Excerpts and Abstracts: TMYS Review December 2021



    Title: It's Not 1947 Anymore

    Poet: Nida Shah

    Poet Intro: Nida Shah is an aspiring poet based in Lahore. She is a lecturer of English at Government College University, Lahore. She teaches courses in Romantic and Modern Poetry, and Modern Novel. She is currently working as the co-advisor of RAVI (annual literary magazine GCU). She is also a member of GCU Press. Her area of research is Great War Poetry and Afro-American Fiction.



    Title: Rites of Passage

    Poet: Ruma Chakraborty

    Poet Intro: Ruma Chakraborty is a senior English faculty in a premium institution in Kolkata. Teaching is both a profession and a vocation for Ms. Chakraborty. It is but one of the hats donned by her. An amateur painter with her art having been exhibited at ICCR, Gallery Gold, Gaganendra Pradarshanshala in Kolkata and Art Mela, Delhi; a budding poet and compulsive story-teller, currently she is in the process of writing a compendium of short stories. An alumna of Loreto School, St. Xavier’s College and Calcutta University, an intrepid traveller; a typical ‘Bangali’ in matters of food; an example of the argumentative Indian; an inquisitive learner to boot—she is a quintessential Renaissance woman.


    The sand, stretched out like a never-ending undulating sea.

    Breathes out a heat

    A breath of death

    Of some sleeping monster.

    The skin of the soles blister and burst.

    Waves of pain to which

    Lali pays no attention.

    Balancing her pots on her head, she carries life back home in earthenware pots across the flattened back of a giant that sleeps.

    The heated air dances and shimmers creating mirages that are so enticing.

    Lali pays no heed.

    She needs to reach home before the sudden darkness of the desert descends.

    Natural and unnatural predators will abound.



    Title: Unreturned

    Poet: Gayatri Jayaraman

    Poet Intro: Gayatri’s latest book is Anitya: How to Make the Most of Change and Transform Your Life (Hachette, September 2021). Her previous works are Sit Your Self Down, a novice’s journey to the heart of vipassana (Hachette, 2020), Who Me, Poor? (Bloomsbury, 2017), Indigenous (Juggernaut, 2016). In 2021, her poetry has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and her short fiction features in the Femina- Diwali special issue on Light. Gayatri is currently a student of the Nalanda Diploma in Buddhist philosophy.


    You leave home homo erectus, arrive bent and withered

    At a queue for asylum in a Europe filled with your descendants

    Who got here ahead of you by taking the boat,

    While you waited for word of safe passage through the jungle.


    You’ll take any job you can find, and wind up in construction

    Once again putting brick on brick to build the cities

    That you’ll never live in in the hope that someday

    Your children, the ones who haven’t left their wombs yet, might.



    Title: The Hospital Bed

    Poet: Akhila Mohan CG

    Poet Intro: Akhila Mohan CG is a corporate communications professional based in Chennai. Her works have been published in national dailies and platforms like AIFEST, YKA, TMYS, and Juggernaut. ‘Tamarind: Sweet and Sour Poems about Love, Loss, Longing, and Life,’ is her debut poetry book published by Kitaab International. When she is not writing or working, she loves to spend her time reading books, gardening, swimming, or travelling.


    Lying in a pool of blood,

    she counts her last breaths.

    The last dangling teardrop sheds . . .

    diluting the dried smudge of viscous red

    on the white bedsheet of the hospital bed.


    Her body, squirming in pain,

    heart throbbing and sinking in shame,

    gives up all her dreams, which will remain

    unfulfilled forever and slain,

    for a life is lost in absolute vain.





    Title: Silence

    Author: Harsimran Kaur

    Author Intro: Harsimran Kaur is an author of The Best I Can Do Is to Write My Heart OutI am Perfectly Imperfect, and Clementines on My Poetry Table. Currently a senior in high school, she is a record holder under the India Book of Records and Asia Book of Records for her first publication at fourteen.  She is also the founder of Pastlores, an online club dedicated to literature, and an arts organization called The Creative Zine. When she's not writing or reading, she can often be seen teaching invisible students. You can know more about her ventures at www.harsimranwritesbooks.com/.


    Leela was in the kitchen downstairs, making casseroles for supper. She was told to keep them a bit raw, up to the colonel’s liking. The soup was brimming with confidence on the other pot, so she turned the gas off. She was often intrigued to find how arduously she had to work while making a dish at Allen’s, compared to Shaw’s, the other household that she worked in. If the chicken had been a little bit brittle, and not made up to the colonel’s satisfaction, he would transgress into a state of utter dissatisfaction where he’d ask her to make the whole dish again, unbothered of the Indian houses sleeping in the embrace of the pitch-black night, outside the window.

    Upstairs, Marie had bit the skin on the tip of her thumb only to find the red rushing out. The little fetish liar - coherent of the fact that it went unnoticed for several weeks, was gone, just like Leela, who goes when it is half-past ten in the evening after the supper was done. She wandered through the room, oblivious to the darkling empyrean. Then, seeing a book jutting out a bit farther than the others on the corner bookshelf, she tucked it back into alignment. Outside, the sky was the colour of a salmon that was descending into shades of darker red. The abrupt change of the colour failed to discern her, so she lit a candle and started reading the just-aligned book.

    In the lunch hours, earlier in the day, she’d seen the Walter sisters applying the shiny polish on each other’s fingernails through her window. Then she wanted her nails to be painted as well. Because she wasn’t good with beauty and decorating herself, she’d asked Leela if she would apply it to her nails. ‘Yes, memsahib.’ Leela had said - her immediate response to any work that Marie had asked for.



    Title: A Sky Too Blue

    Author: Tishya Majumdar

    Author Intro: Tishya Majumder lives in West Bengal, India. She is an author and has published ten poems and one short story in various journals and anthologies. 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 Literature from University of North Bengal. Currently, she is a Research Scholar in the Department of English, Raiganj University.


    She paints the sky too blue. She makes summer too bright. In fact, she overcompensates for the adversities of all the other seasons. The warm sun, the fresh flowers, the taste of ripe mangoes, the jovial beach, all seem blissful to her. Her foggy life keeps her yearning for a joyful summer sky. The brush in her delicately strong hand strives to immortalize her vision. With imagination as her only means, she chases her dreams in the canvas – hoping to create summer, hoping to find herself. 

    Her mind guides her to reach for the love that she so unconditionally gives to all but rarely finds herself on the receiving end of it. Engulfed in infinite darkness, she stretches out her brush towards the summery blue. As the bristles coat themselves with the thick paste, she finds herself diving into her pool of comfort. Her stormy mind causes her to escape into a paradise where summer never ceases, where happiness is eternal.  Almost in frenzy, she paints over her misery. With trembling hands, she impatiently tries to end her sorrow, waiting to completely submerge herself in the serenity of the cloudless sky. 

    As her eyes fill with visions of betrayal, domination, abuse, torture and manipulation, she fumes with rage. What did she do to deserve such torment? Wasn’t she always a well-wisher of all? Didn’t she always long for everyone’s happiness? Then why is she always being punished? A thousand questions clouds her mind. Even worse, a thousand clouds darkens her perspective on life. The happily-ever-afters that her mother narrated to her, while she was calmly cradled to sleep, now seem to be blatant lies. The ashes of her hopes turn her future grey. In the search of self, she closes her eyes and loses herself in the swift motion of her hand.



    Title: Flamingos

    Author: Prachi Goradia

    Author Intro: Prachi is pursuing an M.A in English (Hons) with Research at the University of Mumbai and tends to lean towards feminism, gender, migration, trauma, and partition narratives, seeking them out in most literary and media interpretations. Her research interests extend to include pop-culture, dark academia, and cinema as well. Professionally, she works as an academic manuscript editor. Please reach her at prachi.goradia.edu@gmail.com.


    ‘Mommie, what are those?’ Utkarsha asked, pointing at the orange sky, which was littered with birds, forming a spectacular V. 

    ‘Those are flamingos,’ I said when we stopped at the signal.

    ‘Flame-and-go? Do they breathe fire?’ she asked as I looked at her through the bike mirror. Her eyes looked like they would pop out of their sockets any minute now.

    I smiled and indulged her a little. ‘Of course, they do. Right now, they are on the way to the Sun where they refill their fire engines. They need it to defend their home from monsters!’

    ‘Monsters, like papa?’ she asked meekly.

    I almost hit someone jaywalking on the road. Like papa? We had separated almost three years ago. Or I had. We still shared the same house. I wanted Utkarsha to finish her schooling before we moved out. But like papa? Did she know?

    ‘Mommieee, can we please go?’ she pleaded.

    ‘Huh, go where?’

    She pointed at a brightly coloured ice cream boutique. We parked outside and got a vibrant looking sundae, topped with sprinkles and choco chips and gummy bears, because in Utkarsha’s book, there wasn’t a single problem that gummy bears couldn’t solve, including mid-term exams.

    We sat at one of the fluffy looking booths and dug in. Every time I grabbed a spoonful, she would open her mouth wider than humanly possible and gulp down the ice cream. I bet no parenting book prepares you for this. When we were almost done, and I had luckily gotten two whole spoonfuls as she was distracted by the poodle that had walked in, I decided to ask her what she had meant earlier.



    Title: Navarasa

    Author: Dr. Preetha Vasan

    Author Intro: Dr Preetha Vasan currently teaches the masters program in English, at a premier women's college in Bangalore. She has been a featured poet at many portals. Her short fiction and poetry have won several prizes and have been published in a number of anthologies and e-magazines. Her first book was a collection of poems based on   The Mahabharata called Yagna. The first book of her Young Adult Mythological Fantasy Fiction series will be published by Dream Bookbindery in 2021.



    Uttara was in love. The experience was tantalisingly new. Was that why she must not tell anyone about it? Her eyes were weary after yet another restless night of tossing around. The sleepless exhaustion, however, did not stop her from jumping out of the soft bed. There were the usual ceaseless hours of dance to look forward to and then there was the not so usual teacher.

    She did not intend to tie up her thick curls that morning as mother kept instructing her to. There would be fingers that would run through them, as they had done yesterday, with a soft ease.  The other girls’ sudden arrival had caused the moment to slip away like the silk stole she flipped over her brocaded blouse.  

    Her small waist tingled with sudden sweat when she remembered those fingers clasping it, seemingly to teach her how far she must arch them before she came up to finish the jatthi.  But there had been more-the eager, almost bruising grasp of someone torn by desires; not merely that of a teacher teaching a difficult composition. Hadn’t there?

     Uttara darkened her eyes with collyrium. Teacher would gaze and gaze into them to find her soul which would leap up and follow, waiting to be wrapped with love.

    But all of this was wrong. Uttara painted her lips a deeper red and wore the vermillion differently on her small forehead.

    A student must not love the teacher. She knew that was not precisely the reason why her fantasising was all erroneous in the first place.




    Title: Castigation, Censure and Consciousness: A Widow's Psychological Migration

    Author: Ipshita Mitra

    Author Intro: With over 10 years’ experience in publishing and journalism, Ipshita Mitra has a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Miranda House, DU and holds a PG Diploma in English Journalism from IIMC. She did her MA in Gender and Development Studies and is currently pursuing her PhD in Gender Studies from IGNOU. She has worked with The Times of India, The Asian Age, The Quint, Om Books International, World Monuments Fund India Association, and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). In 2016, her short story ‘Cacophony of Silence’ was published by Nikkei Voice, a Canadian-Japanese newspaper. In 2020, her short story ‘Bohemian Sailor of the Gulf’ was published by Sublunary Editions, a Seattle-based independent publisher. The Indian Quarterly (April–June 2021) published her short fiction, ‘Kabuliwala Returns’. She writes on books, culture, environment, and gender for Terra Green, The Hindu, Scroll.in, The Wire, Wasafiri, Firstpost, Huffington Post, India Current and others.


    A woman’s identity has invariably been informed by her relationship with a man. This patriarchal relativity creates a restrictive mould that imprisons a woman, denying her reflexivity, subjectivity, and selfhood. Within this paradigm, the present essay attempts to examine the psychological migration of a widow in the way that her mindscape transforms once her husband, the ‘all-powerful’ and ‘dominant’ controlling force of her life passes on. The husband’s death triggers a series of extreme alterations in a widow’s sociocultural life. The web of patriarchal codes of conduct, cultural restrictions, religious beliefs, and inhuman customs engulfs a widow, making her everyday life a struggle. In this essay, the reasons for a woman’s (read widow) ostracism from society are analysed within the ambit of psychological migration and mental transformation, areas that are seldom explored, investigated or deconstructed when compared to her geographical migration (either forced or voluntary) from her natal home to the in-laws and back to her natal home (or shelter/rehabilitation centres) in the aftermath of her husband’s death. This essay argues how the three ‘Cs’–castigation, censure, and consciousness weave the map of a widow’s psychological survival and status. Widowhood is an institution of alienation, oppression, and subjugation. Examined through a gender lens and supported by gender-based theories and tools of feminist analysis, widowhood in this essay is unravelled as a social construct that thrives on and is sustained by androcentric-sanctioned ways of an ‘austere’, ‘pious’, ‘chaste’, and ‘devoted’ living. In conclusion, this essay envisions an inclusive society where a widow is enabled and empowered to reclaim her agency for a dignified survival instead of being relegated to a life of servitude, suppression, and solitude.

    Keywords: widowhood; migration; ostracism; normative femininity; widowhood rituals and practices (WRP); patriarchal bargain; sati practice; docile bodies; surveillance; gender performativity; linguistic oppression; subaltern studies; discipline and punish; feminist-Marxist; resettlement and rehabilitation.


    According to the United Nations Population Fund (formerly, United Nations Fund for Population Activities – UNFPA) (1998), “Widowhood is more than the loss of a husband – it may mean the loss of a separate identity.” For a woman in India, widowhood has been compared to ‘social death’. But we must ask, as a social institution, why is widowhood a centre of stigmatization and castigation for women more than men? It is essential to examine the reasons and factors that make widowhood ‘a turning point’ in a woman’s life insofar that after the death of her husband, there is a sense of ‘revised social adjustment’ within the family as a social unit, the repercussions of which are detrimental to a woman’s psychological, social, economic, and cultural well-being. As per 2014 statistics, reported by Press Trust of India (PTI), about 40 million of the world’s widows live in India and over 15,000 reside in the city of Vrindavan.

    According to Schultz’s 2019 article in The New York Times, it is believed that widows started gathering in Vrindavan since Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a 16th-century Bengali social reformer, brought a group of widows to the ‘holy’ city to escape sati. Eventually, over the years, ashrams, shelter homes and rehabilitation centres were built for widows’ welfare. While mainstream discourse focuses on the geographical migration of women from, first their natal homes to the in-laws’ (after marriage), then back to either the natal homes or ashrams of Vrindavan or Kashi (after the husband’s demise), there is little or absolutely no discussion on a widow’s psychological migration in the aftermath of the deceased spouse. How does one investigate the mindscape of a widow?



    Title: Caste-ing the Married Life: Lower-caste Women in Upper-caste Patrilocal Residences

    Author:  Sucharita Sen

    Author Intro: Sucharita Sen is a PhD student at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She completed her M.A. (gold medallist) at Presidency University, Kolkata. Her select publications include ‘Tradition-Technology Wedlock: The Paradoxical Modernisation of Matrimony’, South Asian Survey, 27(2), September 2020; ‘Memsahibs and Ayahs during the Indian Mutiny: In English Memoirs and Fiction’, Studies in People’s History, 7(2) December 2020; ‘The Uneasy Gaze: Appearing for Interviews to get Married - An Empirical Investigation into the Pre-marital Arranged Marriage Negotiations in Urban Kolkata’, Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities, 13(2), April-June, 2021, ‘Colonial Encounters and the Spatial Experience: The Sahib-Subject Relationship in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Anglo-Indian Household’ in Jatinder Mann and Ian Johnston-White (Eds.) History of the British World: New Voices and Perspectives, New York, Peter Lang Publishing Inc [forthcoming] and ‘From the Inability to “Find” a Spouse to the Inability to “Adjust” with the Spouse: The Plight of Spinsters and Divorcees in Urban Kolkata’ in Subhadeep Paul and Goutam Majhi (Eds.) Beyond the Heteronorm: Interrogating Critical Alterities, Maryland: Lexington Books [forthcoming].


    During a digital conversation held by www.tellmeyourstory.biz on 9 September 2021 titled, “Widow’s Migration: The History and Socio-religious Stimulants,” observes Nasmeem Akhtar, the onset of globalisation and urbanisation have led to the loosening up of social customs. Yet, Indian society is one of seminal paradoxes. Contemporary India liberalises itself, traces the sanctity of inter-caste marriages to religious scriptures and legislative inputs and maintains the strict observance of the orthodox caste hierarchies. Inter-caste marriages largely invite social contempt and familial backlash. Drawing upon empirical data by the twin strategies of personal interviews and focus group discussions, this paper argues that the post-marital life of the brides of hypergamous marriages are beset with a constant struggle for acceptance and recognition. Inter-caste marriage contributes to familial exclusion in the patrilocal residence where lower-caste brides are often unwelcomed. Societal surveillance over the husband and his family leads to a derogatory impact on the newly married bride. The romance in love marriages largely disappears to leave faint traces in the face of social scrutiny. In arranged marriages, inter-caste unions are seen as the last resort and often lead to an unhappy conjugal life. ‘Caste-ing the Married Life’ explores the lived-experiences of lower caste women in upper-caste patrilocal residences in urban Kolkata.

    Keywords: Caste, Marriage, Women, Patriarchy, Kolkata.


    It was the dawn of a beginning. Antara hardly required her alarm. In less than twenty-four hours, she would tie the knot with Anjan. Antara’s relationship with Anjan dated back to their days at the engineering college. They found friendship as they met. It took Anjan two years to confess his feelings for Antara, who took another half year to accept the proposal. Then came the battle against social barriers. The prospect of a possible marriage between Antara Haldar and Anjan Bhattacharya seemed bleak. Over the next few years, Antara and Anjan completed their education and secured jobs in India’s ballooning IT industry. Financial stability gave them the voice which economic dependence may have wholly subdued. Anjan’s parents were reluctant. Antara’s parents were anxious. Antara and Anjan were determined. Anjan had already refused to meet the ten prospective Brahmin brides his family friends had brokered. At the relentless insistence of her parents, Antara met five prospective grooms. Only fifteen to twenty minutes into the conversation, each of them left in despair. Antara had spent the bulk of the time narrating her love affair with Anjan.

    All seemed fine until they got married. Troubles set in as Antara relocated to Anjan’s house in North Kolkata. The joint family in that old mansion still bore the relics of the traditional Bengali propertied class, whose pride survived amidst the waning wealth and degenerating pillars. In less than a month, Antara realised that her appendage to the family was a result of the latter’s unwilling submission which Anjan had forcefully garnered. Anjan’s parents had conceived of an upper-caste Brahmin bride as their potential daughter-in-law. Instead, came Antara who was, by the standards of Anjan’s family, extremely unsophisticated. Added to this, her night shifts at her workplace further diminished her acceptability in her in-laws’ house. Under profound coercion, she resigned to retire to the household, in which she was largely unwelcomed. The thakur-ghor (puja room) was a forbidden site for her. Anjan’s grandmother had placed strict injunctions on her entry. Further misfortunes were still on their way. Anjan and Antara’s love which had blossomed in the college collided with the dowry transactions. Anjan’s dissatisfaction stemmed from Antara’s inability to satisfy his family and her father’s inability to satiate his demands. Domestic abuse replaced the vanishing inter-caste romance.



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