I sometimes lay awake in the afternoon, ‘siesta’ time, and it hits me suddenly how we live in pretty bizarre times. So before I get into anything else, as we welcome July, a back-thump and earnest congratulations to all of us; we made it.
There is an almost electrical sensation in the air; the streets are busier and duller at the same time, there is graduation to deal with and umbrellas and raincoats are in full-swing. As the first half of the year eclipses, there is no rest for the wicked and June is the devil’s advocate. I write this from a cousin’s place in New Delhi, a city which is still eagerly waiting for the monsoon to arrive and my best wishes go upwards to the farmers of the plains that it isn’t too late in its arrival.
This season begets inspiration and makes me recall a speech by a master storytelling icon and a giver-of-feel-good vibes, Neil Gaiman. In his keynote address to The University of Arts, his resounding advice to all graduates of class of 2012, was a simple and elegant one; Make good art. Even if something precarious happens or the sun shines way too brightly, one must never forget to channel that emotion into making art. If you’re a budding author or a poet or a stand-up comic or a content writer with a huge publishing house or even a new-born blogger, you must write everything out. Express yourself, make your words sing in the rain even if the thunder outside is too loud. If the sun comes up the wrong side of the Earth one day, you already have a captivating fiction waiting to take birth. Gaiman remains one of my idols in life and literature and if I end up writing to even an inch of his ability someday, I will have known to have made, if not good, at least passable art.
Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel prize in literature last October, a development which was received with all kinds of confusion and backlash and made literary enthusiasts and aficionados alike struggle with a singular question : Are lyrics, literature? Earlier this June, Dylan’s audio recording of his acceptance speech was released which addressed this question and much, much more. In this incredible speech (narrative?) spanning close to 27 minutes, Dylan discussed his musical and literary influences and pointed to three main books which had worked their way into his music writing namely, Moby Dick, All Quiet On The Western Front and Homer’s Odyssey. All of these books are timeless classics with one major thing in common; their magnetic storytelling. Even though he says that ‘Songs are unlike literature; they’re meant to be sung and not read’ he still alludes to the magic of storytelling in however style it exists or comes in nowadays. At the end of the day, there is always a story being told somewhere and may not always be in written word. I have gone back to the speech countless number of times already and it has only reinforced my love for stories. As for the question? I suppose the answer is blowin’ in the wind.
Taking another page from Dylan’s works, I must remark how the times, they are a changin’. India, my country of birth and love, is about to undergo the largest tax reform in it’s young independent history and the gears of my, often absent-minded Economics graduate’s mind can’t help but await with eager anticipation of how something so significant will pan out. I am also midway through Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and my eyes are always in a constant struggle, fluttering from the home-screen of my phone, telling of yet another jarring news notification and the pages of a dystopian novel, parts of which seems to be coming closer to reality with every passing day. It sometimes begs the question, where does one draw the line between fiction and real life, when the real life is always keeping you more on the edge than ever. Of course, I don’t expect genetically manufactured children to be the norm anytime soon, but its issues pertaining to casteism, freedom and the meaning of happiness, are more important now than ever before.
I consider myself a mere hatchling, when it comes to working for this beautiful magazine and indeed I am. There is much to be learned and absorb, many nooks and crannies to be explored and a culture to understand, but it feels like a place not far from almost everything I adore about literature. It never ceases to amaze me how The Bombay Review is just us, a bunch of 20-something-olds, steadily keeping a ship manufactured from pure passion and love for literature, afloat over an ocean of reality. There are more events coming up now along with this issue and I feel honoured to be a part of them in one capacity or another.
With the South Asian Literary Forum in full throttle, the work for our next anthology is already making good headway. Our literary events have happened in Karachi, Pakistan, Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Srinagar, Kashmir. Preparations for the Bookmark Literary Festival are also in full motion and the energy for these events are at a fever pitch already. Amidst these, we also launched Kahaniyan, an initiative which will see The Bombay Review visit various schools across the country to conduct free literary sessions. There is always more work to be done and we are always on the lookout for volunteers to aid us in these ambitious initiatives, so do write to us to be a part of something beautiful.
I had a wonderful time going through the submissions for my first ever issue. Our poetry editor, Rochelle Potkar remarks about this issue:
“ The Inuit say the earth has shifted north, and collective moods are shifting this month with a riff in the air for climate change, more in the blur of celebrating trans-experiences of mind and spirit.
This sentiment reflects in the pieces chosen for this issue. But let us start at the beginning with Bibhu Padhi’s piece, ‘Arrivals and Departures’, where time jades realities, and its reminded notion ages the page with premonitions on predictability. A nice way to take a rain check on anticipation.
If we were to start on this note, it can only go ink-darker, translucence-starker with Vinita Agrawal’s ‘Artifice’ as a shamanic reading between body and sky out of the many interpretations it might potentiate, soon lending to a lilting lift in intrigue, imagery, and allure by Eloise Stevens’ poems ‘Mandakini, Uttarakhand’ and ‘To the temple of Masroor’ in the playful subversion of stereotype.
Three new voices reveal themselves in startling and refreshing ways with Misbah Ansari’s, ‘When faith blows inside a glass’, Samartha Madan Ingle’s, ‘Chameleons’, and Saheli Khastagir’s poem, ‘Dissolve into doorways’.
The post-modern blitz by Mihir Chitre with ‘A 2.31 AM Whisper’ is important to shake one up from too much of wandering… climate of stance, reverie of mise-en-scene.
And Bibhu Padhi’s second poem, ‘Missing History’ frames the end, thus concluding the conversation, like a duster erasing chalk on a board after an intense session. ”
As for the fiction section, we have a shorter narrative. Bodhisatwa Ray’s Lost Track, takes us on a journey of remembrance through a teenage girl moving to a big city. In Dear Muthoni, I’m in Prison in Southern Sudan, Alexander Opico’s epistolary tale of a prisoner’s shambolic incarceration is a distressing delight. One revisits the shenanigans of young adulthood in Bikaner (no author name) and Anindita Das’s Divine Intervention cooks up a tale of reverence, topping it off with a garnish of East-Indian festivities. This fine potpourri of literary delights, concludes with the jarring wartime narrative Confrontation by Aravind Anand and the delicately crafted Undressing Her by Aekta Khubchandani.
As I approach the end of my first ever Editorial, I want to mention something about the oceans I have alluded to in the rest of the body, and the best way to do that is with a book recommendation; Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman. It’s a book which is annoyingly close to my heart and I hope that anyone who reads it, can find something in it to leave a bookprint in their ribcages too.
With that, I bid you a happy and fruitful reading. Keep submitting and keep checking back in; we are always up to something new.
Regards, love and cookies,
Anhad Singh Bhatia
Assistant Editing Manager
The Bombay Review