Journeys

Explore by taking a journey through creative media!

Journey by Image

Journey by Text

  • Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, Pakistan

    Love brought me to writing. I should explain. My parents made an interfaith marriage in an intolerant country, and one of its side effects was that they had no social life. We ventured out rarely, and in the time we weren’t running wild outside we had a house full of books to entertain ourselves with. I say entertain with intent; to me that is still literature’s highest calling.

  • Gathering

    My uncle had a strange habit of gathering people.
    Not less than 25 he would take on an outing.
     
    Like: Aunty Perpetual with her breast cut
    who would lift her t-shirt every time to show us her story,
    Avo who would stand and take a piss like a giraffe,
    Cousin Milton who would talk about everyone’s pants and panties,
    Uncle Kaitaan who divorced his wife just before he turned blind
  • The Idea of Love

    (an episode from the Sejarah Melayu – the Malay History)

    And then several horses and cows and goats were slaughtered. Rice crusts collected in a mound. Water for the ceremony amounted to an ocean upon which the heads of buffaloes appeared like islands. After 40 days and 40 nights, bath water was brought in a procession abounding in joy and noise in a vessel decked with jewels. Then Seri Teri Buana and his wife Princess Uwan Sundari walked seven times around the raised throne. Then they were bathed on their raised thrones by Bat. Following the bath they covered their bodies with the finest threads, the threads of the kingdom; and sat as man and wife on a throne decked with jewels…

  • The City of Seoul

    Seoul, the capital of the land of Morning Calm, Korea, is the largest metropolis of South Korea. She is the home to over half of South Koreans along with 632,000 international residents. Situated on the Han River, her history stretches back more than 2,000 years when it was founded by Baekje in the Three Kingdoms era around 18 BC. With urbanization of the country people gathered to Seoul and they built their home even on the mountain. Those villages were called Daldongne, meaning Moon Village. Every government built the apartment to solve the residence problems. The elegant, tile-roofed traditional houses were vanished quickly to make the home to the people who rushed into the city. Now the scenery of the city has changed into the apartment town.

    Series: 
  • Dyads

    Your imperfections play up my perfectness. It is a superb
    feeling. Short-lived? How long does hooch last?

    Everyone I love faces the might of force majeure.
    Do I harken them due to my heart?

    If folks express their joy, let it not illude you. In these
    flashes reside myriad half-truths and some falsehoods.

    Your inadequacies boost me to believe in the invincibility 
    of my bluster: surety from frostbites in this slalom.

    Originally appears in Squawk Back, issue 159 July 6 2016

  • Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, Kyrgyzstan

    I grew up in the Soviet Union. In one of the “southern” Central Asian parts, in the most wildly beautiful country, the Kyrgyz Republic, among a people with an ancient, not to say archaic life history/biography, in the family of a writer and an actress and film-director - both pure, naïve, extremely talented and genuinely free in their minds, people formed at the time into a family of poor intelligentsia. These three factors formed me ideologically and let me stay free…  Three things – the Soviet Union, my parents, my country’s beauty and heritage (sorry for this banal truth) – which I couldn’t depend on, or choose, were mingled metaphysically and shaped my life …

    And it’s interesting to think about now, thirty years later, with more mature and lucid (I hope) mind…

  • آشنای دیروز...

    ای آشنای دیروز
    در جاده های امروز
    گم کرده ام ترا من
    با یک دلی پر از سوز
    قدم،قدم زنان من
    هر سو روم حیران من
    آخر کجای راهی؟
    بده به من پناهی!
    بمان،بمان کنارم
    بخوان،بخوان تو یارم
    از نغمه های شیرین
    از رویاهای رنگین
    از ماه و از ستاره
    بگو،به من دوباره!
    که این آخر راه نیست
    دلت از من جدا نیست
    بگو در دنیای ما
    اصلآ فاصله ها نیست!

  • Parepidemos

    I

    Something familiar
    when you walk into town:
    kids chase a rooster.
    drying clothes flap in the sun,
    old men play chess in the square.
    They stare at first,
    but later laugh with you
    at the children’s antics,
    at your funny accent.

    You settle,
    never fully one of them
    but woven like a new color of wool
    into a hand-crafted kilim.

    II

    Nomads know what essentials are.
    They wouldn’t bring the kitchen sink
    even if they had one.
    Life is hard, whittled down
    to its main ingredients.

    It is so much easier to build a house
    and fill it with packing peanuts.

    III

  • Stone Mummy

    She is the remains
                                        of sails
    fought over by cats
    from the tattered ends of tribes.
    Her bleak mast
    dreams of pirates
    that will force out her downfall
    with their gold molars.

    You can't after now
    surprise your solitude with stupor of a knight
    or...
    with what calms the crumbling of earth and heaven
    under your feet.
    Over the years
    you have dug in a valley to bury moons and livers
    because you are mere murk
    or a stone mummy.

  • Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, India

    Everything I write is nourished by my childhood years. I have a clear memory of the beginning of my ability to remember when I was three plus a few months. My father who had joined India’s freedom struggle was to become the Chief Minister of the small Union Territory of Coorg (now Kodagu). I climbed the steps to the house which was to be his official residence, nervously holding on to the edge of my mother’s sari. I was awestruck by the electric lights in the house, and terrified of the fluttering moths thicketed around them. In our village home that was only thirty miles away, we were using oil lamps then, and for the next decade and a half. The newness of the rural town that I had just entered must have awakened the sensibilities of being a person.

  • Pathways

    It was in a remote village in the Kyrgyz Pamir Mountains. I remember vividly the beauty of that night. It was a beautiful night with a bright and generous moon. The firmament of stars suspended so low. In the bright light of the moon the mountains were mighty, gorgeous and friendly. The night was silent. And the whole world seemed to be living in harmony and justice. No TV, no Internet, not even a telephone line in that house—so there no apocalyptic and other discomfiting news from this crazy world. The illusion would be complete if not for a bitter sadness and mourning for my mother who left this world recently—the world to which the beautiful night belonged. It was for me the greatest injustice.

  • An Anchored Nation

    I sit here, listening to an orchestra.

    They are playing the Banjos of ingenuity,

    and far from where I am, is a symposium

    of wise men, sitting on the struggle
    of the common American
    suppressed,

    oppressed but free.


    Of what was meant to be a great nation,

    I see fragments of constant befuddlement.

    And now, in the amber air,

    as the dust settles down on the yellow pages,

    word has it, the translation from paper to reality

  • Literary Arts in Sri Lanka

    For the past ten years I have led a double life, for not only am I a writer I am also a publisher of English language books. Sri Lanka has two official languages: Sinhala and Tamil with English as the link language. Each language enjoys a parallel existence, rarely meeting or intersecting. The three languages have their own set of publishers and publications catering to their own group of readers carved out of a population of twenty odd million. English writing and publishing in Sri Lanka is the smallest segment and yet today it is the window to the larger world and reflects a vibrant and promising future. I like to think that the publishing house I co-founded was instrumental in this.

  • Park Monceau

    In the park Monceau birds are singing. Endlessly. In the park Monceau …. The
    The cut the grass in the park Monceau. Winters and springs along the cut.
    In the park Monceau children play. They speak French. They laugh in park Monceau. And birds are happy as well.
    There are few gardeners. Everyone has a beautiful loan. Everyone has a beautiful wife.
    They are so gallant gentlemen.
    Park Monceau is so nice in the mornings. The Sun is always there. The Sun loves Pak Monceau. Grdeners and Sun – are true friends of Park Monceau.
    …Daytime come there children and Sun. and at night – birds and a man with tired eyes. He lives there. He sleeps on the bench. It is a green bench. Everything is green in Park Monceau. And eyes of this man are green.

  • Waiting

    If you come in the fall
    I will paint on a wall,
    A love cottage and a moon_
    I am waiting you come soon.
    I will wait all the year,
    Summer, spring, fall, winter_
    I will count day by day;
    Hours, minutes to pass away.
    I am waiting to see you
    Life is heaven believe so;
    Since, God has written your name_
    In my heart, don’t you know?
    I am waiting in my room,
    Just once knock and come soon!

  • Stranger Citizens

    They vanished

    like our palm trees.

    Ancient open windows

    and old dreams.

    The city forgot their names

    while they held its memory

    in their soul

    like a candle

    between prison bars.

  • Monsters Aren't Polite

    She looks at me with those pleading eyes. I am driving, so I keep my eyes fixated ahead as we drive past the Seef flyover we’ve driven over a thousand times before.
         I don’t know where I’m heading, but I know how this will play out.
         She says, “You don’t have anything to say to that?”
         I had stopped listening at some point. Something was said about love and marriage and life and family and the many years we’d been together.
         She looks at me and waits for an answer. I stay silent and keep on driving. My mind is struggling to come up with a coherent response and all I want right now is for us to shut up and have sex in the back of the car.
         “Say something!” she snaps, now her voice quivering.

  • Disquisition

    Searchlights within reveal the roost of my still

    small voice is on a glacis: nothing unusual, I’m

    getting on in years. Swizzle sticks are my way

    of keeping track in a bar. Nip between us glaces

    your eye, guttatim you defreeze. There is unrest

    between faultlines and fruition: believe me, I’ve

    detonated many. Yours is a phase. You too will

    curtsy. This is the charter of growing up. 


    Originally appears in Postcolonial Text, Vol 11, No 2 (2016)

  • Performance is all

    On reading days
               the poet navigates her work without memory
               or – more accurately – a memory with no true North
               or as a hiker without a map and a big thirst.

    On days when the phone is dead
               the poet declaims to the blind screen as if
               by an act of will she can coax a flicker
               of certainly from it.

    On weekends
               it is time for remembrances:
               of the first time of another first time          every new time
                the printed paper is a tuning fork
                the faces telling her which way the wind will blow.

  • Contour

    When asked to reflect on his homeland of Pakistan, a country forever transformed by a history of partition and postcolonialism, Ahmad Ibrahim Suphi stated that “the people of the country are so divided nowadays it is hard to think of what to write.” Yet in the midst of great suffering, he sees people stepping up to look out for each other in ways he’s never seen before. A rose among the thorns. This is his reflection:

  • Poem in a Classical Style

    (from a Malay Pantun)

    The flying dove high above,
    Perches a while on a dead tree;
    Strike the water in a pail,

    Tags: 
  • Hands

    My hands are two little antennas
    which receive remote waves
    distill and disseminate messages
    generated and circulated by the brain.

    My heart pounds and heaves
    releases blood to brain and body
    like a raja of the east
    the brain commands.

    And like the raja’s subjugated subjects
    the body concedes
    and the hands execute
    though oft times bruised they are.

    My heart’s the maker
    a legislature
    formulating the fundamentals
    hoping for honest obeisance.

    My mind’s the decipher
    a judiciary
    making analytic and indifferent decisions
    on fair and the fallacious.

  • Thumbprints

    The three boys jumped over the boarding school wall in the suede of night. They had scored 3 out of 20 marks and were horse-whipped 17 times. The teacher promised a similar punishment the next day too.

    The river couldn’t have killed them. Its flow was narrow. Did the fall from the wall do it? Or something else that had failed them?

    Their bodies showed similar bruises and stamps of lashes.

    In my five-year-old daughter’s school, the teacher meets me to complain about her handwriting. ‘It is not cursive enough,’ she says, ‘The d’s bend forward, the e’s look like l’s, p’s like h’s, g’s like nines.’

     

    She nods in disapproval.

     

    the way pink orchids blossom

    into periwinkles

  • Slave

     

    After a war

    I was captured

    with the chains

    like my braid

     

    I came from the North

    on a horseback

    for booty

     

    on the slave market

    my sealed lips

    never opened

     

    with the voice of a merchant

    my body scattered into

    hands of strangers

     

    I waited so that my owner

    unchains me

    into a desolate dream

     

    his eyes went down

    to see me clearly

    in the veil

    Tags: 
  • Rustling Winds

    Excerpts from Bare Soul, a collection of poetry

    RUSTLING WINDS 

     You gave me nothing;

    I had nothing to take care of,

     

    nothing to worry about;

    you set me free from everything.

     

    You took everything away from me,

    and became my prisoner for the lifetime. 

     

    RUSTLING WINDS 

    II 

     

    Every time when it has been plundered

    my wealth has become double;

     

    take my treasures away once again

     if needed,

     

    without any disguise

     great masters! 

     

    RUSTLING WINDS

    III

     

    You want me to free you from guilt,

    but I’m neither the lock, nor the key;

    both are in your hands my friend,

  • Do You Look Like Your Name?

    What's in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet;
    That what Juliet – or actually Shakespeare, using Juliet’s voice— said about names. The Arab poet, Joseph Harb, said something similar: "Our names, how did our families choose them for us, what did they think of us. Names are words. What's in words. Our eyes are our names. How they look are our names". But there is also an Arabic adage that says that everyone resembles his or her name.

  • Emak ingin naik haji

    Zein mengenali kerinduan itu.

    Kerinduan yang mengental di mata Emak setiap musim haji tiba.

                     Suara ban mobil mendecit-decit.
                     Orang-orang memekik. Sementara berpasang mata seakan ditarik pada satu titik. Sesosok tubuh yang terkapar di trotoar. Mengejang menahan sakit, sebelah tangannya berusaha keras tetap terkepal. Genangan air hujan yang menadah kepalanya berangsur merah saat tangan lelaki itu akhirnya terkulai.
                      Bumi berhenti bernapas.
                      Hanya sesaat sebelum kembali riuh. Teriakan. Jeritan klakson. Titik-titik air yang meluncur serentak seperti derap tapak tentara.
                       Satu gulungan koran pelan-pelan diseret angin.

    *****

  •  

    從無的世界醒來

    我可能並不知道

    我已經死過

     

    蛆在我體內盤成雙螺旋

    賦予原子意志

    且噬盡生時記憶--

      

    我乃開始另一程的進化

    一如我曾行走在生的龐大隊伍裡

    如今 我也曾在死

    的無法形容

    但似曾相識的行列裡

    繼續知識之外的航程--

     

    是的

    你不能只以生的知識待我

    因為你對無  一無所知

     

    是的,無比影子更輕

    比概念更硬  比光更離奇

    比死  生  更簡易樸素

     

    但我在行列裡感受你的炯炯虛無

    你不在的遺感化成莫名召喚

     

    終於使我再次

    與無  錯身而過

     

    懊惱中又化身情慾的嬰兒……

                                 

                                                     

    nothingness

    Ko Hua Chen

    (Translated by Simon Patton

     

    waking from a world of nothingness

    it could be that I don't even know

    that I'm already dead

     

  • A Sparrow Rubbed by a Flute (عصفور مدعوك بالناي)

    It comes to me

    That I may see what is unseen
    In the pleasure of speech,
    In the night step
    And in the crawling of roses on myrtle.

    It comes to me
    That I may cross the sea of experience
    To the sea of language,
    Since the world is transforming the obsession
    Into a song and the secret into a color.
    This is my soul, approaching
    The stranger’s fantasies,
    Going far in abstracting the place
    Going ahead in taming the time,
    Passing with no hope of rescue
    From the kings of drowning.

  • Anytime is Tea Time

     

    When I was a child and travelled around the island with my parents, I would see a sign board dotted along the roads with the slogan: Anytime is Tea time put up by the Ceylon Tourist Board. Invariably every journey would include a stop for tea at a wayside tea shop. That is a tradition that remains with us still and whenever we travel between cities and towns, a tea break has become essential. It is a chance, to stretch your legs, have a picnic, admire the scenery, take a break from driving along treacherous Sri Lankan roads, and an opportunity to chat with your fellow travellers and share your travel tips.

  • Ghachar Ghochar

    (Excerpts from the novel Ghachar Ghochar)

    I didn’t put up a fight when the family began efforts to get me married. None of my attempts at romance had got anywhere. It was only Chitra with whom I’d got as far as having long conversations, and that too was over. My sister Malati’s marriage had ended badly, making Amma more circumspect when it was my turn. ‘Let’s not get entangled with rich people,’ she said, and so when we received word about the daughter of a college lecturer in Hyderabad, she was inclined to pursue the matter. The alliance was brought to us by a friend of the family named Sripati.

  • Kochi and Consciousness

    I am writing from Varkala, a coastal town by the Arabian Sea, located in India's south-western state of Kerala. Last weekend I was in Kochi, Kerala's biggest city, where I had an opportunity to check out the second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Before writing about the Biennale, it is necessary to reflect on what led me there because until a month ago, I had no idea about the journey that lay ahead.

  • From Suggested Signs

    Pollution

    The prostitute, at the front of the street
    Is gazing at me:
    The disastrous face…
    The blue clouds…

    The prostitute, at the front of the street, approaches
    (While I depart-receding-through the stifling smoke of vehicles, into a face of a woman,
    who didn’t come…).

     

    Cinema

    On a signboard, a naked woman
    Among soldiers
    Among crowds
    Among thieves
    ………
    On a signboard
    A woman
    Among naked crowds

     

     

    Childhood

    In the ancient childhood
    when you were free
    It wasn't freedom
    But was rain:

    The lonely step which drowned in the mud
    Remained immobile
    Exposed to the ages.

  • Biografia Militaria in Eight Movements

     When a man begets war and doesn't know

    what to do with it, should he bathe it? Should he

    clothe it? Should he feed it? Should he comb its

    hair and send it with its siblings to school?

    Should he hire a nanny to contain it?

    Should he use his thumb and index to pinch its nostrils

     to stop bleeding? It's an odd thing that requires

    zillions of cigarettes and better coffee.

     

    I hid my panic in my back pocket and got

    inside the military UAZ. From the back seat I could

    see nothing ahead but the driver's dusty beret. I looked

    past the side window glass at the scorched palm tree fields. At madness

    cosmic carpet between river Jasim and Basra. At death breeding

  • The Locked Garden

    My grandmother is what is known as a colorful woman. There are many elements that contribute to her colorfulness: black shawls draped over her body like witches’ capes; great fans with lace trims, sparkly polish decorating her sharp long nails; an oversized brass ring adorning her fourth finger; and a necklace of pearls from the Sea of Casablanca that accentuate the gleam in her eye, the gleam of one who can see into the future.

    Savta’s name is Sarah, a simple and down-to-earth name that hardly befits her mischievous nature. The name of her twin sister who died, Zahara, suits her much better.

    The walls in our home are mostly bare, but Zahara’s photo hangs in the hallway, and her eyes follow anyone who passes by.

  • “SHIKWA NA SHIKAYAT HEI” (No Protest NO Whine)

    Urdu Drama Serial:-

    Episode# 1
    (Translation)

    Scene No. 01

    Location: Jungle
    Characters: Akbar, Nazo
    Time: Night.

    Screenplay:

    The eerie ambience owes to the thunder storm and heavy rain; the frame opens with a crane shot focusing on a bunch of dense grown trees. Two character silhouettes, Nazo and Akbar. grow out of the darkness in the moonlight from a distance through a top shot. As they approach the camera, the crane dismounts and the characters. maintaining a distance from each other, walk out of the frame. Nazo leads in a trance with a zombie-like feel to her, wherea, Akbar’s face bears no expression.

    The thunder rumbles.

    Cut

    Scene No. 02

  • Goenawan Mohamad: Morning Star

     

    Morning star: like a signal
    To stop. In the hard air words venture, through night,
    In sleep: somnambulists plan, on the wings of a cloud, bare,
    Towards a cape

    That sometimes disappears. Perhaps
    There’s a process, towards a black hole,
    Where desire – and all that is remembered – collects
    Like the carrion of birds

    Where the precipice may no longer exist.
    Who designed it? What delivered it?
    From where? From us? There’s a cove that’s been set apart
    And a horizon that’s been lost, perhaps.

    While you and I, sit, speak,
    In a broad room.
    And I ask you: summon the morning star,
    Stop its talk. Give it a sign!

  • Rang sem rangi tawa

    When your view is so fulfilling,

    the shoulder blades of kanchenzeunga swimming between your prayers

    and the depth of my palms hugging teesta

    will not stop for conceitedness.

     

    Rang sem rangi tawa

     

    Black ribbons twisted into fine braids and,

    from the rubber bands,

    the sprouting water fall falling just above the waist

    will not pause for words like these.

     

    On Sunday,

    When I went to the grave,

    I picked up a black shovel

    to dig out all of the vision you were starving for,

    but I still had a handful yet.

     

    In March,

    Sikkim was so glorious

    that its footsteps already knew to sashay with the flags.

     

    So I apologize,

  • A Case of You-Joni Mitchell

    Conversations mostly churn

    Then turn to mist here.

    When my name calls, know that I will look only after you forget.

    Because stars are debating about

    their space.

    Can you hear my stars blushing away in the dark?

     

    When your lips stop quivering like guitar strings,

    you’ll hear the guitar strings.

    Oh! and they’ll sing you songs, my

    verses could never tell you.

     

    I know that the skies are starving tonight,

    and although it’s dark and weary,

    it’s watchful for insomniacs.

    But the blankets are over my eyes,

    and look :

     

    my area is so airy,
    My area is so away.

    at night, it often caresses my forehead so gently.

    In dreams, I could

  • Fighting, Fighting

    Who knows that what is sad?
    What is doleful and so flat?
    Each one seen it, each heart suffered
    Even flowers of desert, became hopeless of that.
    Fighting, Fighting! You are for what?
    Put the wrinkle on the foreheads; why you make humans sad?
    What is your aim in whole life?
    When you destroy a life, don’t you cry for that?
    Would you please say that; why are you so cruel?
    Why you always break hearts,
    Is it your rule?
    Fighting, Fighting! What do you earn?
    By seeing your immoderate and credit less, what love birds will learn?
    What is in you, are you heartless?
    When you run dews, call it kindness?
    Why you here but seem there?
    Why when you came near, all existence have fear?

  • Eastern Poem

     

    Such happiness
    To see the sun set on the steppe!
    When I feel its calm light
    I forget my sorrow.

    To breathe such air,
    To be human is enough!
    Oh…
    After that, let God take his brush
    And write that I’m dying.

    Such truth
    To hear a branch breaking somewhere!

    —translated from the Mongolian by the author and Christopher Merrill

    Tags: 
  • Psyche of a Poet In Exile

     

    Here I want to share a secret of mine! When I write, I pretend to be in India.

    As a writer, although I'm prepared to write anywhere, I prefer to write in a quiet corner of my home, away from all distractions. And when I return home to write, I often like to unite myself with the memories of India to condition my mind; India, where my poet was born, and I wrote my very first poem in Hindi at the age of fourteen.

    Tags: 
  • Ruminations along the Silk Route

    On the map of India, my hometown Bangalore sits in the southern projection of the Indian peninsula, equidistant from the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, at the edge of the Deccan Plateau. We are landlocked, far from the sea, sailing ships and ports of adventure. Even the monsoon winds, which helped the Egyptian pilot Hippalus discover the direct sea route to south India from the Red Sea over the Indian Ocean two thousand years ago, thus bringing a windfall to traders in Rome and India, are spent by the time they reach us, their largesse given to the coast – we are almost in the rain shadow. But then, my city is famous for its silks.

    Series: 
  • Li Bing

    Sophie woke up very early and immediately felt the familiar void.  In her heart was a hole, and surrounding the hole were fresh flowers.  Still half-asleep beside her, Karl felt her stirring and put out a hand and gently rubbed her waist and abdomen.  When that was over she quietly stared at him for a while, and somehow the tears came.

    They almost had a row last night, but he was the kind who would remember nothing after a night’s sleep.  Now he gave her a smile on his half-waking face.  He seemed to remember that today was Saturday, and that they were going to have something nice at home.

  • Traders, Songs, Traditions

    ".عنقريزي بوتيله عساه يموت الليلة"

    Kuwaitis did not discover or extract oil. At the time of its discovery, a torrent of experts was imported from the West to deal with this new black gold. However, the Kuwaiti society was rather a closed one. Although the sight of traders and such from neighboring countries was familiar, Kuwaitis were not used to Westerners. When Kuwaitis began seeing those blond, blue-eyed strangers, a rhyme was created. Children would follow a Westerner, and chant: “Englishman with a hat, may he perish tonight!”

  • Delhi : The Palimpsest City

    Beloved of poets, emperors and merchants

    I am the palimpsest city

    ascending from my ashes as the phoenix

     

    Indraprashtha and New Delhi

    on the same bank of the Yamuna

    just three millennia apart

     

    umpteen monuments, mosques and tombs

    remnants of the ancient cities,

    some still breathing, some crumbling into dust

     

    the Pandavas founded me, legend says

    then long centuries of obsolescence

    Tomars brought me into prominence, founding Lal Kot,

     

    Prithviraj rebuilt me into Qila Rai Pithora

    Illtutmish turned me into Qutub

    my first empress Razia ruled me

     

    with her feminine charm

    but how could a woman rule in a man's world?

  • Between the Lines Reflection

    As the co-teacher for the Between the Lines: Silk Routes Program held during the summer of 2016, I had the chance of meeting creative and talented youth from seven different countries. The essence of the Silk Routes program, for me was to bring together young students from some of the Silk Route countries to America and teach them the craft of creative writing in a residential workshop, together with American students. While during the day, they were engaged in structured lessons, the evenings had them experience different aspects of the literary world, be it listening to award winning writers, to engaging in translation, to learning the basics of how to make a physical book.

  • Religion and Writing

    My World, My Writing
    By Binayak Banerjee (India)

    Poetry, to me, is a continuous struggle to bridge the sense of materialistic cosmopolitan presence with the realm of emotional privacy. Now, this privacy must be balanced by an interest in the people around me. Otherwise, a state of anxiety might creep in. And we all know that in a state of anxiety, we can’t stand closeness and want to attenuate this feeling by opening up and stripping away bodily impediments so that the anxiety can be relieved in some way. But why do we try to get rid of it? Is it because anxiety tries to get rid of everything materialistic? Across this bridge between anxiety and material existence, we are likely to arrive at a spiritual emptiness.

  • Bus Graveyard

    Still you can see the blue under the nose
    below Dia de los Muertos eye cavities,
    glassy shine long splintered, littering
    the dressing room to the afterlife
    like the left-behind glitter
    of a Bollywood star.
    Though piled as if in a mass grave
    the huddled shells seem content to lie close
    to those alongside whom they served,
    blaring and jostling along the same potholed roads,
    enduring the same smears
    of left-behind bubble-gum,
    the indelicacies spewed
    when the ride was rough.
    Stripped now of muscle, stripped
    of the power and strain of constant movement
    they are still, left
    to rust in peace.

  • A SAARC Anthem

    Fostering regional consciousness needs mammoth efforts. South Asia has a formal mechanism of cooperation in place among its member countries through the vibrant organization of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). I visited foreign ministries and Foreign Service institutes of South Asian countries in 2004-2005. Those days the idea of deeper interaction among the South Asians always brought back memories of my days spent in Jawaharlal Nehru and Delhi Universities. I cherished the company of students from the South Asian countries who enriched my academic life in many ways.

  • Writing as Recovery

    Death, My Funny Valentine
    By Yeow Kai Chai (Singapore)

    Picture this. A blonde dude decked out in shimmering mail sitting on a stone outcrop. He’s playing a game of chess. His sparring partner? A tall, lean aesthete, face powdered white, and body suited with a Yohji Yamamoto-esque combo of black cape and kaftan.
    The backdrop is a calm sea. Above, billowing tufts of clouds back-lit by a glint of sun. This scene, of course, is taken from Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 classic The Seventh Seal; the chain mail guy is a mediaeval knight (Max von Sydow) and his opponent, The Grim Reaper (Bengt Ekerot).

  • Literary Arts in India 2

    In that older tradition, poets had the patronage of kings and queens. They belonged, sometimes, to a performative and oral tradition that lived within families, castes and communities – such as the traditional theatre or dance forms of Kathakali, Yakshagana or Ramkatha – all of which used poetry in addition to dance or theatrical elements of performance. The saint-poets of India, Mirabai, Kabir, Tukaram or, even poets of the mid-20th century such as Subramania Bharati or the contemporary Telugu poet Gadar, often left their homes and families, marrying themselves to their beloved gods or causes.

  • When Things Fall Apart

                                                                               Things fall apart
                                                                                   At a twinkle,
                                                                                     In a night_
                                                                             When others left you;
                                                                          And you remain at one side.
                                                                                  Something vanishes,
                                                                               When you get depressed

  • Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, Afghanistan

    I am a girl from  a country in the heart of Asia. My family named me Farkhonda, which means beatific and auspicious. I am the oldest child; 12 years ago I was sent to school to learn to read and write. I read books and step by step started to practice writing.  I chose to write stories. Their narrative style was one of the reasons behind my interest in fiction: I enjoyed writing about different characters and what I imagined about them. After getting some of them published in a few Afghani magazines, I realized that critics and readers alike believe my fiction mostly focuses on women. Maybe this is natural, since I am a woman living in a country that has experienced decades of war and setbacks for women. 

  • A Strand of Hair

    (a novel in progress)

    Fifty
    Light floods me

    Zero
    I drown in darkness

    Fifty… Zero… Fifty…

    Sixty fifties and zeroes a second playing with her eyes, and in the end she sees only light. There is nothing strange about this. Every neon light in the world works this way: a fifty kilohertz frequency blinking on and off and leaving our eyes with the illusion of unbroken illumination. In fact, it’s alternations of light and dark which, were they clear to the naked eye, would send a girl ravig mad in half an hour, but unseen as they are, they act more like dripping water cutting slowly and steadily into a rock. It just needs time.

  • Poems from The Circle of Sundial

    Theft

    When he woke up from his dream
    He stood by the window;
    The war was gazing at him

    When he returned from his sadness
    ……………
    ……………
    He was forty.

    Transitory Experience

    We passed by the river…
    We left on the bridge’s dusty air, a dream
    That lightened-
    We returned…
    And said: tomorrow
    When the bridges become heavens
    We’ll get the dream to rain…

    Were we close, meanwhile, to the idea of love?

     

    Hope

    The candle
    In the well of night
    Flickers…
    Disperses its flame slowly
    Night overtakes it-
    It moves away…
    Ascends in light
    Ascends in gale
    Returns with the returning glow
    like sails…

  • Real Estate

    There’s always an off-chance the hype is true
    and the city of tomorrow unimaginably
    close at hand: Flying cars, Robo-maids, Gleaming
    towers strung with hyper-trains and skyways.

    Or we could slowly invade the empire of fish,
    learn to breathe water, perhaps wall it off
    in giant aquatic neighbourhoods. Neptuen’s Court,
    unblocked views of the Great Barrier Reef.
    conveniently located near major shipping routes
    and continental shelves. Come live where mermaids
    frolick. What poems mer-folk
    would write, about the eels and corals
    of life, their horizons green with wet sky,
    incandescent sealights from passing submarines.

    Series: 
  • Monsoon

    The wind brought down this yellow:

    petals littering

    the garden, the Maruti’s windshield. 

    The rain shreds petals, leaves

    sticky splotches.

     

    Armed with a rag, Ram Niwas

    (a hardworking old fellow) declares war

    on the yellow, enters the battlefield.

    He works stubbornly, wrestling stains

    in the rain.

     

    The glass listens,

    yellowness watches

    the old man. It peels off quietly

    in petals, remains.

  • نو بالغ در ویرانه ها

    حالا
    از برخورد شاخه جوانی به پوست گردنت سرخ می شوی
    و از تماس انگشتی بر گونه ات جهان سیاه می شود در نظرت
    میوه ها را می چینی
    میوه های رسیده را
    از درختانی با شاخه های ترکش خورده
    با میوه های ترکش خورده
    در سبدی روی سرت می گذاری
    و در چشم اندازهای قریه راه می روی
    بادی که بوی گوشت سوخته را به هرسو می برد
    تن پوشت را به تنت می چسپاند
    تا به دهاتیان غمگین نشان دهد
    مزیت های بدن نو بالغ را
    درخت ها به تو تنه نمی زنند
    با صدها شاخه پر شگوفه
    در رهگذارت می جنبند
    وقتی در میان شان
    مرا به ضیافت خوردن خونت میخوانی

  • Afghanistan

    Writing in eternal battlefields

    Afghanistan is country of wars. It has been the center of great empires under the Kushans, Ghaznavids, Ghorids, Timurids, Durrani dynasties and so on… in fact, the Silk Road passed through it. It was not only merchants who were passing through but also empires, extending from one part of the world to another. For example, Alexander the Great founded cities and military bases in Afghanistan, where he stayed for many years, while the attacks by Genghis Khan in the 13th Century resulted in widespread killings, including of Attar of Nishapur, Rumi’s spiritual mentor.

  • Delhi

    My smell,

    my nakedness

    entices

    hordes of human flesh

    from faraway lands.

    Traders,

    emperors,

    marauders.

     

    I

    pose

    nude

    up on the hill.

    Below

    a feast of eagles—

    possessed,

    intoxicated.

     

    From The Seduction of Delhi by Abhay K. (Bloomsbury India, 2014)

  • He is Coming Toward Me...

                                                                           There is someone
                                                                    He is coming toward me
                                                                   I can hear my heart voice
                                                                   He brings me prosperity
                                                                           Walking softly
                                                                    He is coming toward me
                                                                          My eyes are waiting
                                                                             Can he see me?

  • On Becoming a Writer In Sri Lanka

    I grew up in a house which had books in every room. We read everything we could lay our hands on. From well thumbed, back copies of my uncle’s Readers Digests to my father’s leather bound tomes of Anna Karenina, and A Tale of Two Cities. As little children our personal library consisted of all the Enid Blytons, Daphne Du Mauriers, and Rumer and Jon Goddens. In my father’s library no book was denied to us and long before we understood them, we had looked at Virgil’s Aeneid, the Mahabharata, the works of Aldous Huxley and even the original Arabian Nights.

  • Capitals

     "I have never felt salvation in nature. I love cities above all."Michelangelo

    Series: 
  • Epic

     

    and this is the beginning of it all,
    in the middle of someone
    always someone else’s narrative
    when one barges in, spewed like an
    interruption, our first cries dissonate
    (even science cannot make us, sans ciy)

    and here i (he)
    am, was not born Joshua Michael David Chan Kwok Keong (Gúo Chiáng) nor
    Tan Ah Kow, that proverbial arithmetic
    Doggerel example, smacking of warehouses:

    “Tan Ah Kow can carry a hundred and five bags of rice a day.
    The Taipan/Towkay/colonialist merchant/
    entrepreneur has three thousand bags of rice on his ship. How
    many days does it take Ah Kow etc.”

  • ..در جستجوی تو

    این منم آری منم اسیر زلف و روی تو              هر جا روم من در بدر هستم به جستجوی تو
    ازین پرسم با آن رسم با آن رسم از تو پرسم                آیا بتو خواهم رسید چون پر زنم بسوی تو؟
    سالها گذشت دیوانه وار هر سو روم من بیقرار             آیا روزی خواهم نشست دمی به گفتگوی تو؟
    عمرم گذشت فرتوت شدم از دوریت مردود شدم               آیا مرا خواهی شناخت روزی آیم بکوی تو؟

    Tags: 
  • Literary Arts in Nepal

    The history of Nepali literature is roughly two hundred years old. With the unification of Nepal (1769), Nepali language developed as a lingua franca. At the time of unification, Nepal spread from Darjeeling in the east (now in India) to Dehradoon (now in India) in the west. Over a hundred languages were spoken all over the then Nepali territory--many of them unintelligible to the other language or dialect speakers. The prevalence of linguistic diversity necessitated the use of a common language for communication, and Nepali language served the role of such a language for all the people living within the territory of Nepal.

  • Saving Angel

                                                                                  She always wished
                                                                                      To see the sea
                                                                                       As a butterfly,
                                                                                     Sit on a blue lily.
                                                                                     She always asked
                                                                                      What is kindness?
                                                                               It was said that God is kind_

  • Carnet des Bohémiens

    [Translated from Arabic into French by Rania Samara] 

                                                                            Premier carnet

                                                                   Tentes, mousseline et tamis

  • Language Essay: Kathmandu

    Apart from English, I speak Nepali and Hindi. Nepali is my mother tongue and the official language of my country Nepal. Nepali is spoken and understood well throughout Nepal. It is also considered to be one of the official languages of India as it is widely spoken in Eastern parts of India and especially in Darjeeling, Sikkim and Assam. The script of Nepali is Devnagari and in fact, even Hindi, follows the same script and many words are common to both languages.

  • A Tribute to Hatred

                                                                                               [Excerpt]

  • Covered Bazaar

    O the place

    where God

    like a ripe fruit

    fell on the ground

    and crashed!

     

    let's go

    by rolling up our skin

    like a silk cloth

               from the covered bazaar of our pain

    Tags: 
  • Language Essay: On Nepal

     Vladimir Nabokov migrated from Russia to the United States and wrote his bestseller, Lolita. Arundhati Roy wrote The God of Small Things from the small town of Ayemenem. Fyodor Dostoevsky was translated from the Russian to English, and so was Anton Chekhov, while Melville and Fitzgerald both wrote the great American novels of their time.

  • In Memory of Farkhonda

    My heart is burning,

    Every time I hear your name_

    Wished I hadn’t been born;

    It really gives me such pain.

    How much you suffered!

    No one knows_

    How much were you tortured!

    Your innocent face shows_

    Turn over you the car,

    Throw you stones_

    They cruelly attacked,

    And broke your bones_

    Sleep in peace as you go to heaven,

    Your home is there, you would be happy then.

  • Silk Routes Residency in Pakistan

    The Silk Route Residency will be a 2-week rotating residency open to writers from any country legendary traveler Ibn Battuta passed through and noted in his memoir. This first residency will take place in February 2015 in Pakistan, where two residents, Kavery Nambisan and Sridala Swami, will spend time in Karachi and Lahore. In each city, the writing residents will conduct a 2-3 day writing workshop for young writers, participate in numerous literary and cultural events such as attend the Karachi Literature Festival, and engage with local writers and artists. The writer will also maintain a blog on the Silk Routes website.

    Local Projects: 
  • Turbans

    Our cotton

    didn’t take the sun’s side

    anymore.

    The wrung-out sweat

    was not injected inside us

    as if a shiver of a poem’s smoke.

    We are the shaved-off sugar top

    And the dreams

    In the chaotic era of turbans.

  • Old Purposes

    Careful: step out into the not-quite-street.

    It used to be a swamp, and sunk boar, pushed

    roots into the air, and stank, and free

     

    from old purposes still it tries to take

    you in. This parking lot is where the gash

    of a hill once stood. Breathe slow. Speak

     

    short sentences. No knowing when the earth,

    so rich and red, might fill a lung. And rushing

    past us, silent now, the houses, mirthful,

     

    cackling with flame just thirty years ago.

    Nearly done. Why have all the fishes

    disappeared? This pavement used to glow

     

    with them, the yearning of a sea grown thin

    from lack. Now, trust the surf, how it washes,

    come, the crowd is surging, let us swim.

  • You

    You are the one who can’t be described

    Neither forgotten, nor left a side

    You are endless as blue sky…

    Or the secret of autumn seaside 

    You are my world, my peace and silence

    I wish no more than to be your bride!

  • Beaded Blue

    Feet still wet from the freeze
    of a Band-e Amir pool,
    strung one to the next
    like stone beads
    with waterfall thread,
    we pile into the hatchback,
    bumping back to the highway
    to the rhythm of Hindi tunes.

    The hills of the Hazara heartland have names
    like Gholghola – the city of screams from Mongol times –
    and towns named Shahidaan for the martyrs crumpled
    by Soviet planes

    but these hills     with spacious hearts
    these homes           healed by hand
                      keep calm
    like warm naan wrapped in cloth
    like the cliffs that lean to kiss
    the lake’s lapis cheek,
    lined with turquoise necklace.

    Bamiyan, Afghanistan

  • Insatiable Hunger

     

    Achilles, the mightiest of the Achaeans
    brought precious prizes
    for Agamemnon—the Achaean Lord
    or the hunger’s epitome
    who allocated defamation to his chieftain’s share
    and ignited swift and shielded Achilles
    into a red fireball.

    In his presence
    Trojan Fronts and Scaean Gates
    shook in fear
    rained blood
    and when Achilles
    thunderously warned the lustful Lord
    even Hector--firm in resolve
    dwindled.
    .

    Ego of two nations
    fought a dreadful war
    Achaeans too hugged death with Trojans
    but with better recompense
    of some more land
    some more treasures
    some more beauties
    confiscated and treasured
    and left for their Lord
    to subdue, use, and enjoy.

  • The specks of birthplace

    [Translated by Hilal Nazki and Mujib Mehrdad]

    I have come again and am shining like gold
    On the dusty road
    After years
    It is not the smell of soil
    It is the smell of my birthplace
    That wind
    which was making my Snivel cold
    Is now ruffling my gray hair
    O specks! that sit
    On my hair
    On my tears
    On my cheeks
    On my eyelash
    On my lips and body
    Whether
    You sprung from much enthusiasm
    Or
    was it the wind that threw you up

  • Terra Cognita: On Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy’s Civic Life: Tiong Bahru

    In my father’s head is a map of Singapore quite different from the ever-dancing web of abstract colours that we have come to know from the official records, the bus and train stations or the increasingly unreliable street directory. His chart of the city is marked by stories and street legends, not signposts or landmarks. Like the key characters in tales, who do not often stay in one place, the settings shuffle about – without causing anxiety, as long as one has been following the plot.

  • Praying

    If the core of rising

    Is the core of kneeling,

    where will I direct

    and to what will I surrender

    my eyes?

     

    From the collection Bleeding Gull: Look Feel Fly

  • گل سرخ

    من آن گل سرخم
    بلی آن گل لاله
    رویم به در و دشت
    چشمم چو پیاله
    اندر دلم داغیست
    از هجر غم یاری
    آنکه گذاشت من را
    با اشک و غم و ناله
    برگ برگم پریشانند
    چون چهره ای حیرانم
    گاه گریه کند آسمان
    بحال منی واله
    او صبر و قرارم بود
    او شور و شوق من
    دیوانه منم آری!
    از هجر او دیوانه
    مانده ام براه او
    روزی او میاید
    آن روز که نه از من است
    حتی یک نشانه
    من آن گل سرخم
    پرپر شدم حالا
    ربود هست و بودم
    من زرد شدم حالا
  • The Flower Girl of Delhi

    Bare to the bone

    in tattered garb

    freshness of adolescence

    on my face

    I stand amidst the traffic,

    bouquets of roses in my tender hands––

    red, yellow, pink and white,

    picked up from the nearby graveyard;

    waving, begging, hoping

    someone would buy my flowers.

    Oh! a cab driver beckons me,

    bargains, I plead,

    take my flowers.

    He pulls me nearer

    I jerk back  in disgust;

    my clothes torn,

    flowers scattered,

    I gather myself,

    then flowers

    and start again––

    pleading, hoping.

     

    From The Seduction of Delhi by Abhay K. (Bloomsbury India, 2014)

  • Of Being an 'American' Writer

    I was born and raised in a suburb of Fukuoka, a city in the south of Japan. After eighteen years in Fukuoka, I went to a university in Kyoto and lived there for seven years. My parents are Japanese. They are both from the region and never left the country except for occasional group tours. My native language is Japanese. Like any other Japanese student, I started to learn English in the seventh grade. I am neither an immigrant, nor a postcolonial subject, nor a refugee. Now I write fiction in English in Japan and submit my stories to literary journals in the United States. I represent a small, but ever increasing group of writers.

    Tags: 
  • Dinner Conversations

     

    Until the age of thirteen he lived with his grandparents and their daughter – his father's elder sister – and her husband and only son, in a tiny three-room apartment that no longer exists. Until the age of thirteen he saw his parents only on weekends and in the weekday evenings, when they would visit to have dinner and then leave before ten p.m.

    Tags: 
  • Abstract Oneness

     

    The night lasts longer than life
    Briefer than ice. When everything deforms and evaporates in the dark
    Meticulous words come only from the stars
    We are dim and pale like a gray rock.

    Leaning over the black spring water
    You’d taste its blade, licking its
    Icy chill reflection of the shadow behind you
    Blade is a kind of deprivation
    A kind of silence as well
    Black spring water beyond comprehension
    Endless repetitive histories
    Trivial desires that get lost

    Never could I clearly explain
    Black is definitely a liquid
    Bringing all sounds under its wings
    All sounds have a reverse
    To which you listen with the utmost respect
    Only to approach that silence of horror

  • I'm Here Just Tell Me Hi!

    You are my heart, you are my soul;
    You are dream, as I see whole_
    You are the dew on red flowers;
    And that missing at each hours.
    You are sun set, you are sun light;
    You seem star each half of night.
    You went so high, through sky_
    Look! I’m here just tell me hi!

  • Ladybugs Fly from the Top

    Climbing the railing on the rooftop, I stick my right foot out into the air. The dizziness is petrifying. Holding onto the rope, I set my feet one by one on the zendai. This is my workplace, a piece of wood the size of a chopping board hanging in the air. It’s a rectangular “safety board” made of wood. Carefully I sit on the board, putting my legs down between the ropes that hold it in place. It’s just wide enough to perch my butt on it. The board lurches and sways like a swing. I hold on to the rope tight, channeling all my strength into my hands. My life is hanging on a single rope. Suddenly my mind goes blank. I press down on the board slightly with my butt. The rope slithers down several feet. I’m seized with terror, and it takes a while to recover. That’s strange.

  • Six Poems

    Translator: Alex Niemi

    Little boy, sliding from line of light
    to line of scroll,
    where letters of black
    tangle together, like blackened chains
    tangle together, like clinging leaves.
    Little boy stooping, leaning, balding.
    Little boy swallowing clear drops.
    And at his temples two wilting lilies,
    white wilting lilies;
    a handful of rice.

    Tags: 
  • Need for a Common Earth Anthem

    I would like to begin with these words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery- "In this century, as in others, our highest accomplishments still have the single aim of bringing men together," and share with you the need for a common global symbol that can unite people across the world transcending the traditional notion of race and nationalities. Ancient Indian wisdom of ´Vasudhaiv Kutumbakam´ and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi can possibly guide us on this path.

     Wherever we come from, we all have one entity in common - our planet, our Earth. A tribute to her in form of an anthem, therefore, should be able to find support from people of all continents.

  • Live a life … get another one for free – A Work in Progress

     The undersecretary was a tall, slim, bald, nice looking old guy who would turn 60 and retire within six months of summoning me to his office. He received me with a grin that turned to a hesitant smile as he said: “Boy, you might have a chance.”

    “A chance of what, Sir?” I asked.

    He said sternly, “Of surviving, my son.”

    It was the year 2000. I was a 23-year-old kid, freshly graduated from the department of English literature at Benha University, newly appointed as a translator in the state information service (SIS) affiliated then to the ministry of information (now to the president himself, wow).

  • Language Essay: Mumbai

     To be born into the hubbub of an Indian city, is to be born into a world of multiple cultures and at least two other languages. We boast a staggering number of gods and goddesses and hundreds of thousands of texts that depict their greatness. Given any urban street in India, you are bound to find the humming of prayers or a song in the distance mixing delicately with the honking of auto rickshaws and the rumbling of the rails, and the roadside book dealer wailing out the names of the latest hits from a crop of up and coming writers. Each one, more or less boils down to what is the core of the Indian literary culture – a healthy mix of superstition, philosophy and fiction.

  • The Buddha's Remains

    -the fragment of meta-novel “The Wings of Dying Bird”-

  • Humanities in Medicine

    With technological and skills-oriented changes in the medical profession, graduating doctors today have little in the way of interpersonal skills or multidisciplinary perspectives regarding the human condition. With this in mind, the purpose of this project is to bring a variety of speakers—writers, artists, film makers, musicians, and historians—to St. John’s Medical College as a way of inculcating humane values, enhancing the sensitivity of medical students, and developing a vibrant regional network of multi-talented, multi-disciplinary, and multi-faceted doctors and other professionals who feel strongly about the need for collaboration between the humanities and medical fields.

  • Definitions of Dates and Bullets

    To my father & also to Mike

    You will find
    Different leaders for each side there.
    But the dates are still unified
    Since the early days of the God.

    Dates are
    The morning key for
    A woman who is on her way to vanish
    Dates are anonymous women
    Deponent of Ur's, Assyria's and Babylon's priests.

    I inherited definitions of dates from my Kurdish father:

    "You are as inviting and sweet as dates,
    Stubborn as a date palm,
    Genial, and sentient as black dates in Klecha*.

    And I have learned persistence from bullets
    And from friends I have learned what blanks mean,
    And that blocks and obstacles are absolute violation!

  • Red and Blue

    The accessory, zipped up,
    awaits the blink-off.

    Redacted, this could
    just end up one jet-lagged lyre.

    Keep soul, big stuff in the overhead
    administration, says trolley dolly.

    Here is what is: a suspicious package
    with attendant implications.

    It’s none of my personal vertex,
    but we’re psyched for another

    sexy spin, another hook
    to hang civilisation on, like Equator.

    Beyond allotted legroom,
    degree of reclination and those

    damp hot towels, we rise
    and fall, aside from such plenitude,

    terminal or tarnation.
    Gazing out this sentimental window

    into pitch dark, yanking soul
    out of you . . . to winnow these aisles

    Tags: 
  • The Arrival of Seagulls

     
    I have seen gulls,
    in holy visions,
    hover and invent
    the sound of horses.
     
    I have seen them
    give alms to rats
    hungry for crumbs of bread,
  • Beirut Nights

    I am gambling

    in  the Beirut night.

    I need two numbers

    melded together.

    I never asked any dice

    about its color,

    where it was made,

    or about its birthday

    in gambling.

    Some games are

     red lines of revolutions,

    a dot of enlightenment

    a calendar of life.

  • Untitled from Anthology

    When I was 7, I saw hell

    possess the skin of my father.

    There was a madman's fury

    Simmering in him, his eyes orbs of darkness

    and dementia.

    I expected flames to erupt into

    life around him,

    burning us all but there was only stillness.

    Nothing except the salt

    trailing down my cheeks and disappointment

    coating my tongue.

     

    His movements became lightning quick,

    skin striking skin in a blur.

    Time stilled. Breaths were abandoned. And a bruise

    flowered across her cheek.

     

    At 10, this was no longer a

    rare occurrence.

    The Easter bunny was still

    Real.

    but silence after 6:00 was not.

    Anger took refuge under the devil's skin.

  • رویا

    از هجر تو نالانم از دوریت گریانم                   باشد شبی بیتو در گوشه ای پایانم
    رفتی و مرا تنها بی مونس و بی همراه ای عزیز خوابهایم هر جا که هستی باز آ
    گفتی شبم بیتو فردای نخواهد داشت تو روشنی شبی و طلوع هر فردا
    اکنون بدون تو روز های منش چون شب شبهای من است تاریک همچو خانه ای ارواح
    بیتو لحظه ای هم آرامش ندارم من ای صفای دنیایم برگرد به نزد ما
    کاش یک بار باهم پرواز کنیم تا غم دو باره در آن وادی پیدا نکند ما را
    با آنکه خیلی دوری اما هر آن جای یاد های تو هر لحظه در ذهن منست همراه
    هر چند حظور تو رویاست بدون تو دلخوشم بدین رویا نخواهم حقیقت را
    دوباره بیا با من تا بهشت رویم یکدم حتی اگر ممکن باشد با یک رویا
  • A Girl and a River

                                                       Chapter 6

                                                        Gandhi
                                                   Pages 102 -- 106

    1934

  • Gender and Creativity in Iraq

     

    Literature is directly linked to culture, and in Iraq, women are just coming to the field. There are reasons for this, especially how men think about writing and how they think about women as human beings.
    Often, cultures distinguish men’s written works from women’s written works, and the American feminist Angela Davis saw this as just another form of discrimination. But we should not forget that an individual’s writing comes from their specific time and place, and writings with a feminine flavor come from a feminine place.

  • My City, Bombay vs. Mumbai

    Bombay, India [I prefer to use the older name, ‘Bombay’, as it symbolizes the inclusive and cosmopolitan character of my city; the name ‘Mumbai’ was imposed in 1995 by a right-wing provincial (in every sense of the word) government, and is associated with a nativist, majoritarian ideology steeped in regional and linguistic chauvinism. The claim that ‘Mumbai’ is the original name of the city is questionable, since the city originated in a Portuguese outpost later ceded to the British, and ‘Bom Bahia’ or ‘Bom Baim’ might equally provide an origin for the toponym.]

  • Intermittent Melody

     

    On a stage
    musicians were engrossed
    under the gaze of village and town folk
    to set the chords
    guitars, sitars, veenas and drums
    myriads of sounds
    in the making.

    Audience waited longing for a fine tune.
    chords were still being set
    discordant voices still rang
    desperate musicians and impatient audience
    waited for melody to flood the pervading gloom
    like the fragrance of hills in bloom.

    After an eternity of impatience
    chords twanged melodiously
    making the audience sway
    but a sudden snap jarred
    and shattered the expectant crowd.

    “Chords of harmony and cords of life
    what a company!”
    an old man from the audience exclaimed.

  • A Soldier's letter to his lover

    I don’t remember the Mississippi river and its warm sand
    What I think is, will the sand of your eyes touch my body again?
    the black cat in my house
    can step in to your bed
    he doesn’t drink
    but he sits on the sofa and listens
    to your songs when you are in the kitchen or the bath

    It’s his voice that comes from the gateway
    And you close the door behind him
    Frequently in the day

    He goes to the park with you and on the bench
    he licks your fingers
    and you massage his neck muscles
    he gets calmer when he receives the pain from your fingertips

    Jardinières that we bought
    harm their flowers when we are out
    and if we don’t open the windows
    rooms spread their poison

     

  • Couplets

    here you are faceless bobs
    like flotsam in the strait narrow

    sea scented with iridescent oil
    radiating in rainbow swirl

    as fin glistens before tell-tale lollipops
    are sucked into the cistern

    they wave to no one in particular
    as another burp pulls out for air

    between horsburgh and mrs ramsay
    lies the blue missionary yonder

    so finally there they are
    alone on this empty white spit

    this sheen of bright light does blind
    don’t block bastard

    his hair singed by the setting disc
    as they reminisce it seems like

    the male lead is characteristically terse
    the other all hands gulping as

    the ground’s shifted already
    the son is out of ampersands

  • Why Rely on the Fictitious

     

    Smoke disperses
    Night has fallen
    Violet Alice
    Holds out two hands from the black velvet
    Pastoral is getting old-fashioned
    We’re tied up by utterances
    Growing more clueless day by day
    How to make ourselves transparent you said
    There is one whole world out there yet we
    Turn around to face the inside

    Cat sneaking along the vertical edge
    Rose of pain withers away day by day
    Just a puff like this will do?
    When we’re still searching for the right word
    Like shaving our sideburns clean with a razor
    Hoping in vain not to be bothered

  • Surviving The Fall Meant Using You For Handholds

                                        —Title of a painting by Eric Fischl, Bedroom Scene #6, oil on linen, 2004.

    Back striped black, suit striped white
    the wall – just striped; the net – just curved.
    Crouched where the light comes from
    you see that there is no protection
    in the downward curves of the net;
    it is only a shroud over one half of the frame.
    No comfort in the dark lines on her back
    that could be wings; though they dip at the spine
    like children’s drawings of crows
    in a deep blue sky, the lines will not lend
    her wings.

    Tags: 
  • The Chosen

                                             Chapter 14
                                          Pages 283-288

    ‘Amma, must I come to Nallikai Swami’s?’ Nagaratna pleaded half-heartedly one last time. ‘I will have to miss my computer class.’

  • While You Were Sleeping

    After Darren Soh

     A great hand rises from the ground

    to sweep the insubstantial sand,

     

    gathering to a crown, an iron

    crown, the roots of homes. A fire

     

    chills the grass, the tree, and air

    assumes the nonchalance of a door.

     

    Big light pierces through the greatness

    of the hand. My eyes say yes.

     

    Today, the soil yields a worm,

    bold, glistening in the calm.

  • Transfiguration

    When the distance to stillness

    becomes a ticket for the passenger

    and there is no other trip,

    the port of transfiguration

    is caught in

    desertification.

    Sound waves

    seduce the dreams

    and offer the holiday bread

    and the flavor of new cotton

    while awaiting the holy Eid

    On the banks of silence

    on the side of absence.

  • What a Silkworm Heard

    A poem written inspired by the Silk Princess, a Chinese wood panel painting from the 7th or 8th century. As the BBC's "A History of the World" describes the artifact: 

    According to this legend, a Chinese princess smuggled the secret of how to make silk out of China and into the country of her new husband, the king of Khotan. As she was a princess the border guards did not dare search her. In this painting her elaborate headdress conceals the cocoons of the silk moth and the seeds of the mulberry tree.

     

    You are an escort in my head-dress

    which everyone claims beautiful;

  • Violence Against Women in Afghanistan

    Humanity consists of men and women, so the earth needs both of them for its development. If we visualize a human to a bird which flies by its two wings then we can easily claim that woman is one of the wings and without it flying is impossible; therefore, in all aspects of life women set with men side by side. In fact, a woman is the maker and creator of the root of life besides shaping and consisting half of the population.

  • آدمک های ظاهر نما

     

    میروم با اشک و آه و ناله ها
    میطپم من از هجوم درد ها
    آخر اینجا هم برایم جا نبود...
    هیچکس صادق به مثل ما نبود
    در پس هر چهره ای بود چهره ها
    هیچکس چون من نبود در هیچ جا

    آهای! آدمک های ظاهر نما!
    خسته ام از قوم و خویش و از شما!

  • The Doors

                                                (The End)

    No one would believe such a thing if they had not gone through the same thing themselves. Newlywed time. The happiest and the most exciting time. How pleasant to awake with your lover after spending the nights alone for your whole life? Look. The veins on her cheeks. How pleasant. He gently touched them. Like touching a soap bubble. Truly gently.

    He was satisfied. This was it. The pleasure of life. He thought it would be good that all his mornings would be like this. Soft lips. Curling eyelashes. He looked at the face at ease. He was surprised at himself. He had never thought he could get married to such a flawless woman.

                                                  (The End)

  • Writing in Afghanistan

    Despite a creative writing culture within Afghani universities, many young writers remain silenced—either lacking access to publishing opportunities or fearful to share their ideas. The purpose of this project is to create a short story competition which focuses on Afghani heritage and that of the historic region known as the Ariana Empire, a region that connected both culturally and economically with more expansive Silk Routes. The competition will be amongst students at nine universities throughout Afghanistan as a way of encouraging a broader literary community geared towards emerging writers, uncovering new Afghani literary talents, and providing a space of collaboration, trust, and creativity.

  • Iraqis and the Real Resistance

    At last, a real Iraqi election, the event we have waited decades to see, is coming true. And now, as we prepare to vote, we remember all those who sacrificed their lives, their families and their youth, so that such a day would come. These words might look abstract to those who did not live under Saddam’s regime, but for us, who lost loved ones and suffered long years of pain and sorrow, they are not abstractions at all.

    Tags: 
  • Kingwhisper

    Your old life
    was a frantic running from silence.

    ~Jelaluddin Rumi

    You remember the tale,
    the whisper
    that made the wine cup clatter
    to the stone and before
    anyone could protest both
    had left
    a thousand obligations
    and the shattered pieces
    of their royal reputations
    strewn like November leaves
    down the windswept corridors
    of their former, sensible selves.

    Irresponsible, whirred the rumors
    Irrational, hummed the mills
    Unseemly! sputtered the sawdust
    Un…kingly, huffed the council.

  • Literary Arts in Kyrgyzstan

    The landscape of the Kyrgyz so-called written literature (in comparison with the-still existing oral tradition in poetry and epic genres) - of the late 1920s and early 1930s is a scene of dull and engaged writings. Most writers were, in fact party’s servants, none of them developed into anything original, they stayed outgrown and naïve “children” that were just learning how to write (first in Arabic till the 40-s, then in Latin – till the 50-s, then in Cyrillic – till now). But they have found one very important thing – the more they praised the Communist Party and Kolkhoz, the better they lived – money, beautiful women, and the honors such as “the people’s writer or poet”.

  • Where I'm Writing From

    Last spring, I moved from Yokoahama to Kyoto. I was a student here in the ‘90s, so I’m quite happy to be back in the city. Throughout my life, I’ve always felt itinerant—we still are in Kyoto. My husband and I live in an old public apartment house while looking for a place to move in. I remember the pleasure of smelling the grassy odor of new tatami mattresses when I entered the old apartment. Almost a year went by since we started to look. In my study, 40 unopened boxes still pile up. We are eager to move out, and yet we began to appreciate the quiet and green environment of the old apartment complex, which is right next to Myoshinji Temple. 

    Series: 
  • The Cage and its Strange Bird

    Suleman was being dressed in fresh clothes after a long time. The heady smell of naphthalene coming out of the newly laid out dress tickled his nostrils, even the eyes and maybe the ears too. It's been a long time since he had last smelt that scent. With the tickling going on over the layers of his brain, his head danced a bit as one or two slow, dizzy bubbles rose causing the mud-soft indent of the brain to tremble just as someone else grimaced – nice, nice! Suleman closed his eyes as the bubbles of the scent rose one by one. How nice! Good, good!

         The jangling inside the head increased. Suleman opened his eyes. There was nobody around.

  • I May Forget You...

                                                                 If a river became road,
                                                                        I may forget you
                                                              Or my world was destroyed_
                                                                          I may forget you
                                                                You have forgotten me easily;
                                                                            Well, I do agree,
                                                                  When the tears became rainy_
                                                                             I may forget you

  • Black Magic

     

    He made a circle

    we children sat around

    the basket flipped open

    and the earth got the goose-bumps.

     

    The serpent vengefully raises its hood

    and dashes to the ground

    on flute music, a girl dances

    and a boy juggles on the tight rope.

     

    The crowd claps,

    as the tom-tom plays,

    and he makes the girl unconscious

    with his rosary,

     

    covers her body with a dark linen,

    the skull giggles,

    and the tom-tom plays again

    under the old banyan tree!

     

    He ripped her stomach open,

    with a knife, it's blood,

    it is real blood...

    the girl is dead!

     

    The boy circles around wide eyed,

  • Two Faces

    She examines her face in the mirror with slow concern, groping her pock-marked cheeks. Eyebrows furrowed lips trembling, she pronounces the words: I hate you!

    She examines her face in the mirror again, her sad fingers clutching at her face and her voice becomes a whimper. Aaaaaah…O, Nasim!* Your beautiful face, your eyes, that luxurious laugh and your hair, that hair you flip over your shoulders, teasing me! Your voice when you say, “I misssssssssssed ya!” Your wide smile when they tell you that you were aptly named….

    In the midst of her thoughts, the ringing of a telephone startles her. To hide her anxiety, she speaks tenderly with the person on the other end of the line, saying: Hello, my dear Nasim!

    “I misssssssssssed ya!”

  • Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, Nepal

    I was born in a remote village in the mountainous region of western Nepal. Until I grew up as a school boy in that remoteness and learnt that a bigger world existed beyond what I could see around, my entire understanding was that of the mountains, meadows, vegetation, the cattle, wild beasts and birds, my parents and villagers who toiled hard day in and day out, their pains and pleasures, and the images of human condition in the stories narrated by my peers who “bet villages” in their games.

  • Delhi, As I Am

    I am the city of cities.

    A city of invaders, conquerors

    merchants, immigrants––

    they twinkle on my horizon

    appearing, disappearing

    as words written

    on a palimpsest.

     

    I am the city of ruins,

    O’ mighty and powerful,

    look carefully at my

    mausoleums, cemeteries, tombs

    count them all if you can

    how many lie buried here

    who ruled me once.

  • Did you see me? I Was Walking in the Street…

     

    Did you see me? Of course you didn’t. I didn’t see me either. I was walking in the street, my hair flying in the wind. You know my hair, it isn’t thick and heavy; it’s light and soft, that’s why it was easy for the wind to lift my wisps up and twirl them around in the air. Everything was free and liberated, even my hair.
    The wind was blowing in my direction, so my hair was lifted up and away from me. I tell you… it was a marvellous sensation. I was flooded with strange emotions… I felt free!!

  • Kashmir: Seven Poems

    These poems depict the life of displaced people (victims of border terrorism), living in a refugee camp in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India. They are taken from the poetry collection “Tafteesh Jari Hai” (The Investigation Continues), by Kalpna Singh-Chitnis, published in 1993. These poems have been translated from original Hindi into English by the poet herself.

    Dedicated to Agha Shahid Ali

    I

    No one knows her here by her name,
    the one who is sitting mum
    there on a wooden log,

    the woman whose son was slaughtered
    with a chainsaw,
    is the only identity she has
    in this refugee camp.

    II

  • Bloodlines

    To understand the notion of Malaysia and Malaysian identity, one has to look at oneself. But this is an arduous thing; we are allowed to, but we aren’t. We are not allowed to discuss the racist ills that divide our multicultural nation for fear of being charged with sedition, yet Muslims and non-Muslims are allowed to hurl racist vitriol at each other. We are not allowed to show a man and a woman kiss on screen, but the explicit details of sodomy between a politician and his aide make lurid headlines. We live in a country where a man is allowed to marry a child he has raped, but a Muslim woman is unable to marry a Hindu man. We have become a nation ruled by crippling contradiction, where the absurd is permissible, where truths are dangerous, and where silence has ruled for decades.

  • Saisam Trunk, Traditional Bridal Trunk

    Saisam trunk, the bride trunk

    ( a trunk used to be given to newly married brides in Hijaz region)

    I once asked my mother about my grandmother special trunk, the one that every bride used to have when she got married. She said, no, your grandmother was different, she never had one because she was married outside Arabia, and your grandfather was poor at the time, while this trunk was expensive and sophisticated. I know my family was not that simple but that is a different story I'm not going to mention now.
    Apparently, we don't have this kind of furniture in our heritage as a family. When my mother was married she didn't have one because at her time, saisam trunk is no longer considered an important piece of furniture to accompany a newly married maid.

  • View from a window

    Morning I can’t believe the evening ever comes,
    Evening I forget the beauty of the morning,
    Twilights crawl impudently to your dwelling,
    Sun is dying on the Parisian roofs…

     

    Tags: 
  • Excerpt from Maanche ko Rang, Anbika giri

    I had not met Shikhar in a month. I’d heard he went to Kathmandu. Not that I really cared where he was. But his face after what happened to Bhima Didi flashed in front of my eyes and threatened me every now and then. There were times when I thought he had left the Party. But I couldn’t enquire about him with my father all the time. In fact he didn’t even know about my decision to join the Party. Regardless of how I felt for him, he was the only person I wanted to tell about my decision after my father. I had a feeling he wouldn’t believe I’d work for the Party. So I was already elated, confident that he would try confirming it with my father.

    -

    Local Projects: 
  • Migration, Diaspora and Exile: The Writer Survive

    All those who worship that which is not knowledge enter into darkness

    Those who delight only in knowledge enter greater darkness.

                - The Upanishads (800-400 B.C.)

                           

    Our ancestors knew how to bend the meaning of words so you could ponder over them long after they were uttered or read.

  • The Tale of Pumpkin Boy

                                                                    The Pumpkin Prince

  • The Overtakers

     

    At dusk, after a light shower, the bonsais tremble in the breeze. When night deepens with the hissing rain, their tiny leaves and branches shake feverishly as if in a storm. From the deep recesses of their pygmy bodies cracklings could be heard, as though the plants were stretching their limbs. Atiq watches as the tiny plants become enormous in size, grow in height, shoot up four-five stories to almost touch the sky. At such times a greenish aura oozes from their thick stems, their bulbous leaves and branches – and gushes forth in waves toward Atiq. His sleep gone, Atiq gropes for the torch under his pillow.

               These days he has grown used to it; no longer thinks it a nightmare. He knows what the bonsais are capable of.  

  • Soil

    They took Somayeh last night; lifeless and heavy above the hands of male strangers. Is there any difference between your death and the death of your twin sister? For 63 years, you have opened your eyes on each other every morning. She has always stood by you. As if a part of your body is torn apart. These are what you cry out to those coming to visit you. You lay your head on their shoulders and shed tears. Maybe, you would feel ashamed to make such noises, but, well, people are people. If you don’t cry enough, they would be like, “See? She was jealous of her twin sister for sure. Now, she is happy to inherit all the family’s property.” Even that spinster, Mahboubeh, who feels she is a philosopher every now and then, once told you that human being tends to be unique.

  • Early Life Crisis

    Rahoul Gonsalves 

    The uncertainty of life annoys me. I mean, wouldn’t it be awesome to have all your life’s trajectory set, before coming of age? You could make a conscientious decision of what you want to do in life and then just do it. Imagine the comfort of just taking one direction, without “opportunities” popping up and derailing you from the path you’ve painstakingly taken.

  • The Third Eye

    There is a holy spot

    bher eyes

    where angels burn their feathers

    And lose their faith.

    Do not blame me.

  • The Universal Islamist

    When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi asked India’s first cosmonaut, Rakesh Sharma, at a video conference in April 1984, how India looked from space, he replied without missing a beat: “Saare jahan se achcha.” Every schoolchild in India recognised the phrase, for it comes from a song composed by Allama Muhammad Iqbal (1877–1938), and is deeply identified with the Indian nationalist struggle. At the same time, many in South Asia regard the same man as the ideological father of Pakistan.

  • Changing the (implied Reader)

    During IWP’s 2014 Fall Residency in Iowa City, I encountered on more than one occasion some unusual questions and impressions about my stories.

    In preparation for the residency, which lasts for 10 weeks, the IWP published some of my translated stories on its website, along with my biography. One statement on my profile, when talking about my 1st novel, reads: presently banned in his country.  

  • Literary Arts In Afghanistan

    Responding to the invitation of this program’s organizers, I will first focus on the story, or fiction, in Persian language, then talk about women’s situation with regard to fiction in Afghanistan.

  • On Becoming a Writer in Afghanistan

    I am a girl from  a country in the heart of Asia. My family named me Farkhonda, which means beatific and auspicious. I am the oldest child; 12 years ago I was sent to school to learn to read and write. I read books and step by step started to practice writing.  I chose to write stories. Their narrative style was one of the reasons behind my interest in fiction: I enjoyed writing about different characters and what I imagined about them. After getting some of them published in a few Afghani magazines, I realized that critics and readers alike believe my fiction mostly focuses on women. Maybe this is natural, since I am a woman living in a country that has experienced decades of war and setbacks for women.  

  • Happenstance

    Jibbed, old hungers gnaw at your chance 
    arrival in gelidity. Gleed stirs up in you 
    my cutty-pipe image, and you laugh, louder 
    than required, adopting cachinnations as 
    a channel of expressing emotions that have 
    no business to be in our basket, as by now
    I have peered you on the pentimento of
    regrets. If this sounds cavalier, let me assure 
    you, I understand pain. It is my portmanteau.

    http://www.thesquawkback.com/2016/07/sethi.html#more 

  • The Pink Shoes

    The weather was extremely cold and snowy. The street was covered by ice and snow. Everyone was in a hurry to go home as soon as possible.

    "Buy a handkerchief for yourself please," said a small boy, his hands were red.

    "Help! Help me for God's sake. My children are hungry waiting at home." An old kneed man was shouting and crying, but no one heeded him. Everyone was busy with their own work. There was the sound of music in the shops, and the smell of roasted meat filled the air.

    A small girl rushed to the bakery and said: "Please give me a loaf of bread." Her fingers were insensible, her shoes were wet.

    "Hey! You girl, come and stay in the line." "It's my turn don’t you see?" shouted a tall man.

  • Revisions

    Before the poet was a poet
    nothing was reworked:

    not the smudge of ink on twelve sets of clothes
    not the fearsome top berth on the train
    not a room full of boxes and dull windows
    not the cat that left its kittens and afterbirth in a pair of jeans
    not doubt.

    Before the poet was a poet
    everything had a place:

    six years were six years                       parallel lines followed rules
    like obedient children
    [the Dewey Decimal System]
                                                                           homes remained where they’d
                                                                            been left.

    Before the poet was a poet
    many things went unseen:

  • Language Essay: Maldivian Culture

    The Maldivian culture, language and literary traditions are a few things one simply does not get uninterested in too easily. One of our most loved literary traditions is “raivaru”, this is a form of reciting poetry that is traditional or even our own with a unique rhythm to it. In the previous centuries and even now people would use raivaru as a way of expressing feeling for another it is also used in marriage proposals. One man who I most admire in this field of work is my great uncle, Abdulla Sodiq who is also known as “Saodu Be”, which in translation means ”Saodu brother”. Abdulla Sodiq is a songwriter, author of countless short stories, poet and novelist, inventor of words and writer of the Maldivian dictionary.

  • Language Essay: Urdu

    Urdu, a language thousands around the subcontinent speak, a language that is my mother language, a language which encompasses a culture, a cosmos of its own. Hidden beneath its charisma is a rich history, defined by poets, revolutionaries, novelists, scholars and spiritualists. It is defined by its decorum and propriety, a language of the elites of South Asia. Urdu is history, is my past, my present and my future. It runs in my veins and clogs my brain. It defines who I am, my identity and I can never be more proud of it.

  • Excerpt from Picnickers In New York, A Fugue For A Lost Cartographer

     

    for R.

    O, how was America then, pre-discovery? Suffice to say there is no experience like being smack in the middle of this billowing concerto. It could turn out to be our tarnation or salvation, depending on the jury and their tote bags of mood swings. “You sound a little pitchy in the second verse.” But don’t you see, it’s all a harmless karaoke session, a symphony of wolves having a minxy reprieve of fun from a day’s hunting… A quizzical prairie dog would rear its head from its security blanket and nobody would lift a paw. For those commercial breaks, the globe twirls in total harmony and no one eats no one else: “In the months of spring, we will play like silly butterflies in the strawberry fields, but do keep out for muggers and axes with vendettas.”

  • Indian Drums: History, Discovery, and Tradition

    There is no reveal of Tabla or Pakhwaj in primeval India. Also, talking about Pakhwaj and Mridangam in general, no principle difference can be put to paper regarding the use of these instruments in India. Beliefs and estimations vary about their past existence and the time of their arrival.

  • Djailoo Reading description

    “Djailoo” in traditional Kyrgyz culture is a fundamental concept, embodying the summer pasture and grazing, where every year during warm period Kyrgyz nomads move their families and yurt homes. “Djailoo” occurs not only out of economic necessity, but also as a life-space and cultural practice that encourages free time and exploration for children. The precarious situation in contemporary Kyrgyzstan affects youth and hinders their access to education and books. Djailoo Reading, therefore, seeks to bring live readings and discussion—hosted by writers and/or actors—to ten remote communities in the Osh and Issyk-kul regions.

    Local Projects: 
  • Language Essay: On Urdu

    As a bilingual poetry enthusiast, interested in both Urdu and English poetry, I have come across various artistic pieces that have inspired me to write my own pieces of literature. Urdu poetry has, perhaps, opened a different dimension of literary beauty. It has helped me appreciate the intricacies of the language itself and acknowledge the depths of history each letter encompasses. Allama Iqbal, Mirza Ghalib and Faiz Ahmad Faiz are a few poets that have explored the almost unreachable boundaries of the Urdu language and thus, the beauty of this language should be amalgamated within the BTL program.

  • Peace will Win

    It all started one cold day

    With angry eyes and angry ways

    We marched out in the snow

    Our figures hidden and voices low

    We had to talk to them

    We had to talk to them

    They had tortured us before

    And if we did not stop them it would just increase more

    We arrived and looked above

    The house was decorated with stoned leaves and stoned doves

    The enormity of the house made it eerie

    And the darkness it engulfed made it scary

    We stopped and stared

    And thought, ‘should we have dared?’

    When suddenly there was a huge roar

    This shook us to the core

    Our enemies were coming out

    Their feet running and shouts loud

    We glanced at each other confused at first

  • Blindness

    Their identikits are a mystery.

    I couldn’t recognize them

    by the reflection

    of the wind

    Nor by the sensors

    On my blind stick.

    They walked by me

    with sympathy.

    “Your son looks like you,”

    one of them said,

    leaving me

    on the pavement of silence.

    What does he look like?

    Did he like it?

    What do I look like?

    What is the meaning of the identikits?

    Why can’t I

    have a simple answer

    for a simple question?

    What is the difference between

    white and black?

  • Blowout

    Unveiling their shine on the cerulean sheet now pitch-dark,

    radiant studs, rhombus-shaped compete with beauty


    of bicephalous. When the orgulous are on a night out


    in their best bib and tucker covering their kytes, chill

    of westering winds add to the ambience. Presence of


    sapid puffs invites our olfactories to the divine, making

    me muzzy, and moved: even nature helps the well-heeled? 

     

     Originally appears in Postcolonial Text, Vol 11, No 2 (2016)

  • Translation as Creative Writing

    Translation has a very long history, particularly in Iraq, where it has been practiced for thousands of years. Archeologists have found translations in many languages of the epic of Gilgamesh and the code of Hammurabi. By the fifteenth century, Arabs knew the art of translation widely and very well. They had two primary methods of translation: the way of Ibn Naima Al-Himsy, the first translator, which we can call ‘literal translation’, has the translator interpreting the text word by word.

  • Jerit

    JERIT 
(Malay for ‘howl ’) 

    **Excerpt from Onkalo (Math Paper Press, 2013)

    And so he says it again

    through headlines screaming black bold Serif
    on undulating white perimeters

    Write − You will have the freedom to write –
    He says as he spouts jibber-jabber from pink, watery lips
    like swine-filled halos of doom
      
from the plume of corrupt plinths of marble arches
    stretched across the abyss of power,

    Tags: 
  • Monkey-man

    Chapter 2

          Section 3

    Too late he remembered the gradient. The scooter bucked and spluttered, and a spasm of pain seized him, reminiscent of the morning, and he cursed afresh the planners of NR Colony and the makers of Milk of Magnesia. SVK’s house was situated on a sharp upward incline, right in the middle of it, just where unwary drivers started fighting with their gears. SVK would never know what that meant, for he had never owned a vehicle of any sort – not even a bicycle. The house too was as he remembered it – one of the old 50s Trust Board houses where all the rooms opened out into a central ‘hall’ and the bottom half of the walls was slicked over in green oil paint.

    Tags: 
  • Restraining to be a Binoy Majumdar

    They opened a window and their mouths they rinsed
    And spilled on their anger-laughter and cries thus cleansed
    And if they were in reach they’d have been beaten black n blue
    Let my kites lose their path, but not your tunes

    You sparkle in the eye
    Until a moment says good-bye

    For twenty-four long hours, I cast a net to get you back in my heart
    Heal me, oh love, from the pain that tears me apart...!

    (Binoy Majumdar Hote Na Cheye, Tumi-i Pran, Tumi-i Por)

    Tags: 
  • دریا

     

    ...قایق کوچک

              ...اقیانوس بی انتها

    ...من باشم و من

                 ...تنهای تنها

  • Searching for Cumin

    We weren’t used to having big feasts in our house when I was young. It was long after I’d reached adulthood before I found out what it meant for food to be festive. My mother’s kitchen was a place to produce food for the sole purpose of keeping us alive. Perhaps the darkness that engulfed the kitchen, even during daylight hours, was another reason why the mood surrounding it was always sober and austere. My mother had many mouths to feed simultaneously in our large family, which was exhausting for her. And, even though she only knew how to cook a handful of dishes, her food always came out well.

  • Ramblings of a Medical Student

     By Aiswarya Sasi (2015)

    I walked into the eerily quiet room, like a rabbit venturing into a lion’s cave. In the middle of the room was a lone table, with chairs at both its ends. On one chair sat the source of all my fears. This would be my first viva in medical college, and my cortisol levels were at an all-time high. A few questions into the viva, the examiner asked me, ‘What is the normal red blood cell count?’ ‘Finally, an easy question,’ I said to myself in relief. ‘Seven billion, Sir,’ I said confidently, without a second thought. A pause. His eyebrows shot up incredulously. ‘Oh no, I’m sorry. That’s the human population,’ I said sheepishly, cringing on the inside. In retrospect, this incident amuses me to no end.

     

  • In This Olive Colored Country

    In this dark land
    We inherited black clothes,
    Black thoughts
    And black rain.
    We witnessed the execution of the palms
    And killing of the rivers.
    In this olive colored land,
    When a woman loves
    She grasps at the rainbow,
    Until the sun betrays her,
    Leaves her alone under the rain.

    Iraq-2003.Baghdad

  • Love in Atharvaveda

    As man becomes more and more cultured and refined, he moves away from nature and tends to move towards artificiality. The distance from nature seems to keep him away from purity and reality too. In this process he starts to scoff at normal and natural behavior. For instance, love between man and woman is a natural phenomenon; this is especially so for human beings. But most of the ancient philosophies and religions appear to ignore this truth. It is as if love is another name of sin for them. The story about Adam and Eve is a good example for this type of mentastlity. In Indian philosophy also, things are not very different. Vedic literature is considered to be the repository of the oldest philosophy of the Indian subcontinent.

  • Third Person

    Satish’s habit of reading the newspaper early in the morning was gone a long time ago. He had that urge when he had to dress up and go on duty, sitting in front of the wheel and narrating to his boss in a nutshell the fresh news of the day within two minutes. It could be less but never more. But sometimes it happened that his boss wanted to hear the news in an elaborate manner and it took Satish fifteen minutes to narrate the news. But that was rare because the front page news was on politics, and the last page sports. Entertainment? What was that? When Amithabh Bachchan was injured on the set of Coolie and was fighting for his life in the hospital, Satish used to read at least two newspapers to know how he was.

  • Why Ganesha has a Broken Tusk or Why the Moon has a Crater

    Of the thirty-three crore or three hundred and thirty million gods and goddesses of Indian Hindu mythology, the most loved perhaps is Ganesha, especially by children. To begin with, there is his absurdly endearing appearance – he has the head of an elephant and a stocky little body – his pot belly shows that he enjoys his food. He has the heart of a child, following his impulses, and does not make much ado about things, even though he is a god. Every god has his own vahana or mount – for instance Shiva had Nandi the bull, Vishnu has Garuda the eagle, while Ganesha, more down-to-earth, rides on a mouse. He uses a serpent as a belt to hold his stomach in and one of his tusks is broken – and therein lies a favourite Ganesha story, one of many.

  • Women, Wanderers and Wastelands

    I live in a country rife with systemic inequality.

    These days, my Facebook feed is flooded by a certain share, friends urging friends to sign a petition: Allow Nepali citizenship to be conferred by the mother or father in the new constitution. The petition stares at me every day from my laptop screen. Women aren't granted this legal right, I explain to my Spanish flatmate, who is a traveler passing through Nepal.

  • His Poetry

    Laying on this uncomfortable couch which daddy drove all night to find,

    Made me realize,

    I am living and breathing in a shantytown

    And this sincerely made me want to drown,

    As never once has this frown turned upside down.

    Living life in poverty,

    Resulted in mockery,

    This ensured the steady strength of this armory,

    Which I now wear on my body,

    Never to be taken off.

    Oh, gravity why’d you have to hold me down?

     

    Laying on this thick grass,

    Petrified to take a chance.

    The world around me was voiceless,

    All i could hear was the smooth flow of the Beatles through my ears.

    And at that very moment I wasn’t hopeless.

    It felt like ecstasy,

    So very heavenly.

  • When the Houses Danced

    In bed because of the flu since the past few days, I am watching the movie Wild to kill time. My wife is readying to go out to meet her friend, and is asking for the laptop from another corner of the room, where she is standing and wiping her face on a cloth towel. It is noontime of a very ordinary day – and it is precisely at this unremarkable time when an earthquake chooses to strike. Over the past several years, we are used to a minor tremor here, a slight shake there. But this, finally, turns out to be the devastating earthquake that we in Kathmandu, which is on the list of cities most vulnerable to seismic risk, had been long dreading.

  • Folk Knowledge, Intimate Perception of Place and Creativity

          I was born in a remote village in the mountainous region of western Nepal. Until I grew up as a school boy in that remoteness and learnt that a bigger world existed beyond what I could see around, my entire understanding was that of the mountains, meadows, vegetation, the cattle, wild beasts and birds, my parents and villagers who toiled hard day in and day out, their pains and pleasures and the images of human condition in the stories narrated by my peers who “bet villages” in their games.

    Tags: 
  • Separation

     

    We will become friends, it's not possible to continue this way:
    I avoided asking him, I told him this as a decision, I was afraid he would begin talking about things I was done with years ago.

    I hung up.

    I felt as if a mountain of ice had come down: what was happening brought about a crash of noisy silence, a huge vacuum, sadness maybe, and relief-- there were no tears, no, no tears, only some sort of sorrow pushing me towards the bed. I pulled a cover over myself and surrendered to deep relief.

  • My City, My Canvas

     

    How do I colour my city
    with creatures busy in living?
    Do I walk along as if on an errand
    seeking a lotus pond afloat with enlightenment?
    Do I go in search of orchid petals
    to unfurl whorls for hybrid pollens?
    Do I hurry along street plans and measure landuse
    to draw lines and shapes for my canvas?

    My city has no mountain ranges
    to be unscrolled broadened brownness,
    neither has she bushfires nor epic tragedies
    but her sky can be
    as dry and distant as a desert’s.
    My city has campaigns, policies and long-term planning,
    has a reputation for drivenness
    of a small country,
    has shopping malls and more…

    Series: 
  • Borrowing Books

     

    One night Kenneth visited his love, Barbara and showed her a novel he had borrowed from Jenny, then jealous Barbara said to him that Kenneth was lucky to have so many female friends; she didn't have any male friends to borrow a book from. Kenneth pointed at himself and said that how about himself; he was a good friend of hers, but she replied that "good friends" don't fuck, which remark made Kenneth truly sad because he had believed Barbara was his best friend and he himself had always tried to be her best one. This incident disappointed Kenneth greatly.

  • Honeymoon

     

    She told me over the phone, ’Guess what, we went to Goa,
    ... A train-ride from Bombay, with mountains on one side
    And little villages on the other, intruded by
    A sublet of the sea.
    We boarded a lovely cottage, partly owned
    By the government and watched the sunset each evening.
    Sunrise? Hah, no one gets to see that during honeymoon.’

    After hanging up, as I wondered if she had mistakenly asked me...
    Where could I have managed to take her?
    And right then I remembered-
    Laxmankaku, who enquired of his neighbours at least twice a week
    Has millions of crabs, crawling in his blood.
    And if investigated in little more detail-
    Sand, waves or even a sea-facing room
    Might just be discovered.

    Tags: 
  • Untitled

    When home becomes the scattered limbs of your mother’s body, the screams of your sister as savages rip her apart and missiles raining fire on the streets, you will run. Feet slapping against rubble, glass, sand and the fires of hell itself. You will run and run until you’re breathless and your knees give way and then you will crawl because somewhere deep down you know home is more than just the rattle of machine guns going off instead of a wedding march.

  • Excerpts from The Suicide Bomber

     

    I came out with Gulab’s son. We waited near the Bibi Mahood Mausoleum. Cars were all around us. The police and army personnel were standing on both sides of the road too. Opposite the mausoleum, an American guard was looking down from a high concrete bunker, keeping an eye on the road.

    My heart was throbbing with fear. I was afraid that the guard would suspect me. But Gulab’s son reassured me that no one would recognize me. Like me, many others were also roaming around with wireless sets in their hands.

  • The Leader's Motorcade

    His mother was rapping the iqaal which his father had chosen for him around his new white ghutra, keeping it a little spread out so as to hold the cloth firmly in place. In the five years of school he’d been wearing it, he still hadn’t learnt to put it on himself. She began advising him on various things and especially, once again, to make sure he was in the front row. He saw his sister leaving for her school in her dark blue pinafore dress, her collar sticking out like white petals, and he felt full with pride: she would not be able to see the leader’s motorcade. It was only the boys who would be there to welcome him when he landed at the airport.

  • Al-Bab Asharqi (Baghdad Downtown)

    1. Alleys

    A gate for the distant place and death.

    2.
    …............
    …..................
    …........................
    With our bloody coats
    we will bring down the city where the bottom
    is our opportunity
    to restore our old night
    back to the day when our inheritance used to be
    nothing but dung and mud.

    3
    The alleyways were an open darkness
    with nothing but spearheads that smack its lips
    with open mouths
    wanting to swallow the city.

  • Writing my Fragmented Self, Writing its Memory (ies)

    It is not easy to write about writing. As Marguerite Duras once said, one must be stronger than her writing in order to be able to write. When it comes to talking about writing, I think it is more than that: one must be stronger than herself to talk about writing.
    Starting to write at a very young age and thinking that it was intimate and personal, made me think during years of my early adolescence that what I was doing was “pre-writing.” It is the outer world that drags you out of yourself by telling you, “Hey, this is not intimate and personal, it happened with us, too! Your writing is universal; it is human.”

  • Expanding the Pluriverse

    Students of Sanskrit will recognise, in Kalyana Malla, the author of the erotic manual, Ananga Ranga. Since Sanskrit authors are not often situated, at least not to general readers, in a specific time and place—they tend to inhabit the boundless, calendar-free territory of Ancient India—it is not as well-publicised that Kalyana Malla lived in modern times, and was a prominent member of the 16th-century court of the Lodhi prince Lad Khan of Awadh. It was at his patron’s behest that he composed a verse fiction in four chapters, comprising 563 verses, titled Sulaima Charitra, the life of the king known to Jews as Solomon and to Muslims as Suleiman.

  • Literary Arts in India

     

    English writing in India is only a little over a hundred years old. It has been shaped by the cross-currents of history, cultures, mythology and modernism. Traders, travellers, dreamers and aggressors came, quietly and peacefully, or with violence and destruction. From the 10th century onwards, the foreign presence imprinted itself strongly on Indian society. Along with our ancient religions, scriptures and mythology it imbued our Art with a tapestry and sheen which is sometimes referrred to as exotic.

  • Images

    Images …images
    these are just images,
    old images,
    new images,
    images of youth,
    images of old age,
    images of the open life
    in spite of the ferocity of bullets,
    images of the open death
    sucking from the breast of savagery,
    images of boys who lay down
    on the terraces,
    images for the girls whose lips
    are decorated with smiles
    images of lovers their emotions
    gleam in the mid-day,
    images of lost wishes,
    images where the past accumulates
    like silence
    and sleeps alone,
    images from which the flowers of oblivion
    emerge,
    images of vague dreams,
    images of insanity
    laughingly celebrating
    the fire,
    images of the Tatars,
    images of the players of the band

  • On Becoming a Writer in Nepal

    I was born in a remote village in the mountainous region of western Nepal. Until I grew up as a school boy in that remoteness and learnt that a bigger world existed beyond what I could see around, my entire understanding was that of the mountains, meadows, vegetation, the cattle, wild beasts and birds, my parents and villagers who toiled hard day in and day out, their pains and pleasures, and the images of human condition in the stories narrated by my peers who “bet villages” in their games.

  • An Ordinary Death

    Sunil died in the bomb blast. He was my fruiterer. Which bomb blast you ask? Does it matter? He had gone for the election rally at the town hall. The bomb went off. Sunil died. That's all. When I got home two days later that was what I was told.
    Sunil died on a Monday. I met him the Saturday before at the Colpetty market.

  • Chronicles of Dark Humor

    I have re-incarnated

    Three times,I think

    And each time I realize that I just go back to the mess I've been

     

    Look upon the greatness

    With your swollen shaking legs

    Then return back home

    Never existed, in the first place.

     

    And I tried telling my mates

    That I have started hearing singing birds

    And that the night is not at all dark

    But they keep making blurred lines with crayons

    "here's the boundaries,let's stay on our own"

     

    But I think they've got it wrong,

    Stuck in their own domes.

     

    And my flesh hides under layers of chiffon

    Layers of leather jackets

    Layers of capes

    And layers of orange jumpsuits

    And ofcourse

  • Love is All...

    Love is all, love is flower
    It’s what which makes you higher
    Love is the moon in each twilight,
    It is a lamp, it is a light
    Call it a rainbow over sky;
    Only by love you can fly
    Love is the song of butterflies
    And so higher than seven skies
    If you catch it, it will fly
    A heart with love won’t destroy
    Love is the soft melody of wind
    Always true love comes without end
    Love means ocean, love is blue
    It seems a dream, but comes true
    Love is a roof in a sunny day
    It’s the path of each good way
    Love is no more except two;
    It ends with me, starts with you…

  • Aging Love

    The language of love

    is spontaneous,like me,

    like a painting of a child.

    I used to draw my house

    on the left side of the paper.

    My house was so small,

    neither doors nor windows,

    On the sands of aging.

  • On Becoming a Writer In Kyrgyzstan

    I grew up in the Soviet Union. In one of the “southern” Central Asian parts, in the most wildly beautiful country, the Kyrgyz Republic, among a people with an ancient, not to say archaic life history/biography, in the family of a writer and an actress and film-director - both pure, naïve, extremely talented and genuinely free in their minds, people formed at the time into a family of poor intelligentsia. These three factors formed me ideologically and let me stay free… Three things – the Soviet Union, my parents, my country’s beauty and heritage (sorry for this banal truth) – which I couldn’t depend on, or choose, were mingled metaphysically and shaped my life …

    And it’s interesting to think about now, thirty years later, with more mature and lucid (I hope) mind…

  • A Sense of Place

    According to Tim Cresswell, Place is a meaningful location, to which specific people are attached in some way. Place is somewhere me or you made meaningful. You have to invest meaning into it, endow it with value. A place is subjective and emotional.

    Hong Kong is a Place. Hong Kong is famous for its commercial developments, high-speed pace, for being a shopping paradise, etc. But for me, as a writer and an amateur activist, I can hardly regard those symbolic spaces that represent Hong Kong’s commercial success as my own Place, because I don’t live there. Those spaces are too expensive and too cool for me. Instead, there are so many hidden stories and corners of Hong Kong that are overshadowed by its economic achievement.

    Series: 
  • جادویی شکستنی  

            
    چیزی باقی نمانده است،جز عکس یادگار تو
    دلتنگی شبهای من،با مشتی خاطرات تو
    حرفی برای گفتن نیست تقصیر من باز هم نبود
    حرف آخر را میشنوی‌ نمیگیرم سراغ تو
    رفتن تو یادم نبود چطور رفتی تو بی خبر؟
    دلم را پس بمن بده تا نیایم به خواب تو
    بیهوده مدهوشم مکن با ناز و عشوۀ دیگر!
    جادویی تو شکستنی ست، نمیشوم بیتاب تو

  • Trespassing My Ancestral Lands

    In my dreams,
    I often trespass my ancestral lands,

    looking for the centuries
    hidden in the hills,

    finding the history
    lost in the sands,

    searching for an oracle
    safe in the ruins,

    not to be found
    and read!

    I often venture,
    without any food or water,

    in the land of five rivers,
    emerging through the passages of a glorious civilization,

    I have no shoes, only my garb, and a scarf,
    that I'm afraid of losing to the desert winds!

    An amulet strung around my neck,
    reads an Aayat of Quran,

    may almighty bless the daughter of the idol worshipers,
    out to defy the borders and demarcations.

    There were only destinations,
    before the birth of nations!

  • Poetry and Diplomacy

    It is widely accepted that the greatest literature is born when cultures, civilizations or worldviews come together. This often happens in case of diplomat-poets who often find themselves in exotic milieus, novel circumstances and in company of people with diverse viewpoints.

    There is a connection between diplomacy and poetry as several diplomats over the ages have excelled in poetry, to the extent that eight of them have won the most coveted prize in literature -- 'the Nobel Prize'. This is one of the least known literary facts.

  • The Call of the Hungry

    When there is no more land to walk, and all that’s in front is a river that cuts this into half, you relieve yourself of all your clothes and waddle into icy waters – till you hit rock bottom.

    Your teeth start chattering. They make strange rhythms, which must have drawn out the animals to get a closer look at the source of the unusual call, only to face a red spot bubbling to the surface before spreading across the white expanse even as we sleep.

    It comes to be known as the Call of the Hungry.

    In any case, either of us would have willingly sacrificed oneself for the other when the claws and fangs come out. (Today, the boy (or for that matter, the old man) still feels the sharp paper cuttings on his neck, brain and all over the back of his torso.)

  • Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, India Two

    There’s a saying that goes: When the pupil is ready, the Master will appear. I don’t have a Master at whose feet I learnt to write poetry, but I knew, one day, that I was ready to write it. I think it began – fittingly enough, given the nature of my poetry – in the basement of a hospital. I was waiting outside while a doctor performed an endoscopy on my father, the first of what would be several more in the years to come. That morning, the Hindu had a special booklet of essays on spirituality; among them was a series of short poems by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. I xeroxed those poems and that was my reading material during the endoscopy.

  • Poet's Interview

    Poet Interview #39 – Sanjeev Sethi

    Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? At what age did you start writing? Have you always written poetry? Who/what first inspired you to start writing? Who are your favorite poets?
     
    I am essentially a poet. I have published three books. Bloomsbury published my third, This Summer and That Summer in October 2015. 
     
  • Knotted inside me

    At the time of my birth, my small town Kalyan, did not have a library.

     

    It had no road rage, few beggars, one defunct traffic signal at Murbad Road,

    and fewer cars.

     

    Horizontal buildings silhouetting the sun in shanties, chawls and cottages

    Its outline gianted and dwarfed

    with self-sustaining jobs of: kiranawalas, primary school teachers, factory workers, dentists,

    general practitioners, cycle repair shops,

    and a small bank (let’s not forget) on Rambaugh lane.

     

    It was tone deaf to career ladders, six sigma, hierarchies,

    MNCs, pecking orders.

     

    Filled with pavwallas, mohmeddans, hindus, bavas,

    north Indians, south Indians, non-catholics,

  • Waiting for Azaan

    After the afternoon drain streets fill
    again with approaching dusk
    naan-shops open shutters
    date carts grow lighter,
    children dash on final errands.
    Sun-wizened job-hunters wait still
    in wheelbarrows
    near low-voiced conferences of sheep,
    heads bent as if considering their fate.

    A boy already a man
    washes his feet in the jooey,
    red-faced cop pulls man from car
    beating him till he pays,
    even on Friday, even
    in the holy month.
    White beards and clustered listeners settle
    in unglamorous parlors – blankets spread
    on ground or wooden platforms,
    No one is alone.

  • The Wager

    The gallows had been set up that morning in the middle of town and they were still causing fear and provoking question about who might fill the noose’s swinging vacancy. The setting sun seemed to be warning the ruler against going back on his word. The accusation was still alternating between the rider and the groom, hardly setting on one before it was back to the other.

    When our delegation came back from the race that was held with neighboring states, the result they brought home was basically a disgrace. We had come last, even though our entrant was fastest runner of all of our mules – the ruler’s very own – mule. This made the ruler even more angr , and he swore a scared oath, “The one who has caused this will most certainly pay the price before the sun set.”

  • Haibun

     

    Snakes and ladders

    I met Mrs. Kumar twice in my life.

    The first when I was an administrative assistant and she, the wife of a man who had climbed the slippery corporate ladder to become Head of HR. She looked resplendent in her aubergine sari of gold borders, and wore heavy jewelry, as if it was a wedding and not a corporate dinner.

    She banded with the wives of other directors and was inclusive of me too in a mirthful way, like people are when good fortune shows upon them. She spoke about her car and how it glided over roads. ‘Reminds me of a plane just about to take off,’ her eyes brightened. She spoke of her children’s achievements, exotic holidays, the number of support staff she had hired.

  • Poems

     

    مثلما خدعنا العالم كله

    ستخلعينَ قبعة البيسبول مثل العادة

    وتبحثينَ عن زاويتك المفضلة

    في مقهى ماريو.

    وستنظرينَ في المرآةِ

    وتأخذين وقتك لتستيقني

     من أن الملائكة ما زالت

    تحرس التفاح الرابض

     خلف الساتان الأبيض.

    وستطلبين قهوتك المفضلة مثل العادة

    وتنظرين الى الفواخت وهي تحط

    قرب النافورة كحلم أبيض

    وراء زجاج المقهى.

    وستمُعنين النظرَ في اللوحةِ الحمراء

    المعلقة على الجدار

    كطوطم عند مدخل قرية افريقية.

    وستسمعين أديل وهي تغني

    في المذياع

    Someone like You

  • This Love

    SHE loved him you see and so she thought it was honesty that would matter in the end.
    So when she said, “You can’t handle the truth,” she was unprepared for what happened next.
    He dragged her by the hair, dragged her like a rag doll through the dark corridor lined with paintings and mould into the room at the end of the hall. It was dark and dank inside compared to the light in the verandah and the sound of singing voices. The smell of the jacaranda trees and the sight of the blooming white frangipani allowed her to think of all that was possible.
    It is possible that he will accept this, she thought. All is possible. All I need is to speak the truth.

    Tags: 
  • Pregnancy

    My body regularly erupts

    and it hurts when it does

    but it terrifies me

    with its painful time delay.

    My legs don’t tremble

    my back doesn’t groan,

    and I don’t distort my smile

    with wailing.

    I am used to

    that portent

    and what it chooses

    and what it nominates.

  • Varnam

    (for M.K)

    In the beginning,
    No beginning, only
    The silvery glimpse of a history,
    Solid as a rock,
    Or the lotus.

    Till you, Shiva,
    Ashen faced, plough lined,
    Danced the dance of destruction,
    Your right leg, a
    Stern spear, to the moon,
    Your left, black root,
    Upon the orange womb, this earth;

    Prayer, the wild
    Dance of your hair,
    Place of our pilgrimage,
    Where all is surrendered,
    Clay, ash, the universe…

    Time is only the unfurling
    Of the blackness that we track;
    So, learning the names of origins,
    I can never go back.

    Tags: 
  • Untitled: Anthology

    I am the creature that country clichés often mention—
    the city animal.

    This restless wonderment
    at my inability to harness nature in my poetry
    is a distant thought now,
    overwritten by the black airbrush exhausts—
    probably precipitates on a friendly hawkers white smiley mask.

    Case scenarios of what could be
    are just voices in the wind now—
    or the silent rustle of grass—
    the rare child caressed by the final gush.

    Instead, I wonder what happens if the hawker,
    say for example, wipes his mask,

                      and his finger like a philosopher’s stone,

                      reduced to the exotic mediocrity of an ivory touch

                      leaves an ivory trail—the tiny island of truth

  • Seven Attempts to Portray Mr. President

    1

    He is alone in the hall,
    red cup in hand,
    feather hat on head.

    Through the window one can see scattered corpses,
    knocked down trees
    and a handful of rabid dogs
    wandering around.

    2

    He leans against
    empty space,
    his eyelashes stuck to the glass,
    his toothless mouth chewing unintelligible words
    about our vanishing glory.

    And in the distance the royal guards
    sit around a table,
    barking at each other.

    3

    Swollen
    like a rotten apple,
    from his apertures stream
    black snakes and false secrets.

    4

    As he dozes,
    he builds, out of his fantasies,
    a wailing country
    and awkward speeches

    5

  • Quiescence

    Metaphors could line the back alleys
    of distraught kingdoms,
    casting rebels,
    buzzing like bees,
    around intrusive hornets,
    breaking out to bigger nests;
    productive unrest,
    spreading like a plague,
    not person to person,
    By the hectare.
    -
    But they dream and suck on nectar.

  • Her sun sets in the East

     When three; her best friend is the grass,

    Silver stokes of pointy blades tug the cloth of her dupatta.

    She draws an open life, two irises in the mud,

    “Eyes are God’s to make,” says Baba jaan,

    “Not yours to re-invent.”

     

    Four; the water glows orange.

    Its noisy layers embrace the surface of her toes.

    She digs her fingers into its blue

    & fishes for rainbow stars.

    Baba jaan, come look. Look what I found.

    Too late. It’s time for prayer.

    She throws the stars away.

     

    Five; she knows namaaz by heart;

    Baba jaan recites a strange string of Arabic in her ear,

    What does it mean?

    She looks out the window thrice.

     

  • Memory's Lisp

    I stand near me

    Watching that man

    Come from the land far away.

    We have the same lisp

    In our tongue and in our memory.

    He went through me,

    And I didn’t notice

    He stole my poems

    And placed a knife

    On the edge of my lips.

  • Religion is Love

    Distances are empty

    between us.

    Prayers are love,

    and when I get drunk

    by desire

    I forget from which amulet

    I wrote myself

    using its bloody saffron

    and which I use

    to erase myself.

    Red is another language,

    and I can’t speak it anymore.

  • Caravanserai

     O the earth tribe

    drums were played, doors were closed

    in caravanserai

     

    a candle, a loaf of bread, a dish of soup

    and a sack of oat for the horse

     

    in this courtyard shadowed by ever-present tree

    mostly three days

     

    then a caravan of three thousand camels...

     

    on the wall an axe, a battle axe

    bodies are hot by fireplace

     

    and the moon grows as if it settles

    a new daytime

    Tags: 
  • The Meaning of Wealth in the New Economy

     

    “Wealth … is the means by which we fulfill our desires.”
    - Interview with Stan Davis & Chris Meyers, Harvard Business School Publishing

    Hence the cat’s languid stretch, its bullet spring, the puppy
    eyes of the one you love, asking undue favours
    you resent, yet relent to. The mercenary burst
    of bougainvillea, machine-gun clatter of rubber-seeds falling
    to hard ground as December comes, bearing fistfuls of rain.
    Consider the lilies of the field, how like your pale hunger,
    the hollow in the gut that pulls you forward, the lust
    to work, earn, mate, the same gravity that binds
    water to sky, impels birds to song and blood, both.

  • I Promise

    I promise I won’t leave you again,
    Even if I died or I was blind_
    I promise I won’t make you cry;
    I won’t break your heart neither I will lie_
    I promise to come with you,
    Near or far please accept me so_
    We happily live under blue sky;
    Since, I am in you and you are I…

  • West Coast Market, Singapore

    Food stall 1

    Old bald man at market yong tau foo* store
    stands below his sign:
    10 pieces for $4, $2 per bowl, 50 cents rice.

    In between serving customers
    before the weekend crowd builds up,
    one hand on aproned waist,
    the other holding a glass of kopi-si*,
    he sips, whilst
    biting into his home-made fried bean curd
    stuffed with fillings,
    clearly food-tasting and hunger-stalling
    while his wife munches her pink rice-kueh* hastily,
    stacking bowls of mee hoon yong tau hoo expertly.
    (talk about multi-tasking).

    For just one brief moment,
    they sit down on the plastic bench in front of their store.
    Within earshot,
    they discuss last night’s ma-piew pou*
    (we all have our strike-rich dreams).

  • Poems from Dayplaces

    Story of (that) time

    Story of that time; like tyrants who gargle in the depth ; in the (wood’s quiet) we were, night was in us; maybe we were stars, maybe we carried our clothes to where the river enters.
    Dante says: the Centaur throws tyrants in a river of blood; I say: the wood is in the heart; and we inhabit Al Midan square in homeless rooms; judgment days pass colorless through us, and we are naked on the square of the universe.

    Ithaca

  • Serenade of Last Moments

    Pieces of a broken mirror lay flat on the floor,

    Sudden shivers and heaps of heavy sighs

    surround the silhouette of a broken girl;


    Bloodshot eyes seek familiarity

    as she picks up a piece that pierces her veins,

    One glimpse of her shrunken jaws

    and she throws it down the drain;


    Deep sounds of agonizing despair engulf her lips,

    the smell of raw scotch etched into her skin with grief

    She strikes the bottle on the bathroom floor

  • A Summer's Day

    Unlike in Shakespeare’s verse,

    I felt the summer day.

    The sun burned

    my nocturnal wings

    and the wind tossed me away.

    My steps on the milky shore,

    my feathers in the sky

    drawing a Picasso painting,

    asking

    “What? Who cares?

    And why?”

  • Immortal Frenzy

    Rabisankar Bal’s Ayna Jiban, translated from the original Bengali by Arunava Sinha as A Mirrored Life, is a captivating novel that celebrates the tradition of the katha, the dastan, the qissa and the kahani, the story that travels across continents, languages and centuries in the saddlebags of merchants and the memoirs of saints. Such a story gains in splendour as it goes, elaborating itself into a labyrinth inexhaustibly stocked with characters, episodes and surprises.

  • Writing in a Country at War: Iraq 2014

    Perhaps, I should begin by informing the honorable audience that I am from a country and a people that have wars that come in all sizes, types, shapes and colors. We have short wars and we have long wars. We have fat wars and we have slim wars. We have black wars and we have white wars. We have shaved wars and we have bearded wars. We have dirty wars and we have clean wars. We have sexy wars and we have unsexy wars. We have Latino wars and we have Asian wars. We have Iranian wars, Kuwaiti wars and American wars. We have conventional wars and we have high-tech wars. We have holy wars and we have unholy wars. We have symmetrical wars and we have asymmetrical wars. We have biological wars and we have chemical wars. We have the Saddam wars and we have the Bush wars.

    Tags: 
  • در آن سوی آب ها

    با یک بوسه
    مزه گردن مرطوبی را امتحان کردم
    با بوسه دیگر شانه برهنه ای را برای خودم نشانی کردم
    (در جستجوی وطنی هستم)
    و با بوسه سوم دست هایش را
    که برعلیه من بودند
    در پهلوهایش آویزان کرد
    (قلمروی در یک قدمی ام جاذبه هایش را برملا کرده بود)

    لب ها نازک
    از لبخند های بی وقفه
    انگار تبسمی ابدی اراده اش را از لبانش رانده بود
    دهانش بازتر
    آنقدر که همه دندان هایش نمایان شده بودند
    و من در می یافتم
    که سی و دو دندان سالم و گرم دارد
    بند پاهایش را هم چون دام با دست هایم گرفته بودم

    زنی که در نیمه های شب
    در رخت خواب دراز می کشد
    با ساق های مشتعلش
    و چیزی آتش نمی گیرد

  • The Song of Freedom

    When sun rises high
    I wish to fly
    In silence of sunlight
    At shinning moon of night
    I want to see the sea
    I wish to be free.
    I and spring
    Together sit and sing
    Each moment is sweet
    When peace is beside it
    I feel it can be
    I will be free.
    If birds fly high
    If dews never die
    In future I see
    I am going to be free.
    When each black and white
    Could read and could write
    When no one ignores it
    Life would be complete.
    I want such a world
    Without fight, without war
    I will change my life
    Follow the shiny star.
    You can stop my heart
    You can take my breath
    To achieve my goal
    I will work as a whole.
    You may call me black
    Either name me slave

  • To my charming Andrée

    My old lady lives by Garden Luxemburg,
    Just to the foot of the Senate,
    Goes to church once by week. At noon Sundays,
    When the bells call …. Prizyvno…..
    At Saint-Sulpice. She is not much religious,
    But says “we should not forget the church”.
    Once a week, again at Sundays come her son. For a lunch.
    This is a habit, so called the family ritual.
    So poor family ritual…
    My old lady every day goes to the market.
    On the other side of the boulevard Saint–Germain–des-Pres,
    along the streets ‘rue de Seine’ and ‘rue de Buci’
    (it is the famous rue de Buci, with a bookshop
    of Russian literature “Le Globe”).
    “Ah, that market has a remarkable selection
    and people are kind with me,” says my old lady.

  • War, the Literati and Responsibility

    Can literature accept social responsibility?

    Some say that the arts should be purely arts--nothing else, that writers should only serve the gods of beauty and joy. In some cases, this makes sense, particularly when art assumes the status of propaganda in the service of a specific ideology--some religious poetry of eastern literature, for example, or the writings of some followers of Marxism, or the classic poems of Afghanistan written in praise of the monarchy.

  • Her-Story

    By  Aiswarya Sasi

     

    As I relinquished myself to sleep’s alluring caress,

    In the warmth of the banyan tree behind the mess,

    My cerebrum set out to tail a fairly odd train of thought,

    ‘I’m here to take your history,’ a confident voice sought.

     

    Before my eyes an authoritative white-coated figure stood.

    Contrived by my mind with all the precision it feasibly could,

    At the stethoscope flung casually across his neck, as I glanced,

    Cleared my throat officiously and to my long history advanced.

     

    “Wide eyes perused a sea of names; pupils dilated in fright,

    On beholding a familiar string of letters, they tarried in respite.

  • Commuting to Tokyo with Marco Polo: Disorientalism Revisited

    The Britannica Concise Encyclopedia describes the city of my youth as follows:

    Fukuoka City (pop., 2000 prelim.: 1,341,489) and port, JAPAN. It incorporates the former city of Hakata and is located on the southern coast of Hakata Bay. An ancient port, it was the scene of attempted invasions by Kublai Khan in the 13th century. It is now a regional, commercial, industrial, administrative, and cultural centre. It contains an active fishing port and is the site of Kyushu University (1911). Hakata ningyo, elaborately costumed ceramic figurines found in most Japanese homes, are made there.

    Series: 
  • Puny Girl

    Do you remember?
    I am! “Puny”_
    But look just once!
    I am just me.
    Do you know that?
    I am ugly_
    But see just once!
    My inner beauty.
    Do you still?
    Want me to follow_
    All those life rules,
    As your shadow.
    Have you ever?
    Thought of me before?
    You wouldn’t lose me_
    Please be sure.
    Have you looked back?
    She is grown;
    That “puny girl”_
    Won’t be just known.
    Farewell! Farewell! I am going_
    Just don’t forget!
    I wasn’t showing…

  • On Becoming a Writer in Pakistan 2

    My graduate training is in the field of creative writing, with a specialization in fiction. During the course of my graduate study, I produced fiction based that was based on Karachi and arose out of the conflicts of contemporary urban life. For the last three years though I have been teaching literature at the undergraduate level at a liberal arts college in Pakistan, and my views on literature and my own practice as a writer have evolved in conjunction of my practice of teaching literature. I will try to list some of my ideas here.

  • Now and Then: The natural progression of things

     

    In the year 500 AD the great sage Adishanya had a series of visions that he inscribed on fifty ola leaves. In the late forties an archaeology student discovered some of the writings in the tragic Pulatti expeditions. They foretold of dreadful times in store for the island now called Sri Lanka. Legend has it that once all the ola leaves have been recovered peace and prosperity shall reign once more. So far only 32 of them have been found.

     

    Ola leaf Number 15

     

    There will come a time when blood will flow.

    The country will be split and Red will be the only colour.

  • Migration, Identity and the Literary Imagination

    “We are all migrants… Writers are migrants.” This is how the Scottish writer Alison Louise Kennedy ended her opening remarks at the seventh annual European Literature Days Festival in Spitz, Austria. These words were a primary focus of discussion throughout the festival. There were discussions about the identity of literature and migrant writing in Europe, especially in its relationship to writers’ new locations.

  • The Last Day

    Tia Teresa Thomas

    Today was the last day of our 10-day posting in Emergency Medicine. We were only in fourth term so the prospect of Emergency Medicine excited us more than anything.. Our posting was during the day and so far we had seen our seniors manage one man with myocardial infarction and several persons with electrolyte imbalance. A few beds were always empty and we assumed that most cases of trauma came in at night. The doctors were almost always free to teach us about trauma cases, which we were sure we would not see. 

     

  • The Maze of Time

    I

    2014.

    11:42pm

    New York, USA

    The room echoed with occasional sniffs and gasps of misery; and eventually everything hushed to emptiness. The sound of silence reverberated through everyone’s heart, which was accompanied by the swift and delicate performance of the tears that rolled down their cheeks. Yes, they were sad. Yes, he is no longer here… yes, he is dead.

  • The East Gate

    Like a dervish

    I am flattered by poems, emotions,

    spitting the coffee

    in the longing coffee.

    From the east,

    the last gate of escape,

    I looked upon us

    in the froth.

    I saw us

    in the reflection

    of a young color,

    singing the impossible

    in the womb of

    the angel of extinction.

  • Recording Oral Folk Narratives

    The northern Himalayan districts of Bajhang and Darchula in far western Nepal bordering Tibet still have rich oral traditions that tell fascinating tales about human life and death, happiness and sadness, love and hate, along with rich details about societal customs, rituals, economies, cross border relations, and the hazards accrued by the difficult topography of the region. Like many oral stories today, threatened by the erosion of traditional cultural practices and languages, these stories are on the verge of disappearance and with the changing landscape of Nepal and the rise in the tendency of linguistic code switching, there is a strong possibility that younger generations will discontinue such oral traditions.

  • The Story of an Orphan Boy

    It is the story of a long past. In a village, there lived an old couple. They had a single daughter. They did not have any son. As they wanted a son, they performed various religious rituals and duties, and went on fasting as believers. Wherever they went, whichever temple they visited, they sought a blessing from the God and that was for a son. In hope of a son, their youth passed and they started getting old. Yet they had no son. As their daughter got young, they arranged her marriage to a man far away from their village. After her marriage, the old couple was left alone. The agony of not having a son ever left them.

  • Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, Nepal Two

    When we started our business in 2008, the idea of a bookshop akin to a literary salon was an appealing prospect. Literary events that were organized in the city were either invite only book launches or a lack luster book fair for the public – mostly brought to the public’s attention in the media after the event had taken place. Our vision for literary events centered on the author and their work. We hosted readings once a month and engaged the media prior to the event so that interested readers could join the events.

  • Red Leaf

    For the red leaf
    I once plucked and then forgot
    I will pull off this flower.
    For the love trampled
    Coming from that vulnerable leaf
    Which I remember now and then,-
    I will pull off this flower.
    These flowers I’ll call mistakes of my youth.
    And I’ll weep as I send them off with the wind.

    Translated by Sh.Tsog

    Tags: 
  • Last Wish

    I am with you wherever you are,
    Up or down, near or far_
    My soul cannot be separated from you;
    Final destiny!
    By Your precious love_
    I see the moon and reach in sky.
    Like sky sometimes blue, sometimes white
    You are splendid in each color, cannot be sought_
    I am with you in horror of dark night,
    I always seek you at a small feign of light_
    Let me call you fancy world!
    Coz, I am with you till I became old_
    My last wish is: just once tell me!
    Just once tell me: I was the one, you wanted me.

  • Burrowed

    Burrowed under her duvet, snuggling close to the pillow on her right she was in that state where she was half asleep but half awake. Where everything was blurry and it felt like she was in a dream. Lately, without him, things were hazy.

    The house, dead quiet, everybody tucked into beds. The vibration of the phone on her side board ringed through the room. The phone stopped ringing and she slipped into oblivion.

    A pulse lapsed and the quivering of the table started again. Groaning she smacked her hand all over the table trying to locate her phone. Her hand hit the metal case and she squinted at the screen in the dark. Unknown number. God! Whimpering she swore if it was a prank call she would strangle the person on the other side.

  • It was Too Late...

    The spider‘s web was spreading all over the room. The old woman was trying to string a needle with her skinny bone hands, but her hands were shaking and her eyes could not see the needle, so she left the old carpet.

    Outside the room there was a cold wind. Old woman put some potatoes into a black dish and fired under it; soon, there was a black and suffocating smoke in air, after a while she put them into a broken bowl and brought it home. Slowly, slowly the sun was setting; there was darkness all around the air while there was no light inside the house of old woman. She took one of the potatoes to eat, but couldn’t swallow it. A cold, clear tear followed on her cheeks.

  • Taking the Vedas to Common Man

    To reach the root of any knowledge, three facts are important: 1) re-rendering without prior bias, 2) rethinking free from any impression which has a limited meaning, 3) the proper mixing of facts, emotions and arguments. In the modern age we need to study Vedas to understand our past in the light of the present. Mostly we want to see our present in terms of our contemporary situation. That is why the thoughts of most of the thinkers are influenced by their circumstances and perspective. Maybe, this is the reason that our nationalist thinkers tried to prove that Vedic literature is highly philosophical without any earthly element. Thus it got separated from the common man.

  • صیاد عشق

    دنیا چقدر شیرین بود روزیکه ترا دیدم
    رویای من رنگین بود آن روز که ترا دیدم
    اندر دل من یک بار یک روزنه ای تابید
    آن نور امید بود روزیکه ترا دیدم
    روزها گذشت و من اندر طلب رویت
    عاشق شدم عاشقتر هر روز که ترا دیدم
    روزیکه بمن گفتی دوستتدارم جانم
    من محو تو گردیدم آنروز که فهمیدم
    روزیکه صدا کردی آمده ام جانم!
    شاهزاده ای رویاییت من هم پسندیدم
    روزیکه قسم خوردی تا ترکم نخواهی کرد
    دیوانه ات گردیدم آن لحظه که بشنیدم
    روزیکه سر قرآن گفتی منم تنها
    در خواب و رویایم هر جا که میدیدم
    گذشتم از خود سوختم به پای تو
    آتشم زدی آتش، حتی نفهمیدم
    آخر فدایت گشت زندگی و عمر من
    چی کار کردی با من چرا نپرسیدم؟
    تو از اول هم صیاد بودی و من
    چقدر ساده بلی آسان شکار تو گردیدم
  • Normal Life!

     

    Life is normal
    only a bus carrying
    infants, youth, and old
    had to be gathered in scraps
    only the skull of a fifteen year old
    had to be collected and identified
    by his mother
    to find life in death
    and death in life
    perhaps more life in death.

    Life is normal
    announces the Home Department
    with clarity of conscience
    only a hundred batons
    have left bloody scars
    on a sane protestor
    caught in a protest’s insanity
    only a few soldiers’ boots
    have rained on a lone pedestrian
    only a mother in her twenties
    has disappeared in an encounter
    leaving behind eleven months baby
    yelling and searching
    his mama’s protuberant and heaving breasts.

  • On Becoming a Writer in Nepal 2

    When we started our business in 2008, the idea of a bookshop akin to a literary salon was an appealing prospect. Literary events that were organized in the city were either invite only book launches or a lack luster book fair for the public – mostly brought to the public’s attention in the media after the event had taken place. Our vision for literary events centered on the author and their work. We hosted readings once a month and engaged the media prior to the event so that interested readers could join the events.

  • Interview with Soheil Najm

    [Interview performed by Farideh Hassanzadeh]

    "The Iraqi roses (poems) flourish today every where in the world."

    "Being very abstract, brief and digested poetry could not depict these horrible deeds."

    *As a poet, what is your interpretation of the word"COUNTRY"or "MOTHERLAND"?

  • Election Day in Iraq was a Sacred Day

    On January 28, I went to my grandfather’s house in Baghdad, where I was registered to vote, to participate in the national election. I had to arrive early because a three-day curfew had been imposed.

  • Infant Martyr

    Since the night of shooting stars, the night of travail,

    the call to prayer calms me. Some people chant,

    Hale Loya.”

    It was the last supper and the birth

    of a certain death.

    My silicone

    was oxidized with love.

    I was born from a pairing of the dust of Al-Jalil

    and the waters of Euphrates and became

    the infant martyr.

     

    From the collection Bleeding Gull: Look Feel Fly

  • Knife

    A country is a toddler's hand
    that holds you as long as it can before it falls asleep.

    A city is a clipboard with lists built and crossed out,
    clutched like a punctuated flotation device.

    A house is a curled mollusk
    fossilized as soon as milk goes sour.

    A room is a patient stone in kidneys
    kept alive by conflict and clay.

    A heart is a spoon
    most of the time.

    First published in As You Were, Volume 1, Fall 2014
    https://militaryexperience.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/marie-poetry.pdf

  • Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, Pakistan Two

    My graduate training is in the field of creative writing, with a specialization in fiction. During the course of my graduate study, I produced fiction based that was based on Karachi and arose out of the conflicts of contemporary urban life. For the last three years though I have been teaching literature at the undergraduate level at a liberal arts college in Pakistan, and my views on literature and my own practice as a writer have evolved in conjunction of my practice of teaching literature. I will try to list some of my ideas here.

  • Paper Boat

    Three walls of the room are made of tin, but on the fourth side a polished floor opens, running like fabric into curtains of lace, into wallpapers dotted with flowers, into ceilings pierced with mirror baubles, unicorns, antelopes. A wind chimes from wind kisses. Toys cart-wheel, zigzag, whirr, somersault in a wide, vast expanse. Heaven…!

    Ujwala awoke. She had been dreaming once again and as always Madamji’s house had merged with her house, like the wagon of a train.

  • A Biogenesis of Processed Singapore Noodles

    A Biogenesis of Processed Singapore Noodles

     

    for Mary Nazareth

     

    …a case of you,

  • Bringing Back the Troublers

    The classical is a name we give to the hybridity we have forgotten. Its seemingly unassailable guarantees of a pure identity, homogenous culture and continuity with an idyllic past conceal the turbulences that actually produce history: the encounters among dissimilar individuals and groups; the migration of soldiers, artists, scholars, merchants, adventurers and slaves across continents; the emergence of religious, philosophical, scientific and aesthetic innovations from the mixing of the familiar with the strange, the domestic with the alien. In the early phases of what we regard as Indic civilisation, for instance, we find the formative imprint of Greek, Persian and Chinese contributors.

  • Short Poems

    Afghanistan is a place on mars
    women and children are howling
    and no one can help them from the earth

    To Malala
    A head without Borqa is a head with a bullet
    why you took the pencil
    and drew a head without Borqa

    A crying woman on the donkey
    A man with a whip behind the donkey

    Small mothers
    Suddenly
    my dolls start crying
    and
    start calling me
    mother

    I saw her, when we were around a dead body
    Her scarf slid off her hair
    when she was crying for him
    in my country
    most of the times love starts
    from a place
    where a life ends

  • La.Lit Magazine

    The Translation Series will be a special volume of La.Lit, a literary magazine that seeks to engage a broad community through literature and art. The overarching goal of the series is to promote regional literary exchange amongst diverse linguistic groups through the translation of works into English, which is understood as the most common language shared amongst Silk Route countries and is, despite its problems, perhaps the best medium for the sharing of stories and experiences. La.Lit’s editorial team will work with young writers and translators from various Silk Route countries in order to produce four texts from the region to be published in La.Lit (link is external)and to strengthen the translation skills of young writers.

    Local Projects: 
  • کی بودی؟

     

    بگو آری! کی بودی، کیستم من؟
    گهی چون ابر،گهی چون موج چرا جاریستم من؟
    بگو آخر ز روی مهربانی
    چرا چون تو نباشی، نیستم من؟

  • Writing and Place

    A Sense of Place
    By Yui Tanizaki (Japan)

  • Tips for Aspiring Writers, Khagendra Sangroula

    1. Do not write ghazals (lyric poems). Readers suffocate beneath the weight of ghazals that, much like guinea pigs, lack diversity and end up looking all the same. No more friend, enough already! However, write one in case you see the last straw of your existence or the burning coal to your immortality in it. One is just about enough to try out your voice and to get some rushed, insincere welcome applause for life. Having nine out of ten ghazals sounding like the first one is to gobble up both you and your audience’s most valuable lifetime in nine little installments. Such life-taking in the name of ghazals is not a poetic service.
    Local Projects: 
  • Peccability

    Alpenglow on your cheeks constellate me


    to our cosmos, quickening in this heliolater


    of calentures that never convalesced. Lost


    in its energy, I continue bird-dogging protocols


    for cushioning my passage here. It’s said:

    breathing is for one’s behoof. Engird this


    without forethought, and obliterate your

    embroidering of my heart with thread of tendresse.

    Grammar has no third choice, like guilt. 




    Postcolonial Text, Vol 11, No 2 (2016) 

  • In Transit

     

    between our arrivals and our
    Departures, it is a strangely
    guiltless territory

    - Marne L. Kilates

  • Asafetida

    Investing emotions when other operating levers exist,
    loving without the privilege of parenthood is an essay
    in emptiness. In some eyes I can see myself. I’m inured
    to their throes. Come, let us camouflage grief in girdles
    of guffaw. Let this be our memory.

    You and I inhaled prescriptions scried by sources beyond
    our breath. By then my sight was misted by the smoke
    of your sticky tune. As with passive smokers we nip and
    sometime nurse. An opisthograph on love is not enough:
    lived lives have other needs.

    Originally published at Synaesthesia.

  • The Pain of Imagination

     

    "You are a storyteller, so tell me a story."

    "I will."

    She looked across the table at the big man. His grey hair. His brown eyes. She watched him get older as time passed and wondered if he had thought her beautiful, and that if he did, think that now she got uglier by the half hour. Justice of the Ugandan Supreme Court, Sitteer Ibrahim, drank his beer looked at the slight girl in front of him and speculated if he had got himself into a situation. But the girl began to speak and he soon became transfixed.

  • میتوان

    میتوان در ژرفنای یک نگاه 
    تا به اوج آسمان حتی رسید
    میتوان در یک نگاه ساده ای
    درد یک عشق نهانی را کشید
    میتوان با دیدن یک ارغوان
    حس شگفتن را بیدار ساخت
    میتوان در اقیانوس آبی عشق
    پاکی مهر و محبت را شناخت
    میتوان درسکوت آرام شب
    طپش قلب عاشق را شنید
    میتوان با کوله باری از امید
    به شهر پاک احساسات رسید
    میتوان با هر قطره باران
    عاری از اشک و غم و آه شد
    میتوان در لبخند ناز کودکان
    گاه آن کودک فردا شد
    میتوان در اوج تنهای خویش
    همصدا با موج یک دریا بود
    میتوان در عمق دلتنگی خویش
    شعر آزادی فردی را سرود
  • Language Essay: Kyrgyzstan

    There is a little interesting thing about me. I was born in Kyrgyzstan, my nationality is Uzbek, but my native language is Russian. The fun fact about me is that I can speak none Uzbek. Since birth, I’ve mainly spoken the Russian language. I am proud of my language.

  • مرا در خاطراتت جستجو کن

    بیا من دمی تو گفتگو کن
    دلم را با نگاهی زیر و رو کن
    اگر بودی، نبودم در کنارت
    مرا در خاطراتت جستجو کن

  • Behind Each Letter

     

    Between the predisposition to the Absolute, and the red walls of the labyrinth, the paths that lead to the meaning vary. And, whether the letter is a sword, a candlestick, or a wall-- the truth is farther than being reached by normal or exceptional call. Today I sleep, beside me an old book; I don't think much of curves that can roll down infinitely, or of question chains, nor the absolute. I lie on the edge of the bed, looking down, to the abyss that can be a real scene--waiting death more calmly: the point where the line comes upon the point, the wish comes upon the riddle, and the meaning comes upon the inattention--Behind each letter.

    Series: 
  • It's Not Her Fault

    By Sitarah Mathias, a third-year student at St. John's Medical College

    Chhatarpur. A sleepy, dusty little town in Madhya Pradesh connected only by road, where life moved in slow motion.  Yet, a college trip in January 2016 to this humble township changed my life.

    The time I spent in Christian Missionary Hospital, Chhatarpur, opened my eyes to a plethora of socioeconomic hindrances that deter the development and delivery of healthcare in India including illiteracy, ignorance, limited access to healthcare, harmful social dogmas and cultural practices with adverse health implications. However, what struck me the most was the obvious gender discrimination and crimes against women.

  • A Negative

    To those days--bombing monuments…
    When the soul talked for long to the roar of the truth…

    1
    Procreation of light enlightens a hazy picture of fossilized memory and of panicked horrors of an effaced dream:
    "Streets…warplanes...faces sink in sadness…eyes disappear in their caverns…voices of rescue…newscasts…darkness…light…,night…day…"

    He opened his eyes: the sun finger was pinned on his forehead, and a beautiful sparrow was jumping in the fist of light...

    2
    "From the very beginning, the soul awakened this flower of land, and awakening the land…a feather in the creation ever she was…spreading her forms inside the folds of time…"

  • Serving a Smile

    We have a modest tradition

    of hospitality.

    Our Arabian coffee

    doesn’t need sugar

    or cardamom

    to be tasty or delightful

    just like the smile

    we serve

    to those passing by.

    Imam Hussain

    Like a stem cell,

    the infant universe

    grows inside you,

    like a martyr star.

    You will get killed

    but your light

    will live forever.

    And like a Sumerian cup,

    you will die thirsty

    while the rivers of life

    will always rise

    from your hand.

  • یادگار

    در اوج بی نیازی تنها نیاز من باش
    ای آشنا چه بودی دایم قرار من باش
    در جاده های پرپیچ در شب بی ستاره
    هر سو اگر روم من فانوس راه من باش
    در لحظه ای جدای آنگاه که پرگشودم
    ای همره ثانیه ها همدم آه من باش
    درین دنیا پناهی حتی نیمی نگاهی
    در آخرت عزیزم تو همصدای من باش
    در لحظات غربت حتی اگر نبودم
    ای نازنین دلها تو یادگار من باش
    چونکه ربودی ز من دل شکسته ام را
    تا هستم و تا هستی تو تکیه گاه من باش
  • Baby at home in deserted island (섬집 아기)

    Lyrics by Han Inhyun
    Composed by Lee Heungyeol

    After mummy went to the sea to pick the oyster
    The baby keeping the house all alone
    Hearing the lullaby sung by the wave
    Fell asleep making a pillow of his arm.

    The baby is sleeping like a log at home
    Mummy becoming anxious at the cry of the seagull
    Carrying the basket not filled yet on her head
    She rushes to home across the sands.

  • Death of a Fire

    While Spinoza was writing Ethics, Prashant is trying to understand the laws of thermodynamics. The first law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed in one particular system; the second law states that, in a closed system, the entropy always increases, that order will eventually become disorder; the third law, however, or perhaps not however, states that disorder in the system plateaus as the temperature of the system nears absolute zero.

  • تو بودی

    دلم را با نگاهی تو ربودی
    برایم عاشقانه می سرودی
    اگر روزی کسی همراز من بود
    تو بودی و تو بودی و تو بودی

  • Obligato

     

    Alerted to it, we tried our damnedest not to notice it.

  • Hunky Nuts Lupus

     

    Could the Singaporean applicant not have protested
    and thrust a poem of simple scenery instead?

    Spot the ancient croc submerged in green,
    bifocal periscope scanning for terrorist movement.

    Lensed, the Japanese schoolgirl gasps,
    an albino python wraparound for evidence.

    In the beginning, Man created Heaven,
    snow globes and letter openers for the tourist.

    Our sky is devoid of emotional detritus.
    On Ground Zero, visitors fluff for a jerk-off scene.

    Here's a banana peel flung from the ring.
    Whatta manna? You expect a durian anthem.

    Kindly turn off your irresponsible mobile and
    don't feed me despite my Golden Tamarin plea.

    Tags: 
  • (The Fallacy of and the Pleasure from) Irrelevance

    In my days of living alone I wander a lot in the parks between Prince Edward District and Yau Ma Tei. It is always late at night when street lights are dim and the silhouette of trees implies a shelter from notice. While my sense of smell is hopeless, bits and pieces of sounds weave into a vast blanket covering me. There are tweets and chirps and rustles and whirrs together with sounds of breeze and stray cats. Some heartbroken people shout on their phone from far away. With peace in my heart, I go on reading by the street lights. There would be phone calls from my dear friends from afar, sending me festival greetings or wishing me a happy birthday. I always surprise them by being in these cramped, filthy cage-like parks even in big festivals.

  • Bhupi’s dream

    In 2006 a poet wrote his first poem into a notebook that could not be written in with a pen, but only with the blood of a once-King. The poet’s name was Bhupi Sherchan, and when he wrote, he wrote with a vigor, he wrote with a calm, and he wrote with the blood of the King Gyanendra, the remnants of which he had gathered from the edge of a staircase onto which the King had once fallen and cut part of his head—an event which, indirectly, led him to abdicate his throne, for what King who had no rule over his body could rule a country?

  • ...بهتر نباشی کم کم

     

    دلم گرفته با تو عاشق نبودی اصلآ

    قلب مرا شکستی هیچگاه نبودی با من

    در اوج رویا با تو دنیایی ساخته بودم

    یک قلب پر زعشق را نزد تو باخته بودم

    کنار تو این دنیا زیبا و رنگارنگ بود

    لحظه،لحظه عمرم رویایی و قشنگ بود

    آخر ز تو بریدم آنگه بخود رسیدم

    خود را چو ساده دیدم گفتم نباشی کم کم...

  • طلوع صبح فردایم تو هستی...

    در تابستان بارانم  تو هستی                      همان ابری بهارانم تو هستی
    منم آن ماهی نیم جان ساحل بیا دریا که آبشارم تو هستی
    تویی تنها دلیل زنده گانی طلوع صبح فردایم تو هستی
    بدون تو سراب است زندگیم همانا خواست دنیایم تو هستی
    در این دنیا ندیدم جز سیاهی بمن فانوس فردایم تو هستی
    مداوا کن قلب زخمی ام را طبیب زخم و درد هایم تو هستی
    بمان لحظه ای, ای مهربانم که هر آغاز و پایانم تو هستی
  • Orange Lies: I

    Baby…
    I mean -- Dear…
    I mean, Hello!
    Yes, hello – this is more appropriate.
    I hope you won’t be very sorry—given all that you’ve inflicted upon me—that I abandoned you.
    It wasn’t true that I cried after you were gone for a whole week. It wasn’t true that I used to sleep quietly after seeing you, that you were my only Qibla, that you were my only prayer, that you were my only reason for living. And other things like that.
    Do you find these words, nowadays, too antiquated? After seeing you, I was always thinking, I’d think with you or without you, it didn’t matter much.

    Tags: 
  • Incendium Amoris

     

    Burning incense could cause cancer according to a scientific study conducted by researchers from Taiwan, who found high levels of carcinogens in the smoke of incense burned in Buddhist temples.
    - Assoc Press (2 Aug 2001)

    I have groped my breast seeking whether this burning were from any bodily cause outwardly. But when I knew that it was only kindled inwardly from a ghostly cause, and that this burning was nought of fleshly love or concupiscence, in this I conceived it was the gift of my Maker.
    - Richard Rolle, The Fire of Love (14th C)

    i.

  • Something Remains

    The number I dialed was engaged, so I put my mobile phone to one side. I was gripping the steering wheel with both hands when a traffic jam appeared up ahead, between the concrete barriers on the side of the road.

    The early summer sun was beating down on the cars travelling the Dammam-Khobar expressway, toasting the asphalt. The restlessness of the drivers and passengers showed in their movements and their eyes, squinting against the dazzling sunlight. I looked at the digital clock. Five minutes of my lunch break gone, forty left.

    To break up the long hours of work and escape its monotony, I had made a habit of going out for lunch in Khobar, only a few minutes away from my workplace.

  • Dilmun

    And I see peasants

    singing along the milky road

    alongside a bull

    that didn’t know

    what a plow looks like.

    And beggars,

    desert sharpeners

    like a flock of cheating strings,

    bleeding from their wounds

    with their long red beards,

    hooked noses

    and a mass of noise.

  • Language Essay from Lahore

     

    Being part of the city Lahore has integrated in me the love for spicy food; ‘kebabs’ (meat grilled on a skewer over coal), ‘malai boti’ (creamy, buttery chicken), paalik paneer (spinach with cottage cheese), are some of the famous dishes. Being part of the province Punjab has incorporated in me humor and how to appreciate it. Being part of Pakistan has made me realize success is achieved after sacrifices; it has made me strong and fearless. Being Muslim has taught me peace, love, kindness, modesty and good. This forms my culture and most of my identity (the rest I am still figuring out.)

  • Getting along with my house

     

    The city has its own riddle for the lost.
    When the sun’s departed, all others stroll along the street,
    Leaving their own houses behind. Then I always start climbing up,
    Secretly entering those empty rooms

    No need to tell them apart. They’re always unfamiliar,
    For they do not belong to me. Defined by the touches of someone else,
    They have walls soft and transparent like leaf veins
    Sofas carry me like floes on a lake

    Some of the toilet bowls sparkle like cheeks of young girls
    Some curtains are forever half-open like murmuring lips
    There’re always pictures of the deceased, revealing the somniloquy of Time
    Hair strands of lovers on pillows -- I wouldn’t bat an eyelid

  • In a cities thirsty to women’s Faces

    مُدُنٌ ظامئةٌ لوجوهِ النساء

     

     في بردِ ضحى يناير المشمسِ

     سرق توحدي رفيفُ ذيلِ عباءةِ إحداهن كبيرقٍ أسودٍ على رصيفِ (ستاربكس).

    تحاولُ بذكاءِ هاتِفِها تبئيرَ أخرى جالسةً في وجلٍ على طاولةِ المقهى الخارجيةِ، مازجة مر قهوتها بطعم (الدونات).

     (الأخُ الأكبرُ) يُرْبِكُها،

     يُفْشِلُ سَعْيَها مراراً،

     يُرْغِمُها على تكرارِ المحاولة.

    تخافان التلبسَ بجرمِ الحياةِ في مدن الظمأ.

    بينهما و بيني، أنا المكبوتُ منذُ النشأةِ، سمكُ زُجاجِ المقهى.

    أقاوم فضول النظر إليهما،

     أحاول تطبيع ذاتي مع الحياة،

     أتظاهر بالعادية.

  • The Tragic Story of Us

    It hurt watching him hurt. I would see him from time to time around school, leaning against the wall trying to socialize when by the looks of it all he wanted to do was be alone. I think what got me hooked was the mystery he left each time I’d look away from his light brown eyes. He was a puzzle waiting to be solved and each word he would utter was a riddle waiting to be figured out. What first caught my attention were the poems he wrote at creative writing, every character and word was so vivid and alive. After he would read out his poetry everyone would clap and compliment it never knowing the true story behind it, that’s what shocked me the most. At school I’d avoid him, simply dodging him each time he’d pass me by in that filthy hallway.

  • The Cherry Drop

    (I)

    The red luscious apple was well beyond her reach.

    As her limbs stretch, adrenaline courses back and forth inside and just like that, out of nowhere, her thigh muscles stiffened and she slipped and started to fall from a nine feet ladder.

    As her stomach feels the strong pull of gravity, her seven year old heart feels a vigorous push of negative energy.

    Her cherry coloured hair flew everywhere blinding her sight; in the same manner, doubts clouded her judgment and self esteem.

    The gravity did its work and she did her: thinking if she was truly as pathetic as others describe, if she was indeed a failure and if ‘disgrace’ was the only word to describe.

  • In Defense of Readers

    In the beginning of his novella “Notes from Underground”, Fyodor Dostoyevsky asks a question:
    What can a decent man speak of with most pleasure?

    And he answers:

    Of himself.

  • Carvansarai of Night

    Tonight

    here should be

    dance of words

    -in the carvansarai of your glory-

    tonight I am as joyful as the grasses

    that saw the sun

    and full with the existence of my dream.

    Tags: 
  • Harjai

     

    This veil of silence is suffocating me. At 88 my shackled limbs are forced to speak. These flowery scarves are making them weep. This fragrance of Abu Jaan is sweet. They burn down Karachi and I need to say sorry? Muhammad taught me to be. My jamun’s bruised up in Kashmir. It’s my parchai and I want her to breathe. I collect Bulbul feathers to bury. There are knife holes in my sheets. Their knuckles bruise walls that are sunny. My parched lips sip on frozen dreams. I rode up to the sky to debate on taqdir. I am them and they are me. So Kun and there is God in me. 

  • Language Essay: East Sikkim, India

    I come from a land where mountains stand as our guards, where clouds float around our heads as a symbol for thoughts, where it rains more than the sun shines, where you’ll see more monasteries than shopping malls, where people are quiet, calm and subtle about their opinions.The Earth is used as material for beliefs, and these beliefs, stitched into myths and these myths are sold for literature and culture, in return for respect. I come from Sikkim, the land of the Himalyas.

  • Biscooti love

     

    Memory is...images of a prepubescent boy cycling home,
    Parag milk packets in one of his arms,
    feeding biscuits to a stray gaggle of brown dogs, wagging their shins.

    Large half-moon eyes, kind salivating tongue,
    his smile showed no cookie-crescent as he fed them all; 

    he was my first love.

    More than the girls, the calves and canines knew his way home,
    this small-towner of a bygone Bhaarat who found humans in animals, 

    he grew hunger in me.

    Now in this morphing, super-quick India, his animals are holographic. 

  • Some of them

    Will dread to speak straight
    Maintain a distance between the cup and the lip
    Will scatter bits of politeness
    In a cauldron of arrogance
    And conclude that it's perfectly fine...

    Will find fault in the authority and their fellow-passengers
    After losing their cell-phones
    While returning from a trip

    Will keep on bugging about extremely fashionable issues
    If necessary, will champion it
    And get enraged at the slightest criticism

    Will swear bare-chested people, uncultured and rustic
    In the night of power cut
    Beside the pond in the neighbourhood
    And fall in love with wolves disguised as sheep

    Tags: 
  • Self Portrait

     

    In the footsteps of my history
    And shadow, I am caught
    In the half light of remembering,
    The house, the mouth,
    The woman, whose cotton-coiled
    Waist is the yearning for an India far away;

    In the archipelago dusk,
    This world is a water kingdom
    That swims and hisses,
    And urges a love for the shimmering hills,
    The parched sand, the plaited rain,
    Where, Malaya, my freedom,
    Is a dark face reflected in this sea.

    Tags: 
  • The Story of King Madhukar

                    In a far off land, there was a king named Madhukar. He had seven brothers. All of them used to go on hunting always. As they set off for hunting, they used to come to a resting place (chautari) near the jungle, sat and rested there for a while before they decided who would to go to which direction of the jungle for a hunt. They also decided that he who returns from hunting earlier would leave, as an indication of his return from the hunt, a green leafy branch of a tree on the resting platform at the crossroad before returning home. They decided to do this to make sure that no one is left in the jungle.

  • Untitled Short Poem

    تمام شعر من موج نگاهت
    ترا من دوست دارم بی نهایت
    اگر روزی نباشی در کنارم
    جهان گردد برایم چون قیامت

    Tags: 
  • The longest time

    For longer than I wanted, my father asked me to become someone else, not verbally, but by the time I told him, not verbally, that I couldn’t be that person, he said he had known all along. 

    “Tell me what you want.” 

    A man rides his bicycle, the one he’s had for many years now, the Hero cycle, brown wearing out in places, the chains creaking with each pedal, the man growing old every time the wheels turn one complete revolution. He is at least 53 years now, and as he rides his Hero cycle into the city every morning, he thinks that he has grown old much too fast. 

  • Imazigh

    I am a Tuareg child.

    My blue turban drowns me

    in the waves of sadness,

    then expels me

    like seeds of ivory.

    O! great Tin Hinan,

    your brave knight

    lost his way among

    the salt caravans.

    The Imazighen are free

    No more.

  • Masks

    I cannot recognize myself

    If I don’t wear me.

    Faces are deceiving

    without their masks,

    like that bleeding

    white gulf.

  • It's a Midday Deepa

    At midday when her eyes become moist and blurry from the searing heat, there is nothing that Deepa can do but sit idly, her head droopped over her open palms, counting her fingers. First those on her right hand – one…two…three – from the thumb to the little finger, then those on the left in reverse order, from the little to the thumb.

         As her score settles to a perfect ten, she looks up, somewhat relieved of the tedium and the heat, and it seems as though a sense of certainty has descended on her.

         When she was a little girl, she would touch her nose no sooner had she finished counting her fingers. Then the lips, the eyelids, the eyebrows and the ears– until finally she came upon the same certainty of relief. 

  • What Does the Arab World Read?

    This question would be better asked in Cairo, Baghdad, Beirut or Damascus or in any of the traditional capitols of Arab culture.. Or in Dubai, the new capitol of Arab culture.. the capital that initiated an international film festival costing millions of dollars every year, although Dubai itself has not produced even one long cinematic work.. It also initiated substantial awards for the Arab novel comparable to the Nobel Prize in their financial sizes .. although again, Dubai itself has not yet produced any serious literary works, with the exception of a few attempts of beginning novelists.

  • On Becoming a Writer in India

    Everything I write is nourished by my childhood years. I have a clear memory of the beginning of my ability to remember when I was three plus a few months. My father who had joined India’s freedom struggle was to become the Chief Minister of the small Union Territory of Coorg (now Kodagu). I climbed the steps to the house which was to be his official residence, nervously holding on to the edge of my mother’s sari. I was awestruck by the electric lights in the house, and terrified of the fluttering moths thicketed around them. In our village home that was only thirty miles away, we were using oil lamps then, and for the next decade and a half. The newness of the rural town that I had just entered must have awakened the sensibilities of being a person.

  • Reflections on BTL

    That night we danced till 12

    Strangers on planes

    Layovers and airport gates

    Awkward moves and aching limbs.

    I thought we dropped together-

    Because we were

    Unsynchronized symphonies of

    An out of tune piano.

    I remember fortnights and study groups

    Where we danced blues.

    Cravings

    For constellations at our feet

    And cheap sunglasses.

    I killed myself in Frisbee.

    I survived.

    Did we though?

    Paddling through

  • I live in Jeddah

    أعيش في جدة. فتحت عيني في هذه المدينة ولم أغادرها في حياتي لأكثر من أسابيع قليلة. أعود بعدها مشتاقة أو لأن لابد من العودة لارتباطي بعمل وعائلة. غريب تمسكي بهذه المدينة أنا القادمة من عائلة تعودت على الهجرات. كأن تعب أجدادي من الترحال ترسخ في ذاكرتي أنا وإخوتي فجلسنا في البلد التي خرج منها الأجداد ولم نغادر. سكنوا مكة. الأرض الحرام. وعادو بعد قرن إليها. لكن أبي سكن جدة لأنها المدينة الأكبر التي تضم النادي الرياضي الذي شاهد موهبته في لعب كرة القدم وضمه إليه. جدة. في صغري كنت أمشي في شوارع البلد يمسكني ابي من يدي وأنا مبهورة بالناس، المحلات الكثيرة على جانبي شارع قابل، ساندويش الشاورما سموثي الكاكاو والمكسرات الحارة.

  • The Great Book Story

    Helena Makri

    If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to me to be the book”—William Godwin (on reading a narrative by his future wife)

  • An Open Letter

    (Before BTL)

    An open letter to those who thought I was anything less than divine because I was too damn ‘kali’(dark) for them.

  • Mokama: The Land of Guns and Mustard Fields

    The letter was from a friend in Bihar, a nun who had trained with me in medical college. She wrote that a rural hospital there, run by the Sisters of Charity, was urgently in need of a surgeon. Was I interested?

    I had just finished by surgical training in Liverpool. I loved every moment of my life in England but was also certain that I would go home soon. The offer from Bihar appealed to my foolishness. I said yes, and four months later, was heading north and east by train from Bangalore. My family was dismayed. Bihar was not a place anyone went to out of choice, it still isn’t. Tell anyone that you wish to work in Bihar and you’ll see eyes go round and big. “Bihar! Why?”

  • Return

    Wherever I go, I always return. I sometimes don’t want to ever leave. Place is a feeling for me. It is hot air, ferocious rains, and wild beauty, yet there are times when it is all chaos, sadness, injustice and unequal lives. It is a cacophony of sounds, sights and peoples that could belong anywhere in the world - a nod to our mixed heritage from all the sailors, traders, warriors, conquerors and preachers who came bringing, taking, giving, stealing, plundering, planting, building, destroying and loving until it became what it is. Where I am. The place I call home.

    Series: 
  • The Tiger

    A short story by Mohibullah Zegham (from my first collection of short stories “Hill in the Human”)

    Translated by Rashid Khattak

    It was a market day. I had loaded 16 sacks full of potatoes in a truck and was moving towards Kunduz. After a long time I was going to the bazaar [again?] . Everything seemed strange. Traveling the vast desert of Shorao, the truck was raising clouds of dust. The desert was so flat that one could not believe it was the top of a huge mountain. We had not seen any other vehicle during the hour-long journey. In the past, the buzkashi competitions used to be held in this desert, but now there was no trace of horses’ hoofs. All you could see on the ground were the caterpillar tracks of tanks.

  • Post Mortem

    The brain in its jar floats and dreams:
    streams of memory, consciousness, preserved.
    The two halves, like breasts, grieve
    for the softness of skin for the reserved
    whisper of touch. All this has already happened

    and will never happen again. The brain curls
    itself up, hits glass, ricochets and remembers:
    foetal, an echo of shape, a pearl
    of desire – his body holding the other one
    that burnt away and became ember.

    There should be a question here. A ‘how’ or a ‘why’—
    a way to understand linearities. Instead, there are ridges
    and convolutions, the repetition of blood beating,
    the raising of hair along an arm when a finger follows
    vertebrae down the spine.

  • Gut Feeling

    A Personal Reflective Narrative by Dr. Rodney Dcunha, an Intern at St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore

    Death disturbs me. It never fails to. And what disturbs me more are the decisions we make in a critical situation when time is not on our side. The grey area between right and wrong. That's when intuition kicks in and does something that reason cannot explain.

  • I was born to Live

     

    I woke up from birdsong. Today the sun is shining as never before. I enjoyed this day. A knock on the door, and a soft voice of mother behind the door said: “Get up, it's time for you to get ready.” A minute passed and mother said: “My dear, do you remember today is your Birthday?” She came into the room, came up to me and kissed me on the cheeks and said: “You are my life, every day I thank God that you are with us. We are waiting for you in the kitchen."

  • Summer Song

    Plurality isn’t enough to tickle you pink.
    I’ve shared magical, misty evenings
    with endless seekers via somatic unguents
    but not unlimited with the one I wanted,
    certainly not when I was a louse in love, when
    all of me was a photocopy of priapic rush,
    when monosemy of skiving left me with
    a jack-o’-lantern smile. Numbers never woo.
    It kvells to be in sync with one who soothes.
    Per contra those consumed by tendresse
    on another day may thirst for other thighs.

    Originally published at The Mind(less) Muse.

  • The High Places

    are easy to possess—the dim tunnel

    where trains flow, submerged halls

     

    fevered and dense, make it such

    that if we go barefoot we will touch

     

    high places, anyhow—or so they

    say. Let nighttime test them, then:

     

    the girls decide to go home late,

    balancing accounts on their necks

     

    like pearls, singly or in sequences,

    almost safe, leaving the last hours

     

    to the boys who reach flat rooftops

    lined with iron, not to jump,

     

    instead, burning the ants of cars, to find

    again the whisper, this is mine, mine…


     

  • Transmogrified

    He was first a snake and was in love with her - a she-snake. And then he molted and after he molted he was a turtle and he met another she-turtle and fell in love with her. When he de- shelled after years, he became a four-legged animal, black spots sprouting over his fur, and he fell for a leopard. He moved this way through the jungles, the savannas, the deserts, the skies, through the oceans, the air, the land and beneath it, changing and changing and meeting and falling in love with new she-species.

    The lovers he left behind did not change. They were who they were. The same.

  • First Kiss

     

    (Translated by Eileen Cham)

     

    When you kissed me, I realized

    That it was your first kiss with a man.

    When you pushed me away

    You pushed open

    A door in your life – an ornate door

    That you would not be able to open

    on your own. What that kiss

    told me

    surpassed the sum of all my previous men

     

    You

    You have lingered too long in realms of straight-love, you are weary

    Your body full of scars

     

    Abused by the want for fights, for winning, for conquests 

     

    you are someone else, You

    are not you –

    You are racecar covered in dust. I only wish

    To wipe clean a window for your soul

    For you to breathe through

     

  • On Gender in Afghanistan

     

    Because we fly with a single wing, my country has isolated itself from the rest of civilization. Afghanistan, as a culture, is male-centered--women are worth nothing. We believe all women are mentally defective, and have sayings in Pashto like: “A woman should either be in the house or in the grave.”

    Let’s hear something from these women:
    I am an Afghan girl
    Bound to tradition
    I am not permitted to fall in love,
    but I have.
    My lover is not with me.
    My existence is barren.
    I can bear a lifeless life,
    but not without you.

  • Latiff Mohidin: Maya

     

    year after year
    i bear you name
                          maya
    from village to village
    i bear it like a fresh wound
    on my brow
                          maya
    from city to city

    at times
    it suddenly tears open
                          at other times it does not stir
    at times
    when i call your name
                          maya

    blood flows
    upon my face

    (translated from the Malay by Eddin Khoo)

  • Magadh: Ancient and Modern

    Silk Road, a series of trade routes, that connected the east and west stretching some 4000 miles like a multilayered necklace, had India like a pendant in the center, and Magadh as a precious stone set in it. What made Magadh one of the most important destinations for the silk route travelers was not just the trade of silk, spices, incense and textiles, but also peace, prosperity, science and knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan dynasty, who brought all small kingdoms of India together under one rule for the first time, made Patliputra (modern Patna) its capital, and allowed political stability in this region.

  • Rangoli

    My diwali thali has pink

    bougainvillea petals, fallen

    banyan leaves, tiny cracked twigs,

     

    gathered from this bend

    in your road, once 

    an entire country to me.

    (for JNU)

  • The Iowa River

    Lying flat face up
    with hands and legs tied parallel
    with banks corresponding
    and like a terrorized creature
    unable to gather the body together
    for a hope of living
    Iowa River continues her journey
    through the prairies
    to the endless end.

    Denying to embrace
    her folks on shore
    without responding and complying
    to their smiling chores
    never even waving to the willow’s good-bye
    or the silhouetting of trees so high
    handcuffed, chained and blindfolded
    Iowa River continues her journey
    Like a harnessed horse in mourning.

  • The Red Stain (excerpts)

    She swirled the glass. The wine tossed and churned, the crimson waves at fight with each other until a drop bounced, hit the edge, teetering dangerously before plopping down on the white couch.

    She just studied the red stain that was expanding with every passing second, not in a hurry to get it cleaned up until she heard footsteps approach the door.

    Her eyes flew to the door, watching as it swung open, before they settled on the stain again.

    She heard him come in, his scuffles echoing on the hardwood floor.

    There was a minute’s pause.

    “You’re not supposed to be drinking.”

  • Turkish Women's Poetry: Ottoman to Contemporary

     

    When we look back at Turkish women’s poetry of the Ottoman period, we also read an historical process. In Ottoman times, as it is known, women were not in the social arena at all. They could not be educated in Islamic schools (medrese). So writing was a daring act and some Ottoman women took this chance for themselves and for later generations of women.

    Series: 
  • Caustic Wine

    This is the city of dreams,

    not for their fulfillment,

    but for those that it consumed

    and passed down as heirloom;

    you can see these on the streets at half past seven,

    bare fists thumping clueless dashboards —

    their existence a mere silhouette now

    against the floodlights of expectation

    that burn through in cyclic motion —

    Red Light, yellow light, Go.

  • My Name Should Be Khan

    A million things come to my mind when I think of what’s in a name. As a Pakistani, everything is in a name. In Pakistan, if you happen to be named Zardari (the current President of Pakistan), you can rob a bank or a steel mill without moving your little finger. Or, if your name is Bhutto, you could own thousands of acres of land without spending a single penny; then, you could also become a feudal lord, end up in the Parliament and become the Prime Minister of Pakistan. So I have learnt that a name is not only a mark of identity but also a tool of power, particularly if you have the right name.

  • Small looks, the pain from a distance

    [Translated by Hilal Nazki and Mujib Mehrdad]

    The blood in my stomach
    Streams like the blood from your head

    Inconspicuous pains shimmering from a distance
    Small looks, the pain from a distance
    I am your heart, eager to melt your friend’s hand
    I am your throat, afraid of the hands suspended close to your body
    I am your eyes, fearing as things move around you
    And there is always a stone , whispering in the darkness against you
    Or behind the walls, bringing the surge of blood into the fist

    Nevertheless
    I do not close my window yet
    For I believe there is still a breeze
    That can swallow this poison from air
    And leave
    Our houses alone

  • Tunisia

    A flower

    carried carefully by the wind,

    the verses of the petals

    are the hymns of the morning.

    Time dreams about

    the flowing dew of intonation

    Like perfume touching her cheeks

    turning them green.

    That is the dream

    and the foam of its flavor

    is a spring of fragrance

    and freedom.

  • “The Most Important Book on My Bookshelf…”: The Writer as Reader

    When I was nine years old, I read a random short novel by Russian writer Ivan Turgenev called “Notes of the Hunter.” I wanted to read any interesting story in the style of action, or maybe horror films, but I left dangerously confused because the story was not about hunting. It was my first reaction to literature. I was very small, but I understood that literature is not simply funny stories, is a puzzle, a secret, a joke that I was waiting for.

  • Seduced in the Sunderbans

     

    Blue above, blue beneath; waters and skies kiss at yonder point.

    A thick line stretches with flags of greenery, bold enough
    to sustain salty tides, as muddy lands, bronze in sunrays
    swathe itself with the poignant carpet of the Ganges.

    Boatman swings as if wind itself in the unheard stretches.
    Vista lucid enough but not to overcome eyes in the clay.
    Death lies behind the muck and life too; they choose to struggle.

  • Breast Cancer

    My kid is playing nearby

    and he stuns me,

    how he chooses my right breast

    and sucks my age

    till it swells.

    I try to surprise him

    with my left

    but he squeezes the nipple

    with his hands

    and doesn’t drink from it.

    My child

    turns a thousand meanings

    in my nipple.

    Why is he afraid of the left?

    What is it that terrifies him?

  • Autism Girls

    An autistic girl

    searching for the spring

    between the black clouds—

    her braids are made

    from a shining rose branch.

    Her dreams are made

    from a shining rose.

    But who will listen

    to the scent?

    Her smile

    could light the darkness

    but one question haunts her.

    Why are they saying “her”

    when they talk about me?

    Have I vanished?!

    Have I?

    A hush—

    then she melts

    like a flower in the snow.

  • Politics and Prose

     

    Politics in Pakistan is different from politics in most other places. We don’t just talk about politics, we experience it in real time. In light speed. In shock waves. It happens in bedrooms, it happens in cars, it happens in classrooms, it happens in parks. There have even been unconfirmed reports of it happening in parliament. For us, politics is not just a question of life and death. It’s a question of life, death and the afterlife. Everyone has an opinion, and an agenda, and often, a gun.

  • Maria Jumped Over the Wall

    Maria lived in our neighborhood.  Her pa’s herbal-tea shop faced my pa’s funeral-wreathes shop.  Maria’s surname was Lee and her family was Chiuchow by descent.  Her pa did nothing much in the shop except study the horse-racing tips, watch Redifusion and sometimes eat a tofu-skin stuffed roll, sharing it with his little son.  Her mom stayed at the back of the shop and worked with the three daughters when they came home from school, brewing a herbal-tea called “twenty-four-flavors” and steaming small bowls of blackish “tortoise-and-fuling jelly” for the customers, and also doing the cooking, the washing and the ironing.

  • Compost

     

    I didn’t want to reach this state, on my back with limbs stretched out.

    Not that it was so great out there, but to be like something from a museum zoology exhibit wasn’t in my plans.

    Hey there, come and see from close up “The Aerobic Compostization Processes.”

    I inhabit a mucous world. Forget aboutParadise.

     

    The animal world is creeping and crawling all over me: red worms, black worms, roly polies, slugs, maggots.

    Bone. That’s all I’m asking for. Two hundred osteoporosis pills may do the trick.

    I am concentrating on one strong and solid desire: to repel, to destroy and finally rid myself of all the creepy crawlies.

  • Leave Me Alone!

    I have decided you can go
    I dreamt you left, see it came true!
    Let you know that you weren’t so kind,
    You were an extra feeling, if you don’t mind.
    I lost my life by your memories,
    Can you give back all my happiness?
    You destroyed everything by your coming,
    How did you come? Were you a wind?
    I have arrived, it is the end;
    Even Hi or Goodbye please don’t send!
    Leave me alone without remedies!
    You hurt my heart that one never sees.

  • Islam and We

    I am a Muslim who lives in a non-Muslim country, and not a day goes by that I don’t give thanks for that fact. As a Muslim writing in Sri Lanka, I am fairly confident that even though the Sri Lankan Muslim community may have objections to what I write and how I write it, I am reasonably safe where the State is concerned. In a Muslim country however, I doubt that I would have the freedom to write about women, sex, minority issues and religion in the same style that I do. But then again that is debatable.

    Tags: 
  • The Creator

    Imagine if Mohammed, prayer and peace be upon him, had authored his own life story: wouldn’t that be a treasure beside which the Quran itself might pale into insignificance—in the eyes of some Muslims, at least? Imagine if we could read Mohammed’s description—in what English so fittingly terms the first person—of, “Of all his Lord’s Signs, the Greatest,” could see whether the Greatest of His Signs might be something other than Allah Himself, Most Glorious, Hallowed be His name? Imagine if we could read Mohammed’s account of Zaynab bint Jahsh—I don’t say Aisha. Imagine: If we knew what he thought of Abou Bakr, God honour him and grant him peace, and what of Ali, would we be split between Shia and Sunni?

  • Writing Residency in Pakistan

    The Silk Route Residency will be a 2-week rotating residency open to writers from any country legendary traveler Ibn Battuta passed through and noted in his memoir. This first residency will take place in February 2015 in Pakistan, where two residents, Kavery Nambisan and Sridala Swami, will spend time in Karachi and Lahore. In each city, the writing residents will conduct a 2-3 day writing workshop for young writers, participate in numerous literary and cultural events such as attend the Karachi Literature Festival, and engage with local writers and artists. The writer will also maintain a blog on the Silk Routes website.

    Local Projects: 
  • Passion

     

    Shanghai, 1905. A movie of earlier ages in a theatre. Among the audience there are two young lovers, MEI, a novelist and his girlfriend, LAN, an illustrator.

    The basic story of MEI and LAN: Watching the movie, the art of magic, their imagination flies. The idea of writing a fiction together is burning in their minds. MEI will write the story while LAN will illustrate it. Then in 1905, in an ordinary and quiet house in Shanghai, they start to live a recluse life, so much immersed in their story. They imagine what life would be like one hundred years later here in Shanghai and imagine love. (In their imagination, there’re even shapes of early computers and computer games.) The title is PASSION 1905.

  • The Word and the Bullet

    The relationship between the word and the bullet is a complicated and tense one, or rather one of rivalry. Both of them compete for sovereignty over man's life. Unlike the other creatures, man has the privilege of the word. And this word gave him a greater chance to survive. Extinction was the fate of many creatures whose lives were based on annihilating others!
    So, the word built civilizations, since at the beginning there was the word. And since the existence of the word, the speaker has been there and so has the listener; this means the other (interlocutor) has been there too. The word is valueless without that listener (the receiver).

  • In front of Humayun's Tomb

    These mannequin fountains and servant lawns
    Preserve impressions
    Of iron hoofs and Mughal Juttis
    And that big dome you see, like a pyramid
    Covers impressions of the same bones
    And a legacy left for shoes of explorers
    And eyes and wits and imagination and an era
    That excites us like those hatchlings limping to soar
    from the wistful dome shaped panes of perception.

  • Precious Love

    Your love is beautiful as a painted lily,
    As a moon in darkness, as honesty.
    Your love is sunset,
    It’s neither golden, nor red_
    Like a rose… no, a star,
    It’s near although it seems far.
    It is shining in my eyes;
    But, runs as dew when my heart cries.
    If I catch it, it will fly,
    What should I say? It goes so high_
    Your love is with me forever I see,
    Even though in my life, "To be or Not to be…"

  • Slam

    His carpet is stone, dirt

    And trash that no one wants

    Decorated by urine and faeces

    Which is often his own

    Feet blistered with red blue sores

    Toenails crafted with serrated stones

    And filled with soot

    Because he walks barefoot

    The cleanest liquid that cleans them

    Is the blood of his wounded soul

    Which exudes out at night when he is alone

    Because earlier that day he saw kids

    Walking with their back packs

    While he held his trash bag

    And he ran back

    To the tenous home

    With walls torn

    And a broken core

     

    He thinks about all the food they could spare

    And all the money they could share

    And ponders on why they have so much

  • Broken Shells

    ‘Your mother-in-law is responsible for your husband’s sperm velocity. It’s got to do with genetics,’ the doctor says.

    ‘I thought the sperm had no choice,’ she inquires, ‘isn’t the egg mighty and the sperm one too many?’

    ‘No. Sperms can be choosy too,’ says the doctor.

    He scratches in higher dosages of protein on her file. ‘You know even when the female mosquito straws out our blood, it is to pass on protein to her eggs. At your age: 34, your uterus is already 40. Our organs age differently. So take enough of Soy protein, Vitamin D 1000, Iron 1000…’

  • Wild Mulberries Excerpt

              As he does every year, my father begins with insuring the white mulberry fields in the villages surrounding ours. The square-shaped, three-story haaras transform into a huge workshop for two whole months. The eastern side of the middle haara is emptied of its beds and furniture, which are relocated to the colder western side. That is where my father sleeps and where my aunt does the washing and cleaning, with help from the Kurdish woman, Maryam. The western side becomes more intimate than before. No guest ever enters this part of the haara. Only women, people who live in the house, and Ibrahim ever enter it. During the silk season, my father receives his guests in the inner courtyard under the walnut tree.

  • Disquiet

    My father was the quietest man; his few words made no sense

    in the world’s idiom.

     

    Saddled into a marriage

    astride a dead horse of tradition he flogged it too many times

    for two children.

     

    He stayed away even when near. He did not belong to anyone, unaware of our favorite colors, our school grades, or

    the names of our boyfriends.

     

    He lent money to ruffians at high interest rates and recovered nothing.

    Smoothening his hands over glossy brochures, he invested in scams of impossible dreams.

     

    He used to count his coins like I now count my words

    I too am falling out of the system. I too belong to no one.

    I fear he is growing inside me...

  • Gypsies

                                                                             

    They are gypsies

    bright, crisp and colorful,

    like the blossoms in the desert.

     

    The entire earth is tied to their feet like an anklet,

    and they, like their living folklore,

    never stayed in one place.

     

    On the sleeves of the winding roads

    under the barren skies,

    they sound like their empty vessels

    on silent nights,

     

    They bring shrubs,

    leaves of palm and dates,

    to make a roof for the hot summer days,

     

    They cast statues, and sell them

    in the bustling streets of cities, towns

    and villages,

     

  • Orange Lies

    She let her headscarf slip freely to her shoulders, as if she didn't realize , so that her hair would be free from the headscarf for a while. Then she pulled the edge of her headscarf flirtatiously to hide the right side of her face from the other passengers, allowing her lust filled eyes to find greater freedom .her eyes traveled up and down as she inspected him from head to toe through the window of the micro bus.
    She stared at his sun-roasted face, like a piece of bread that had just come out of a clay oven and was ready to devour, while his watchful eyes monitored the microbus.

  • On Writing

    In my view, provided writing is not understood as something isolated, enclosed, static, and a profession related only to words, then all types of writing are similar. It’s especially so in terms of language, as all sorts of languages are intended to convey the thought of the author. To an author the question of how one should distinguish between thinking in pictures, in words, or in connection with the stage does not exist. Thought is thought; it cannot be divided up into segments, It cannot be defined as picture-related or word-related, sensual or sensible.

    Tags: 
  • ...بیا یکبار دیگر

    بیا یک بار دیگر بیگانه شویم هر دو                     در قصه عشق خود افسانه شویم هر دو
    مانند کبوتر ها پر کشیم در آن بالا                              در اوج تنهای تنها نشویم هر دو
    همچو شاهپرکها بنشینیم روی گلها                      در گوشه ای تنهای پروانه شویم هر دو
    بیا یک بار دیگر دستم را بگیر آخر                            در اوج بیکران پرواز کنیم هر دو
    بیا یکبار دیگر به قلبم صفای ده                         با سایبانی از عشق لحظه ای پناهی ده
    بیا برای اولین بار                                         به شهر نی لبکها همسفر شیم
    میان باغ سبز آرزو ها                                   بیا برای اولین بار قاصدک شیم
    بیا امشب برای لحظه هایم                                      قرار و مرهم دلتنگی ام باش

  • Destination Kathmandu

    “You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

     – Azar Nafasi

     

     “I’ve picked out the stones, dada. Will you teach me how to play now?”

    Arjun glanced up, the innocuous question breaking him away from his reverie. Dazed, he blinked several times before looking fondly at his younger sister, Laxmi, who in her petite hands held out an assortment of pebbles.

    “You won’t need all of these,” he commented.

    Laxmi carefully dropped the stones in her brother’s outstretched hands and sat cross-legged, her pigtails dangling with every shake of the head.

  • No Paradise outside the Window

    He is busy with his scattered papers.
    The muzzle of the old pistol
    is looking at him in provocation.
    Poetry is the noblest thing in language,
    and the whiteness of the papers is death.
    They may knock his door.
    The distance between him and the pistol
    is penetrated by time.
    Did I leave it loaded?
    The barrel may be rusted.
    The poem is a butterfly's wing,
    adjectives burden it
    and a lack of verbs deconstructs it.
    The pistol is a lying monster.
    If they come…shall I leave the paper?
    Or will I ambush them from behind the window,
    then open the door
    and hold the poem up to their faces?
    My fingers become pens,
    their ink pours
    onto the white
    The words are sparrows

  • On Becoming a Writer in India 2

    There’s a saying that goes: When the pupil is ready, the Master will appear. I don’t have a Master at whose feet I learnt to write poetry, but I knew, one day, that I was ready to write it. I think it began – fittingly enough, given the nature of my poetry – in the basement of a hospital. I was waiting outside while a doctor performed an endoscopy on my father, the first of what would be several more in the years to come. That morning, the Hindu had a special booklet of essays on spirituality; among them was a series of short poems by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. I xeroxed those poems and that was my reading material during the endoscopy.

  • My Right

    It is my right

    to love as she wants it,

    to get ripped by desire

    when her necklace scatters

    the tears of pearls.

    It is a riot,

    and it is my right

    to love and die

    the way she wants it.

  • People still miss the Pimat-gol

    There was a back alley from 1st street to 6th street of Jongno, called Pimat-Gol in Seoul, Korea. It has been there since Yi dynasty around 1390ies. The people could avoid the dashing horses of the gentlemen in the main street and walked through the back alley. Pimat means to avoid the horses and Gol means the alley in Korean language. In the Pimat- Gol there were many shops and small restaurants that those small people used to visit and enjoy the food and leisure time. This alley was made by the planner of Seoul, Jeong Do-jeon when Yi dynasty was founded to protect the grassroots. In the era of tyranny student demonstrators crying for democracy and freedom also sneak into the alley to avoid the police.

    Series: 
  • Mother and Wolf

    Translated by Rashid Khattak

    I opened my eyes. The first voice I heard was my own cries. Then voices congratulating each other made a noise. The abundance of light forced me to close my eyes again. The noise of women subsided. Suddenly huge blasts, taking place one after another, frightened me.

    The angel, who had come with me from the other world, placed his hand on my head. His hand was soft like the words of a kind mother. “Don’t worry. These are jubilant gunshots. Your father, grandfather and uncles are happy on your birth,” he told me.

    “Why are they firing guns if they are happy,” I asked.

    “You have been born in a nation that can’t help without guns. They include gun even in their merrymaking, but the gun always brings grief for them.”

  • Writing in & of the World: Silk Routes Grant Narrative, Sri Lanka

    I grew up in a house which had books in every room.  We read everything we could lay our hands on. From well thumbed, back copies of my uncle’s Readers Digests to my father’s leather bound tomes of Anna Karenina, and A Tale of Two Cities. As little children our personal library consisted of all the Enid Blytons, Daphne Du Mauriers, and Rumer and Jon Goddens. In my father’s library no book was denied to us and long before we understood them, we had looked at Virgil’s Aeneid, the Mahabharata, the works of Aldous Huxley and even the original Arabian Nights.