by Kinshuk Gupta Managing Editor

    I have watched the Usawa Literary Review grow issue by issue, the streamlining of submission process, the growing of our editorial team, brainstorming for themes, and raising funds to pay our contributors. While Issue 10 made us proud and grateful, Issue 11 seems all the more important – the bar is getting higher.

    We received an overwhelming number of submissions this time telling us that ULR is coming of age. As we bask in the glow of our readers’ love, we are thrilled for our growing team – Kabir Deb, a critic and cinema scholar hailing from Assam joins us as the Interviews Editor and Priyanka Sacheti-Mehta takes on the role of Visual Narratives Editor. While Kabir brings interesting and immersing conversations, Priyanka brings colours and beautiful images to complement the text.

    Appetite is more than hunger. It becomes political as we navigate through the fissures of society. There was this story from the submission pile in which a boy’s demand for a papaya searing investigation into the realities of abject poverty and caste politics. An excerpt from Shahu Patole’s The Dalit Kitchens of Marathwada further highlights the worthiness of food: how only a certain kind of food is appreciated and prayed for, while the rest is seen with contempt. The case of vegetarianism that has been used as a tactic to incite religious tensions becomes evident in Runcil Rebello’s debut story Food of the Gods, when the neighbour tells the couple to keep the windows shut and to not let the fragrance of meat waft through, as “We respect your beliefs; you should respect ours too.” It traces the subtle hints in the country’s politics that lead up to it and uses fantastical, absurdist elements to unravel the anxieties of meat-eaters.

    Appetite is also is carnal hunger, one that also weaves in with the politics of the body. Barry Dinerman’s The Pristine is a gorgeous story that introduces us to Vivienne Koval, an old, saggy woman walking with a stick whose breasts have been removed and whose husband has died. Her search is not just for sexual intimacy and takes on a deeper search for meaning. It plays with a sense of distance—the characters move. Bringing together thesis about the origin of God that the dead husband had been working on, Napalm bomb and the politics of academia, the story poses difficult, impertinent, blasphemous questions.

    If death doesn’t remain the central point in Dinerman’s story, Ratul Ghosh’s Baba’r Mangsho compounds the loss of taste with the father’s gradual decline as illness eats him up. Taste and grief together are now the father-child relationship.

    In Rakhi Dalal’s The Aftertaste, the protagonist on Karwachauth has a pounding migraine. In the impossibility of ingesting medication on the day of fasting the pain takes over and mutates into assertion and her own identity.

    Archana Nair’s The Fish Curry is based on an interesting conflict within a family with a non-vegetarian mother and a vegetarian father. The mother not only enjoys eating it but she also relishes cooking it for others, in a ‘second’ kitchen. This takes a huge toll of the marital relationship. And while in her childhood, the daughter-protagonist has forever sided with the father, it’s with her fiance’s love for non-vegetarian food, that she is haunted by the memories of her mother’s fish curry. Quiet rebellion, abject loneliness, and a desperate need to be loved ensue.

    And that is only the sumptuousness of the fiction section, which, of course, I am partial to as I put it together, but please allow me to tempt you further – each section is meal course in itself – each more delicious that the other.

    Bring your appetite for love, equality, justice, and freedom, and tuck in already! This issue is waiting to satiate you.

    Kinshuk Gupta
    Managing editor & fiction editor

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