These paper boats of mine are meant to dance on the ripples of hours, and not reach any destination... Rabindranath Tagore

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past...F. Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby

We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom. We lived in the gaps between the stories.
On the way to the river are the old dormitories, used for something else now, with their fairy-tale turrets, painted white and gold and blue. When we think of the past it's the beautiful things we pick out. We want to believe it was all like that.
--from Margaret Atwood - The Handmaid's Tale

Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another's skin, another's voice, another's soul.
- Joyce Carol Oates

Friday, December 27, 2013

The Promised Land

The Promised Land - Sushma Joshi - in ITCH - Journal of Creative Expression - Issue 6 - 29th June 2010.
December 16, 2013 I was moved to see all the Mandela memorial events this week. And it reminded me that I'd had a story published in ITCH, a South African journal, in 2010. So, in his memory and with South Africa on my mind ...

beyond today

Umesh Acharya, only son of an illustrious family of judges and diplomats, inheritor of lavish acres of land in Banepa, and owner of two centrally located Kathmandu apartment buildings, decided to leave for America a week after his marriage...

beyond the valley of home

But Umesh, who had watched all his friends leave Kathmandu one by one...

could the light be brighter

if he attended community college for a year and improved his grades, he could transfer to a better college...

could I learn more

Umesh reached Ohio in the middle of September.

but the leaves are turning

Welcome to America," he said, taking out Umesh's Samsonite suitcases and dragging them into the narrow, carpeted hallway. It smelled of old cats.

the warmth is dying

"Its expensive to live alone, so all eight of us in the college share the rooms," Abhisekh explained

we cannot be what we were

All of us work these kinds of jobs. Remember Kundan-Sir?" "Our physics teacher?" "That's right. He is stacking boxes at a supermarket right now in New York. Remember Suresh? He was a batch behind us?" "What about him?" "He pumps gas at a station in Idaho." "I don't believe it," was all Umesh could say. "Remember Ranay?" Abhisekh continued pitilessly. "Ranay who wanted to be a doctor?" "Ranay works at an Indian restaurant now, waiting tables. He dropped out of college and is illegal."

we cannot become
more than we were

Was this the America that all his other friends had gone to, or had he arrived at a special nightmare version?

we have lost 

'Have I come thousand of miles and paid ten times more for an education that was worse than a public college in Kathmandu?' he thought. 

I have lost

"The Promised Land," said somber ochre letters outside the funeral parlor where Purna dropped him off.

I can only

the ashes

Shelling Peas and History Lessons - Mascara Literary review

I intercepted her words with side-track poetry
which becomes my review

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The End of the World

The End of the World - Sushma Joshi. 8 short stories. 2008.

the sweetness of
could not save Nepal
from Civil War


and in the south
even in Calcutta
the British Empire
was under siege

in a world of black monsoon clouds streaked with silver

in a black world of Maoist blockades
without the silver

thoughts of world ends
a special kind of


foreign cheese

Cheese is the first short story in this collection.
It spins a surprising tale of cheese from Switzerland.
Gopi dreams of tasting this cheese for the first time.
For many years he dreams, but then, when the moment comes
it felt almost as if it wasn’t him who had eaten it — it had eaten him. p.23


  The End of the WorldThe End of the World by Sushma Joshi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The End of the World is the title of one of the 8 short stories about late 20th century Nepal and those who live there. But, as the title of the whole collection of stories, it suggests that each story symbolises some kind of ending in progress - without the relief or satisfaction of closure. The people struggle with new tastes - Cheese, unravelled friendships - Betrayal and the dark side of power - Law and Order. The monsoon season could almost be a welcome distraction. There is little time to get to know any characters. There is just the ragged moment mirroring little sign of fulfilment. The collection could represent a negative view of this world, struck down by shifts in political circumstance. But then there is the enigma that we hope, we keeping hoping that such chaos of personal identity and purpose must tire, must end sometime.

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Cameo Dramas in Nepal 
Imagine when cultures collide in political mayhem, what chaos and confusion follows, the emerging questions of right and wrong and the sticky web of values. These short stories are like an inside glimpse of a remote mountain country smudged by the modern world. The characters are like lost souls wandering some wild future desert, seeking some comforting sign of who they are and what they could be. Who can possibly imagine that cheese from Switzerland could become a prize, a gift, a quest, a nightmare. The first short story leads the way into the lives of disillusioned Nepalese. For those of us who know little of the ways and cultures of the people in this high country, there is simply not enough in each story to appreciate the how's and the why's of these worlds.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens. 1843

Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. 

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern 

He carried his own low temperature always with him

 he iced his office

 and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

not many knew
that the rich Scrooge
was once a poor child
a lonely child
trapped in a colourless world

were meaningless ghosts

he himself had
no meaning

he could be a ghost

he could not connect with

Scrooge the cold child became the cold man
absorbed in wealth
not spending it
not giving it
hoarding it

but this year
the ghosts of Christmas
would awaken
what he could have been
what he could be

he faced his own ghosts

they awakened his heart
they found rest
and stirred
his spirit

 the secret of finding joy
is giving joy

Images adapted from Works of Charles Dickens. Avenel Books. 1978.

 A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is easy to get caught up in the colour and mystery and intrigue of the Christmas ghosts of A Christmas Carol. But I have read this story - usually at Christmas - a number of times. For once, I found myself pouring over the Christmas past - the 19th century London Scrooge as a lonely child, little more than a ghost himself. Somehow the older, selfish monster that he became was a sad reflection of why - perhaps a sad reflection of why many today still lock out the Christmas spirit. The story is an enchanting carol, celebrating a possible transformation from ghost to spirit.

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Monday, December 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens. 1859.

In front of it, seated in chairs, as in a garden of public diversion, 
are a number of women, 
busily knitting... 
 Dickens, Charles A Tale of Two Cities (p. 233). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

Therese Defarge
bold leader of the knitting sisterhood
missed the game

but let me begin at
the revolutionary

it was
the best of times to see
the worst of times

Madame's benefactor
(her damaged sister)
paid The Ferryman

and Madame 

was able to watch the game
right from
the preliminary finals

was there
to muse
when Doctor Manette
emerged from his tower prison

was there
to plot
when spies

was there
to grind her own axe
when the doctor's daughter
cried for her Charles Darnay
for treason

was there
to turn

She watched many games
and played along with them

She missed
the grand final

the grand moment
when Sidney Carton
 idlest and most unpromising of men,
 took the place of Darnay
on the scaffold
and rose to glory

her final revenge

the switch of

too busy with
her own

Images adapted from Works of Charles Dickens. Avenel Books. 1978.

Linking to:
Imaginary Garden With Real Toads - Open Link Monday

A Tale of Two CitiesA Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many years ago, I had to read this book as a school text. I was in Year 7 at the time. I remember being mesmerised with the knitting theme (knitting round a guillotine haunted me) and totally disenchanted with Lucie Manette, the Doctor's daughter. For some reason, I thought of Shakespeare's Desdemona - syrupy and tragic, bearable but not totally warm and likeable. All these years later, and my views haven't changed, but I have noticed other features in this story. Dickens is adept at personifying the weather and the countryside. The personifications subtly add tone and mystery and depth to unfolding dramas. He shaves off a few layers of character and storyline and then moves on. So frustratingly delightful. And he is also adept at seeing beyond external characters. Sidney Carton, the ugly, insipid loser of the whole narrative, becomes a tragic hero of grand proportion. I read the whole book in two sessions over two days. It still enchants.

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