May We Borrow Your Country is a contemporary collection of stories and poems that looks at dislocation and displacement with sympathy, tolerance and humour. It is peopled by courageous, poignant, eccentric individuals who cross borders, accommodate to new cultures and try to establish an identity in a new place. In the process, they encounter different versions of themselves, like reflections in a room of trick mirrors.
May We Borrow Your Country was launched in Waterstones Gower Street on the 26th of January 2019. More than a hundred tickets were sold, and bookings were actually stopped a couple of days before the event. Joining The Whole Kahani, on the panel were Lynn Michell, publisher, Linen Press, and Preti Taneja, author of We That Are Young. Preti has written the foreword to May We Borrow Your Country and had interesting questions for the writers. Lynn had her own questions, and it was an interactive audience who listened, asked questions, and cheered us. Rosie Beaumont-Thomas, the events manager concluded the event by mentioning Waterstones Gower Street will have to try hard to match the fantastic evening and huge turnout.
Be that man
you know the one who will wake up wake me up with a bit of the night skies a slice of the moon glowing alive in his eyes
and in his arms hold slivers of yesterday and today and tomorrow tied together in iridescent pieces and whisper about the caves we have lived in the life last
the skies we have conquered together and flown past
the rivers we have swum in with dolphins and other fish coloured fish bursting against
the beaches we have walked sand trickling through toes while you run across and get a tender coconut, water dripping from our mouths as we kiss
and be that man who holds me like I am a feather light slender gorgeous like I am a sculpture heavy with love wonder experiences
and be that man who wants to fuck against the walls of the museum Monet’s lilies and Gaugin’s women watching or on the desk at home
or on the grass near a gentle gurgling stream
and that man who writes long and deep into the night of poetry of the war and peace and knows when to give and when to hold back
and be that man who knows that making love on the windowsill is the best when afternoons are full of drizzling rain in a tropical country
and if not then on the tenth floor watching Christmas lights swarm London city
and knows the best love is had when you are really angry and wanting to rage and bite through the skin and the blackness which is outside
and the way you feel trapped just trapped in your limbs and like in a box and you know despair is solid and growing like dark smoke and all the cries in the world can’t be heard
so be that man who knows how that feels how sound remains in the throat sometimes stuck like a stone lodged deep in clay
and when you speak there is nothing no voice no whisper
and be that man who knows how to rub the small of my back then speak sing and shout primal screams together to mark the day
be that man. My love, just be that man.
Dash believes that UK publishers are largely conservative about what is published and tend to stick to safer options, rather than take risks on new writing.
“It is really important for writers as well to write what they want to, and not try to work within the boundaries set for them as BAME. I have said this before in an interview, where an agent told me that since it was about India, she was expecting to see more colour – but India is a vast, complex concept, and everything about India isn’t Bollywood colour.
Read the full interview in The Asian Writer.
A recording from The National Poetry Library’s Special Edition series. Five South Asian diaspora poets celebrate the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. Featuring Mona Dash, Rishi Dastidar, Bashabi Fraser, Debjani Chatterjee and Yogesh Patel. Recorded in The National Poetry Library on Wednesday 4 October 2017.
Hear Mona read just after the 9-minute mark:
As someone who has been brought up in India, my writing about the country is about its reality, and not necessary a stylised, nostalgic version. Unfortunately, in my experience, this is not what Western publishers want. I’ve also found that if one writes about the West and the way of life here, that doesn’t seem to be accepted by Western publishers either.
Read more in the quint.
Mona Dash: A Writer’s Secret
Dash strikes that ever-sought after writer’s balance between being true to personal identity and nuanced enough to resonate with a wider audience. Her first novel, ‘Untamed Heart’, tells of a young newlywed, Mohini, who travels the world in order to find herself even as she breaks away from the constraints of her particular marriage, while the author’s latest poetry collection – A Certain Way – was announced at a special poetry reading and awards ceremony – held at the House of Lords recently– wherein the book-loving public attending had the choice to themselves finance the work. “I have been told to make the cultural elements in my stories more exotic, louder, sensational or more community-specific” Dash told us, “but one can only draw from their own experience which is inevitably broad and varied. Who we are isn’t a rigid construct – you can’t predict people on their backgrounds – and I think my writing works because it reflects this: I talk about normal people who are always moving; whether it be through emigration or just travelling, and what they have in common is the journey within themselves.
Read the full interview in Asian Voice.
Answer: ‘Untamed Heart’ is the story of a woman named Mohini and her search for identity and freedom. Set in a very identifiable set up of a traditional family in India, Mohini begins to question concepts such as love, duty, sacrifice. Thus, it is also a story of love, betrayal, friendship and discovery of self beyond your own boundaries.
Read more in Episteme.