tuque /tūk/ n Canadian English, var. toque [19th c. Canadian French, from the French toque, from the Basque tauka] 1 A close-fitting knitted cap, often with a long tapering end or tassel or pompom. 2 fig Something quintessentially Canadian.
souq /sūk/ n from the Arabic سوق var. souk 1 An open-air marketplace. 2 fig A central meeting place for the circulation of news and ideas.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Unfelled: A Naxal Encounter

A forest in India. (Photo by Richard A. Johnson / 2011)

The creative non-fiction short story "Unfelled: A Naxal Encounter" by Richard A. Johnson (me) appears in the online edition of THIS Magazine for November/December 2012. It is the second-prize winner in the magazine's annual Great Canadian Literary Hunt.

The story traces the contours of a man called Sudhir in a place called Kandhamal in southeastern India; a rough etching of the confluence of grassroots development work, aboriginal communalism and anarchistic violence set at a roadblock in the forest.

Excerpt from "Unfelled: A Naxal Encounter" (THIS Magazine):
On a mountain road deep in the Indian jungle, a pair of tree trunks blocks the passage of a jeep. Inside, a wary driver and a terrified cameraman, both town dwellers hired by a local non-governmental organization to ferry us into the district of Kandhamal—the Kashmir of southern India, for its verdant highlands swathed in misty luminance—and shoot footage of a development project. 
Behind them sits Sudhir, whose restless eyes appraise the scene, darting into the thick forest all around us, then back to the roadblock. In each man’s mind a common fear unfolds: at any moment cadres of armed Maoist rebels—Naxals—will emerge to rob them or worse, alleging them to be spies or profiteers or corrupt bureaucrats, kidnap or even kill them. 
The Kandhamal forests—lush with teak, cashew, mango, bamboo, neem, jackfruit and the wizened banyan—emit a foreboding coolness, shrouding sunlight and vision. They hide well those who would gladly withdraw from the world.

I am grateful to the judges of the Great Canadian Literary Hunt for their mention of this story, as I am grateful to my various hosts in India who made it possible. Congrats to the other winners of the Great Canadian Literary Hunt.

Also by Richard A. Johnson in THIS Magazine: "A Dramatic Revival"