Fiction | ‘A Rotten Deal’ by Kanya D’Almeida | Issue 42, March 2023

A Rotten Deal 

Umeshi Uyangoda saw her husband, Udesh, off to work every morning with a heavily scented handkerchief pressed to her nose, and a sordid little secret coiled inside her chest. Both were sickening, but neither as sickening as the stench from the municipal garbage dump down the road. It was this abomination, she told herself—this gigantic purveyor of toxic gas and ill fortune—that necessitated her perfume and her treachery.   

Once Udesh was safely out of sight, Umeshi scuttled up to the second floor, ignoring the leftovers on the breakfast table, the swarm of black flies gathering over globs of egg curry that were soaking into her tablecloth. These were no ordinary insects. They were Dump Flies and they came in their dozens, clumped together like bunches of black mulberries, unafraid. Rolled up newspapers were no match for them, a curio from The Days Before the Dump. She’d taken to stashing electric fly swatters around the house. Neon-colored weapons shaped like toy tennis rackets, peddled by enterprising door-to-door salesmen in these parts. One swipe and zzzppp—her table was littered with tiny fried corpses.

But not today. She went directly upstairs to her daughter’s old bedroom, whose door still carried Umanga’s hand-painted sign: Beware! Highly Educated Woman Inside. Little had been touched in the five years since the girl left for college in the United States—wooden shelves still sinking under the weight of so many books, walls still papered with magazines cutouts of Umanga’s idols, all women whose names eternally escaped Umeshi. No matter. She had eyes for only two things in this room: the Sunday newspaper supplement and a bulky Windows PC. 

While the machine revved up, Umeshi spread out the Classifieds, using her thumbnail to crease down the centerfold of the BRIDEGROOMS section. The paper’s flat rate of 25 rupees per word encouraged brevity, which in turn exposed the base, unfiltered aspirations of an entire nation:

Govi-Buddhist parents seek obedient, fair girl for our son (5’10’’). He is Devoid of All Vices (non-smoker, teetotaler, hardworking), employed in leading bank, possessing Australian Permanent Residence (PR) and Significant Financial Assets. Desires immediate union with a slim and pretty bride. Reply with horoscope. 

One had to be vigilant about the fine print, of course—Divorced after brief incompatible marriage or, even worse, Christian parents seek—but Umeshi had learned quickly that these proposals were all of a pattern, reflecting a society clinging to old feuds and ancient bloodlines. While the profession or height of a future spouse might be negotiable, caste, community and color were not. It wasn’t quite to her taste; she and Udesh had shunned all such considerations in their own union, a true ‘love match’. But she was willing to overlook these families’ outdated notions in exchange for The Promise, the great offer of exchange that all the personal advertisements rested on: emigration. Dual citizenship for both bride and mother. A life abroad, overseas, elsewhere. Anywhere But Here. 

There were no names attached to the ads. Those, presumably, came later, when or had shuffled through their responses and decided that she—and Umanga—were worth their time. But that hadn’t happened yet. And it stung.

Umeshi refreshed her inbox. She clicked on ‘Spam’ and then, growing desperate, on ‘Trash’. She was new to this computer business, the mysterious world of the screen where things disappeared into black holes called Folders, never to be seen again. Not like real life, where everything piled up until you were forced to confront it. Here, On-Line, you pressed a button and started fresh—a new day, a New Window.

Udesh despised it. Having spent his life balancing the books the hard way, with a calculator and columns of figures, he viewed the machine as a cheat and a usurper. That he had consented to having one in the house at all was due entirely to Umeshi playing an expert hand. Against her wishes Udesh had urged Umanga to accept a scholarship from a university in Massachusetts. Against Umeshi’s better judgment he’d sunk their retirement savings into plane tickets, College Meal Plans, On-Campus Housing Deposits. Then—a slap in the face—he’d allowed the girl to take what she called a Gap Year after she got her degree. Umeshi held her tongue, totting up the offenses until they amounted to a decent trade: Udesh wanted their only child to remain at large, unwed, on a distant continent? Very well, then Umeshi would have Skype Video Calls and Google Hangouts and Facebook Chats and everything Udesh deplored. From the day it arrived, the computer transformed Umanga’s bedroom from the dwelling place of their greatest treasure to the terrain of their bitterest battles. Would this latest transgression, sharing her daughter’s sacred star chart with strangers over the Internet, be the breaking point?

Her neighbor Ganga dismissed such concerns as “bloody nonsense.” She had found the perfect husband for Her Chuppi after extensive email exchanges with a suite of suitors and was confident Umeshi could do the same.

“Men are useless when it comes to these matters,” Ganga said later that morning as they hung up their washing. “But wait and see, he’ll worship you when it’s done. So? Any decent candidates?”

Umeshi thought of her sparsely populated inbox.

“Don’t dilly-dally,” Ganga said. “After thirty, no one will want her.”

“What do you want me to do?” Umeshi  asked. “I’m not a magician, I can’t pull a man out of thin air.”

“Don’t get glorious with me. I’m trying to help you. If you’re not happy with the selection why don’t you put your own advertisement?”

“Are you bloody mad, Ganga? Suppose Udesh opens the paper and sees? He’ll massacre me.” 

“Can’t be helped.” Ganga wrung out a sock ruthlessly. “Anyway Udesh only reads the political pages.”

Aiyo here.” Umeshi pegged up a pair of her husband’s underpants. “Stop playing the fool.”

“What fool? You want to look up and wait until Umanga is barren? Mothers must take the initiative. Then you can control the situation, no? You ask the questions. You check the horoscopes. You be the one to send people packing.”

A shiver of pleasure danced down Umeshi’s spine, but still she faltered.

“How will I know what to write? Can’t men.”

“What Umeshi! I thought you studied English Literature in school? At last you can put your degree to good use!”

Umeshi managed a mirthless smile. There was a time when this morning routine had brought her solace, the communal clothesline an amusing nod to their shared domestic confinement. But Ganga was building a life raft. Her daughter Chuppi’s new husband was Doing Very Well, shorthand among the upwardly mobile for Making a Lot of Money. Soon Ganga would join them in their semi-detached London home while Umeshi was bound to this rotting municipality whose population was defined, demarcated and divided by its proximity to the city’s refuse. True, she was better off than the slum dwellers who lived at the foot of the landfill, whose gutters and gardens acted as a kind of sieve for the black sludge that ran from the dump at the onset of rains. It was these residents who bore the brunt of legions of rats, cockroaches and mosquitoes that thrived in the filth. But parasites are discerning creatures. Not content with the meager offerings of poor people’s kitchens, they’d begun their march towards the bigger houses, where scraps were meatier, juicier, more plentiful. 

Even now a murder of crows kaak-kaak-ed menacingly at the women from a branch. These were the runts, driven from the dump by bigger, healthier flocks. Hunger had emboldened them. One slum dweller swore to having witnessed a stray dog carried off by the ravenous creatures; another said she’d seen a crow pluck out a baby’s eyes. No one could substantiate these reports. All they knew was that when the birds banded together in a blur of beaks and talons that cast the whole neighborhood into shadow, everyone took cover, venturing out only hours later to find their world coated in a patina of shit.


When they’d first moved into the neighborhood there had been nothing at the end of the lane but a wetland, a quiet, humid soup of mangroves and monitor lizards. The dumping began shortly after their daughter, Umanga, was born. It grew alongside her, she alongside it—a mountain arising abruptly from flatness; an odorless swamp spiraling into a festering tower. 

Umeshi could still recall the first time a truck discharged its contents in the area. 

The family were out on their evening stroll. Udesh pushed the pram while she held the umbrella. Umanga was awake but quiet, occasionally shaking her rattle which made a shucka-shucka-shucka sound like seeds inside a pod. 

They smelled it before they saw it, a streak of rankness in the air. The baby made a fussing sound. Umeshi clutched her husband’s arm as they rounded the corner. And there it was, a coagulated mess of other people’s filth bursting out of flimsy plastic bags, food waste and half-crushed beer cans, soggy, sloppy egg cartons and empty cigarette packets. A glossy black raven dipped its beak into a rivulet of rancid rice porridge, just as Umanga started to cry.

It had seemed monstrous at the time but not insurmountable. They were a civic-minded couple, respected in the community, so it didn’t take them long to assemble a team to gather up the rubbish—everyone wore gloves—and return it to the roadside. But that was only the beginning. Each day more trucks arrived, too many to count, and with them a squadron of waste pickers, who spent their days scavenging and their nights erecting a shantytown around the garbage. 

Udesh had tired of the whole thing in a matter of months, but Umeshi became like a woman possessed. She could think of nothing but the dump: the sight of it, the stench of it, the spread of it, inching closer all the time. She battled pests and fetidness with poisons and incense. She joined the Residents’ Committee Against the Dump, a group of likeminded, middle-class families who made appeals to municipal bodies and public servants. 

“What for, darling?” Udesh often asked. “You think those government bureaucrats will bother reading letters? They’re too busy scratching their backsides and drinking tea!”

Perhaps he was right but she stuck with it. If nothing else, it helped to pass the time.

That was twenty years ago. Umanga went off to college, while Udesh sailed peacefully on the still waters of a dead-end career at the finance company where he never ruffled feathers and never received a promotion. The dump grew from a single peak to a mountain range, its undulating form forever blocking Umeshi’s view of the horizon. So she’d done the only sensible thing she could think of: found herself a new hobby. The Bridegroom search was a reason to get going every morning. Tucked away insider her, it tingled deliciously all day long and allowed her to forget, for several blissful hours, the stinking reality of her surroundings.


Ganga was right about one thing: time was against her. Umanga was returning next month for her first visit in five years—The Gap Year having widened into a gulf—and the tide of longing she and Udesh had held at bay was now surging back. Udesh started marking off the days on the kitchen calendar, slanted rows of red slashes tipping towards the day of Umanga’s arrival.  

One thing did not bode well for Umanga’s visit, the protests at the dump. A schoolboy had died of a rat bite, ten years old and apparently beloved in the community because hundreds of people from the informal settlement emerged from their shanties waving signs and chanting slogans. A group of youngsters blocked municipal trucks from entering the town by burning rubbish in the streets. Plumes of black smoke darkened everything they touched. The old stench of decaying waste took on a new bouquet, the spice of singed rubber, the musk of melting polythene. A politician arrived to calm the unrest but crowds pelted his shiny white SUV with garbage. Someone hurled a coconut through the windscreen and it split the driver’s forehead right open. 

Ganga called it ‘slum behavior’ and Umeshi silently agreed. When they’d been part of it, things had been more dignified—letter writing and so on. But the Residents’ Committee had been replaced by the People’s Movement Against the Dump, which appeared to be directed entirely by members of the colony, hotheaded men and loud-mouthed women who wasted no time on pleasantries. 

“They’re so aggressive,” she complained to her husband. “Ugly behavior doesn’t get you anywhere.”

“I say, this is the only language politicians speak,” Udesh said. “Haven’t you watched the debates in parliament? Slinging garbage at each other is what they do best. Thugs respond to thuggery! Maybe now something will be done.”

While the neighborhood buried itself in the standoff, Umeshi agonized over the marriage proposal. What to say about Umanga, who had become almost unrecognizable to her? Take this latest Facebook post, a photograph of the girl dressed in a pair of shamelessly short shorts, her man’s haircut mercifully hidden by a gold-sequined cap. In one hand a sign that read, “Proud to be marching for #ImmigrantRights!” Her other arm was slung around someone who had begun to make regular appearances in the posts, a petite girl with flowing auburn hair and heavily tattooed limbs. Both Umanga and her friend sported pierced noses—not the elegant diamond studs Umeshi was accustomed to but thick rings of silver that hung from the septum. Their photos betrayed a closeness that echoed through strings of comments: Uma, you stunner, love those booty shorts and My fave LGBTQ cuties fighting the good fight! 

For the life of her, Umeshi couldn’t understand it. When Umanga had left for a university called “UMass”, she had wholly embraced her generation’s mission: to surpass their parents’ status in life at breakneck speed. Everyone was on the move; to be stationary was to fail. Old classmates with whom Umeshi had parted ways on more or less equal footing—poised for unremarkable lives—now boarded planes to visit their children in Toronto, Singapore, Melbourne, Dubai. Udesh chastised her for peering too closely at other people’s lives, but he didn’t understand. Her Homepage was addictive, a bottomless parade featuring all the participants in the Great March Abroad, which is to say, everyone except Umeshi and Udesh Uyangoda. For reasons they never discussed, their investment in the future had failed to bear fruit. Somewhere along the way Umanga—or Uma as the girl now referred to herself, pronouncing it Ooma—had gone off track. She took a job in a bakery called Doughs Over Bros. After the bakery it was babysitting, then a short stint in an office that ended prematurely, according to a Post that read: “Just not cut out for a 9-5, ya’ll. Down with wage slavery!”

Wage slavery. It was one of those utterly foreign expressions that now peppered her daughter’s Facebook Wall, the place where Umanga directed her mother for updates about her life. But the Wall contained none of the information Umeshi desired, such as where the girl shopped for vegetables, or what on earth had become of the unspoken agreement between all Sri Lankan parents and their children, that sacrifices made would be repaid with interest. The Wall did not communicate; instead, it blared slogans at her: “Abolish ICE” and “Black Lives Matter”. Once upon a time she had been able to peer over the Wall and catch a glimpse of her daughter, but every day it grew more impenetrable.


Her ad came out the following Sunday. Umeshi rose before her husband and intercepted the paper boy on his dilapidated bicycle. He had recently taken to wearing a surgical facemask during his rounds of their neighborhood. Ganga called it “the height of bloody cheek” that a person who would not be permitted even to cross the thresholds of their homes should be so offended by something they must live with. But Umeshi couldn’t blame him. It was monsoon season and lashing rains had disturbed the dump, loosening the topsoil and churning up older, fouler waste, so that the stench was an almost physical presence. 

The boy didn’t linger. He flung her the paper and sped off, shrilling his bell at a knot of pedestrians advancing up the lane. They were a motley crew. Some of the women wore burqas, some wore sarees or skirts. The men were all of a similar stature, that odd combination of muscular yet emaciated, which marked them immediately as labourers. Not until they were standing opposite her did Umeshi notice one of the women held an infant close to her chest. Whether it was asleep or comatose from the heat she couldn’t tell, but it was motionless in its mother’s arms. 

They said they were part of the People’s Movement Against the Dump. Would a member of her household attend a community meeting tonight? The residents were mounting a legal challenge against the city but they needed more support. Had she heard about the little boy, just ten years old? Was she aware of the dengue epidemic spreading through the slum? Or how the police shot water cannons at the protesters? Unless they joined forces to fight for their rights the municipal council would ignore the mess, death and disease would proliferate and—

Umeshi Uyangoda promised to pass the information on to her husband, the man of the house. She backed away from them, locked her gate, and hurried upstairs.  

Safe in Umanga’s room, she peeled open the paper with trembling fingers. She spotted it at once, her little square inch of text nestled among the other BRIDES, a gem in the gravel. A twinge of pride plucked at her. She’d never had anything published before and there was something thrilling about seeing her own words in print. For one reckless moment she was tempted to share the news with her husband. Had she been wrong to exclude him from this? How much sweeter it would be with him by her side. They would laugh together at the mismatches and when they finally made their choice, Udesh might even take her hand, or plant a dry kiss on the crown of her head. 

A hammering on the door crushed her thoughts. She shoved the paper into the bin. The doorknob rattled furiously.

“What the devil are you doing there?”

Udesh wore a towel around his waist. Wet hair hugged his egg-shaped skull and a trail of water tracked his passage from the bathroom. 

“You’re deaf or something?” he said. “How many times I called you!”

“Sorry darling. I was just checking on Umanga.”

“Your work is checking. Checking email, checking Facebook. Meanwhile no one is checking on the important things. Fridge is empty. Gas cylinder is empty. No soap in the bathroom even!”

“Wait. I’ll bring a piece of Sunlight from the kitchen,” Umeshi said.

“Are you bloody mad, woman? I can’t bathe with Sunlight.”

“So what do you want me to do? Bring some sand from the garden?”

“You think I’m a baas to be scrubbing with sand?”

“Why, you don’t have legs to walk to the supermarket?” Umeshi asked. “There is enough and more soap there.”

Udesh slammed his fist against the doorframe.

“One of these days I’ll smash that cursed computer,” he said. 

“Smash to see,” she said. “Then think of a nice story to tell the police when I call them, okay?”

He stood dumbstruck before her, beads of water dangling off his earlobes and

nostrils. “The devil has got into you,” he said at last. “That much I know.”

Fights like these were a new development. Theirs had always been an untroubled union: a chance meeting on a bus followed by a flurry of love letters which, Umeshi realized too late, would not translate into amorous encounters in the bedroom. They consummated their marriage once or twice, in the dark under the sheets, and when the act bore fruit they never spoke of it again. They settled into a steady life strengthened by a straightforward division of labor—he earned the salary while she kept the home and raised the child. But just as a single snagged thread can ruin a whole garment, Umeshi’s newfound obsession, which lay somewhere between the newspaper pages and the Internet pages, had become a ragged rent in the fabric of their home. 

Later Umeshi tried to earn clemency by pretending to listen to Udesh’s news. A great many people had been present at the community meeting, he said. The speaker was a young lawyer who’d grown up in the colony. He rejected the government’s plan to relocate poorer residents to high-rises in remote localities—called it a ‘rotten deal’. It was the dump that should move, he had said, not the people. They may not have much but they had their homes, their vegetable plots and their pets, their neighbors with whom they were now fighting shoulder to shoulder to stay together—

Must be nice, Umeshi thought, to feel such loyalty among neighbors. Not like Ganga, who was jumping ship after all these years of griping and giggling together, as though they owed each other nothing but a goodbye.

—and when they dared to speak up they were treated like cattle, the lawyer had said, bludgeoned with batons and threatened by plainclothes policeman in the dead of night. Was it right to ask thousands of people to accept poisoned water, putrid air and pestilence as a way of life simply because they were poor? Think about the children!

That’s what it all came down to, Umeshi thought, as Udesh droned on. Our children. When you realize that the road behind you is longer than the one ahead, you reach for those vessels into which you’ve poured so much and you try to add more, a little bit more, until you’re satisfied that some part of you will live on, a drop in someone else’s bloodstream, a faint pulse in their veins.  


The boy’s name was Ganaka. He was the correct height, the right age, the perfect breed. His mother, a Mrs. Sriyani Dissanayake, was sensible and well spoken, prompt with her correspondence and incisive with her questions. Would Umanga be willing to relocate to London after the wedding? When the baby came, would Umeshi be able to join the family there? Could Umanga drive? Because women in England were independent like that. 

Using a ratio of one-part memory to two-parts pure fiction, Umeshi served up a version of her daughter that surpassed even Sriyani’s exacting standards. Umanga’s barista job was translated as Head of Sales, her activism rebranded as Volunteer Work. Umeshi emailed a stream of photos from the days before piercings and politics, and Sriyani said she couldn’t wait to meet the girl. Ganaka was also due back for the Sinhala New Year, so they scheduled a tentative gathering of the clans, agreeing for some flexibility around the demands of the holiday season. 

With the technical details out of the way, their talk turned to more intimate matters: anticipation of their children’s return, joyful musings about grandmotherhood. One phone call at a time they stitched their dreams together until they were indistinguishable. They adopted the collective possessive pronoun: our wedding. Our future.

How you have kept this a secret from Udesh I don’t know,” Ganga kept saying. “You’re blushing as if you’re the one with a new boyfriend!”

It was true. With Udesh immersed in community meetings and Ganaka waiting in the wings, the situation was as close to ideal as it could be. Except for the bombshell that Umanga had dropped a week before her arrival. It came in the form of a Status Update on the Wall, a photograph of Umanga and her auburn-haired friend, their faces half hidden by a little blue booklet with a golden eagle on the cover. “Mo renewed her passport, ya’ll!” read a caption beside an icon of a plane taking off. “Island paradise here we come!” The destination was tagged as Bandaranaike International Airport. 

“Just say no,” was Ganga’s advice. 

“Udesh doesn’t know the meaning of that word when it comes to Umanga,” Umeshi said. 

“Then you do it, put your foot down. Can’t have an outsider here while you’re trying to settle the arrangement.”

“Apparently this girl wants to stay for a whole month. Volunteer Work.”

“My God! You better hope she finds something to volunteer for,” Ganga said. “Some big crisis that keeps her out of the house and out of your way so you can plan the wedding.”


They agreed that Udesh would fetch the girls from the airport while Umeshi made up for weeks of neglected housework. She attacked every surface with bleach and sprayed chemicals into every crevice. She scoured gecko shit off the windowsills and scraped rat droppings from the insides of cupboards. As she worked, the tiresome creatures squeaked and scratched, out of sight, on the roof, inside the walls, making a mockery of her efforts. 

In the end it didn’t matter. When the front door opened neither she nor Umanga had eyes for anything but each other. 

The girl crossed the threshold in a rush, stopping just inches from her mother. Her face was stormy with tears. 


The word broke them both. Umanga’s body crumbled like sand. On her hands and knees, she touched her mother’s feet. Umeshi placed a trembling palm briefly on the girl’s head before dragging her fiercely into an embrace. How long they stood sobbing into each other’s shoulders Umeshi didn’t know. She kept pulling back to press her lips to Umanga’s cheeks and search her body for signs of damage but no, nothing was amiss; miraculously the girl was whole. Each inspection washed away that ancient maternal terror that a child taken from the nest will disintegrate, waste away. 

It was replaced with a new awareness, neither better nor worse: her own obsolescence.

When they came apart at last, Umeshi’s eyes alighted first on Udesh, standing silently among a pile of luggage, and then on the stranger in their midst. 

“Amma,” Umanga said, wiping her eyes, “This is Mo.”

“It’s so great to meet you, Mrs. Uyangoda. Sorry, I mean Aunty! After all the stories Uma’s told me I feel like I know you guys already! And you have such a lovely home!” 

Mo’s smile was too bright. Umeshi wanted to close her eyes against it, and shut her ears to the nasal accent that also tinged Umanga’s speech. She wanted immunity from the electrified current that passed between the girls. 

“Please.” Umeshi gestured vaguely at the furniture. “Sit.”

But Umanga was dragging Mo around the room and Mo was saying “wow” and “totally” and “aww Uma, is this you as a baby? Cutie!” 

Udesh had disappeared with the suitcases, leaving Umeshi standing awkwardly in the middle of the room, unsure where to put herself and overcome by the notion that she was now a visitor in her own home.

“I made crab,” she said uselessly. 

“Oh my God!” Umanga clutched Mo’s shoulders. “Just wait until you try my mother’s crab curry it’s, like, the best thing you’ll ever eat.”

A butterfly wing twitched in Umeshi’s chest. She said something about serving lunch and disappeared into the kitchen.

The flies were worse than ever today, thick on the crockery and the cooker. A discarded crab claw at the bottom of the sink looked blighted, pocked with black pustules. When Umeshi opened the tap they swarmed over her head, dispersing and regrouping as she waved them away, tiny bodies brushing her cheeks. She snatched up one of her murderous tennis rackets and swung it. Five in one go. She swiped again, backhand this time, and the satisfying smell of burning insects arose around her. But still they swarmed. She hit out at random, not troubling to avoid shelves, or vases, or teacups. With eyes closed she attacked blindly. Pots clanged, something shattered, a voice shouted “Ho, HO!” and then someone was wrestling the thing out of her hands.

She opened her eyes. Dead flies and dishware littered the floor and countertops. Udesh, Umanga and Mo stood around her, their faces a palette of shock. She tried to speak but could only stare down at Umanga and Mo’s interlaced fingers, the closeness of their bodies. Behind them, the front door loomed large, for someone was ringing their doorbell. 

It was the Dissanayake family, a trio of tentative smiles and fervent apologies for dropping in unexpectedly, but they were in the neighborhood anyway and Ganaka was so excited about meeting Umanga—and Aunty and Uncle, of course! They wouldn’t stay long, just a quick hello. They didn’t want anything, thank you, not even tea or a soft drink, really. So this was Umeshi’s husband? Udesh, right? A pleasure, at last! And where was the famous Umanga? I beg your pardon? This was her? Oh. She looked…different in the pictures. And this was her…friend? Visiting from America? How…nice. Yes, very nice. Well. So, anyway. Maybe they should get going, lots of relatives to visit. Sorry, again, for barging in like this, they never meant to surprise anyone. They thought…Umeshi had said…It was a simple misunderstanding. No harm done. Suba aluth avuruddak wewa, blessings for the New Year and for the future, which would no longer involve them, the Dissanayake family, whose son was just as handsome as his pictures and who was raking Umanga over with eyes awash in relief, like someone who has narrowly dodged a bullet, and whose father was shaking hands with Udesh in a bracing, consoling manner, as though to reassure a man humiliated before his own family, and whose mother was staring around her with pursed lips and scrunched nose, the face of a woman who has just caught a whiff of a rotten deal. 


Some people said it was an earthquake. Others blamed it on a methane explosion in the heart of the dump. Whatever it was had the strength of a tidal wave. It crushed stone walls as easily as if they were made of cardboard; asbestos roofs became crinkled crepe paper. Shabby dreams got stuck under someone else’s filth, choked, and expired.

They said three people were dead. They said ten, twenty, thirty. Thirty-one…

News crews arrived before emergency response teams and filmed families digging through the debris in search of the missing. Morgues returned bodies wrapped in polythene to the bereaved. Someone remarked that life is cheap but coffins are expensive. 

Talking heads popped up behind microphones: Political corruption. Crime against humanity. They called for investigations; they called for arrests. Meanwhile, residents of the demolished colony braced themselves for a second deluge, not of filth this time but of charity—dry rations and used clothes and good intentions. The government declared a national day of mourning, which was observed by all but the pests, whose appetites remained monstrous. They stuck close, packs of strays and plagues of parasites, their noses and antennae assuring them that after the fuss died down, fresh mountains of rubbish would rise. Even as the funeral processions passed through the streets, skeletal men in orange vests hauled dustbins full of meat and plastic from the homes of the wealthy, grunting as they emptied their contents onto municipal trucks bound for the landfill. 

Udesh, Umanga and Mo joined the relief effort and Umeshi took advantage of their absence to double down on her own search and rescue mission. 

Umanga’s bedroom was now a mess of unfamiliar garments and smells, Mo’s clothes mixed in with her daughter’s, strands of auburn hair entangled in Umanga’s brush on the dressing table. But Umeshi had eyes only for her inbox. She sifted methodically through the responses that were still trickling in. It was harder this time around, with the debris of her recent failure strewn about her. Sometimes doubt bubbled up in her, a cold rush of hopelessness, but she quick to banish it. What good did it do to stand helplessly among the ruins? What use was a life devoid of plans? In the end everyone picked up the pieces and followed whichever compass pointed due north, to the future.

She was close to selecting a new candidate. His name was something-or-other, his profession was What It Should Be. She tracked him down on Facebook and spent many hours scrolling through his Wall. Each time she thought she’d hit rock bottom, the damn page refreshed itself. 

One evening, as she sat gazing at a photo of the boy leaning against a shiny new car, she heard voices downstairs. The trio had returned from their volunteer work earlier than usual. Soon they’d be cooking dinner, the girls teasing Udesh about something silly he’d said earlier. He would have a glass of wine with them. Later, when he came to bed flushed with drink and the satisfaction of public service, he’d reach for her clumsily under the sheets. When it was over, he’d whisper in the dark: Wasn’t it funny that just a few days ago they’d squabbled over something so idiotic as a marriage proposal? He forgave her, he’d say, for her deception; water under the bridge now. She must forgive herself also, she must come out and join the relief effort. Come out and rejoin her family. 

Umeshi guided the mouse to the top left corner of the screen and clicked the X that made the whole world disappear.

Kanya D’Almeida is a Sri Lankan writer. She won the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize. Her fiction has appeared on Granta, Jaggery and The Bangalore Review. She holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University’s School of the Arts, and hosts The Darkest Light, a podcast exploring birth and motherhood in Sri Lanka. 

Fiction | ‘A Funeral of National Importance’ by Ciara Mandulee Mendis | Issue 42 (March, 2023)

A Funeral of National Importance

On the way back from the funeral of the Chief Incumbent of Bambalapitiya Maha Maya Viharaya, she asked the driver to stop at her favourite handloom saree shop. She ordered all the white sarees in the shop because she did not know which person of national importance might die in the coming month; she couldn’t possibly appear on national media in the same white saree over and over again.

Thankfully, a few weeks later, the Governor of the Capital Bank of Sri Lanka was killed by an accident and she was thrilled. As soon as she heard the news, she left all her files stacked up on the table and quickly got herself driven to his house because she really wanted to be there for his family in this time of need, giving instructions on organizing a funeral of national importance through her recent experience of being in a dozen State Funeral Committees.

A funeral was in the air and she felt the true funeral spirit. She showed them where the body should be placed and from which direction the people who would want to pay respect should come. Although at first the family wondered who she was, despite how responsible and relevant she looked, they later learned that this new Director General of Sri Lanka Rugatha Corporation (the official media for this event), only had their best interests at heart. She told them about the large number of Buddhist monks who would come to the house to pay respect to the body, pointing to the need of a large sofa with a white cloth laid over it. She saw that the photos and mirrors in the house were covered and the large wooden windows were open. She went to the son of the deceased and told him that there should be a table for all the awards his father had received because that was the highlight of a funeral. Then she stood in the middle of the living room and explained the roles she had played in other funerals of national importance. She made a sad but tired face when she said that although it was only March, this was the seventh important funeral she had to attend and see to, this year. However, it was difficult to run here and there in a Kandyan saree, and she was very tired in a few minutes. Though she almost slipped twice, once while helping a few men carry a cupboard, and once as she jumped up to see if someone tall could see the dust on the book shelf, she never really fell down and she was thankful. Since everyone was looking at her and up to her, it would have been such an embarrassment to fall down. She was sitting adjusting the headpiece of her saree when a servant came to her with a cup of tea. She looked up at everyone in the house looking at her, some with respect, some with wonder, some waiting for the next instruction and some waiting for her to just leave, and stood up.

“My driver needs tea as well, but you know what, let me take care of that” she said out loud. 

A second later, everyone was looking at the Director General walking to the kitchen, pouring half of her cup to another and coming back with two cups in hand. It was a small congested house in Colombo Seven with a very small living room. So everyone moved back and forth and gave her space to walk towards the driver, who was dazed, wondering if this is the same Director General who usually cannot even open the car door herself. 

After having tea, she went to the wife of the deceased. The wife, though grieving, was holding up quite well. She was discussing a possible Funeral Director with her daughter when the Director General came and sat close to her.

“How are you?” she asked.

“Alright,” the wife said with a forcefully drawn smile “so much to do, I’m trying not to miss anything.”

The Director General gave her a sympathetic smile and tilted her head to the left. Then she held the wife’s hand and said, “I know this is very very difficult for you, I understand this is the worst thing that can happen to a family, I mean it’s your husband who is dead! If it was you who is dead, it would have been kind of alright, but this is the father, the breadwinner, the backbone of the family!” she sighed. “And your children have lives of their own so you are the one who will feel this loss the most. You have to face life alone now. You will be lonely and sad, but, you have to be strong.” As she finished, the wife started bursting into tears which later turned into a ceaseless weep. Then the children hugged the mother and started crying. The Director General slowly walked towards the door with a satisfied face – her head, still tilted to the left. And as the driver drove her away from the funeral home, half of the people had joined the collective weep. Her work here was done.  

* * *

The next day, she wanted to wear a light coloured saree because she had to go to the funeral home after work. Since she expected to meet a lot of people from various walks of life, and she had her standards to maintain, she picked a rich-looking saree. No saree can look rich without a shining headpiece, she thought. So she wore the cream coloured one with a gold design in the headpiece. When she went to the funeral home, she took her crew with her. There, she pointed to the places which had be caught in the shoot – the award table, the certificate wall, the huge couch with a lot of Buddhist monks and the sofa with a few Cabinet Ministers. When the fall of her saree almost caught fire as she slinked out of the living room too close to the oil lamp by the body, she was startled. After that, she did not wander, but sat on the sofa next to the wife, nodding to everyone who entered through the main door. But she did not want to waste time just sitting there. So, she started guessing the prices of the sarees people at the funeral were wearing. She could not believe that the Chairman of The British Bank in Colombo chose to wear such a cheap saree to an event of national importance. She was sure it had nothing to do with money, she was the Chairman of a bank after all. And was it even a saree what that woman from that government thing which prepares the National Budget wearing? It looked more like a curtain from Yapahuwa period. Faded, rusted and almost torn. So stingy, she thought. Talk about National Budget.

On the way home, as she closed her eyes, she fell asleep within seconds. The car carefully drove her away from the traffic of Colombo. She dreamed that her saree was on fire. The pure white saree she was wearing was turning black; the blazing flames of the fire were crackling up the headpiece. As she touched her chest, she felt the saree jacket heating up and gradually turning brown. She was trying to put out the fire with pirith water from a little plastic bottle (which was one of the hundred thousand bottles chanted eighteen thousand times by the best monks in Colombo), but it only made the fiery flames that were roaring, come towards her face like a bat out of hell, shredding down smoldering irregular pieces of the hem one by one. In the air, soot had gathered into a cloud and had started singing. Then she saw a fireball dancer, a classic one from the Kandy perahera coming towards her, rhythmically swiveling a ring of fireballs to the melody of the soot cloud. She started to swing to the melody herself, but she suddenly saw that her feet were showing because the burnt pieces of the saree were falling to the ground. She almost had a fit; she could not show her bare feet to the world. Tensed, she looked around; the fireball dancer was getting closer. She saw a puddle in the middle of the road and quickly jumped into it. And her feet got stuck. Her heart was beating fast. The soot cloud was singing too loud and the fireball dancer was too close. She kept her hands on the ground and gained force to pull her feet, but her hands got glued to the lava on the ground. She could not breathe. The melody of the soot cloud was now deafening and it was burning. Suddenly, a crimson fireball came towards her face and she woke up. She was in Kadawatha. 

* * *

It was the day of the funeral. She came to the funeral home quite early in the morning. She had worn one of her new white sarees and everything; but not too high heels because she had a lot of walking to do. She was all ready to bid farewell to a man of national importance. First, she made calls to make sure the small small segments of the funeral were broadcast in her channel time to time. And when she discovered that they had done no special segment about the Governor, she demanded they immediately do a documentary about the service of this brave man who steered the economy of the country in the right direction. It was alright that they didn’t get the titles of some Reports he had written right, or, a few names of the Committees he had chaired, as long as they ran the feature before the funeral ceremony started. She also asked the designers to make a television banner just for him, with a few white frangipanis on the side and everything; and perhaps, play in the background Mala ira basina sande yaame, the classic song about death sung by Amaradeva. After all they were the official media for this event.

The State Funeral Committee had organized this prestigious event beautifully. She was proud she was a part of it. The body was brought from the funeral home to the cemetery in a procession of about thirty vehicles, under a canopy of sepalika flowers. There was a huge gok kola thorana at the entrance of the cemetery in the form of an arch. The either sides of the path that led from the thorana to the pavilion, were decorated with white gerberas, carnations and fern. The coffin was kept in the pavilion on a red carpet. Orchid petals were sprinkled on the coffin from time to time and the instrumental version of Mala ira basina sande yaame was played via loudspeakers. Drones were sent up to take shots of the bank-shaped funeral pyre. She could not expect anything less. A person of national importance was dead. 

She gave the signal to start the programme. As the best announcer of her channel came to the podium to begin, someone from the crowd started weeping aloud. It was a man. A middle aged man in a white shirt and a yellow sarong. 

“Aneeey Yasalalakathissa! Aiyoooo! Yasalalakathissa!” he wept in a shrill high-pitched voice, calling out the Governor’s name.

The Monks, the Politicians, the Government Officials, the Academics, the Bankers, the family, all looked around in panic. 

The weeping man slowly meandered towards the coffin and sat on the floor, sobbing. He never ever imagined the Governor would leave him this soon, he cried. Just as the wife and the children of the Governor were trying to get a better look at the man, another from the crowd started weeping aloud. This time it was a woman. Now who will tell her funny stories, the weeping woman asked from the coffin, wiping her snot off with her shoulders.

‘Did you hire these people?’ A member of the State Funeral Committee whispered to the Director General.

‘Hire?’ She was confused, ‘what?’.

‘Aren’t they hired mourners from Negombo?’ he whispered back to her. 

But the next second when the weeping woman said aloud how she would miss the way the Governor used English when scolding people at his workplace, the entire funeral crowd knew they were not hired mourners from Negombo. ‘Idiots…bloody idiots’ as the weeping woman imitated the Governor through tears, the staff of the Capital Bank of Sri Lanka looked at each other in bewilderment. They really did not know what to do. 

‘Yasalalakathissaaaa’ cried the weeping man again, emphasizing what a loss this is for the country. The Governor just knew so much, he said. Through his wail, when he said how the Governor asked them not to believe a word the media said about the pandemic, the Director General of Sri Lanka Rugatha Corporation was stupefied. In a millisecond she dashed towards her crew and made sure the event was not being broadcast live. She gave the signal to start the programme and asked the sound operators to amplify the sound of the compere’s microphone. She was sure that the nineteen to the dozen talk of her announcer would take care of this situation. In a few minutes, things were settled and she felt as if the monsoon season was over. From there onwards, the programme flowed with no interruption. During the ninth speech, she looked at the family. The wife was staring at the far away sky with swollen eyes. The daughter was looking down, clutching a handout about the service of the Governor distributed at the funeral. She ordered someone to give the family some Smak mixed fruit drinks. After all the fourteen speeches were given, the wife had to deliver the vote of thanks. She foresaw that the wife was not in a good condition to speak which is why she asked her announcer to deliver it for her. The wife started crying convulsively as the announcer started delivering the vote of thanks and she was proud she saw that coming. And when the Minister of Finance came towards the family with the Official Message of Condolence from the President, she saw that the family did not want to look at the cameras, but the event was then going live and this was expensive air time. 

A few minutes before the end of the programme, she hovered around the bank-shaped pyre once to make sure everything was alright. Since it had rained the previous night, the ground was a little muddy. She was thankful only one member of the State Funeral Committee was with her to see her slipping slightly and bumping her head against a wooden plank used to support the pyre. She pretended she didn’t even feel it but she literally saw half a dozen zodiacs in that clear bright sky. Once the programme eventually came to an end, when everyone was pushing everyone, trying to gather around the pyre, she made sure they did not get to the family. But in a second there was a barrier of men with cameras around the pyre. She looked calmly at the way a man in a white sarong came towards the family, twirling a stick with a fireball up and down. He then handed over the stick to Governor’s son. She watched the pyre being lit by the son. And in a few minutes, the entire pyre was in flames. Irregular white pieces of clothes were falling to the ground one by one. An important man was burning. A man. A father. Father. And she was twelve years again. The girl who helplessly watched her father burning. Unable to get even a little close. Burnt. Burnt by the State? He was brave, they said. That was the thought that always entered her mind every time she saw a burning pyre. Is being brave more important than being alive? He was a respectable man, they said. That was the thought which always followed the first one. Respect. She felt it was the most selfish word in the world. Is burning on the side of the road as respectable as a funeral of national importance? She did not know. 

It was hot, almost as if burning. And she could not stand the noise of the soot; it was louder than the loudspeakers. The State Funeral Committee had arranged a helicopter to shower chrysanthemum petals on the pyre over the flames. She looked up and then around. Amidst the heavy showers of white chrysanthemum petals, behind the flashes of the cameras, through the thick barrier of people speaking of the greatness of the respectable man who is dead, she saw his daughter, helplessly watching her father burning. Unable to get even a little close. Annoyed, she rushed towards the men with cameras. 

Ciara is currently reading for her MA in English Studies with a special focus on language and culture, and is employed as Assistant Director (Literature & Publications) at the Department of Cultural Affairs, Sri Lanka. Her debut short story collection ‘The Red Brick Wall’ (manuscript) is at the moment shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize 2020, the most coveted award given for Sri Lankan writing in English.

Translation | ‘‘A Woman’s Fate’ by Epitácio Pais | Translated by Paul Melo e Castro | Issue 42 (March, 2023)

‘‘A Woman’s Fate’ by Epitácio Pais | Translated by Paul Melo e Castro

António da Veiga made his way out from the vast railway station. Hardly had he emerged onto the avenue when a stranger approached and inquired if he needed accommodation.

Not quite middle-aged, the man wore a pair of smartly pressed trousers, an immaculate shirt and shoes that gleamed like polished mirrors. Around his wrist was a deluxe watch, his small moustache was neatly trimmed, and his hair had been carefully slicked back.

Veiga replied that his usual hotel was not far off. But as the man insisted on one close by at a reasonable rate, clean bed, freshly washed sheets, fan and mosquito net provided, hot water too, he resolved to pay this new establishment a visit.

Afterwards, the man asked whether he was satisfied, produced a gold cigarette case and announced his commission to be twenty rupees. A little steep. On his way out, the man recommended his own eating house in Jambul Wadi, renowned for Goan delicacies that drew their countrymen in from all over the city. He had other lines of business too. Palm and cashew liquor shipped in from home that sold like hot cakes. Well then, God bless, a pleasant evening to you.

That man’s life wasn’t bad, Veiga thought to himself, better than idling around, borrowing money and not paying it back, making promises and then breaking them. It seemed everything was going swimmingly for him.

A warm bath having washed away the fatigue of his journey, Veiga decided on a walk around that city which dazzled with bright advertisements and rang with the cries of street hawkers. He could then try that Goan place, maybe have some sorportel, a tasty dish that tantalised his stomach now he was so far from his native soil.

He found the restaurant in a side alley, its almost illegible sign blackened by smoke, four wooden steps leading up to a cubicle where eight tables and a sink by a stove filled the entire space. At that hour It was deserted but for a lone woman stirring pots.

Veiga asked her for a Goan speciality, didn’t matter which. Iscas? Sure. Chouriço? No problem. Sorportel? Why not. He left the choice up to her.

She brought him a steaming dish of delicious smelling food. As he ate he looked at the woman from the corner of his eye. She had obviously once been attractive. A vague tristesse emanated from her gaunt form, though broad hips confessed her fertility. Veiga said that he’d just met her husband, who had recommended this place to eat. She replied that by now he must be at the Ashtray Bar drinking with friends and would only be back for dinner. She worked alone because they couldn’t afford a cook, though the man made a good living. She told him she was from Goa without mentioning her native village. Her five children who were asleep in the loft had to rise early for school.

It seemed to Veiga there was something familiar about the woman, something that welled up in a swirl of half-forgotten memories. Those almost black eyes now with bags underneath, that gait from which all trace of elegance had not been entirely erased, that dark hair now intermixed with threads of grey, it was all was bound up with Veiga’s confused recollections. Where? Where? he demanded. But his memory refused to comply, stalling with every effort. Now the image of the man who must surely be her husband returned to mind, slipping in between a muddle of disconnected facts that seemed poised to converge before finally eluding his grasp. Veiga asked the woman why the restaurant was empty. She replied that it only began to fill around ten after the evening shift at the local workshops. Then she scarcely got a second to breathe and had to rush around serving customers until midnight before finally collapsing exhausted into bed, her head ringing with the yells, curses and foul language of the clientele. She asked if he was from Goa and what brought him to Bombay. Veiga replied he was there on family business and that thanks to her husband he had found a decent billet. For the first time she looked him squarely in the face and blushed.

Veiga returned to the hotel. His head weighed heavy and his eyes burnt with exhaustion. But once he gained his room and heaved himself into bed he was unable to sleep. The image of the woman from the restaurant cloaked in mystery wouldn’t give him any peace, appearing again and again in the darkened room until he was shattered. It was thus, his nerves shot to pieces, that he finally passed out.

But morning brought everything to light. The hazy enigma around the woman melted away, and every detail relating to that figure now passed clearly before his mind’s eye like a film, narrating her life from girlhood to adolescence, from innocence to a turbid whirlpool dragging her down into a fate she had only wanted to escape when it was no longer possible.

Time was Veiga had seen her childish figure cross the river each morning clutching a satchel full of books, returning home by the same route at the end of the day. Afterwards, when she was already an adolescent, he would see her grave-faced and wary, indifferent to the comments and catcalls of passers-by.

Sometime later, now mature in body and mind, she had continued to shun male advances.

Schooling complete, her family had wished to find her a good match in fine society. But she kept putting off any decision. She wanted to study further, to find an important role for herself locally or at a national level, to rout those so-called heroes, oh so callow in thought, who spouted platitudes at political rallies. Only then would she render up her hand to any prince charming who might come her way.

One day this prince charming inevitably appeared, elegantly attired, with a pencil moustache and the honeyed blandishments of a leading man. He followed her around like a puppy dog, many little strokes fell great oaks. The man had a restaurant in the big city, a favoured haunt of the crème de la crème whose society could raise her to the level of her dreams, allow her to rub shoulders with the great and good.

She let herself be taken in by these promises that sweetly caressed ambitions she had nursed for years. And one fine day she upped and left with her suitor, without a word to her mother, father or anyone else. They married before hired witnesses on Woodhouse Road before a brief honeymoon.

Now there she was, stuck in that Goan hash house in Jambul Wadi, four wooden steps leading up to a blackened cave, hunched over those pots beside a sink slopping over with dishwater.

Paul Melo e Castro is a lecturer in Portuguese and Comparative Literature at the University of Glasgow. He has long-standing rearch interests in Portuguese-language fiction and intellectual production from Goa and has been a regular translator of this writing into English. His latest book-length translation is Vimala Devi’s Monsoon (Seagull, 2019). He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Epitácio Pais (1924-2009) was a Goan short story writer. He contributed short stories to the Portuguese-language newspapers and radio during Portuguese rule and in the decade following 1961. A collection of his stories entitled Os javalis de Codval (‘The Boars of Codval’) appeared in Lisbon in 1973 and a novel unpublished during his lifetime, Preia-Mar, was published in 2016 in Goa by the Goa, 1556 publishing house.

10 Inclusive publishing houses for minority narratives in Asia

Diversity and inclusion in the literary landscape:
Publishing outlets for minority groups in Asia

Like all other things, the Indian literary landscape is a product of its times. And as an industry adapting to this age, publishing houses are moving towards a more accessible and inclusive horizon. We’re seeing feminist, LGBTQ+, and Dalit literature assert its expression; translations from rich regional literature finding a clamouring audience; and writing from indigenous communities and people of colour finding a more commercial market and academic market.

The ecosystem is changing – more rightly, it’s evolving to include literature beyond the dominant narrative, and fledgling independent publishing houses are dotting the landscape to cater to this demand. 

If you are a writer who identifies with a marginalised community in Asia, here is a list of independent publishing houses and media outfits that will nourish your ideas and give it the home it deserves. 

– Saumya K



1Panther’s Paw Publications

Started by Yogesh Maitreya in 2016, the independent house is an anti-caste publisher. It is set to publish its seventh title this last year. The press carves a space for including the Dalit narrative and propagating Ambedkarite values.

Themes: Dalit literature, Ambedkar literature
Genre: Fiction, Non Fiction, Poetry
Social media: Facebook, Instagram
Year established: 2016

“Panther’s Paw Publication is not merely a publication; it is a movement.”

2Stree Samya

The two imprints under Bhatkal and Sen focus on gender (stree) and culture and dissent (samya). It focuses on caste structures — looking at social movements and identity in the creation of Dalit writings.

Submission Guidelines

Themes: Gender studies, culture, and dissent with focus on caste structures
Genre: Academic Non-Fiction, Social Sciences: Cultural Studies, Dalit Studies, Women Studies, and Translation in English from Regional Languages
Social media: Facebook, Instagram
Year established: 1990
Published from: Kolkata, West Bengal

“…examining the roots of injustice from the point of view of an underprivileged.”


How does caste figure from an anti-caste perspective? The independent publishing house is on a quest to demonstrate that through its titles, with Ambdekarite values anchoring its literature.

Themes: Anti-caste literature
Genre: General and academic nonfiction, graphic books, poetry and literary translations
Social Media: Website, Twitter, Instagram 
Year established: 2003
Published from: New Delhi

Founder S Anand in The Print: “We are a publishing house that has never been about business as usual, but about embracing the unusual.”

4Speaking Tiger

Speaking Tiger is home to over a hundred writers dotted across the South Asian landscape, and gives a platform to “new voices”. 

Submission guidelines

Themes: Anti-caste literature
Genre: Fiction, non-fiction, poetry in English
Social Media: Website, Twitter
Year established: 2014
Published from: New Delhi

5Yoda Press

Yoda Press has been expanding its spectrum of literature, dotted with titles about LGTBQ+ communities, life and living in urban culture, Kashmir identity, amongst other voices on the fringe.

Themes: Sexuality, popular culture, alternative voices in history and sociology
Genre: Academic, non-fiction, fiction, poetry, graphic novels
Social Media: Website, Instagram, Facebook
Year established: 2004
Published from: New Delhi

“…striving to mine the niches of alternative writing more deeply.”

Upcoming 2021Gutter Stars Press

A product of Signal 8 Press, Gutter Stars is a new imprint launching in 2021 that broadly focuses on LGBTQ literature and readership. They’re trying to carve a mainstream interest in queer stories.

Themes: Gender and sexuality
Genre: Fiction, Non-fiction, memoirs, personal stories
Year established: 2020
Published from: Hong Kong

6Zubaan Books

Zubaan’s titles are reflective of their diversity and inclusive literary vision. Besides establishing its credo as a feminist publishing house, it has claimed the Northeast writing landscape, allowing new voices to talk about years of conflict and identity in their works. Zubaan also publishes gender neutral children’s books. 

Submission guidelines

Themes: Women’s writing, new voices, Northeast literature
Genre: Academic, Fiction, Non-fiction, children/young adult
Social Media: Twitter, Website
Year Established: 2004
Published from: New Delhi


QueerInk broke ground in the previous decade as a one-stop shop — allowing curation, development, and promotion of narratives of and by the LGBTHQIA+ community in India. It works across print, screens, theaters and events. It’s vision for the next five years is to the change perception in popular culture.

Themes: Issues and perception of LGBTHQIA+ community, alternative voices
Social Media: Website, Twitter
Year established: 2010
Published from: Mumbai, India

8Blaft Publications

Blaft is all things out of the ordinary, in languages beyond the dominant English narrative. Its previous titles are dotted with crime novels, pulp fiction, Nigerian soyayya fiction, folklore, and weird fiction. It picked up the demand for regional literature whilst bringing genre like Tamil pulp fiction to the English-speaking reader.

Submission guidelines

Themes: Tamil/Urdu/Hausa pulp art, folk tales, regional languages underrepresented in literature, monsters, mathematics
Genres: Fiction, experimental writing, zines/minibooks, graphic novels, translations, comics
Social Media: Website, Instagram, Twitter
Year Established: 2007
Published from: Chennai, India


For the 104 million indigenous people of India, Adivaani positions itself as an archiving and publishing outlet to preserve these under-represented voices. It chronicles the expression, identity, and experiences of adivasis from the Northeast and Santhal communities.

Themes: Cultural and social expression of Adivasi voices
Genres: Fiction, non-fiction
Social Media: Website, Twitter, Facebook
Year established: 2012
Published from: Kolkata, India


Do you know of more publishing enterprises that we have missed? Drop the details in the comments below. This list is in no particular order, and will be updated regularly. 

Opportunity for new Dalit writing in English by The Bombay Review

Call for submissions –

Fiction (Min 2,500 words),
Essays (Min 2,000 words),
Poetry (Min 3) and Reviews

Payment – $10 – $15, per contributor
Looking to publish up to 20 writers
Deadline: 15th December, 2020
Email Subject: Submission: Dalit Writing: Your Name
Regular Submission Guidelines: Click Here

Fiction | ‘Bus No. 102’ by Himani Gupta | CreativeWritingW-TBR

I was between eight and nine. I had all the right to be afraid of stories of death. There was not a single sinister object I did not fear; the monkey-carcasses hanging on electric wires, the headless doll on the rooftop included.

I did go out to play, but I retreated when games involved morbid objects. I loved speaking about ghosts, though. Because I was sure there were no ghosts, I could frighten the believers. When I was younger, my father had explained to me about their non-existence. Since then, whenever my friends told me that they did, I would run to my father, and from beneath the pile of papers he still had to file, I would urge him to confirm once again.

He did so with absolute faith in my faith in his words, ascertaining that there was no proof of the existence of ghosts. As a practice, when my sister, Dollie, brought me a head of a doll with a tousle of hair, I romped over her by mimicking scenes from ghost movies. She was cheerful, had a candid and naughty demeanour, with unapologetic bravery. She was a child meant for the living room, while I was meant to be in the study, where one barely spoke to the other. She was boisterous, and I was fiercely obedient. On a gloomy day, if a glass jar of chocolate powder slipped off my hands, I went into despondency. To jump on the washbasin and dash it against the floor was, for her, typical. Usually after this, she looked for something fresh to toy with.

In the house where we lived, which had more skylights than windows, our mother took over the daunting task of grooming us to welcome guests. This is how she did it. 

“Dollie! No overeating, no blabbering, no jokes on others. D-r-a-w a line.”  She said stretching her eyebrows tight, and then to me, relaxed, “There is no line.” 

The guests included aunts and uncles and their snooty children. They came unalarmed. I never greeted them despite mother’s constant prodding, and Dollie never goofed up at enthralling them. They knew us well enough to know whom to ask for a dance performance. Somehow, they always remained strangers to me. First time guests, however, had to get acquainted with the setting, and this happened with ease when I stood taut and Dollie stood moving her arms, trying to reach every dust particle around her.

There was little to look forward to in Khenjoy (its expanse was less than 10km in area), except for two movie theatres and a few historic buildings. This is probably why Khenjoyians whiled away their time by playing with each other’s private matters or bathing in the sun on their terraces. So did the children. They played hide-and-seek in houses not their own. 

When an aunt offered cookies or chocolates, Dollie didn’t hesitate. I found it irresponsible of her to eat grub without my mother’s knowledge. With a personal agenda to let her down, I ensured I informed mother, though she never bothered to have Dollie align with my nature. I was plaintive and perhaps, even depressing, which explains why I was the last one to show up when someone new dropped by. 

Now that I look at those days, I see that those guests were to me what ghosts were to Dollie. And I wished hopelessly that Khenjoyians kept to themselves.

I had no motivation to contest the affection of guests, until he arrived. The distant uncle, in bus number 102.

He was plump, with a proud paunch and a non-perfunctory hairdo that he evidently cared about. In a plain shirt tucked neatly and shoes that lacquered, he carried a valise for two pairs of t-shirts, one pair of pants and a Tibetan towel which he hung around his neck while groping for a soap or a razor in the dishevelled contents of his suitcase. He appeared erudite, using English words in conversations and asking us to spell apples, jaggery, and jackfruits. On the first day, he gave us chocolate bars, and on the following days, he gave us tiny toffees. 

He stayed with us for a purpose beyond our comprehension. Father had mentioned that he was here for business or work, or whatever. With time, we understood that he had been a native of Khenjoy and now lived in Bombay—a city we presumed was the most awesome of all in India. The first time he visited us, we had to cancel a planned picnic to the garden palace of Khenjoy. This was slightly more upsetting than usual for my mother who had potatoes boiled, mushrooms blanched and cucumbers sliced for sandwiches and puddings frozen beforehand. Eventually, she would serve a part of this to Uncle in china plates. 

I quipped, “Are we serving tea, or sherbet?” 

“Oh, just take whatever’s in hand!” She would never say ‘smash it on the table’. That was the decorum she wanted us to practice. 

Uncle did not ask us to sing or dance or even recite a poem. He began teasing us, knowing that was the easiest way to get children talking. It was no surprise that Dollie stepped up to tease him back. 

He asked her, “Why is your name Dollie?”

“Because I look like a doll.”

“What do you think is my name then?”

“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “Polar bear?”

 All of us cracked up.

We peeped into the skylights and watched mother keep him content by providing him food in a steady routine, almost like listless eateries serving their patrons. Mother had heard about him from my other aunts, and since he was in town for ‘work’ she had no interest in friendship.

In the evening, she served him tea and biscuits and tried to figure out if he had certain preferences for dinner. Uncle, however, was a simpleton who relished everything with almost equal interest. Mother cooked biryani and koftas for lunch the next day, and Uncle enjoyed it to the extent of discussing its recipe. To my mother’s surprise, he knew quite a bit about ingredients and discussed cooking tips with her. He knew how to bake a cake in a pressure cooker and offered to bake biscuits on his next visit. At night, mother questioned father out of curiosity, “Does he cook out of interest or is it because he has a lazy wife?”  

Sometimes, under the wreath of smoke in the kitchen, he guided mother on the amount of ghee to pour in the dough for doling out crunchy kachourees and helped clear the froth off gravies and curries.

He played carom with us and helped catch the ball when we played cricket, often becoming a player. One evening, he found me watching passers-by in front of the house instead of being out to play and perhaps, out of boredom, asked if I would accompany him for a walk. I could not refuse, despite having chosen to spend some time alone. 

Given his tall stature, I began taking abnormally long strides to keep up, but he slowed me down. He walked lethargically, relaxed and resting his hands in the pockets of his pants—he was always fully dressed and called us beta, the word for son in Hindi. 

“Which movie do we have at the theatre?” he asked. I asked him which theatre. When he mentioned both, I said I hadn’t noticed. He laughed, saying, “That’s the first thing kids your age notice.”

He began testing my general knowledge. The President, the Prime Minister, the first, the second, the state Chief Minister, the history, the geography, the last Viceroy of Independent India; almost everything that came to his mind for a junior student. 

I could not see his face, but only his large sleeves sagging near the pockets of his pants. He did not express any amazement or admiration for my all-correct answers, which I myself was not expecting. By the time his questions exhausted, we’d walked so long that we were about to cross the border to land in the grounds of the adjacent town. Since an expanse of lonely rice fields were about to follow in the dark, I felt at ease when he decided to return. 

“All right. Yes. What’s the plural form of cow?” He asked. 

“Cows,” I said. 








“Fishes.” My heart beat with pride but I could see that he thought I was too small to answer bigger questions. Still I was happy about an undisputed and immaculate victory until he corrected me that fish would be fish even if there were ten of them, unless they were different in kind. 

It was eight in the night and slightly cold, and he bought us Popsicles. And finally when he liberated his hands from his pockets to make the payment, I was freed of the fear that he was arm-less. 

I pitied the Popsicle that kept moving fast in and out of his mouth and dissolved almost in a minute. He kept asking, “do you want another one?”

“No,” I replied. “You can have one more if you like.” He bought two for himself.

“I have a son,” he said. “He can put two popsicles in his mouth at a time. But I can put three in mine.” He smiled.

“How old is he?” I asked.

“He is nine years and one day old.”

“One day? You didn’t celebrate his birthday?”

“His mother must have.”

He asked me something about a bus numbered 102, randomly. At that time I had no idea, so I said I didn’t know in a dispirited voice. 

He laughed a bit. “No, don’t be ashamed. It takes honesty to confess that you don’t know something.

I am not sure if I understood him. But my heart beat faster. And I must have been blushing. 

“It was one of the few buses that provided connectivity between our home and the railway station,” he said (I noticed that ‘our’) and later reminisced about his college days when he used to board 102, six days a week, mostly as a straphanger, getting to sit only on Saturdays. 

He gestured with his other hand while explaining. When winter shaded Khenjoy and vacations came around, he still hopped to the college library twice a week, sitting on the empty bus, clearing the fog from the glass of the window. Bombay called and he left in search of work, miles away, eventually settling down over there. “I can’t tell you how many memories I have.”

“What memories?” 

“Huh. Let it be. You are a child.” 

Mother always fed guests and children first, occasionally taking my service for passing on hot rotis from the burner to the diner’s plates. Uncle, however, disliked this and believed in eating together. So we began eating together and dinner time made me awkward due to my inability to acknowledge the friendship between us, unsure if he would mind it. He acted as if nothing had changed between us, or at least nothing had changed on his side. Expressing concern about the lack of electricity in the abandoned rice fields, he lauded the spicy food on his plate, talked about the fun he was having staying with us, but did not say a word about the time with me. 

At this moment, mother blessed me with an escape. The pile of rotis she had kept in the casserole before we began was now done with, so she asked me to get a few more from the kitchen. I brought the rotis, but they weren’t brushed with ghee, so she got up, mentioning I did not know how to do it and that she had always had to get up during meals. I sank into my chair. 

Uncle, with food in his mouth, said, “Now we can’t get her to know how to peel a bean and a jackfruit,” and then he tipped his head to the left. “For her age, she knows. Knows what she should.” 

He had not gassed a bit, though, I played amplified versions of his words in my head. 

That visit was especially short-lived after our inflamed camaraderie. He had left before we returned from school, and it pinches to have missed what could have been a memorable farewell. 

To keep us from wandering all day, mother asked us to sort old newspapers so she could bundle them up and sell them off to the local scrap dealer. The newspapers reminded me of all the general knowledge questioning done by Uncle.There were old, golden wrappers of chocolate bars that we had preserved and forgotten. Every month, mother hoarded such gibberish and swished the mess out the house. Our room had several shelves carved into the wall, each carrying important objects on a layer of newspapers. This was a task, given that shelves were loaded with books and magazines. Sociology, literature, politics, psychology—all sophisticated but subjects incomprehensible to me at the time. Still, my mother kept them clean, filling each corner with anti-rodent drugs and hung a thick curtain to keep them away from dust; somehow reasons made way for my mother to organize the cleaning process. 

She said, “Girls never learn what’s worth keeping and what’s not.” Once we set the books, we moved to the other two sets of shelves that held combs, hair oil, toys, and clothes. Easy and simple to pull, sort and dust. First, we threw away the base of the newspaper pad. She gave me a fresh one to be double folded and placed it on the shelf. It read: Only dead fish swim with the stream. It reminded me of fish and fishes.

I cropped it and slipped it between the pages of my drawing book.



With every visit he seemed less strange to me. He enjoyed his vacation, far from the noise of the city. He took us to the Maharaja gardens, where he said that his city had more skyscrapers than land. They create boulevards, unlike in Khenjoy, which, in his words, is not a town but a garden. We plucked hibiscus, violets, mimosa, marigold and roses from the terrace and when we needed lotuses, we scuttled to the muddy lakes behind several nearby temples whereas uncle bought it from the boy who sat by a tree or a pole and sold flowers wrapped in crumpled newspaper.

Often, Uncle called us after dinner to sit on the terrace under the moonlight. He loaded the chair with his weight as he tried to understand what I meant and I sat on the edge, preparing what to say or ask next. 

All this while, Dollie ran about the terrace and danced in the cold air. She often came to uncle, asking him if she could tie his hair in a pony, and he would agree. It angered me, considerably, that he called us both, that he was fair to both. He never seemed bored with us, never annoyed. I was at the point now where it wasn’t enough that he didn’t ask me to dance or sing. Sometimes I wanted him to say no to Dollie’s loud singing on the terrace.

I observed him closely. He and my mother spoke at length about our relatives, there were so many of them, food and cricket, among other mildly interesting things. My father couldn’t tell a shot of six from four, so he kept quiet when Uncle praised Gavaskar and mother raved about Kapil. 

“To speak of our family in sports. Every time my boy is on the ground, I am delighted. He is especially good at bowling. I would have sent him for training if only his mother let me.” Uncle said at this point.

“You are in a city of opportunities,” father said and laughed. “All you need is permission.” 

“You’d never come back, I know,” mother nodded, with a compassionate smile. “Even if your business booms here.” 

Uncle waited a few moments before saying, “There’s so much this city won’t forgive me for.”

In another moment, he started joking about Khenjoyians, “If you sneeze before them, they can tell you that you slept shirtless the night before. And if you lose weight, obviously, you have been starving and are advised to beg around. You know, I miss this gossip but can’t afford it.” 

Somewhere in my heart, I had decided that he was stronger than my father and capable of solving any problem, capable of cooking. I failed to see then that my father had little time to render us a closure. Since it was a given that a daughter loved her father; by offering a plate first to Uncle and by getting him the newspaper when he sat for tea, I was, in small ways, trying to confess my love for him.  

One Tuesday, I was on the terrace plucking a pink rose from the pot mother had been watering most of her life. Uncle was sipping tea from a large glass, basking in the sun, slicing eggplants into delicate, thin chips. He was in a good mood, and promised to make a cheese omelette with mushroom tops scattered in it the following Sunday. I held the rose carefully, and walked towards him when a neighbourhood boy we used to go to school with climbed the short parapet that separated our houses and snatched it from my hand. The thorns scraped the skin of my wrist when he did, This was very sudden, I was lost and hopeless and looked at Uncle for what might have been hope. He asked me to run after him. “Get it back!” he shouted. “Go get it!” 

Get what? I was wondering, and running behind the boy up to his terrace, trying to do it just for Uncle.

“Do not come back without the rose!” Uncle’s voice came streaming down the staircase where I was following the boy. 

A few minutes later, I went back to him with the rose in my scraped hand with barely a few petals on it. 

“Yeah,” he sighed. “That’s your rose.” 


Khenjoyians began wearing woolen shawls over sweaters and for hours they sat around the fire made by burning wood in a tin pan in their patios, and we knew it was winter. When the fire died, in the seething heat of the coal, we roasted sweet potatoes and then mashed them in milk for an evening snack. Sometimes, we even roasted bird shaped dough and ate it with a curry of peas and tomatoes, and in the morning we ate a preparation of sweetened yoghurt and flattened rice. We bathed from the water heated on the stove and even poured it into lavatory mugs. A month of vacation from school helped children reconcile with their busy fathers and severed relations with their mothers, most of whom worked on the wet floor of the scullery and fretted over rising electricity bills. When mothers bathed their long hair, they whined about the chill and rushed close to the fire, sipping glassfuls of tea prepared by their own freezing hands. Men who sat in their own shops and those who invited others over tea made small jokes about the winter and saw it propagate through the tiny town as though it were a firefly. Rickshaw pullers spat red after chewing betel leaves and cyclists who carried their children exhaled fog onto their tiny heads. 

One needed courage to weather the morning and as soon as there was a tiny beam of sun cracking in the sky, rooftop terraces became crowded with women and children and old men squatting on straw mats, soaking in the sun, sweaters suspended on a thin string attached to walls, sweaters too tight to slip into and too tight to escape from.  

Uncle had already missed all of this, because when he came, winter was on the verge of departing. Schools had begun.

On Sunday, we had to board bus number 102 to see his college campus and the huge gardens that accompanied it. Right before the journey, I had wondered, let’s see what this bus really is. He talks so heartily about it. 

Being the end of winter, the sun was light and warm and helped our bobs dry softly. Uncle was impatient as we waited for the bus, but kept looking around us and at the hoardings. An old bus with withering front designs and a loose headlight came to a halt before us, still red under the layer of dust. Uncle smiled and grabbed our hands, “Let’s go.” 

Evidently, he was rejoicing inside his heart as we slouched together into the last seats. His voice had a crackle now, a crackle that Dollie possessed. Wherever possible, he tried to play the guide. 

“There’s the place where we ate ice candies and salted raw cherries,” he exalted, “and water chestnuts. Boiled ones were costly. But finer in texture and taste.” 

We followed his index finger that pointed to a telephone booth. 

“There used to be barrows once,” he said petulantly. 

“I want candy floss,” Dollie cheerily pointed to a candy seller several meters away.
Classrooms and offices were closed but there were other attractions, uncle said. The library was open every day except on public holidays and standing in the gardens, was a dome shaped, museum-large hall housing a marble sculpture, about fifteen feet tall and standing on a ten feet high platform, blackened by the acid rains fallen from the openings in the dome. Khenjoyians could have written in any book, but they preferred these walls. They had, in the past, inscribed love and blasphemy here, so that the doors to this hall remained closed now, available for view only from outside the lancet windows. 

The sculpture was of a past Maharaja of Khenjoy. From the window, we could see that the Maharaja in his Nehru coat had a sword, high in his hand. In the massive hall, as I looked at the lonely sculpture, it grew on me like a ghost. Its colourless grandeur, surrounded by pale green walls, was a symbol of abandonment. Children near us threw chocolate wrappers and straws and even noodle strings through the window.

“Somebody has tried to attack the king!” Dollie cried. There were pebbles and stones around the floor near the sculpture, coming from the openings or perhaps hauled by nasty kids through the windows.

Although not ostentatious, the humongous nature of it all kept us hooked, and uncle had to pull our heads from between the beams and drag us out. Outside, too, there was sight to soak in; the gardens designed with care, befitting mimosa patterns flowering in the green grass. 

This wing of the campus was labelled Library but before the library was a room infused with the yellow rays of the sun, from tiny windows right below the ceiling, forming patterns on the pistachio green walls. Every wall and most of the  furniture was infused with the yellow sun: buzzing like music from these windows and doors. In front of the main door, on the opposite wall, was a fireplace — an unlikely piece of architecture in Khenjoy. Uncle later told us that the campus was a former King’s palace, converted into a college years before India’s independence.

The library was another grand hall, hosting an enormous number of books behind glass panels and beautifully carved, large red tables in shapes chiselled to fit the curving walls. 

“Can we get comics here?” Dollie asked, disturbing the few students who had lives boring enough to study on a Sunday.

“No.” Uncle replied. 

“What kind of books do you have in the city?” I asked.

“The same as you have here,” he scratched the skin under his moustache in a funny way and asked us to sit away from the students. “And more books are easily available. Dollie, the book jackets are more beautiful here.” 

Dollie rolled the newspaper lying on the table and began peeping through it. It did not go very well and the view did not appeal to her. She turned the pages and began cropping out a photograph of an actress. Uncle caught her and prodded us into walking out. 

The only small wing in the campus stood out for its insincere paint. As soon as we sauntered in, our nostrils experienced a gentle aroma of things that mattered to us the most. Tables and chairs filled three sides of this tinier hall while a wooden shelf stood on the remaining one behind which sat two men, one of them reading a newspaper. When they saw us, they leapt to their feet and flashed acknowledgement through smiles. We dragged uncle towards a table near the window where a girl and a boy were sitting quietly. He got us noodles with tomato ketchup and a pack of salted popcorn for our time on the bus. The bus was not empty this time, buzzing with children and elders, probably coming from a similar picnic. In the evening, he brought two orange flavoured chocolate bars. With an intention to munch on it later, I locked mine in the hind zip of my school bag and uncle left the next day. 

 Our swathing had begun to cause suffocation and sweat. Electricity power cuts followed in the night, and after twilight, men strolled about the terrace in undershirts and pyjamas while women still wrapped sarees. Amid all this, I discovered the orange flavoured chocolate in the forgotten section of my bag, holed by pest and rotten with time. Mosquitoes sucked on Khenjoyian’s blood, biting here and there, making them slap their own faces, spanking their own butt. We slept inside mosquito nets, scared that everything beyond was a mystery. The patios were burning dry during the day and among the hundreds of plant leaves on the terrace, mosquitoes bit the hands of those who plucked the beloved flowers. 

The government, or some official department, sent a man with gallons of pest control gases, and children ran behind him as though he were the Pied Piper of Khenjoy. Months passed, and pretty soon we had passed our class and the next class, too. Uncle did not even call. On questioning, mother wore a simper and then faced father with some whimper. 

Father asked us to forget him for his dishonesty in their friendship and for some other reasons that we did not comprehend. He refused to respond and my father cut off ties with him. It was more difficult than handling snooty relatives. I became tired of concocting evil tales about my uncle. We were earning fatter pocket money and buying chocolates by ourselves. There were all sorts of them, Swiss and Dutch, with raisins and nuts but it seemed like manufacturing companies were done flavouring them with oranges and nothing now tasted as it did before. Something that my tongue longed for was missing. 

Like all things, time passed.

We found ourselves ripening into teenage and learning to take life seriously. Girls in the class began flaunting boyfriends as our mother directed the tailor to bring the hem of our skirts down to the knees. Dollie was growing into a tall woman, easily passing off as my elder sister, whereas my growth graph was deceiving me. I felt dwarfed in her company. Her list of male friends kept on expanding whereas I began attracting boys who only needed my help in studies. I got used to ignoring the telephone numbers scribbled on the last pages of her notepads, though I wangled an idea that I bungled up while executing. I prowled through father’s telephone diary for uncle’s contact and every time a handful of guests ostracized me by placing themselves in our house, I unbearably rang him until he picked. There was no mechanism for caller identification then, and I had little guts to say my name.

It turned out that Dollie did not entertain anyone, only letting the boys meander to nowhere. One day, she came to sit near me and in her incessantly crackling voice, asked me if I had done something similar. I was taken aback by her question, more by her audacity than by her curiosity. I refused to answer but in the next moment, considered sussing out information about her. She politely confirmed my long-standing views about her and said, “I do flaunt. If somebody asks, I tell them I have a boyfriend in Bombay.” 

Even before I became curious, she declared that it was uncle’s son, whom she had disguised as her boyfriend, a fantasy built only to keep dunderheads away. 

I could have done that, I realised. That was a good shot but it angered me even more, the very thought of something that was close to uncle could be possessed by my sister and not me, hurt my ego. 

 The phone call that day killed all our doubts. The ever so venerable uncle called father to apologize for the broken communication, the lack of contact. He had travelled to Dubai to eke out some money to fund his business, repay debts and seemed to promise that the rest of the details would be furnished in due time. Matters, which to me were still oblivious and insignificant, were now settled. Everything was sorted seamlessly. There were further calls which assured that the old days were back. But it still took him several months to visit us, this time with his son. 

On that unfairly sunny day, I was coming back from school. My feet were aching so much that I wished not to walk on them. The belt wrapped around my waist swayed so many times out the last keeper that I wished the days when I wore a frock were back and I could simply tie a sash. Cursing the sweat dripping along my nape and the harsh sun, I reached home, and sought uncle’s presence, the fragrance of his shaving gel in the room, expecting him on a chair, with his towel around his neck, prowling through his suitcase. 

But it was somebody else playing carrom with Dollie. A young boy whom I immediately recognised as uncle’s son. I quivered, imagining him as her boyfriend. Uncle introduced us, mentioning that he, too, was about to finish schooling and was bright and diligent. Mother smiled broadly and pushed her eyebrows to swim in her forehead, suggesting I see a role model in him. His name was Tapas. I registered the smile Dollie put on when telling me the name. He wore glasses. None of us did, not even uncle. If uncle’s wife did, we didn’t know because he never carried any photo of hers, neither were we interested in knowing. But the fact that his son did, added some sort of class to him. When they stood up after the game, towering me, I told myself how well they complimented each other. 

During the lunch the three of us sat for, the question was which gender makes for a better cook. 

He said, “Men’s cooking is rather simple.” 

Understandable, I thought, since it came from someone whose father cooked enthusiastically. 

“Yes, perhaps.” I said, “They are also hesitant cooks at home,” I was wary of  sounding attacking. “The only man who has cooked for me is uncle.” 

“Mushroom omelettes,” I added. 

“Mushroom? Not possible.” 

“Why? I have eaten those.” 

He laughed first and then said, “Now that’s possible,” and winked at Dollie, who was biting a spoon. 

Both of them were busy eating, not looking at me. 

He continued, “It is possible that you’ve eaten that. But, but, but… My Papa must not have been the cook.” 

I was offended, more by the way he called him ‘my papa’ than what he argued about. I said, “You don’t know then.” 

“I do. He is so allergic he can’t even put one in his mouth.” 

“Are you sure? He’d made one for me. Delightfully.” I knew I was being insistent

“Don’t go on for longer, Tapas, else she’ll sulk through the night.” 

This was the thirteenth time she had called out his name. Tapas, Tapas, Tapas. Now I was irritated. I gobbled the rest of my food and walked out. 

The hair on uncle’s temples was now grey and his wrinkles conspicuous when he smiled. He was easily fatigued and preferred to sit most of the time. He had not had the time or opportunity to speak to me. I saw him spending more time with my parents, who had betrayed him back then. I, however, never had my affection for him diluted, I thought, I deserved him. I waited until the next day when he jolted and asked, “So have you learned to dab ghee on rotis?” 

“Come sit here, I haven’t talked to you since.” 

I beamed. I had spent the past nights imagining myself asking him why he left us without warning. Did he not wish to talk to me even once? He could have dropped a letter, maybe to my school address. But I couldn’t say anything.

At night, when they went to sleep, I opened one of my books, a tougher read that deemed my concentration necessary, and read with the doors of the room open, so I could cry out loud in case I heard a miscreant peeing in the balcony, all the while hoping that uncle should be the first to come to rescue me. 

I found his son pompous. Sometimes, when he played badminton with Dollie or helped her win a game of carrom against me or uncle, he would say, “See! I’m the saviour of all.” Then he would throw his hand in the air and grab a high five from her. Dollie had found a mischief maker in him, a partner in her crimes. Her hours at play multiplied, and it became impossible to stop her even for my father. 

When he could not bring her to study, uncle said, “Don’t let him spoil you. He isn’t as sincere as your sister.” His son frowned at the comparison. 

They continued to play and Dollie, on yet another day, exalted loudly, “Won’t you  take your son to the university like you took us?” She winked at his son and said, “slightly boring but good food.” 

“You children have grown up now. You can go by yourselves.” He advised Tapas to board 102. 

“The government shut that bus service now,” I told him. 

“When?” He asked, surprised. 

“Perhaps two years ago. The routes have changed, uncle. And all bus numbers were revised, and also painted blue. There’s a bus that now takes a different route, a shorter one, from Chironjee Marg to your university. It no longer passes by our door.” 

His shock came out clearly. He pressed his lips and pushed them up. Pinching his nose, which was now red, as if he were about to cry, and then passing his little finger through the corner of his left eye, he muttered. “O.K., O.K.” 

I could not understand how the revision of a bus number or its routes could hurt him. Perhaps neither did he. Tapas, in jest, impatiently, asked us to get ready. Uncle, I knew, needed some time to grieve the guilt of mistaking, now that bus 102 had turned its back to him.

There was a different bus now, and Dollie and  I were able to guide Tapas through the roads of Khenjoy. The new bus hosted seats in pairs, and as we entered, I moved away from them so that I don’t come in their way. But he called me out, “Vasu, let’s sit here.” 

I turned back and saw him standing and waving from near the last of the seats where all of us could sit together and noticed, only in that moment, a reflection of his father in him. Could it be true that good sons are born to good fathers? 

Things had changed, certainly. The wing where the library once stood was now a three-storey building with the library on the first floor and we were not allowed to get in without identification proofs. But the gardens and the hall where the sculpture of the king stood were open.

Upon knowing this, uncle, in a rather straight tone, said, “Nothing waits. Every individual and every object seeks its own growth.” 

He was young, enthusiastic for life and interested in everything. He had boarded the bus for another errand, bought tickets to the hardware store, and was waiting eagerly to finish the chores and get home to dinner. His station was nearing and he was prepared, standing by the open door for a smooth cruise. He saw a girl about his age walking faster than a child would run. She, terrified and breaking down, was being chased by two jackasses, who seemed naughtier than what fine character would allow. Uncle waved at her, signalling her to run towards him. She did, luck favoured and he helped her board the bus, quickly closing the door. 

“So did you keep in touch?” 

“We did. But in those days, to remain friends, you’d have to get married. It was thought of as something revolutionary in Khenjoy otherwise.” 

“Was she beautiful?” 

He was surprised that I could ask such a question. “You didn’t even watch movies, right?” He put the newspaper down, “After just a single meeting, I remembered the peace on her face for a long time.” 

When mother began trusting our maturity, she began talking, too. That uncle’s wife had divorced him some years ago, he had closed off all contacts with Khenjoy and left for Dubai. The divorce had been an end to a long going strife. Those days, there had to be substantial reasons for separation unlike today but mother did not discuss much and we didn’t question further. 

His cooking could have been out of necessity, too. His dedication at treating us all equally, his appreciation for anything that mother cooked and his ache for old memories. The lack of mentioning the wife and bringing his son to Khenjoy only in the aftermath; his son whose words, “See! I’m the saviour of all,” had meant something to him.

A TBR Creative Writing Workshop piece
Himani grew up in Mumbai. Her favourite writer is Clarice Lispector.

Fiction | ‘Unborn’ by Arsheen Kaur

When Shashi reached home that evening, the sun was shriveling behind a huge tree. The sky looked like a large stretch of land spilling shades of crimson and amber. Birds had begun returning home, just like Shashi. She got down from the auto-rickshaw, relieved to have reached home before dark; paid the fare and took her trolley bag tucked beneath the seat. Her eyes struggled to match the composed clothing of her face. She opened the familiar iron gate and saw her mother standing near the water cooler, coiling the water pipe. Shashi smiled and ran towards her. Her mother stumbled a little at the sudden weight, gleamed with teary eyes and held her tight, “I was thinking about you, I made your favorite daal khichdi with jeera aalu.”

“How was the bus journey? Did you get a nice seat?” She asked.

“Yes, it was alright.”

They went inside. Ravi was cramming the table of 9, looking at his notebook, as if it was reading back to him. On hearing her voice, he got up and ran towards her. “I passed with a distinction, didi!” He said, hugging her. Shashi bent down and kissed his forehead, “Very good. I’ll take you to the fair next week and we will have your favorite vanilla ice-cream.” Delighted, he took her bag and dragged it inside, keeping it next to his cupboard in the hall. 

Shashi greeted her father, who was busy cleaning his spectacles. He didn’t seem too exhilarated at the sight of her. 

Didi, will you tell me stories of the city?” Ravi asked with excitement. 

Shashi walked towards him, plucked his cheeks, and said, “Yes!”

After all, like a hawker on his routine round through the streets, she, too, had many stories of the city (un)settled within her, waiting to get out of her head. Stories about creepy neighbours, tall buildings, buses brimming with people, streets lined with cars, nights lurking with insomnia, unforgiving traffic, and about her mother-in-laws’ friend who burps after every bite and every glass of water. She knew that Ravi would laugh all night listening to these stories of the city he had never seen. Human fascination with things not seen has a different kind of indulgence. 


This was the second time in less than two years that Shashi had come home after her marriage. The last time she did, she was mourning the loss of her first child. Emotionally distressed and wrecked from the miscarriage, she was left at her parent’s home by her husband at the behest of his dear mother. In those three months, she thought about never returning to the marriage, innumerable times, but that was never considered even a remotely practical possibility. She felt as if she was clambering her way into forgiving herself for letting this horrible accident happen to her and to her child. 

Every day, she would curse herself for being naive and ignorant and stupid, and for losing her child. Every moment was a gnawing silence since then. Every night, she found herself drowning, further and deep, in the guilt of not being able to raise her voice –  she had almost forgotten how she sounded. For a woman, to not know the sound of her own voice is ominously closer to her not knowing what she wants to be. 

How could she forgive her mother-in-law? The woman who had plotted to terminate her pregnancy after knowing about the gender of the child! Shashi believed the doctor she was taken to, did the tests, and was swept away by the amount of care bestowed on her by her mother-in-law. She thought she was being cared for because she was pregnant and was going to give birth to her grandchild. She took the prescribed medicines given by her twice a day, there was not an iota of suspicion. Why would there be? Her mother-in-law was educated and looked sensible. She worked at a clinic. Her husband said he loved her, be it a boy or a girl. There was nothing to be suspicious about. Why would she doubt anything at all then?

It was such a deplorable thought! How could she? She was her husband’s mother. How could she!

At her parent’s home, she remained busy doing household chores as everyone left for work. Her father left at about 10 am to open his convenience shop, her mother left at 7 for the school where she worked as a cleaner, and Ravi left with her. Shashi would be alone, and all it took was a bare, silent moment for her to drop on the ground weeping for her dead child. Her hands would go numb with fury, and her heart would split into peas. 


Ravi jumped on the bed and tugged at her to tell him stories of the city. “How big is it? How many people live in a city? How big are the houses? Are there any birds there? They don’t have carts like us, do they? Do they have cars like in my science book?” He asked all at once, the excitement for some dream fodder flitting through his eyes. 

Shashi looked at him. She thought her story is definitely not one he would understand at the tender age of seven. She stroked his hair and promised herself to tell him her story someday so he won’t become like the men she knew. 

“There are huge buildings, you know, as high as the sky. About 10-15 floors, even more in most buildings. Every building is taller than the other, every road leads to a new road, and everyone seeks comfort in the noise of traffic and the motion of days.”


For many families in India, having children, many children is a matter of tradition. Having many boys is a matter of pride. Who made this the way it is? I questioned myself when I first heard this from a neighbour who would get pregnant, year after year, only in the hope of a boy. 

“After all, sons will light the pyre at my funeral. They will enlighten the generations and they will do us proud. Girls are never really our own. They never belong to their parents, they are born to be given. They add aesthetic beauty to the world, what else? Expensive upbringing aside!” Meena aunty would say with her typical paper-skinned conscience. 

This made her furious then, when she was a young girl who was made to drop out of school to cut expenditures at home. This made her furious and miserable, again, when she was expected to paddle silently, for the sake of a marriage that did not deserve a second chance. 

She was told by everybody – repeatedly – with accents – a mother without a son, a wife without a husband, and a woman without the two is incomplete.

Two days ago when Shashi found out about her second pregnancy, she didn’t want to stay back in the house where her first unborn was murdered. She called her mother and told her about her pregnancy. Her mother asked her to take the morning bus and come home, without asking any questions. 

This time she made the decision for the life of her unborn. That was no way to be, in a city, in a house where girls remain unborn. Shashi knew she wanted to change this. She knew only a mother could change this. Mothers are brave. For her child, Shashi had to learn to be brave. 


The next evening, her husband came to take her back. “Stop throwing tantrums and come back to your home. You have no right to refuse to go to the doctor with my mother,” he told her.  She was shocked at his shamelessness. Saurav sat in the centre chair, his shoes shining as if he had just given them a fresh polish. He pushed the tray with a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits kept on the table with his hand, looked at Shashi’s mother and raised his voice, “If she doesn’t come with me right now, I will never accept her back. That is my child and I have the right to know if it is what I want it to be.”

She knew she couldn’t let her daughter go back to the marriage where she and her unborn didn’t feel safe. In that moment, in the absence of her husband, Shashi’s mother felt empowered, for the first time in her life, to speak for her daughter. 

Leave and don’t come for my daughter again.” Her mother said, her voice steely, as she closed the gate. 

Standing by the door, Shashi screamed, “How can he ask me to return to his house, let his mother kill my own child, again, and become a corpse, again?” Her face, mirroring shock and disgust at  his audacity. Her mother hugged her tight and said, “Should I make some tea for both of us?”


That night while serving hot chapatis, Shashi’s mother told her father about Saurav. And before she could complete, he got up, furious.

“Why are you trying to break her marriage? Why are you teaching her to be a disobedient wife? Who will take care of your daughter?” he asked her, washing his hands. 

“You know what they will do to her if it’s not a boy,” she said looking at him in frustration. He wiped his hands with his lungi and sat in the chair looking outside.  She went and stood near him and continued, “You know what they did to her first child. How could I have let her go back to that house, after knowing everything?” her face straining with assertion. 

When he didn’t say anything, she continued. “Shashi will stay here. In her own home. She won’t go back to that house nor that marriage where she is expected to produce a son only.” 

He got up and blurted, “Your daughter is not a princess. This is how it is. She cannot change a curse into a blessing. Send her back to her home.”

“What curse? Shashi is our daughter. I cannot send her back to that hell again.” She said while collecting utensils from the floor mat where they were eating earlier.

He stood near her and folding his arms in anger, said, “Are you out of your mind? I cannot allow you to break her marriage. Shashi has to adjust. Everybody does. Didn’t you?”

Repulsed, she turned to look at him, “Adjust to grief? To guilt? To loss? Shashi will not. I don’t want my daughter to become another sorry story of a woman losing everything to sustain a broken marriage stinking of loss.”

He took his shirt off from the hook and tucked the buttons in fury. “How can we have our married daughter live here? What will people say? What we earn is barely enough for the three of us – how are we going to take care of Shashi and her child?”

She folded the floor mat and shouted, “Ravi, come here. Make space for Shashi didi’s clothes on your shelf.”

Shashi waned behind the kitchen wall. 


Five months passed by. 

Every morning, Shashi packed the tiffin for Ravi and her mother before they left, then cleaned the house. In the afternoon, her father returned home and the two of them would have lunch together. She knew it would take a few weeks for her fathers’ reservation to subside. He won’t be convinced – men are taught to be this way – to be brash husbands and stern fathers. 

That day, her father didn’t go to work, he felt feverish. She made him her mother’s proven home remedy, a medicinal drink with crushed black pepper balls, turmeric, and grated garlic in lukewarm water. Her mother used to make this for her everyday, also tossing in a lot many other dry and leafy ingredients, when she was home the last time. Shashi has many painful memories from last year that drag her back to grief.  

Her father continued to feel unwell and the fever didn’t go down even after taking the concoction and trying to sleep it off. Worried, Shashi took him to the hospital where he was prescribed a Widal test for typhoid and a few painkillers. The result would come in about 48 hours. Shashi bought the medicines on their way back home. She hadn’t called her mother yet, there was no point in making her worried. After taking the medicines at home, he dozed off. 

By evening, her mother and Ravi returned home. Shashi had just finished chopping onions to make lauki for dinner. She prepared tea for both, and a slice of toasted bread for each. 

“Papa didn’t go to the shop today. He wasn’t feeling too well,” she told her mother, in a conversational tone. Her mother paused and looked at her. “What happened?”

Shashi continued, “Oh it is alright. I took him to the hospital when his discomfort increased. They did some tests and the results will come in two days.” 

“What did the doctor say? Did he take the medicine before sleeping?” asked her mother, worried, looking at her husband sleeping. 

Shashi nodded.


In the morning, later in the week, at about 11, a mini-truck halted in front of their house and a tall guy called out for Shashi’s father. Shashi hurried out, she did not want to disturb her father. He had been sleeping till late into the mornings these days, partially out of fatigue and partially due to the sedatives in his typhoid medicines. 

The man was a vendor from whom her father bought the stuff for his store. She told him about his health and that he won’t be able to open the shop for a few days. 

“But he has made the advance payment for this and if I take it back, my manager might not refund any amount. So, it would be better if you take your delivery.”

Shashi went back inside and pulled out the shop’s keys from her father’s shirt. She went to the shop, a ten-minute walk from their house, and supervised as he unloaded the truck and set the boxes in the godown just at the rear side of the shop. 

“Tell him, two cartons of detergent along with some other items are pending and everything else is delivered,” he said while taking out a piece of paper from his pant pocket. He passed it to Shashi and asked her to sign it at the bottom. 

She read the quantities written opposite the stuff delivered and signed on the wrinkled piece of paper. 

“What is your name?” she asked him as an afterthought. 



The next morning, Shashi took the shop keys and left for the shop. She opened the shutter. The counter had a layer of dust, she wrote – S H A S H I – with her index finger. She could write a few words in English and full sentences in Hindi. But she could do some math, really well in fact, on her fingers. Her mother taught her basic mathematics – addition/subtraction/division – since she left school after class V. 

She covered her face, making a mask from her dupatta and began sweeping the floor. Then she took a shabby piece of cloth from below the counter and cleaned the entire thing. As she washed her hands using water from a marred bottle of water, two women from the neighbourhood came and greeted her. They had known Shashi since she was a little girl and now when her baby bump had begun to come out, they congratulated her and blessed her with a baby boy. 

Shashi, completely disinterested in their blessings, asked them if they wanted to buy anything. “One small packet of jeera, a big Parle G. And one kg of chana daal.” She turned around to get these from the shelf behind her. 

That evening when her mother and Ravi returned from school, Shashi told her that she had opened the shop and she thought she did a decent job running it, even making Rs 150. “And Savita aunty and Raj aunty came to buy some stuff. They were kind of surprised to see me there. They blessed me for a son.” 

Her mother looked at her, her worrying eyes stayed at her daughter’s face. “You should stay home. You should not exert yourself at the shop. When your father gets well, he will open the shop.”

“I like it. I need to keep myself distracted. Plus I like the idea of running a shop, selling things of everyday importance,” Shashi said with a smile. 

In that smile, her mother, quietly, reminisced about the time when Shashi saw her school uniform for the first time. She was excited, her eyes beaming with dreams. But here, education for girls is too early, too enough. 

Her father, pretending to have just woken up from his sleep, got up from the bed. “Ravi, get me a glass of water.”

He looked at Shashi as Ravi filled the glass with water from the jug. “Why do you have to sit at the shop? Stay at home. I will open the shop in a few days when I am well enough.”

“I like going to the shop, papa. Let me.”

“If you say so. I guess Vijay might come tomorrow, tomorrow is Thursday, right? Ask him to shift some cartons of spices and lentils to the front for you.” He coughed, and added, “Holi is coming. He will come to deliver colors for the festival. I usually make some good money during this festival time,” while sipping water from the glass. 

Shashi nodded.  


Next day while Shashi was cleaning the counter, the mini-truck arrived again. Vijay got down and started unloading the truck. 

“I have got the pending items. 2 cartons of detergents, 1 carton of cosmetics, 2 sacks of rice, 1 carton of biscuits…” he began unloading and continued listing the list of items, “1 carton of maggi, 1 carton of milk chocolates and jelly toffees, and 4 boxes of pencils and pens.” 

“Keep the biscuits on that shelf,” she pointed towards the middle rack on the left side, besides the lentils. “And, the cosmetics here at the display. Rice over there. And give me the chocolates, toffees and pencils, these should be set here at the counter.”

“How is Ram Bhai?” he asked while adjusting the Abidas cap on his head. 

“Papa is fine. He will come to the shop in a day or two.”

“He told me you will get the colors for Holi. Bring a few extra packets, he said. When will you come for the delivery next?” 

“I don’t know. Not this week for sure. I have lots of pending deliveries in another town,” he told her, rubbing the dust from the cartons off his shirt. “I will try to come next week.”

“Want some water?” 

“I don’t mind. Your name is Shashi?” 

“How do you know my name?” 

“I read your signature that day. Here, please sign this paper today.” 

That morning next week was laden with sunshine. Shashi opened the shop and saw a good amount of sales. By noon, she had started feeling tired but waited for Vijay to come with the delivery of Holi colors. She sat on her father’s chair, limping on one side. She dozed off for a few minutes, and woke up on hearing the screeching sound of the truck. Vijay got down and told her that he has got 5 cartons of colors. She took the bill from him and went to the counter to get money. 

Done for the day, she decided to head home early. She picked the keys from the drawer beside the counter. 

“Are you going back home?”


“I can drop you.” He opened the door of the truck and adjusted the seat for her, “Come, sit.” 

Shashi got in as she was too exhausted to walk anyway.

“You shouldn’t sit at the shop for so long. Especially in such a condition. It’s not good. I have seen my sisters, they usually rest during this time.”

Shashi looked out of the window. 

In a few minutes they reached her house and she got down. “Thank you, bhaiya.”

She opened the gate and saw Saurav and her father standing near the gate. 

“I have come to tell you that I am marrying a beautiful girl from Calcutta. So don’t think of coming back ever,” Saurav told her. “You can continue romancing your delivery guy.”

In that moment, Shashi drowned back to the times when she desperately tried to be an obedient wife and an obedient daughter-in-law but was never acknowledged for either. She felt sad for constantly trying to wade through the hearts of her in-laws and her husband. She didn’t have to. Why was she always expected to be obedient?

Saurav left, without waiting for her to answer, thrashing the gate to its hinges and screaming at Shashi as a good-for-nothing woman. The neighbours came out hearing him scream and looked over their walls desperately wanting to know what had happened because everything outside their own house was a circus. 

Her mother and Ravi returned from school just around then and saw Saurav leaving. She looked at Shashi standing there with tears in her eyes. She closed the gate and walked towards her, held her and took her inside. 

“Men are taught to walk out of marriages as if the institution of marriage is their property and women can never do the same, however toxic the marriage is, What kind of a dungeon is this?” she said agitatedly, while hanging her purse on the hook of the almirah. 

“Don’t think about him, that house or anything about there, Shashi. You are here and you are going to live with us. I am waiting to play with my grandchild.”


That night, when Shashi was tucked in the corner of the bed, her parents came and stood next to her. 

“Saurav came threatening me to find out if it is a boy or a girl. That man is shameless and not worthy of you. They will not accept you or your child if it is a girl. I told him you are not going back to him either way,” said her father, with affirmation, consciously brushing off any reluctance from his mind. 

Shashi, with tears in her eyes, got up and couldn’t stop crying. “They killed my child. They would have killed this one too.”

“You don’t have to worry about anything now. You are here at your home. You are running my shop, better than Ravi would have,” said her father with a gentle, dry tap on her head. “Do you want to have some fish curry tomorrow? I can bring some fish from Ashu’s shop.” 

They switched off the bulb and went back to their room. 

That night, Shashi couldn’t sleep. She kept looking at the ceiling that needed repair before the monsoon. She remembered the time when she was young and how her parents would save to get the ceiling repaired before monsoon. How certain things require repair every time!

She heard a dog squealing near her house. In the middle of the night, as she got up to go outside to see the dog, Ravi woke up, too. Both of them opened the gate and found a dog with a swollen belly laying on the road. “She might be hungry!” Ravi quipped. “She is pregnant.” Shashi said. 

Shashi went inside and brought some leftover chapatis for the dog and kept them near her gate. The dog came slowly, cautious at first, and began eating, uninterruptedly. She followed them to their tiny garden. Ravi found a bowl and filled it with water from the tap in the garden. Shashi went in to get an old sheet and spread it for her inside the shed. The two sat there, caressing the dog and looking at the starry sky.

They woke up to the sound of birds at sunrise. 


In a few weeks, the dog gave birth to beautiful black-eyed puppies, all of whom lived in their shed. Every morning, Ravi would feed them biscuits before going to school and every evening after returning from the shop with her father, Shashi would pet them and imagine her daughter running around the house playing with the puppies. She prayed for a daughter, all the more. 

One Saturday morning, Shashi and her mother left for her doctor’s appointment. It was a school holiday for her mother and Shashi told her father she would be back at the shop by noon. On their way, Shashi saw some girls and boys going to school. Boys riding bicycles and girls walking behind them, crossing fields, rivers, and lands with tall trees. 

“I will teach my daughter to ride a bicycle,” she told her mother, with gleaming hope. 

“And I will sit on the carrier seat and she will drop me to the market,” grinned her mother. “Have you thought of a name for her?”

“I will call her Roja.” 

She looked at the flowers outside an old building on their way, red roses, defiant, growing out of fence borders with their bodies breathing golden light and breeze.

Arsheen Kaur is a writer and poet based out of Delhi and Toronto. She works in the development sector. Some of her areas of interest are identity, memory, and feminism. She is a film studies and English literature graduate from AJK-Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia. She aspires to be a novelist. Her work has been published in The Wire, Cafe Dissensus, Live Wire, Hindustan Times, The Quint, The Alipore Post among others.

Top Middle Eastern Literary Magazines to submit your Creative Writing to.



Here is a new list of magazines to submit your work!

We, at The Bombay Review have a special focus on emerging and established writing from the Middle Eastern region. So if you are from or write about the region, and wish to have your work published with us, submit away! Our themed editions, published or forthcoming are on: Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, and Egypt. While submissions for these open regularly, we sure look for great writing all year round. Details below, along with the list of other literary journals/magazines. We are constantly working to update this list, if you know of a publication that can be here, drop a comment below. The list is in no particular order.

–  Editor, The Bombay Review

The Bombay Review
Year established: 2014
Published from: New York City & Mumbai
Genres: Fiction, Poetry, Essays, Art, Reviews, Interviews, Culture pieces
Submission period: All year
Type: Online + Print
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: None
Payment: Ranges from Nil to $50
Editors: Kaartikeya Bajpai | Rochelle Potkar

The Middle East
Short fiction, poetry, translations, reviews, screenplays, essays, and more.

The Bosphorus Review Of BooksThe Bosphorus Review of Books

Year established: 2017
Published from: Istanbul, Turkey
Genres: Fiction, Non-fiction, Poetry, Book reviews
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Luke Frostick and Thomas Parker



Year established: 2013
Published from: Egypt & Kent, United Kingdom
Genres: Short fiction, Flash fiction, Poetry
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital + Print
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Sherine ElBanhawy


Year established: 2013
Published from: Dubai, UAE
Genres: Poetry, Short fiction, Essays
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Rewa Zeinati


Year established: 2010
Published from: Dubai, UAE
Genres: Articles
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Iman Ben Chaibah 

ArabLit Quartlerly

Year established: 2018
Published from: Unknown
Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Essays
Submission period: Rolling basis
Type: Digital + Print
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil to $500
Editor: M Lynx Qualey

Pin by IAA Libraries on Books from Around the World | Literature ...Banipal

Year established: 1998
Published from: London, UK
Genres: Translations
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital + Print
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Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Margaret Obank


Year established: 2017
Published from: Saudi Arabia, Michigan, USA
Genres: Poetry, Fiction, and Non-fiction writing
Submission period: Rolling basis
Type: Digital
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Ahd Niazy

Al Jadid Magazine

Year established: 1995
Published from: California, USA
Genres: Essays, Features, Reviews, Interviews, Translations
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital + Print
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Elie Chalala

Rusted Radishes

  • Year established: 2011
  • Published from: Beirut, Lebanon
  • Genres: Comics, Artwork, Translations, Fiction, Creative nonfiction, Poetry
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website | Instagram | Facebook
  • Submission fee: Nil
  • Payment: Nil
  • Editor: Rima Rantisi

Untitled design (1)Pars Times

Year established: 2002
Published from: Iran
Genres: Interviews, Articles, Poetry, Short fiction
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Unknown


Year established: 2013
Published from: Iran
Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Unknown


Year established: 2018
Published from: Yemen
Genres: Essays, Short fiction, Nonfiction
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Hamza Shiban

The Istanbul Review

Year established: 2014
Published from: Istanbul, Turkey
Genres: Poetry, Fiction
Submission period: All year
Type: Digital
Website | Facebook
Submission fee: Nil
Payment: Nil
Editor: Hande Zapsu Watt

Fiction | ‘Abroad Alone’ by Annabelle Baptista


Corrine hadn’t really thought through her visit to Germany, after the Christmas holidays, other than the fact that she wanted to see her grandmother’s childhood home. Her funeral preyed on Corrine’s heart. Days before Thanksgiving, she had sat with her mother and sisters and brother, reminiscing about the woman at ninety, who had buried her husband four years earlier. They spoke of her tenacity and love.

Now, Corrine wondered how she would explain her blackness to her German host.  At the moment, she felt too tired, suffering from jetlag and busy processing a quaint, family-owned inn. She conversed with the only English speaker at the Inn, trying to frame the right words to say if anyone asked about her reason for being in the small German village.

In broken English, the innkeeper’s teenage daughter welcomed her, mentioning briefly that she had English in her studies, and showed Corrine to her room.

“No central heating. Every room have fireplace.” The daughter explained and handed Corrine a rough, white towel to use in the shower.

Corrine didn’t understand what the other guests said when they gathered outside the communal bathroom. She’d showered swiftly, under a trickle of water, contemplating washing her hair twists in the toilet because there was more water over there, and then settled for dampening her hair with wet towelettes which she had packed to clean her hands once she walked back to her room.

Feral eyes looked out from every available wall space. As if someone had gone hunting on Noah’s Ark, they all looked wide eyed. She could sense them saying something, Run.


Dora picked up Corrine from the guesthouse the next morning.

“I have always wanted to go to the U.S., but I never got the chance,” Dora said starting up the engine of her Smart.

Corrine had met Dora through a travel app that provided guides for city visits, people who volunteered to show you their city.  Corrine wasn’t due back at work for a few days so she had plenty of time, to explore the city her grandmother called home.

Corrine directed Dora to take her to the village cemetery.  It was a small cemetery, like everything else in the village, and it didn’t take her long to find the headstone she was looking for.

“Do you know anyone from the Ashe family?” Corrine asked, thrilled that she’d found the headstone.

“No, can’t say I’ve ever heard of them.  What about you, how did you come hear from them? I thought you’ve never been to Germany. How do you know this old, very German family?” Dora asked..

“Does it surprise you?  Well, I…have known a few Germans in my lifetime,” Corrine said, as she stood in front of the cool, gray stone and appreciated the fresh winter air.  Dora didn’t prod her further and she didn’t want to tell Dora that these people were her great grandparents. Her grandmother had mentioned them quite regularly, and shown Corrine an ivory and lace photo album, with a family tree drawn inside its pages, which was all she‘d chosen to take from her family home. Corrine wished she had brought some flowers, but the grave had a slate covering; they seemed to have had no expectations.


On New Year’s Eve, Dora had a concert inside a monastery. Corrine’s heart was full as she looked down on Neuheimstal from the hill.  She stood outside watching the provincial concert goers, almost marching, one after another into the church.  She imagined her young grandmother here, thinking of the man she would marry. Open to whatever the future had planned for her.

The monastery’s massive door had heavy oak and ironwork; Corrine had never run into anything as solid in Boston. With concerted effort, which took longer than she expected, she opened the door. It wailed on its hinges, as if releasing a spirited ghost. A monk walked the aisle wearing a black robe and swinging a metal censer suspended from a chain. Corrine’s throat seized. She began to cough. Mindful of making a scene, she moved aside from the crowd, leaned against a cold marble column hacking and sneezing. Four people noticed, and moved as if to help, but Corrine waved them away.

She spotted a back room under the nave and ducked inside, thankful that no one followed her. She hadn’t seen Dora since she started preparing for her choral production. Corrine took great gulps of air and let out a “Thank God.”  The room felt warm and damp, but it didn’t smell of incense. Her eyes adjusted to the obscure light, which came from a small window on the opposite wall.  She caught sight of a figure moving beneath a blanket on a velvet couch from the corner of her eyes.

“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t know anyone was in here,” Corrine started reopening the door.

“Come in, come in.” Herr Tinnermann motioned with his hand as he sat up. Corrine shut the door.

“I have to get up anyway.”  Herr Tinnermann reached for his jacket lying on the back of a camel back chair.

“I felt ill from the smoke,” said Corrine, adjusting to the light. She’d met Herr Tinnermann at a brunch held earlier that afternoon by Dora.

“Take all the time you need.” Herr Tinnermann said, “You know I do this concert every year and it never stops filling me with wonder.”

“Did you know Ditmar Ash?” Corrine felt an alarm go off in the room. Her heart started pumping as if she were revving an engine to go from zero to a hundred depending on his answer.

“Yes, I knew Ditmar and Klaus, they had a lovely daughter.  I cannot remember her name. I remember her angelic face. Their daughter moved to the U.S…, why? Did you meet her? Did you know her?”

Corrine felt her heart break. “Yes, I knew her. Their daughter, I mean.”

The odd tuning of the instruments in the orchestra began to fill the room with whining exhalations.

“I must go. See you after the concert,” Herr Tinnermann said.

“Yes, I look forward to it.”

The smell had begun to dissipate, as a stream of fresh air came through the opened door.  Corrine could breathe freely again; the tightness in her throat disappeared.

She wanted to escape to the comfort of her hotel room and skip the evenings’ New Year concert and celebrations with the lie of a headache. But it was not possible to be alone, not at the guest house. What had made her think she could fit in in this strange place, with strangers who did not speak English? Yes, she had found them, her blood, her ancestors, but deep inside she knew they would have rejected her. Her heart ached.


The singer’s voice warmed the hall, the band’s shadow dancing on the walls around them. Herr Tinnermann informed, rubbing his hands together, that he would play a piece on the pipe organ. Corrine swiveled her head. Suddenly, the room filled with a confluence of sounds; otherworldly. The heavy dirges expressed through the music was Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, said the program’s prospectus, but Corrine had first heard it played by Count Dracula when she was twelve, sitting in her Grandmother’s living room with popcorn. They had watched it together; a Friday night horror movie and she had been allowed to stay up till ten that night. Her grandmother had told her Romania was a beautiful country, not at all scary. Now, Corrine was sure her grandmother had been looking for snapshots that might remind her of home, because why else would she love Count Dracula so much.


Later in the early night, she met Dora, standing on the monastery’s expansive grounds staring up at the fine gauze draping the moon. The New Year’s Eve celebration had begun. The people ooh’d and ahh’d at the fireworks displays which lit the sky.  At midnight, all the church goers kissed one another on both cheeks and wished each other well, with the church bells ringing in undulations. Corrine hugged Dora a minute longer.

“Thank you for inviting me to your home. I have something to tell you.” Corrine said, pausing briefly before continuing. “I am half German” She waited for Dora’s response, trying to read her face for signs, which in her head were either of horror or disappointment.

“You are half-German, then you are German,” Dora proclaimed happily, almost jumping up and down.

 “You have home in Germany now, come back soon,” Dora said.

“Es war wunderbar. Ich gehe Morgan, aber du bist im Herzen” Corrine balled her fist tight and placed it over her heart.

She planned to take a cab to the airport in the morning, but at this moment, she felt already at home as she said her goodbyes to people who she felt she knew, like Herr Tinnermann and Dora. Their singing faded behind her as she left the monastery’s grounds on her way back to the guesthouse.  They would have killed her grandmother if they had known so many years ago, her Grandmother had told her, it was not allowed. She had feared for her life, loving a black man. She would have been an outcast. Her grandmother had also dealt with people who were racists, had hated her color and everything she represented, in Boston, but she had made a home for her family there. Corrine opened the window and breathed in the crisp, fresh air, and reflected on what her grandmother had taught her, love will make a home for you wherever it resides.

Annabelle Baptista is a poet and short story writer born in Indianapolis, Indiana. She currently teaches English as a second language and lives in Neckargemuend, Germany with her husband. She has been published in Coloring Book: An Eclectic Collection of Fiction and Poetry, Andwerve magazine and Families: The Front Line of Pluralism.

Top Indian/Asian Literary Magazines to submit your Creative Writing to.

Literary magazines are a catalyst to good publishing in any country, functioning as a parallel industry to traditional book publishing. A rich literary magazine landscape comments on writing being taken seriously, and also nurtures a reading market for aspiring writers. Stimulating intellectual conversations, niche catering, lending support to Creative Writing programs, and providing a platform to be heard, or well, read; surround the larger role of magazines.

In India, South Asia, Africa and certain parts of the world,  literary magazines may have another role to play. Support writing careers. The magazines are a pillar to graduates of literature, passionate readers, bibliophiles, hobbyists; lending them the shoulder to spring start a probable writing career. 

Here, today, we have curated a list of our favorite literary magazines of Indian/Asian origin, publishing steadily for a couple of years. Persons of words in this part of the world, or anywhere else, go ahead and submit your creative writing.

We, The Bombay Review, are also always open to reading your work, publishing your work, and commending your work. Details below.

By Team TBR

The Bombay Review
Year established: 2014
Published from: New York City & Mumbai
Genres: Fiction, Poetry, Essays, Art, Reviews, Interviews, Culture pieces
Submission period: All year
Type: Online + Print
Website | Instagram | Facebook
Submission fee: None
Payment: upto $50 for solicited entries
Editors: Kaartikeya Bajpai | Rochelle Potkar

(Established more than 5 years ago, as of 2020)
Short fiction, poetry, translations, reviews, screenplays, essays, and more.

Indian Literature: Sahitya Academy

  • Year established: 1954
  • Published from: New Delhi, India
  • Genres: Poetry, short fiction in English translation and English, critical articles
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Dr. A. J. Thomas

Asymptote Journal

  • Year established: 2015
  • Published from: Taiwan
  • Genres: Unpublished translated poetry, fiction, nonfiction and drama; original English-language nonfiction; visual art
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Lee Yew Leong

Jaggery Lit

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Fiction, poetry, essays, art, reviews
  • Submission period: May 1 to July 1
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: $25/piece
  • Payment: $100 for fiction, $25 for nonfiction/poetry/art/reviews
  • Editor: Anu Mahadev

Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Could be defunct)

  • Year established: 2007
  • Published from: Hong Kong + London, UK
  • Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Tammy Ho Lai-Ming

Spark Magazine

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Short fiction, art
  • Submission period: On a break, currently not accepting submissions
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editors: Anupama Krishnakumar and Vani Viswanathan

The Indian Quarterly

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Mumbai, India
  • Genres: Essays, features, essay-reviews, photo-essays, travelogue, poetry, fiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Print + Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Unknown

Reading Hour

  • Year established: 2011
  • Published from: Bangalore, India
  • Genres: Short fiction, poetry, book reviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Print + Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Unknown 

eFiction India

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Gurgaon, India
  • Genres: Essays, fiction, poetry, art and criticism, interviews, book reviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Nikhil Sharda

The Bangalore Review

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Bangalore, India
  • Genres: Fiction, creative non-fiction, translations, essays
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: $3
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Suhail Rasheed

Himal South Asian Mag

  • Year established: 1987
  • Published from: Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Genres: Long-form reportage, political analysis, essays and opinion, interviews, photo essays, reviews, fiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: USD 100-150
  • Editors: Kanak Mani Dixit

 Muse India

  • Year established: 2004
  • Published from: Secunderabad, Telangana, India
  • Genres: Poetry, short fiction, essays, conversations with writers, book reviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Atreya Sarma U

Helter Skelter

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: Mumbai
  • Genres: Helter Skelter Anthology of New Writing: Short fiction, poetry
  • Submission period: Varies, usually November to January
  • Type: Digital
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Arun Kale

The Alipore Post

  • Year established: 2015
  • Published from: Unknown
  • Genres: Poetry, art, photography, comics, interviews, prose
  • Submission period: Check website
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee:
  • Payment:
  • Editor: Rohini Kejriwal

Open Road Review: (To be verified)

  • Year established: 2011
  • Published from: New Delhi, India
  • Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Kulpreet Yadav

Cafe Dissensus

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: New York City, USA
  • Genres: Audio-visual (interviews, conversations), Political articles/essays, Photo essays
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Online
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editors: Mary Ann Chacko, Mosarrap Hossain Khan


  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Singapore
  • Genres: Short Stories, Essays on literary criticism, Poetry, Non-fiction – Travelogues, Memoirs, Personal essays, Book Reviews, Author Interviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Zafar Anjum


  • Year established: 1984
  • Published from: London, UK
  • Genres: Articles, essays, journalistic prose, short fiction and poetry 
  • Submission period: October onwards
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Malachi McIntosh

The Bombay Literary Magazine

  • Year established: 2013
  • Published from: Unknown
  • Genres: Fiction, poetry
  • Submission period: Varies, currently closed
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: Nil
  • Editor – Tanuj Solanki

The Mithila Review

  • Year established: 2016
  • Published from: Delhi, India
  • Genres: Fiction, poetry, non-fiction
  • Submission period: Varies, updates on website. Currently open for poetry, closed for fiction (opens August 2020)
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: Nil to $10 for original poetry, essays, flash stories; $50 for original stories
  • Editor: Salik Shah

Nether (To be verified)

  • Year established: 2009
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Fiction, poetry, art, photography
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital (quarterly) + Print (annual)
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Avinab Datta-Areng

Vayavya (To be verified)

  • Year established: 2011, first published in 2013
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Poetry, prose on poetry, interviews
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Mihir Vatsa

The Little Magazine (To be verified)

  • Year established: 2001
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Essays, fiction, poetry, novellas, film and theatre scripts
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Antara Dev Sen, Pratik Kanjilal

Setu Billingual

  • Year established: 2016
  • Published from: Pittsburgh, USA
  • Genres: Research articles, book reviews, interviews, poems and short fiction
  • Submission period:
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Anurag Sharma, Sunil Sharma

The Punch Magazine (formerly Byword)

  • Year established: 2016 (formerly Byword)
  • Published from: India
  • Genres: Articles (Non-fiction, Poetry, Interviews), Reviews, Photos, Videos, Fiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Online
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: Small donations are welcome
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Shireen Quadri

The Aleph Review

  • Year established: 2017
  • Published from: Pakistan
  • Genres: Prose, poetry
  • Submission period: January to July
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Mehvash Amin

The Missing Slate:

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: Pakistan
  • Genres: Poetry, fiction, non-fiction, photography, visual arts
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital + print
  • Website 
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Moeed Tariq, Noah Klein

Out of Print

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: Mumbai, India
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Indira Chandrasekhar

Anak Sastra

  • Year established: 2010
  • Published from: Florida, USA
  • Genres: Short fiction, creative nonfiction, comics, poems, book reviews 
  • Submission period: All year
  • Type: Digital
  • Website
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: None
  • Editor: Kris Williamson

The Asian American Literary Review (Under construction)

  • Year established: 2009
  • Published from: USA
  • Genres: Poetry, Fiction, Creative Nonfiction
  • Submission period: Jun 1 to Aug 31
  • Type: Digital
  • Website Currently under construction
  • Submission fee: None
  • Payment: Contributor copies only
  • Editor: Lawrence-Minh Bὺi Davis and Gerald Maa

If we have missed out any literary magazine, which we surely have, please comment below with details and we will take a look. Do note, that we are not considering literary magazines/journals which are less than 3-5 years old.

The above list in not in any particular order.

Call for The Booker Prize Winners’ Reviews


The Bombay Review, ambitiously so, plans to review all the Booker Prize winners, since 1968 when the Prize was first constituted. We welcome review pitches from professional and freelance writers, journalists, columnists, and book lovers. All submissions must be exclusive, and previously unpublished. To review a book for us, please send us a pitch between 200 and 500 words.

In case a book is not available with you, we will send you a copy if you are selected to write the piece.

Send an email to The subject line of the mail should be – ‘Book Review : Book Name : Your Name’.

We are starting the reviews section with The Booker Prize winners, but we would love to have pitches for other books as well.

Due to the volume of submissions, we can only respond to those of interest.


PLease make sure to include the following information at the top of your pitch:

*Book(s) and/or writer(s) you would like to discuss in your piece
*Approximate word count
*Your bio
*Two relevant writing samples, preferably of reviews.
*Availability of the book with you. (Please note that we will be sending you books only in select cases)

You are encouraged to briefly explain any critical, historical context you consider relevant apart from the reason you picked the particular book. 


TO PUBLISHERS AND AUTHORS (for books not in our list)

To have your book considered for review, send a pitch to; copies of books will be asked of you. This is a paid service. You can mail us for a quote.


The Booker Prize for Fiction, formerly known as the Booker–McConnell Prize (1969–2001) and the Man Booker Prize (2002–2019), is a literary prize awarded each year for the best original novel written in the English language and published in the United Kingdom. The winner of the Booker Prize is generally assured international renown and success; therefore, the prize is of great significance for the book trade. From its inception, only novels written by Commonwealth, Irish, and South African (and later Zimbabwean) citizens were eligible to receive the prize; in 2014 it was widened to any English-language novel—a change that proved controversial.

A high-profile literary award in British culture, the Booker Prize is greeted with anticipation and fanfare. It is also a mark of distinction for authors to be selected for inclusion in the shortlist or even to be nominated for the “longlist”.


The Complete List of Man Booker Winners


by Anna Burns
United Kingdom / Northern Ireland


Lincoln in the Bardo
by George Saunders
United States


The Sellout
by Paul Beatty
United States


A Brief History of Seven Killings
by Marlon James


The Narrow Road to the Deep North
by Richard Flanagan


The Luminaries
by Eleanor Catton
Canada / New Zealand


Bring Up The Bodies
by Hilary Mantel
United Kingdom


The Sense of an Ending
by Julian Barnes
United Kingdom


The Finkler Question
by Howard Jacobson
United Kingdom


Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel
United Kingdom


The White Tiger
by Aravind Adiga


The Gathering
by Anne Enright


The Inheritance of Loss
by Kiran Desai


The Sea
by John Banville


The Line of Beauty
by Allan Hollinghurst
United Kingdom


Vernon God Little
by DBC Pierre


Life of Pi
by Yann Martel


True History of the Kelly Gang
by Peter Carey


The Blind Assassin
by Margaret Atwood


by J. M. Coetzee
South Africa


by Ian McEwan
United Kingdom


The God of Small Things
by Arundhati Roy


Last Orders
by Graham Swift
United Kingdom


The Ghost Road
by Pat Barker
United Kingdom


How Late It Was, How Late
by James Kelman
United Kingdom


Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha
by Roddy Doyle


Sacred Hunger
by Barry Unsworth
United Kingdom
The English Patient
by Michael Ondaatje
Canada / Sri Lanka


The Famished Road
by Ben Okri


by A. S. Byatt
United Kingdom


The Remains of the Day
by Kazuo Ishiguro
United Kingdom / Japan


Oscar and Lucinda
by Peter Carey


Moon Tiger
by Penelope Lively
United Kingdom


The Old Devils
by Kingsley Amis
United Kingdom


The Bone People
by Keri Hulme
New Zealand


Hotel du Lac
by Anita Brookner
United Kingdom


Life & Times of Michael K
by J. M. Coetzee
South Africa


Schindler’s Ark
by Thomas Keneally


Midnight’s Children
by Salman Rushdie
United Kingdom / India


Rites of Passage
by William Golding
United Kingdom


by Penelope Fitzgerald
United Kingdom


The Sea, The Sea
by Iris Murdoch
Ireland / United Kingdom


Staying On
by Paul Scott
United Kingdom


by David Storey
United Kingdom


Heat and Dust
by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
United Kingdom / Germany


The Conservationist
by Nadine Gordimer
South Africa
by Stanley Middleton
United Kingdom


The Siege of Krishnapur
by J.G. Farrell
United Kingdom / Ireland


by John Berger
United Kingdom


In a Free State (short story)**
by V. S. Naipaul
United Kingdom / Trinidad and Tobago


by J. G. Farrell
United Kingdom / Ireland


The Elected Member
by Bernice Rubens
United Kingdom


Something to Answer For
by P. H. Newby
United Kingdom

Books will be made available to reviewers whose pitches are accepted.