Sunday, February 28, 2010

Santosh Desai documents changing Indian middle class

The love affair of the Indian middle class with modernism “took wing with stainless steel”, says leading social commentator Santosh Desai in his new book Mother Pious Lady: Making Sense of Everyday India, a racy comment on the contemporary middle-of-the-order India.
“Stainless steel managed to meet the deeply traditional needs by being incontrovertibly modern. It was seen as pure and indestructible - the two virtues that give it pride of place in the kitchen," Desai says in the book that was launched in Delhi on Saturday.

"And yet, unlike gold, which is interwoven into custom and the ritual role of which is well-established, stainless steel has no past in India. Dubbed as 'ever-silver', in its early phases, it was clearly a modern substance, glinting with metallic hardness,” the author says, trying to encapsulate the changing Indian middle class with its morphing kitchen ware.
The Indian middle class, feels Desai, is coming out from the folds of its past and has to be seen with new eyes.

“It has greater headroom for social and economic mobility. And is now looking at the world through its senses - rather than the mind. The Indian middle class had always been uneasy about its senses because it had, over the centuries, been ruled by the mind,” Desai told IANS.

The writer, who heads Future Brands and was the former president of McCann Erickson, feels the Indian middle class would become a stronger social force five years from now with a more nuanced world view. But he adds that "it would not become a significant political force as it was still too consumed with itself”.
Explaining the objective of his book, Desai said: “Books on India tend to be big because India is a big country, but my book tries to get behind the scene to infer why the middle class feels sandwiched.”
“I have grown up in a middle class family. My father worked in a public sector company. To me, the essence of growing up as an Indian, if there is any such essence, is really in understanding what it takes to actually experience India in all its trivial everydayness,” he said.

Full report here Little About

Tricks of light

In 2005, a group of Delhi writers began meeting to discuss how to write about the city. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence – in Delhi, it can feel like writers never do anything else. But these congregations met in unlikely locations, the urban villages and semi-slums of Dakshinpuri, LNJP Colony and Nangla Maanchi. The writers were also unlikely: all Hindi-speaking, all below 30, and all residents of that other Delhi, the city of the tenth-pass, the vocational course, the inland letter and the government OPD.

Early into 2006 came a tragedy that scorched the book they would eventually write together. The Delhi High Court ordered the demolition of Nangla Maanchi, a slum colony on the east bank of the Yamuna River. Some parts of the slum were bulldozed. Perhaps 30,000 people were displaced. A few of the writers lived there, and all of them haunted the neighbourhood as the Delhi Municipal Corporation and police turned it into a mess of crushed bricks and plastic sheeting. Visthapan, or displacement, became a hot word in their conversations.

Full report here Timeout Mumbai

Chay time

For the last three years, Pakistani poet Kyla Pasha has been a highlight of the performance nights of Delhi’s Nigah Queer Fest. She was back in Delhi last fortnight to release her first book, High Noon and The Body, an irreverent, finely-wrought collection. Pasha is also a journalist, an assistant professor of liberal arts at Beaconhouse National University in Lahore and the founding editor of Chay magazine. But she managed to find the time to tell Naintara Maya Oberoi about politics, cities and how to swear politely.

There’s a predominance of urban imagery in your poems. Would you say you had an urban voice?
I’m a city kid, so it’s hard not to. I have a love and fascination for cities – my dad’s an architect, and I have this sense that there is this kind of poetry in space and in structures. I also have no other context to write from. I suppose if I lived on a farm for ten years, a lot of cows and manure would be in my poetry. It’s where you are. Jane Austen said, “Write where you are.

Where you’re located isn’t always obvious in your poems. How does place figure in your work? 
Place is very important, Pakistan is occasionally important. I wouldn’t want to say I’m a Pakistani poet and then have to write Pakistan, Pakistan, Pakistan in everything. I’m Pakistani, I was born here, that’s my passport, but I do other things besides “be Pakistani”.

Full report here Timeout Mumbai

REVIEW: The Quarantine Papers

REVIEW
The Quarantine Papers
Kalpish Ratna
HarperCollins India
Rs. 499
Pp 340
ISBN: 9788172239145
Hardback

Blurb
As the Babri Masjid is razed in Ayodhya, brick by ancient brick, Ratan Oak stumbles upon a corpse at the Kipling House in Bombay. It is the beginning of an unraveling for him, of the submerged identity he has sought to suppress all his life: that of his great-grandfather, Ramratan Oak.

Grappling with this tandem existence, Ratan realizes that the communal violence which consumes his city mirrors the turbulence it experienced in Ramratan's times. For, concealed in the scientific discoveries of the plague epidemic of 1897 is the terrifying truth about the dead woman of Kipling House. A novel that perfectly balances character and pace, The Quarantine Papers dissects the compulsions of a hate that corrupts, as it trails a doomed love story from nineteenth century Bombay into our own day.

Reviews
Said A Pustule Outlook
That rare thing: a literary thriller, with the quality of producing a sensation of vulnerability. 

The Quarantine Papers is a masterful narrative: a thriller, a love story, a pathological view of history, a scrambled puzzle, a deeply disturbing morality tale, an account of the Bombay plague of 1896-98, the forgotten epidemic that marked India’s first direct collision between modern science and an epidemic.The story begins on the day of the demolition of the Babri Masjid and moves menacingly through the backwash of sectarian rhetoric and violence that followed. It focuses on the life and encounters of Ratan Oak, a Maharashtrian Brahmin and freelancing microbiologist, who is given to hallucinations. A second narrative emerges with Ratan Oak’s—a plague chronicle from Bombay of the late 19th century, when fear of death by disease settled over the city like a frozen blanket, and a small, lonesome squad of pathologists investigated the pestilence.

Terror And The Minibus Tehelka
On December 6, 1992, Ratan Oak is forced out of the apathy caused in part by his father’s illness and the defection of his wife. He is also propelled into the embrace of another mind he shares his body with. A mind that he realises, in this violent, concussed week, is the mind of his great-grandfather Ramratan Oak, a brilliant young doctor who married outrageously a young widow and even more outrageously, chose to love her. A bloody cross-section of the city emerges in this twin narrative, its capillaries strumming with cruelty and impossible love. Star-crossed lovers and idealists emerge in every generation that Ratan uncovers through his fragmented alter-memories. Unfortunately for the reader, the cast is a little too populated to keep track of easily and after a while you give up trying to keep track. You like Ratan and Ramratan so you are there for the ride. This is the first of the Ratan/Ramratan books so there are definitely many more intriguing history lessons to be had. And perhaps in the next book, the prose will not jar as it switches (almost from page to page) from lush, knowing passages to bare, journeyman competence.

Mumbai teri jaan Hindustan Times 
If The Quarantine Papers by Kalpish Ratna has a major flaw, it’s this: it turns you into an antisocial element. I foolishly began reading it on a Thursday evening. The next day, I deeply resented the need to go to the office, deeply resented having to go out for a drink, deeply resented everyone who phoned me, deeply resented everything that kept me away from the book.

Naturally, this made my work and relationships hell for a while, but it did bring some sunshine into a couple of people’s lives. Namely Kalpana Swaminathan and Ishrat Syed, surgeons, writers and the two halves of the duo that comprise the pseudonymous writer, Kalpish Ratna. “It vindicates us as the authors of the book,” says Syed.

Why The Quarantine Papers should require vindication is beyond me. It is a gripping, highly textured, very solid novel that had drawn me wholesale into its world(s) and even now, three weeks since I finished the book, I hate being away from it.

Timeout Mumbai 
For much of The Quarantine Papers, the new novel by authors Kalpana Swaminathan and Ishrat Syed, the reader hovers around hospitals and dead bodies. If there’s one emotion that surfaces repeatedly, it is hatred. However, Swaminathan and Syed, who write together under the pen name Kalpish Ratna, see the book a little differently. “It is, at heart, a love story on many levels – we have counted seven,” they wrote in an email interview with Time Out. “At its simplest, it is the story of our love affair with the city of Mumbai.” At its most complicated, The Quarantine Papers is a labyrinthine descent into plague. The bubonic epidemic that ravaged Mumbai in the nineteenth century acts as a parallel to the communal variety that scarred the city in 1992. Trapped in a limbo between the two is Ratan, the book’s main character.

Chhaya, Vivaad

In the past few months, the Indian literary firmament has been exercising itself more about awards than about creativity. Krishna Sobti, an eminent Punjabi writer, refused to be considered for the 2009 Padma awards; Janaki Vallabh Shashtri, a Hindi poet, expressed resentment that a mere Padma Shri—and so late in life—does not adequately recognise his contribution to literature; and now, three left-leaning organisations of Hindi writers—the Pragatisheel Lekhak Sangh, the Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, and Jan Sanskriti Manch—are protesting against the Sahitya Akademi collaborating with Samsung Electronics, a Korean MNC, to institute the Tagore Literature Awards.

The Akademi’s first Tagore awards, for 2009, were given away on January 25 by South Korea’s first lady, Kim Yoon-ok, to writers in eight Indian languages—Bengali, Bodo, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Punjabi and Telugu. The protest, as Sahmat, a leftist cultural organisation, said in a statement, was not about those who were awarded, but against the collaboration of a public-funded autonomous institution like the Akademi with a profit-driven business house. This association, Sahmat said, was “demeaning” for the Indian awardees as well as for Rabindranath Tagore, after whom the award is named. The protesters also complained that the selection process for the award was opaque. That there was no furore in the literary establishments of the other seven languages testifies to the ideological schisms with which the Hindi literary world is riven.

Full report here Outlook

A blogosphere singing beautiful poems

For many school students in Palakkad and for umpteen upcoming poets in the blogosphere, Jyothibai Pariyadath is a sweet voice that sings beautiful poems to them.


The person behind the voice is someone who loves literature. Jyothi is a housewife who has three published works to her credit, has done many translations, written script for a docu-fiction and runs an online magazine.
And she has two blogs, one where her own poems are posted (www.jyothiss.blogspot.com) and the other carries her renditions of poems of other renowned poets (www.kavyamsugeyam.blogspot.com).

Jyothi got into blogs four years ago.But the twist happened when she was approached by the panchayat officials of Palakkad to give voice to poems of the greatest Malayalam poets as part of the Harisree project. The project is for popularising Malayalam language and literature among students with the belief that listening to poems will imprint them in the minds of students quickly. The renditions of the poems are played in Malayalam classes and students listen to them quite keenly. In the blog ‘Kavyasugeyam’, one can listen to the poems of Kumaranasan and Ulloor to those of M P Appan and Sugathakumari.

Full report here Express Buzz 

Tamils distancing themselves from India

In the Asian region, hardly any people have had such close cordiality as the Tamils of Sri Lanka with the people of Tamil Nadu and by extension with India.Ethnic affinity, linguistic homogeneity, cultural identity and physical proximity, all conduced to a remarkable harmony if not solidarity. Today all what remains is an edifice in ruins. Friends have turned foes. Admirers have become detractors. Where a bridge stood, there is now a chasm. Never the twain shall meet is the verdict of the percipient. Forget the North, turn East to China is the voice of those who dare.

Intellectual nourishment of the Tamils when they are young, commences with Tamil literature. Poets of high intellect spanning two millennia nurtured us. Judged by any standard, Thiruvalluvar of the first century and Bharathy of the twentieth were of world calibre. In between them were poets and scholars of great renown. The independence movement in India brought forth a galaxy that dazzled us with their brilliance. Gandhi and Nehru, Patel and Bose, Tagore and Aurobindo were scholars and leaders who commanded our admiration. We coveted their aura and lived in a world of make belief.

Full report here Guardian

Anna Centenary Library to be open by June

Housing 1.2 million books, the Rs 170-crore Anna Centenary Library being built by the Tamil Nadu Government, modelled on the famous National Library in Singapore, would be ready for inauguration by June.

The nine-storeyed modern library complex, built on an area of 3.75 lakh sq ft in Kotturpuram area of the city, would also subscribe to about 10,000 e-magazines of several genres.

"It (library) is completely modern...something similar to the high-tech Singapore National Library Board. This library will be dedicated to the public by June," state School Education Minister Thangam Thennarasu told PTI. "The government had so far spent Rs 170 crore for the library...we have sought UNESCO's support for tie up with various universities across the globe for accessing e-journals," he said.

Full report here PTI

Are Indians in tune with their culture?

The time has come for Indians to introspect whether they are in tune with their culture or not, “to pause and put a mirror before society to see why dilution, mutilation and modification of culture have taken place against the backdrop of such a distinguished civilisation heritage”, says diplomat-writer Pavan Varma.

Varma, former director-general of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), was in the capital to promote his new book, Becoming Indian: The Unfinished Revolution of Culture and Identity, which was released in Delhi on Friday, Feb 26.

“My book investigates how those who are culturally rootless and India’s educated classes will be co-opted in a globalised world where the victims are usually the last to know,” Varma, who is currently India’s ambassador to Bhutan, told IANS in an interview.

Full report here Thaindian

Cries in the wilderness of desertion and apathy

Narayan has a point when he says he’s not a Dalit writer, but an Adivasi author. Tribals, though classified under the Scheduled Tribe category, cannot be referred to as Dalits. Like other sub-castes who have their own identity, tribals too have a unique social identity, he asserts. “Tribals are the ones who are marginalised and dumped in the backyards of the society, primarily due to geographical compulsions. We are being sidelined by even the so-called Dalits. Tribals are nobody’s slaves. We are blessed with the practical knowledge for living,” he adds.

Narayan believes there’s an essential disparity between so-called Dalit literary works and indigenous tribal literature. “For modern society, however, everything — that is everything that’s not of the Savarna — smacks of the Dalit touch. I’m totally ignorant about the Dalit way of life. None of the Dalit writers are in touch with me.

“Tribal literature comprises those writings which originate from the ones who are sidelined by both mainstream and dalit literature,” observes Narayan, the first and the foremost tribal writer in Malayalam and the award-winning author of Kocharethi.

Full report here Express Buzz 

Stepping inside a hollow head

As Vadukut awaits the reviews and reader feedback, he ruminates about how the character came into being. “Varghese is based roughly on 60 per cent of what I have observed in college and work, 30 per cent on other people’s experiences and the remaining 10 per cent is fiction.

In American slang, ‘dork’ implies a social misfit, a stupid person who is not to be confused with a ‘nerd’ or ‘geek’, which refer to intelligent misfits. Sidin Vadukut is definitely not a dork, but his hero is. Fortunately or unfortunately, that hero of Vadukut’s does not exist in real life. Rather, Vadukut’s dork hero, Robin ‘Einstein’ Varghese, a fellow Malayali, has emerged out of a mental combination of character traits of all part-dorks that he met during his engineering college years in NIT-Trichy, IIM days in Ahmedabad and work life in Mumbai. Vadukut has given birth, rather brought alive, this dork, in a his debut novel titled, what else but, Dork: The Incredible Adventures of Robin ‘Einstein Varghese.

It could be great fun or disastrous — depending on your viewpoint — to meet up with someone like Varghese in real life. Since that’s virtually impossible going by the impossibly stupid character Vadukut has dreamt up in his story, the next best option would be to read the book, which much like its character, might score with you or piss you off with its in-your-face brand of humour. The book is written in a diary format and is the first of a trilogy. (Sample the advance ‘praise’ for the book on the back cover, which sort of lampoons the trend of such praise: ‘A stunning new voice in Indian literature! In Dork, Vadukut has written the book I’ve always wanted to write’ — William Dalrymple’s biggest fan’s youngest sister; or, ‘I read this book and instantly knew that Robin Varghese is the role of a lifetime. Inshallah, I will be a part of the movie when it’s made’ — Shah Rukh Khan’s dentist’s accountant).

Full report here Deccan Herald 

Touring US library opens in Mangalore

If all goes well during the visit of the U.S. President Barack Obama this year end, he would visit few cities in South India according to Ragini Gupta acting counsel of Public Affairs of Amercian Consulate on Wednesday, Feb 24.

Ms. Gupta during the course of her address to a select group of audience on the occasion of inauguration of touring library of the United State consulate told that Mr. Obama has special liking for South India.

Speaking on the occasion Dr. K.K. Achary in charge vice chancellor of Mangalore university said that the libraries are the treasure houses of knowledge and everybody should make good use of them to be an empowered citizens. He said great civilizations in the past had great libraries like Alexandria, Taxila and Nalanda in India. But many of them had been burnt down by invaders from foreign countries. Dr. Achary said the libraries are a product of evolution of human kind and its intellectual and literary prowess.

Full report here Mangalorean.com

Paean to pluralism

For over half a century, the house of a famous couple in Mumbai, Kaifi Azmi and Shaukat Kaifi, attracted litterateurs like moths to the light. Kaifi, the card-carrying communist and Urdu poet, mesmerised connoisseurs of poetry at mushairas while Shaukat traveled across the country performing in a theatre troupe.


A few years ago, Shaukat captured in a book in Urdu the couple's story. The book featured love at first sight at a mushaira in Hyderabad, the austere life in a commune in Mumbai, the famous poet's many fights — for the rights of the toiling masses and against his own disease — his success as a lyricist in Bollywood, and his return to his native village Mijwan in Azamgarh.

Now award-winning screenplay writer Nasreen Rehman has translated the memoir, Yaad Ki Rehguzar, into English. The slim book, though written with a devoted wife’s love and admiration for her husband and his cause, also paints a Muslim couple different from the stereotypical straitjackets we often put Muslims into.

Full report here Times of India 

Persian evening

On most days, Bagh-e-Bedil near Mathura Road in Delhi is nothing more than a tangled forest. But on Thursday, the dead poet who lies forgotten in a simple dargah in this park came back to life. Mirza Abdul-Qader Bedil, a 17th century Persian poet lived in India and died in Delhi, and his grave is one of the city’s unknown landmarks.

Qawwals Chand Nizami and group brought alive Bedil’s poetry at a special performance held at Bagh-e-Bedil as part of the ongoing International Festival of the Sacred Arts. Conceptualised by Sohail Hashmi, the event included three kalams of Bedil among other works, all delivered in an energetic, peppy rhythm. “I had tears in my eyes when I was asked to prepare Bedil’s poetry for the festival. We specially learnt his Persian verses for this performance,” Nizami told the crowd that had gathered at the poet’s grave.

Full report here Indian Express

'Husain knows his Ramayana better than many pundits'

Photographer and designer Ram Rahman is M F Husain’s friend. More to the point, he is an activist — for the freedom to speak. A founder-member of the artists’ body Sahmat, he laments India’s shrinking space for creative freedom in conversation with Nandita Sengupta . Excerpts from the interview: 

What is it about M F Husain’s clutch of paintings that keeps him away from his country? 
Husain is one of the few artists who has a popular connect because he comes from a different background. He has crossed every tradition, worked on every religion, mined all these religious traditions and mined all iconographic traditions. The irony is that he is not a revolutionary painter. Conceptually, Husain has never transgressed. He has reinterpreted existing iconography in his own style. That’s all. But he has a connect.

There are two issues here. First, the titles of the paintings. Second, the politics of protest. Husain named his Durga sketch just that, ‘Durga’. ‘Durga in union with Lion’ is the interpretation on the website of the Janajagruti samiti, which run their main campaign against Husain. Bharatmata was not a title Husain gave. ‘Hanuman rescuing Sita’ was also an untitled work. The title was given by an art critic who didn’t have the guts to come out in the open. Husain is not stupid. He knows his Ramayana better than many pundits. He was making a flying Hanuman. The title is incorrect. Did Hanuman rescue Sita? No.

Full interview here Times of India

The Yew effect

A large Hindustan Times cartoon from 1966 formed the backdrop to the event  in Kolkata. Oxford Bookstore, the venue of the launch of Looking East to Look West: Lee Kuan Yew’s Mission India, by Sunanda K. Datta-Ray, was chock-a-block on Thursday with the city’s literati and glitterati.

The cartoon showed a gargantuan Nehru sleeping with a minuscule Yew perched on top, yelling “Wake up!” It is this cartoon that encapsulates what the redoubtable SKDR wanted to say in his 388-page volume on India-Singapore relations. For governor M.K. Narayanan, who unveiled the book, it was a “double pleasure” to be at the event for he was an admirer of Datta-Ray and also had the pleasure to know the Singaporean minister-mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

“Though I am not a historian, I am part of contemporary history and from that perspective I can claim that bilateral relations between India and Singapore have been most purposeful and warm,” said Narayanan. Despite neglect on India’s part, the relation with Singapore remained stable largely due to the leadership of Yew, he said.

Full report here Telegraph

The scared secrets revealed

From A to Y (Ant to Yak), Nanditha Krishna’s new book Sacred Animals of India traces 56 animals and how they were associated with the Indian culture.

The book was launched in Chennai by animal rights activist and MP Maneka Gandhi and received by wildlife conservation filmmaker Shekhar Dattari at a function organised by the Penguin Books India and CPR Environmental Education Centre.“In the introductory part I talk about various issues and the book starts with ant,” says Nanditha. The book also answers the question why animals were made sacred and also about the vahanas to God that are considered sacred.

“We worship Ganesha and the elephant is considered to be sacred. But, what about those in temples which are chained.We treat them cruelly,” said the author, who did a lot of research.By the end of the year, the author plans to launch her other book Sacred Plants of India.

Full report here Express Buzz

Everything you want to know about biryani

Regular readers of this column (Vir Sanghvi's Rude Food) will be familiar with two regulars of Rude Food. The first is the great biryani hunt, which is now into its second year with disastrous consequences for my shape. And the second is my admiration for Pratibha Karan, the retired IAS officer, who I regard as one of India’s finest home cooks. Imagine my delight, therefore, when both these phenomena came together.

I was pleased to receive, through the post, a copy of Pratibha’s new cookbook dedicated to biryani. Even though the book is published by Random House, well known publishers of diet books and recipe books, it seems not to have received the over-hyped treatment that is Random House’s specialty. I hope this article will set the balance right because Pratibha’s is really an extraordinary book, one that will become a classic of Indian food writing.

Full article here Hindustan Times

AMU exhibits rare books

The Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Prof. P. K. Abdul Azis inaugurated an exhibitfion of books on Seerat, Quraniyat and specimen of Quranic calligraphy at Maulana Azad Library recently.

Rare and illuminated copies of Holy Quran and calligraphic specimen were displayed today at the Seerat exhibition.

A large number of students, faculty members and other dignitaries including Nawab Ibne Saeed of Chhatari and Prof. Shamim Ahmad were also present.

Full report here India Edunews

Saturday, February 27, 2010

India embraces Mills & Boon

Mills & Boon has come to India, and its romantic novels featuring Indian love interests are being embraced by the middle class. Jerry Pinto looks at the genre that it is finally taking root in a country that has been modest about amorous entanglements.

He’s tall, dark and handsome. She’s beautiful, doe-eyed and chaste. His eyes flame when he sees her. She wonders if it is wrong to feel “this way”. For decades, Indian middle-class women grew up reading about men with hard thighs and women who didn’t even know how beautiful they were. Of course, they were all white people, although a Latin lover might sometimes be permitted, so long as he owned a castle in Spain.
The good news is: Mills & Boon has come to India.

Last year, the world’s largest publisher of romantic fiction ran a contest to discover new talent, and Milan Vohra won it with a short story called Love Asana, in which Shioli Dewan, a yoga instructor (height: 5ft 1in; eyes: delicious warm honey-brown; hair: a rich, dark auburn mane that tumbles to her shoulders in careless abandon) finds love with one of her students, Sujay (height: 6ft; legs: long, lithe; hair: charming jet-black hair that flip-flops any old way). The catch is that he’s 28; she’s 30 and a battle-scarred veteran of the love wars.

Full report here The National

SPARROW flies high

Author and researcher C.S. Lakshmi talks about Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women and the “Songs of Sorrow, Songs of Joy” raffle to be held in Mumbai next week to raise funds for the institution. 

“When SPARROW was started in 1988…it was in my bedroom. So there was a great need to rent space. And, you know, in Mumbai, renting is very expensive.”

The voice quavers slightly as C.S. Lakshmi, (known in the world of Tamil literature as Ambai) writer and director of SPARROW (Sound and Picture Archives for Research on Women), describes its beginnings. Dressed unostentatiously in a cobalt-blue salwar kameez, with a matching bindi and a halo of short silvery hair, Lakshmi exudes a passion for her cause. “In 1992, we organised a painting exhibition where we invited several artists. From this exhibition we raised some money… not much. It was the first time we organised an exhibition of its kind…The artists were very generous; they donated very generously.”

Need for funds
Things have come full circle; there is a need for funds once more. “Recently, in 2008, SPARROW acquired a building of its own and we have spent the entire corpus that we had. ‘Songs of Sorrow, Songs of Joy' is a charity raffle in aid of a corpus fund for SPARROW to be held on March 8. I have a friend who owns a gallery and who is also an event manager, Anupa Mehta, who conceived the idea of inviting only women painters… she contacted the artists and arranged everything. It is basically a way of artists coming together to support a women's organisation.”

Full report here The Hindu

Influential Indologist

The passing away of the French scholar Madeleine Biardeau, translator of the Ramayana and an outstanding specialist of the Puranas, is a loss to understanding Hindu India.
Madeleine Biardeau, the widely respected French Indologist, passed away on February 1 in France. She was 88. Born in Niort, in the West of France, in 1922 into a middle class family of small entrepreneurs, Madeleine Biardeau joined the prestigious Ecole normale supérieure of Sèvres (restricted to girls then) at Paris, in 1943, where she studied philosophy. There she discovered the classical heritage of Indian culture with a group of young Christian women who were attracted by the so called spirituality of the East.
Madeleine Biardeau, who was close to the Left Catholic milieu and had a strong secular feeling in spite of being herself a practising Catholic, departed from her friends and started learning Sanskrit intensively in order to study Hindu philosophy to which she devoted a great part of her academic life. But she did not intend to consider Hinduism only from her academic milieu far from India. Aware of the ancient tradition of scholarship that was still alive there, and very curious about the country and its people, she joined the University of Travancore for two years, in the1950s, learning much from the Pandits with whom she read Sanskrit texts. It was the beginning of a lasting intellectual and personal relationship with India, which she visited almost every year until the 1990s.

Full report here The Hindu

Untouchable prejudice: Dalit literature

A VIBRATION of sympathy ran through the audience at the recent Jaipur Literary Festival in Rajasthan as author Omprakash Valmiki, his voice trembling with indignation, spoke of the daily humiliations suffered by his community.
As one of India's 160 million ''untouchables'', Valmiki is part of an emerging genre of writers now telling their stories of centuries of abuse under the rigid and hierarchical Hindu caste system. Brimming with anger and bitterness at the injustices meted out by upper caste Hindus for more than 2000 years, the writing has a singular quality to it: raw and jagged, full of anger and pain.
His people, Valmiki told the audience, were not allowed to wear decent clothes, ride on a horse during marriage processions, draw water from the village well or remain seated while an upper caste person was standing.
Indeed, the very word ''untouchable'' hurts - denoting a status so lowly it falls outside the caste system, a system that deems untouchables too filthy for higher castes to touch, and which has in the past decreed that molten lead be poured into the ears of untouchables who tried to memorise Hindu sacred texts, and that the tongues be cut from upstarts who dared to read them.
Hardly surprising then that many of India's 160 million untouchables would rather be known by a term of their own choosing, ''Dalit'' - the word is derived from the Sanskrit for destroyed or crushed - much as African Americans rejected ''Negro'' during the civil rights movement in the US.
As Valmiki spoke, the largely upper caste audience almost visibly winced with embarrassment. Dalit children, he continued, were seated apart in school, forced to sweep the classroom and given water in different glasses. Upper caste Hindus refused to be treated by a Dalit doctor or rent their homes to Dalits for fear of ''pollution''.

Full report here The Age

I don't have writer's block: Vassanji

Writer's block is a malady that can affect writers of all kinds, regardless of what type of literature they write.
Award-winning Canadian author M.G. Vassanji isn't one of them.

"I don't have writer's block. I'm too old for that," Vassanji, who turns 60 in May, told the audience at Thursday night's Readings at Roselawn Authors' Series. "Writer's block is for young people who have time.
The clock is ticking for me," he said to laughter. Vassanji was in town to read from A Place Within: Rediscovering India, last year's winner of the Governor General's Award for non-fiction. Although he has written six novels and two collections of short stories, A Place Within was his first attempt at non-fiction.

The book traces his travels to his ancestral homeland, beginning in 1993. The multiple journeys for the book spanned 15 years. Born in Kenya in 1950, Vassanji was raised in Tanzania to second-generation Indian parents. He had a sense he would have to one day go. "What was India to me? I was not born in India. Nor were my parents." So go he finally did. He found a vast, multi-layered nation.

"It would take many lifetimes to explore India and write about it fully. When I first went, I remember thinking I didn't want to have a distraction or blink even; I might miss something." The country's complexities also presented Vassanji with other challenges.

Full report here The Tribune

Seminar on transnational Punjabi literature

Eminent scholars, litterateurs and artistes from world over are converging on Punjabi University campus for a seminar on Transnational Punjabi Literature and Culture: Challenges and opportunities.

The two days seminar on February 28 and March 1, being organised by World Punjabi Centre (WPC) in association with Sahitya Academy, New Delhi will be inaugurated by Manpreet Singh Badal, Finance Minister, Punjab. Deepak Manmohan Singh, Director, WPC will welcome the guests in the inaugural session to be presided over by Jaspal Singh, Vice Chancellor, Punjabi University. SP Gautam, Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Jotiba Phule University, Rohilkhand will deliver the keynote address.

Among those present as guests of honour will be Fakhar Zaman, chairman, Pakistan Academy of Letters, SS Noor, Vice President, Sahitya Academy, JS Dhaliwal of Canada chapter of WPC, Gurumel from University of Fresno, US and AS Brar and SS Gill, Vice Chancellors of GNDU, Amritsar and BFUHS, Faridkot, respectively.

There will be a concert of Sufi music, Sufiana, on the conclusion of the inaugural day by India's leading Sufi lyricist, composer, singer and scholar, Madan Gopal Singh.

A fortnight long exhibition of paintings by Swarnjit Savi will also be inaugurated by eminent artist Sidharth during the seminar.

Full report here Punjabi Newsline
Myanmarese writer Ma Thida, in India for the recent Jaipur Literature Festival, opens up about what it means to be a doctor and an activist and how the two impact her writing.

Ma Thida, writer, human rights activist, and practising surgeon from Myanmar, has deconstructed her role in life and abides by her beliefs, convictions and her writer's instincts with a simplicity that both charms and puzzles.

The author of The Sunflower and In the Shade of an Indian Almond Tree, among others, Thida has also documented the damage done to her country by successive repressive regimes. “I have been writing since 1985, 15 years already. Why should I give up writing?” In 1993, she was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment for “endangering public peace, having contact with illegal organisations, and distributing unlawful literature.”

Way of release
She found a way of release through Vipassana and meditation. “I started reading Buddhist teachings at the age of 13, so my first exposure to reading was through religious books. I went to a meditation retreat when I was 16 or 17 but it was without a calling from the heart. As a Buddhist I had to do it. But when I had to serve a term for 20 years, I thought ‘Why not take advantage of being in prison to change my life and get out of the cycle to find total liberation… not physical freedom but total freedom. So I meditated for 20 hours. When I was younger, I used to be aggressive, angry, arrogant. After Vipassana, I changed.”

On being both doctor and writer, she says, “I started writing when I began medical school so both go together; it's not a big deal. I manage both since I write from my heart. I am happy to read anything. I like autobiographies; I love to know about people. Fiction is my next choice. Some people's lives have touched me, like Gandhi and Mother Teresa.”

Full report here The Hindu

‘Homosexuality is an uncontrollable feeling, like poetry’

“I am in the news every day these days... Friends update me on day-to-day news,” says Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) professor Srinivas Ramachandra Siras, who finds himself in the eye of a storm after being suspended for allegedly having sex with another man on the campus.

Siras was issued a ‘chargesheet’ by the university administration on Wednesday and asked to reply to the charges against him in 10 days. After being ordered out of his quarters and told not to leave town without permission, Siras has now rented a house in Aligarh.

“I have been getting calls from various gay rights groups pledging support, and I am considering taking their offer seriously,” he says. A poet, Siras got the Maharashtra Sahitya Parishad’s award for his 2002 collection, Grass Under My Feet.

Full report here Indian Express

Simply Sufi

Be it films, music festival, clothes or paintings, Muzaffar Ali is celebrating Sufism all the way

Frenetic activity possesses Kotwara Studio. Staffers scurry in and out with tension writ large on their faces. The tickets of the participating artistes, costumes, paperwork…the issues at hand are many and time is a paucity. The pressure is palpable but unable to affect Muzaffar Ali. Jahan-e-Khusrau — Sufi music festival held against the breathtaking backdrop of Arab Ki Sarai, Humayun's Tomb complex is just two days away when we meet Ali, the man credited with this invaluable addition to the Capital's cultural calendar.

The source of peace and content that envelops Ali even amidst this chaos is clearly the belief in Sufi philosophy Ali's life revolves around. “Sufis are the best people. They make bridges connecting people with each other. Those are not done physically but in a more subtle way through the mind and the soul. Just yesterday I was thinking, who is a Sufi amongst the people I know. And the architect Joseph Stein's name came up in my mind. He was an architect who designed India International Centre. Anybody who is passionate about people, nature and beauty is a Sufi,” ruminates Ali.

Full report here Hindu

"When I come to India, I feel comfortable"

Despite spending more than a decade in New York, writer of Indian origin Sohaila Abdulali still prefers to call her village in Karjat her home. And she comes visiting quite often to introduce her half-Indian, half-American daughter to nature’s bounty far away from the madding crowd.

On her current trip to India to promote her new book Year of the Tiger, Sohaila says, “When I come to India, I feel comfortable. I feel much happy.” For an author who did several odd jobs to support her fledgling writing career, Sohaila has come a long way. While NY still remains a “big city andallows you to be selfish. In Mumbai, however, you have so much of responsibility and the sense of community,” she says.

In Year of the Tiger Sohaila puts a mirror to human relationships, especially that between siblings.

Full report here DNA

'Changes within Pak are not visible from India'

Why India should talk to Pakistan? Why is Pakistan unable to act against perpetrators of terror in Mumbai? What is the role of US and the UK in the bilateral issue? These and many such questions are addressed by Adrian Levy, distinguished British journalist and co-author of Deception: Pakistan, the United States, and the Secret Trade in Nuclear Weapons, in an exclusive two-part interview with rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt.Levy was foreign correspondent for the London-based Sunday Times for seven years before joining the Guardian as senior correspondent. He has co-authored The Amber Room: The Fate of the World's Greatest Lost Treasure, and The Stone of Heaven: Unearthing the Secret History of Imperial Green Jade. Levy and his co-author Catharine Scott-Clarke are currently travelling in India and Pakistan with an aim to pen two books -- one on Kashmir  insurgency of the 90s and another on the ongoing changes within the Pakistani intelligence setup.

How do you look at the India-Pakistan talks? 
I think it is significant. Some people are undermining it, like the ignominious Hafez Saeed, and some loudmouths from both side. It is significant as long as they talk. While some people say that there is nothing to be gained from talking, I think, the opposite is true. They argue that talking is a sign of weakness by India in view of what happened in Mumbai. I would argue that talking at this point is significant not for its goals but for the process itself, which needs to be started again. I am saying this for a specific reason.

Full interview here rediff.com

Author held for anti-Islamic content in book

Three persons including an author of a book, allegedly containing anti-Islamic material, were arrested in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh, police said today.

The book, Crescent over the World a compilation of articles published by M Laxmaiah alias Krantikar, a civil rights activist, contained "objectionable" material against Muslims, Khammam district Superintendent of Police Anil Kumar told PTI over phone.The SP said police have seized 800 books in raids at different places in Khammam district since yesterday.

Another police official said, "Krantikar was arrested last night and two others-Innaiah and Subbarao-distributors of the book were arrested today and all of them were sent to judicial remand.

Full report here PTI

Friday, February 26, 2010

A story about loss and retrieval

Débutante novelist Mohyna Srinivasan launched her novel The House on Mall Road at Crossword Bookstore in  Delhi recently.

Published by Penguin Books India, the story takes you on a journey with Parvati, the main protagonist who returns to her childhood home in the army cantonment of Ambala to rediscover her past and herself.
Renowned author Gurcharan Das, who has marvelled the reading community with captivating books like India Unbound and the Elephant Paradigm released the book. Srinivasan read excerpts from the book.

Announcing the book launch, she remarked, "The story is about loss and retrieval, sprinkled with suspense and surprises. Parvati learns to love herself as she walks on the path of her life while coming to terms with circumstances that alter its course forever. I relate to the character of Parvati in as much as we both come out feeling stronger at the end of the book."

Full report here Hindustan Times

Thursday, February 25, 2010

AMU Urdu scholar felicitated for contributions

Ghalib Institute, Delhi recently felicitated noted Urdu scholar Professor Masood Husain Khan for his yeomen contribution to Urdu language and literature at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

Ninety two years old Professor Masood Husain Khan had served as Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI), New Delhi and Jamia Urdu, Aligarh. Prof. A. R. Kidwai, former Governor of Haryana felicitated him. On this occasion, Prof. A. R. Kidwai released a book on Prof. Masood Husain Khan's life and contribution.

Noted historian Prof. Irfan Habib said that AMU has a pride in producing such type of Urdu personality and said that Prof. Masood is a rationalist and he adopted scientific linguistic approach.

Full report here  India Edunews.net

It's not only about reading

One must have heard of the various college clubs like music, fashion and drama. Without doubt these form the long list of non academic "fun to be a part" of clubs. But just as these thrive among the college corridors, there are those clubs which happen border along the academic, non-academic; for instance, the literary club.

"Reading as a habit is fast disappearing hobby," says Professor Swati Wagh of Sathaye College. "You would seldom find students reading a book which is not a part of their academics," she says. Wagh who inspite of being a professor of the science stream is in-charge of Marathi Natya Vibhag at the college strives to inculcate reading among her students.

One would dismiss the literary club to be a gathering of like minded scholarly bookish people who like to discuss mind-numbing Shakespearen sonnets, Tolstoy's classics and Burns' poetry. But infact the club is much more than just that. "The reason why I took English literature as my major was that I wanted to read as many books as possible. Sure one can read otherwise, but the three years taught me nuances of writing and most importantly forming responsible opinions about authors and their works," said Dipa Vaidyanathan an ex student of Mithibai College.

Full report here DNA

Clothes maketh the film

Bhanu Athaiya, Hindi cinema's costume designer for more than 50 years, condenses her work into one volume

After Bhanu Athaiya won the Oscar for Best Costume Design for Richard Attenborough's Gandhi in 1983, Phyllis Dalton, the costume designer for Dr. Zhivago, met her and said, “Out there in L.A. the producers think that India comes all readymade. All you need to do is come here with a camera and go out and shoot. All thanks to you.” A compliment pointing to the fact that sometimes blending into a story is more difficult than standing out.

A five-decade-long career in costume designing is a no mean feat. To stay on top of the game throughout and create clothes that became the defining sample of each era of Hindi cinema — from the days of Nadira in Shri 420, Vyjayanthimala in Sangam and Amrapali and Waheeda Rehman in Chaudhvin ka Chand to those of Helen in Teesri Manzil, Meena Kumari in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam, Sadhna in Waqt, Rekha in Mr. Natwarlal or Aamir Khan in Lagaan — sounds even more Herculean.

Full report here Hindu

'There's no distortion of the epic in my Draupadi'

Telugu writer Yarlagadda Lakshmi Prasad won the Sahitya Akademi award this year for his novel Draupadi. The award announcement was followed by protests in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere against alleged misinterpretation of the mythological character. Prasad, who is the chairman of the AP Hindi Academy, talks to Faizal Khan about his book and the controversy. 

What is your book about? 
It is a novel based on the character of Draupadi from the Mahabharata. I wanted to explore different facets of Draupadi's phenomenal character, like her exalted individuality, laudable self-confidence and exemplary good nature, which made her worthy of the crown of the feminine world. It is a novel but there is no distortion of the epic. I researched for two-and-a-half years and read more than 100 books on the subject in Hindi, English and Telugu before I started writing.

What is different in your representation of Draupadi?
I believe that Draupadi and other characters like her in the Mahabharata, who are incarnations of gods, had to behave in the same manner as human beings. I wanted to bring out the human qualities in them to portray them as such. From Draupadi's time to even today, women are the worst sufferers in any world. I delved into the inner feelings of Draupadi to understand the contemporary woman better.

Full interview here Times of India 

Restored library in Lanka signals hope for Tamils

Decades of civil strife have left their mark on Jaffna, the heartland of Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority. Bombed-out buildings are a reminder of the fierce battles waged over the historic city of Jaffna.

The most potent symbol of the struggle, and the uneasy peace since fighting ended last May, is Jaffna’s public library, which was torched in 1981 by an anti-Tamil mob. Nearly 100,000 books and manuscripts, including irreplaceable palm-leaf Tamil texts, went up in smoke. It was an act of cultural vandalism that fed the Tamil resistance movement.

Eventually the library was rebuilt by Sri Lanka’s government and reopened in 2003. It has plenty of new books in Tamil and English on its wooden shelves. But restoring the spirit of the library presents a far greater challenge, says the chief librarian, S. Thanabaalasinham.

Full report here Christian Science Monitor 

Finnish, Swedish translators on demand in India

Lyric labs, a leading translation and content localization services company in India said, it is trying to qualify more Finish to English translators and Swedish to English translators for immediate opportunities.

We currently don’t have many Finnish translators residing in India as the Swedish translators. The opportunity for the Swedish and finish translators are growing and there is continues work to the translators. We are encouraging translators who specialize in IT related translation to take up this opportunity. There is a special price that clients are ready to offer for such talents who are residing in India.

Similarly there is great demand for other Scandinavian language pairs like the polish to English, Norwegian to English, etc. Lyric labs, is constantly looking for talents who specialize in these language pairs, the demand are always high and it is growing says Caren, heading operations in Lyric Labs. 

Full report here I-newswire 

A new bend in the river

Having moved beyond postcolonialism and a welter of sari-and-mango novels, Indian literature has struck out into darker, messier terrain, Rana Dasgupta writes. Is this the new lore of an agonised nation? 

Novels and nations are linked by an intimate kind of analogy. If nations are the stage on which modern life and feeling unfold, novels are the form in which these things are recounted, understood and turned, finally, into lore. Such is the apparent scale and ambition of modern life that no smaller treatment than the novel will finally match up – not even cinema, which, for all its protean vitality, has never quite displaced the novel from the pinnacle of modern cultural achievement.

This is why emerging nations strive to beget great novels. During the years of America’s rise, for instance, the project of the “great American novel” was conscious and determined. Industry alone would not make the United States great: to grow beyond Europe it needed to match Flaubert and Tolstoy. In 1897, the novelist Frank Norris wrote that American writers should be focused on the task of creating the novel “which is the most thoroughly American in its tone and most aptly interprets the phases of American life”.

The same challenge has continued to define American writing and literary taste ever since. In awarding the 2001 National Book Award to Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, the jurors explained that the novel had proved Franzen “one of the most astute interpreters of the American mind and spirit”.

Full report here National  

Now, master your mother tongue, on weekends

In order to encourage more people to learn their mother tongue, a programme, ‘Read and Write Your Mother Tongue” in all official Indian languages is being launched.

It aims at reviving the active use of Indian languages in our day-to-day lives by teaching individuals to read and write their mother tongue and in turn also help them connect with their cultural literature. Anybody above the age of 16, who can speak but not read or write their mother tongue, can join this weekend course.

“In this day and age of progress, we seem to be forgetting our roots. Though the current generation can speak their mother tongue, very few have knowledge of the script. So we decided to help people appreciate their mother tongue better by introducing this programme,” said Sandeep Nulkar, chairman and managing director, BITS Private Limited.

Full report here Indian Express

Punjabi, the oldest language of the world?

"People of the Punjab were not mute when the world-known ancient Indian Valley Civilization flourished in the north-west parts of the country. The Panjabis used to speak their own language which is older even than the Dravadian's".

This was claimed by the eminent Punjabi litterateur Dr Satinder Singh Noor while delivering his keynote address in the inaugural session of the 2-day national seminar on the New Perspectives of Punjabi Language, Literature and Culture being organised by the Department of Panjabi, Kurukshetra University.

About 30 scholars of Punjabi language and literature are participating in this seminar from Haryana, Punjab and Delhi. Refuting the ongoing theory that Punjabi was Indo-Aryan language, the Vice Chairman of the Bhartiya Sahitya Academi, Delhi Professor Noor said that the Panjabi was the oldest language of the world which existed in one form or the other before the use of Tamil and even Sanskrit because it existed before the emergence and blooming of the most ancient Indian Valley Civilization in this part of India. He cited examples with the help of many prevalent words using phonetics and morphological terms.

Full report here Punjab Newsline

One for the Books

The puffy saffron tents overflow with literati - and the scent of manure wafting from nearby stables. Honking cars drown out the shaky sound systems amplifying panel discussions. Immortals of the pen and Bollywood idols alike jostle in long lines for meals of soupy dal and curried potatoes. Welcome to the Jaipur Literary Festival.

Why would Nobel laureates, major literary prize winners, world-renowned historians, famous poets and critics all beat a path around the globe to a dusty Indian provincial city.

Despite widespread perceptions that reading and serious literature are going out of fashion, festivals like Jaipur - places to mingle with well-known authors, often supplemented by musical performances and special events - are thriving world-wide. Most of the big-league ones are held nearer to where a good many more English-language writers live: Among them are New York's six-year-old PEN American Center World Voices Festival of International Literature, with its star-studded roster supervised by noted author Salman Rushdie, and the Guardian Hay Festival staged in Wales every May since 1998. The latter has branched out into popular franchises in places such as Nairobi and Belfast and added Spanish-language festivals in Segovia, Spain, and Cartagena, Colombia.

Full report here Wall Street Journal 

Words that touch

Untouchable, maybe. But no longer unread.

Omprakash Valmiki, born into India's lowest social group, the Dalits - known widely as "untouchables" -- says he was the first member of his family to "ever see the inside of a school building."

For 40 years he has worked for the Ministry of Defense in Dehradun - but by night the bureaucrat was doggedly composing poems and fiction. And when Mr. Valmiki came to the 2010 Jaipur Literary Festival to participate in a series of panels meant to recognize the importance of so-called Dalit literature, he drew larger crowds than many of the internationally known authors there. He was mobbed for autographs, and his works - which include the Hindi-language autobiographical novel Joothan: A Dalit's Life, published in English translation in the U.S. by Columbia University Press - were among the first to sell out at the festival bookshop. (The English translation also appears with the subtitle "An Untouchable's Life.")

Full report here Wall Street Journal 

Loved Mother India? Now, you can read it!

One of India's best-reviewed films, Mother India was also the first film to be nominated for the Oscars, way back in 1958.


Directed by Mehboob Khan and starring Nargis, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar, the film's script will now be available at book stores, 53 years after its release.


We present an excerpt of one of the most touching scenes in the film, where Nargis' Radha is ready to sell herself to the local moneylender so that she can feed her starving children, Birju and Ramu.

Full report here Rediff 

Iranian graphic novel draws interest as multi-language webcomic

A graphic novel about the political and social situation in Iran is beginning as a serialized web comic in seven languages. Zahra's Paradise, the first installment of which was published online on February 19, will ultimately see publication by First Second Books in 2011.
Called a work of "real-time fiction," Zahra's Paradise is set in the aftermath of Iran's disputed 2009 elections and tells the fictional story of the search for a missing protestor. The story will incorporate a number of current events as it unfolds with web updates every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
At www.zahrasparadise.com, the comic is available in English, Farsi, Arabic, French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch.
Zahra's Paradise is written by Amir, an Iranian-American human rights activist, journalist, and documentary filmmaker who has lived and worked in the US, Canada, Europe, and Afghanistan. Khalil is a multimedia artist who takes on his first graphic novel with this project. Both Amir and Khalil are withholding their last names to protect their anonymity, according to the site.

Full report here The Independent

Alexie, Kingsolver among PEN/Faulkner fiction nominees

On February 23, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation announced nominees for its 2010 fiction award, one of the US's most prestigious literary prizes. Books by Sherman Alexie, Barbara Kingsolver, Lorraine M. López, Lorrie Moore, and Colson Whitehead are all in the running for the 2010 award.War Dances is Sherman Alexie's collection of 23 tragicomic short stories, while Barbara Kingsolver's The Lacuna is a historical novel set in Mexico and the US in the time surrounding World War II and post-war McCarthyism. Lorraine M. López's ten-story collection Homicide Survivors Picnic and Other Stories, Lorrie Moore's post-9/11 novel A Gate at the Stairs, and Colson Whitehead's coming-of-age story Sag Harbor round out the nominees.
The winner - whom the PEN/Faulkner Foundation recognizes as the "best among equals" - will be announced on March 23 in Washington DC. Each year's winner recieves $15,000, while each of the four finalists receives $5,000.
Celebrating its 30th year, The PEN/Faulkner Award is one of the US's most prestigious literary prizes alongside the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. Nearly 350 novels and short story collections, written by American authors and published in 2009, were submitted for consideration for the 2010 prize.

Full report here The Independent

Book piracy rampant in Yogyakarta; publishers lose Rp 10b

Publishers in Yogyakarta claim rampant book piracy in the region has led to annual losses exceeding Rp 10 billion. "We are aware of *piracy* practices but we can do nothing to prevent them" said Apri Dhian, cooperation and promotional division coordinator of the Association of Indonesian Publishers' (Ikapi) of Yogyakarta, in Tuesday.
Dhian blamed the practices partly on weak law enforcement, saying that book piracy cases in the province had never been handled thoroughly.
Filing legal suits were likely to cost publishers a huge sum of money.
"What we can do is just expect the authorities to pay more attention to book piracy cases," Apri said.
Book piracy, Apri said, is mostly done by copying the original books or reprinting the books without the publishers' permission.
The copied version or the illegally printed ones are made in such a way that they look original and sell for much less.
"Customers sometimes can even make an order for copied version of the original books that they can not find in the seller's shelf," said Apri, who is also the marketing manager of Jalasutra publisher.
He said pirates mainly target best-sellers, mostly books published in response to current and controversial events, like Membongkar Gurita Cikeas, which was published in response to the bailout scandal implicating Century Bank.

Full report here The Jakarta Post

Superman Reboot Nabs Batman Writer David Goyer

In what is already a day of big superhero news, thanks to Marvel icon Captain America, rival comic book company DC is firing back with some huge news of its own: The most powerful superhero in the world is ducking into his trademark phone booth, and a Batman writer will be assisting with an extreme costume change.
According to Variety, "Batman Begins" co-writer David Goyer has signed on to pen the script for a brand-new Superman movie, signaling a major sea change for the character's recent cinematic fate. To make matters even more interesting, "Superman Returns" filmmaker Bryan Singer and star Brandon Routh are not expected to return, despite four years of hopeful "wait and see" sequel comments.
However, Aint It Cool News reports that the rumors of Goyer's involvement aren't entirely accurate, and while he could indeed end up penning the "Man of Steel" screenplay, nothing is official at this point and Superman's next big-screen adventure is still in the pre-scripting idea phase. At press time, a rep for Goyer had no comment when contacted by MTV News; reps for Warner Bros. had not commented.
The move follows up on the news earlier this month that current Batman gatekeeper Christopher Nolan had agreed to oversee efforts to get Superman back on track, but DC has denied Nolan's involvement.

Full report here MTV.com

Renowned Konkani writer Prakash Thali dies

Noted Konkani writer and Sahitya Akademi award winner Prakash Thali expired on Wednesday, Feb 23. He was 65. Thali is credited for translating the Indian constitution in Konkani up to the 85th amendment and contributing to the Konkani-English dictionary.

Born at Chorao in 1945, Thali has written works in Konkani and Marathi. He has also translated Bengali dramas 'Sagina Mahato' and 'Badal Sarkar' and Kannada play 'Hayavatani', besides a Marathi drama into Konkani.

He was a professor who taught English at P D Lions College, Mumbai and Damodar College, Margao.
Thali was also editor of the Konkani monthly magazine Kullaghar and worked as assistant editor and news editor with Konkani daily Sunaparant. Among his achievements is a Sahitya Akademi award for a translation of 'Sanskar' - a book by Kannada writer U R Ananta Murthy. On February 8, he was admitted to the Goa Medical College and Hospital, Bambolim due to ailing health.

Full report here Times of India

Why teaching English is an art

Have we not learnt more English from friends, non-English teachers, strangers? Many of us will agree. What then is the problem?

There was a time when a master’s degree in English was not just to fulfil the need for a degree, but for one’s own liberal education. Students of English literature read the classics of British, Greek and Latin literature and later even read American Literature and Commonwealth Literature. We quoted Shakespeare and we acted in his plays.

Rewards of a rigorous course

The MA English graduate had to teach English at university whether s/he liked it or not. We were the authorities of the language. Hence, we spoke dogmatically. We did not know the rules as such, for we had acquired or imbibed the language through our vast reading and writing. If we knew it for ourselves, we did not know how to pass it on.
But admittedly, we did three years of intense study and topped it off with another two years of more intensive study. Some of us did a paper in TESOL too, as, ‘times they were a-changing’.

Full report here Deccan Herald

Literature key to Dublin's economic renewal - Mayor

THE IMPORTANCE of Dublin’s literary activity to its economic renewal was highlighted at the launch of the Dublin Book Festival last night.
Over 100 Irish authors, poets and journalists will feature in the festival, which runs from March 6th to 8th. Speaking at the launch, Lord Mayor of Dublin Emer Costello said that promoting Dublin as a creative and cultural city was important to economic renewal.
Festival artistic director Alan Hayes said he was hopeful that Dublin would be designated a Unesco International City of Literature in the next few months.
This “huge opportunity” would open the city to an international audience and bring in cultural tourists, who spend more money and stay longer, he said.
Surviving redundancy and Ireland’s rebel history are among the issues being debated in a series of public discussions which are taking place throughout the festival. Irish Times literary editor Caroline Walsh will join a discussion on the art of literary criticism, while Irish Times journalists Gerry Thornley and Gavin Cummiskey will explore sports writing in Ireland.

Full report here Irish Times

Plagiarism debate irks German authors

In literature, borrowing is nothing new. The debate on plagiarism in Germany - sparked by lifted passages in a teenager's new novel - has annoyed authors. One even pulled a public prank to reveal the absurdity of it all.
The ghost of plagiarism has come back to haunt the literary scene in Germany once again.

The young Berlin author Helene Hegemann, who turned 18 last weekend, recently admitted to lifting long passages by another author. But she wasn't the first. Last December, rumors circulated in the German press that Hamburg director Fatih Akin had copied sections of Alexander Wall's novel "Hotel Monopol" for his film "Soul Kitchen."
Then in January, writer Uwe Tellkamp was accused of borrowing from Jens Wonneberger for his bestseller "Der Turm" ("The Tower"). Britain's star author J.K. Rowling has also recently been taken to court for similarities between "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" and a book by Adrian Jacobs.

Full report here Deutsche Welle

UP bans two books for comments against Prophet Mohd

The UP government on Tuesday banned two books for publishing some objectionable comments against Prophet Mohammad.
According to an official release, the Prophet has been compared with Scottish writer Thomas Carlyle in two books -- `Carlyle the hero and poet' and `K K digest English Literature prose' prescribed for MA (previous) students.
Since the objectionable comments on the Prophet in the books have hurt the sentiments of Muslims, therefore the government had sought opinion of DGP and law department on these two books.
The DGP recommended a ban on both the books and the law department also made a similar recommendation and suggested that action should be taken under provisions of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). Following the recommendations, the government issued an order on Tuesday banning the two books with immediate effect, the release added.
—Times of India

Rushdie to write fatwa account

Man Booker-winning author Salman Rushdie is to write a book about the decade he spent under a fatwa issued by the Iranian government.

The author discussed the proposed title at Emory University, where an exhibition of his personal papers including manuscripts, letters and photos, opens on Friday. Rushdie is a lecturer at the Atlanta-based university.

"It's my story, and at some point, it needs to be told," he said, according to the Washington Post. "That point is getting closer, I think. When it was in cardboard boxes and dead computers, it would have been very, very difficult, but now it's all organised."

Full report here Bookseller.com 

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Now, buy back for books!

If you do not like this book, return it and you shall get your money back. That’s the promise publisher Hachette India is making with their latest release, Delhi Durbar, a political thriller by Kishan Partap Singh, which is releasing on Wednesday with a launch in the national capital.

This is the first time such a promise is being made by any publisher in India. “In case you want to, you can go back to the retailer and ask for your money back,” says Anurima Roy, Publicity Manager at Hachette India. Just keep the receipt and you can get your money back. The book is modestly priced at Rs 195, and is aimed at the emerging pulp fiction market. “We are building the author as a brand,” says Roy. “We are sure of its success as it is the kind of book that Indians will like. The book will sell if marketed well."

Marketing for publishers looks set to move into a new notch with move by the publisher, which recently declared that in the short span of their existence, they had already become the second largest English publisher in the country after Penguin India.

Delhi Durbar is the second book of a three-part set, called The Raisina Series. Singh had last year released the first book of the series, then called The Road to Raisina, published by HarperCollins India. The rights for which have been bought by Hachette India since then. The third book, The War Ministry is expected by October 2010. The books are set in Lutyens’ Delhi and explore the games India’s political elite play, almost always for personal gain.

Warrant for Jesus goof-up

The court of the chief judicial magistrate, Shillong, on Feb 23 issued an arrest warrant against the owner and publisher of Skyline Publishers, Ram Mohan Jha, in Delhi for depicting Jesus holding a cigarette and a beer can in the textbooks of junior classes in Meghalaya.

Meghalaya police had moved for the arrest warrant against the publisher on Monday and the court today granted permission to arrest the offender.

The controversial pictures published in cursive writing books of Classes I to III prompted guardians to complain to St Joseph school authorities on February 17. The deputy superintendent of police (crime), Vivek Syiem, said police registered a case under 295 (A) of the IPC following an FIR filed by St Joseph school authorities here.

A team of police officials will leave for Delhi soon to arrest the publisher with the assistance from Delhi police.

Full report here Telegraph

Stoughton library to explore traditions of India

The culture and traditions of India will be explored in colorful variety when the Stoughton Public Library kicks off its sixth annual Stoughton Reads Together program in March.

This year’s program revolves around the novel The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri, which chronicles the challenges of an immigrant family from India in Cambridge. “People like to be exposed to different cultures, different places, different food, and that is what we plan to do,” said Library Director Patricia Basler.

Last year’s program was based on the book The Dark Tide, which was about the great Boston molasses flood in 1919. Basler said the program was very popular with readers. “We always try to have a book".

Full report here Enterprise News

TERI and IGNOU organise international conference on digital libraries

Digital Libraries (DL) are increasingly playing a vital role in business, research and education and facilitating ‘anytime, anywhere access’ to knowledge resources. They are emerging as a crucial component of global information infrastructure and resources that bring the physical library and information resources to users in digital form.

This provides a common platform and enable interaction among all DL experts, researchers, academics and students; facilitates creation, adoption, implementation and utilization of DL’s and their future contribution towards shaping the information paradigm and also to enable developed and developing countries to bridge the digital divide through knowledge sharing.

The conference was inaugurated by HRD Minister, Government of India Kapil Sibal. Present at the ceremony were,  D Pundeshwari, State Minister for Education, Government of India, Dr. R. K. Pachauri, Director General, TERI, Dr. Deanna Marcum, Library of Congress and Dr. V. N. Rajshekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor, IGNOU and other eminent dignitaries.

Full report here Financial Express
India will launch a special train service linking West Bengal with Bangladesh to mark the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore in May next year.

Railway minister Mamata Banerjee announced the launch of the special service across the Bangladesh-India border while presenting the rail-budget for 2010-2011 in the Lok Sabha, the Lower House of the India's Parliament, on Wednesday. "Tagore is the only poet in the world whose poems have been adopted as National Anthems by two countries – Amar Sonar Bangla for Bangladesh and Jana Gana Mana for India. Tagore lived and produced many of his literary jewels in undivided Bengal," Banerjee told the House.

"In homage to this great savant and to strengthen the maitree (friendship) between Bangladesh and India, it is proposed to run a special train in consultation with the Government of Bangladesh across the border so that the two countries share the opportunity of celebrating his 150th birth anniversary jointly," she added.

Full report here bdnews24.com

'Urdu is a language of love and brotherhood'

Karnataka Urdu Academy and Anjuman-e-Handeeqathul Adab had jointly organised an All India Urdu Poets Meet (Mushaira) on Sunday at St Mathias School Auditorium. The audience started to assemble at 8.30 pm itself as after many years such a Mushaira was held in Mysore.

The Mushaira began with the recitation of verses from Holy Quran by Hazrath Moulana Mohamed Rahim Ulla. Famous Urdu poet from Burhanpur Nayeem Rashid presented a naath. Secretary of Anjuman-e-Hadeeqathul Adab Syed Shafi Ahmed presented a detailed report about the aims and objectives of Anjuman.

On the cccasion, Khaleel Mamoon, Chairman, Karnataka Urdu Academy, felicitated Dr. Javeed Nayeem, President of Anjuman and Afsar Pasha for their services for the promotion of Urdu language. Later Dr. Javeed Nayeem felicitated Chandrabhan Khayal, Vice-President, National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language, Khaleel Mamoon, Chairman, Karnataka Urdu Academy and the anchor of the Mushaira and famous Urdu Poet Shafeeq Abidi.

Full report here Star of Mysore

Marathi poem to set world record?

This Marathi Diwas – February 27 (chosen as it’s the birth date of noted poet Kusumagraj) – an album with what is probably India’s ‘biggest song’, will be released at Thane.

In its maker’s words, it’s the first time anywhere worldwide that over 450 artistes came together for a single song. He claims even Michael Jackson’s ‘We Are The World’ had lesser artistes.

Called Marathi Abhimaan Geet, the song – a poem by Suresh Bhat – has been set to tune by well known composer Kaushal Inamdar. ‘Labhale amhas bhagya bolato Marathi’ has been sung by 112 established singers and a chorus of 356 upcoming singers. It was recorded in Mumbai, Chennai and Thane with 12 sound engineers and 65 musicians.

Full report here Pune Mirror

'Gay Rumi wouldn't be a poet'

Supporters livid after Muzaffar Ali said this to a question on the Persian poet's sexual orientation.

'I died a mineral and became a plant, I died a plant and rose to animal, I died an animal and I was Man,' wrote Jalal-ud-Din Muhammad Rumi. There's no way this man was gay yelled writer-director-designer Muzaffar Ali. The occasion: the announcement of the Jahan-E-Khusrau Sufi music festival, organised by the Rumi Foundation.

The popular Persian poet, whose name is synonymous with the Sufi order, is known to have met a 60-year-old mystic, Shams al-Din of Tabriz, in October 1244. The two often spent months together in isolation, giving rise to much resentment among Rumi's followers. Three years later, Shams disappeared mysteriously. Legends say he was only a spirit, while others speculate it was murder. It was then that Rumi wore the white that is now associated with the dervish order he pioneered, and began to whirl in the way the ascetics typically do.

But to say Shams was his beloved is foolish, says Ali of the mystic's much-debated sexual orientation. "Aisa kuch nahi hai. Agar woh gay hote, to aisi hi cheezon mein phans jaate. Everyone has the right to interpret and misinterpret, but these  allegations about Rumi are baseless," he fumed.

Full report here Midday