Last summer, when a neighbor of my friend was acquitted of all charges after spending a good twenty years in jail, he found it hard to re-enter the society. He described that the reason behind his life going downhill was that the community lacked the same degree of respect and kindness. We saw a further loss of hope in prospect after he stopped looking for jobs and struggled with how almost everything was digitized. Ones and zeros are taking over the world. This was when my friend, who holds her books in incredibly high regard, decided to let go off a few. Every week she introduced a new book to her neighbor. Soon the man was exploring themes of decadence, social upheaval, technology and fantasy, to name a few. Books had him rooting for characters with self-crippling doubt, for men on a journey to set themselves free, for women with a higher understanding of human progress.
For my friend, this meant personal happiness. For her neighbor, the walls of the prison that kept closing in on him had finally started to disappear from his mind. Rehabilitation is challenging because of prolonged and gradual loss of perception experienced by prisoners, especially those serving longer sentences. Prejudice, intolerance and stereotypes abound; what helped him live effectively again was the realization that each one of us is prone to some morose human condition and loss of hope could only be replenished, little by little, through giving and receiving. Now that her neighbor has started dating women, he quotes Hawthrone to the ladies.
Constructive consequences remind me of Arundhati Roy’s old hopes, her confidence not only in the possibility of a new world but also in the certainty of its arrival. After 20 years since her Booker Prize winning fiction debut, her upcoming novel ‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ is set to release in the month of June. With a picture of a solitary rose on a marble tomb for the cover of the book, I wonder where else she could take her readers now.
Apart from the unreal elements that stir the mundane lives of the characters of Murakami’s novel, his new book, Men Without Women, will have bars, baseball and Beatles. Not to forget cats. Lots of cats. With his signature magical realism, this book would revolve around the lives of different lonely men. Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, set in the Middle-East is particularly on my list because of Hamid’s farsightedness and his conviction that tender love can thrive even in the fury of bloodshed, curfews and migrant crisis.
I am emptying my shelves for more space. 2017 is an appetizing year for readers.
At a warm and quiet travel cafe in Delhi, we organised a little event this month as a part of our ongoing Winter Literary Tour. To talk on the theme of travel and literature, we were joined by Ambica Gulati, the Deputy Editor at Outlook Traveller India who attended to intricacies involved in travel writing on the web. Anwesha Sanyal, the Digital Features at Travel+Leisure hosted an interactive session on ‘Gypsies in Business: The Perks and Perils of Travel Writing’. The event was attended by an interactive bunch of people from all age group. We are thankful to the writers who performed poetry and shared their intimate travel and life experiences with us. In the current hostile environment of fanatical revolutionaries, expressing opinions that are at variance with those commonly held, has spread a wave of barbarity in the country. Especially in the city of New Delhi, where the last few weeks have been difficult for students and teachers alike. What hasn’t left me is the picture of a Delhi University student holding a banner during the protest with Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s words: “I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Repressive regimes are characterized by their intolerance to young and variant voices. Repressive regimes refuse to acknowledge artists’ necessity to communicate ideas; they jail the activists, burn the books and ban movies in their free time.
In another attempt to throttle the freedom of expression, the multiple award winning movie ‘Lipstick Under My Burkha’ was denied certification. If only we had the empathy to listen to the brave stories of women from their perspective. The deep-rooted discrimination against women in this country can not be cured if our voices are systematically suppressed. In such times of global leadership deficit, we need revolutionaries who are well informed and sustainable. We need an environment that is safer for each one of us to practice our convictions and to live in peace with those of others.
Reading the enormous number of submissions that we received for this issue from all the across the world was an absolute delight. Since the last issue of TBR was a poetry exclusive, we bring you fiction in this one.
Avishek Parui’s Dyakha cuts through the thick skin of gender and allows love to settle scores. Ashmeen’s Opia Ellipses Almost is an evocation of fantasy, lyrical and otherworldly. Mosarrap H Khan’s Maryam has undertones that suggest hope but is transparent enough to offer its character a position of uncomplaining endurance. Janet’s The Wrong Question is a poignant story of struggle, submission and the strength of a man’s spirit. The very convincing narrator of Hamish Filmer’s Excommunication of Bartholomew watches his eccentric family eat their dinner to death. Robert Boucheron’s Twinkletoes is a clown’s affair with colors and hunger, dance and loneliness, theater and life. The Dare by Robert Fox, with its piquant features, has captured the plight of a writer and the pleasure of contriving stories. The festive metaphors and linguistic play in Pushpanjana Karmakar’s The Turtle rushes down the streets of Calcutta. Sharla Yates’s In Between The Depths is a tale of return of an adventuress to her home. Our American Guest is Selma Carvalho’s successful attempt to retrieve the cultural and social history of Goa.
We have more events planned in the coming months. Do write back to us with feedback and comments. Keep submitting.