In this personal essay, Anwesha Basu dwells on the courtyard of her childhood home in which she has fond memories with her brother and how as they grow up those memories become distant.
The first fifteen years of my life were spent at our rented apartment in Amherst Street, Kolkata. The façade of the hundred year old building was almost peeling away, while intertwined telephone and electrical wires crisscrossed across it. It resembled your average Central Calcutta buildings; aging early due to lack of maintenance. Our ground floor apartment in this building was nothing like the 2 bhk flats we see today. Think of an inverted-U shaped apartment, with a corridor running around its borders. The two vertical arms of the inverted-U housed the rooms, whereas the horizontal strip on top was the small ‘uthoon’ (the common Bengali word for courtyard). For both my brother and I, this uthoon was our favourite part of the house. It was the only place from where one could see a bright blue rectangular portion of the sky.
From early childhood to adolescence, the uthoon was the centre of most activities in our family. As babies our red, plastic bathtub with colourful beads on its sides, was carefully placed in that part of the uthoon where sunlight streamed in abundance, Ma acutely aware of the importance of vitamin D in the otherwise damp rooms. From the photographs carefully preserved by my parents, I can gather that the one year old me did have a gala bath time playing with those sun kissed bubbles. The first vivid memory I have of my baby brother was the day I was allowed to push his pram around the uthoon. I have always been able to recall that moment so clearly: his gurgling laughter, Ma’s anxious face and even the strong smell of ‘panch foron’ (Bengali five spices) being fried in mustard oil wafting in through the kitchen. I wonder if it had actually taken place or was it a dream constructed conveniently by my brain from a concoction of myriad related memories.
The Ahmednagar Fort is a fort located in Maharashtra, India.
This fort was used by the British Raj as a prison.
India’s freedom fighters like Jawaharlal Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Patel and nine other members of the Indian National Congress were detained in this fort for almost three years after they passed the Quit India Resolution in 1942.
Dr.Meenakshi Malhotra talks about Witnessing Partition by Tarun K.Saint, which according to her, is a valuable addition to the corpus of Partition literature
In his book ‘’Witnessing Partition: Memory, History, Fiction’’(2020), Tarun K. Saint attempts the ambitious literary enterprise of a sweeping account of the major literary writing generated by the partition of 1947, when two separate countries, India and Pakistan were created. A moment which should have been a joyous celebration of freedom from colonial rule, turned into a tragic moment of violent and acrimonious division.
Today is Saadat Hasan Manto‘s birthday. Considered to be one of South Asia’s finest fiction writers, he is known for his candid and honest style of writing which was often considered provocative. There has been a lot of debate on his style of writing since time immemorial. While one may continue to argue on that but the fact still remains, that he is one of the greatest short story writers till date. Which leads us to the question: Why does Manto arouse antagonism amongst the intelligentsia?. Let’s try to decipher that.
A lot has been happening around the world. With the global pandemic locking us down in our houses, we are fighting new battles everyday. We struggle with day to day activities and wonder if all this is a nightmare which will end once we wake up only to find ourselves staring at the ceilings at night, sleepless and hopeless.
“This virus will leave us entirely newborn people. We will all be different, none of us will ever be the same again. We will have deeper roots, be made of denser soil, and our eyes will have seen things.”
With the rise of the Asian Century, the global community typically shines its spotlight on the economic progress of the region. Much is made of the advancing wealth of nations like India, China, Singapore and Vietnam. But while the economic progress is an easy unifying narrative that could be woven through the different countries, equally important — but much more challenging — is charting the breadth and depth of the Asian literary imagination.
The Best Asian Short Stories 2019 is up to the monumental task. The editor of the anthology, award-winning author Hisham Bustani, highlights the main obstacle to the endeavour when assembling the collection:
“…there is no such thing as a well-defined, self-contained, concrete, unified Asian identity…”
He explains the issue by contrasting it with Europe. While similar to Asia with a geography that contains multiple language and cultures, the region “claims a unique identity and set of ‘European values’ that separate it from others…” This consequently gives a literary landscape in the region a halo of universalism. Whether it is true at heart or not is certainly up for debate, as Bustani rightly points out that some communities like Turkey are isolated from the Eurocentric ideological bloc. Read more
Booker Prize-winning author and activist Arundhati Roy has become one among many prominent figures to criticise the implementation of the amended Citizenship Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens. She joined the ongoing protests at New Delhi’s Jantar Mantar on 19 December, calling the two acts “discriminatory” in a statement given to The Wire. Roy had earlier issued a similar statement on the movement against the law and urged people to ‘stand up’ and raise their voice against the amended policy.
Rosey, formerly Jameel, lived in Dhaka, a city which fumed like a truck in trouble and grew out of an old patch of fertile land. When the first rods seeded its soil, buildings bloomed like concrete flowers and native tigers ran away for dear life, their footprints erased by the tires of metallic animals. The new city with its poor infrastructure, claimed its victims on a regular basis — rivers, animals, earth, air, people. Rosey walked the streets dressed like a paste jewellery store, a shiny horse with a rose in her hair and high heeled hooves. Her hair was an undulating ocean of embers when lit by the sun’s fiery rays. She trotted on the busy roads like a cautious horse as her high heels rang in the pedestrians’ ears — thak, thak, thak.
Some children would run away when they noticed her, some would hide behind their mothers as their mothers would say, “Bhoy er ki ache? Kicchu hobena. (What is there to fear? Nothing will happen.)” She was aware of their dread when they saw her emerge from a crowd of ordinary and ‘acceptable’ people. She knew they thought she would abduct them and turn them into her kind. She also knew how stereotypical the human mind was — how unwholesome, how hostile it was towards anything different. As opposed to the children who feared her kind and those grown-ups who abhorred them, there were still some she knew who wore the garb of humanity, who did not fling the term “Hijra (eunuchs)” as a slur — people like Saleem bhai (brother), Ruma chachi (aunty), the vegetable vendor, Kakoli, and Rubel, the postman.
On that day, the air in the market was thick with flies and the unholy stench of meat, sacrificial animal gut and excrement; the ground was tinged with blood and boric acid. Beggars, Hijras and Bedes (nomadic tribals) populated the streets; some in their usual clothes, some in their best; and some with all of their limbs in proper places, some amputated. It was as though Qurbani Eid ( where animal sacrifices are made to God on a particular date by a particular person) had given them a secret clarion call — a call only those living in the cages of poverty and in the margins of society could decipher — as if it was their turn to sacrifice the meat. Read more
Title: Beyond the Himalayas Journeying through the Silk Route
Text: Goutam Ghose, Michael Haggaig
Photographs: Goutam Ghose
Publisher: Niyogi Books
Date of publication: 2019
Beyond the Himalayas Journeying through the Silk Route is joint collaboration by award-winning Indian filmmaker Gautam Ghose and British writer and producer, Michael Haggiag. Ghose in his introduction has named this venture ‘a film-book’ because it is based on his five-part documentary, a cinematic marvel, also named Beyond The Himalayas.
Made in 1996, his documentary had been screened extensively on Doordarshan (India), Discovery and BBC in the late 1990s. The book, Beyond the Himalayas, commemorates the silver jubilee of the journey he undertook to make the documentary in 1994. Ghose writes in his introduction:“The so-called ‘present’ is a fraction of fractions betweenthe past and the future and hence the present moments are stored in our memory as recent or remote past. …. This book narrates one such vivid memory , a once-in-a-lifetime kind of adventure.”
In his introduction to the book, Ghose reveals how he came across old negatives and slides which featured their journey through the meandering valleys and endless deserts of the fabled Silk Road more than two decades ago in a ‘caravan’ of jeeps. Breath-taking reproductions of these negatives and slides intersperse the narrative which is based on the script of the documentary. Read more