Chaya can mean shadow, darkness, obscurity, or a ghostly apparition. But it can also mean shelter, the shade that is such a welcome refuge from the hot Indian sun. Right now it is March in Jaipur and the windy winter months are making way for the sweltering summer, when any cool patch of shade will be a blessing. Chaya is a reflection too, an image or a rendering, both of texts and of the world itself. Shadows, reflections, ghosts and images — with all its varied definitions in mind, we have chosen this name, Chaya, for a literary journal whose aim is to offer a cool, shady place for new writing in Hindi and English. In this chaya two languages that are at times reflections and apparitions of one another can finally sit together.
In modern urban India, Hindi and English live in each other’s shadows, intermingling to make the khicheri bhasa that is commonly spoken and dominates the widely popular Hindi films coming out of Bombay today. Yet the literatures of both these languages remain strangely segregated. Both inside and outside of India, ardent readers of Arundhati Roy and Rohinton Mistry may not have heard of Amrita Pritam or Rajendra Yadav, and those who love Mahadevi Varma or Ajneya are often unfamiliar with Vikram Seth or A. K. Ramanujan. It is the intent of Chaya that on these pages contemporary writers in both languages can publish their work side by side, and enter into a bilingual literary conversation.
Is this too tall an order? Isn’t it enough for us to live our daily lives in multiple languages — must we also complicate the activities of reading and writing with this boli ki misri? We do not imagine that this journal will bring Hindi and English seamlessly together, nor would we wish to do so. Rather, our hope is that the juxtaposition and intermingling of these languages will enliven and deepen our — and your — literary experience, and the experience of using and appreciating language itself. Thus we offer you Chaya, an exchange of literary reflections and images. They will come upon you, inshallah, as the cool shadow of a pipal tree welcomes a traveller along a dusty Rajasthani road.
The complete first issue of Chaya from 2005 is here.