Important note – The xenophobe, sexist, racist, and misogynist elephant with yellow hair in the cover of this issue bears no resemblance to any man dead or alive and is purely fictitious. No animals were harmed in the making of this cover art.
Hello Dear Readers!
A lot has happened in this beautiful world we walk upon, since the release of our last issue. It almost feels like the world revolved too fast this year, surprised us and left us dizzy. By popular sentiment, 2016 has won its place as the worst year of the new millennium, and this is a millennium that has already seen revolutions, countries being invaded, disasters, plane crashes and all that left us reeling in dismay.
Back in our home country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that the denominations of Rupees 500 and 1000 wouldn’t be valid in the country anymore. This is roughly 86% of the entire cash money supply of India. In a bold move that will allegedly disrupt the black money circulation and subsequently curb terrorism, the country has spiraled down into chaos. What happens when you wake up one morning and President Trump says, $50 and $100 bills are illegal henceforth? Nothing much really, most developed economies are not as dependent on cash flow as India is. A system like that could work in the West, but in India, irrespective of the final outcome, it has thrown 1.3 billion people into a state of helplessness, confusion, and instability, where markets have collapsed, and there is no money to buy milk Weekly groceries have become a luxury, and yet the country is walking forward, hungry, cashless, one day at a time. At times like these, we have met the wonderful people who are helping ease the pain.
There is a guitarist who sits outside the different ATMs across Mumbai, and plays songs for people waiting in long queues outside. Who picks these songs? Every third person in the queue, and our guitarist does this for 4 hours everyday, after his college hours. Cafes are giving out coffees and snacks in exchange for books, no cash required. Cabs are waiving off their fare for people rushing for interviews and exams. There are performances; theater, mimicry, stand-up and every possible form of entertainment by volunteers, for the people in queues where a person could be in line for a good 6 hours to withdraw Rs 2,000; approximately $30.
On November 9th, voters elected Mr. Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. Nina Simone, the jazz singer/pianist/songwriter released her album, ‘Nuff Said! on April 7, 1968, three days after the murder of Martin Luther King Jr, in his memory.
Post this historic election, a friend, a photographer and filmmaker asked me, “Do we as artists fail when such things happen?” I am in complete disagreement. I do understand that, in despair, it is only human to feel helpless and hopeless but, I don’t think we ever really fail. Humanity doesn’t fail, it missteps. In fact, negative bearings have largely moved and motivated artists in the right direction and in making a point, raising a voice and inspiring positive action. Folk tradition once said, “for truly the excellence of man resides in two very small parts: the heart and the tongue.” Stories, poetry and art, have reflected on social change and recognition of perennial values of civilizations throughout human history.
It comes as no surprise that throughout history, fiction has proved to act as a bridge to human perceptive, empathy and political understanding. There are one too many articles we’ve all probably read on “Novels That Have Changed the World” and writers like Maya Angelou, Harriet Beecher, George Orwell, Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Faulkner and William Shakespeare have always made it to the list. Whether it’s about Uncle Tom by Harriet Beecher and the strong influence it has said to have had on the uproar of the African-American slavery period or George Orwell’s 1984 as that one, timeless book on freedom of thought and expression that resonates with the world till today. Good art has been produced in times of war, desperation, gloom and darkness. Some of the best works have come out of such times.
Unknowingly or knowingly, we seek inspiration from art on a daily basis. A movie, a poem, a novel or that vibrant graffiti we saw on our way back home.
All forms of art have been central to our times, to which I’d like to bring to light a point that, not all of us read or write for the purpose of bringing about a change, revoking a political thought or making a statement. Some of us read because it’s entertaining and some write because it is therapeutic and maybe that’s the beauty of it all. You don’t need a reason to make art. You don’t need to have the urge to spread a message to write a good story. Stories can engage people and inspire action, art can spur thinking and poetry can definitely make you feel all the right kind of fuzzies but none of it is really a pre-condition to the form of it all. A South-African poet and writer, Iain Thomas puts the idea of the artist’s responsibility in the simplest of words;
“You as an artist, have the greatest responsibility of all.
You are charged with trying to make people feel, in a world that tells people not to.
You are tasked with speaking soft words, painting, playing, filming, writing moments of such magnitude and beauty that people rediscover their hearts one more (last) time.
You are here to give meaning to the few decades we spend here.”
2016 hasn’t been all that bad for us, professionally. At The Bombay Review, we’ve had a lot of things going on. Ideas burning and new initiatives being brought to life. Last month, we launched The Workshop Series, an initiative in Mumbai (currently) that aims to teach aspiring writers and poets the art of writing, in all its different shapes and forms. We dedicated our first series to ‘Writing Poetry’ and have had our Poetry Editor, Rochelle Potkar and young Mumbai poet, Harnidh Kaur do workshops on quiet Sunday mornings.
Our next one, on Free Verse Poetry by Rochelle is happening on the 18th of December at Doolally Taproom in Bandra, Mumbai. This workshop would be the last of the Poetry series and we look forward to launching our upcoming series on exciting themes such as Mental Health in Literature, Scriptwriting, Writing Short-Fiction and so on. If you do particularly have suggestions on themes you would want, please feel free to email us and we’ll do our best to bring it to you.
We are also super excited and happy to announce our latest and biggest venture yet, The Bookmark Literary Festival, which will take place in August 2017 across four cities; Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore simultaneously. Work force applications will open soon and currently; we are on a look out for volunteers to start working on its initial process.
Lastly and most importantly, we’d like to thank all our beautiful donors who contributed to our first crowdfunding campaign. The campaign is still ongoing and about 40% of our target amount is yet to be reached. To contribute in any manner, visit: https://milaap.org/fundraisers/SupportTBR
In our latest issue, we are happy to have more selections of poetry than fiction. Our Poetry Editor, Rochelle claims the poetry selections this time have been some of the best ones so far.
Here are her few bytes on the same, “In this issue, we see how Madhura Banerjee sews, in a timeless motion, threads of color onto the embroidery of a painting in Bluegrass Highway. Madu Chisom Kingdavid in Songs of a Broken Home allows the living mouth of memory to eat up the carcass of pain. TS Hidalgo’s biographical sketch in May 12 is about Irena – savior, living martyr – in the tapestried tragedy of history. The direct questioning in Radhika Jayaraman’s poem I can’t help it knives through metaphors, carving out a dialog on the diabolic nature of classism. Whereas Lunch hour by Sanam Sharma is a statement on the self-absorption through technology.
Awake by Tapan Mozumdar courts the imprisoned angst of decorum, while Uttaran Das Gupta’s Shillong shows the irony of emptiness chiseled into a perfect crucible for noise and need, and Art Allen’s The Rites of Dismemberment draws a spectral texture of simulacrum, in brevity.The last three poems in addition to being individual chronicles also end up giving weight to the poems that come before them. Thus creating for you, dear reader, a fragmented yet joined narrative of mood, beyond intention.”
Happy Reading and Happy new year in advance! Let’s hope for a better, fulfilling and brighter year ahead!
Kaartikeya Bajpai (Editor-in-Chief)
Huda Merchant (Editorial Director)