Tag Archives: Zafar Anjum

Love is not a word: The Culture and Politics of Desire

“Why, I wondered, while watching the leaves change colour in the fall, were there very few serious yet engaging books on love, its many moods and multiple meanings?”

From book’s Preface by Debotri Dhar

Featuring essays from prominent writers like Makarand Paranjpe, Alka Pande, Malashri Lal, Rakshanda Jalil, Mehr Farooqi and Zafar Anjum, this collection of essays on love is a much-needed read at this time when the definition of love, is being challenged.

Published by Speaking Tiger, this book gives historical and cultural perspectives on Indian love (swayamvara, arranged marriages, and desi romance); the immortal love of Radha and Krishna that transcends theology; the story of a powerful, sexually desiring and desired courtesan/nagarvadhu. The essays explore various themes like inter-religious love, love-jihad, same-sex love, a Dalit’s journey to finding love in times of dating apps etc.

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Quarantine Poetry Series # 6 – Aik Shaam by Allama Iqbal recited by Zafar Anjum

Dr. Mohammad Iqbal (Allama Iqbal) is one of Urdu’s tallest poets and this poem, “Aik Shaam“, appears in his collection, “Bang-e-Dara“. The sub-heading of the poem says, “Darya-e-Neckar (Heidelberg) ke kinare par” (by the banks of the River Neckar, Heidelberg, Germany). Blogger Fawad Zakariya who visited Heidelberg (where Iqbal studied for a while), “This is a poem of ambience and conjures a lovely atmosphere in which the poet standing at the edge of the river at night experiences a calm and peaceful communion with nature. It is not until the powerful last verse when an inner turmoil and sadness is suddenly hinted at, revealing the heart of the poet at odds with his serene surroundings.”

You can read more about Iqbal’s life and times in Zafar Anjum’s biography of Dr. Iqbal, Iqbal: The Life of a Poet, Philosopher and Politician (Penguin Random House).


Aik Shaam (Darya-e-Neckar (Heidelberg) ke kinare par)

Khamosh hai chandni qamar ki

ShaakheiN haiN khmosh har shajar ki

Waadi ke nawa farosh khamosh

Kohsaar ke sabz posh khamosh

Fitrat behosh ho gai hai

Aaghosh maiN shab ke so gayee hai

Kuch aisa sakoot ka fasooN hai

Neckar ka kharam bhi sakooN hai

TaaroN ka khmosh kaarvaaN hai

Yeh kafila be dara rawaN hai

Khamosh haiN koh-o-dasht-o-darya

Qudrat hai muraqbe maiN goya

Aye dil! tu bhi khmosh ho ja

Aaghosh maiN gham ko lay ke so ja

You can find the Urdu/Roman text of the poem along with English translation HERE.

Farewell: Editor’s Note

Mitali Chakravarty

Kitaab was. Kitaab is and will continue to be.

Meanwhile the corona virus has, perhaps, taught a lesson that mankind all over the world has the same vulnerabilities. Thoughts and ideas need to be nurtured to unite mankind across all borders. Some of us writers have joined together to start a journal which hopes to reach out to mankind across all borders. The journal is in its infancy and needs much nurturing like a baby. It needs all the support possible now.

Kitaab has moved into its mature years. I leave Kitaab in the able hands of a new Editor who will soon be announced by the Founder and Editor- in – Chief, Zafar Anjum.

Before I sign off, I must thank Kitaab for the wonderful new friends it has found me — all the wonderful writers and readers. I must thank Desmond Kon Zhicheng–Mingdé for his unwavering support and friendship. Farah Ghuznavi and Rituparna Mahapatra for guiding me through the rites of passages of Kitaab.org and Zafar Anjum for his trust, continued friendship and the opportunity. Kitaab helped me heal in a lot of ways. I must also thank the editors before me, Sucharita Dutta Asane, Monideepa Sahu and more, who made Kitaab a vibrant platform long before I joined the Kitaab community. Without all these people and each one of you, I could not have led the online journal of Kitaab International for a whole year. Read more

Short Story: The School by Rohan Monteiro

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

“Do you want to play with us?”

He looked at them warily. He was used to being ignored. This was one of those playgrounds for rich kids after all. The ones who came in fancy limousines and who carried their own smartphones and credit cards even before they had sprouted pimples on their faces.

And yet, here they were. Three of them, two boys and a girl, staring at him with frank, appraising eyes. The girl was pretty. She couldn’t have been more than ten years old, exactly his own age, with strawberry curls and dimpled cheeks. The boys were similarly good looking, blond, fine boned with firm jaws. They would grow up to be dashing young men. Arrogant and entitled. Read more

Short Story: Birds of Prey by Abha Iyengar

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

Maharathi Debdutt saw the hennaed foot, dainty, as the passenger stepped off the palanquin. Then the wheel went over it. His deed was done. He did not hear the shrieks that rent the air. From the beautiful princess who was to be wed, she became the hobbling one, the unwanted one.

Ever since Maharathi Debdutt had set eyes on the little one, Rajkumari Heeramoti, she had fascinated him. Her absolute milk white skin, the fragility of her limbs, her big black eyes and tumbling black curls, were a delight. He would watch her at play from a distance. He was a horse rider and a charioteer, and he was not allowed within the palace. Read more

Short Stories: The God Link by Neeraj Chawla

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

The sulphur gas hissed and smoke was issuing every few metres from the porous rocks. The clouds churned in the sky with lightning in ugly shades of grey black. The landscape lay broken and crying from the third cataclysm.

But what scared Rangar the most wasn’t the dangers on the land but what lay ahead.

The road, once upon a time it may have been a road, was broken. It was littered with potholes, rocks lining hot mud pools that steamed and an occasional geyser of magma. His blistered feet hurt, even wrapped in multiple layers of clothes. He looked up at the path he was following up to the mountain which was still spewing smoke and gases into the air.

How did the witch Manap survive here, he thought? Read more

Short Story: The Fog by Amish Raj Mulmi

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

They said the fog was made of the tears of the old soldiers, those who left the town to make long journeys to god-knew-where. The soldiers grieved, those who stayed back said, for the homes they had left behind, and for the memories that were forced to linger. After all, if you left the fog behind you, there was nothing left of your past. You left your memories at the brink of the cliff, and started anew.

The fog covered the town in its entirety. There were days the thumb-shaped hill across the river would disappear in the mist, then there were days when the fog sneaked into bedrooms. It had a peculiar taste which everybody said was the taste of longing—a taste of the tears of the men who had left.

Husbands and wives had learnt to use their other senses than their sight. The children would play with the mist, sometimes twirling it around their fingers as they did with fireflies that ventured into the town, drawing shapes as one would on a fogged-out glass pane. Or they would play hide and seek in the fog, even though everybody warned them not to trust it as they would their dogs, or their cows, or the goats. The fog was not a pet, the women whose faces had wrinkles of sadness said, it had been here since forever, even before they settled in this bowl near the river. Read more

Shweta Taneja’s dystopian story published in Kitaab’s The Best Asian Speculative Fiction a pre-finalist in major French Award 

By Mitali Chakravarty

Shweta Taneja’s story named as pre-finalist in French Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction (2018) is like a rebellious shout to change the world with its threat of futuristic dark stories. Many award-winning and well-known writers like Kiran Manral, Vrinda Baliga, Rochelle Potkar, Park- Chan Soon, Tunku Halim and Eldar Sattarov, have contributed to the anthology. The stories have covered different areas of the genre called speculative which the editor, Rajat Chaudhuri, an established voice in this field, calls, “our adorable, shape-shifting, slippery creature”. 

Zafar Anjum, the series editor of the Best Asian series and publisher, explained how the Speculative fiction anthology  came about and the editor was chosen: “It was an idea suggested by one of our authors, Anuradha Kumar, and when we got in touch with Rajat to work on an anthology of speculative fiction, he readily agreed. Rajat had done reviews for us before and we always admired his writing, so it was a natural choice.”

Chaudhuri picked Shweta Taneja’s story, ‘The Daughter That Bleeds’, for the Editor’s Choice Award. And now, it has been picked as a pre-finalist in the prestigious French Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. This French award was first given in 1974 for science fiction and later stretched to the emerging genre of speculative. Winners include Ursula Le Guin (2008), Ken Liu (2016) and Carolyn Ives Gilman (2019). The French Ambassador to India, Emmanuel Lenain, has tweeted about this, tagging Kitaab and Chaudhuri.

IMG_2477

Grand Prix De L'Imaginare

Chaudhuri has remarked that Taneja’s story fits into Margaret Atwood’s formulation of this genre. In his introduction he tells us, “Atwood’s test for the speculative is on the touchstone of possibility … Marking a clear break from some of the improbabilities of science fiction, her formulation stresses on this aspect of possibility as the sine qua non of the speculative.” Shweta’s story is “about a market for fertile women who have become rare in a post-apocalyptic India”.  Read more

Short Story: The Collision of Parallels by Vrinda Baliga

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

Tia’s eyes fluttered open. She looked about herself— blinking at the bright blue sky. Where was she?

A town square of some sort. The landscaped roundabout at the centre had a marble fountain that spouted water energetically in the air, and wrought iron benches arranged just out of spraying range, but there was nobody around. There were shops all around, their awnings fluttering gently. An ice-cream shop, a café, a tattoo studio, a garments shop, a salon and spa, a gym … all empty and shuttered.

Even as she took it all in, she felt a growing sense of familiarity. The other question in her mind—where had she been all this time?—began to fade. She had a vague sense of a long incarceration, but where, by whom, and for what, evinced no ready recall in her consciousness. She looked down at herself. Did she imagine it, or had the pale grey of her incarceration changed before her very eyes to the red top and embroidered denim cut-offs that were familiar and comforting so that she knew immediately that they had always been hers? Had that bracelet on her wrist with those particular charms, the red polish on her nails, the auburn highlights in her hair and the sequined heels on her feet appeared just now, or had they always been there? With every passing moment it was getting harder to know. Or to care. Read more

Short Story: The Hunt by Zubier Abdullah

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

When she walked into the room, every eye in that place rested on her, as though she was a magnet and we were all iron filings.

Sarika was her name—I found that out later, after my eyes had examined every inch of her body and her face from where I was sitting. A mad wave of desire swept over me and I felt as though I was possessed. Have you ever felt like that? I hope not. It was something which had no hint of romance in it. I had to have her. The last vestiges of propriety and polite behaviour that had been long back instilled into me were cast off, like winter clothes at the beach.

The club was noisy, filled with nameless faceless people, gyrating in time to the dull droning of one hip hop song after another. I walked over to her, drink in hand, a salacious smile on my lips. I looked around to make sure that she was alone. Read more

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