Editor's Note

This issue of Out of Print pays tribute to two singular literary figures of the subcontinent, the Urdu writer, Mustansar Hussain Tarar who celebrated his eightieth birthday in Lahore at the beginning of March, and Krishna Sobti who wrote in Hindi and passed away on January 25 at the age of ninety-three in Delhi.


Sobti was an extraordinary writer who developed her own style, incorporating a varied vocabulary including Punjabi, Gujarati and Rajasthani into her text, and using often spare, poetic and experimental language to extend her expression. Her work examined the lives and desires of her women protagonists with boldness and depth, even as she refuted being labelled as a woman writer. We feature one of her ‘earliest and most celebrated short stories’, ‘Sikka Badal Gaya’, translated by Daisy Rockwell. In a short note following the story, we reference Rockwell’s obituary of Sobti that elaborates on how the publication of the piece played a key role in launching Sobti as a writer. Published in Out of Print under its English title, ‘The Currency has Changed’, the story is a complex and uncompromising look at the departure of an elderly widow of a zamindar from her home at the time of Partition and is said to draw from Sobti’s own grandmother’s experiences.


Tarar’s story, ‘Baba Bagloos’, translated by Raza Naeem follows the routine of an elderly prisoner incarcerated in a city prison and culminates in a public hanging. The description of the crowd’s eager, insatiable fascination with the spectacle is particularly brutal and grotesque. Based on Bhutto’s execution, it was one of the works that caused Tarar, a host of a popular show, to be banned from appearing on television during the Zia ul Haq era. Tarar’s trajectory as a writer has been detailed by Naeem in his ‘Translator’s Note’ that is published below the story. Tarar’s adventurous spirit that took him on unusual journeys, behind the Iron Curtain, across Europe by road and up remote mountains, resulted in travelogues that had an appeal across a broad spectrum of readers. His literary work explores critical political issues in Pakistan and the world.


Two love stories provide relief from the emotional intensity of the previously listed works. Parineeta Singh’s ‘The House on Fox Hill’ draws the reader in with its charming, hopeful yet ineffectual protagonist who brings to mind some of the young men in R K Narayan’s stories. His winsome young neighbour’s interest in his adventures as a detective as he investigates a haunted house, lead to the realisation of his love. Ewa Mazierska's ‘Shopping And Longing In Goa’ is set in Panjim and is told from the point of view of a tourist shopping in the city. An outsider, she views each small overture from men with scepticism. As she wanders through the city, drinking tea and buying things she does not need, one particularly brusque shopkeeper changes the course of her journey.


‘Regret’ by Ananya Dasgupta is a sensitive and honest examination of a young woman’s foray into being a teacher’s aide to a couple of underprivileged children in Boston. A chance encounter, many years later, brings the narrator face to face with her inability to break through to one young boy and the many layers of regret embodied therein.


Noor Niamat Singh’s ‘The Semicircle of Life’, her first publication, is an extraordinary journey into the mind of a young woman as she identifies emotional and psychological rafts to help her maintain stability as she deals with an unstable mother, a concerned circle of loved ones and a pregnancy she feels distanced and detached from.


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The artwork by Reena Saini Kallat is titled the ‘Leaking Lines (Radcliffe Line)’, 2018, (electric wires, steel nails, charcoal, embossed and laser cut arches paper, 70 x 95 cm, image courtesy: Iris Dreams) and is reproduced with the permission of the artist.

The cover design by Yamuna Mukherjee contains images from a piece of Kalamkari or crafted-by-pen fabric depicting stories from Indian mythology.

Reena Saini Kallat was born in Delhi. Based in Mumbai, her practice spanning drawing, photography, sculpture and video engages diverse materials, imbued with conceptual underpinnings. She is interested in the role that memory plays, in not only what we choose to remember but how we think of the past. In her works made with electrical cables such as the one used in the current release of Out of Print, wires, usually serving as conduits of contact that transmit ideas and information, become painstakingly woven entanglements that morph into barbed-wire-like barriers.

She has widely exhibited at Institutions across the world such as Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York; Tate Modern, London; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Manchester Museum, UK; Kennedy Centre, Washington; Helsinki City Art Museum, Finland; National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai; Kunsthaus Langenthal, Switzerland; and Chicago Cultural Centre amongst many others.

Her works are part of several public and private collections including the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Musee des Beaux-arts Canada, Ottawa; National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung; Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada; Bhaudaji Lad Museum, Mumbai and National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi amongst others.


Selected stories may contain language or details that could be viewed as offensive. Readers below 18 are cautioned to use discretion. Views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily supported by Out of Print.