Monday, January 30, 2023

Pratik's South Asia Special Double Issue Highlight : Bangladeshi scholar Shahnaz Ameer on 10 Best Books that Transport You to South Asia





10 Best Books that Transport You to South Asia



South Asia proudly nurtures a rich history with diverse cultures and traditions. The literary reservoir of the region is equally bountiful. The literature of this subcontinent flourished in the Mughal era and continued to thrive under the British regime. The Partition of 1947, the Liberation War of 1971, and consecutive wars among the nations heavily influenced it. Many such works have transcended to reach a global audience with many pieces written in or translated into English. Such works prove to be a strong critique of British colonialism, racism, class distinction, corruption, misogyny, taboos, superstitions, and many others. At the same time, they showcase the beauty and power of writing by allowing readers to travel through the realms of multifarious cultures of this subcontinent. Here is a list of the ten most captivating literary works about South Asia that, for various reasons, have been considered the best published.



Choker Bali


Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize in Literature, explores love, feminism, and sexuality in nineteenth and twentieth century Bengal through the character of Binodini in Choker Bali. Tagore’s novel is modern and progressive as it talks about the desires of a young widow. Soon after her husband’s death, Binodini becomes envious of a happily married couple – Mahendra and Asha. Although the protagonist feels superior to Asha due to her education and maturity, her plain white saree stands in contrast with the colourful life of Asha – creating a further rift between them. Binodini in no time finds herself tempting Mahendra as her intellectual exchanges with Bihar propel the story. The book delves into the psychological aspects of widows who are inhumanly deprived of any joy in life. This novel has a radical reach even to the readers of the 21st century where women are often deprived of their essential rights.





One of the foremost poets in Urdu, Mirza Ghalib is a pioneer in this field. Deewan-e-Ghalib is a collection of more than 200 of his ghazals written in Rekhta. The poems are written in simple language to make it easy for commoners to read. Ghalib’s skillful combination of his words and thoughts with this form of art exalts his chosen collection of these poems to a great height. His poems create a dialogue between problems in life and his philosophy. Although the rhyme scheme has been followed religiously, it does not seem to be exacted on purpose; it rather enhances the poetic essence of the verses making them sonorous to the ears and appealing to the heart. His ghazals paved the way by broadening the artistic possibilities of the genre and influenced many poets to follow the form in their verses.



The Indian Trilogy


V. S. Naipaul’s much acclaimed Indian Trilogy that includes An Area of Darkness, India: A Wounded Civilization, and India: A Million Mutinies Now also makes it to the list. Naipaul is a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature (2001). In the first book, the novelist portrays the picture of India in the 1960s as he seems to undergo culture shock while traveling to his ancestral home since the country is ridden with superstitions, caste system, poverty, bureaucracy, and corruption. The second book was written during his third visit to the country. Using the lens of history, he sees India as a wounded nation due to the atrocities of a foreign power on the land for hundreds of years and marks Hindu nationalism as a hindrance in the reawakening of the country. In the third volume, the sojourner provides hope to the readers despite the deeply rooted problems of the country. One can have closer look at the common people of different regions of India and their perspectives and know about their views on the issues of the country. Naipaul’s semi-autobiographical trilogy reveals his ambivert feelings towards India and provides insight into the country’s history, ideology, and development.




The Poetry of Kazi Nazrul Islam


The glorious time for Bangla Literature witnessed both Kazi Nazrul Islam and Rabindranath Tagore writing in the same era. Though mostly known for his poems, Nazrul offered many short stories, novels, and music compositions to the literary world. He stood as an emblem of bravery against the tyrants in both his character and poetry which earned him the name of a “rebel poet”. His revolutionary poems were instrumental in India’s War of Independence and inspired the freedom fighters in the Bangladesh Liberation War. His most famous poem is “The Rebel”.



The Great Railway Bazaar


Paul Theroux’s travelogue The Great Railway Bazaar recounts his four-month journey across Europe, Asia, and Africa. He travels to London, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Burma, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and many other places. His book vividly portrays the multifarious culture of South Asia filled with details of the places he visits by train and the people he encounters during the journey. Despite being critical of the facilities, food, culture, ideology, and beliefs, he provides a distinct glimpse of the cities he travels to. His journey through India is the core of the book. The narrative of India and Pakistan takes the readers on an enjoyable journey. With his gift of storytelling, Theroux derives charm from every place he visits and keeps monotony at bay as every episode feels unique.




Sultana’s Dream 

Sultana’s Dream is a futuristic feministic Utopia penned by Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain. The protagonist of the book finds herself accompanied by Sara while strolling through the beautiful Ladyland. Set in contrast to the patriarchal world in India, this newly discovered place sees women roaming around freely without any obligations of veil as men are confined inside ‘mardanas’. Women make the best use of their scientific knowledge and hold administrative positions in the region. Through her work, Hossain argues against the existence of colonialism, patriarchy, monarchy, and militarism and advocates gender equality, women empowerment, and environmentalism.




The Collected Stories


The first volume of Nasreen Rehman’s translation of short stories of Saadat Hasan Manto was published in May 2022. It comprises Manto’s fifty-four stories and two essays written between 1937 and 1948 during his stay in Bombay and Poona. The introduction to his life by Rehman at the beginning of the volume helps the readers to connect with his thoughts while reading the stories, making them more insightful.  Each of the stories, being unique in its own ways, evokes multiple emotions and provides a sense of completeness towards the end. Not only are these stories historically significant but they also shed light on the fault lines of partition and loss of freedom, love, and humanity in such gruesome times. Manto’s stories reflect his courageous nature and establish his position as a visionary.



Lalon Geeti 


Fakir Lalon Shah composed thousands of songs in Bengali in his lifetime. Although he could neither read or write, his oral compositions have survived the test of time and have become equally popular among both rural and urban communities. The compositions reflect his spirituality and philosophy which values human beings irrespective of caste, creed, race, and religion. His work also transcends the gender binaries to see women as equals. They were against religious superficialities, blind superstitions, and conflicts with the potential to divide communities. Lalon’s canonical songs have immortalized him as he continues to inspire people even in the 21st Century.




The Jewel in the Crown


The Jewel in the Crown is the first book of the four-volume series “The Raj Quartet” by Scott towards the end of British rule in India. Daphne Manners, an Englishwoman, has just lost her family and comes to India to live with her closest living family member. During her stay, she encounters Ronald Merrick, a racist police superintendent, who is smitten by her. She later becomes friends with Hari Kumar, an Indian who grew up in England. However, one incident turns their lives upside down as they witness the ills of colonialism. This book proves to be a strong critique of racism, class distinction, colonialism, and prevalent prejudice in India under the British regime.




Periode ist politisch


Franka Frei, in her book, Periode ist politisch, manages to convey many facts about a still “sensitive topic” in an entertaining way. Since menstruation or periods are still considered taboo, Frei tried to break it. The book not only provides important scientific information about menstruation in general but also brings in people’s perspectives from all around the world. The German menstrual activist traveled to South Asia to meet women from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. The author could demonstrate how women starting from homemakers in Germany to factory workers in garments industries in Bangladesh are related in terms of how menstruation has been used and politicized to marginalize them. This book is a must-read for anyone menstruating or not.


Shahnaz Ameer is a Lecturer at the Department of English, East West University, Bangladesh. She has completed her graduation and post-graduation from the Department of English, University of Dhaka. She is passionate about creative writing and research. Her research interests include women and gender studies, psychoanalytic criticism, postmodernism, cultural studies, and magic realism.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Pratik's Upcoming South Asia Special Double Issue -- Cover and Contributors



South Asia Special Double Issue



Mir Taqi Mir  Mirza Ghalib  Nagarjun  Parijaat  K. Satchidanandan  Rukmini Bhaya Nair  Ravi Shankar  Gulzar Kunwar Narain  Malovika Pawar  Vivek Narayanan  Arundhathi Subramaniam  Zilka Joseph  Kynpham Sing Nongkynrih Sudeep Sen  Kalpna Singh-Chitnis  Nishi Chawla  Reeti Mishra  Ashwani Kumar Rabindra K Swain  Annie Zaidi  Daud Kamal  Nasreen Anjum Bhatti  Zulfikar Ghose  Sarwat Husain   Zeeshan Sahil  Moniza Alvi  Munir Niazi  Azra Abbas  Yasmeen Hameed  Sarmad Sehbai  Afzal Syed  Waqas Khwaja  Iftikhar Arif  Majeed Amjad  Shadab Zeest Hashmi Anar  Tamilini  S. Karunakaran Siththanthan  Ajeet Cour  Shamsur Rahman  Aminur Rahman Fazal Shahabuddin  Rebecca Haquel  Carolyne Wright Dilara Hafiz  Dilara Hashem  Shamim Azad  Nasima Sultana  Taslima Nasrin  Emer Davis  Rhony Bhopla  Kumar Vikram  Megha Sood  Indran Amirthanayagam Shikha Malaviya  Anand Thakore  Rochelle Potkar Rishi Dastidar Roopa Ramamoorthi  Pramila Venkateswaran Nabina Das Namita Gokhle Divik Ramesh  Mandira Ghosh  Felicity Volk Shayamal Hari Adhikari Ramanand Rathi Sukrita Paul Kumar Yogesh Patel  Divya Joshi Rajni Shankar-Brown  Shailendra Sakar  Ramesh Chitiz Shyam Rimal  Shamsher Bahadur Singh Ashok Vajpeyi Anamika  Manglesh Dabral  Vinita Agrawal  Shahnaz Ameer John Brantingham Amar Aakash



Thursday, December 29, 2022

Distinguished Finnish Travel writer Piia Mustamäki to guest edit Pratik’s special Issue on City Writing


City Diversions

Pratik Magazine special issue on city writing


Edited by Yuyutsu Sharma with guest editor Piia Mustamäki

In their conversation in the essay collection Strange and Known Things, Teju Cole and Alexandar Hemon claim that “it’s impossible to write in a linear way about and in cities – they’re necessarily non-linear spaces;” but also that “cities might be our greatest invention. They drive creativity… and they can be hives of tolerance… But the other side is that they are congested with material history and the spiritual traces of those histories, including some dark events.” 

This is a call for submissions of new works on cities – non-fiction, short stories, poetry, photo essays – under the theme of “City Diversions” inspired by Cole and Hemon’s ideas:  on the non-linear diversions cities force and ignite and the creativity, tolerance and historical traces that bring those diversions about. We welcome submissions particularly on global south cities, but are interested in any new writing where the city takes center stage.


Piia Mustamaki is a Finnish writer, currently located in Abu Dhabi where she teaches NYU’s writing program. Travelling extensively, her travel writing has been published in Punctuate, The Cultureist, among others.

Recipient of fellowships and grants from The Rockefeller Foundation, Ireland Literature Exchange, Trubar Foundation, Slovenia, The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature and The Foundation for the Production and Translation of Dutch Literature, Yuyutsu Sharma is a world-renowned Himalayan poet and translator. He has published ten poetry collections including, Lost Horoscope: New Poems, The Second Buddha Walk, A Blizzard in my Bones: New York Poems and Annapurna Poems.  Half the year, he travels and reads all over the world and conducts Creative Writing workshops at various universities in North America and Europe but goes trekking in the Himalayas when back home. 

Deadline for submissions: Feb 15th, 2023


Pratik: A Magazine of Contemporary Writing

White Lotus Book Shop,

Hanumansthan, Kupondole,

Kathmandu Nepal Phone:5520248, 9803171925



Saturday, September 3, 2022






I. Hindu


Washed floors glow like children

Wiped clean after a muddy tackle


Earth-torn, weary, Sita rattles  

Her way through the job, a queen


A lotus poised on emerald sheen

Broken-stemmed mother, bent over  


Work, and girl-births, rebirths

She sweeps away the Ramayana -


Easy as rubbish, and not half so real.



II. Muslim


Perfect single-breasted dome

And four minaret phalluses, which   

Woman is more adored, and more

Restricted? This is Allah’s door.


Salma knows she cannot enter 

Woman within concealing burqua

Ignorant of Koran and Kaaba

Many prohibitions bind her.  


No and no and no, a jointed arc,

But, one night, she wraps the dark  

Round bundled child and bad naseeb 

And walks away. The id moon sparkles!  



III  Buddhist


I had thought to leave this space


For those women who do not speak

But the gesture stinks! It is twee


Surely nothing can be more weak

Than comfort parasitic on sorrow

My sister Shakti

Frail sparrow, flaps about, chatters, is free


And Shanti? She cleaves the narrow

Universe in two. This space is hers

Not she in it

For all my precious, bourgeois wit 


I dare not leave that blank unfilled 

Because Gekkutsu Sei, Southern Sung      

Has scratched

With a thirteenth century quill -


I set down the emerald lamp

                                                                             Take it up – exhaustless

                                                                             Once lit

                                                                            A sister is a sister.


IV Christian


Who is Sylvia? what is she

that all her swains adore her?


Plath is not in the poetry trade

Gentle, moronic, retrograde


Harakiri warrior, she disembowels

Deft as mishima - fetch the towels!


When the mess has been cleaned up

Gouged from the page is a pin-up -  


Everyone’s Best Woman.



Rukmini Bhaya Nair is Professor Emerita of Linguistics and English at IIT Delhi, received her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge and was awarded a second honorary doctorate by the University of Antwerp in 2006 for her work on narrative theory. Her earlier poetry collections, all with Penguin India, are: The Hyoid Bone (1992); The Ayodhya Cantos (1999); and Yellow Hibiscus (2004). A fourth volume, titled Shataka, is being published later in 2021 (Speaking Tiger Press). Nair’s first novel, Mad Girl's Love Song (Harper Collins, 2013), was placed on the ten-book final list for the DSC Prize. Often called “the first postmodern poet in Indian English”, she does research for the same reasons that she writes poetry – to discover the possibilities and limits of language.



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Wednesday, August 10, 2022





Disaster in Paradise 

Dogs hear it first. That awful rumbling sound

Coming from deep down underground

You think you feel a shudder and

You hope it was just the wind

Or maybe a large truck

On the next block


The kitchen is rattling

Like a flivver with a busted tie rod

The rattling gets louder and turns into a roar

Then all of the dishes fall to the floor

The house is hopping up and down

Like a sugared up five-year-old

On a backyard trampoline


There’s a tidal wave in the swimming pool

Sidewalk moving like a roller coaster

The street splits down the middle

Like cheap jeans on a fat guy

Uprooted trees moan as they

Begin their slow motion fall


Here in SoCal, we’ve got it made

No twisters or ice storms

No hurricanes or snow

The Rose Parade is on TV and

America is watching

Nothing but sunshine


But we do have to suffer

A quake now and then,

The end of the world

As we know it


I take a walk uptown

And all of the chimneys have fallen down

Rows of buildings like sandcastles

Washed away by a wave

Shattered glass storefronts wrapped in yellow tape



Dennis Mcgonagle
earned an MFA Degree from Cal State Long Beach in studio art in 2004. He is best known for his urban landscapes and street murals. Each of his paintings is a poem about color. McGonagle has recently added poetry to his creative output. His poems have been published in River’s Voice, the literary magazine for Rio Hondo College. 


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Monday, July 4, 2022





Pure Thought


At that same moment to plunge faces in the lake,

from two liquid palms

baptize each other with pure thought


I would follow you even to death

And beyond


Pure thought is a white church on a green meadow

and a fresco of the Last Supper inside


It leaks through walls, leaks through stained glass, leaks through the blood

when trembling serves a Solemn Mass


It resembles the golden vessel

that was used at Christmastime


Once the lid was lifted,

arcing vapours showed the way to Damascus


Come, we’ve been invited to build a transparent cathedral


A circle of skulls demands

that we mature to the work that is proper         


Come, the corn ears have plunged in the light of pure thought,

they go weak at the knees from love


Even to death

And beyond              


Translated from the Slovak by John Minahane



Dana Podracká studied psychology at Comenius U. A poet and essayist, she also writes for children. Her 1st book, Moon Lover, won the 1981 Ivan Krasko Prize. She has published 13 collections of poetry, most recently Paternoster (2018). Her essays focus on collective injuries, the philosophy of survival and symbols. She is interested in the metaphysical space of the soul.  Winner of the Hilary Tham Poetry prize and Mark Linenthal Award,



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Friday, June 10, 2022




Wings of his Heart

A Review of Luka Brase’s Art


One day, LUKA BRASE took a deep breath and knocked firmly on the door of the secret chamber. The squeaking door revealed hidden dreams and airships, unfulfilled loves and desires for beauty, wings of butterflies and rainfalls, which had not yet fallen, but were about to descend. ... He entered the room where people go to dream with their eyes wide open and so did a career of devotion and growth begin.

When Luka paints his dreams, a confident line crosses the canvas and pulsates in the rhythm of his heartbeat. In a moment, the line climbs up steeply, then rushes down into a free fall, changes its course and turns right only to twirl left the next second. One line replaces the other, but neither of them drowns in the sea of the drawing. There is always enough space for both the rural landscape and the skyscrapers of the big city, for a sense of belonging and loneliness. Figures dance, spinning their daily wheel of fortune, which sometimes creaks, and it might even break, but once it is repaired, it will again embark on its endless quest through the cradle to the cross. You can either join that enchanting dance, or just watch from aside, listen in silent astonishment and follow the painter’s hand. The hand of a creator who cannot contain everything within his own being, who must share himself, to the last piece of his substance. He carries an endless number of paintings inside him and he can only ease the eternal unrest within by ceaseless work. For Luka, canvas, line, color, shape – they create a world in which he can tell his truth, be himself. For art is formed as love: always pushed to its limit, without relying on someone else’s help.


On the last pages of his previous book – LUKA BRASE Art on The Way Vol. 2 – Luka described himself, as a storyteller born as “a point in a line”, as “a drawing child…”

In Amsterdam, after visiting the van Gogh Museum, I kept in mind, that the Dutch painter was as well an all-time passenger on the way to station NOWHERE. Subconsciously, I have made a parallel with the eternal traveler Luka, but with a significant difference - on his journeys, he knows exactly where he is going and why he chooses the main streams, not the side paths. There haven’t actually been any sideways on his routes so far. So how to better characterize this eternally traveling artist? I wanted to write a painter, but he is also a glassmaker, or more precisely a painter painting on glass, and a photographer who enters photographs without knocking. He confidently paints his visions on acts of young women or lets two little birds fly into a snapshot of New York buzzing with people to remind the big city of nature’s delicateness. He strives to become one with light and paints it on evening silhouettes of buildings. He stores his dreams in tapestries, so that he can then enchant and light up the walls that build a home.

Music plays from the core of Luka’s paintings. With incredible ease, he sways with details inside his pictures. He loves the freedom of the canvas and encapsulates it with the precision of a watchmaker. All one has to do is watch and listen carefully. Through thy heart.

When you are looking at Luka Brase’s images through your heart, maybe one of the rainfalls, which had not yet fallen, will begin to descend. He may also wipe clear the dreams and unfulfilled desires, which have been covered in the dust of oblivion over time. Maybe a stream of further feelings and ideas will run through your mind. Maybe ...


To add a quote from Luka’s verses: ... “me a drawing child ... / awakening, discovering… liveliness / stories of love and hate / sadness and happiness / day and night / anywhere ... anytime / storyline through my eyes / into my hands / drawings ... wings of my heart / creating visual diaries: / The world in frames of my soul.”

Storyteller. A point in a line. Drawing child. An adult man who can still look at the world through a child’s eyes. Pure and undistorted. He dreams the dreams of beauty, of the infinite universe of the human soul. Our precious friend Dejan Mansfeld-Rupnik perfectly illustrates it when he quotes the worldly renowned artist Paul Klee: “A drawing is simply a line going for a walk” and adds that if you have grown up in the mountains, like Luka has in his beloved region of Orava near Dolný Kubín, you know for sure that going for a walk can also result in taking a long journey. And whenever Luka sees that artistic line, which has departed on an incredible journey through the fullness of life and love, it leaves him in silent amazement.

Nothing better and more beautiful is there left to be said and written. And so, I end here, because only Luka Brase himself can outdo his work by entering the secret chamber again. Carried by the wings of his heart towards an infinity of images.


Translated and edited by Zuzka Labska and Stefani Draganova


Luka Brase was born in 1983 in Czechoslovakia. He studied art at the Academy of Arts in Slovakia.

He has done 30 solo exhibitions in Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Ireland, Slovakia, United Kingdom, Hungary, Switzerland, Czech Republic, USA – New York, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, China – Shanghai and Beijing. 18 group participations in the Netherlands, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ireland, France among them important show in Künstlerhaus Wien, Afordable art fair Amsterdam, Accessible art fair Bratislava and Cite Internationale Des Arts in Paris.

His art is a part of the permanent collection in the Museum of Art – SUPEC Shanghai, China. His works belong to private collections in many countries in the world. He is the founder of project Art on the way and represented by DE Galerie in Den Haag, Netherlands and Artgogo gallery in Shanghai, China.

Luka Brase works and lives across Europe.

Marián Pauer /75/ has devoted more than four decades to professional photography as a historian, a theorist, and author of 31 publications, a curator of many exhibitions and a member of juries for international exhibitions and salons in Slovakia and abroad. He is author of several monographs, screenplays for television documentaries and radio shows.

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