025- A Place Called Home

Hi!

Bombay Daak is a personal newsletter by this guy, mostly on reading. This week we read about home and belonging.



I read an excerpt from Elif Shafak's book - How to Stay Sane in an Age of Division. While the book speaks of us people and our walled and diminishing worlds, and how to navigate it, the excerpt spoke of home

As if on cue, yesterday, I finished reading Annie Zaidi's essays on all her homes. The book, the result of her Dot Nine prize, takes a similar path to Shafak's essay - defining her many homes or to be precise, answering the question - is there no place like home?

In her essay Shafak speaks about how she is at once at home at the many places she's been to, and the many homes she belongs to. Zaidi's essays in Bread, Cement, Cactus speaks in the same tongue of metaphorical homes of language, of roots, of graves.

Yet, you live a completely different experience reading both of them.

While Shafak extends the diversity of not just her but everybody's many homes, many belongings (cultural affiliations, social preferences, political views, sports and arts connections, and so on, you still have multiple belongings, she says) and show how similar we are, Zaidi's essays touch upon the growing loss of such senses of belonging. 

She writes:

To ask whether there’s still no place like home implies that, for many people, home could be no place or, equally, every place. For people who are able to travel in relative safety and can return from the other end of the world within a day, it is potentially ‘every place’.

However, to say ‘There’s no place like home’ is to refer to a place where our right to be is not in question. We may suffer here, but it is important that we are not singled out for suffering. Home is where suffering is shared out, like bread, and or a three-seat bench shared by four. 

In a season where we've spent all our hours home, safe and secure, this book was a poignant reminder of how for many the idea of one stands on shaky grounds and eroding foundations. 

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Zaidi's Prelude to a Riot is up for the JCB Lit prize. The mint is doing a series of essays with the nominees. I chanced upon Zaidi's about Telling the Living Story.

"I wonder if our fear is not so much that the novel might be dead as that it may be undead. Many more novels get published than at any time before, but how many of them have a throbbing pulse?" She asks and answers.

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"I had left behind many winds and scents, streets and houses, but they still breathed inside me, and the streets and winds I found myself in now, I did not breathe in them."

So writes Haider Shahbaz in Sea, his English translation of Khalida Hussain's Samundar. It won the 2020 Jawad Memorial prize for Urdu to English translation. The story speaks of a man's visit to a sea in an unnamed city with his friend, and a strange encounter that follows. It also speaks of the narrator, unnamed like the city, and his sense of alienation, a lack of belonging; of things half dead in homes.

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I love Urdu poetry and am always curious of translated works.

Is Naiyar Masud the greatest Urdu writer you've never heard of?

Who was Naiyar Masud?

What is the Jawad Memorial prize?

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I read Aruni Kashyap's list of 15 Modern Indian classics in translation. Given my reading agenda for the rest of this year is exclusively Indian authors, this is a gold mine. I’ll be mighty grateful if any of you have read any and have any recommendations on which ones to definitely pick. 

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I started reading Tara Isabel Zambrano's Death, Desire and Other Destinations. It is a collection of fifty flash fiction works. I picked up the book after reading this strangely comforting interview of hers at The Rumpus.

I’ve just read the first story till now, and it was strikingly vivid and poetic till it took a shocking turn right in the middle of the story. It has set the tone perfectly for the rest of the book and I’m really excited for it.

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Seven Daak’s ago (😺), I wrote about how it annoying it is to see the influence of America online. Practically every great publication and all important discourse is centered around or emanating from the US. This thread (towards its end) sheds some light on why that might be. It is a great thread to read regardless of that on find home in a new country and belonging, and what you take back when you move.

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I've been waiting since weeks to share this tiny news of Butterflies in a Bombay home. I find it befitting today's issue. Rizwan Mithawala's lockdown project was a butterfly garden in his Mohammad Ali Road home.

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In the summer that went by, with the lockdown induced clear skies and thin air, the morning's sun would waft in like a breeze and settle on my walls. It was great to start my days basking in it. This Friday, after many days of cloudy skies and rain, Bombay opened up to a beautiful morning.

On such days one is glad to call it home.