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Articles tagged "Indian Literature"

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...

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...

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...

His Majesty

When I was a child, until someone told me a story I couldn't sleep. One day I was down with a high fever from morning to night. My mother, Ammajan, sat by the bed massaging my head. Granny Mughlani, whose house was next door, heard the news about me, so she came over and began rubbing the soles of my feet. My loving Granny Mughlani must have been around eighty at the time. Her love for me was boundless. To this day, I remember her face, her love, the things she said. Her face was the...

The Man With Three Names

He had three names: Majeeta, Majeed and Ma'i Dada. Those who called him Majeeta had given up the ghost during his lifetime. The few hoary old men who called him Majeed, or "Arey Maan Majeed," lingered on for a while longer. To the rest—and this included the whole town—he was at all times Ma'i Dada. His real name though, as he himself stated, was Abdul Mazid Khan Esoop Ja'i. Thus, in the police papers, ration cards, state hospital records and finally in the register...

Do You Suppose It’s the East Wind?

The enormous weight of three hundred and sixty-five days once again slips from my hand and falls down into the dark cavern of the past. The windows in this desolate room are wide open. How improbably strange the sky looks, draped in a sheet of dense gray clouds, behind the luxuriant green trees. It seems as if someone has filled space itself with a sweet, melancholy beauty. A cool breeze has finally started to blow, after much heat and sun. Could it be the east wind? Papers and books...

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...

What Is a Translator’s True Calling?

To begin answering one riddle, you first have to consider another. In this case, the riddling starts with me, a translator, and a story I have translated into English from a story Indian author Vijay Dan Detha wrote in Hindi from a version he wrote in Rajasthani which was inspired by a Rajasthani folktale he heard from a neighbor. I call my version of the story "A True Calling," after Detha's Hindi title "Rijak ki Maryada," after an oral version that by tradition has no formal title....

Untold Hitlers

The five were only men. Some younger, some older, all between thirty and fifty. The eldest was beginning to gray here and there, but the others had heads of hair black as bumblebees. They looked like men: eyes where eyes should be, noses where noses should be, teeth where teeth should be. Arms and legs where arms and legs should be. Copper-colored complexions. White turbans-some old, some new. Cholas of white muslin, like their dhotis. Knotted gold earrings in their ears. Gold pendants...

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...

Third Letter to Uncle Sam

31 Laxmi Mansions Hall Road, Lahore 15 March 1954 Dear Uncle, Greetings, I write this after a long break. The fact is that I was ill. According to our poetic tradition, the treatment for illness lies in what is called the elixir of joy served by a slender temptress straight out of the quatrains of Omar Khayyam from a long-necked crystal jug. However, I think that is all poetry. Not to speak of comely cupbearers, one can't even find an ugly servant boy with a mustache to play...

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