Malcolm Carvalho writes poetry and fiction when he is not occupied with his daytime job of a software engineer. His work has been featured in Bengaluru Review, 365 Tomorrows, Narrow Road, Spark, Reading Hour, Literary Yard, Muse India and in Urban Shots, an anthology of stories with urban settings. He has attended the Bangalore Writers Workshop and is a regular at weekly poetry meet-ups at Lahe Lahe in Bengaluru. You can read more of his work at www.grainsofthought.wordpress.com.
Everyone has a place they return to time and again or a thing they simply can’t resist while on vacation. Think beloved mountains or beaches, spas, street food, an 18-hole course or bungee jumping, et cetera. For me, it’s World Heritage Sites*: majestic reminders of a glorious, often mysterious past, scattered all over the globe, to be guided through, explored solo, photographed and cherished.
My search for such sites led me to Lothal — an enigmatic lost port-city, one of the central characters in the mysterious drama of the subcontinent’s origins. Part of a national obsession – the Indus Valley Civilisation: perpetually hiding in plain sight, its broken cities scattered across the north and west. Its script continues undeciphered, its story always tantalisingly beyond reach — confined, until that moment, within the yellowing pages of my schoolboy history books, with their prim descriptions of planned cities, streets meeting at right angles, baked bricks and standardised weights.
At a distance of just 80km from my hotel, Lothal was perfect. Lying forgotten in its ruinous state, Lothal was perfect.
Gujarat’s well-laid roads zipped past as we hurtled towards our destination. Bountiful rains this year, the driver Ratan informed me curtly, as we passed soaked paddy fields that glittered in the morning sun. Unprecedented. Looking out at the gentle, jovial cumulus clouds that glided past, I prayed that they withhold their yield until at least that evening.
Starting her career as a journalist with Malayala Manorma, K.R.Meera went onto become a prolific and acclaimed Malayalam writer of short story collections, novellas, novels and children’s books. Her very first collection of short stories, Ormayude Njarampu (2002) won several regional awards. Her magnum opus and most famous novel, Aarachaar (Hangwoman) was translated into English by J. Devika in 2014. It won the prestigious Odakkuzhal Prize in 2013, the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 2014, the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2015 and was shortlisted for the DSC prize for South Asian literature in 2016. J. Devika once again is Meera’s translator of The Angel’s Beauty Spots. A writer, translator and feminist, she is a teacher and researcher at the Centre of Development Studies in Kerala.
The book comprises three novellas through which the book’s jacket says, “K.R. Meera explores the tragedy, betrayal and violence that arise out of the dark heart of love.” The first novella, The Angel’s Beauty Spots begins with Angela’s murder at the hands of her estranged ex-husband in full gaze of her two young daughters, the older one from him and the younger from a married ex-lover. Driven by a blind love, she had married this man only to discover the evil in him — when he pimps her to his friend in their own house. That their older daughter is privy to this, makes Angela feel that something has died within her.
Sometimes a phone call may bridge the gap between life and death in a snap. When you announce death you don’t greet. So, my elder sister on that Sunday morning call began with “Had your breakfast?” before telling me that Baba was no more.
Baba, our grandfather, was bedridden for last several weeks. Near 80, he had suffered loss of appetite and weight. Death had chosen not to afflict him with a disease, but as they say, old age itself was an ailment, big time.
When my WhatsApp messenger brought the images of Baba on the pyre, we were at a table in an exquisite eatery — my spouse and kids discussing the buffet menu.
Miles apart, I penciled in my itinerary for attending his last rites. I had concluded death was his bliss; and gone about our sacrosanct Sunday routine — shopping, movie, and eating out — mourning on the go, perhaps.
Prathap Kamath’s published works are Ekalavya: a book of poems(2012), Blood Rain and Other Stories (2014) and Tableaux: poems of life and creatures (2017). His poems have been anthologized in The Dance of the Peacock: An Anthology of English Poetry from India (Hidden Brook Press, 2013), and published in journals like Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Chandrabhaga, Muse India, Open Road Review, Modern Literature, Madras Courier, Literary Yard, Tuck Magazine, ONE, The Wagon Magazine etc. He teaches English under the University of Kerala.
The Map of Bihar and Other Stories is Janet Swinney’s first collection of short stories. Her stories have been acknowledged in a number of competitions, including as runner-up in the London Short Story competition, 2014. She has been published in major journals and anthologies across Britain, America and India.
In this collection, Swinney provides a broad view of two cultures — British and Indian — apart from glimpses of others. These stories with their heterogeneity of social and cultural traditions range from those of the poor and the working classes to that of the monied, each with its distinctive speech and outlook, enriching the oeuvre with depth and authenticity. Swinney herself comes from a family of coal miners. She lived among coal mining families in a council housing state in the north east of England, though her father — an unschooled poet who died at the age of 52 — worked as a clerk with the local bus company.
Rati Agnihotri is a bilingual English-Hindi writer, poet and television journalist. She did her BA (Hons) in English Literature from Miranda House, University of Delhi, and MA International Journalism from University of Leeds, UK. She runs the poetry group ‘Moonweavers: Chaand ke Julaahe’ in the city along with other fellow poets. Her book of poem, The Sunset Sonata, was published by the Sahitya Akademi. Her English poems have appeared in Indian Literature, South Asian Ensemble, Nether Magazine, Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag, The Challenge, Muse India, Kritya and others. Her Hindi poems have been published in Pakhee, Retpath, Samvadiya, Yuddhrat Aam Aadmi, Parikatha,among others. She also translates poetry and nonfiction from Hindi to English. Agnihotri’s previous assignments include a fellowship at Radio Deutsche Welle’s south Asian department in Bonn, Germany. She currently works as a correspondent for China’s CNC World TV and based at their office in New Delhi.
Aditya Shankar is an Indian poet, flash fiction author, and translator. His poems, fiction, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in the Moon Park Review, The GhostParachute, Indian Literature, Modern Poetry in Translation, The LittleMagazine, The GhostParachute,Canada Quarterly, Chandrabhanga, Asiawrites,The Four Quarters Magazine, Muse India, Anti HeroinChic, Dissident Voice, Cliterature and elsewhere. His published books of poetry are After Seeing (2006) and Party Poopers (2014). He lives in Bangalore, India.
She read one of her poems with a lot of poise, to an audience sitting in the jungle that played host to the Kumaon Literary Festival, in Uttrakhand. A practising poet, Shelly Bhoil’s first poetry book An Ember From Her Pyre has recently been published. But her interest goes beyond poetry. It extends to Tibetan literature, an area in which she is doing meaningful work. Shelly speaks to Kitaab on her role as a growing Tibetologist and poet.
When did you begin writing poetry?
I remember writing an angry poem on patriarchy when I was in class 8. I dismissed it because it couldn’t be rhymed, which was essential in my then understanding of poetry. It was at St. Bede’s College in Shimla where I studied from 1997-2001 that I began to write poetry vigorously. Back then I mostly wrote in Hindi. My mentor (Sangeeta Saraswat) suggested I drop ‘tukbandi’ (rhyming) and experiment with different styles. Most of my early poems perhaps sound sophomoric or patriotic. By the time I graduated, I was told by my mentor that my verses had reached a certain level of maturity. College was the preparatory ground. A few years ago, I moved to Brazil, I became serious about writing and publishing poetry, this time in English. Poetry has been liberating both during my college life and now in Brazil where sometimes one could feel very isolated!
What led to your interest in Tibetan literature?
This might surprise you, I am a native of Kangra, an exile capital for Tibetans but it was only in 2003 that my interest in Tibet and its issues grew. It was after I attend a talk in Shimla by an exiled Tibetan poet Tenzin Tsundue. Suddenly, McLeodganj transformed from a place of momos and weekend drives to the place of political resistance by the Tibetans. Tsundue’s words still ring in my ears- ‘I belong to a problem called Tibet!’ Having read courses on post-colonialism in Masters, it had immediately occurred to me that our curriculum must concern not just with the post-colonial and but also what is happening to people from the ongoing or living colonies in our apparently ‘postcolonial world’.
Jamyang Norbu’s award-winning novel, The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes, which I had earlier passed on as another detective fiction sequel, now interested me as a political testament. A humble activist-poet that Tsundue is, he sent me a passionate letter, which I still treasure, introducing me to works of other Tibetan writers, after which I began to combine my family visits to Dharamsala with research. When I approached a prominent Tibetologist in Dharamsala for readings, he tested my intention by saying, “aren’t we ‘chinkis’ for you Indians because of our slant eyes and flat noses, and like many western scholars are you too attracted by the romance of our religion!” I think he was satisfied to know that some of the most beautiful and bold faces I know have features like the Tibetans and some of these are in my immediate family, and that there is a surfeit of religion too in my bhajan (devotional songs) and temple loving family. So what I want to point out is that my interest in Tibetan literature is primarily led by the political crisis and nationalism of Tibetans-in-exile.