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Articles tagged "India"

Poetry and the Curse: On Censorship in India

If the free exchange of ideas is the oxygen of democracy, India’s vaunted open society is in grave danger of asphyxiation. On the morning of August 30, 2015, renowned Kannada rationalist scholar M. M. Kalburgi was shot dead, allegedly by right-wing assailants on a motorcycle. This brazen act, just the latest in a series that includes the murders of writers and activists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, has led literary figures of the stature of novelist Sashi Deshpande and poet...

Peshawar

I liked Peshawar. I preferred it to hot, racing Rawalpindi, or grand, haughty Islamabad. I think I preferred it to any other city in the world. Indolent in the autumn sun, it was the perfect place for waiting. Although formally it was part of the state of Pakistan, Peshawar belonged to Afghanistan by now. It lived according to Afghan laws and rules, it thought and felt the Afghan way, it spoke Afghan and it looked Afghan. And Afghanistan meant eternal waiting—always,...

She

The single kiss That made the worlds freeze With bated breath, tasting of a tear’s salt Is all hers.   Love sowed its blue stars On our private night Covered by a phallic sky. The blood-river that flowed once the body opened Wet the sky through. Wearing pieces of moon, Invisible in light on our bodies, We left for our habitual nests In the final seconds of darkness . . .   Peals of laughter Lie scattered on my bedspread This early dawn.   What is...

Gujarati

Urdu Fiction from India: An Introduction

Notwithstanding President Barack Obama’s delightful disclosure that he likes Urdu poetry, few in the West know anything about this language and even less about its otherwise vibrant literature. The partition of British India in 1947 took its tragic toll not only in human lives and displacement, but also in culture. Like everything else, the Urdu language, an unmistakable product of India, in which all Indians participated without regard to religion or creed (of the three most...

Destitutes Compound

At the time I left home for good I must have been around twenty-two or twenty-four years old. What prompted me to leave was my father’s attitude. He complained that I’d developed bad habits. When I think about it now, it seems he was right to complain, and he was also right to try and find out on his own how I was spending my time. Back then, though, I thought it was all rather unfair and I used to complain to my mother about it. What galled me the most was that whenever he...

Beyond the Fog

1 Throughout the day English sahibs, memsahibs, and their baba log cross the bridge on mules and horses or riding in rickshaws and dandis. In the evening, the same bridge becomes the site of milling crowds of Indians. The swarm of rushing humanity going up and down the slopes huffing and puffing looks like the surge of a massive tidal wave. Movies starring Esther Williams, Joan Fontaine, Nur Jahan, and Khursheed are playing in the local cinemas. Skating continues in the rinks. In the...

The Pose

God knows what got into her head. She abruptly broke her stride and slipped into Shandar Cloth Store. Then she opened the door of the show window and, deftly, removing the lovely mannequin, stood herself in the plastic dummy’s place and assumed its pose. It was evening. The street was packed with people, but they were so preoccupied as they went their way that none of them noticed what she had just done. Why did she do it? She probably didn’t know that herself. True, she...

Fable of a Severed Head

5:40— verar local express Shifting his heavy, red canvas bag from his left shoulder to his right, he looked up at the Churchgate Station monitor and scurried toward Platform 3. People were practically running to the platform to board the 5:40 local. Women office workers were scrambling into the ladies’ compartment, pushing and shoving, being pushed and shoved in the wild crush, barely managing to keep their stride under the weight of their dangling purses and shoulder bags,...

Two Old Kippers

. . .sleeping as quiet as death, side by wrinkled side, toothless, salt and brown, like two old kippers in a box. —Dylan Thomas, “Under Milk Wood” Recently two pensioned old men in Calcutta met by chance in a public park. Six years ago, but on different dates, they had both retired from government service. Ever since, providence had been preparing for the day when they would be found sitting side by side on a single bench. Apparently they had each lived their lives...

A Sheet

He was standing behind the window looking out onto the street, which one could see in the distance shimmering in the sun as if somebody had magically stopped a flowing river. It was the same street on which traffic flowed uninterrupted well into the night, where crowds of people milled about like crawling ants right up to midnight. Morning and evening, the noise from the traffic and the people gave the sidewalks the atmosphere of a carnival. But at the moment, both the street and its...

Methun

Had the bazaar stretched to infinity or had the business itself hit a slump? To the west, where the street rose steeply, almost hugging the sky, and then swooped down sharply, was the very end of the earth. A person only had to take a leap and be done with this miserable life. Magan Tikley, the junk dealer, had wandered around practically the whole day but found only two objects: a Florentine statuette and a Jamini Roy painting. Well, some eccentric producer might rent the statuette for...

The Saga of Jaanki Raman Pandey

Somebody should have gone and inquired from this Jaanki Raman Pandey, Advocate, why in the name of God did he have to go to Rasoolpur and die there when he was doing so well in Allahabad? And die, not just figuratively, but literally. The common belief is that the time and place of a person’s death are preordained (and also the time and place of some events more important than death, e.g., marriage). So why the fuss if one believes it has to be so? Well, what can one do? There are...

Of Fists and Rubs

There was quite a crush of people at the polling station, as if it was the premier of some movie. A long line stretched out to infinity. Five years ago, too, we’d formed such endless lines, as if we’d come to buy cheap grain, not cast a vote. Wisps of hope flitted across our faces: regardless of how long the lines, our turn was bound to come sometime. And then you just watch, we’ll be raking in piles and piles of money. He’s our trusted man; the reins of good...

Rajasthani

Bengali

Urdu

Oriya

Hindi

V. Samsara

I have always been intrigued by the fact that cows in India are sacred. Unmolested, they roam the streets of towns and villages. In some parts they have a bell round their neck and a jasmine topknot on their head, sometimes they are painted. But mostly they are wretched. Gaunt, filthy and sick, they munch away on pounds of rotting waste, eating up slops, paper, or bits of material they find along the wayside. Drivers, rickshaw-men and pedestrians break their necks avoiding the cows...

A True Calling

Nothing happens to a story if all you do is listen. Nothing happens if all you do is read, or memorize word for word. What matters is if you make the heart of the story part of your very life. This story is one of those. Once there was a bhand,1 one of that rare breed that devote themselves to impersonations. This particular bhand was so adept at disguising himself that next to him the real thing looked fake. He would keep a disguise on for several days, and no one would ever find him...

from The Ascetic and The Courtesan

A Play in Four Acts *** Author's Note: Tapasvi o Tarangini (The Ascetic and The Courtesan) was published in five consecutive issues of the magazine Desh in 1966, after which it was published as a book with minor changes and additions. On its publication, a number of readers of Desh had written to me objecting to the dating of the legend. According to them, the myth of Rishyasringa was of the 'tretayuga' (the Third Age1), while that of Satyavati, Kunti, and Draupadi...

Toba Tek Singh

Two or three years after Partition, the governments of Pakistan and India decided to exchange lunatics in the same way that they had exchanged civilian prisoners. In other words, Muslim lunatics in Indian madhouses would be sent to Pakistan, while Hindu and Sikh lunatics in Pakistani madhouses would be handed over to India. I can't say whether this decision made sense or not. In any event, a date for the lunatic exchange was fixed after high level conferences on both sides of the...
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