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The Third Space of Mutiny

On November 5th, 2013, the New York Times reported that 152 men – former members of the Bangladeshi Rifles, a paramilitary border force – were sentenced to death following prosecution over a 2009 mutiny in which 74 people were killed. The uprising occurred after disagreements arose between guards and commanders regarding demands for better pay, ability to participate in peacekeeping missions, and more. This news comes close to the publication of Boundaries Undermined: The Ruins of Progress, anthropologist Delwar Hussain’s first full investigation into the trajectories of post-colonial development, industrialization, and a pervasive neo-liberalism that neuters the revolutionary ideals of generations seeking not only prosperity but purpose and clarity amidst the confusing array of allegiances in contemporary Bangladesh.

Artist, writer, and activist Naeem Mohaimen reviews Hussain’s book, which begins near the still under-construction fence that will eventually reinforce the border between India and Bangladesh. Mohaimen writes:

Hussain weaves in the histories of the multiple partitions of Bengal, and this border site is an appropriate space for considering the human separations and structural inconsistencies set in motion by the 1947 partition, as well as the aftermath of two decolonisation/industrialisation periods – East Pakistan from 1947 to 1971, and Bangladesh thereafter…

Of special interest for Hussain is the excavation of a third-space for identity, as women, rejected limestone laborers, hijras, and non-dominant religious communities work in conjunction. Certainly the mass trials of the former Bangladeshi Rifles, who plan to appeal their death sentence, are a testament to the ongoing struggles amidst the lacuna of revolt. Read more here.

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Kamila Shamsie Interviews Malala Yousafzai on her memoir I Am Malala

Kamila Shamsie reviews/interviews Malala Yousafzai’s memoir I Am Malala written with Christina Lamb from the Guardian. Malala is not like other sixteen year olds because few other sixteen year olds are shot at by the Taliban for defending education, or end up addressing the U.N., or become the activist that Malala has become so quickly. Shamsie’s interview tries to get at who the real Malala is, though Malala herself contends that she left the real ‘her’ back in Swat a long time ago.

It is a  little heartbreaking though to read about how Malala skypes with her best friend in Swat in order to find out what everyone is doing, and how only when Kamila and Malala talk about cricket does the weight of the world fall off her. Malala comes across as such an empathetic person, and so it has become quite tiring to hear so many accuse her of being  a (U.S.) pawn and a fake instead of showing empathy and solidarity towards her. But then Malala’s points are valid. In a Pakistan given to  conspiracy theories, everything is suspect, even an adolescent being shot.

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The Towering Figure of Major Ali

Arif Ayaz Parrey’s short story “The Torture Manual of Major Ali” carries a sinister aspect beneath its bureaucratic tone. Whether he is real or not remains a mystery, but his minions appear to be fully gripped by his methods. Parrey writes with a cinematic crane panning across the many secret and not-so-secret torture sessions that continue beyond the sixty-odd year struggle for Kashmir. Using this wide-angle shot plunges the reader through multiple framings – of the state and military, of the rites of espionage, of the mendacity of political exile, of the purgatory of strife-ridden boundaries – before arriving at a language stripped of passions that nevertheless sound oddly familiar, especially in the wake of remembrances following Nelson Mandela’s death:

The thought of men in uniform working together as a corpus to theorize and institutionalize torture is the classic nightmare of restive populations. It is also a great rallying point for the men in uniform themselves; one around which they can build solidarity and overcome guilt and fear. The deniability factor is necessary so as to maintain the paradigm of organized madness, which is what counter-insurgency efforts must be in places where the guerilla aim is to swim like fish in water.

Ensuing passages extracted from this manual – which also may or may not really exist – serve to further glaze and subjugate the reader’s eyes, a numbing experience that leaves one searching aimlessly for the personal and familiar. Yet in the process of reading and examining the manual lies the uncomfortable truth of our complicity in state-sanctioned terror, redirecting the narrative from the mythical Major Ali to that of our contemporary times. Read more of Parrey’s story in the December 2013 edition of Caravan.

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Jaggery Launch

Jaggery will launch on November 8, 2013. If you’re in Chicago, you’re cordially invited to join us a for a rapid-fire desi literary reading and party,

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with samosas and beer! Hope you can attend and help us celebrate.

Powell’s Books, @ Halsted and Roosevelt
Friday, November 8, 2013, 6 p.m.

RSVP via e-mail to mohanraj [at] mamohanraj [dot] com, or on Facebook.

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Crossword Book Award 2013 Winners

The Crossword Book Award, only open to Indian citizens, is awarded in a variety of categories.

The 2013 awards were given to the following books

English Fiction

Boats on Land by Janice Pariat

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

English Non-Fiction

Righteous Republic by Ananya Vajpeyi

From the Ruins of Empire by Pankaj Mishra

Translation

A Life in Words: Memoirs by Ismat Chugtai translated by Dr. M Asaduddin

Children’s Writing

Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami

Wisha Wozzariter by Payal Kapadia

Popular

The Bankster by Ravi Subramaniam

see full lists of short listed books here

 

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The Creature Comforts of An Upendranath Ashk Tale

Photo by Mimosa Shah

Photo by Mimosa Shah

There is something about winter on the subcontinent that feels a pittance to those of us living far beyond in the relative “tundra” of North America and Europe come December. In Upendranath Ashk’s Lucknow of the 1960s, it’s an urgent chill, a need evoked by multiple layers, face masks, gloves, and mufflers galore, a cold that could – if provoked – become the death of you. Scholar, artist, and writer Daisy Rockwell conjures all of these feelings in her translation of celebrated Hindi writer Ashk’s short story “Topiyan Aur Doctor” (Hats and Doctors”). Here is Mr. Goyal, a local representative for a newspaper in Lucknow, deep in his sartorial underpinnings and perhaps a middle-aged malaise:

And now that he had passed his fortieth year, he was beginning to wrap a scarf around his neck as well, just below his hat. If he felt a cold breeze on his ears when he was driving his motorcycle, his nose started dripping. He had to stop the motorcycle, wrap the scarf that was around his neck over his head and ears, tie it under his chin, put his hat back on and continue on his way.

Mr. Goyal attempts to lead a hatless life with less-than-satisfactory results, a circumstance that leads him to various homeopaths and their shabby waiting rooms. Using a tone that hovers between sarcastic and bemused, Ashk immerses the reader into a world steeped in hierarchy, customs, and costumes. Hats and Doctors, a translated  collection of Upendranath Ashk short stories, appeared in March 2013. This eponymous story was first published in the January 2013 edition of Caravan, which you can continue reading here.

 

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Commonwealth Writers Interviews Nadeem Aslam

Commonwealth Writers sat down with Pakistani novelist Nadeem Aslam and asked him some very interesting questions about politics and ideas and whether there is place for them in fiction, a need for them even, as well as what defines him as a writer.  Watch his interview here.

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