Love Across Borders is an anthology of short stories from Pakistani and Indian writers and is nothing short of a a noble endeavour in its own right. These stories do not carry any political agenda with them, unless honesty and peace can be called as such. The first story is titled ‘That 70’s Babe’ and is a tale of unrequited love by Mamun Adil which is told in a defiantly confessional tone. It has the conspiratorial intentions found in Robert Browning’s ‘Porphyria's Lover’, where a jilted man triumphantly, if tumultuously watches the destruction of the object of his adoration.
‘The Reunion’ by Naheed Hassan and Shweta Ganesh Kumar is an easy to relate to narrative about the reconnection between two friends through the realm of social media. It’s an honest portrayal of involuntary envy, grass-is-greener syndrome and the colloquial value we give to nostalgia. Another story, ‘Twelve Months’, is about a Pakistani widow on her annual visit to Hyderabad in India and the affiliation between her and her in-laws housekeeper. It is a simple story, one which outlines the unspoken expectations and pressures of society with minimal dialogue. As pointed out by its editors, it is no secret that literature is a medium very much dominated by the West and one of the purposes of Indireads is to help people see some of themselves within the plot. A lot of the romance in this region does not so much as concentrate on the physical dimension as much as the emotional.
True to its title, this is the Pakistani co-editor Sabahat Muhammad and writer Shuchi Karla speaking about their experience on collaborating to write a short story for the anthology:
Dawn.com interviewed the editors Naheed Hassan and Sabahat Muhammad in light of this collaboration to find out more about the future of their online publishing house and the process that brings them closer to the stories to bring us closer to each other.
Who is your target audience through your online publishing house? Do you think that by forgoing print you lose some readers you would have otherwise reached?
Indireads was set up to engage with and serve South Asian readers everywhere - both at home and abroad. The choice to publish as e-books only was very intentional. We realize that the e-books market in South Asia is still in its early stages, but we would rather be at the leading edge of a trend rather than trying to catch up. We have positioned Indireads to be one of the companies at the forefront not only of the e-books market development, but also in the development of a contemporary writing genre.
Our focus is on light, engaging reading – not literary writing, but contemporary fiction that engages, entertains and connects. A big segment of our market is therefore young, infrequent readers. Think of our mission as one of inculcating a reading culture or habit in the young generation. What we know is that this generation spends a lot of time online, is digitally inclined and will transition into e-books quite easily, especially given our pricing advantage. We recognize that we will lose some readers by going the digital-only route, but we do believe that this opens up other potential market segments, especially the diaspora market, which makes this choice strategically relevant.
How did you choose the stories published in Love Across Borders and if you could choose an ideal reaction from readers, what would it be?
We sent out a call for stories that showcased connections at a human level between ordinary people across both sides of the divide. The only real restriction in terms of content was to stay away from the past and for the stories to focus on the present. We generated a lot of interest and many writers sent in their contributions. We chose the final stories based on how interesting and engaging the story was, without preaching and sermonizing. The twelve stories that we have finalized are, first, all interesting reads in their own right, and then fit the Love Across Borders theme.