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NOTE FROM THE SERIES EDITOR by Dr. Sourav Banerjee
TMYS Review, a quarterly imprint of www.tellmeyourstory.biz (TMYS), began in 2020 with the vision of popularising stories from personal experiences and academic research. Diverse themes covered under TMYS Review are conscious about documenting women's history of a generation because for every subject, every topic, women have a different story to tell which points towards all those aspects that the society as a whole and people individually must take note and respond to. The effort has been recognised by global thought leaders and universities with their generous participation and/or collaborations. TMYS Review works on sparking gender sensitivity by engaging a community of emerging and established scholars/writers through creative writing and critical thinking. The primary audience comprises of students – the future torchbearers and other literary enthusiasts, who are constantly inspiring and moulding the world with their words.
EDITORIAL By Shweta Sur (Project Lead)
“If we are to preserve culture, we must continue to create it.”
Culture can be understood as integral to a person's identity, contributing to how one comprehends one’s own and others' identities within a particular setting. Cultural identities are not synonymous with or dependant on geographical boundaries as they are constructed and maintained through the process of sharing collective knowledge such as traditions, heritage, language, aesthetics, norms and customs. Cultural theorists, Collier and Thomas suggest that each one of us has a distinct personal, social, and cultural identity that is dynamic, complex, and multi-layered and expound the term as “a negotiated identification with and perceived acceptance into a group that has a shared system of symbols and meanings as well as norms/rules for conduct” (Chen, 2016).
Poet: Smeetha Bhoumik
Smeetha Bhoumik is a poet, artist, founding editor of the Yugen Quest Review, and founder of the WE literary community (2016). She is the Chief Editor of Equiverse Space - A Sound Home in Words (WE anthology, Notion, 2018) and has hosted ‘Writing As Bridges’, WE panel at Asia Pacific Writers & Translators (APWT), Bangalore on November 30, 2022. She facilitates poetry at #CeWoPoWriMoWE. Her favourite poetic form is the Sestina. As the Founder of WE, she has helped establish several poetry awards, including the WE Kamala Das Poetry Award. Her poems feature in national/ international journals, anthologies including TMYS Review Sept 22 – Food & Drinks, Sunflowers – Ukrainian Poetry on War, Resistance, Hope, Peace (River Paw, 2022) Oxygen - Parables of the Pandemic 2022, Quesadilla & Other Adventures 2019, Muse India 2017, 2018, Life and Legends 2018, Modern English Poetry by Younger Indians– Sahitya Akademi 2019, Unlikely Stories Mark V, Open Your Eyes - A Climate Change Anthology, Freedom Raga, Poetry & Covid project - Universities of Plymouth and Nottingham Trent, Writing Language, Culture - Asia vs Africa, Mwanaka, among others. Her art, mainly the 'Universe Series' has been shown in exhibitions in India and abroad.
FABRIC(Based on Dr. Malini Divakala’s presentation, referred at the end of the poem)
In India, the style is in the flowing drapes,
And the drape is in the fabric;
So, it's essential to understand how it takes shape,
Says Malini Divakala.
Traditionally, say in kalamkari,
Known by different names in different regions,
because the language changes in each;
The concept remains the same
Even while practices may differ.
LANGUAGE - Voice & Lit
(Based on Dr. Somrita Urni Ganguly’s presentation, referred at the end of the poem)
If there were no speakers using it,
A language would exist in vacuum!
'In a sort of no-man's land,
Going nowhere’, says Urni.
I'm listening spellbound.
When new learners, speakers, linguists
Engage with languages,
They learn and evolve
Stretching knowledge, perception, and glossary,
And with them, the language evolves,
Both languages and cultures grow
With a diversity of interactions,
In creative, illumined exchanges!
Poet: Suchita Parikh-Mundul
Suchita Parikh-Mundul is a writer and copy editor. Her poetry has appeared in literary magazines like Narrow Road, The Bombay Literary Magazine, Yugen Quest Review, Outlook India, Muse India, Sahitya Akademi’s Indian Literature, and anthologies such as Amity: peace poems (ed. Sahana Ahmed, Hawakal, 2022), The Well-Earned (ed. Kiriti Sengupta, Hawakal, 2022), as well as international compilations. Her articles have appeared in bothprint magazines and websites.
The sky is her forehead, balancing
the sun as it rises each morning,
a vermillion globe hanging
on a red thread stretching
from beginning to end, dividing
hemispheres equally. The emblem
of tradition splits her crown
while circling conversations
THE WEDDING SARI
carries your before and after,
the clouds, the sun’s golden band,
all pinned in place,
its pleats measuring time
the sweetness of hope,
each tucked into the waist,
Poet: Aishwarya Das Gupta
Aishwarya Das Gupta works at the Department of English, Calcutta Girls’ College. She has recently completed her MPhil from the University of Calcutta. Her poems have found homes in various national and international collections. Her first anthology of poems entitled Becomings has been published by Hawakal Publishers.
FORESTS HAVE ALWAYS HAD
Their own unacknowledged politics
Their rare sense of shared histories
Bound by geographical threads of
Being and a disquieting sentience
Drawing and redrawing
Fuming their meaningful shadows
Poet: Sayan Aich
Sayan Aich Bhowmik is Assistant Professor, Department Of English, Shirakole Mahavidyalaya. He published his debut collection of poems, I Will Come With A Lighthouse, in 2021.
OLD MASTER-JI'S SHOP
The tributaries of the five rivers
Snake their way inside the skin
Of this old, old man,
Who measures and scissors snippets of the sky
Stitching onto cotton and silk
For as long as the women in the neighbourhood can remember.
He is the tailor master or Master-ji
As he is known in every tongue spoken in this country.
And he has let the tea on the counter go cold
Arguing with me over the texture of the salwar.
He sews an entire autumn on the pallu,
Whispering in my ears—“This is the colour to dissolve the night”.
And I, who leapt between cities,
I, who wore time zones across my collar bones
Poet: Dr. Nabanita Sengupta
A translator, creative writer and academician, Nabanita Sengupta holds a PhD in English. She has 2 works of translation to her credit, one volume of edited anthology of critical essays and an edited anthology of poetry. Her latest publication is an anthology of poems Three Witches’ Songs, composed with two other poets. Her poems and creative writings have been published in various journals and anthologies, both print and online. She also has an e-book of short stories to her name.
THAT HOLI SPLASHED HER WITH COLOURS BRIGHT
That white was a barrier
like the icy deserts of the north
cordoning off her barren world
breaking away from the stream
of activities and life that had been
an archipelago of broken dreams
and desires sealed away in tins
That white spelled the story of her life,
her voice a mute spectator
the tongue concealed within two lips
LANGUAGES ARE HOME
I seek the language
to call my own,
as my disobedient tongue
embraces them all,
as they come.
In the exuberance of youth,
a diffident Bihari childhood
clashed with the smooth shine
of a polished metropolitan.
The capital city jeered,
at the unrefined expressions,
born of a rustic tongue.
THOSE SANDESH MOULDS
Author: Kathakali Mukherjee
Kathakali Mukherjee translates folktales and writes fiction. Translation was her childhood dream while less known folktales with big cultural and historical significance always attracted her. Professionally she looked after communication, translation, and content creation tasks of German and French projects in the software sector and as a hobby, she translated Bengali and German folk literature collected by 19th-21st century folklorists. Opportunity to live in different parts of India helped her to know different people, their culture and way of life. This experience encouraged her later to write stories in which she illustrates life as she sees it. Many of her stories are published in TMYS Review, and some in other online magazines, Amazon Kindle and her blogs.
The blog: https://bangiyokatha.blogspot.com/?m=1
WordPress site: HTTPS://kathamukh.wordpress.com/
Manorama was staring anxiously at her grandchildren sitting in a corner of the room. It was her daughter's home in Asansol. This daughter of hers had five children. One of them was supposed to take her to her sister's place in Burdwan. The granddaughter was a preferable companion to her. The fourteen-year-old girl was more polite than her seventeen-year-old brother. The boy would not let the grandma count prayer beads in public. Previous month he had forced her to stop reciting the chants for God inside a local train. “People are watching!” He scolded. She prayed to God again and again to pardon the rude boy.
Whether it was twenty years long strict widowhood practices or some genetic trait that took away all her teeth and greyed all her hair, remained an enigma. Yet the sixty-five-year-old looked strong in her short and slim structure. Since her husband had passed away, the wife of the former tea-tester dedicated herself to widowhood rituals of eating one meal a day, wearing all white, shaving head, reciting Krishna's names a thousand times a day and walking barefoot. Only a couple of years ago she was forced to break one rule after she experienced the horror of walking barefoot on Delhi roads in summer. Her children and relatives lived in different locations in India, and she floated from one's home to another’s. Her husband did not leave her a home. What made the man, who had only heard of his ancestral village in Dhaka from his grandfather, decide to shift to an unknown destination quitting his job in Assam, along with quitting his own identity? That was during World War II. “Krishna Krishna!” Manorama did not know the answer.
(Story submitted by the family)
Ajit Kumar Banerjie was born on 14 April 1930, in a Bengali family of Educationists in Varanasi. Son to a father who was the Principal in one of the most prominent colleges in Varanasi and mother, who was a homemaker and a voracious reader, Ajit picked up interest in literature, music and arts very early in life. After completing Post-Graduation in Psychology from Benaras Hindu University and a Licentiate in Teaching and Diploma in Guidance Psychology, he joined The Air Force Selection Board of the Indian Air Force as a Senior Scientific Officer. A multitalented individual, he had an excellent command on several languages including Bangla, Hindi, Urdu and English with proficiency in singing, playing harmonium and tabla, drawing and painting in oil and water colours, theatre and writing prose and poems. His published works include articles and essays, short stories and novel for children, youth and intellectuals. He was very passionate when it came to organising social events and cultural programmes. He left for his heavenly abode on 24 February 2018.
Motherless Saraswati was the loving and only daughter of Pandit Neelkanth Shashtri. Saraswati too loved her father. Shashtriji was known for his vast knowledge of various aspects of Hindu Philosophy and Horoscope. Whenever he sat in his room to study scriptures, Saraswati used to fan him standing beside. At that time she was only ten years old.
They had their home in a lane of Delhi’s famous Chandni Chowk, near the Red Fort. Many courtiers of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan and also many rich citizens, occasionally visited Shashtriji. Saraswati had entrusted herself to look after the guests such as making them comfortable or offer water. Also, she never forgot the palanquin bearers of those rich guests. She offered them water too. It was said that the water offered by her was cool and sweet. Truth be told, it was her smiling face which was refreshing!
A friend of Shashtriji lived in the Red Fort. He used to visit his friend every day. Saraswati was told that walking on the floor of the Fort felt like velvet. There were beautiful palaces and a pearl mosque. Also the walls had engraved artistic designs in colour. In addition, one cannot describe the grace of the Peacock throne. She had longed to see them and often expressed her desire to her father to take her there. But her father always avoided the topic. One day she became adamant, which ultimately made her father agree. He thought that it was a matter of one day only. However, he was unaware of the fact, that for Saraswati it was going to be a daily affair.
Next day she rode with her father on his horse, to the fort. Outside the fort, it was all rocky, full of thorny bushes. But inside, there was a soft grass land, coloured flower plants and trees laden with fruits.
THE CAPRICE OF COLOUR
Author: Urmi Chakravorty
Urmi Chakravorty is a military spouse and former educator who has imbibed lasting life lessons from both her roles. As a guest contributor, her discerning articles, stories and poems have found space in The Hindu, The Times of India, and multiple web platforms. Many of them have won her accolades, and several have found a home in prose and poetry anthologies, both in digital and print versions. She is the proud recipient of the Orange Flower Awards, 2022, instituted by Women’s Web, for writing on LGBTQIA issues. She secured the Second Position in the S7 National Poetry Writing Competition, earlier this year. Reviewing is another area that Urmi finds engaging. Her review of poetry and fiction on literary platforms and on sites like Amazon and Goodreads have garnered popular appreciation. She also dabbles in freelance editing, when time permits. Urmi believes that writing provides the calm to her inner cacophony.
April, 1930, Nawabganj village, Sylhet (present-day Bangladesh)
Tin-tina-tin-tina-tin…the grand portals of the Chowdhury mansion woke up to the tintinnabulation of prayer bells as Kironbala Debi emerged from the in-house temple, looking remarkably calm and gratified. She looked heavenwards and muttered a prayer to the golden orb peeking through the roseate sky.
Kiron Debi was up with the lark every day, and would head straight to the temple where her friend-cum-confidante, Jomuna Sanyal, would be waiting for her to arrive. The sparkling silver puja thaali, overflowing with fresh flowers, tulsi and bael leaves, sandalwood paste and incense sticks, would be kept ready. The family priest would then light the ghee lamps, chant the mantra, and conduct the prayer in complete reverence.
In her borderless, cream gorod saree adorning her flawless, peach-and-pink complexion, the 50-year-old Kiron Debi looked every inch the Chowdhury matriarch that she was. Her waist-long, wavy, raven hair was punctuated by just a few peeking strands of grey. The cascading hair accentuated her fair-toned back, partially covered only by her saree pallu. She would fervently seek divine blessings for everyone in the household – her son, daughter-in-law, and a retinue of loyal servants, many of whom had been serving them since generations. Her husband, the late Rai Bahadur Jagadish Chandra Chowdhury, was a zamindar of great repute in these parts. A Sanskrit scholar, he was known to staunchly oppose the corrupting influence of the so-called ‘reforms’ imposed upon his devout subjects by the beef-eating whites.
Author: Subhankar Dutta
Subhankar Dutta is a Senior Research Fellow and Teaching Assistant in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department (HSS) of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay. He is working on the Performance, History, and Cultural Politics of the Gajan (Hook Swinging) Festival of Bengal. He has completed a Master’s in English Literature from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) and a Bachelor’s degree from Midnapore College. He is also a senior academic editor of New Literaria: An International Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities and has worked with Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities as an academic editor. He has been an ICSSR research associate and field investigator for a major project on the pandemic and performing artists in India. He was a writing intern at The Critical Childhoods and Youth Studies Collective (CCYSC) in South Asia. His co-edited anthology of poetry, Musings on Pandemic (2021), is published by Authorspress. His academic and creative writings appeared in Visual Ethnography, Taylor and Francis, JCLA, Rupkatha, Atlantic, Borderless Journal, and others. He seeks interest in performance, folklore, theatre, and creative writing. For more, please check, https://subhankarduttas.wordpress.com/
The beating of the dhak, along with a procession, passed through the narrow lanes of the village Kharakhai. Bittu could not help but get out of his homework and run to the choumatha (the village square) to witness the procession of Gajan devotees returning to the temple after mahasnanam in the holy pond. As the Gajan ascetics dancing in the rhythmic bit crossed the village lane, the villagers gathered on the two sides of the road, throwing flowers at them.
Chaitra, the last month of the Bengali calendar, brings along the rituals of Spring. Every year, on the advent of the Chaitra month, mid-April, the villagers gather at the temple premises to witness the worshippers, the bhaktas, and their various rites and bodily feats. Managing time from his daily homework, Bittu often found a narrow escape to be an eye-witness to all the rituals of Gajan happening near his home at the Gajan tola. The setting sun of the late spring, the dusty road, the returning herd of cows from the grazing field, the passers-by, and the moving crowd towards the Gajan ground painted the early evening with various colours. Bittu would be mesmerised with so much happening around him. Finding a safe corner at the festival ground, he stood quietly to see things from a distance: the ascetics worshipping Shiva collectively at the temple, the visitors folding hands in reverence, the dhakis beating in rhythm, the villagers waiting for the prasad, the children crying in front of the toy shop. The people at the mela ground, with gaiety and excitement on their faces, eagerly waited to receive the grace of the devotees who are believed to be the divine embodiment of the lord Shiva. Bittu, standing near the temple corner, was looking desperately for one of the bhaktas.
Books and Films
LANGUAGE, APPEARANCE AND SYMBOLS OF OTHERNESS IN CHITRA BANERJEE DIVAKARUNI'S PALACE OF ILLUSIONS
Author: Boijayanto Mukherjee
Boijayanto Mukherjee is a NET qualified Ph.D. aspirant hailing from Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan. Having completed his Bachelor’s from Durgapur’s oldest college, Durgapaur Government College, Boijayanto went on to earn his Master’s degree from Tagore’s own Visva-Bharati, finishing 2nd in his batch. He has a unique flair for fine arts and painting too, which has brought him recognition. An avid reader and thorough researcher, he has presented academic papers at national conferences on Shakespeare as well as Feminism and Indian Writing in English. Recently, alongside pursuing his academics, he has been collaborating with his mentors from Durgapur Government College and contributing to projects in the field of Graphic Novel. He has remained associated with #TellMeYourStory since 2018.
The concept of the ‘Self’ vs. the ‘Other’ in literature and in all socio-political/cultural fields, is based upon the theory of the late 17th century German philosopher Georg W. F. Hegel that defines the ‘other’ as an inalienable part of the ‘self’. Simply put, the empowered consciousness of the ‘self’ exists only when compared and contrasted with the disempowered ‘other’. In Literature, the ‘self’ traditionally stands for the single, authoritative voice of the author and/or the narrator of a text while the ‘other’ stands for the voices that have been made passive or arbitrarily silent. Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni’s acclaimed novel The Palace of Illusions wonderfully observes the expressions of otherness through the lens of the mythical princess, Panchaali, more popularly known as Draupadi.
Written as a series of recollections, The Palace of Illusions is a modern retelling of the Mahabharata from the perspective of its leading lady. Often hailed as the spark that lighted the fire of the Kurukshetra War, Divakaruni’s art lies in the re-introduction of Draupadi as a cog in the great Wheel of Fate. The author has employed subtle and loud symbolisms, depending on the juncture of her storytelling, explaining the otherness through evolving appearance and language of her characters – especially the women and primarily, Draupadi. This essay attempts to look at some distinct parameters that help construct Draupadi’s otherness in the novel.
Draupadi’s entry into the lore begins with her emerging out of the sacrificial fire, saree clad and dawdling her way into Drupad’s court holding on to her brother. She wears a saree right from her birth, albeit oversized, and is accompanied by her brother as they take ‘baby steps’ out of the sacrificial fire. As much as her brother is graceful in his princely etiquettes, she isn’t!
“You were as dark as he was fair, as hasty as he was calm. Coughing from the smoke, tripping over the hem of your sari, grabbing for his hand and almost sending him tumbling too-” (P. 18)
Draupadi is not entitled to the time for learning the ways of life. The liberties she takes to be childishly naïve or immature are not taken kindly. She emerges from fire to be thrown amidst a bigger fire of conspiring leaders frying their own propaganda. They all try to exploit her in order to fulfil their own purpose. Draupadi fights with them right from the beginning, with an ability to stand her ground firmly. The fact that she is born as an adult is one of the most defining aspects of her otherness.
DISMANTLING THE GENDERED CULTURE IN DRESSING AND FASHION: THE RANVEER SINGH SAGA
Author: Tishya Majumder
Tishya Majumder is a Ph.D. Researcher in the Department of English, Raiganj University. She has received the University Silver Medal for securing the second position in B.A. and the University Gold Medal for securing the first position in M.A. in English from University of North Bengal. Her publications include ‘The Aquatic Wrath - Portrayal of Flood in Indian Cinema’ (TMYS Review), ‘Captivity’ (The Criterion: An International Journal in English), ‘Phoenix’ (Ardour: An Anthology) and many more. She is a verified Citizen Historian under ‘The 1947 Partition Archive’.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
― Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
In the last twelve years, the one name that has constantly turned heads and spawned excitement is none other than Ranveer Singh! Debuting with the film Band Baaja Baaraat (2010), he has further made his mark in the mainstream entertainment industry with massive successes such as Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela (2013), Bajirao Mastani (2015), Padmaavat (2018), Gully Boy (2019) and so on. His fantastic acting skills, energetic moves, and breathtaking charisma have not only won millions of hearts but have also kept many swooning over him. Apart from his success in the film industry, Ranveer Singh is also well known for his unconventional fashion sense which has often made headlines. The audience has laughed at him for his ‘womanly’ outfits, they circulated memes, made jokes and what not. But Singh has not been affected by those judgmental remarks.
Ranveer Singh’s norm-defying fashion statements have taken the Hindi film industry, media and the Indian society by storm. His personality, energy, larger-than-life outlook and his love for himself are not just reflected in his outfits but also in the way in which he carries himself. What is eye-catching about his choices are the striking colours, patterns and most importantly, the design. Time and again he is found in bright colours such as green, orange, pink, blue, yellow and red, adorned with quirky patterns, which highlights his presence amidst a crowd. He also adds prominent accessories (such as necklaces, sunglasses, bracelets, earrings) to enhance his looks. While most other male actors walk the red carpet in plain black, blue or grey suits, Ranveer Singh makes an appearance in groovy hues embellished with floral, check or abstract patterns. He sometimes pairs them with hats, canes, ponytail or hair bun.
JOHN ABRAHAM'S APPEARANCE IMPACTING GENDER ROLES IN HINDI FILM INDUSTRY
Author: Rianka Sarkar
Rianka Sarkar is a Bangalore based Children’s writer and an environmentalist. She is an Assistant Professor of English, Christ University) and has authored several articles, short stories and book reviews in various online platforms. She is an active member of the International Journal of Creative Research Thoughts. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in north-eastern literature on the partition of Assam. She is a gold medalist from Guru Nanak Dev University and has published papers on the partition history and narratives, folktales and cultural studies.
The primary attraction of a John Abraham film is that it stars John Abraham. Who hadn’t ogled at John Abraham’s well chiseled physique when he carved his niche in the Hindi film industry with his dashing features and dimpled smile? He was one of the six-pack stalwarts to introduce the concept of Ecto-Mesomorph in the Hindi film industry and instantly made every woman drool over him while every man aspired to match his fitness. His iconic look in yellow shorts from Dostana invited a lot of oomph. Be it Jism, Paap, or Desi Boyz, John Abraham had grappled all eyeballs with his slaying body that had been the talk of the town. But if the hero dominates the sex appeal, then what scope does it leave for the female actors who must match up to the audience’s expectations while sharing screen space with an unconventional benchmark? Wouldn’t it be imperative for his heroines to feel the pressure, lest they be wiped off the audience’s memory? Questionably, it must have been quite challenging for the makers of John Abraham films to cast someone opposite him who is equally desirable or at least a contrast, which brings a fair balance to the screen. John’s ideal fitness enabled the film-scripts to strike that resembling balance between the male and female ‘object of desire’ which quite became the quintessential trend ever since the male metro sexuality poured into Hindi movies with actors like Milind Soman, Dino Morea, John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan and many others who fell into the league of actors bearing the ideal statistics. A new genre of hero was created whose body-charm contributed to the story to create a captivating appeal, and John happens to be an iconic figure in making this transition happen.
A CULTURE ON THE BRINK OF EXTINCTION: A STUDY WITH REFERENCE TO THE SELECT WORKS BY KASHMIRI PANDIT AUTHORS
Author: Akhila Mohan CG
Akhila Mohan CG is a Ph.D. research scholar at MATS University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh. Her area of research is “Trauma of Exiled Kashmiri Pandits: An Analysis with Reference to the Select Works of Rahul Pandita and Siddhartha Gigoo.” She is also an award-winning poet and writer, who likes writing free verse and Haiku poetry, essays, short stories, and research articles. More than 50 of her creative write-ups have been published in national and international literary journals, anthologies, and other reputed platforms including Unstamatic, TMYS Review, Scarlet Dragonfly, Whiptail Journal, Failed Haiku, Under the Basho, Juggernaut, and others. Tamarind: Sweet and Sour Poems about Love, Loss, Longing, and Life, published by Kitaab, Singapore, is her debut poetry collection. She is the co-founder of a creative firm based in Chennai (India), ArtLit: An Art & Literary Community. She also provides freelance content writing services to businesses and brands from India and abroad.
Genocide and hate crimes are often targeted towards a community’s religious identity. Such attempts curb their freedom to practice their religious beliefs, follow their customs and celebrate their culture. Historically, religious persecution has been perpetuated repeatedly to exterminate entire communities. What happened to the Jews (during the Nazi holocaust in Germany) and to the Kashmiri Pandits in India (during the exodus) are two of the most tragic examples of ethnic cleansing in recent history. The story of the ordeals of Kashmiri Pandits didn’t end with their genocide and exilic living but continued with the gradual decline of their population and cultural heritage. In exile, they not only lost their homes and loved ones but also their culture, history, art forms, language and scholarship. With subsequent generations, their hope for revival and the preservation of their rich cultural heritage started looking bleak – the entire community is almost on the brink of extinction.
The essay attempts to examine the language of loss and pain in select exile narratives of Kashmiri Pandit authors. Such stories question the Religious Identity and Freedom of the community, contributing tremendously in vocalizing the visual and perceived suppression of their cultural roots.
Keywords: Kashmiri Pandit authors, religious identity and freedom, loss of culture, exile narratives by Kashmiri Pandits, literature in exile.
Introduction: A Culture on the Brink of Extinction
The genocide of the Kashmiri Pandits was one of the most tragic incidents in the history of the Indian subcontinent. What made their plight even worse was the apathy they suffered at the hands of the media, politicians, academicians and other stakeholders. Now, after more than 30 years of living in exile, their culture is on the brink of extinction, because Kashmir, which is an important part of their identity, has been denied to them for all these years.
As Kashmiri Pandit author Agnishekhar writes in his personal essay, “Literature in Exile”, published in Once We Had Everything, edited by Arvind Gigoo, Siddhartha Gigoo and Adarsh Ajit:
“The Kashmiri Pandit is referred to as hangul—a stag on the brink of extinction.” (Agnishekhar, Gigoo & Ajit 2018, 107).
Numerous factors led to their cultural extinction. First, due to mass murders and forceful conversions, the Kashmiri Pandits had already become a minority at the time of their genocide in 1989. Militants labelled them as Indian spies and kafir (infidels) and declared their names on hit lists. Pandits and Hindus were given three options: merge, leave or perish (Pandita 2016, 210). If they refused to leave their homes, they were threatened to be killed. Post their genocide and exodus, very few of them chose to remain in the valley, and many out of those who did, were brutally killed.
Their mass exodus led to further decline of their population in the valley. This also resulted in their dispersal to different parts of the country. Through hard work, they flourished and rebuilt their lives and families wherever they settled. However, desolate and forlorn in a foreign land, in the absence of their tribe around, they struggled to maintain their culture and tradition. Humiliation of forced migration added to their withdrawals. Now, after three decades of an exilic life, their subsequent generations are losing touch with their culture, language and heritage. Journalist and author Rahul Pandita raises a similar concern in his memoir, Our Moon Has Blood Clots: A Memoir of a Lost Home in Kashmir:
“Over the last few years, I have often thought about exile, and about the displaced Pandit families, especially those living in the big cities like Delhi. I began to worry that the story of our community would be lost in the next few decades.” (Pandita 2013, 210).
PRESERVING THE 'SELF' IN WORDS: KALINDRANATH BURMAN AND HIS 'RAJBANGSHI ABHIDHAAN'.
Author: Kinshuk Das
Kinshuk Das is a post-graduate in History from the Presidency University, Kolkata. He is currently pursuing his PhD program from Jadavpur University and is also working as a State-Aided College Teacher at Rani Birla Girls' College, Kolkata. He is currently working on the ethno-cultural identity consciousness among the Rajbangshis in the early colonial era of India. His area of interest lies in the social history, culture and identity of North-East India. An avid follower of football, he also devotes his spare time in social service with U.D.Y.O.G.- an NGO he is currently associated with.
In 1971 social worker and language enthusiast Kalindranath Barman published the very first Rajbangshi abhidhan (dictionary), after almost four years of intense labour and on-field research; making it a very significant event in the discourse of academically documenting the cultural and linguistic heritage of the Rajbangshi people of north-eastern part India. Aimed at preserving the rich linguistic identity, Kalindranath Barman travelled to different parts of northern Bengal in the quest of collecting words, phrases and even traditional idioms that were, and still are, prevalent among the Rajbangshi community; thereby contributing immensely to future research on Rajbangshi philology, and the overall identity consciousness of the community. This essay will attempt to present the importance of Rajbangshi Abhidhan as a source of socio-cultural and linguistic identity. Apart from being a lexical repertoire, the various words, phrases and idioms present in the abhidhan also reflect upon the geo-political, social and cultural world within which the Rajbangshi community had dwelled, their socio-cultural interactions and their consciousness of the ‘self’. As such, more than just being an academic entity aimed towards cultivation of Rajbangshi language, we shall see how the abhidhan acts as a rich archive of cultural memory and an important tool for forging the ‘self’ identity within the increasing dominance of ‘other’ socio-linguistic cultures.
Keywords: Rajbangshi lexicon, abhidhan, language, self-consciousness, identity construction.
The vast tracts of land in northern Bengal and western Assam, between the rivers Karatoa and Brahmaputra, has been a unique socio-cultural and linguistic entrepot since ancient times. Inhabited by various tribal groups, and later by many non-tribal communities primarily from the western part of the subcontinent, the region developed a unique socio-linguistic fabric for itself. The said region had historically been a part of the ancient socio-political domain of Kamrup, and later as Kamtapur. From the sixteenth century, the whole of Kamrup-Kamta region was ruled by the Koch kingdom, with their seats at Cooch Behar and also at Hajo in Assam (Hodgson 1847, 143). As such, the nomenclature of the region's linguistic pattern has been, time and again, categorized as 'Kamrupi', ‘Kamtapuri’ or ‘Kamta-Behari’- claimed variously as a dialect of Bengali or Assamese, or a separate language in itself. The demography of this region had predominantly consisted of the Rajbangshis, whose identity had variously been claimed to have been of non-Sanskritized tribal origin who had adopted Sanskritized culture, or of 'Hindu' Kshatriya origin (Basu 2003, 15). The dominant speakers of the region’s language had thus been the Rajbangshis, for which perhaps the language had been also alternatively known as the ‘Rajbangshi’ language.
In the wake of the twentieth century, the Rajbangshi intelligentsia had started making efforts to cultivate their language by means of creating literature, collecting local idioms, ballads and even composing songs. However, for little-known reasons, efforts were perhaps not taken to compose any grammatical work or a dictionary to systematically preserve the language- not even by the colonial government, who were known to produce lexicons and grammar books of various communities in the subcontinent. It was not until 1971 when this want was finally met, when a Rajbangshi philanthropist and language enthusiast Kalindranath Barman finally published a lexicon named Rajbangshi Abhidhan in an effort to preserve the Rajbangshi language after a grueling field-work of almost four years.
Panel Discussions under the Project
The Consolidated Link: all panel discussions can be accessed here:
RELIGIOUS IDENTITY AND FREEDOM
Project Assistant & Author: Soumi Bandyopadhyay
Co-author: Moumita Pal
Soumi Bandyopadhyay is an M.Phil scholar in the Department of English, at Diamond Harbour Women’s University. She completed her M.A in English Literature from the Department of English, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan in 2019. She is doing her research on Eco-memoir. Her research interest includes Memory Studies, Shakespearean plays, Folk literature and Culture, Linguistics and Ecocriticism. She has presented papers in various seminars, participated in several workshops and published a handful of research articles in reputed journals. A state level champion of drawing, she is an artist whose passion lies in painting words on canvas.
Moumita Pal is a proactive learner and scholar of English literature who hails from Bankura, West Bengal, India. She has completed her post-graduation in 2019 from Bankura University and has qualified UGC NET with JRF in June 2020. She has publications in various National and International Journals of repute like IJCRT, Literary Herald, Appropriations, Creative Flight and Anthology The Research etc. Some of her areas of interest include Environmentalism, Psychology, Gender and woman studies and Indian writing in English.
The relation between culture and religion is multifaceted and dynamic that leaves some scope for clashes to raise questions on the ideas and spaces in a linear and extensive way. In fact, cultural practices and religious ideas, in spite of sharing a very intricate relationship, can often share a strained and static equation. The social behaviour of cultural and religious communities often affects the cultural and religious practices and their expressions to the extent of defining their emergence and the ways of people responding to them. Hence, this relationship between cultural practices and religious beliefs can be further explored to construct new avenues for the more moderate voices.
From time immemorial, mostly the preservation of cultural repository insulates protecting the tangible manifestations of heritages, languages and many other such things. A 2019 U.N. resolution has prioritized the mandate of preserving, revitalizing and promoting endangered Indigenous languages and cultures to encourage the cultural diversity and also to introduce them to the global community. Indigenous culture is considered to be divinely inspired and serves as iconography and religious eloquence. Their norms and practices are mostly shared through folklore, oral histories showcasing the momentousness and the significance to designate their cultures beyond the physical spaces. Yet their histories are oppressed by outside forces that have often targeted their cultural practices. Preservation of norms and practices helps towards the formation and continuation of the repository of the Indigenous cultural heritage. A dialectical structure is evident through the norms, practices and faiths and some holistic steps are required towards their preservation. Anne Nuorgam, the Chair of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, has emphasized upon the preservation of Indigenous practices, norms, languages, managements and their belief of conservation of nature that should be admired worldwide. Their connections to their culture, heritage, land, territories and natural resources encompass their identities and roots.
Under the theme of “Community Appearance & Individual Presentation” (CULTURAL IDENTITY & IDEOLOGY – IV), TMYS Review March 2023 has attempted to explore the cultural practices and the religious beliefs to demonstrate how such beliefs consecrate individual conscience, intellectual expression and human activity. The project was categorized into three subthemes, namely,
- Religious Identity and Freedom
- Clothes, Jewellery and Accessories
- Language and Provincial Narratives
The first subtheme “Religious Identity and Freedom” attempted to unravel the centrality of cultural practices and religious beliefs in the identity formation of individuals and the necessity of freedom in harbouring them. It dealt with the promotion of the human rights propagated by religion and the other aspects of spiritual traditions. Based on their experiences and knowledge a cohort of the writers, professors, academicians, film critics, and activists belonging to various cultures, religions, communities and countries took part in the panel discussions and enriched the sessions with their insightful observations on religious and cultural spaces. The digital panel discussions under “Religious Identity and Freedom” included five topics:
- Religious Persecution and Women’s Personal Space.
- Preserving the Repository of Indigenous Cultures and Religions.
- Role of Religion and Customs in Climate Change and Environmental Justice.
- Rituals Symbolising Married Women across Religious Communities.
- Sufi Songs and Bhajans: Religious Iconography in Bollywood.
CLOTHES, JEWELLERIES AND ACCESSORIES
Project Assistant & Author: Shruti Chatterjee
Shruti Chatterjee is pursuing her graduation degree from Rani Birla Girls' College, Calcutta University. She is a student of English literature. Her research interests include Mythology, Modern Philosophy, Indian Writing in English, War in Literature and Life Writing. Her passion lies in reading, writing and storytelling.
Individual beings have influenced society directly and indirectly from the very beginning of civilization. Identity, the distinct personality of an individual, has formed separate communities and that has given birth to various traditions, philosophy and lifestyles, enriching the culture and diversity of the world. India as a country has a rich aesthetic culture since the birth of Indus valley civilization. Along with various other practices and rituals, culture reflects in the sense of fashion – ranging from clothes to accessories and even body language. Individual presentations of self usually conform to the joint feelings of a community, sometimes with minor variations. From dhoti to saree, kadha to mangtika, Indian fashion provides an opportunity to play with creativity and artistry. Clothes and jewellery adorned by individuals in the classical era have both symbolic and functional significance. The modern culture improvises them, balancing both tradition and convenience.
Under the theme of “Community Appearance & Individual Presentation” (CULTURAL IDENTITY & IDEOLOGY – IV), TMYS Review March 2023 has attempted to explore multiple perspectives and interpretations, exclusively on individual and community expressions that have garnered a sense of identity through fashion, or more broadly, non-verbal communication. The project was categorized into three subthemes, namely,
- Religious Identity and Freedom
- Clothes, Jewellery and Accessories
- Language and Provincial Narratives
The second subtheme draws attention to the presentations of individuals in terms of the way they look, influencing intrinsic elements in defining the culture of communities. Together, they manage to shape cultural identity and artistic ideology as a whole. The panel discussions on "Clothes, Jewellery and Accessories" hold the mirror to our modern society by delving into the world of fashion which has evolved immensely over time. These digital discussions are based on the experience and observation of the scholars, professors and storytellers from different parts of the world belonging to varied religious, professional and cultural backgrounds who have shared their insights along with addressing the universal concerns, affairs and current situation relevant to their topics. The digital panel discussions on "Clothes, Jewellery and Accessories" included six topics:
- History of Indian Clothes and Jewellery
- Emerging Trends in Convenient Dressing
- Modern Jewellery v/s Traditional Jewellery
- Multiculturalism in Clothing and Jewellery
- Unisex Clothes and Emerging Trends in Self Grooming
- Functions of Dress in Social Context
LANGUAGE AND PROVINCIAL NARRATIVES
Project Assistant and Author: Sarannaya Bose
Sarannaya Bose is currently pursuing her Bachelor's degree in English from Amity University, Kolkata. Her research interests include African Literature, Postmodern Literature, Absurdist theatre, Beat Literature, and psycholinguistics. She has previously worked as an editor and a compiler at a publishing house and edited subtitles for a language services company. She loves reading, writing poems, watching films, slam poetry and public speaking.
Identity is constructed on the basis of the characteristics and attributes that define a person or a group. There is a personal dimension to identity which is often affected by the determinants of social identity. Similarly, right from birth, we find ourselves categorized within a particular cultural group. Understanding culture as the ongoing negotiation of patterned beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors is really important towards forming a foundation for understanding the other issues related to it. Under the broad theme of “Community Appearance & Individual Presentation” (CULTURAL IDENTITY & IDEOLOGY – IV), TMYS Review March 2023 has attempted to explore cultural identity based on socially constructed categories that define a way of being and include expectations for social behavior or ways of acting. The project was categorized into three subthemes, namely,
- Religious Identity and Freedom
- Clothes, Jewellery and Accessories
- Language and Provincial Narratives
A symbiotic link exists between language and culture, with language reflecting culture and culture influencing language. The panel discussions under the third subtheme, "Language and Provincial Narratives" look at how language connects people with similar backgrounds and experiences, and how these histories in turn give rise to terms that are unique to our culture. The panels feature scholars, artists, and storytellers who, based on their personal experiences, offer a wide range of perspectives, ideas, and beliefs on how language affects culture and vice versa.
The digital panel discussions under “Language and Provincial Narratives” included five topics:
- Portrayal of Hybridity and Otherness in Indian Mythology
- Feminine, Feminist and Female Language
- Borrowing, Mixing and Naturalising Language
- Language and Sexism
- Women’s Language of Rebellion
Amazon India link for TMYS Review March 2023 will be available here.
(Available worldwide via Amazon)