Residents of Qingdao or attentive followers of local news may have heard of the affair I wish to discuss. On the 14th of August 2013, during a routine fire-safety inspection, a worker from the residential committee of Shinan District’s University Road discovered a heavily decomposed corpse by a small building inside the courtyard of Number 5 Longkou Road.

The Chronicles of Lord Asunaro is a curious little volume. In length, perhaps 10,000 words, it is long for a short story but short for a novella. The protagonist, a minor feudal lord in late Tokugawa Japan, was an actual person (apparently: like much else here, it is hard to be sure), his life heavily fictionalized according to the author’s note. While labeled a “tale” or “story”, the narrative in fact lacks much of might conventionally be called a plot.

Like millions of Indonesian female workers abroad, Mega Vristian, the author of “The Jade Bracelet”, works as a live-in maid, performing domestic and care work. Their labor is indispensable in the global/regional labor market, which is in need of cheap, young female workers. At work, they face various forms of exploitation. It is this experience of inhuman working conditions that encourages some of them to take up a pen to tell and share their stories—sometimes in the form of a short story like this one. 

Amma and Baba had met several years before they were grudgingly allowed to marry. (Or at least that is what we had been told.) In 1978, Baba traveled with a group of friends from the coastal city of Karachi northwards by train and by bus to Swat where the moustachioed Imran, a fellow student, had his family home in Mingora. Imran, like Baba, was completing his B.Com that year and planned to return to Swat to manage the Pine Cone Inn, a ramshackle guesthouse that his father owned in nearby Kalam. Presenting it as a reconnoitering expedition, a ‘case study’ for his fellow classmates to solve, Imran persuaded his father to allow the six of them to spend a few weeks at the Inn and use their recently acquired knowledge of business models to turn it into a profitable enterprise.