sentries night and day. Some of the gates still remain, silent and watchful. Kashmiri Gate, Ajmeri Gate, Mori Gate. Ajmeri Gate opens on to Connaught Place, the central business district of New Delhi, with its Georgian architecture modelled after the Royal Crescent of Bath. Amma loves to go to Connaught Place, to get her record player mended and to buy new records. This new city is only a few kilometres away from the old one, but to Amma, another country, another people. When they pile her into the battered Ambassador and take her on a drive along Rajpath, all the way from India Gate and past the red sandstone buildings on Raisina Hill, she is very quiet. On those days, she wears one of her good saris and hangs gold jhumkas from the stretched holes of her earlobes. The bright-red lipstick misses her lips entirely, but when Shakuntala moves in to correct it with the pointy tip of a handkerchief, Amma will have none of it. “Ya Allah, Hey Bhagwan,” she says resolutely, her kohl-lined eyes flashing, and that, as her son says, is that.

I do like New Delhi; it’s well planned and decidedly spiffy. But, truth is, I prefer the untidy, impossible meanderings of the old city. I have walked endlessly through Chandni Chowk, the main street; I have explored the ruins of the Red Fort, meandered through the Jama Masjid, hovered around the old havelis. I have eaten aloo kachori and gajar ka halwa, slurped on kulfi and thandai, and not fallen sick even once. I have bought boxfuls of bangles, stacking them under my bed. Yet I want more of India, more. Last week I saw a sequinned white lehanga in the bazar and knew I had to wear it for an evening at the embassy, but he wasn’t too pleased, not even with the strand of white bela flowers I had tucked in my hair. He did not say anything, but he swirled his glass absently when I spoke to him. I’m afraid I am not a good wife, not for such an important man. It is such a grief I carry inside me, and cannot share with anyone. Except, perhaps, this old city.

Like me, this city is full of buried worlds; it speaks to me, it understands. At night, I see the wind blow out the hanging lamps. In the darkness I lie, amid the tinkle of ankle bells and the perfumed giggles of the courtesans. I walk about, I am restless for hours. I wait for dawn, for new excursions, for another knowing. The lanes before me are narrow, writhing, each one a snare. Where should I go today? What should I do? I don’t know. So many countries I have travelled…but it is here, in this city of shadows, that I will lose myself, and find myself. This sudden knowledge peaks inside me, pulling me out of the lingering ambiguity of last night’s half-dreams, and towards the clear summer sun.

Continue reading


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Debotri Dhar

by Zafar Anjum

Debotri Dhar (on the left) at the launch of her debut novel in New Delhi

Debotri Dhar (on the left) at the launch of her debut novel in New Delhi

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write because I have stories to tell. Stories of love, loss and laughter, of travel, mutating histories and multiple geographies, of emotions and impossible choices. And because I’m in love with language, with the way words can hurt and heal…

courtesansTell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My novel The Courtesans of Karim Street has recently been released. It’s a story set in India and the United States, and straddles the historical past and contemporary present. I wanted to write about courtesans, situating them in a shifting political, cultural and material landscape. The courtesans tend to be frozen in time and in our cultural imagination; on one level, I was therefore trying to recuperate their voice. At the same time, I also wanted to engage in cross-cultural conversations, and dismantle the hierarchies between the West and the rest through my narrative choices. So rather than a historical romance, I decided to do something more creative, hybrid and contemporary. It’s a fast-paced, entertaining story, with lots of romance and a hint of intrigue. The two key protagonists in the novel are Megan and Naina. Megan Adams is an academic, and some of the university classroom scenes are inspired by my day job as an academic in America. (Writing fiction is the night job, so to speak!) Naina is a music teacher who hails from a family of courtesans. These two women are supported by a rich array of other characters from the past and present. The story, ultimately, is of the future – of hope, friendship, and love. Continue reading


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Debotri Dhar joins Kitaab as Interviews Editor

Dhar_picWe are happy to announce that Dr. Debotri Dhar is joining Team Kitaab as Interviews Editor.

Dr. Debotri Dhar holds a Bachelor’s degree from Delhi University, India, a Master’s in Women’s Studies, with distinction, from the University of Oxford, UK, and a Ph.D. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University, USA. She previously taught at Rutgers University, held a research affiliation with Boston University, and currently teaches Transnational Feminisms at the College of Wooster, Ohio. Delightfully fond of both fact and fiction, Debotri juggles academic research and teaching with lively bursts of creative writing. Her first novel was penned at eighteen; and her short stories have since been published in literary magazines, journals and anthologies in the UK, USA, India, Canada and elsewhere. Her recent work of fiction Postcards from Oxford: Stories of Women and Travel (London: Roman Books, 2013) was described by the New York Journal of Books as “elegantly written, with poise and control… Themes of outsider-ship, race, love, and nature bind these stories together. As a body of work, they examine what it means for a 21st century woman to travel.” Her second novel, the Courtesans of Karim Street, is to be published shortly.