Sunday, July 5, 2020

Out of Print 38

Out of Print 38 has been released.

If we were to identify a common theme that runs through the stories in the issue, it would be the idea of being taken to or pushed to an edge where you are faced with the untenable. These stories each deal with that precipice in different ways: by acts of heroism, withdrawal, resignation, hope or simply by entering an other, more tenable, reality.

‘Moon Mountain’ by Bangladeshi writer Shaheen Akhtar is an intense, complex and beautifully paced examination of the lingering generational tragedy that results from uprooting and displacing a people. It is set in the  besieged Chittagong Hill Tracts. A young boatman confronts the submergence of his ancestral village lying below him as he ferries ignorant, self-absorbed tourists through the beautiful green waters of the Kaptai Dam. Translated elegantly from Bangla by Kabita Chakma, who is herself from the region, we are honoured to feature it.

Three stories come to their culmination by skirting confrontation in different unexpected ways. Anuradha Kumar’s ‘All the Way to the Twelfth Floor’ is told through the voice of Gauri, the domestic help at the home of an elderly gentleman who lives alone in the adjacent apartment building. The narrative brings the reader back, again and again to the dilemma she faces the moment she feels not his gaze but ‘his wrinkled gnarled hands scaly on her skin’. We follow her up and down the endless steps in the stairwell where she withdraws when crisis hits, an extraordinary escape into the self. ‘The Voice from the Garbage Chute’ by Tanvi Saraf is set in a terrifying dystopian extension of the present pandemic realities. The world is shutting down, the measures of the economy have shifted, those who are still alive are incarcerated in their homes, it is illegal to produce children and extinction is a very real possibility. The main protagonist and her husband have found ways to lead a life, a strange but steady life in this scenario when her equanimity is shaken upon hearing a voice. ‘Young, raw, real. It was coming out of the garbage chute.’ How will she react? The next story ‘Umrao’ by Gatha is set in Delhi, where the police have ‘ended their implicit agreement with vampires and started killing them en masse.’ Mrinal has responded to her mother, Umrao’s frightened plea, ‘there are no humans here’ to protect her, and returned home. The story explores the complexity of an acutely difficult mother-daughter relationship, fraught, cruel, unrelenting yet, sometimes tender, whose emotional intensities drive the protagonists into behaving with both petty and profound meanness.

We feature three stories where the narratives drive the main character over an edge into wild, bizarre, seemingly uncharacteristic extreme behaviour. Suhit Kelkar’s, ‘There’s Another Way’, explores an illicit love affair at the very beginning of its existence. The emotional pressures that each of the characters feels, compounded by the lies and secrecy surrounding their meeting, and most of all, the schism in their expectations leads to a dramatic escalation in his response to the situation. In Michelle D’costa’s examination of the loneliness, the resident hopefulness, and the burgeoning interest in body and sexuality of an earnest and relatively naive young woman, the reader is taken to a festival in a women’s college in Bangalore. Titled ‘The Guy Who Could Dance’, the passing, often deliberate small cruelties that are directed at a newcomer, an outsider to the fold and the inherent anxieties that beset her – ‘He will find out you are a virgin, you haven’t even kissed a guy’ – culminate in a response that she does not know she has in her. ‘Dom Teotónio’ is a historical story, set in Goa by Maria Elsa Da Rocha, one of the last writers who wrote in Portuguese, and translated by Paul Melo e Castro. It recounts the preparation for and wedding of a young nobleman. Opening a window both into the lives of the privileged Portuguese gentry of the past and the relationship between different communities in the region, it ends in a dramatic confrontation evoking satisfying sounds of the crashing of swords and the shattering of glass.

Two of the remaining stories in the issue deal with the limit by not quite arriving at it. Saritha Rao-Rayachoti gives us a story of separation, and the potential of reunion told from the point of view of a young woman looking back at her childhood. The power of this story – that conjures aromas as triggers of memory so strongly that the reader can almost experience them – is that it steers clear of drama and draws the reader towards the edge of emotional fulfilment without quite getting there. Mariya Salim’s ‘Burning’ is a story of domestic abuse and marital rape. The protagonist, the abused wife, never quite confronts the abuse or her abuser for what it is. Rather, she circles, like many in our society, around the situation, justifying the actions of her husband and making excuses for him. Will her understanding of the balance of society ever tip?

The last story in this issue of Out of Print 38, ‘Piece of the Moon’ by Vismay Harani is an unlikely one of adventure and heroism. Young love, an errant lover distracted by his telescope, an ultimatum – a demand for a ‘piece of the moon’ as a proof of true love are the ingredients that make up this warm, sweet, human tale of love.

The extraordinary artwork, a 2015 site specific intervention using gold leaf in Shyam Bazaar, Dhaka, that speaks to every story in the issue, is by Ayesha Sulatana.


Out of Print Releases

Out of Print Releases:





Out of Print 36: read the magazine

Out of Print 35: read the magazine



Out of Print 32: read the magazine

Out of Print 31: read the magazine

Out of Print 30: read the magazine

Out of Print 29: read the magazine


Out of Print 27: read the magazine

Out of Print 26: read the magazine

Out of Print 25: read the magazine

Out of Print 24: read the magazine



Out of Print 21: read the magazine

Out of Print 20: read the magazine

Out of Print 19: read the magazine


Out of Print 16: read the magazine

Out of Print 15: read the magazine

Out of Print 14: read the magazine

Out of Print 13: read the magazine









Out of Print 4: read the magazine

Out of Print 3: read the magazine

Out of Print 2: read the magazine

Out of Print 1: read the magazine

Out of Print 0: view the preview


Sunday, April 26, 2020

Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize: The Awards

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize: The Awards


Out of Print was in Kodaikanal at the end of February to participate in the award ceremony for the first edition of the Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize. The ceremony took place at the Kodaikanal International School. What a privilege it was to be on their campus with its charming architecture and glorious old trees and meet the many school children who had sent in their work for the prize.

The prize, that was initiated by Radha Kumar and instituted jointly by the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the Kodaikanal Fellowship Library and Out of Print, was open to school children in grades 10, 11 and 12 who had to submit either a written or multimedia presentation in English or Tamil on one or more of the following themes:
 
·      Are Gandhi's thoughts and actions relevant today? If yes, in which ways?  If not, why not?
·      Gandhi said non-violence is a weapon of the strong. Many say it is a weapon of the weak. What do you think, and why?
·      Gandhi’s philosophy of truth in practice led to India's motto, Satyameva Jayate. What meaning does it have in an era of fake news?

The students were provided with selected readings from Gandhiji’s Hind Swaraj and The Story of My Experiments with Truth and encouraged to engage in their own research as well.

There were close to 200 registrations and approximately 115 submissions.

The first prize was secured by Ishita Pandey from the Kodaikanal International School for her essay ‘Gandhiji’s Philosophies in Today’s World’

Two second prizes were awarded. Mansur Ali Jurabi of Bhavan School received a prize for his multimedia presentation and B. Archana of St. Xavier’s School for her essay in Tamil.

Out of Print is privileged to have the opportunity to publish the prize winners in English on the Out of Print blog.

The prize winning works:
First Prize: Ishita Pandey‘Gandhiji’s Philosophies in Today’s World’, essay
Second Prize: Mansur Ali Jurabi, The Mahathma, multimedia presentation

In late October 2019, Out of Print had the opportunity to ask Radha Kumar who initiated the prize a few questions about her motivation behind setting it up. Here is the link to that conversation.




The Hindu, Tamil edition announces the prizewinners


The Hindu, English edition announces the prizewinners



Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize: First Prize 2020

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize
First Prize

Gandhiji’s Philosophies in Today’s World
An Essay by Ishita Pandey
Kodaikanal Gandhi School


It is the perfect weather outside. Neither sunny nor raining, but flawlessly cloudy. Soft winds dance across the farm, tickling the hair against her face, inviting her to come out and join them. Soon, she sees a group of children, who have run out, taking the invitation of the breeze. They laugh, chase, even fall; yet, they are having the time of their lives. She wishes to join, her heart begs to once again be a part of that innocence, that childhood, that.... But no, she is a young lady of ten years, no longer the careless little girl who could run with the wind and dance in the rain. She now has the responsibility of marriage, which has shut down all the other elements of her life. She hears her mother-in-law calling her in the kitchen, but for a ghost of a second she wants to rebel, say no, run into the wild to join those kids. But just in that second, she remembers to listen to her mind instead of her heart. Her face automatically turns away from the window, a fake smile plasters itself on her face, and she walks down to the kitchen, just the way a well-mannered lady of ten years should.
To many of us this situation may seem bizarre, but it is actually one of the social evils prevalent in India as well as certain places in the rest of the world, which Mahatma Gandhi was vehemently against. He himself had married his wife Kasturba when she was only 14 years old, and in his autobiography, ​The Story of My Experiments with Truth​, he condemns this by saying, ‘I can see no moral argument in support of such a preposterously early marriage ... In doing so there was no thought of our welfare, much less our wishes. It was purely a question of their own convenience and economy.’ Gandhiji recollects the factors which joined him and Kasturba in this relationship, hurling them into the ocean of life with no knowledge or experience. After becoming more mature, he realised his true roles and responsibilities towards his wife, and tried to fulfil his duties as a caring husband. Taking inspiration from the life of such an accomplished man, it is evident that we should take action against this deleterious custom by spreading the knowledge of the drawbacks of such a tradition in our society. However, this is not the only ‘Gandhian’ ideal which is relevant in our world today, and upon true rumination, one would come across various thoughts and actions practiced by Gandhiji, which if brought back would be highly beneficial to our society.
Looking at today’s world which has rapidly developing nuclear weapons, a gap between the rich and the poor so large that it would take years to truly fill, and propaganda and fake news manufactured by politicians, overdosing the minds of the public, Gandhiji would not have been proud. It would be apparent to him that our world is losing its connection with the morals of brotherhood, respect and the upliftment of all, values which were essential to him throughout his life. Not only is the world losing track of these principles, but the very home country of Gandhiji, India, seems to be deviating from his ideals, as well. Heavy corruption, violent protests and social evils which still prevail to this day are evidence of the fact that our country has not managed to live up to the vision Gandhiji imagined. Certainly, a deeper understanding of the ideals of ‘Gandhism’ and the determination to practise them in our lives, would be most beneficial in today’s world. If the Gandhian pillars of sarvodaya, satyagraha and an unbreakable trust in truth are brought into everyday practices then, not just our country, but the entire world could truly be transformed.
Sarvodaya is an ideal which aspires for the upliftment of all and although it may seem like an impractical concept, its application can lead to the creation of a much more united society. The caste system of India, which Gandhiji was so vehemently against, can be abolished through belief in the ideal of sarvodaya. Harijana, meaning people of God, was the name assigned by Gandhiji to those of the lower caste who were originally called untouchables, giving them the respect they deserved, just as any other person of the country. Putting this philosophy into practice and wanting to inspire others to consider it as well, Gandhiji refused to enter temples where the Harijana were not allowed. He once said, ‘I do not want to be reborn. But if I have to be reborn, I should be born an untouchable, so that I share their sorrows, sufferings and affront levelled at them, in order that I may endeavour to free myself and them from the miserable conditions.’ His extreme compassion and desire to help such people must be brought into our lives, as well. In the seemingly developed world of today, discriminatory biases such as this not only exist, but they often guide people’s lives, determining their behaviour towards others and the principles which they adhere to. To prevent such backward thinking from controlling our societies, we must take inspiration from Gandhi’s belief of treating everyone equally, as is portrayed in his autobiography, ​The Story of My Experiments with Truth​, ‘It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow beings.’ Once we begin to think in this manner by humbling ourselves and treating everyone with equal respect, we would truly create heaven on Earth.
As we all know, Gandhiji willingly offered much of his life for the struggle for the independence of India which he called Swaraj, but his fight did not end there. He believed that to truly reach a state of full independence, we must gain freedom from the social evils destructing the country from within, such as child marriage, sati and the caste system. He once said in reference to the country’s behaviour towards the Harijana that ‘Swaraj is a meaningless term, if we desire to keep a fifth of Indians under subjugation and deliberately deny them the fruits of national culture,’ and it still applies to us till this day. In today’s India, even after 73 years of gaining independence from Britain, we are still ruled under the scourge of racial and gender discrimination of those times. Bringing back Gandhiji’s vehement opposition to such customs, we can only claim to be a country which has fully achieved freedom once such illegitimate and harmful social evils of our society are overthrown.
As can be seen throughout the decisions Gandhiji took during his life, all of his ideas stem from the need for self-evolution before changes in the rest of society can be achieved. This ability to change yourself is only achieved in strong-willed people. The principles of Gandhism may appear to be simple, but upon true application of the ideals of tolerance, non-violence and truthfulness in some of life’s most testing situations does one realize the extreme dedication and commitment required to maintain these ideals. Many would claim that the practice of ahimsa, non-violence, is a weapon of cowards, but the claim itself is incorrect. Ahimsa extends to something much beyond the level of fighting and considering it as a weapon is paradoxical to its very essence of non-violence. Instead, it should be understood as the belief that all humans have been originated from one united being and to hurt another is to hurt oneself. Many do not realise that one must be emotionally and psychologically strong to be able to accept harm and not retaliate, making non-violence not a weapon but a trait of the courageous. It must be realised that ahimsa does not mean sitting back and allowing for cruelty to take place, but it is actually a vehicle of justice where, with strong will and conviction in the power of non-violence and active love, one is able to change the other’s perspectives and achieve righteousness.
This is shown most vividly in the chapter ‘The Test’ from Gandhiji’s autobiography, in which he is mobbed and beaten by the white Natals of South Africa to the limit where he faints. These people were under the impression that Gandhiji had made baleful comments about them in India, which was untrue. Although he was not at fault and had almost died due to the misconception of the white Natals, Gandhiji decided not to prosecute any of his assailants, saying that ‘... I do not hold the assailants to blame... I am sure that, when the truth becomes known, they will be sorry for their conduct.’ It feels almost impossible to imagine a man with such strong belief in the power of truth and non-violence that even though he almost lost his life, he was still able to react with kindness. Taking a leaf from his book of life experiences and unending attempts to live a life full of compassion and ahimsa, we must apply these morals in order to end violent protests and unjust wars with neighbours which often result in the death of thousands of innocent people, to reach the state of a tight-knit society, which avoids conflict and works to reach the vision of the world Gandhiji had once imagined.
These beliefs also become the basis of Gandhiji’s ideal of satyagraha, which literally translates to an effort in the direction of truth. The aim of satyagraha is to cultivate a sense of moral right and wrong in the oppressors and, as stated by Reinhold Niebuhr, a renowned theologian, such an approach of defiance is able to ​’rob the opponent of the moral conceit by which he identifies his interests with the peace and order of society.’ In this way, satyagraha is able to instill a sense of moral understanding in the hearts of those committing sinful deeds, causing them to understand and ultimately end their vile actions. Surprisingly, Gandhiji believed that one should give ‘his opponent the same independence and feelings of liberty that he reserves to himself and he will fight by inflicting injuries on his own person,’ which is extremely hard to apply in our practical lives. When faced with a person doing wrong towards our interests, we immediately look for ways in which the person could be weakened in their advancements and stopped; however, Gandhiji asks us to have strong belief in the acts of non-cooperation and civil disobedience, branches of the tree of satyagraha, through which the opponent will realise his mistake and finally stop indulging in them. The amount of determination and patience that such an action requires makes satyagrahis the real warriors compared to those who resort immediately to arms in the face of crisis. If brought into our world, satyagraha and ahimsa coupled together may solve many grievous problems without anyone having to even raise a hand.
Following these ideals does not only cater to overthrowing oppressors but also to a way of life. People who adhere to this ideal must be willing to ‘always keep an open mind and be ever ready to find that what we believed to be truth was, after all, untruth,’ as Gandhiji proclaimed. To him, the absolute truth was the ultimate reality of the universe, something he regarded as God, because he felt it to be the only source of certainty in life. All other aspects of life were uncertain to him and therefore, he strived to catch a glimpse of what he believed was the only constant in this continuously changing world. Gandhiji also connected the importance of humility to one of the most essential factors in the search for truth, saying that, ‘The seeker after truth should be humbler than the dust. The world crushes the dust under its feet, but the seeker after truth should so humble himself that even the dust could crush him. Only then, and not till then, will he have a glimpse of truth.’ Through this we understand how deeply intertwined these values are and which further exemplifies that only when a person is able to forego all emotions of hate, greed and egotistic pride can he venture out in the search for truth.
Gandhiji’s fervent support of the ideology of truth in practice was the basis of our country’s motto of ‘Satyameva Jayate,’ meaning that truth always prevails. It attempts to inspire people to live a life of truthfulness by being honest to themselves, the people around them and their country by becoming more accepting of the fragments of truth perceived by others in a diverse society, allowing us to become more united. In today’s world of fake news, propaganda and information which has been filtered endlessly, the impact of this ideal and Gandhiji’s vision of truth seems to be reducing. Therefore, it is essential to restore public faith in the ideal that our nation stands for truth and honesty. Although it is a large goal to achieve, the seeker after truth must be earnest and determined, making changes within himself before a change in the society can be achieved. Once we, the civilians of our nation, take the onus of revolutionising the current state of our country by taking even the smallest actions such as refusing to pay bribes, working in accordance with the law and condemning all forms of corruption, the ideal of truth will be restored throughout the country.
Although we have progressed tremendously from the times of the British rule against which Gandhiji led the entire nation to a revolution, our country today is still in dire need for a revolution; however, this time, it is against an oppression which has taken the form social evils, violence and the everlasting influence of fake news. Nevertheless, the true state of swaraj and freedom from unethical actions can only be achieved once all citizens truly understand the thoughts and actions that Gandhiji lived by and strive to implement them in their everyday lives. Respecting all humans through a belief in sarvodaya, practising the belief of ahimsa and satyagraha and living a life that goes forth on the lesser travelled road of truth, we can unite to make our nation and our world a place full of brotherhood and love. Certainly, upon achieving this resolve of non-violence, respect and humility, there is no problem in the world that we cannot solve. Through these ideals we must take actions and decisions to aspire to change ourselves and grow as a nation because as Gandhiji said, ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world.’


References
Gandhi, M K and Mahadev Desai. ​An Autobiography or The Story of My Experiments with Truth​, Gbd Books, 2012.
Baura, Rajen. ‘Relevance of Gandhi In Modern Times | Articles on and by Gandhi’. Mkgandhi.Org​:​https://www.mkgandhi.org/articles/relevance-of-gandhi-in-modern-times.html​.
Parida, Om. ‘Relevance of Gandhianism in Today’s World’, Times Of India Blog,​ 2019. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/the-rock-bottom/relevance-of-gandhianism-in-todays- world/​.
Mishra, Pankaj. ‘Gandhi for The Post-Truth Age’, ​The New Yorker,​ 2018. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/22/gandhi-for-the-post-truth-age.

Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize: Second Prize 2020

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize

Second Prize

The Mahathma
A Multimedia Presentation by
Mansur Ali Jurabi
Bhavan School







The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize - A Conversation with Radha Kumar

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize

The Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize for high-school students was initiated by Radha Kumar, the journalist, writer, analyst, and author most recently, of Paradise at War: A Political History of Kashmir (1).

Out of Print is privileged to be part of the prize along with the KMU Library and the Gandhi Peace Foundation.

In early October 2019, when the prize was announced, Indira Chandrasekhar, founder and principal editor at Out of Print asked Radha a few questions on why she had felt the need to institute the prize. We held the interview to publish it with the announcement of the prize winners. Given all that has happened in the country and the world since late last year, it seems doubly relevant to review the inspiration and thinking that went into the prize.

Radha, this is such an important initiative. What made you think of instituting the Kodaikanal Gandhi Prize?
I have been feeling in dire need of Mahatma Gandhi for the past eight years, as violence, untruth and meanness of spirit have overtaken our polity. I knocked on many doors in the hopes that political and intellectual leaders might start a fresh Gandhian movement, but with no success.  Finally, I felt it was important to take an individual initiative, however small it might be, and in keeping with Gandhi's spirit, it had to start at home. Kodaikanal, where I now live, is still a pluralist town of Hindus, Muslims and Christians which stands apart from the religious chauvinism that we see in so many other parts of our country. What better place, then, to start thinking and talking about the relevance of Gandhi's views and actions today? Indeed, community groups immediately responded to my idea, and I am proud that it is being supported by the KMU Library. Ironically Gandhi has been rediscovered all over the world – even in war-torn Afghanistan – but in our country he has become a token for government to pay lip service to but not follow.

Why did you want to gear the prize at students of grades 10, 11 and 12?
We routinely celebrate Gandhi but we do not read him or practise his ideas and methods. So, the impromptu group that we formed for the prize decided that we would aim at the 10+2 students with the requirement that their entries show their reading and absorption of Gandhi's philosophy, whether they agree with it or not. In keeping with his inclusivity, entries can be either in English or Tamil and they can be either written or multimedia.

I know that you put considerable thought into the themes for the competition. They truly draw attention to Gandhi as a political, social and philosophical leader. Would you share some thoughts on the themes?
There are three themes, and we all in Kodaikanal felt that you had contributed the most important one, on truth.

Thank you for that, Radha. Like many of us, I feel Gandhi’s absolute commitment to the Truth is like a raft we must hold onto in a treacherous sea.
On the first theme, Gandhi's relevance today, I have referred to it above, but if I might elaborate, his many writings on communal violence and religious intolerance make clear that he would be anguished by their explosion across our country. I often feel ashamed that I am not in Jharkhand or UP, the most frequent sites of mob lynchings, sitting on hunger strike against them, because I believe the act will have an impact even in our vindictive times. Since August 5, I have been haunted by the thought of what Gandhi would do, surely a satyagraha to protest the deliberate subjugation and humiliation of an entire community, the Kashmiris.

On the second theme, our ruling party members and their supporters in the media routinely dismiss peace initiatives as a sign of weakness, even cowardice. As Gandhi showed in both word and deed, making peace not only demands a strong will and the courage to persist, it is a hallmark of just and compassionate leadership, central to our dharma and the vision of Ramrajya. At the current time, when an intolerant and forcible concept of Hinduism is spreading rapidly across our country, Gandhi's emphasis on the values, methods and behaviour of peacemaking is invaluable.

Tell us about the jury
The jury includes one member each from the sponsoring organisations – the Gandhi Peace Foundation, the Kodaikanal Fellowship – KMU Library, the journal Out of Print, at least one Tamil reader, possibly two, and myself. The Gandhi Peace Foundation has traditionally offered support and sanctuary to citizens combatting divisive conflict in our country, indeed during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi they were the base from which protection and relief work for Sikhs was carried out. The KMU Library is a public library run by a group of volunteers who are involved in a range of community activities, from a cooperative pottery to a women's tailoring collective to garbage collection, to mention but a few. Your journal sets a standard of inclusivity and will provide inestimable encouragement to young creators. I am proud and grateful to have these three institutions on board: with their help I believe this small initiative might gather strength and grow.

Members of the Gandhi family have shown support and encouragement for the Prize and have offered to remain associated with it, contributing their time and intellectual commitment going forward.

1. Paradise at War: A Political History of Kashmir by Radha Kumar, Aleph Book Company, 2018.



Saturday, April 25, 2020

Out of Print 37


Out of Print 37 has been released into a world where our realities are in transition, where we accept the imposition of draconian measures in the hope of sustaining humankind, where, after a brief period of shock and outreach and sympathy when we first began to understand that we could not rein in the microbe, we retreat to tribal, territorial, othering modes.

The cover image for this release of Out of Print is by Dhruvi Acharya. Titled ‘Painting in the Time of Corona, 11 April 2020, lockdown day 18’ (watercolour on paper, 50.8 cm by 36.2 cm), it is one of an extraordinary series that she began on March 22, 2020, the day of the Janata Curfew. By that time, Dhruvi had been in self-isolation for ten days. She soon challenged herself to try and complete a painting every day of lockdown. Each of the pictures is an intense reflection of what she is, what we are going through, visually compelling and profoundly thought-provoking. But the one on the cover, with its layered complexity and multiple stories struck us as a way to gaze from the bizarre reality of the present time to a set of tense, strong stories written before the pandemic.


Painting in the Time of Corona, 11 April 2020, lockdown day 18’ Dhruvi Acharaya
watercolour on paper, 50.8 cm by 36.2 cm
Out of Print 37 features six stories. They deal with love, loss, desire, neglect, faith, compromise, power and its misuse, caste and injustice, and disease.

Perhaps ‘Phantom Vibration Syndrome’ by Supriya Kaur Dhaliwal bears the most direct connection to the dystopic, disease-ridden reality of today. The story is set in a world struck by a pandemic that throws all perceptions of normalcy awry. In this scenario the protagonist tries to come to terms with living in India after many years of the liberation that anonymity provides, carve out her intellectual and professional life, and pursue love.

Zui Kumar-Reddy’s ‘Tyre’ has a terrifying trajectory. We enter the protagonist’s mind as she struggles with the grief and displacement and mental schisms born of loss. The devastating consequences of this pain, the random impact that her distraction and preoccupation with her internal anxieties have as she fights for balance simply cannot be anticipated. A reader enters the landscape as an innocent, a sympathetic and increasingly more engaged observer, and leaves, completely wrung.

With Vignesh Babu’s ‘Gobi Manchurian’ and Banojyotsna Lahiri’s ‘The Curse’ we examine power, control, hierarchy and injustice. Poverty, class and social vulnerability drive Vignesh Babu’s story. The narrator and main protagonist, Selvi’s tough, biting attitude turns tender when she speaks of her daughter Rani. With no illusions as to how the world functions, Selvi does everything necessary to make her daughter’s life a better one. ‘The Curse’, that traverses centuries, looks at the unchanging cruelty of caste. Set in the hot, dry interior of central India, it follows Bhoomi who has been violated and killed and trapped in a well built for and by the untouchables in her village. When she is ultimately released, it is into the middle of a dispute over water where a young mahar girl is lynched.

The remaining two stories offer a sense of hope. ‘The Year of the Kurinji’ by Vidya Ravi opens with the line, ‘Krishna has been a virgin wife for a year.’ It is the year of the kurinji, the purple flower that blooms in the hills of the Western Ghats once a decade. ’Why, wouldn’t that seal any marital union? Lord Murugan had adorned the tribal girl Valli with a garland to consummate their romance. … But, the bloom was late.’ The story evokes Draupadi and the five Pandava brothers as Krishna explores the love and lust she feels for her husband and his brothers.

‘Senthil’s Last Song’ by Praveena Shivram is about a singer who ‘could feel the music travel through his veins like heat’. But the music has halted, he can no longer sing. As the story weaves in and out of two worlds, the reader journeys with Senthil as realises that he can only retrieve his voice when he recognises who he is and where he comes from.