A Poem by Beata Stasak

What do you do to connect/reconnect/ interconnect with the natural world around you?

 

The dramatic Western Australian landscape, a big backyard to play in…

The sharp points of spinifex covered in a fine coating of the red dust, in swags on the ground, looking at the cooling ocean line…

beauty is around me, beauty is inside me, I am so full of joy, I cry…

My Aboriginal friend takes my hand: “We are all part of the one web – humans, animals, trees, rivers, stones – all vibrating at different frequencies…

if we damage one single thread of the web, the entire web is affected, this beauty here is not here to stay if we don’t try to protect it.”

I wiped my tears of joy nodding my head: “Life is demanding we take charge or our own circumstances to create and protect the life we want.”

A D Hope suggests in his poem Australia, that perhaps our barrenness and remoteness means we can grow something special here.

Australians have much to learn about the sacred when it draws closer to the terror and fear, on which their civilization was built and based.

Like the puzzles and struggles of the journey, the sacred offers and takes away.

A challenge to our survival in this dry timeless land is our never-ending fight with its constant floods and fires…

and yet a promise of a better and more worthwhile life is always with us.

People have all of the resources they need inside themselves to bring positive change in their lives …

… but many people are not in touch with natural world, for them it is nothing less or nothing more just the playground to use and play in while they can.

The closer we look, the more alive we become

the nature around us

breathes with life,

a piece of rock

seems dead

and passive

to our naked eye,

magnify it,

it becomes full of

intrinsically restless

molecules

atoms

and subatomic particles

vibrating

in high or slow

motions.

Everywhere you look,

the closer you look,

outside in

and inside out

you feel

life force vibration.

Science is magnificent

by giving us those

magnifying glasses

to view life

from a higher perspective,

by conducting

experiment

after experiment

to join in

all the missing links

on our empty map of universe,

and yet

the greatest obstacle in science

is illusion of knowledge,

by trying so hard

to answer all those open ended questions

we are missing the most important element:

“The question of existence and non-existence.”

We all dream to live in harmony

with ourselves

with others

with the natural world

that spread all around us,

we want

so desperately

to find

the lost connections

that are still in place,

the relationship

between these

vibrational influences

and energies

is forever,

without us knowing,

inextricably linked.

Physical energy

of things

we can see and touch,

is never lost,

just changes its form,

to the metaphysical.

Space and time

are paradigms of the mind.

Human thoughts,

all experiences

and events

in natural cycle of life

are eternally regenerating,

nature around us,

and in us,

is ever changing

and still the same.

Let this stirring vision

of a new natural world

inspire you

to walk out your dream

and create the seemingly

impossible.

Take a few moments to observe

the natural world around you,

inside out

and outside in,

the closer you look,

more you dip in

to the depths of these emotions

within which

qualities

of protection

preservation

and righteousness

are being forged.

And whatever it is,

whichever

has the strongest reaction

let that be your cause.

So many of great

before us and now

view life from a higher perspective

not from a point of view

of personal gain,

for Steve Irwin

and Jane Goodall

it was

preservation of animal species

and their environments.

Their visions came from

their understanding

of the interconnected nature

of all natural beings

-the interrelated structure of reality.

  •  

Beata Stasak is an Art and Eastern European Languages Teacher from Eastern Europe with upgraded teaching degrees in Early Childhood and Education Support Education. She teaches in the South Perth Metropolitan area.

After further study in Counselling for Drug and Alcohol Addiction, she has used her skills in Perth Counselling Services. Beata has been a farm caretaker on the organic olive farm in the South Perth Metropolitan area for the past twenty years.

Beata is a migrant from post-communist Eastern Europe, who settled in Perth, Western Australia in 1994.

Somrita Misra on Prashant Nair’s Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire – Review | Netflix True Crime | Heaven of Horror

“Injustice Anywhere is a Threat to Justice Everywhere”: The Quest for Justice in Prashant Nair’s Trial By Fire

 

Martin Luther King, in one of his famous speeches, remarked: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” In a country like India, with its huge population, insufficient courts, filled jails, justice has always been an elusive concept. But certain events in the history of this country have made such monstrous mockery of the justice system that the mind boggles to think of it. One such horrifying tragedy occurred on June 13,1997 in Delhi at the Uphaar Cinema, where a fire broke out during the live show of the film Border, because of an improperly maintained transformer. The auditorium and the balcony were packed on the first day screening of this block buster film; little did the people enjoying the show realize that they were sitting in an imminent gas chamber. As the fire broke out in the parking lot, smoke entered the auditoriums and balcony via the AC ducts; carbon monoxide filled the theatre halls, plunging everyone into darkness. As desperate suffocating people rushed towards the exits, they found multiple code violations blocking their road to survival. The balcony doors were locked from the outside to prevent anyone entering without a ticket, a private viewing box for the cinema owners blocked another exit, there was no announcing system, no emergency lights, no fire alarms. In short, every single safety protocol was overlooked. 59 cinemagoers died in the fire while over a hundred were grievously injured.

     Prashant Nair’s Netflix series, Trial By Fire, dramatizes the heart-wrenching events in the aftermath of the Uphaar fire. At the center of this real life inspired series are the actual characters of Neelam and Shekhar Krishnamoorthy (played by Rajshri Deshpande and Abhay Deol), the couple who have led the fight for justice for the victims of the fire and who lost their two children, Unnati (17) and Ujjwal (14) to the fire. As the series opens, we see a happy, well off upper middle class family of the 1990s at the peak of their lives. The two children are happily making plans of going to the matinee show of Border and the family have no clue of the tragedy that is about to befall them. In the very next shot, we see the blazing cinema hall and a frantic Neelam rushing through hospital corridors trying to locate her children. The awful look on Shekhar’s face as he recognizes his daughter will break every viewer’s heart; both Rajshri and Abhay bring great maturity to the roles of Neelam and Shekar, portraying them with dignity and solemnity at the same time. We must remember that both Neelam and Shekhar are still alive and it is hugely difficult for actors to play living people. But both Abhay and Rajshri rise to the challenge magnificently; it is their performances which brings alive the anguish of the fire even so many years later for the viewers of the series.

     Heartbroken after the loss of their children, Neelam and Shekhar are left with only one purpose in life, to seek justice for their dead children. This quest for justice leads Neelam to the mighty owners of Uphaar, Gopal and Sushil Ansal, powerful industrialists and members of the thuggish builders’ lobby in and around the national capital. From hereon the series enters the courtrooms and Prashant Nair shows us brilliantly the nuanced loopholes within the justice system that is exploited by the Ansal Brothers to avoid responsibility for their actions. Their lawyers offload the guilt of the fire onto the DVB (Delhi Vidut Board), the Fire Services, the gatekeeper of the cinema hall, the manager. But no one, not even the Judiciary, seems to feel able to indict the cinema owners for their blatant violations of the safety codes. Nair shows beautifully the frustration of the victims of the tragedy as they keep fighting for dates for the trial, for just compensation, for stricter safety regulations. Along with Neelam and Shekhar, we meet other victims of the tragedy: Satya Pal Sudan, who lost seven members of his family, including his one month old granddaughter, Chetna; Captain Bhalla and his wife ((Captain Bhalla perished in the fire), the Goswamis who forever had to live with the guilt of sending their parents to the show.

     Trying to unite the victims together, Shekhar forms an association, The AVUT (The Association of Victims of Uphaar Fire Tragedy). It is through this association that the series introduces us to the other victims of the tragedy and as viewers we understand the immense scale and complexity of the tragedy. Nair highlights, through suggestive nudges and changes of pace, the sheer lack of justice in the case as one date after the other leads to virtually no change in the status of the case. The series also very poignantly captures the inequity of the justice system of our country; where, on the one hand, the rich and powerful Ansals are secure in their homes despite them being the lead culprits, the poor become entrapped in the webs of the case. There is the poor electrician of DVB who was unfortunate enough to have repaired the transformer on the day of the fire (the transformer which caused the fire had ignited that morning when it was repaired) and who has to serve a jail term for his irresponsibility in repairing the transformer. The household of this man, Veer Singh (played stoically and soulfully by Rajesh Tailang) is plunged into chaos following his arrest; his daughter’s impending marriage gets affected, his son’s life becomes an endless rigmarole of court visits while his wife fights to pull the household together. Then there is the henchman of the Ansals, a good but corrupt man who is forced to frighten away the victims from joining the Association of Neelam and Shekhar to ensure a future for his son, the son who would, in a tragic irony, die from being hit by a truck.

     As a series, Trial By Fire is beautifully kaleidoscopic; Nair allows his viewers a glimpse into the tragedies of not just the victims and the survivors but also the many unintentional preparators; in India the poor are often lured into doing unlawful things for money or status who then pay the price for a disaster, something the Uphaar Cinema fire illustrated to the core. No one, not the police, not the Judiciary, not the news agencies, ask why the cinema owners are allowed to go scot free. The Ansals were arrested for only six months, that too after immense public pressure built up by AVUT. After a mere six months they were released; after 18 years of rigorous fighting, the verdict in the Uphaar cinema fire was delivered by the Supreme Court in 2015. The court ruled that the Ansal brothers pay a fine of 60 crores for building a trauma center in Delhi and sentenced them to a two year jail term; the two years were further reduced because of the previous terms served by the brothers while Sushil was let off completely because of his age (he was 76). The series, in its last two episodes, shows the immense frustration and disappointment of the Krishnamoorthys and the other victims at the verdict; the viewers feel the despair of the unfairness and are as helpless as the victims are at altering it. There can be no conclusion to the story of the Uphaar Cinema fire tragedy or to the story of Neelam and Shekhar; theirs is an ongoing fight. In 2021 the Delhi High Court sentenced the Ansals to 7 years of jail on tampering of evidence charges. But they are again out on bail. Neelam and Shekhar are still fighting. And this is how the series ends, in a courtroom, with Neelam still fighting for justice.

     Trial By Fire is an exploration of the human, emotional, judicial, and ultimately, systemic tragedy that the Uphaar fire was. The series shows the dilemma of a country at a crossroads; we see the very veracity of the film that the patrons would die seeing being questioned. Delayed justice is justice denied. Inadequate justice is justice mocked. The Uphaar case was all about this mockery as Nair shows in the series. Based on the eponymous book by Neelam and Shekhar, Trial By Fire, as a series, underscores the fragile legal system of the country as well as the insensitivity of powerful industrialists when it comes to owning responsibility for their actions.  The common people of this country have as much to lose as any tycoon in a tragedy; this is what Neelam and Shekar’s fight and AVUT’s fight was about and this is what the series conveys to its audience through the story of the Uphaar fire tragedy.

 

Somrita Misra is currently Assistant Professor of English, Chanchal College, Malda and PhD Scholar (English), Diamond Harbour Women’s University.

Candice Louisa Daquin reviews Basudhara Roy’s collection of poems.

In Basudhara Roy’s second collection of poetry, I am reminded of how I have adored, from the onset; the way Indian poets translate the English language. There is a specificity to their transliteration that is wholly Indian, so much so I would argue, there is an Indian-English language and an Indian-English form of poetry that deserves its own recognition. As one who spoke English as a second language it is easy to understand why language changes when someone writes it from the vantage of a non-native speaker. Often this is derided and too much attention given to ‘perfecting’ or adopting the idioms of that language. We are beyond fortunate to have access to Indian poets fluent in English and what they can bequeath the poetry world.

You may not believe but I was in

waiting too, scratching the moon’s surface

for nail scoops of silver to put in the parting

of my hair, folding away dappled bales of clouds

to make room for you (Waiting/s).

I live in a very Hispanic town and Spanish speakers are constantly chided for not speaking ‘proper English’ when in fact they have their own interpretation of English that is added to by the flavor and beauty of their native language. What is so wrong with that? Why are we attempting to write precisely as a native English speaker, if we are indeed not? Doesn’t it dumb down our own cultural uniqueness and beauty if we simply try to imitate people who do not represent us? Better I think to be unapologetically ourselves and include the influence of our culture, our experience and our languages when writing in English.

In my breath,

your name is a fervent prayer,

a talisman I clutch, an amulet I wear

to ward off my misgivings,

a fabric I clothe my fancies in. (Names).

There are words that are utilized by Indian writers who write poetry in English that are unique to their transliteration and I love those words just as I love the mood and evocation of India within the confining syllables of the English language. I wish fervently that I were fluent in Urdu or Hindi so I could truly grasp the color and richness of India through her native tongues. But that is not to say English cannot be mastered and wielded beautifully because it has grown a new interpretation across borders that I find bewitching and intoxicating. How faith and Gods can become metaphor and literalisms for understanding life better:

Under starlight, my soul’s arid longing

for the pitcher of yours will be pure

prayer and receding into you will always

be a good option in life’s parched fever (To Krishna).

The other day I found out a commonly used English (UK) word ‘Doolally’ is indeed, a word taken from an Indian-based language. Whether Hindi, Sanskrit or other, these are words with rich histories, unbeknownst to their modern-day-users, especially non-Indians. I realized then, English colonialists must have appropriated the word and I was convinced that such words added to the English language more than they could ever take away from it. After all, language is a constantly evolving creature, and influence from other cultures is exactly what imbues language with its deepest meaning. Not least because it points to our universal connectiveness, and our ability to transcend borders. Could anyone deny the heritage of India, its myriad influences and gorgeous histories? What a treat to be permitted a glimpse of that world through bilingual writers such as Roy. Without which, we’d be consigned to a single language, and poetry would have lost continents of worlds and vital expressions:

I relearn under this determined sun

that the opposite of light isn’t always dark.

In some seasons, it is shade.

In much the same way, the opposite of more is hardly less

but sometimes, just enough. (Percipience).

Instead of thinking what can the English language and poets writing in English bring to poetry, maybe we should be asking what poetry gains from Indian poets writing in English and beyond? Undoubtedly in native tongue, from Tagore onward, there is a depth much of the western world, being infinitely younger and less advanced in the realm of poetry, could take notes from. But Indian poets who carve out their own language using their Indian ancestry and that tapestry, alongside their proficiency in English, have made an indelible and valuable contribution to modern poetry that should not be ignored.

Lucky enough to work with Roy on a number of projects, I knew her strength as a writer, and am unsurprised this second collection of poetry is as deliberate, probing and downright beautiful as her first:

I will sit tonight under my tree of words,

empty-handed, empty-hearted, ask it to describe

this exhaustion, this gash, this herb, this surfeit

with the world and never having enough to hold (Return).

If you read these poems with an open mind to language, you see the unique translation within the words that is beyond a native English speaker, you see that the author has observed the word and meaning and woven a slightly different tapestry. It is the choice of words, the way they are composed and intertwined that speaks deeply of Indian heritage, just in the same way a sari differs from a batik or an Indian spice differs from a Moroccan or French spice. It is all in the flavoring, which is unique to the individual, and their translation of experience through language and location:

This

moment will always be one of

clay, of conches, of ten-armed

goddesses beckoning children

to waiting roofs to light up

their grandparents’ eyes. (Bolts).

I so enjoy the unapologetic length of some of these poems, especially as in the West, poems are becoming shorter and shorter, not because they adhere to some poetic form, but because our attention spans are failing us. I suspect this is not the same among poetry aficionados in India, or at least, I hope not. Because among the greatest modern Indian poets, I find a sublime shameless longitude, that takes me away on a story with each journey:

I cherish grandma chiefly as a clock

ticking away on my mind’s wall,

her voice as sharp as a shard, too defiant

to believe that times will not change. (Memories of my Grandmother as a Clock).

It is exactly that homage to the past, to family, to culture and genes, that I find so enticingly sentimental. And before you suspect sentiment to have no place in poetry, think of all those poems that we revere and ask yourself, which among them does not employ sentiment? It is the heart of poetry, and in our modern interpretation we often seek the pithy, the quick-fix, the intransient, whilst I would argue, there is so much to be found in a carefully crafted story within a poem, that literally speaks lifetimes:

It steadily urges me inwards now,

into the corridors of my heart where

once the dark had sworn to live forever. (Awakening). If we cannot discover and douse ourselves in the longing tactile senses of a poem, then it has not truly clasped us to it. And a poem by its very nature is not aloof, it is intense, emotive, imploring. There is such a homage to the classics in Roy’s writing and it is apparent like that many of her contemporaries she is truly grounded and appreciative of those classics. And yet, what I most cherish about Roy’s writing is not her tipped hat recognition of those poets before her, but her own distinct voice. As Roy writes in the poet’s afterword; “However, if life is to be lived and participated in fully, one must inhabit all, not only to bear life and oneself well but also to attempt to know things deeply enough to remedy, change and transform them into something more worthwhile.”

Indian poets writing in English have a grasp on the existential like no other, they are able to nimbly illustrate the world and equally employ surrealism in a way I have never seen done. Evoking ancient deities and modern failings simultaneously in a montage of lived experience that is so vivid you feel your mouth watering. I am continually breathless, inhabiting Roy’s vision, reading work with layer upon layer of meaning and substance, and in an age where substance is sorely lacking, this acts as welcome respite from mundanity. Surely this has always been poetry’s highest purpose and if so, Basudhara Roy’s collection will leave you in that beautiful, reflective oasis.

while on the confident spires of the world,

their glory shines undimmed.

It’s their tools you always wield, unmindful

of why all your hands should serve them

or why tools were never yours to begin with. (Advice for Durga).

Basudhara Roy teaches English at Karim City College, Kolhan University, Chaibasa. Author of three collections of poems, the latest being Inhabiting, she writes because she must test words on her tongue, pulse, moods, agitation, abstraction and satire. Her recent poetry is featured in the Usawa Literary Review, EPW, Outlook, Live Wire, Madras Courier and The Dhakha Tribune among others. She loves, rebels, overthinks and reviews from Jamshedpur, Jharkhand.

Candice Louisa Daquin is of Sephardi French/Egyptian descent. Born in Europe, Daquin worked in publishing for The U.S., Embassy / Chamber of Commerce before immigrating to the American Southwest to study and become a Psychotherapist, where she has continued writing and editing. Prior to publishing her own poetry collections, Daquin regularly wrote for the poetry periodicals Rattle, SoFloPoJo (South Florida Poetry Journal) and The Northern Poetry Review. Aside from her Psychotherapy practice where she specializes in adults who were abused as children, Daquin is also Senior Editor at Indie Blu(e) Publishing, Writer-in-Residence for Borderless Journal, Editor of Poetry & Art with The Pine Cone Review and Editorial Partner, for Blackbird Press. 

SHORT FICTION BY DAVID CHAPPELL

THE YOU BE

The Universal Book.  The U.B.   The You Be.  Darn, he was looking for it again!  A religious historical humorous futuristic psycho-sociological opus that would answer all the questions he might ever ask about anything.  Not a murder mystery or a supernatural thriller with high body counts, or a travel guide to places he could not afford to visit, but an almanac of enlightening mind recipes for better living through expanding transcendental investments, healthier true food, and happily diverse egalitarian inter-personal relations.  What was it he had come here to find, only to let his brain shift into overloaded yearnings and lose his focus?  Too many blurbs read, covers examined, first pages scanned and sometimes last ones too. 

Why was he still searching for something to depend on outside his own bathroom mirror, which he had begun to suspect of fakery (practiced smiles, digressions into hair, teeth).  It was similar at the post office, where after standing in line for so long, he sometimes felt like asking the clerk where he should really send the card and at what speed.  This entire bookstore had become a self-help section for him, but its silent shelf-sitters made dubious promises of emotional and intellectual adventures, of becoming the first on his block to try something out for ten days or his money back (not!).  He just needed inspiration, a sense of hope and direction beyond being a pizza cook for famished, drooling, wide-eyed customers who scanned down the menu seeking salvation. 

They knew him here.  His pondering, frustrated, curious face, his over-active hands fingering everything, even the shiny new paperbacks, to concerning degrees.  He had learned just when to return a book to the shelf before the old guy manning the register asked if he wanted to buy it or not, because this was not really a lending library or a waiting room.  He had left his prints on countless pages, blended the inks of countless jacket designs, moved countless items into new, obscure locations. 

Yes, they knew him here.  Homer decided that he needed no further introduction.  If he could not find the U.B. on his own, by spiritual clairvoyance or sheer exhausted osmosis, maybe this was finally the time to smirk a jaunty mirror-trained smile, shatter the hush of laboring eyes and inflict a blemish on his loser image.  He approached the minimum-wage money-taker like a tiger sizing up his prey.

“Excuse me…,” Homer said in a hoarse voice.  Mental note: exercise vocal cords first.

Two shaggy eyes peered over the edge of the colorful superhero comic.  In shock, or perhaps embarrassment, as if he might miss out on a cartoon pow or bam, the aged clerk said wearily, “Yes?”

Where should I send my package occurred to Homer, but then he recalled where he was.   If only he could adequately express why!  How about a large everything to go?  Nope.  “Um, well, I’m looking for a sort of universal book.  You know?”

The shaggy eyes winced at such pathos.  None of the old tinkling of the bell over the door and asking what his favorite author was.  But the cash register attendant studied a shelf behind the counter.  “Who am I?  An old man on the mountain?”  He had the gray beard and hair, but he was bald on top; he needed a cool hat.  Finally the Marvel animé whiz sighed and pulled a volume from its cozy perch.  He slyly slipped it into a slim brown paper bag, as if selling porn or dope.  “Five bucks, no returns, thanks to a special, today only, for seekers.”

Homer peeked at the title, Wonders of the Wilderworld, quietly paid and went outside into the cheerful sunny street scene.  After an appropriately satisfied walk toward his workplace, he tucked the bag in a safe place and starting making pizzas.   

He felt much happier, knowing that he now owned the secret to his own happiness. So far, he had only seen the cover, but already he found that he was more patient with people, even pleasant, conscientious in his creations, and emotionally strong with new wisdom.  The time passed quickly as he kept busy, humming and smiling without caring how it looked.  Paths to new careers began to materialize in his mind, better housing, more supportive friends, and entertainment of all sorts.  When a hungry customer asked for a large everything to go, he felt real compassion and wished he could provide more than just tasty toppings! 

After work, while he ate his free small pizza and soda, Homer asked his affable black Cuban boss why he had started a pizzeria?

José laughed.  “I missed Cuban sandwiches.  They’re like folded pizzas.  I just unfolded them.  That’s life I guess.  Figure out what you like, and find a way to unfold it?”

Homer went home, opened a beer and sat on the couch.  Reaching inside the bag, he pulled out the book and chuckled at the title.  He grabbed a pencil to highlight ideas and opened it. 

Its white pages were all blank!

After his initial shock, Homer smiled and wrote on the first page: “I am…”     

David Chappell is a former pizza cook and bookstore clerk who is now a retired professor

Poems By Jyothsna Phanija

Replication

“I never saw my mother eating”.

I recall the singer’s confession on television.

When he said these lines, Rassundari Debi’s 2 days of hunger comes to my corelative memory.

Women and starving. Like fantasy and map.

Singer’s mother has this quite a common name Savitri.

This detail I know

Everybody would know in our language.

as his biography is that famous. In fact, it is his father’s reputation of folding these many vernacular expressions articulated on his tongue.

I remember my aunt’s mother with that name.

Savitri of my song like village.

Her grownup and married sons  sending food on turns, curry from 1 house, rice from another.

Daughter sending breakfast once in a week.

Savitri of film like life, plucking flowers for other women.

I place my thumb, between the space, attached to the stapler.

I press it, the pin pricks my thumb.

It didn’t hurt I proudly tell my friends.

No  pin scars either.

We make a song of stapled pins.

It is not beautiful like Kodhai’s song of flowers.

In my comprehension, stapler pins and flowers are same, in structure.

Once Savitri would have said to her friends

“we don’t know how to speak. Then how can we sing?”

Like any other neglected mother, she waits for a cup of tea every evening.

In the afternoons, I put a song replica of Krishna’s childhood days to put my niece to sleep.

I sing 1 antara, she is half a sleep.

Childhood is an easy catch for songs.

I end my song towards the half of the second antara, she falls into a sound sleep.

I rest my voice and close my eyes,

Thinking of listening a song like mint.

GLOSSARY

Rassundari Debi: Bengali woman writer of Aamar Jiban, the autobiographical narrative, where she shares her experience of not having food for 2 consecutive days, as she doesn’t get time to eat, completely occupied in household chores.

Kodhai: in the mythical tale, Kodhai used to make beautiful garlands and write beautiful verses.

Antara: part of a song.

ORTHOGRAPHY OF OUR COOKING

All those books I read in the University

constructed my non compromising self.

My first achievement is

I am no longer shy to use my hands instead of fork while eating outside.

I don’t care about people watching me now.

The theories I read made me feel comfortable with myself.

I quit the habit of choosing something from the menu, even though I haven’t heard it properly  while being read  aloud by someone.

Now I  am fine to spoil the neatly arranged kitchen with my own measures and devices,

Tea powder sprinkled here and there or stains of milk on the kitchen floor.

You must know how we all cook

Our kitchens have more small containers of different sizes

Much different from the seeing world.

We open the containers to know its contents.

we all practice and remember that, at any cost lighting the fire should be last thing.

How much time we take to  study the geography of the stove?

Depending on intuition and calculations.

We measure salt with its weight on a spoon, water, with its weight in a glass.

We become alert to listen the fire

 low flame, our confidant.

 Over cooked onions troubling our voices,

Hurting our fingers a little to transfer fried cashew nuts from saucepan.

 We learn to look after the bruises while chopping.

And we do endless mistakes.

Like everyone else, we know forgetting time.

Everyone among us,

Invent and add more chapters to our very own book of cooking without seeing how it’s being cooked.

Turning off the mixer for more number of times

We unlearn our understanding of consistency.

Whistling pressure cooker indicating the completion of a curry

Or a cake

Enough for excitement everyday

Bringing new challenge and our way of fixing it.

COLOUR OF LIVING

I read the outline of life

Once in college

At home

Each time

Some fresh colours winding and winding.

what

Frida Kahlo  gives us world

What would one think of pine or bitterness or wounds or lost love?

Murmurs of glass

Fingers of wind

Mirror of night

So marked out.

Norms are like fractions of time

We are innocent to calculate.

We do yet

Thinking of our disfigured selves as mere perceptions.

Our confessions are long narrative poems.

Chronicle of colours in no particular order.

Pain sketched

Lyrics in inter-semiotic translation

I find such beauty

Pages drip

needles and scars are synonyms.

Can we all recall at once

How we learn not to prioritize our basic needs?

If hungry, thinking of some forgotten books,

If unhappy, restricting our languages.

Aren’t we so pleasing?

For whom who we live

Like this,

So unnamed.

With no punctuations

She speaks

She is taught

At the art studios.

To take phonemes from tint.

Jyothsna Phanija teaches English Literature at ARSD College (University of Delhi), India. Her first poetry collection Ceramic Evening was out in 2016. Her poems most recently have appeared and are forthcoming in The Handy, Uncapped Pen, Wishbone Words, The Hopper, Bosphorus Review of Books and others. She blogs at phanija.wordpress.com.

Delirium of the Waves Carrying the Voice of Orpheus: Visual Art of Subarnarekha Pal

These are some words I gathered throughout the four seasons. These words were picked up as I hurriedly tied my shoes imperfectly on the middle of the empty rail track, picked up from the crowded edges of a stagnant water body, from a sharp edge cutting into the flesh of green fruits,  from a sudden summer craving for a cold person, from the constant warm craving for a warm person, from a little known anonymous physics book, from the warm lavender desk, from the time in-between internet buffering…

It’s quite an ambition of mine to tell stories like this. They are both complete and incomplete, like the phases of the moon.

Do complete the incomplete ones, do incomplete the complete ones…

Orpheus kept on singing even as an incomplete body. Do we dare to go to that extent as artists? Are you, are we as certain as his head?

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Subarnarekha is an enthusiast for everything under the sun except for non-fiction. Apart from being an educator inside classrooms, she has been an independent, freelance illustrator for more than half a decade now. She loves to read, eat and eat and write and eat again. Even though she never studied chemistry she likes to experiment constantly with words as well as images. 

Check her works on https://www.behance.net/subarnarekha

https://www.instagram.com/invites/contact/?i=1x0btglz3rqcm&utm_content=10vsnql

Homage to Eliot: On Hundred Years of The Waste Land

 

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Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, just after finishing my Masters, I chose to appear for a job interview at PWC for the role of a Language Reviewer. After the written test and the preliminary interview I was taken to a manager who asked me about my favourite author and text. Predictably, I said my favourite author was T.S. Eliot and my favourite text was The Waste Land. He asked me if it was relevant still. This was 2008 and audaciously and impractically enough I told him that when I read the lines about the falling towers in “What The Thunder Said” I could connect those lines to the collapse of the twin towers and how we were inhabiting a different kind of ‘unreal’ universe. I don’t know how much of what I said he understood, but the job was mine if I wanted it. I refused because I wanted to focus exclusively on academia, encrusted as I was by naïve illusions of humanistic idealism and scholastic vanity. Intriguingly, one of the things that I most remember from that interview and which played a major role in my refusal was the sight of scores of men, all wearing the same white shirts and black trousers milling around water coolers or sitting in their cubicles, eyes almost shackled to their screen, or rushing with blue folders along corridors. The monotony, the drabness and the mechanicality was far too chilling for my youthful self and I was eerily reminded of those haunting lines from The Waste Land that I still recite in class, during one of my countless attempts at teaching Eliot by proxy:

Unreal City,

Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

I had not thought death had undone so many.

 

I chant these lines to myself everyday as I travel by local trains, walking along dung-smeared, urine-infested platforms crowded with passengers enduring the daily grind – moving around the prickly pear, prickly pear, prickly pear at nine o’ clock in the morning – and remaining indifferent to the rampant corruption, the belligerent stupidity, the hawkish lies and the pathological violence dogging our days. This isn’t new. This has often been the case. Here and elsewhere. And that’s why whether in 2008 or in 2022, 100 years after its publication, The Waste Land remains one of the most seminal English poems which continue to speak to new readers across time and space.

My first contact with The Waste Land was in 2006. We had Preludes in our syllabus and in my intrepid curiosity I had chanced upon this green-covered slim Faber and Faber copy of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land and Other Poems. Like most people encountering Eliot for the first time, I was also shocked by his diction, imagery and themes. Much of it at first did not make sense. It was not supposed to, I think. But some of the lines sprang up and caught your attention with something akin to a vice-grip on one’s neck:

‘My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

Speak to me. Why do you never speak. Speak.

What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

I never know what you are thinking. Think.’

Eliot had suffered nervous breakdowns while composing The Waste Land and was even admitted in a sanatorium for recovery. These lines could well be seen as reflections of both the psychological agony being endured by the author as well the collapse of communications and attendant marital discord that Eliot acutely experienced during the 1920s on account of his worsening relationship with his first wife, Vivienne Haigh-wood. In these times of Prozac and Zoloft, such articulations could have been shared by many others. I have unfortunately been aware of several suicides by relatives and acquaintances who surely suffered from their own nightmares of depression, trauma and much else. While reading these lines now I often imagine them as speakers and keep wondering about what could have happened had I had the chance to talk to them.

It is strange that the incredible enhancement of communication technologies, instead of bringing us closer has often caged us within the small portable screens we carry with us and human contact has often been replaced by digitally induced alienation and the bubble of virtual communities where hatred pulses faster than heartbeats.   Eliot warned us about the perils of such self-absorption: “We think of the key, each in his prison/Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison”. But we have not heard what the thunder said,    buried as we are under the “withered stumps of time” bought from Amazon or Flipkart as part of our ever-increasing immersion in commodities. The world ushered in by the likes of Zuckerberg and Musk, far from securing global deliverance, has only pushed us further into a vortex of moral degeneration. They are the Mr. Eugenides of modern times, whose assumed knowledge of secret rites and divine truth only translates to temptations of debauchery and degeneration.

In fact, there are many different aspects of our current predicament to which The Waste Land continues to allude. At a time when literary and cultural greats have passed away and our present remains scarred by episodes of barbaric violence, particularly against women, rampant, bottomless corruption, gross injustices, defrauding gurus, papier-mâché monsters of political dyes and a remarkable absence of admirable moral voices, we too, like the speaker of The Waste Land could lament:

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow

Out of this stony rubbish? Son of man,

You cannot say, or guess, for you know only

A heap of broken images, where the sun beats,

And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief,

And the dry stone no sound of water.

 

Naturally therefore we surrender ourselves to newer versions of Madame Sosostris in the form of life-coaches, astrologers, self-help gurus and motivational speakers only to eventually realize “I can connect Nothing with nothing.” Therefore our cities become spaces where accident victims lie withering in pain as people photograph them without actually providing help or where people are beaten, jailed or killed in the name of religion or where aspiring teachers protesting against governmental corruption are beaten and dragged away at night by policemen. Hence the relevance of that sustained tenor of civilizational degradation which resonates throughout The Waste Land where we are confronted with surreal images of upside-down towers that burst and crack in the violet air. One could easily rewrite those lines by replacing the European cities with Indian ones:

Falling towers

Kolkata, Benaras, Srinagar

Delhi, Mumbai

Chennai

 

This is not to say, however, that The Waste Land remains relevant only because of a prognosis of manifold maladies. It also offers unrealized possibilities of redemptive hope whose actualization depends on the individual readers. Whether it is the inexplicable ecstasy associated with the encounter with the hyacinth girl, the distant evocations of Spenser and Marvel, the crooning fishermen basking in the splendor of Ionian white and gold or the Upanishadic message of restraint, compassion and generosity – so characteristic of Christmastime – all point to individual and collective modes of being, freed from the pervasive maladies of modern metropolitan existence. The narrator too understands the prevalence of such possibilities and hence his question which is ours as well: “Shall I at least set my lands in order?” But the need for such re-ordering or restoration only becomes urgently registered once one has heard the voices coming from “empty cisterns and exhausted wells”. This is why I tell my students that it is only by traversing the wasteland can you enter the famed rose-garden, the garden of all loves where the eyes of the Blessed Sister, the Spirit of the Fountain can offer us the sustenance we seek. As a poem that combines the “individual’s grouse against life” (Eliot himself) with the “plight of an entire generation” (I.A. Richards), The Waste Land, an indisputable classic, with its unique heteroglossic montage, manages to speak to our times as well and continues to enkindle those flames of faith and light through which each of us may fulfill our personal responsibility to time and pave the path to a future of peace that passeth beyond understanding – a ‘heimat’ illuminated by the potentialities of what-might-yet-be that keeps calling us from beyond the sordid squalor of today as we try to cling on to the “infirm glory of the positive hour”. Will you join us in that quest, “hypocrite lecteur!—mon semblable,—mon frère”?

 

Abin Chakraborty teaches in Chandernagore College, has a penchant for pedantic pontifications, dabbles in poetry, and remains interested in a variety of literary and critical topics ranging form postcolonialism to cultural studies.

Somrita Misra Reviews Three Witches’ Songs

In 1692, on a summer morning in Salem, Massachusetts, Bridget Bishop was hanged from an oak tree for the crime of being a ‘witch’. The thrice-married Bridget was accused of possessing dark powers after her second husband’s death, in an attempt to seize her property. While Bridget managed to beat the charge, she was nevertheless under the radar of suspicion and was finally sentenced to hanging for being a ‘witch’ during the Salem witch hunt. There are numerous examples of women from the Middle Ages and after who, like Bridget, committed the crime of challenging age old norms of patriarchy. And for that they were branded ‘witches’, women who were believed to possess supernatural powers and who caused harm because of it. Numerous studies on witch hunts have been conducted which have proven that almost all of the women who were labelled and killed as ‘witches’ were simply flouting conventions of a male dominated society. Women have explored knowledge and science since times immemorial; these ‘writing’ women possess the label ‘witch’ not with shame but pride. They reclaim the archetype of the ‘witch’ to battle injustice in society and to resist masculine control.

     The collection of poetry, Three Witches’ Songs, composed by Aparna Singh, Nabanita Sengupta and Sudeshna Chakravorty, redefine and subvert the label of the witch through poems which challenge societal and gendered norms. The three poetesses deliberately call themselves witches, enabling the term ‘witch’ with positivity and power. Aparna Singh assumes the persona of Ayana, Nabanita Sengupta transfigures herself into Nerrissa and Sudeshna Chakravorty metamorphoses into Syrma and the poems of these powerful women resonate with energy and vitality, a vitality that only a witch can possess because a witch is unfettered by the shackles of supervision and discipline. This unsupervised energetic longing for breaking the boundaries is seen in this beautifully subversive piece by Syrma:

“Ucarus . . . /You have heard of him, p’haps ─

He supposedly wanted to fly to the sun ─

. . . I knew otherwise, though ─

He loved the sea, Icarus did.

. . . It was, I, on the other hand, who eyed the ball of fire,

. . . But whoever thinks of picking a woman’s brain for grand ideas?

Before resetting my face into a suitably sympathetic expression,

before setting off to comfort my hapless father . . .

As a ‘good’ daughter supposedly would . . .

Clutching the spiel of unused thread close to my heart,

For a moment I allow myself a victor’s smile . . .”(“Wings of Fire”, 32-34)

There is within all of the witches a desire for transgression, a desire for a reshaping of society’s norms for women. We see this desire exemplified in the courageously subversive “Kali” composed by Ayana:

“Get her dressed

Stressed the purohit

Clothes become women

Goddess or not!

Woman slayer and woman rebel

Assailing his modesty

Infuriating his chastity

Defying propriety

Set his world to unrest.

. . . Camouflaging birth in death she took

The unforeseen step . . .

Crossing those boundaries

That were never meant to be.” (36)

     Nerrissa, in her poem, “Eve’s Choice”, illustrates the dilemma of choices for the woman; she shows how a woman is shamed and slandered if she dares to seize the choice of power:

“Choices come with riders

as it did for Eve

with the apple she chose

in conscious defiance

of a power unseen.

Paradise lost forever

in gained wisdom,

Knowledge brings woes

and fear of comfort bygone

. . . The apple speaks

of the first quest

the first defiance

the first ostracism”

                                                                             (38-39)

Throughout the collection, the witches speak out and voice their opinions; an activity that patriarchy has always frowned upon. Allowing women a voice is after all a dangerous thing and when witches congregate together and sing of prisons breaking and desires flowering, it is indeed catastrophic for masculine pride. We see the defying power of words and narratives in “Sita Speaks” by Nerrissa:

“I am Sita reborn

I leave the comfort of my plush job

Hard earned by years of slog,

. . . At your single gesture

I leave them all

. . . I remained exiled in my own forests of broken dreams and

fractured self”’. (51-52)

     Women are invisible in the glories of male achievement; they are seldom asked what they desire, what their ambitions are, what they want to do, how they want to dress. But witches need not  remain thus constrained; they can transgress and they need please no one but themselves. Thus Nerrissa celebrates desires and transgressions in her song, “Evenings of Transgression”:

“A slice of evening flickers

In the wick of a fading kerosine lamp

. . . they say:

Woman is just her body

. . .  Bodies we are,

Since Eve was first duped

. . . Or Kunti, Draupadi, Amba,

. . . Transgressed, their wills assaulted, existence denied,

Flesh again in the world of gods and demigods.”  (62)

Ayana sings of the suppressed longings of a woman in the very poignant “The Wife”:

“She was a compassionate wife

Saree neatly draped around

Her waist, skirting

. . . Cherished in untimely dreams

Dreams she had kept to herself

. . . The fire surged inside

It had stories to tell

Perfectly embalmed in

Neatly folded clothes”.   (41)

Along with being feisty, the witches are also witty and humorous; thus there are lines like “I often imagine myself as a robot/With a radar picking up signals” (“Dreams”, 103’), or lines like “Is this his olive branch, sheepishly offered?” (“The Dark Lord”, 112).

     Three Witches’ Songs is satiric, funny, poignant, all at once; the collection demonstrates the cacophonic disturbance that is the repercussion of the songs of witches. Ayana, Nerrissa, Syrma (Aparna, Nabanita, Sudeshna in our world) reclaim and reshape the very idea of the word ‘witch’; all three are witches but they wield their magic wand not to conjure rabbits out of hats (like male magicians who incidentally are never disparagingly branded in any way) but to weave the forgotten aspirations of women into the words of poetry. They reclaim the lost power of the transgressive Goddesses like Kali and Durga; they sing of the stifled longings of the ordinary wife and mother; above all, they celebrate the power of womanhood and the bliss of being a woman. This celebration of feminine power is perhaps the greatest achievement of the witches. So readers, do go ahead and spend an evening with Ayana, Nerrissa and Syrma; read the songs of the witches and perhaps become a witch yourself, someone who defies and transgresses with pride, joy, and vigor.

WORKS CITED:

Singh, Aparna, Nabanita Sengupta and Sudeshna Chakravorty. Three Witches’ Songs. Hawakal: 2022.

Somrita Misra is currently Assistant Professor of English (Chanchal College, Malda) and PhD Scholar (English), Diamond Harbour Women’s University.

Travel, Travails and Motherhood

By Beata Stasak

It was a few years since my grown children had left our little farmhouse in Western Australia, following their careers and dreams. Our annual Christmas gatherings had been disrupted by Covid,  so when the winter school holidays approached and the harvest was nearing completion, I packed my bag to venture out to their new homes.

I hadn’t visited these places before and it made me realise how little I knew about this big island that I’d called home for the past thirty years. Before Covid, my holidays were usually spent in the northern Europe that I’d left behind. Suddenly, with the freedom of open borders, I was standing at Perth airport, wondering what awaited me on the other side of the country. Northern Europe was familiar to me but Australia (except for a little patch in Western Australia) was not.

My first flight took me to the most northern capital city of Australia, Darwin. It’s the most remote, with the highest population of Indigenous people. My son greeted me at the airport early in the morning, his bush hat firmly pushed down onto his head. I disappeared into his muscly and tanned arms as someone picked up my luggage, smiling broadly at me when I turned around. A dark, pretty girl with the biggest brown eyes I’d ever seen, stretched out her hand as she balanced my backpack on her other arm: “G’day! Welcome to the top end.”

The pair of them were working on new solar panel fields around Darwin, stretching as far as our eyes could see. “In the next decade, all of Darwin will run on this energy,” my son said proudly as he hugged his girlfriend.

He had to go back to work, so Miranda drove me down a well traveled road six hours out of Darwin to a special place, Kakadu National Park, where her people came from. It was the middle of the day and the sun  burnt down on our skulls as Miranda passed me a spare hat and a bottle of water. We ventured down a rocky path lined with tall trees and green palms toward rocky outcrops, enveloping us on all sides. After I managed to scramble up the first hill, I was overwhelmed by majestic views of the endless flat country below, including snaking rivers, waterfalls and green patches where wild ducks feasted. “That’s the failed rice growing enterprise, benefiting only the water birds now,” someone commented from behind me. When I turned around, a pleasant looking young man smiled at me sadly, introducing himself as Miranda’s brother. “You see, there’s always someone from the east coming here to make quick money, only to leave in a hurry. This ancient environment doesn’t suffer fools.”

“In order to survive here, you need to respect this land and treat it as a living breathing thing. Not a profit making machine,” Miranda nodded. They took me by the hand to lead me to an ancient cave, on top of an outcrop. It was the biggest cave I’d ever seen. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I realised that the ceiling was covered in earth coloured pictorial symbols and carvings. “The eldest symbol dates to sixty thousand years ago and the newest is only a few decades old. Then, people in this area warned other tribes of the change in weather patterns, influencing the migration of the animals in the wet and of  violent and dangerous storms.”

“Do you mean climate change?” I asked, surprised. They smiled at each other: “Of course. We’re part of nature. We live in it and with it. We’ve known for a long time what’s coming.”

I noticed on Miranda’s brother’s name tag, that he was a National Park representative. “You work here?” I asked him and he nodded: “We both went to Sydney to study environmental science at uni. It’s the only way that we can protect what remains of our land. And the only way to be taken seriously by mainstream Australians.”

“You didn’t want to stay in the city like most young people do, making more money?” I asked. They looked at each other before they shook their heads: “It’s hard for you to understand, as a migrant who came here to seek a better life. It’s just another place to you. But for us, this land is part of us. It’s our reason to live, a living breathing thing, a true family member.”

“Look,” he pointed at a carving of a long line which joined many symbols from different centuries together: “We’re all interconnected. What connects us as one, is the country that we come from, that we live on and disappear back into once we’re gone.”

“This cave was on the crossroads of many song lines. Tribes moving through this area left messages for each other, warning of dangers and passing knowledge.”

I spotted a figure in white chalk at the bottom of the cave wall with symbols above it. I looked at Miranda. She nodded: “This is a carving of the first white man spotted in the area. There’s a warning, he behaves without reason, and acts to kill.”

“There’s no such warning here before this, not even regarding the crocodiles that are prevalent in this area. They traverse the land in the wet but behave according to the rules of nature. The white man follows no rules, just his killer instinct.”

I shared a plate of buffalo meat with bush tomatoes and damper, along with strong black tea, with these beautiful siblings. Under the stars, next to the fire, we tucked into our swags for the night. The next morning, Miranda drove me back to Darwin, on the eve of Northern Territory Day. Families sat on the banks of the Timor Sea, enjoying barbecues and letting off fire crackers. Asian, Indigenous, Torres Island and white families mingled. As I smelt their exotic dishes and heard the different languages, it felt like a true melting pot of cultures, and worthy of celebration.

After a few days, I boarded another plane to fly to Melbourne, the most southern capital city of mainland Australia. My daughter was there to meet me, armed with parkas and skis. We drove four hours north toward Victoria Alps, which were covered in fresh winter snow. Under the second highest peak of the Victoria Alps, Mt Feathertop, I met a Nepalese guide. “She came to study in Australia, before deciding to settle here. Now we work in the same environmental agency,” my daughter explained as she introduced us.

It wasn’t an easy task for me to follow in the footsteps of these two strong girls. They managed to slide on their skis up the steep climbs with an ease that I couldn’t muster. At the end, I waved them away: “Go, girls! Prepare hot tea for me, in the shelter under the peak.” I paid careful attention as I slid down the icy hills, but didn’t realise that I’d missed the turn off. Instead, I continued on through unexplored terrain toward the unknown. Meanwhile the surroundings around me turned to milky white fog. All I could see were swirls of watery snowflakes, dancing around me in the strong wind that pushed me along. My strength was nearly gone as I dropped down in the middle of another icy incline, not knowing where I was. Suddenly, the Nepalese guide was beside me with a flask: “Drink up.” I gulped the hot tea gratefully as she looked at me worryingly: “You can slide off the cliff when you don’t know where you’re going.  I’ve met many silly people here just wearing trainers on their feet, beating their chests proudly and claiming that they’re from Switzerland and these hills are nothing compared to the Alps. I tell them that I’m from the Himalayas, and that bad weather can kill you anywhere.”

I followed her back to the shelter that I’d missed. My daughter had prepared hot soup over a fire, and as we waited there for the bad weather to pass, they told me of their climbing expeditions to the last remaining glaciers around the world. They said that it was important to raise awareness of the impact that global warming was having. When the weather cleared up, we put on snow shoes to cross the last part of white terrain to the peak. We battled together step by step in the strong wind. The view was spectacular in all directions, just icy white peaks. Except for one spot, where there were square black buildings with steel towers.

“Who would build a factory here?” I exclaimed. The girls laughed: “That’s a famous ski resort! It does looks ugly from here and it obscures the view. Here in Australia, there’s not much snow on the side of the mountains, like there is in Europe.”

“Still, I don’t understand why people have to ruin nature in order to enjoy it. What’s wrong with using back country skis or snow shoes instead of ski lifts? Making the least impact you can while being at one with the mountains?”

Back in Melbourne, the girls went back to work while I wandered around the streets of Melbourne, stopping to admire the historical ‘Princess Theatre’, which was barely visible among the shiny glass skyscrapers. I heard someone nearby shouting into his phone about dropping share prices. Suddenly the phone was thrown in my direction, hitting me on the side of my head, before dropping next to my feet. “Fuck! I lost that deal!”  A young man dressed in an expensive suit picked up his phone, ignoring me before zooming off in a sports car which was parked in front of the theatre. He was shouting into his phone again, with one hand on the steering wheel. Before he turned the corner, an old lady crossing the road dropped her grocery bag in fright as he roared through the zebra crossing in front of her. I hurried to help her pick up her items before the crossing light changed: “He drives like that and no one charges him,” she told me, shaking her head: “My son recently paid a five hundred dollar fine for talking on his phone while driving. Only the poor pay. The privileged never do.”

I thought about what I’d just witnessed as I walked back to my hotel, before collecting my luggage and heading to the airport. Miranda’s brother and this young man were of a similar age and living in the same country, yet their lives couldn’t be more different.

The last stop on my travels was Canberra, the capital city in the east of Australia, where my youngest son was preparing to start work at Parliament House. His Moroccan girlfriend had migrated to Australia from the Middle East and she greeted me in a fashionable veil at the airport. She was full of excitement: “He’s so nervous! Parliament is sitting this week and the minister he’s working for has given him so much to do.”

“How was your first day in parliament?” I asked my youngest son as I met him on the porch when he arrived on his bicycle from Parliament House. He gave me a tired smile before going inside to help his girlfriend cook dinner. As we enjoyed their favourite homemade mushroom pie, my son shared the painful scene that he’d witnessed in parliament.

“What else do you expect from her?” Samira said, pointing to her veil: “Do you remember how she disrespected all Australian Muslim women by entering the parliament dressed as a Muslim once?”

My son sighed: “But walking out at the opening of parliament as the acknowledgement of the first people of this country is read, is truly shameful. Especially as we’re trying so hard as a nation to learn from the past, to heal and unite.”

“She’s a bully, and nothing else! She’s probably paid to bring division to Australia, but she won’t succeed. Australians don’t suffer fools.” I smiled at them, clinking my champagne glass with theirs.

“Pauline Hanson likes to abuse people who are different to her. The abuse starts, as well as ends, in the hands of the abuser, and not the abused. It’s her problem that she can’t see five centimetres from her nose. Even stronger glasses won’t help! She’s truly insignificant and not worthy of spoiling this evening.” Samira gently kissed my son’s cheek: “You’re there to make a difference and to help build a better world. The likes of Pauline Hanson will die after her, once and for all.”

Flying back to Perth, I smiled as I looked down on the parched heart of Australia that stretched below me. I realised that I needed to explore more of this land that I now called home, because I knew so little about my adopted land. But my children were building their futures here and knew it well. The next generation will know it even better, ensuring that the Australia that we dreamt about when we arrived here thirty years ago with one suitcase and two wide-eyed children, our heads full of dreams about the Great Southern Land, is truly possible.

Beata Stasak is an Art and Eastern European Languages Teacher from Eastern Europe with upgraded teaching degrees in Early Childhood and Education Support Education. She teaches in the South Perth Metropolitan area.

After further study in Counselling for Drug and Alcohol Addiction, she has used her skills in Perth Counselling Services. Beata has been a farm caretaker on the organic olive farm in the South Perth Metropolitan area for the past twenty years.

Beata is a migrant from post-communist Eastern Europe, who settled in Perth, Western Australia in 1994.

Sketches By Gregg Williard

BROKEN RECORD
DOORS
HAUNTED MIRRORS
LIMB
NO NET

Gregg Williard is a writer and visual artist based in Madison, Wisconsin. His work can be found in Conjunctions, New England Review, Sweet Lit, Your Impossible Voice, Exterminating Angel Press and elsewhere. He teaches ESL to refugees at the non-profit Literacy Network, and does a late-night book reading hour on non-commercial WORT FM.