Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A question of identity

Aatish Taseer's debut novel The Temple Goers talks about belonging, corruption, power, and more…

Just the author with his book on the stage, and a smattering of silent listeners. That was the scene at the launch of Aatish Taseer's debut novel The Temple Goers at Landmark, where for close to three-quarters of an hour, the author simply sat and read long, descriptive passages from his book.

No interaction or discussion on the themes of the novel with a Chennai personality. No chatty interludes by the author himself. Even the post-reading audience interaction was brief, with the author not really going out of his way to engage the admittedly sparse audience.

Relaxed reading
It made for a rather subdued event (unusually so for a Landmark reading). But what it did do — and one might argue this is after all the point of any book reading — is give that small group of listeners a clear feel for the prose itself — emotional, and vividly evocative of the many facets of Delhi. The relaxed reading of unbroken segments from the novel allowed one to get under the skin of The Temple Goers, feeling the narrator's urgency, for instance, as he searches for the old poet, Zafar Moradabadi, and seeing Old Delhi — in all its decaying magnificence — come alive through his eyes.

Full report here Hindu

Teen Murti Library archives to go online

The first edition of the archives of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library will go online within six months as the institution launches a project to digitise the vast amount of information it preserves, Director Mridula Mukherjee said on Wednesday.

The digitisation programme, which started in partnership with the HCL Infosystems, has begun its first phase of preservation, part of which will be accessible to the people online soon.

"We hope to go online with the first set of archives - documents, letters, newspapers etc - we turn digital in the next six months. This will be a pilot project for us and will pave way for the complete digitisation work," she said at the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Foundation Day Lecture, 2010 on the eve of the 44th anniversary of the foundation of the institution.

The NMML is also overhauling the Nehru Planetarium, to make it replete with latest technology instruments and projectors, a project that will take almost six months to complete, she said.

The second Memorial lecture, 'Beyond the Mandela Decade: Reconciliation or Polarisation?' was delivered this year by Ari Sitas of the Capetown University, a renowned poet, writer, and sociologist, who has been associated with the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions of both South Africa and Cyprus.

Minister for Commerce Anand Sharma said the but for a leader like Mandela, who propagated the concept of reconciliation, South Africa could have easily slid into a vortex of violence.

A tale of two sisters and two worlds

Writer Tania James oscillates between India and America in her debut novel about two sisters, illegal immigration and bikini waxes at an Indian beauty salon. In Atlas of Unknowns, Anju betrays her sister for a chance to study at a New York school. While she struggles to fit in, her less privileged sister finds success back home in India. A trade paperback edition of Atlas of Unknowns, first published in 2009, will be released in Britain in April. James, who was born in 1980 to Indian immigrants and now lives in New York, spoke to Reuters about her novel, her inspirations and her next project - a collection of short stories.

Would you describe Atlas of Unknowns as a tale of two sisters?
That's a Dickensian way to put it - maybe I have the wrong title. But yes, it is a tale of two sisters, and the troubles that befall them. It's also a story about a fractured family, about Jackson Heights, about an Indian beauty salon, about the insistent pull of the past on the present.

What motivated you to write this book?
As with any story I write, I'm initially motivated by an image or a situation. With this book, there were a few different situations, like the child who suffered an accident while playing with firecrackers. That situation stayed lodged in my mind until I wrote my way out of it, and there began the novel. And then that situation led to others, and soon, what motivated me was what I can best describe as the book's internal engine. It seemed to be pushing toward discovery -- about characters, their circumstances, where they had been and where they were going.

Was Anju's journey to America inspired by a similar immigrant experience?
I can't point to any particular experience. I do remember doing a short interview for The New York Times with a group of threaders at an Indian beauty salon in Jackson Heights. Their voices stayed with me. And though none of their stories really led to my conception of Anju, I did start to imagine a place in that salon for a runaway like her, who had suffered an unlikely fall from grace.

How easy or difficult was getting your debut novel published?
In a way, the process of getting a novel published seemed rather uncomplicated compared to actually writing it. I didn't set out to write a novel - I had only written short stories in the past - as I was intimidated by the expanse of a novel.
Not to say that writing a novel is more difficult, in fact I feel the opposite now that I'm back to short stories these days, but at last I had about 120 pages and I had to stop calling it 'the thing' and admit to myself that it was a novel. Around that time, my agent called to tell me that she was negotiating with an editor over the sale of my short story collection. I gave her the novel as well - and things kind of snowballed from there.

Any advice for aspiring writers?
Write what matters to you. Or perhaps, more importantly: just write.

Do you set yourself some rules when you write?
Not really. I get a little bit grumpy if I'm not at my desk with a cup of tea by 8:30 a.m., though lately with daylight savings, I've been a shamefully late riser. I've always admired those people who wake at 4 a.m., go for a swim, eat a full breakfast and dive into the work. Maybe someday I'll get my birthday wish and turn into an early riser.

Have you started your next book? What is it about?
I am writing a collection of short stories - or re-writing would be more specific. They are set in a range of places, from Louisville, Kentucky to Sierra Leone so they're literally all over the map.

Bridge across cultures

The Japanese Wife, based on a short story by Kunal Basu by the same name, releases on April 9, having passed the censor board with U/A certificate for an intimate scene of Rahul Bose, who plays the male lead, in a boat. The UK-based author, who teaches management science at the University of Oxford, was in New Delhi recently. 

Here, the author of three novels — The Opium Clerk (2001), The Miniaturist (2003) and Racists (2006) — and a book of short stories, The Japanese Wife (2008), talks about his “promiscuous imagination”, the “failed historian” in him and his fourth novel, The Yellow Emperor’s Cure set in China during the Boxer uprising (1898-1901), it is about a Portuguese doctor who goes there to find a cure for syphilis. Excerpts from the interview:  

Q. The film based on your story, The Japanese Wife, finally releases after a long wait. It’s the story of an unlikely romance and marriage between two people separated by cultures. What was the genesis of the story?
A. The most difficult thing for me to answer is why did I think of a particular story. I can be very cogent and say how I wrote it. But I think what happened with The Japanese Wife was that a few decades ago I was travelling in Bengal with a friend of mine in a village. We were having a very animated conversation about something. It was nothing to do with books, films, but was actually about politics. He suddenly pointed out someone, saying, ‘That gentleman is married to a Japanese’. Now, in a city it’s not an unusual for an Indian man to have a foreign wife or an Indian woman to have a foreign husband. But you won’t expect that in a village in India. I said, ‘Oh! Really? That is a bit unusual.’ But after that we didn’t have any further discussion about that man.

But so strange is the human mind that a few decades later, when I was sitting in my study with a snowstorm outside, I thought of the story and I wrote it. So, that’s the genesis of the story if I can go back in my own memory and point at it. But I had no clue it would come out in such a strange way. I felt a bit sad killing Snehamoy though. 

Q. Are you happy with the choice of characters? I saw bits of the film in Jaipur in 2008 when you had a session with Aparna Sen. It has come out really well. Rahul Bose comes across as quite convincing, playing Snehamoy.
A. This role called for a portrayal of a man who’s frighteningly shy, introverted. He is a village person, but, at the same time, has a strong inner core. For, a person who’s nervous and diffident wouldn’t take such a step of marrying somebody he’s never seen. And still be loyal to that marriage. Something which is strange about this man is that the other aspects of his characters are very ordinary. It is a difficult, complex and layered character to portray.

I saw Rahul for the first time in the context of The Japanese Wife when they were doing an acting workshop in Kolkata. I was passing through the city while on my way to the Australian Literary Festival. At the Actors’ Studio, as soon as I saw him rehearsing a scene in which he goes to a homoeopathy doctor and tries to explain to the doctor that his wife is sick. The doctor asks, ‘But where is your wife?’ The doctor asks him detailed questions about the symptoms. But Snehamoy has never seen his wife. It’s hard for him to describe the symptoms. He’s trying to be as truthful as possible, trying to answer those questions.

I stood at the back as we had not been introduced yet. I exclaimed, ‘Yes, that’s my Snehamoy.’ I instinctively knew that that was my character. So, the choice of the actor for the character was absolutely right. Though I didn’t go to Japan for shooting, but the Japanese actress Chigusa Takaku who plays Miyage has done a great job too.  
 Q. You were a child actor in two of Mrinal Sen’s films — Punascha (Over Again) and Abasheshe (And at Last). What memories do you have of those days?
A. What you do as a child — specially things you love doing —stay with you. I haven’t really talked about it at other places, but I’ll tell you what I remember of my child-actor days. I remember the dark, musky studio at Taliganj {Tollygunge}in Kolkata. In one of the films, Punascha, the hero was Soumitra Chatterjee, one of the big names in Bengali cinema then. I remember him wearing a dark suit and looking smashingly handsome. When Mrinal Sen came in, he introduced us, saying ‘This man is going to act in the same film with you.’

Those were the days when I was mad about cricket. So much so that I’d call Sen da Jayasri Roy and he’d call me Abbas Ali Baig, after the two cricketers. When my second novel was published, I went to see Sen and wrote in the book, ‘To Jayasri Roy, From Abbas Ali.’ It was the whole smell of cinema, the sense of being on the set with lights et al that attracted me a lot.

Q. Would you think about acting now?
A. (Laughs) I have gray hair. No one is going to cast me. If you could find a confident director, who is not afraid to do so, pass on my name.  

Q. All your novels are historical fiction. What is it about the genre that fascinates you?
A. India has a tremendous tradition of historical fiction. When I was growing up, I read the works of Bankim Chandra Chattayopadhyay, which were historical fiction on a grand scale. I was a romantic child and historical fiction appealed to me because it took me to another time and another place. In many ways, it became my favourite genre, even in fiction. I also read novels in other languages. I was very taken by their otherness — the other time, the other place. It is no surprise to me that when I started writing I would gravitate towards historical fiction. Also, history was my favourite subject in school. I never studied the subject in university, which I so regret. I tell friends that I am a failed historian which is why I write historical fiction. 

Q. All your novels are so removed from each other in terms of the period you set them in.
A. It is because in my imagination, I’m promiscuous. I get bored if I stay with a particular period. After The Miniaturists was published, there was a strong view among people who follow my work in the publishing world — agents, publishers etc — that I should write another Mughal novel. I felt very sad when I finished The Miniaturists because I knew I’ll never allow myself to go back into that world again. I don’t want to write yet another Mughal novel as much as I love the Mughal period. I had to move over to the Victorian period in The Racists. Part of my writing is this journey of self-exploration. And I don’t want to be stuck in one period.

Q. In your last novel, Racists, while you wanted to explore the origins of racism in the 19th century Europe, did you also have its contemporary contours on your mind?
A. Racists is about the racial distinctions that science made between the Black and the White. You could equally apply the story to the distinction between the Chinese and the Malay in Southeast Asia or between several castes or tribes or religions. In many ways, this is a story about prejudice. Prejudice, unfortunately, is timeless. Prejudice, unfortunately, cuts across geographies. So, although the story of Racists is set in a very specific context of racial discrimination, it could equally be seen as other sorts of discriminations in other societies in other times. What really intrigued me when I was writing this novel was why are people drawn to other people who are similar — similar ethnically, religiously and by caste — and why do they move away from those who they see as dissimilar. Racists, in that context, is a very significant novel for me because I am troubled, as most contemporary citizens of the world should be, about prejudice. While writing that novel I understood more about the roots of prejudice. 

Q. Tell me something about your next novel, The Yellow Emperor’s Cure.
A. I’m not going to tell you a lot about it. What I’ll tell you is that it’s a novel about syphilis, a very dangerous disease which up to the ’30s of the 20th century was like HIV\AIDS. There was a lot of taboo and stigma around it as is the case with AIDS today. The novel is about exploring how different cultures — European and the Chinese —looked at the notions of health and sickness. It’s a story about a Portuguese doctor who goes to China to find a cure for syphilis in the 19th century.  

Q. As a reader, what struck me about almost all your characters was that while they are ordinary, there is something incredibly extraordinary about them. 
A. You have touched a very important point in my writing. I am excited by miracles that happen in the lives of ordinary people, people who never expect those miracles. A significant point, which cuts through from The Opium Clerk to my latest novel, is a series of accidents, miracles and completely strange happenings that take place in the life of the ordinary people and how these happenings transform their lives or make them see themselves or the world around them in a different light. Inside all ordinary people are extraordinary worlds, worlds of our memories, dreams and nightmares. Hopefully, in my writing, I bring out those memories, dreams and nightmares in strange settings. 

Q. As someone who was born and bred in Calcutta (now Kolkata), what intimacies do you share with the city? Living abroad, are you nostalgic about it?
A. I have lived abroad for close to 30 years now. But unlike a fair number of NRIs, I don’t miss the tea shop that I used to frequent while growing up. I don’t miss Calcutta in that sense. I miss myself in Calcutta. I miss the times when we used to plaster the walls of the university with political posters during the Emergency, the time when we used to go and stand for hours in queue to collect tickets to the international film festival, the times when we would go to watch Mrinal Sen’s Calcutta 71 and keep arguing with friends till 2 o’clock in the morning. But obviously I have changed and Calcutta has changed. When I go there, it takes some effort to recreate that memory. It’s not small things that I miss. It is a city which is familiar because I was born and raised there. If I ever turn blind, and I pray to god that I don’t, I think I can find my way in Calcutta.

I don’t have superficial nostalgia about Calcutta. I miss lots of places. I miss Delhi. I love Delhi. Of the 12 stories in The Japanese Wife, five have strong settings in Delhi. I never lived for a substantial period of time in the city, but I feel I miss it in many ways. I miss going to Hazrat Nizamuddin to listen to qawwalis. 

Currently, I am writing a text for an album of extraordinary photographs of an old Calcutta house, shot by Kushal Ray, and its inhabitants. I am going to be writing the text. Hopefully, the text to accompany those pictures will not be boring. Hopefully, there will be some fictional qualities embedded in my text.

Seasons in the sun

Mohyna Srinivasan's The House on Mall Road is a loving tribute to Army life

Mohyna Srinivasan's debut novel, The House on Mall Road (Penguin, Rs. 325) “Comes out of very deep, childhood memories.” The young writer who was in town for the book launch at Crossword Bookstore, explained that like the protagonist Parvati, she too was a “Fauji (Army) kid. The 1971 War made a huge impression on me. Black outs and planes flying overhead were part of routine. It was an exciting and scary time.”

During the War, Mohyna's father, who was in the Army was serving on the Front. “We were in Ambala. I was seven, dad was away and there was my grandmother, mum, my seven-month-old sister and me—four women in the house. It was a big, defining, compelling moment, it made me who I am.”

Full report here Hindu

The poet as a rebel

When playwright Shahid Anwar read out the script of Sara to me, I felt compelled to direct it. I must confess my Urdu is not that hot so it took me a while to understand and appreciate the late Sara Shagufta’s poetry. What first struck me was the remarkable life that she led and the challenges she faced as a woman and a poet in a stiflingly male-dominated society of Pakistan in the 1970s. To quote a male poet of her time and place: “A woman with a pen is a nuisance to society.”

Lest we think we are better off in India or in the 21st century, a friend of mine recalls with some amusement that whenever she travels by taxi and instructs the driver to take her on a particular route, he invariably tells her it’s not a good idea and suggests an alternative route. Once when I took a taxi with her, she asked me to give directions. Not a word out of the driver. She paid the fare, but the change was handed over to me.

Why do we think that women do not have a right to use their brains or to express themselves freely?
Sara, the play, is a dramatic enactment of the life and times of one of Pakistan’s most controversial poets whose life was troubled with personal conflict. Largely based on her letters to Amrita Pritam, this dramatisation takes us through her struggles and victories as it does try to fathom her innermost yearnings. Her poetry is searing and deeply personal. It dazzles with metaphor and compels the reader to try and understand her life better through her words. One gem in translation—Does a woman have any territory beyond her body?  

Full article here Week

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

REVIEW: Maria's Room

Maria's Room 
Shreekumar Varma
Harper Collins
Rs 299
Pp 332
ISBN: 8172238541

Goa. Beyond the sunny beaches, the music and the feni, lies a hinterland caught between the past and present. Here, soon after Liberation, the beautiful young Maria is swept off her feet by the French artist Marcel-an affair that ends in tragedy.

Decades later, it is this dark, rain-lashed Goa that writer Raja Prasad arrives in as he flees from the dreariness of his own life. It is here that he encounters Maria-a name that is whispered into his ear from a past as treacherous as the ghosts he dares to confront; a woman as enigmatic as the land itself. As he settles down to write his second novel, Raja stumbles on to the mystery surrounding Maria's death. And in the process he uncovers secrets of his own

Dramatic and intense, Maria's Room is a tale of love and memory; of the drunken Fritz and the inscrutable Milton, the delectable Lorna and the frail Ruma; of a father's fear and a son's turmoil. It is the story of a man's struggle to make sense of himself and the world.

Imagination that haunts Deccan Herald
They come as multi-talented painters of life, the Indian writers of the post-Salman Rushdie generation. Shreekumar Varma is one of them: poet, playwright, editor, teacher, short story writer for children and adults, and what else. Ah, a novelist too. A decade back, Lament of Mohini was a good find for the browser of recent arrivals. Now Maria’s Room. Is it going to be depressing as the blurb implies or will it be a Shreekumar dish, a mixture of humour and tragedy?

Goa has been in the news recently for unsavoury items in the dailyspread.  The backcover of Maria’s Room is no comfort either, as it splashes a bushelful of affairs and tragedy, a treacherous past with perhaps a spine-tingler thrown in. Certainly not a novel for smiling gaily and whispering delectable anecdotes. Remember Bimal Roy’s classic? Dilip Kumar’s car getting stuck in a strange area on a rainy night and the driver suggesting a dilapidated house nearby for the night’s stay. Those curtains flapping around the hero as he recognises the portrait of Ugranarain from a dim past. The entire scenario of Madhumati came back to me as I read the opening of Maria’s Room: “It drained its edges into shimmering slabs that had probably been paddy fields until last week. Black branches, leaves and a few anonymous objects crossed the road, migrating hurriedly from one slab to the other.

Great atmosphere, foggy view Hindu
In spite of a narrative flaw, Maria's Room manages to take the reader along…
Not many novels are able to combine good writing with good story-telling. Maria's Room comes close — which makes the shortfall easier to sight. This atmospheric, highly literary novel is also an example of a mis-crafted narrative, which, while containing all the elements of a powerful story, doesn't effectively arrange them.

But the elements are there. Shreekumar Varma sets his book in rain-lashed Goa, an inspired choice of setting for a protagonist on a breakdown. Far from the revelry of sun and sand, this is a Goa of overflowing streets, vivid foliage, lonely, courteous hotels. It is the perfect place to brood, and that is our narrator's intention. Following his arrival in Goa, he takes us through his sojourns to the town, his encounters with locals and fellow guests, and his abiding introspections. He is Raja Prasad, a novelist searching for material for his next book, while wrestling with the failure of his last — and more than that, with the scars of personal tragedy. Soon he shifts into ‘Maria's Guesthouse', and drifts into an affair with a young girl, even as he learns the story of another love, from another time. But the events of the past are impinging on the present, and the novel that Raja is writing begins gradually to lay bare his own predicament.

Sniffing out crime

Zac O' Yeah on two freshly translated thrillers from either side of the border — one by the king of Hindi crime fiction and the other by the king of Urdu detective stories.

If there are literary seasons, then I guess the current is one of the hottest in a long time. A thriller from the king of Hindi crime fiction, Surender Mohan Pathak, and a mystery from the king of Urdu detective stories, Ibn-e Safi, both freshly translated, arrived on my desk in one parcel tied together with a piece of string, almost like two handcuffed goondas.

Daylight Robbery
Surender Mohan Pathak, Translated by Sudarshan Purohit
Blaft, 2010,
pp 236, Rs 195

Daylight Robbery, with its attractive pulp cover by legendary Shelle Studio, is the second title by Pathak to be translated into crisp, hardboiled English by Sudarshan Purohit. Already last year I’d been bowled over by The 65 Lakh Heist and I am glad to hear that the series will continue with at least one more translation, the shortly forthcoming Fortune’s Ransom.

These three belong in the ‘Vimal Series’. The story goes that Pathak had written 40 novels about a crime-solving journalist called Sunil, a good guy, but needed a different hero to fit more sordid plot ideas. So he created Vimal, who was framed by his wife and her lover, put in jail on charges of embezzlement, and escaped to become a wanted criminal. The book flopped.

Full report here Deccan Herald

Linguist says Indian languages are threatened

Eminent linguist and the founder director of the Central Institute of Indian Languages D.P. Pattanayak pointed out that all Indian languages are threatened. And it is not only the small, tribal languages, but even major languages like Hindi. The octogenarian was speaking at the inauguration of the two-day Bharat Bhasha Confluence, organised by the Bhasha Research and Publication Centre, which began in Vadodara on Monday.

Among those present were speakers of 320 Indian languages representing all states and union territories along with a host of luminaries, including writer-activist Mahasveta Devi and noted Gandhian Narayanbhai Desai.

Pattanayak has also urged the central government to conduct the long overdue linguistic survey in the country.
‘This is the only way to know all our languages,’ Pattanayak said.

Full report here Calcutta Tube

Big boost for Horizon finishing kit among Bengaluru printers

More than 20 units of Horizon folding machines, perfect binding and cutting machines have been installed among the who's who of Bengaluru's print industry.

Chennai-based Proteck has installed the Horizon kit at print companies which include Manipal Press, Repromen Offset, Ramya Reprographics, Ad Process, Print Point, Jwalamukhi, Kolor Kode, Canverra Digitals and Pattabi (in Mysore).

According to Proteck's sales manager in Bengaluru, B S Chandrashekar, printers in the city are investing in order to make a saving. He said: "Earlier printers used to outsource their post-press and their complex folding jobs, but now they prefer to do the jobs in-house.  Doing the work in-house has helped printers increase the amount of jobs they can complete. Our delivery times are faster because we are no longer tied to waiting for outside operations to fold or bind and send the work back."

Full report here Printweek

Mixed response to ‘open library’ proposal

The Karnataka State Knowledge Commission submitted a report to the state government this month, urging it to allow general public to read books at college and university libraries. However, this recommendation has led to mixed responses from various universities in the state.

The commission had recommended that the initiative be funded by the state government under a joint venture with the department of collegiate education, public library department and various universities in the state.

Speaking to Express, M K Sridhar, executive director of the commission said that the initiative was recommended to increase knowledge and also to improve the relationship between the society and the universities.

Full report here New Indian Express

Storytelling through puppet play

It was festive mood at Ranga Shankara. Colourful and bright rangolis were drawn at many places. Fresh flowers and garlands were put up at the entrance.

One could also smell yummy food from the nearby cafe. All this was part of the Ranga Ugadi, a feast of Kannada theatre, literature and traditional food, organised by Ranga Shankara.

The day kickstarted with a puppet play based on a funny episode from Mahabharata, for five year olds and above. The puppet play was known as Ashtavakra and was performed by the Bangalore based team Dhaatu. More than  forty children enjoyed the puppet play. They comfortably settled themselves on the stage and could not stop whispering and murmuring among themselves as they waited for everybody else to settle down before the play started.

The story of Ashatavakra, from the epic Mahabharata, was narrated in the form of a musical puppet play, which was amazing.

Full report here Deccan Herald

'New writers must be encouraged'

The 15th Uttara Kannada district-level Kannada Sahitya Sammelana was inaugurated by Vishweshwar Hegde, district in-charge minister at Kumta on Saturday, March 27. The place where the two-day sammelana is taking place is named after Dr B M Pai and the podium is named after noted poet B R Pandeshwar.

Addressing the gathering V G Nayak, president of the sammelana said that literature is a medium to build relationships among people that goes beyond caste, community and borders. He said literature should create love among different people.

Describing Uttara Kannada district as the birth place of literature of different varieties like Yakshagana, Halakki songs, Suggi songs and many other folk songs, he said new poets like Danker Desai have given a new dimension to the short poems (chutuku padya) in Kannada poetry. Writers like Gourish Kaikini, Yashwantha Chittal who wrote on contemporary issues have given new impetus to Kannada literature, he said. New writers also should be given encouragement, he added.

Full report here Times of India 

Lohia’s literary legacy in Karnataka

Ram Manohar Lohia’s thoughts had a major influence on the social and literary movements in Karnataka. Inspired by Lohia’s ‘Angrezi Hatao’ campaign, Konandur Lingappa founded the Kannada Yuvajana Sabha (KYS) in Mysore in 1957.

In the mid-1960s, the Samajavadi Yuvajana Sabha (SYS), a forum that grew out of the KYS in Mysore under the leadership of Prof M D Nanjundaswamy and writer Poornachandra Tejaswi, tried to popularise Lohiaite ideals. Nanjundaswamy and Tejaswi compiled and translated passages from Lohia’s major works and published them as a short book. In the ’70s, SYS activists organised numerous public discussions on, among others, Lohia’s passionate ideas of ‘jati-vinasha’ (destruction of caste), the importance of rejecting the English language, the need for avoiding extravagant marriage ceremonies, etc.

Lohia was an inspiration to farmers’ organisations, especially the KRRS, which launched a powerful farmers’ movement in the ’80s under the leadership of Nanjundaswamy. The KRRS’ successful demand for farm loan waiver and its activism against the GATT proposals and the agribusiness MNCs embodied Lohia’s socialist ideals.

Two of the three founders of the Dalit Sangharsha Samiti (DSS), B Krishnappa and Devanur Mahadeva had been active Lohiates. Siddalingaiah, the other DSS founder, observed that the Lohiaite influence helped them temper the hostility towards Gandhi among Dalit activists in the state. Their ideological canvas made space for the oppressed among the non-Dalits and allowed them to interact with progressive upper-caste activists.

Full report here Deccan Herald

Prof SVP award for Kannada critic

Prof S V Parameshwar Bhatta Memorial Award instituted by Prof SVP Samsmarana Samithi, Mangalore, was accorded to noted literary critic T P Ashok at a function held at Canara College premises here on Saturday.

Receiving the award Ashok said that it was time to rethink about our cultural values in the backdrop of globalization.

Expressing concern over the brain drain phenomena in our country, he said the present education system had become a workshop to shape and supply talented youth to the West. The talent of our young generation was being used for the benefit of MNCs instead of for the benefit of our country and people, he rued.

Full report here Times of India

Man of many talents

Kolar’s bank clerk Shivashankara Sastry is a maths and science communicator, brilliant origami and kirigami artiste, avid fossil collector, amateur astronomer and author of books on science for children, writes Aruna Chandaraju

V Sivashankara Sastry presents a picture of contrasts. By occupation, he is a clerk in a bank in a small town. He is also mild-mannered, unassuming, always simply attired, and would be easily lost in a crowd. But by passion, he is an amalgam of  so many interesting things––maths and science communicator, brilliant origami and kirigami artiste, talented painter, cartoonist, ornithologist, avid fossil-collector, amateur astronomer, author of  14 books for children on making science and mathematics easy to understand, and translator for two science-activity books. Quite an amazing package, that!

Full report here Deccan Herald

Karnataka Konkani Academy bestows awards

Karnataka Konkani Sahitya Academy bestowed awards on prominent personalities belonging to Konkani community, at a function held at the Gitanjali Mantap of MGM College in Udupi, on Sunday, March 28.

Dr V S Acharya, stae home minister, presented the awards for the year 2009.  V V Shenoy received the honorary award for his overall contribution to Konkani language.  Vally Vagga got the same award for his contribution to Konkani literature, while Richard Castelino was handed over this award for his illustrious contributions to Konkani art and cinema.  The award carries cash component of Rs 10,000, a memento and a certificate.

Awards were also conferred on Cyril G Sequeira and M P Rodrigues  in the ‘Best Konkani Books’ category.  While Sequeira got the award for his book, `Sullsulle', M P Rodrigues got the award for his anthology of poems, `Rumbddi Fulam'.  These awards have a cash component of Rs 5000, a memento and a certificate.

Full report here

Tulu now an optional language

The government of Karnataka has cleared the proposal to teach Tulu as an optional third language in Udupi and Mangalore. The government order has been released on 26th March which has been signed by the under secretary of the government Mr. M.N. Somashekar.

The order said Tulu can be taught as the optional third languages in areas where Tulu is spoken. The teaching can take place in Udupi and Mangalore districts from next academic year, schools can hire Tulu scholars for teaching Tulu and they should make arrangements to train the teachers the order stated. Both private and government schools can take it up.

It could be recalled here that Tulu activists and various organizations had been putting pressure on the government for this order. Speaking to Mr. Uday Dharmasthala member of the Tulu Academy said the government had okayed the teaching from 2010-2011. "This had been a long standing demand of the Tuluvas in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada. The government has cleared to be taught after sixth standard which has come as a boon to the furtherance of the Tulu culture in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada districts."

Full report here

Seminar on library promotion concluded

The two Day National seminar on Promotion of Public Library Service through Legislation in North East India organised the Manipur Library Association (MALA) in association with Union ministry of culture, RRRLF, Kolkata and state department of art and culture concluded today at Nupilal complex, Imphal.

In the valedictory function of the seminar held today director of art and culture Dr Ksh Sorojini has assured that she will give more attention to the long pending Manipur Public Libraries Act, 1988 for each implementation.

The seminar drafted a six point recommendations as outcome of the deliberations and discussions made during the technical sessions which included demand for constitution of a sub-committee with LIS experts and early implementation of the libraries act in state.

Full report here e-pao

Marathi varsity to come up in Ambajogai

A resolution to establish a Marathi University at Ambajogai, the birthplace of renowned Marathi poet Mukundraj, was passed at the valedictory function of the All-India Marathi Literary Meet (Sahitya Sammelan) in Pune on Sunday, March 28.

The idea was highlighted by several of the speakers. Later, Kundalik Atkare, secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Mahamandal (ABMSM), proposed the resolution, which was passed unanimously.

ABMSM president Kautikrao Thale-Patil appealed to the Rural Development Minister Jayant Patil, who was among the audience, to help in establishing the Marathi University in the golden jubilee year of the foundation of Maharashtra.

Full report here Indian Express

A loving work for posterity

When Mathoor Krishnamurthy launches a set of 18 DVDs on Kumaaravyaasa Bhaaratha, and one on ‘Festivals of India’ at the Raj Bhavan on March 30, it will give an insight into the cultural history of India, and spell a revival of ‘Gamaka’, an ancient performing art exclusive to Karnataka.

Mathoor is not only the most visible face of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bangalore, as its chairman since 1995, but has become a source of sustenance to thousands through his ‘Gamaka Vaachana’ on Kannada television, and discourses on spirituality.

Gamaka is a form of story- telling wherein one person sings the verse, and another explains its meaning.

Full report here New Indian Express

No better than a mad tea party

Be it with the ban on Satanic Verses or the forced exit of M.F. Husain, India is yet to find the golden mean between offensiveness and freedom, writes Somak Ghoshal

Indian democracy stands at a peculiarly knotty crossroads at the moment. A senior rightwing ideologue could be facing a charge of conspiracy for his alleged role in inciting the demolition of a 16th-century mosque in Ayodhya, which led to communal riots nearly two decades ago. The chief minister of a state is, at long last, being questioned by a special investigation team, appointed by the highest court in the country, for his, once again, alleged involvement in the pogrom unleashed on Muslims in Gujarat, eight years ago. A leading artist, now in his nineties, has been successfully hounded out of the country by hoodlums. In exile for several years, he has finally relinquished his Indian passport for a Qatari citizenship. A renowned Bangladeshi writer, with a fatwa hanging over her head, has been given refuge in this ‘robust’ democracy. Yet, she continues to live in fear of being physically attacked by religious fanatics. Looks like we have more reasons to feel worried about Indian democracy than to celebrate its supposed glories.

This year is, in a way, an anniversary of sorts for the failure of Indian democracy, 60 years since the Constitution came into effect. It was 35 years ago that Emergency was imposed on the country by Indira Gandhi; another 25 years have gone by since Sikhs were butchered in the wake of her assassination (little justice has been delivered on that account); and some 20 years ago, the Congress government, led by her son, Rajiv, banned Salman Rushdie’s controversial work, The Satanic Verses (1988), even before it was published in India, and much before Ayatollah Khomeini had imposed a fatwa on the author in 1989. All it took was a strong protest by a Muslim parliamentarian, Syed Shahabuddin, and, oddly, the finance ministry put an embargo on the novel. It is significant perhaps that Mrs Gandhi had taken great umbrage at Rushdie’s caricature of her in Midnight’s Children (1981), and had successfully sued him in a London court for defamation. The Rushdie affair became a landmark of sorts in the history of Indian censorship, a spark which ignited waves of intolerance in the subsequent years.

Full report here Telegraph

Review: Shadow Princess

Shadow Princess
Indu Sundaresan 
352 pages, $25, 

In Shadow Princess, Indu Sundaresan picks up where she left off in The Twentieth Wife and The Feast of Roses, returning to seventeenth-century India a few years after Mehrunnisa's death, as two royal princesses struggle for power.The daughters of the emperor, Jahangir and Roshanara, conspire and scheme against one another in an attempt to gain power over their father's harem. As royal princesses, they are confined in the imperial harem and not allowed to marry.

However, this does not stop them from having illicit affairs or plotting who will be the next heir to the throne.These royal sisters are in competition for everything: control over the harem, their father's affection, and the future of their country. Unfortunately, only one of them can succeed. And despite their best efforts to affect the future, their schemes are eclipsed, both during their lives and in posterity, as they live in the shadow of the greatest monument in Indian history, the Taj Mahal.With a flair and enthusiasm for history and culture, Sundaresan creates a story full of rich details that brings the reader deep into the world of the lives of Indian women and their struggles for power and the profound history of the Taj Mahal, one of the most celebrated works of architecture in the world.

The Taj Mahal, India's emblematic monument of subcontinental grace and design, is at the heart of Shadow Princess, the latest novel from Seattle author Indu Sundaresan. Following on the recognition of her previous historical novels The Twentieth Wife and Feast of Roses, Shadow Princess is the third in a series of linked sagas set at the height of the Mughal Empire, the Persian-tinged Muslim dynasty that ruled Hindu North India for 300 years before its fall in 1858 to the nabobs and viceroys of Anglo-India.

Into her novel's darker elements of fratricide, sibling rivalry and intrigue, Sundaresan works in the leitmotif of the Taj Mahal and its symbolism of purity. Though the Taj Mahal was built in memory of the eponymous empress Mumtaz Mahal, her daughter Jahanara is the center of the unfolding story. Still mourning her mother's death, the 17-year-old princess, who is soon to become the most powerful woman in the Empire, must console her grief-stricken father and save his reign from collapsing due to strife and chaos. She not only assumes much of her father's power, issuing royal edicts and running her own intelligence network, but she also takes over her mother's role as chief consort in all but nocturnal duties, out of filial devotion forgoing a life and love of her own.

‘The next lit fest should look at Marathi works on the Net’

Narendra Gore, managing consultant, IBM GBS, India, shares his take on the Sahitya Sammelan that concluded on March 28...

I am one of those NRIs, who decided to return home and settle in Pune, the cultural capital of Maharashtra. While away from the country, I got to work with people from various cultures. It was interesting to see how people from various parts of the world go that extra length to preserve their cultural heritage and literature. I lived in USA for many years.

It was easy to access good Marathi books in New Jersey. There are many literary events and Marathi authors and poets come visiting.  My children had a great time participating in Marathi cultural programmes there.  I think it’s a constant effort to keep your children aware of their roots whether they are in India or abroad. I was raised and educated in Madhya Pradesh (MP). My father migrated from Maharashtra to MP in search of employment. My mother knew very little Hindi.

Most of the songs and stories she could tell us were in Marathi. It was a struggle for her to keep Maharashtrian culture alive in the household as our town was very small with a handful of Marathi-speaking families.  

Full report here Pune Mirror

Reading out loud

ASK Craig Jenkins, what his USP as a storyteller is and he says, “I am not a tatha (grandpa) storyteller.I am an anna (elder brother) storyteller.” The UK-based storyteller has been in India since January. He is working on storytelling projects in Kancheepuram, Chennai, Bengaluru and has also visited Pudhucherry. 

His storytelling session at the Full Circle Bookshop is for the Live Book Tour, a multicultural collaboration between Tulika and Vayu Naidu Company that has introduced Tulika’s books in schools and libraries across UK. He read out stories from The Rooster and the Sun, Brahma’s Butterfly, Tiddalik the Frog and The Dragon’s Pearl. There is a unique style about Craig’s storytelling.

“I love to engage the audience by inviting them to interact.I include a lot of contemporary examples in my stories with references from films, music etc. There is a lot of cheeky comedy.And it’s mostly folk that I love to narrate,” he says.Craig Jenkins graduated from the University of Kent in 2007 with a BA Honours in Drama and Film Studies. He joined the Vayu Naidu Company as a Resident Storyteller in July the same year.

Full report here The Express Buzz

Review: Justice for the poor


Justice for the Poor: Perspectives on Accelerating Access
Edited by Ayesha Kadwani Dass and Gita Honwana Wench; 
Oxford University Press, Rs. 895.

The book clarifies conceptual issues relating to justice from the perspective of the weak and the marginalized. The essays in the volume address crucial questions: What are the most appropriate, practical, and effective strategies for securing access to justice for the poor? What are the means for evaluating justice programming form a results-based perspective? What level of interplay exists between poverty, good governance, and accountability in the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and in ensuring participation and non-discrimination in developmental decision-making? Covering major issues such as access to justice in plural legal systems, denial of women’s rights, public interest litigation, and the effects of globalization, the book examines judicial reform initiatives and critically appraises the institutionalization of strategies for ensuring access to justice by the poor. It offers practical recommendations for development and justice programming.

Making justice accessible to the poor The Hindu
Amartya Sen in his recent book An Idea of Justice commends the comparative method of discoursing on key questions of social justice. Even as one finds Sen's suggestion unexceptionable, its practical application is difficult because of the paucity of comparative material. To be precise, the Anglo-American outlook on key social questions occupies so much of the knowledge space that it virtually blocks every other perspective. This book breaks this embargo as it deliberates on the accessibility of justice to the poor through essays which specially dwell on the UNDP-supported experiments.

The 18 essays in this collection have been organised around five themes: access to justice, first, in the international context and then in plural legal systems; the link between public interest litigation and access to justice; the relationship between democracy, governance and justice programming; and the developments and obstacles encountered in the implementation of various regional initiatives. And the editors have provided an introduction to each of these segments, apart from the one for the entire group. This methodology has, apart from ensuring that no contribution suffered editorial neglect (because a succinct summary of each essay is given by the editors), rendered the work reader-friendly in the sense that one can easily zero in on the theme of one's interest. However, in opting for the descriptive, the editors have lost an opportunity to interlink the various contributions and meld them into a composite entity. As a consequence, the book remains just a collection of discrete essays.

Understanding Hinduism

Wendy Doniger, a distinguished professor at the University of Chicago, is arguably the foremost, and unarguably the most prolific, scholar of Hinduism in the western world. Apart from translating the Rig Veda, Manu and Kamasutra into English, she has authored a number of monographs. When a scholar of her stature brings to bear half-a-century's work and understanding to provide a synthesised account of the subject, it necessarily evokes wide interest. Simply put, the reader is not disappointed...

The self-appointed custodian of Hinduism who threw an egg at Wendy Doniger at a lecture hall in London in 2003 was evidently ignorant of her credentials.Doniger comes in a long line of western scholars who have widened the world's understanding of one of its major religions, Hinduism. The 25-page bibliography lists the works mostly of western scholars on Hinduism. (It is symptomatic that it confuses the Indian historians Ranajit Guha and Ramachandra Guha!) This staggering list should have a salutary effect on anyone who claims an exclusive right to interpret and represent Hindu religion.

It is indeed a tall order to provide a historical account of a religion whose nomenclature itself is the subject of debate and dispute.Within a chronological framework, Doniger manages to give an engrossing account of Hindu religion across five millennia. There are enough standard historical accounts of Hinduism in English, but her book attempts an “alternative history,” the word ‘alternative' referring to the marginalised groups — namely women, lower castes and, yes, animals — rather than one from the perspective of texts written by men of the Brahmin community. She also seeks to bring in the vernacular, meaning non-Sanskritic, traditions of Hinduism into the picture. This is what makes the book different. I wonder if there is another book that looks at animals in such a detailed, empathetic, and informed fashion. The horse rears its head throughout the book, taking on different meanings at various moments, and it could well be a metaphor.

The philologist in Doniger keeps pointing to cognates across languages and language families, sometimes illuminating the argument and occasionally providing diversionary relief. Stories, replete in the text, are her device to push the narrative forward. Putting together all the tales narrated in the book would in itself add up to a lively anthology, although one may not always agree with her often Freudian readings of them. Doniger is at her best when she handles the texts and discusses gods, animals, and humans figuring in the Vedas, women and ogresses in the Ramayana, and the violence in the Mahabharata. 

Full report here The Hindu

The script of The Japanese Wife made me cry

Rahul Bose who’s known for his superior acting talent in art cinema is back in the scene for his forthcoming release The Japanese Wife, a film by Aparna Sen. Produced by Saregama India Ltd., The Japanese Wife is inspired from the Kunal Basu’s short story and stars actors including Rahul Bose, Raima Sen, Chigusa Takaku and veteran Moushumi Chatterjee. An International rugby player, writer, social activist and director, Rahul Bose shot to fame for his work in parallel films like English, August, Mr. & Mrs. Iyer, 15 Park Avenue etc. Recently in a Press Conference held in Cinemax, we caught hold of Rahul Bose and asked him few questions on his new film. Excerpts – 

Your best performances have come in all the 3 films by Aparna Sen. And now we’re told that your role is par excellence in The Japanese Wife. Please tell us about your role in the film. 
The Japanese Wife is a lyrical love triangle between a Bengali mathematics teacher “Snehamoy” Chakrabarti played by me, who tutors students at a school in the Sundarbans and the two women in his life - his Japanese wife of 15 years, “Miyage” played by Chigusa Takaku, whom Snehamoy has never met and “Sondhya” played by Raima Sen, a widow who was chosen as his child bride but married elsewhere. Snehamoy and his Japanese wife live out their marriage in letters, thoughts, gifts and occasional telephonic conversations in broken English and then there is Snehamoy’s “mashi’ played by Moushumi Chatterjee hovering around him all the time. So this film is a complete love story from the start till the end.

Full report here Indiatimes

Monday, March 29, 2010

Regional cuisines books gain popularity in Mumbai

The genre of regional cookbooks is no longer the niche it used to be. Not only are the bookshelves long monopolised by celebrities chefs like Sanjeev Kapoor, Nita Mehta and Tarla Dalal making space for new writers, they are also witnessing faster turnover.

“Hyderabadi Cuisine by Pratibha Karan has gone into its ninth reprint; I believe parents in Hyderabad give it to girls as a part of their trousseau,” says Sheema Mookherjee, senior commissioning editor, HarperCollins India. Regional cookbooks have so far served as ideal wedding gifts or perfect send-off presents for children moving abroad. But now, young women who can’t read cookbooks written in regional languages are seeking out those penned in English.

Sunil Poolani, executive director and publisher, Leadstart Publishing, says, “There has been an increase in demand for regional cookbooks in India; and many have been translated from regional languages to English. Out of every ten book proposalswe receive, two to three are for regional cookbooks.”

Full report here DNA

The bearded Russian

It is a hundred years since Leo Tolstoy died, but what strikes us most is the modernity of his prose

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need, said Cicero. We have a garden much larger than we really need, and a library that is inevitably too small. In any season, but especially in the rains, one likes to be surrounded by piles of unexplored volumes.

But the damp here in Kerala is an enemy of books. A crisp new book has a curly cover by the time it has sat half a day on the coffee table. I check anxiously on our few prized leather-bound or cloth-covered books, when I can bear to think about them. Last monsoon, finding a fur of white fungus on my cloth-bound Everyman edition of Anna Karenina, with cleansing sunshine several weeks away, I did the unthinkable. I sold the book with the old newspapers. I still owned a fungus-free paperback edition of the book, which is my only excuse.

Full report here Hindu

Southern comfort

Lathika George’s book The Suriani Kitchen demystifies Syrian Christian cuisine for the uninitiated

“Most of the new generation Syrian Christians live out of Kerala, and they take with them the food. It is only natural that the further you go, the more you yearn for the familiar taste of home,” said Lathika George, author of the book The Suriani Kitchen (Westland, Rs 450), which was launched at Delhi’s The Park hotel on Thursday.

Pachakari Ishtew (vegetable stew), Pacha Paparaka Thoran (raw papaya with curry leaves, mustard and grated coconut), Meen Pappas (fish curry with cocum, coriander and coconut milk), Chemmeen Pulao (Prawn pulao), Tharavu Roast (traditional duck roast) — even the best of food connoisseurs outside Kerala are often not familiar with the treasures that Syrian Christian cuisine or Suriani cuisine has to offer.

Full report here Indian Express

Straddling two worlds

Author Ahmed Faiyaz in his debut book Love, Life and all that Jazz speaks of love and choices, writes K. Jeshi

His childhood memories of Bangalore are that of a quiet place, living in an independent house in Cox Town with trees and plants around, playing on the clean and green lawns at Cubbon Park and frequenting Maxis and Meccah, the popular circulating libraries in the city. And visiting Higginbotham's on M.G. Road.

“We had more outdoor activities — swimming classes, playing tennis and of course the culture of borrowing and lending books among friends,” says the young author Ahmed Faiyaz. This Bangalorean, a chartered accountant with KPMG shifted gears to do MBA and is now a strategic consultant with the health authority of the Government of Dubai.

He turns author with Love, Life & all that Jazz… (Sanbun Publishers, Rs. 150). “My passion lies in writing. My parents, avid readers initiated me into the habit of reading. From the age of four or five, I have read one book every week,” smiles Ahmed, who now lives in Dubai.

Full report here Hindu

Great demand for books on film music

From sports journalism to music, Ravi Menon, a Music Research Manager with Club FM, has come a long way and has carved a niche for himself in the area of history of film music in Kerala.

Once a well-known football journalist, Menon's latest book Mozhikalil Sangeethamayi (Music in Verses), a work on Indian film music is into its second edition, within two-and-a-half months of its release in last December, a rare phenomenon in the state's publication industry these days.

"The demand for the book points to Keralite's growing love towards music and nostalgia", Ravi Menon told PTI here. The book contains well-researched articles on music directors of Malayalam cinema belonging to different eras, ranging from K Raghavan to Vidyasagar.

'It is an attempt to chronicle the rise and development of playback music in general, even though the focus is on the composers, Menon said.

Full report here Outlook

Kamala Surayya commemoration meet

The memories of Kochi’s very own Madhavikkutty aka Kamala Surayya are once again coming back to the city. Noted Malayalam writers, along with some of Madhavikkutty’s well-wishers, are coming together on March 31, the 78th birthday of the writer.

The get-together styled as ‘Snehasangamam’ will be held at the apartment at Royal Stadium Mansion, Kadavanthra, where Madhavikkutty lived for two years. As part of the programme, writer and Kerala Sahitya Akademy president M Mukundan will inaugurate an exhibition of the paintings, photos and books of Kamala Surayya at 10 a.m.

Writer Zacharia will deliver the commemorative speech at the public meeting to be held at 5 p.m. Sara Joseph, K L Mohanavarma, Sethu, Balachandran Chullikkad, Krishnan Asan and Syril Jacob will speak at the meet, which will be followed by the screening of a documentary on Kamala Surayya by Suresh Koily. Madhavikkutty’s children Monu Nalappad, Chinnan Das and Jayasurya will take part in Snehasangamam.

Full report here New Indian Express

A heady brew

More and more people from diverse professions take a plunge into writing. Here's Mathew Menanchery's first novel

Mathew Menanchery has spent most of his growing years shuttling between his home state of Kerala and Mumbai. Both these places feature prominently in the first novel of this business director-turned-author, Arrack in the Afternoon that was launched recently.“It is the story of an alcoholic, who gives up on life and decides to kill himself by jumping in front of a truck. He does not succeed in that also. The story traces his journey from alcoholic to god man. However, even after this transformation into a living god of sorts, the protagonist feels that his life is incomplete. The novel also traces the factors that result in the creation of an alcoholic,” says Mathew.

The rather intriguing title was chosen by one of his cousins. “Arrack is a very strong drink and is generally consumed only by seasoned alcoholics in the afternoons. I felt that since the book discussed the problem of alcoholism in great detail, the name should be able to reflect the context of the story.”

Full report here Hindu

Disney’s date with Thirukkural couplets

Disney Channel is all set to reintroduce the younger generation to the centuries old ancient Tamil literature - Thirukkural with the first ever animated TV series based on the celebrated text.

The series developed as animal fables by Accel Animation Studios, Chennai, is titled ‘Ek Tha Jungle’ and showcases couplets from Thirukkural - one of the most important and celebrated works in Tamil literature.
Each episode has a universal theme presented in the modern day 3D animated format.

Set for a premiere on Disney Channel on April 5, 2010 at 9.30 am (Monday to Thursday), every episode of ‘Ek Tha Jungle’ showcases a universal theme and strong life lessons. The stories are laced around strong ethics and family values with a moral that is applicable to the present and future generations.

Full report here New Indian Express 

Related news
Disney to offer TV serials based on Thirukkural Hindu

Disney's new serial on Thirukkural Merinews
Disney Channel acquires animated series Ek Tha Jungle Business of Cinema

'Dravida Nadu was a hollow concept'

Why are only Gandhi, Nehru and a few other national leaders widely studied and accepted nationally or internationally? Why are the regional leaders - who were gigantic figures in their own states - not given due importance? This was the question which spurred R Kannan to write Anna: The Life and Times of C N Annadurai.

Kannan, who works with the UN mission in Kosovo, was seven years old when Annadurai died in 1969. Entire Tamil Nadu went into deep mourning, and Chennai came to a standstill. This left a deep impression on the young Kannan, who then conducted extensive research into the life and times of the leader of the Dravidian Movement. In an exclusive interview to Salil Jose, Kannan explains how Annadurai's Dravida Nadu concept and his anti-Hindi stand impacted not just Tamil Nadu, but the entire country.Excerpts:

Earlier, you wrote a book in Tamil about your experience in Yugoslavia. And now you have written a book in English. What made you chose C N Annadurai as the subject of your first book in English?
Much has been written about national leaders like Gandhi and Nehru. Even foreign scholars have written about our national leaders. There are hundreds of books on them. On the other hand, little has been written about some of the regional leaders. They have governed their regions in their own way. But they are not well known nationally or internationally. They include regional giants like Periyar E V Ramasamy, C N Annadurai, S K Patil, and others. There is not a single internationally authored biography even on Kamaraj, who was the president of the Congress. It's a pity that we don't give due importance to these leaders.

Why did I chose to write about Annadurai? When Anna died on February 3, 1969, I was seven years old. The city (Madras) came to a standstill on that day. It was a day of mourning in every household. He was so popular. It left a deep impression on me.

Anna was a very simple man who was born in Kancheepuram, which was a very small town then. He came to Chennai to study. Here he blossomed into a well-read man.

He was attracted to the non-Brahmin movement, which was spearheaded by the Justice Party. This brought him close to Periyar, whom he considered as his leader. Their relation lasted for 14 years. The duo turned this part of the country upside down. The rest is history.

Full interview here Sify 

This was a perfect evening for poets

For lovers of mushaira, it was a perfect evening as poets from India and Pakistan gathered at the 46th Shankar-Shad mushaira in Delhi recently. 

From Pakistan renowned poets like Pirzada Qasim Raza Siddiqui, VC of the University of Karachi and Zehra Nigah, who is popularly called the nightingale of Pakistan, were present. She has been coming to this festival for the past 20 years and was extremely delighted to be here again. From India there were poets from places like Bareilly, Aligarh, Ajmer, Mumbai and other cities. Also present were Anwar Jalapuri, Bekali Utsahi, GM Ahmad also popular as Khamakha, Hussain Khan popular as Jhanjhat, Javed Akhtar, Malikzada Manzoor Ahmad, Meraj Faizabadi, Naem Akhtar Burhanpuri, Shahryar, Waseem Barelvi and Tajinder Ada.

It was a packed house and the mushaira lovers remained glued to their seats as they enjoyed the poetry session every bit. Sounds of ‘Wah! Wah!’, ‘Irshaad’ and ‘mukarrar’ emerged from the auditorium at regular intervals. For those who couldn’t get any space inside the hall, there was a screen installed outside so that they could enjoy the mushaira. The poetry recitation was a mixture of thought provoking and rib tickling lines.

Full report here Times of India 

Harivansh Rai Bachchan Lekhan Samman awarded

Divya Mathur, senior Programme officer of The Nehru Centre, has received the Harivansh Rai Bachchan Lekhan Summan for 2009.

India's High Commissioner to the UK, Nalin Surie presented the award to Mathur, who has collections of poetry ans stories in her kitty.Mathur, who has been writing from a very young age, has published six poetry collections - Rait Ka Likha, Antehsalila, Khyaal Tera, 11 September: Dreams Debris, Chandan Paani and Jhooth, Jhooth aur Jhooth.

Her story collections include Akrosh, which won her the Padmanand Sahitya Samman, and Pangaa.She is the editor of two story collections, Odyssey: Stories by Indian women Settled abroad and Aasha: stories of distinguished women writers.She has also translated into Hindi the BBC's film on Cancer and five children's books for Mantra Linguia.

Delhi Doordarshan has made a film on her story, Saanp Seerhi. Mathur was also awarded with the NRI Literary Award (Aksharam), the Arts Achiever of the Arts Council of England for outstanding contribution and innovation in the field. Mathur also received the Experience Corps Certificate of Recognition & Merit to mark her contribution in the community, the Lifting UP the World with a Oneness-Heart Award by The Peace Meditation Mission of the United Nations and the award for Outstanding Achievement in Poetry by the International Library of Poetry.

Ghose to make film on Sufi poet

Renowned Indian filmmaker Gautam Ghose is here to finish work on his film Moner Manush, based on the life of 19th century Sufi poet and Baul music exponent Lalon Fakir.

Ghose says current social and political unrest inspired him to tell the story of Lalon Fakir, who spearheaded a social movement in the 19th century to unite Hindus and Muslims.

Legend has it that Rabindranath Tagore never met Lalon when the latter organised peasants against him, but his elder brother Jyotirindranath did. But Rabindranath Tagore in his 1933 London Hebart Lecture applauded him as a mystic poet who discovered 'soul' and the meaning of 'man'.

Based on Sunil Gangopadhyay's novel, Moner Manush has Prosenjit Chatterjee in the lead role. This is Ghose's first Indo- Bangladesh co-production after the much-acclaimed 1993 movie Padma Nadir Majhi.

Full report here Sify

Big B lauds Pune's role in promoting Marathi

He came, he recited poems, and he conquered! Superstar Amitabh Bachchan on Sunday, March 28 mesmerised 20,000 or so literature lovers in Pune. He not only expressed gratitude to Maharashtra and its people for everything he has gained in life, but he also recited some poems by his father, the late Harivansh Rai Bachchan, which had the audience spellbound.

Bachchan was in Pune to attend the concluding session of the three-day all-India Marathi literary conference. Addressing the gathering, he said, “I consider myself part of Maharashtra. This state has given me name, fame, home, wife, children and even criticism, which is necessary for one’s life.

“Whatever I am at present has been due to Maharashtra. In my 68 years, I have lived in Mumbai for 41. And I consider myself part of this glorious state.”

Full report here DNA

"One doesn't write for oneself"

What was the hardest part of writing your fiction debut novel, The Temple-goers?
Joseph Conrad, in a preface to (his novel) The Secret Agent, takes note of criticism based on the ground of ‘sordid surroundings and the moral squalor’ of his story. I think it’s fair to say that an element of this exists in The Temple-goers too. And while it does not produce any feeling of apology in me, it was difficult to work out characters who, though not necessarily likeable, were believable and interesting.

How autobiographical is it?
Not even remotely.

What was the most interesting aspect of Delhi society that you uncovered whilst researching the novel?
Probably - and this is a result of a new urbanity - people looking at each other in different ways. Never before has Delhi felt so full of fresh faces. The city has known many convulsions, population-altering convulsions, like almost no other Indian city. Consider 1857 and then 1947, both occurring in less than 150 years. But I think at this moment in Delhi’s history, an equally important, population-altering convulsion is happening. And unlike those earlier ones, it is not coming on the back of destruction, but marks a moment in a city’s life, reminiscent of Haussmann and Paris, when its different strands are pulled together and its spirit seems to lift.

Full interview here DNA

REVIEW: The Temple Goers

The Temple Goers
Aatish Taseer
Rs 495
Pp 297
ISBN: 0330514083

A young man returns home to Delhi after several years abroad and resumes his place among the city's cosmopolitan elite - a world of fashion designers, media moguls and the idle rich. But everything around him has changed - new roads, new restaurants, new money, new crime - everything, that is, except for the people, who are the same, only maybe slightly worse. Then he meets Aakash, a charismatic and unpredictable young man on the make, who introduces him to the squalid underside of this sprawling city. Together they get drunk and work out, visit temples and a prostitute, and our narrator finds himself disturbingly attracted to Aakash's world. But when Aakash is arrested for murder, the two of them are suddenly swept up in a politically sensitive investigation that exposes the true corruption at the heart of this new and ruthless society. In a voice that is both cruel and tender, "The Temple-goers" brings to life the dazzling story of a city quietly burning with rage.

A fact-fiction puzzle Mint
Within a day of completing Aatish Taseer’s debut novel The Temple-goers, I found myself in the eerie position of living out an episode from the book. Staying in a borrowed apartment in New York City, Taseer’s protagonist—also called Aatish Taseer—steps out and lets the door slam shut, only to realize at that precise instant that the keys are inside. Minor details aside, my drama in real life ended in much the same way, with brass flakes flying, the lock’s components giving way one by one under a powerful drill, finally leaving a hole in the door.

It was coincidence. But fresh off the novel, it was yet more evidence that the lines between fiction and reality are very, very blurred in The Temple-goers. By itself, this is not a new phenomenon in Indian writing in English: When Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy appeared in 1993, Kolkata society spent many merry hours identifying the inspirations behind the dramatis personae. More recently, Marrying Anita (2008), journalist Anita Jain’s account of a groom-hunt in New India, offered its only pleasures in the guessing game.

Questions of identity Hindu

The narrator of Aatish Taseer's debut novel is a young man named Aatish Taseer, and some of the details of his life appear drawn from the author's. The device is guaranteed to raise questions about exactly how “autobiographical” The Temple-goers is (as if such things are neatly quantifiable), but that would be to miss the wood for the trees; this is a book that encourages us to ask subtler — and more interesting — questions about identity.

The fictional Aatish is a young writer born to privilege. After a few years studying and working in America and England he's just returned to Delhi to revise a novel, and he has access to two apartments — his mother's and his girlfriend Sanyogita's — in the high-end colonies that border Lutyen's Delhi. A citizen of the world, Aatish is estranged from non-cosmopolitan India, and always conscious of — and uneasy about — this estrangement.

“Walking the Path” launched @ Odyssey

Frederique Lebelley, the French journalist & author since the year 1969, has won much acclaim for most of her books and has successfully launched her latest venture Walking the Path, on March 29 at Odyssey, Adyar. The author was heartily welcomed at the store and was extremely delighted to share her moments that she had spent around H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. This book captures the best experiences of her spiritual journey with Guruji.

Spirituality, she says, has always inspired her and most of her books revolve around the same. Her collaborations with Le Nouvel Observateur and her creation of the first French ecological magazine, Le Sauvage has earned much respect from many people across the world.

Walking the Path
is her account of an experience that she considers the most powerful of her life based on her time around Guruji H. H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar since their first meeting in the year 1995.

Full report here Sify

Tales of the mythical Sarasvati

It was an engaging session at the book release of Michel Danino’s The Lost River: On the trail of the Sarasvati, published by Penguin Books India, at the CP Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation.

Dr A K Gupta, former scientist, ISRO/Regional Remote Sensing Centre, Jodhpur, released the book and Nanditha Krishna, honorary director of the CP Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation, received the first copy. What followed the book launch was an illustrated presentation by the author taking a deeper look at the river Sarasvati. The author pointed out that the Rig Veda often mentions the Saptasindhava: the Indus, its five tributaries and the Sarasvati (the seventh tributary).

“Some 19 rivers are listed in the Rig Veda flowing from the East to the West. Interestingly, Ganga is the minor river in the Rig Veda,” said the author and explained that celebrated as ‘Sarasvat’ in the Rig Veda and the Mahabharata, this river was rediscovered in the early 19th century through topographic explorations by British officials. Drawing information from recent research in a wide range of disciplines, this book discusses different view points and proposes a harmonious synthesis — a fascinating tale of exploration that brings to life the vital role the lost river of the Indian desert played before its waters gurgled to a stop.

Full report here New Indian Express

Kids failing to read books

The fast life has casted its spell over school kids as they think reading big fat novels is a waste of time. Most British students, after being presented with short extracts and worksheets to practice comprehension and sentence structure, fail to read complete novels at schools.

The National Union of Teachers have expressed their concern over the trend and said that it is fueled by the widespread closure of school libraries to save money. The union of teachers at the Annual Conference in Liverpool would discuss to dedicate a slot in the timetable to give children more opportunity to “read for pleasure.”

Alan Gibbons, the children’s author, who will address the meeting, said an over-reliance on short extracts risked undermining children’s grasp of classic works by Dickens and Shakespeare.

Full report here Oneindia

Still no Indian visa for book tour: Fatima Bhutto

Fatima Bhutto, the niece of slain former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto, who is aggressively promoting her tell-all tome on the Bhutto dynasty, has said she has not been granted a visa to visit India for a book tour.
"Still no Indian visa!" Fatima said in a message posted on her page on the social networking website Twitter.

She followed it up with another tweet saying she "doesn't bite. Can she have her Indian book tour visa now?"

Over the past few weeks, Fatima has been promoting Songs of Blood and Sword, her book on the Bhutto dynasty, which has already been declared a promising read by reviewers across the globe.

 She has also relaunched her website "My website is finally up. Attack of the fakes is over. This is me," she tweeted. In the recent past, Fatima has been on "warpath" to silence the fake "Fatima Bhuttos" on websites like Twitter and Facebook.

Full report here The Times of India