New book explores love, death, religion and rape in South Asia

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A UNIQUE new book is set to take South Asia by storm as it addresses burning issues such as love, death, rape and religion in the developing sub-continent.

Divided by partition, war and politics, but united by creativity and common humanity, Asian Voices has brought together 20 emerging writers from across the region to shine a light on their diverse societies.

In 37,000 words, across 260 pages, the contributors paint graphic pictures in poetry and prose of issues which divide and unite people in their respective countries of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The book is divided into 10 sections: Darkness, Light, Love, Loss, Heaven, Hell, Life, Death, War and Peace.

And it is within these sections that the diverse Asian Voices can be heard.

With an infant mortality rate of 4.4% in India and 6.1% in Pakistan (the UK rate is 0.28%) and an adult death rate of 31% and 21% respectively (UK rate 10.3%) – an even higher rate in war-torn Afghanistan – it is hardly surprising that the issue of death features strongly.

Mortality is dealt with sensitively by the Asian Voices writers in at least three sections of the book.

This extract on coping with grief by Lahore based writer Shahreen Iftikhar is an example:

“They say, there are five stages of grief;

I got stuck in denial, with no reasons to heal.

Is this what life is; scribbles on an empty sheet?

Making no sense, just filling the voids of our being?

I said to myself: ‘To Hell with all this grieving and the misery.

It’s time for me to let go of all the tragedies.’

All I had to do was believe.

That is all it took for me to heal.”

 

All countries in South Asia live under different degrees of social patriarchy and this is reflected in the treatment of women.

Rape is the third most common crime against women in India.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau 2013 annual report, 24,923 rape cases were reported across India in 2012. Out of these, 24,470 (98%) were committed by someone known to the victim. And many more rapes go unreported.

Similarly, physical abuse, house-arrest imprisonment and even bride-burning (now illegal) also go largely unreported.

One of the Asian Voices writers, Janvi from Jaipur has already made a name for herself in calling out for social reform.

This extract speaks volumes:

And then one day we decide to raise our voice 

But again, this society shut us by claiming it as useless noise.

The politicians and the media cry that they worship women and cow!

Is this a way of worshipping? But How?

As our wails grow louder and louder about the demons residing in our own town 

They paint henna on our hands and send us off to an unknown place, looking like a clown.

Wondering that this was not the life that we were destined to live, we decide to put an end

And here you go, creating loads of new monsters and making it Trend.

We are sacrificing ourselves from centuries just so that you know

And here you go, treating us again like the trash that you throw. 

We’ve had enough, being the sacrificed Goddess 

Next time we’ll turn this country into a bloody mess.

 

Religion also resonates within the pages of the book.

India is home to at least nine recognised religions, and while Islam dominates in Pakistan, there are also significant minorities of Christians, Hindus and Ahmadi, and even more diversity in Afghanistan.

So the sections on Life, Heaven and Hell deal with each writer’s views of spirituality and faith.

This piece by 16-year-old Shaheeba from Sibsagar touches many pulses:

How could she survive further?

When her life resided in this heart rate.

Though not here, but in Heaven

They merged to a single soul

Whenever their love tale was evoked

It started raining

Dripping all with pure love.

This flooded the river of love

Which immersed both the fragments of the hamlet

With the virtue of love.

There was love everywhere

Flowing in the winds of hamlet

Residing in the lifeless soil

Felt in the arms of the mother

And in the oneness with God.

Some souls are united in Heaven.

Some stories are plenary despite being partial.

 

The one thing which binds all the writers together is the eternal subject of Love.

For centuries the Indian sub-continent has given birth to some of the world’s greatest love poets. And they continue to emerge as we enter 2019.

This poem by Agathaa Shelling of Ahmedabad, explores that deepest of all human emotions:

You’re the sanctified sacrament in the shrine of love. I’ll devour you and I’ll become pious forever.

Yes, I’m an atheist and there’s only one religion that I practise. That’s love. And there’s only one deity from whom I receive my hymn… it’s you.

And if this is not love. I don’t know what it is. A little bit of fall in your summer. A little bit of rains in your spring. Sunshine in your winters. And a chilly gust of wind in scorching heat.

“There was once a king of verses. Power were his words. Mightier than any sword. And then there was a queen of metaphors. Deep were her rhymes. Deeper than any ocean.

He weaved a tiara out of his words and she sharpened his sword out of hers.

And that’s how they announced their love, with poetry.”

 

Minnie Rai, a writer and 26-year-old refugee from Kabul, who now lives in London, sums up the ethos of Asian Voices: “We don’t become by knowing… we become by doing.

“It is in the present we live and share diversity from within outwards. Through love and death we learn the language of war within us that separates us from the truth that sits beside our heart. When we share that truth, we become one… Asian Voices,” she adds.

 

  • Asian Voices will be published in both paperback and Kindle e-book in February.

 

Unique book unites 20 writers from Pakistan India and Afghanistan

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DIVIDED by partition, war and politics, but united by creativity, brilliance and common humanity, a unique new book has brought together 20 emerging writers from across South Asia to shine a light on their diverse societies.

In 37,000 words, across 260 pages and two dozen images, these contributors paint graphic pictures of love, beauty, loss, poverty, patriarchy, disease and murder in their respective countries of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

From Kabul in the north, through Lahore and Delhi, to Hyderabad in the south, their tales in poetry and prose are compelling.

The writers include an artistic director from Lahore, an electronic engineer from Mumbai, a psychologist from Delhi, a social reformer from Jaipur, two 12th grade school students, plus many more.

The project has been pulled together by a retired British newspaper editor.

Most of the writers have, until now, only seen their work published on social media or in short order paperbacks.

Now, ASIAN VOICES is providing a professionally produced anthology of their work, for worldwide publication in February 2019.

This “family” of contributors live and work up to 5,000 miles apart, across six time zones, and their writings display the diversity of their home cities and cultures to form the unique nature of the book.

The works include letters of longing, narrative poems about grief, essays on abuse, patriarchy, rape and murder, a story about cancer and bereavement as well as countless poems of love, loss, discovery, anger, lust, peace and war.

“We don’t become by knowing… we become by doing,” says Minnie Rai, a writer and 26-year-old refugee from Kabul, who now lives in London.

“It is in the present we live and share diversity from within outwards. Through love and death we learn the language of war within us that separates us from the truth that sits beside our heart.

“When we share that truth, we become one… Asian Voices,” she adds.

Mum, wife and teacher Sobia Shakir from Karachi in Pakistan, poignantly adds: “In art lies, the soul of an artist.”

Fellow writer and interior designer Pratibha Aasat from Hyderabad in southern India says: “All our words are powerful emotions expressing varied feelings, the silent whispers of hearts, connecting every soul and thoughts, so vivid that they represent a complete lived life… to last in the memoirs forever.”

Retired newspaper and magazine editor Nic Outterside from Wolverhampton, England is the editor and publisher of ASIAN VOICES.

“I have edited many publications over the years,” says Nic, “But none has been as challenging and exciting as this.

“I am very lucky to have so many amazingly talented and beautiful people contributing to this hugely diverse project.

“Their writing alone is breath-taking, but it doesn’t stop there… they are all brimming with ideas about the book. Their excitement is palpable and their talent immense.”

Stay tuned for more news about ASIAN VOICES in the run-up to publication in both paperback and on Kindle in the week ending 17 February 2019.

New book brings together 20 writers from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan

BLOG AV COVER

A UNIQUE new book has brought together 20 emerging writers from across South Asia to shine a light on their diverse societies.

In over 35,000 words and two dozen images these contributors paint graphic images of love, beauty, loss, poverty, patriarchy, disease and murder in their respective countries of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

From Kabul in the north, through Lahore and Delhi, to Hyderabad in the south, their tales in poetry and prose are compelling.

The writers include a Muslim teacher and mum from Karachi, a 26-year-old refugee from Kabul, an electronic engineer from Mumbai, a psychologist from Delhi, a social reformer from Jaipur, two 12th grade school students, plus many more.

The project has been pulled together by a retired British newspaper editor.

Most of the writers have, until now, only seen their work published on social media or in short order paperbacks.

Now, ASIAN VOICES is providing a professionally produced anthology of their work, for worldwide publication in February 2019.

This “family” of contributors live and work up to 6,000 miles apart, across six time zones, and their writings display the diversity of their home cities and cultures to form the unique nature of the book.

The works include letters of longing, narrative poems about grief, essays on abuse, patriarchy, rape and murder, a story about cancer and bereavement as well as countless poems of love, loss, discovery, anger, lust, peace and war.

“As individuals we are all so very different; different cultures, ages, nationalities and genders, but as writers we have been able to form an incredible bond that reflects the many ways that, as humans we have common needs, hopes, dreams and hearts,” says Fahmida Shaikh, an oceanographer from Bhiwandi.

Sakshi Walia, an English Literature student from Amity University in New Delhi says: “Together, I believe our words are shining a blinding light on the reality of being human, in a world of seeming chaos.”

Fellow English Lit student Anjali Kumari at Delhi University, added: “Everything, whether living or dead has a story to tell, everyone is a muse to someone.”

Retired newspaper and magazine editor Nic Outterside from Wolverhampton, England is the editor and publisher of ASIAN VOICES.

“I have edited many publications over the years,” says Nic, “But none has been as challenging and exciting as this.

“I am so lucky to have so many amazingly talented and beautiful people contributing to this hugely diverse project.

“Their writing alone is breath-taking, but it doesn’t stop there… they are all brimming with ideas about the book. Their excitement is palpable and their talent immense.”

Stay tuned for more news about ASIAN VOICES in the run-up to publication in both paperback and on Kindle in the week ending 17 February 2019.

Poetic homage to the greatest LP of all time published by award-winning writer

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AN award-winning writer and editor has published his life-long labour of love as a homage to his muse, American Nobel prize-winning songwriter Bob Dylan.

The book, Blood in the Cracks, tips its hat both lyrically and in style to Dylan’s critically acclaimed “greatest album” Blood on the Tracks – originally released in 1974.

Nic Outterside is a multi-award-winning journalist and creative author, who over 32 years has worked across all forms of media, including magazines, weekly and daily newspapers, radio broadcasting, books and online.

In 1994, 43 MPs signed an Early Day Motion in the British House of Commons praising Nic’s research and writing.

In 2016 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in written journalism.

Now, after publishing two widely acclaimed books of his own poetry, and editing other poets’ work, Nic is at last releasing what he describes as his “labour of loveBlood in the Cracks.

“The works of Bob Dylan are the soundtrack to my life,” says Nic.

“It is now 45 years since I first came to his music, his words of truthful vengeance and his vignettes of love and theft.

“One particular album, Blood on the Tracks, remains a lyrical and poetic touchstone.

“My soul is forever wrapped within the songs of its entire 51 minutes and 42 seconds.

“Overtly autobiographical, the LP is full of tales of a lover relating a series of unrelated events set in a mythical America. Like a series of impressionist paintings of life itself, the tales are both timeless and without geographical boundaries.

“Over 10 iconic songs, Dylan alludes to heartache, deception, anger, poignant regret and loneliness.

“It’s a world-weary, nostalgic and ultimately a poetic Bob Dylan; and that is what makes Blood on the Tracks so timeless.

“The poetry is in each and every song,” adds Nic.

“So to create my own poetical homage to that album – in places borrowing the patterns of some of Dylan’s songs – is a labour of love and a dream come true.”

 

Notes:

  1. Nic is an award-winning editor, journalist and writer. Among more than a dozen awards to his name are North of England Daily Journalist of the Year, Scottish Daily Journalist of the Year, Scottish Weekly Journalist of the Year and a special national award for investigative journalism. In 2016 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in written journalism.
  2. Blood in the Cracks is available world-wide on Amazon Kindle: www.amazon.co.uk/Blood-Cracks-Nic-Outterside-ebook/dp/B07H4S3DSM
  3. A paperback version of the book will be published this autumn
  4. The full story behind his first book of poetry can be listened to here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2N2X7t7awo
  5. You can buy The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light on Amazon Kindle, priced just £1.43 at: www.amazon.co.uk/Hill-Songs-Poems-Darkness-Light-ebook/dp/B07CNZ75MZ
  6. You can still buy the First Edition paperback (120 copies left of the print run of 1,000) The Hill – Songs and Poems of Darkness and Light in paperback, is priced at just £1.99 with £1.80 for UK post and packing Ebay: https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Hill-Songs-and-Poems-of-Darkness-and-Light-Nic-Outterside-Paperback/222959978770?hash=item33e9734912:g:3O0AAOSwdjha6DvY
  7. Nic’s second poetry book: Another Hill – Songs and Poems of Love and Theft is priced at £2.20 on Amazon Kindle at: www.amazon.co.uk/Another-Hill-Songs-Poems-Theft-ebook/dp/B07CXYJTV4/

 

Letting blood and poetry flow

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My new book Blood in the Cracks is set for publication later this week. As a taster for readers, this is the introduction:

Blood in the Cracks – Liner Notes

Early one morning the sun was shining and I was lying in bed, pining the death of Different Voices, lost souls, abandoned dreams, broken guitar strings and love’s mortality.

In the end, the world has been betrayed by the old and corrupted by the young.

The cancer of capitalism has destroyed all that once was good… the Gates of Eden closed a long time ago and as the cars roar and hookers score in the Empire Burlesque, it is the money men, the media barons and launderers who grin as the corporate knife goes in.

A screenplay to the evil scourge of ordinary people by the most arrogant, privileged and fascist governments our world has ever witnessed.

For more than 700 years, their arrogance has conquered peaceful countries, imposed Western values and Christianity upon those countries, murdered millions and taken millions more into slavery.

They have sown war and hatred all over the world… because war creates money and wealth underpins the corruption of the powerful.

For the past four years, Saudi Arabia has pursued a vicious bombing campaign in Yemen that has left thousands of innocent civilians dead.

Government figures show that in one six month period alone, the UK sold Saudi Arabia £1,066,216,510 worth of weapons, including bombs and air-to-air missiles.

That is just part of £4.6 billion of UK arms sales to Saudi since the war in Yemen began.

The UN says more than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s war, including more than 5,000 civilians.

Many more have perished due to starvation, or a lack of access to healthcare and medical aid.

Meanwhile, back at home the young are corrupted for their souls…

They have been sleep-walking into a world of personal greed, arrogance and self-importance; with TV totems, tanning studios, face lightening cosmetics, designer clothes labels, supermodels and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Human kindness, gentleness, peace, society and social justice have been jettisoned for a ‘winner takes all’ mentality and a scapegoating of the homeless, those claiming benefits, Muslims, asylum seekers and the poor.

It is underpinned by a malicious mainstream media who smear and pillory anyone who dares question the status quo or suggest alternatives.

The press barons and their big business buddies are terrified of those alternatives, because they threaten the capitalist inertia where the five richest families in the UK now own more wealth than the poorest 25% of the population.

Meanwhile, thousands of families survive on the breadline, make weekly use of food banks or starve due to draconian benefits sanctions.

Yet this is the First World… the land of cherished democracy and freedom.

As Pete Hamill wrote in 1974: “In the end, the plague touched us all. It was not confined to the Oran of Camus. No. It turned up again in America, breeding in-a-compost of greed and uselessness and murder, in those places where statesmen and generals stash the bodies of the forever young.

“The plague ran in the blood of men in sharkskin suits, who ran for President promising life, and delivering death. The infected young men machine-gunned babies in Asian ditches; they marshalled metal death through the mighty clouds, up above God’s green earth, released it in silent streams, and moved on, while the hospitals exploded and green fields were churned to mud.

“And here at home, something died. The bacillus moved among us, slaying that old America where the immigrants lit a million dreams in the shadows of the bridges… and through the fog of the plague, most art withered into journalism. Painters lift the easel to scrawl their innocence on walls and manifestos.

“Poor America. Tossed on a pilgrim tide… Land where the poets died.

“Except for Bob Dylan.”

Ah… Dylan!

The works of Robert Allen Zimmerman have bestowed the soundtrack to my life.

It is now 45 years since I first came to his music, his words of truthful vengeance and his vignettes of love and theft.

A lifetime’s inspiration.

One particular album, Blood on the Tracks, remains a lyrical and poetic touchstone.

My soul is forever wrapped within the songs of its entire 51 minutes and 42 seconds.

Overtly autobiographical, the LP is full of tales of a lover relating a series of unrelated events set in a mythical America. Like a series of impressionist paintings of life itself, the tales are both timeless and without geographical boundaries.

Over 10 iconic songs, Dylan alludes to heartache, deception, anger, poignant regret and loneliness.

It’s a world-weary, nostalgic and ultimately a poetic Bob Dylan; and that is what makes Blood on the Tracks so timeless.

And it is also what makes it the template for my own album of poems… the album you open here.

Welcome to Blood in the Cracks… no plagiarism, just inspiration and words.

These 10 poems are my life and my blood…

United Colours of Palestine

palestine flag

Shed a tear

Do not fear

Blood and paint

Are about to run

The children of

Fearless Palestine

Die under the

Desert sun

 

Red, the blood of their loving kin

Black, the colour of evil Zion

White, the truth that is without sin

Green, the grass they are to die on

 

Don’t look away

You must stay

Flesh and soul

Are torn apart

The women of

Fearless Palestine

Are being

Ripped apart

 

Red, the blood of their loving kin

Black, the colour of evil Zion

White, the truth that is without sin

Green, the grass they are to die on

 

Fight their cause

Do not pause

Black and white

Like Raven and Dove

The men of

Fearless Palestine

They too need

Your love
 

Red, the blood of their loving kin

Black, the colour of evil Zion

White, the truth that is without sin

Green, the grass they are to die on

 

Razan

Razan

First of June 20-18

The Gaza border, weather fine

Israeli missiles and white phosphorus

Burned out the Hamas line

Will the world see justice done?

A hundred killed

Innocent blood all spilled

Fearless hands raised to the sky

For peace and Palestine

The martyrs all did die

 

Gentle Razan

Just 21

The eldest of six

Your blood will run

For Freedom

 

Razan al-Najar

Was shot in the chest

Trying to help a wounded man

Her bravery will not see rest

Until the world sees justice done

A white butterfly

With hands held high

Told the IDF sniper

She was a nurse unarmed

Yet they killed this fearless tiger

 

Gentle Razan

Just 21

The eldest of six

Your blood will run

For Freedom

 

When I try to sleep at night

I am haunted by Razan’s face

Zionist bankers paint the murder white

And poison the whole Arab race

The world will now see justice done

Within this devil’s scandal

They can blow out a candle

But they can’t blow out a fire

Once the flames begin to catch

The wind will blow it higher

 

(Inspired by Peter Gabriel’s iconic song Biko)