Click to view Profile
Semeen Ali
Semeen Ali

Image credit:

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact
William Shakespeare

I prefer to keep things simple. Usually. In my head.  It is a different story that when it does play out in real life – the other characters  prefer to take their roles seriously and stick to their scripts while I run amok disrupting that which I should not. Many waves later, the waters that calm me down are the ones that threaten to drown me. Madness… I think all of us have a fair idea of the various theories that seek to understand this concept and the essays in the collection bring out the finely tuned analysis of the threads of insanity that have always been a part of literature. The Mad Woman in the Attic theory being one of them; it was the first one I came across during my college days and it fascinated me. Fascinated me for giving a voice to a suffocated self; a self that threatens to destroy the order of the world if set free.  Order is but a realization that people cannot run around wild doing whatever they feel like doing.  Therefore order. We ourselves are afraid of going mad. And we begin to fall into line, going about our lives, oblivious to the voices that reside in our head, maybe letting them take over once in a while but most of the time keeping them under control. And that is where madness finds its home – in the deviation.  Madness is not what the social construct would have you believe. It resides in all of us – in varying degrees. The parameters have been defined and put down for us. The barrier that is created between two people on the basis of who hides it better is put up effectively. When one begins to question oneself; and when the identity of a person gets entangled with his/her home, you end up struggling to separate the two. That is a form of madness as well. The idea of questioning not just the world that is around us. When one looks into the mirror, the face that looks back is also questioned – and this happens when you stand on that fine line wondering which way to fall. Imagination, that resident lunatic, momentarily evicts reason … – Alexander Dumas.

What I wanted to search for in this edition were voices that did not merge into each other but stood separately; calling out to each other but complete in themselves.  Madness is subjective and it is that subjectivity that I searched for and found in the ones that I selected for this edition. When delirium gets embedded in the narration, it enriches the reading experience.

This edition brings forth a collection of voices that look into the definitions of what really is madness. The ease with which the poets in this collection have explored the theme has to be read and savoured. Savoured not for what they have to offer; but for what they saw in us and therefore in themselves. For we are all mirrors facing each other endlessly. We always leave a part of ourselves in what we write down.  Words are but constructs – constructs that we consider as ours but are no one’s to claim and command. The writers in this collection of voices use words to give you a glimpse into what they see; what they have tried to give vent to. Fiction is not just fiction but a story of one’s life that has percolated down into small fractions of light for others to experience but not understand in its totality. The essays and an interview placed between these forms of writings critically examine various types of narratological methods that have been used by contemporary writers in their respective works.

The veil that hangs over every work in this collection is a delicate one; remove it slowly. Do not rush; try to understand. For what you see in the first glance is just a fleeting impression; you need to stand and keep looking. For blindness and insight is a binary pair.  

And Rimbaud says:  My turn now. The story of one of my insanities…I began it as an investigation. I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still…


Issue 85 (May-Jun 2019)

feature The Madness of the Word
  • Editorial
    • Semeen Ali
  • Articles
    • Esther Daimari: The Madwoman in Anita Desai’s Cry, the Peacock and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things
    • Sonali Pattnaik: Masquerading Femininity – Of Horror, Revenge and Madness in the film Ek Hasina Thi
    • Yamini: Love in Times of Refugee Crisis – Exploring Suspended Identities and Relationships in Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West (2017)
  • Fiction
    • Annapurna Sharma: Birdhouse
    • Debolina Dey: Sea Salt
    • Habib Mohana: The Road of Separation
    • Ninad Gawhankar: ETA, 17 Degrees Away
    • Ramakrishna Dulam: Delirium
    • Sinchan Chatterjee: The Painters
    • Subhravanu Das: The Stall
    • Sunny Amin: A Heart full of Love
    • Sushant Dhar: On the Bridge
    • Tamoghna Datta: The Voice
  • Conversation
    • Dibyajyoti Sarma: In conversation with Jhilmil Breckenridge
  • Poetry
    • Abul Kalam Azad
    • Aditi Angiras
    • Amlanjyoti Goswami
    • Basudhara Roy
    • Debolina Dey
    • Goirick Brahmachari
    • J George
    • Kashiana Singh
    • Leonard Dabydeen
    • Madhu Raghavendra
    • Mrinalini Harchandrai
    • Rajorshi Das
    • Rimi Nath
    • Rohith Meesaraganda
    • Saba Mahmood Bashir
    • Saima Afreen
    • Sampurna Chattarji
    • Sarmishtha J Dey
    • Saumya Baijal
    • Shamayita Sen
    • Soibam Haripriya
    • Sonali Pattnaik