Tuesday, May 25, 2010

‘I wrote in snatched time’

The author who got the highest ever advance from an Indian publisher for a debut, on her book and staying away from the ‘desi’ tag

Sarita Mandanna realized she had an uncontrollable itch to write a novel a few years ago while she was well ensconced in her corporate life in New York. After she completed her first book, Tiger Hills, Mandanna bagged the highest advance paid by Penguin India for a debut novel. The figure, according to industry sources, is Rs35 lakh, which is, of course, an advance against royalties (so far, the highest advance paid by an Indian publisher to an author of fiction is Rs44 lakh to Amitav Ghosh, for his trilogy).

Mandanna, vice-president, Equifin Capital, was born to a book-loving family in Coorg. Tiger Hills, set in a coffee plantation in Coorg, spans a period beginning in the late 1800s and ending in the 20th century. In an email interview, Mandanna tells Lounge about juggling private equity and creative writing, how her growing years in Coorg influenced her writing and the logistics of publishing one’s first book. Edited excerpts:

Your book has already been labelled “an Indian epic” that is “The Thorn Birds meets Gone with the Wind”. Do you believe these are fair descriptions?
Gone with the Wind and The Thorn Birds are each cultural watersheds and it is flattering to have Tiger Hills spoken of in the same breath. The similarities likely draw from the period setting of all three, and thickly populated story arcs that span a number of years.

You were born in Coorg. Does your novel draw from your early years there? How autobiographical is it?
Tiger Hills is (from my) imagination and neither the plot nor the characters are autobiographical. As with anything creative, though, its wellspring is afloat with the flotsam and jetsam of memory. A half-remembered anecdote bobbing here, a turn of phrase heard spoken there. Also, the setting, Coorg, plays a prominent role throughout Tiger Hills to qualify as a minor character in itself. The mountains, the jungles, the coffee estates—these have each been drawn from experience, with every brushstroke rooted in reality and fondest memory.

Full report here Mint

Friday, May 21, 2010

Arundhati blames Centre for Naxal attack

Writer and Naxal sympathiser Arundhati Roy condemned Monday's attack by Naxals on a civilian bus in which at least 41 people were killed but blamed the government for exposing the tribals to the threat by rebels.

"Media reports say that the Maoists have deliberately targeted and killed civilians in Dantewada. If this is true, it is absolutely inexcuseable and cannot be justified on any count. However, sections of the mainstream media have often been biased and incorrect in their reportage. Some accounts suggest that apart from SPOs and police, the other passengers in the bus were mainly those who had applied to be recruited as SPOs. We will have to wait for more information. If there were indeed civilians in the bus, it is irresponsible of the government to expose them to harm in a war zone by allowing police and SPOs (carriers of the mantle of all the crimes of Salwa Judum) to use public transport," said Arundhati.

Full report here IBNLive

Abbakka award for Shakunthala, Geethabai

Noted Kannada - Tulu writer H Shakunthala Bhat will be honoured with ‘Veerarani Abbakka Prashasti’ while the ‘Rani Abbakka Puraskara’ will be bestowed on International powerlifter Geethabai Ullal on the occasion of 7th Veerarani Abbakka Utsava 2010 to be organised by the Veerarani Abbakka Utsava Samiti in association with Karnataka Tulu Sahitya Academy at Thokkottu near here on May 22 and 23.

Addressing a press conference here, Mangalore MLA and Veerarani Abbakka Utsava Samiti Honourary President U T Khader said that the awards, which includes Rs 10,000 and citation, will be presented to the achievers at the valedictory of the festival on May 23.

Home Minister Dr V S Acharya, District-in-Ccharge Minister J Krishna Palemar will be the guests.

Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa will be the guest at the cultural programme titled ‘Abbakka Devige Nada Prabhu Namana’.

Full report here Mangalorean.com

Thursday, May 20, 2010

'Mothers don't have time for bombs'

A group of writers and activists will set out this week on a journey from Kerala to Imphal under the banner of the Hind Swaraj Centenary Samiti to highlight the satyagraha of Irom Sharmila, who's been on a hunger strike demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Manipur. Sarah Joseph , acclaimed Malayalam writer and one of the organisers of the journey, tells Amrith Lal that Sharmila represents all women who believe that a non-violent world is possible:

What has prompted you and friends to organise this journey? 
That a person is forced to undertake a hunger strike for 10 years to pursue justice in this country bothered us. So, is hunger strike a crime? If not, why is this satyagrahi treated like a prisoner? This was the instrument we used against colonial powers to win India's independence. A form of protest that played a remarkable role in our freedom struggle and was admired by the whole world should not be marginalised, we felt.

Civic Chandran (Malayalam poet and activist) and Gandhian activists felt the centenary of Mahatma Gandhi's Hind Swaraj was an occasion to highlight struggles that followed the principle of non-violence. We are living in an age where bomb making has almost become a cottage industry. This girl is demonstrating that there is a different way to fight for the rights of one's people. It needs to be respected.

Full report here Times of India

‘There is no justice, no press freedom’

Oh, call whenever you like. I am like A R Rahman. I work through the night and don’t sleep till morning,” he chuckles over the phone from Paris. Having just read his new novel Traitor (written in Tamil in 2004, translated into English this year), the levity in Shoba sakthi's voice is like nothing his writing leads you to expect of him.
But that’s the man. Part of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora, a former LTTE child soldier, now Parisien and refugee, world traveller, blogger, former dishwasher, supermarket employee and writer.

The stories he tells are the unexamined realities lost over the years in the war of propaganda fought between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Understandably, his views are unpopular with the state as well as large sections of the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora.

Full report here New Indian Express

Popular Tamil writer Anuradha Ramanan dead

Popular Tamil writer Anuradha Ramanan died in Chennai on Sunday following a cardiac arrest. She was 62.

Anuradha was admitted to a private hospital in Adyar a week ago following heart problems. The funeral is scheduled for Monday evening, at the Besant Nagar crematorium.

Survived by daughters Sudha and Subha, the granddaughter of R Balasubramanyam, an yesteryear actor, Anuradha had written over 800 novels and 1,230 short stories in a career spanning over 30 years. Hers was a household name.

Full report here New Indian Express

‘Samacheer Kalvi' textbooks will be a draw

A glossy front cover, superior quality printing on 80 G.S.M paper, multi-coloured fonts, with a fair share of exercises, activities and explanations. The much-awaited ‘Samacheer Kalvi' textbooks for Classes I and VI are a breezy read. The books were sent from the central godowns to reach the five regional centres in the State to be despatched by the postal department. It would reach the schools any day from now.

“The exercise to dispatch the books has started and we are confident that it would reach schools before the end of the month,” said Korlapati Satyagopal, Chairman and Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Textbook Corporation.

Addressing mediapersons here on Monday, he said that about 1.16 crore books are being printed for Equitable Standard School Education (‘Samacheer Kalvi') alone, with 81.50 lakh books for distribution to government and government-aided schools. According to the department, the requirement for Matriculation and Anglo-Indian schools is around 33 lakh books.

Full report here Hindu

JG Farrell a worthy winner for the Lost Booker

Winning the Booker prize almost 40 years ago for The Siege of Krishnapur, JG Farrell used his acceptance speech to denounce capitalism, specifically in the form of the prize's sugar-trade sponsors. The late author would no doubt have been delighted to be given a similar platform today after his novel Troubles was chosen by the reading public as winner of the Lost Booker award.

The story of an army major who travels to a decaying Irish hotel in 1919 to meet his rashly acquired fiancee, Troubles was one of six novels published in 1970 to be shortlisted for the Lost Booker, intended to reward books that were ineligible when they were published, thanks to a shift in the fledgling prize's schedule that year, which resulted in the exclusion of almost 12 months' worth of novels from consideration.

More than 4,000 readers worldwide cast votes for their favourite shortlisted novel, with Troubles taking 38% of the vote, more than double that of other contenders by Muriel Spark, Nina Bawden, Shirley Hazzard, Mary Renault and Patrick White.

Full report here Guardian

The honesty of Bhutanese writers

Like the recently held SAARC summit, the Bhutanese environment seems to be having quite an effect on visiting writers attending the ongoing literary festival, Mountain Echoes.

But perhaps because it involves writers, instead of politicians, sexual jokes, night hunting and gossip accompanied some of the topics during the second day of the literary festival being held here in Thimphu.
“I’ve heard most of the Indian writers before, but here they seemed more relaxed and better engaged with the audience,” said publisher and editor-in-chief of Penguin India, Ravi Singh, who has attended several other such literary festivals in India.

“I don’t want to sound condescending, but I’ve been impressed by every single Bhutanese speaker as well,” said the publishing company’s editor. So far, Bhutanese writers such as Kunzang Choden, Dasho Karma Ura, Dasho Kinley Dorji, parliament member Sonam Kinga, opposition leader Tshering Tobgay, and Siok Sian Pek Dorji have spoken at the festival.

Ravi Singh said he had observed that Bhutanese writers were trying to find their way in this new landscape, in reference to the first ever literary festival being held in Bhutan. “There’s no self indulgence,” he said, adding that the Bhutanese speakers have been thinking “outside the sphere” and in a “deep” and “honest” way.

Full report here Kuensel

Dylan fest ready to rock Shillong

Shillong is once again all set to rock n roll at its rawest, to be delivered by the ace of Spades – Lou Majaw on vocals and guitar, accompanied by Lew Hilt on bass and Nondon Bagchi on drums at the annual Bob Dylan fest on May 24 to celebrate Dylan’s music, a tradition that continues every year on his birthday.

As a young performer in the heydays of Kolkata’s Park Street, the now iconic Lou Majaw was introduced to Dylan’s songs.  This introduction started a lifelong love for Dylan’s tunes, hence the long running duration. A selective and most devoted group of people, from all over India and the north – east region and of course Shillong will attend the Dylan fest.

Full report here Morung Express

When in doubt, turn to Faiz, Ghalib

At a gathering of Indian and Pakistani businessmen in New Delhi that came to a close Wednesday, May 19, industry leaders from both countries mostly spoke to each other in English as they suggested ways to increase economic ties between the two countries.

But every now and then, when searching for the mot juste, they turned to Urdu and Hindi, and particularly to the couplets of famous Urdu poets like the 20th century’s Faiz Ahmed Faiz and the 19th century’s Mirza Ghalib, whose work is part of the courtly tradition of mushaira, a form of competitive but friendly spoken word shared by Pakistan and northern India.

Former Pakistani finance minister Shahid Javed Burki drew many laughs with an Urdu colloquialism about fools that he used when speaking about the difficulties that Indian and Pakistani leaders face in taking steps towards each other that might play badly in the news at home.

Wajid Jawad, managing director of Pakistani garment manufacturer Associated Industries, quoted not one but two couplets during his talk on the textile trade, repeating what he had said to a Pakistani journalist about his feelings just ahead of his upcoming trip to New Delhi.

Full report here WSJ

For better or verse

The small café on the first floor of a bakery was solemn only in its silence. Else, the smiles on the faces of the people filling up the tables told of a joy that one finds only among like-minded people. The lectern was taken by a young man and as he recited his piece, young and old sat in rapt attention. When the applause came, it was evident it was from the heart. Whoever said no one has time for poetry these days mustn’t have heard of this group.

Sure, it’s still popular  among certain circles but does petry pay? “Reading  your poetry to live audiences, private poetry readings, sale of published poetry, and reading at large Hindustani poetry platforms where it is tradition to pay invited poets,” are some of the ways to earn, says Amit Dahiyabadshah, the founder of Delhi Poetree, under whose aegis regular poetry reading sessions are held. He is also a well-known poet, who has collections such as Last Will of the Tiger, Bhiksha, American Face, Mitti, Chidiya and Script Arabic to his credit.

He adds that earnings can range from just travel expenses plus Rs 1,000, to Rs 2.5 lakh per reading. Poets have been known to make decent money by writing for cinema and television too, Javed Akhtar and Gulzar, for example.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Bhutan Literary Festival: Day 2

The Bhutan Literary Festival had an unexpected visitor today when King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, the fifth king, said he wanted to meet writers from India. At a hastily convened tea, that included home-made samosas, at India House, the residence of Indian Ambassador Pavan Varma, the king dressed in a traditional black gho and accompanied by the Queen Mother Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck who is a published author and a patron of the festival, mingled with writers, finally settling down to an impromptu poetry reading by Gulzar in Varma's drawing room.

Gulzar read his poems in Hindustani while Pavan Varma did the translations in English. The smallish crowd included writer and historian Patrick French whose biography of Francis Younghusband apparently impressed the Queen Mother to such a degree that French and his India-born wife, Meru Gokhale were among the few foreign guests she invited to the king's coronation in 2008.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Mountain echoes

Talk about journalistic privilege. Ambassador and writer Pavan Varma's beautiful, willowy daughter Batasha looks at me sympathetically when I whisper to her: "I really have to file." So, notwithstanding her seven-inch heels, she gamely takes me up through the kitchen and service area to her father's fabulous wood-panelled study, sits me down on his computer and five minutes later I am in business. Batasha, incidentally, is a journalist, so the empathy is easy to understand.

Earlier this evening, the Queen Mother, Arshi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, the 'chief royal patron' of Bhutan's first-ever literature festival delivers the keynote address at the India House Auditorium. With the clear voice of a very young girl, she talks of Bhutan's rich tradition of oral literature and how the arts play a crucial role in the understanding of culture.

There's only a hint of disapproval when she mentions that Bhutanese youth are somewhat more inclined towards 'television and other distractions' and hopes that the litfest will 'inspire creative writing in our youth'.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Create cultural institutions of lasting value: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday, May 20, said the 150th birth anniversary of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore should place emphasis on spreading his values of pluralism, secularism, universal brotherhood and alternate education and building cultural institutions of lasting impact to commemorate the bard’s prodigious talent.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi was among those who attended the meeting of the National Implementation Committee, chaired by Manmohan Singh, to draft a blueprint to commemorate the birth anniversary in a befitting mannter.

The Committee is headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

“Even though Rabindranath Tagore received worldwide acclaim for his literary works, he was a multi-faceted genius who made important and pioneering contributions to different facets of Indian culture. He was a poet, an author, a composer, a superb visual artist and a philosopher,” the prime minister said.

Full report here Thaindian

Canadian author sees flash of a story in India

Her very first trip to India recently has left a strong imprint on award-winning Canadian author and filmmaker Shandi Mitchell who has discovered the germ of a story in the bustling capital Delhi.

Mitchell, whose films have been screened at various international film festivals, forayed into writing with her debut novel Under this Unbroken Sky, which picked up First Best Book award in 2010 Commonwealth Writer's Prize in the Caribbean and Canada region.

"I might have found a story while I was there (in India). I saw the flash of a story. We'll see. Of course, I would have to return for much more research," Mitchell told PTI in an interview.

Full report here PTI

No need to see red

Forget the fact that despite official deification of Rabindranath Tagore for decades on end, not too many people know about the great works of art by the writer-poet. Forget also the fact that the works of great artists the world over have been bought and sold. And do forget too that the Centre has a dodgy record of taking care and showcasing the works of its finest artists. But when the culturally sensitive West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee proclaimed that the Centre must ‘intervene’ in the scheduled auction of Tagore’s 12 paintings by Sotheby’s on June 15 to get them ‘back’ to India, we must intervene to tell the PM not to take heed of the ridiculous request.

The paintings going under the hammer weren’t surreptitiously shipped off to London or stolen. They belong to a British charity organisation whose founder Leonard Elmhirst was Tagore’s close friend. Going by the CM’s logic, Pablo Picasso’s paintings should only be displayed in Spanish galleries, Leonardo da Vinci’s in Italian ones and Tagore’s only in India (Bengal?). Even as an aestheticised bhadralok, Mr Bhattacharjee’s identity as a communist probably clouds his ability to understand that private collectors value art as much — if not more — than governmental cultural commissars. Tagore was a dyed-in-the-wool internationalist and would have been appalled by the nationalistic card Mr Bhattacharjee has pulled out of his dhoti.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Summer madness

Tagore’s paintings are up for auction in London, but a debate on his merit as an artist of would serve the master better jingoistic nationalism

Dartington Hall needn’t have waited for the Nobel laureate’s sesquicentennial birth anniversary before putting up for auction 12 of Rabindranath Tagore’s paintings in London next month. But that the two do coincide has already begun to raise shrill rhetoric around the commercialisation of what the government has declared a “National Treasure” — meaning that works by Tagore cannot be exported. Nothing, however, prevents the sale of Tagore’s works within the country, and nothing, of course, prevents the sale of those works that are already outside the country either. Indeed, what should gladden the hearts of those who have begun their feverish pitch against the auction should be the price estimate — a shabby Rs 1.6 crore for 12 paintings. Surely a National Treasure should be worth much more?

If nothing else, the debate raises some interesting questions. For instance, how might Rabindranath Tagore have painted if his work had been governed by commercial considerations? Would he have modified his brooding imagery to more closely follow the sentimental lines and wash techniques of the maligned Bengal School? Would he have pandered to the whims of the market, or stayed true to the intelligentsia with its greater knowledge of Munch and Matisse, Cezanne and Picasso, all of whom had in greater or smaller measure influenced Tagore? Alongside Amrita Sher-Gil, Tagore is now counted to among the earliest modernists, but would he have fit into that role if he had not had the unfettered freedom to draw, doodle or paint as he chose?

Full report here Business Standard

Amar Chitra Katha publisher buys IBH

ACK Media, which owns brands such as Amar Chitra Katha, Tinkle and Karadi Tales, has acquired a 100% stake in India Book House Pvt. Ltd (IBH), one of the largest and oldest distribution networks for books and other published material.

The new entity, IBH Books and Magazines Distributors Pvt. Ltd, will be one of the largest integrated publishing and distribution companies in India.

ACK Media, registered as Amar Chitra Katha Pvt. Ltd, is also looking to raise nearly Rs100 crore in the next 18 months to expand its portfolio of products and promote itself in India and abroad.

“The new entity would have (a) robust infrastructure of 10 offices in major metro cities across India, a distribution network that includes over 2,500 stores and over 22,000 vendors, thus allowing us to penetrate not just the top 12 cities, but the top 400 cities in India in a very meaningful manner,” said Ashish Goel, chief operating and financial officer of ACK Media.

Full report here Mint

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

'Sindhi culture is on a ventilator'

Satyanand is a young patriot who just cannot tolerate the British Raj any longer. Responding to the Mahatma's call for satyagraha, he scales up the flagpole at a government office one day and tries to pull down the Union Jack. The young revolutionary faces the wrath of the white cops, and the lathi blows he gets on his head send him into a coma.

The country subsequently gets its freedom at midnight, but, to borrow poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz's famous description, the dawn, accompanied as it is by the horrors of Partition, is sooty and dark. Like millions on both sides of the Radcliffe line, Satyanand's family gets uprooted. Still in a coma, he is brought to Mumbai where his wife and son work hard to build life anew. Forty years later, Satyanand gets his senses back. But much water has flowed under the bridge since his family left its beloved "Sindhu desh". Sindh is now part of Pakistan, and nobody in Satyanand's neighbourhood speaks Sindhi, his mother tongue. Few among his fellow Sindhis care to know that they trace their roots back to the basin of the mighty ancient Indus river which cradled a great civilization.

Full report here Times of India

Rare Tagore works to be auctioned

Rare works of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore will go under the hammer at leading auction house Sotheby's on June 15, prompting protests from a London-based centre dedicated to the poet's works.
In all, 12 paintings will be presented for sale by the Dartington Hall Trust, a charitable organisation located at the Dartington Hall estate, near Totnes in South Devon in the UK.
Funds raised will be used to support the Trust's ambitious new plans to expand its charitable programmes in arts, social justice and sustainability.
Sotheby's set a pre-sale price of around 250,000 pounds for the works.

Full report here Business Standard

Alhar Bikaneri remembered

The 74th birthday function of humourous poet late Alhar Bikaneri was organised today at Haryana Bhawan, New Delhi. Haryana Chief Minister, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda was the Chief guest and the function was presided over by Prof. Ashok Chakardhar, Vice President of Kendriya Hindi Sansthan, Government of India. Media Advisor to Haryana Chief Minister Mr Shiv Bhattia, former Haryana Minister Mr Subhash Batra, well-known literary figure and former MP Mr Udai Pratap Singh and well-known literary figure Dr Kunwar Bechain, besides a number of friends, poets and admirers of Alhar Bikaneri were present at the function.

At the very outset, the poet Pawan Dikshit recited the poem ‘Data Ek Ram’ written by Alhar Bikaneri. After that a  short film prepared by Chirag Jain was  screened, in which Alhar Bikaneri was shown presenting his poetry at the  Kavi Sammelans.

Udai Pratap Singh spoke about different facets of the poetry of Mr Alhar Bikaneri and urged upon the Haryana Government to bring out a Reference Book on Mr Alhar Bikaneri, who belonged to Haryana.

Full report here Indianews

Monday, May 17, 2010

About love and life

Living alone and working in a city comes with its advantages and disadvantages. While some choose to weigh the advantages over the disadvantages others take a longer time to come to terms with the fact of living and working in a new city. Love, life and all that jazz by Faiyaz Ahmed is a coming of age story about the lives of young twenty somethings set in Mumbai.

In the words of the author, Faiyaz, “the story is about Tania, Sameer, Vikram and Tanveer, who start by exploring their lives after college and how they evolve by discovering the changes in themselves and in their loved ones, and the choices they make. It's about how these changes affects their relationships and shape their personality. This is the journey of life in a new India where the friends support each other and evolve through their experiences and missteps in Love, Life and all that Jazz.”

The first time author Faiyaz drew inspiration from his surroundings when he was working and living in Mumbai all by himself. “The characters are real but the situations are fictional. There are several things that influenced me to write the book, the mannerisms of the characters are one of them,” explains Faiyaz.

Full report here Hindu

The place to be in

A survey conducted in the U.S. recently showed that more than any other public institution, including schools, the libraries contributed to the intellectual growth of children. It also said that children who enjoy reading will read more and become proficient at the same time.

Reading habit
Summers provide kids with an opportunity to choose their favourite books and this in turn enhances the reading habit, besides improving writing skills and vocabulary.

The Jonathan Lending Library at Anna Nagar in Madurai has become the centre for children in and around Madurai to borrow books and spend summer in an interesting and fruitful way.

V. Karunya of St Joseph's Matriculation Higher Secondary School, who has finished Std. XII, is a regular at the library. She waited for her exams to get over and joined the library in which her mother is also a member. Her favourite books include the Harry Potter series, Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and the Sidney Sheldon novels.

Full report here Hindu

From Superhero to Supremo: A saga of comics

The illustrations of 'Supremo' series were designed by renowned art director Pratap Mullick of Amar Chitra Katha fame. And the surprise of surprises- the script consultant of the Supremo series was none other than noted filmmaker and lyricist Gulzar.

Those were not the days of Internet or play stations, when youngsters grew up among comic books. From the treasure trove of Amar Chitra Katha, the unputdownable ‘Tinkle’, to a plethora of fictional characters - mostly superheroes in the forms of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Phantom, the magician Mandrake and his constant companion Luthur, the tiny Tintin and his funny gang, Asterix and what not, comic books had a wide range and variety to offer. Not to forget the desi superhero Bahadur and his consort Bela of Indrajal Comics series.

But amidst these, whole lot of varied collections, something unusual made its presence felt. A whole series of comic books on Amitabh Bachchan! I bet today’s youngsters have not even heard of that and will find it hard to believe. Sounds incredible, but it was a reality somewhere in the early eighties. The comic character was name Supremo and was supposed to be the alter ego of Amitabh Bachchan.

Full report here Merinews

Atlas error raises controversy

Amidst intense controversy over the territorial boundaries of North East India, the New Delhi based Oxford University Press (OUP) has wrongly marked the “Manipur Hills” as “Naga Hills” in its 32nd edition of the school atlas released this year.

The said edition of the school atlas has been banned completely by the Manipuri Students’ Federation (MSF) and it has sought rectification from the publisher.

Speaking to media-persons at the head office of MSF, president Md. Attabuddin stated that the error which appears in the school atlas of OUP regarding the boundaries of Manipur is quite misleading to the young students and hence the federation has taken up the extreme action of banning the said book in the state.

Full report here Kangla Online

Open the world of fiction

What's the best way to escape to the most beautiful and alluring parts of the world without worrying of travel fatigue or expenses? Through books and movies, of course. There is hardly any place, people or culture in the world that you cannot discover through books and movies. With all the free time you have in the vacations, think of all the distant lands you can visit, interesting characters you can meet and wild adventures you can undertake through movies and books. Here is a quick look at what you shouldn't be missing these holidays.

Come summer holidays and the children's section attached to the State Central Library in the city will be overflowing with young visitors. So much so that it is difficult to get a book of your choice unless you reserve it beforehand.

Full report here Hindu

Read along, tweeple

Jeff Howe's 'One Book One Twitter' is a book club aimed at bringing together readers from across the globe.

Early this month, the media and cricket fans went into a tizzy when Sachin Tendulkar joined Twitter. While we were busy clocking Sachin's followers (over 2,76,000 now), there has been another wave riding on Twitter.

Avid readers, shattering geographic boundaries, came together to start reading chapters from Neil Gaiman's American Gods on One Book, One Twitter (@1b1t2010), a global reading and discussion club, mooted by Jeff Howe.

‘What if a zillion people read and talked about a single book?' thought Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing and contributing editor for technology at wired.com. Also a Nieman fellow at Harvard, Howe's idea stemmed from the One City, One Book project started in Seattle in 1998 by Nancy Pearl.

Full report here Hindu

India donates Tagore bust to Bangladesh

India has donated a bust of Rabindranath Tagore to Bangladesh, as both the countries are set to jointly celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the Nobel laureate with a month-long programme next year, officials said in Dhaka on Sunday, May 16.
Information and Cultural Affairs Minister Abul Kalam Azad unveiled the bust at the Tagore Lodge in Kushtia at a ceremony held on Saturday, which was also attended by Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Rajeet Mitter. “India has donated the bust, made by famous Indian sculptor Gautam Pal, to Kushtia Municipality,” Mitter said in a statement. The envoy has also gifted over 50 books on the life and works of Tagore for the library at Tagore Lodge along with a set of musical instruments for teaching Rabindra Sangeet at the Lodge, the statement added.

Full report here Indian Express

Tagore birth anniversary celebrated in Cairo

India has organised a cultural event in Egypt to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore.

The programme, organised by the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture here, included recitation of Tagore's poems, rendering of Rabindra Sangeet and dance.

Suchitra Durai, director of the Centre, said they would bring cultural groups from India to perform Rabindra Sangeet and dance.

Togore had a special relationship with Egypt as his grandfather, who was a well known social reformer, had visited Egypt in the mid 19th century, he said.

Full report here Hindu

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Tagore is us

Metro lists 20 reasons why Bengalis cannot do without Rabindranath Tagore

The celebrations have begun for the 150th year of Rabindranath Tagore’s birth. Here are 20 reasons why the Bengali still needs him. Without Tagore:

 It would be difficult to convince the world that some Bengali men were always tall. And handsome.

Ad-women would have been different, too, especially during Pujo and Poila Baisakh. Take the one featuring the pretty young woman in a red-bordered sari, freshly bathed, eyes lined with a flat thick soft line of kajal, a glowing big sindur bindi on her forehead, holding a tamrapatra full of puja ingredients, smiling shyly and invitingly with her full but demure lips, perhaps smelling of champa phool? So far so good. Until she sights the dude wearing The Deo and tumbles into something very un-Bengali-ladylike. When she emerges from the, er, event, the bindi is smudged and the sari slightly askew. Very Rabindrik, front and back, though, perhaps, not in the middle.

 The dropping anchal, or pallu, of the ad can’t lure our eyes away from the beautiful young widow in a sheer, okay, almost, white sari, no blouse and all, heaving with passion. No Tagore, no Aishwarya Rai, no Chokher Bali, the recent film.

Full report here Telegraph

Maid in Manhattan story gets Nepali twist

He became an instant celebrity in the US this week after an astonishing windfall brought him two multi-million dollar apartments in an exclusive neighbourhood and a priceless art collection in a plot straight from Bollywood or even Hollywood. However, in a Nepali twist to the story of butler-turned-billionaire Indra Tamang's amazing fortune, his family back home has no idea about his amazing change and continues to lead a hand-to-mouth existence.

Tamang, now in his 57, shook the dust of Nepal off his feet more than two decades ago when he left for the US to work as a domestic help for Charles Henri Ford, the gay poet-writer and artist whose co-authored novel, the Young and the Evil, created a storm in the sedate 30s. After Ford's death in 2002, he was taken under her wings by the American's sister, Ruth Ford, a model and Hollywood actress. The story became even more like pulp fiction after Ruth was estranged from her only child, daughter Shelley, and left her estate to Tamang, who had served her devotedly.

Full report here Times of India 

For Tagore, Banda was a hero

The Sikh community may have taken years to offer its collective homage to the ascetic-turned-warrior, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, but his universal appeal was recognized by poets and intellectuals even before India became independent. Banda was immortalized in literature by one of the greatest poets of the times, Rabindranath Tagore.

It was in 1899 that the Nobel Laureate – whose 150th birth anniversary was celebrated on May 9, ahead of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur's tercentenary of Sirhind Fateh on May 14 —wrote his famous poem 'Bandi Bir' (Captive Hero) based on the Sikh warrior and his brave Sikh fighters who took on the tyrannical Mughal army despite being outnumbered and ill-equipped in terms of weapons. He sang paens to the great warrior, using terms like "singher moto shrinkhalgato" (lion in shackles) to describe his arrest by the Mughals.

Full report here Times of India

Javed Akhtar gets death threat for fatwa remarks

Renowned lyricist and poet Javed Akhtar has received a death threat in the form of an email, reportedly in reaction to his comments against Darul Uloom Deoband's fatwa against working Muslim women.

Akhtar says he doesn't know who sent him the e-mail. He says he received threats via SMS earlier.

"I got different kinds of responses. While on one hand people had reservations about my stance, on the other I was applauded for my comments. You can voice your opinion but can't threaten anyone," Akhtar told IBN7.
Meanwhile, the Mumbai Police has sprung into action, providing him with security. Akhtar is expected to meet the Mumbai Police Commissioner this evening.

Full report here IBN Live

Rare Tagore works to go under hammer in UK

Poet, playwright, songwriter, author. Rabindranath Tagore's many talents are well-known but his skill with the brush is relatively under-appreciated.

His works seldom appear at international art auctions even as other modern artists notch up record prices. So it's perhaps appropriate that in a year that marks his 150th birth anniversary celebrations, 12 of Tagore's paintings are going to figure in a forthcoming sale of Indian art in London.

It wasn't till his late 60s that Tagore took up painting, an artistic endeavour which started as doodling on the pages he used to write poetry on. He began working in coloured ink and his early sketches typically have writing alongside them.

Full report here Times of India 

Comparing me to Rakhi Sawant was helpful

Karan Bajaj, an engineering graduate and an MBA, is the author of ‘Keep off the Grass’, which has been on the bestseller lists in India since its release in 2008. The author’s latest ‘Johnny Gone Down’ is already getting the right kind of reviews and his works are evincing interest from Hollywood and Bollywood alike. However, the author has expressed indifference to both film deals. In an interview with Shivangi Singh of Spicezee.com, Karan Bajaj talks at length about ‘Johnny Gone Down’, comparison with Rakhi Sawant, Bollywood’s call and more…

Congratulations for ‘Johnny Gone Down’ (JGD). In what category would you put the novel: thriller, travelogue or philosophy?
I would term it a character-based thriller since, at its core, the novel is a deeper, darker Forrest Gump-ish adventure. It relates the bizarre, almost surreal series of events that transform a pretty ordinary NASA scientist into first a genocide survivor, then a Buddhist monk, a drug lord, a homeless accountant, a software mogul and a deadly game fighter over a period of twenty years.

Full report here Spicezee

Johnny goes around

Drugs, money, sex, murder, organised crime, religion, investment banking, cyber space, exotic locations, from Brazil to Cambodia. Karan Bajaj’s latest novel, Johnny Gone Down, his second, has all the elements requisite for a potboiler. And it’s making news for being the pulp fiction novel of this summer with an initial print run of 50,000 copies! The author explains to Suman Tarafdar where this novel of a man fighting against himself germinates from. Excerpts:

This is quite a pacy read! However, this is quite a distance from your previous novel. Where did the inspiration for this one come from?
Yes, I think Johnny Gone Down is a fundamentally different novel from the recent slew of novels by young writers or even my own Keep off the Grass or as it doesn’t deal with clichéd urban angst or the love-life complexities of the ‘boyz n grlz jst hangin’ out der in McDonaldz’! The fundamental conflict is more man against his very bizarre destiny vs man against himself in this novel.

As for the inspiration, I usually start with a big theme in mind and allow the story to work itself in my head for a while before I put pen to paper. The theme I was playing around with for Johnny Gone Down was around success and whether a stable, even-keeled life is better than a rich, interesting life with towering ups and abysmal lows. During this time, I was also backpacking for a year between jobs and traveled to some pretty interesting places and ended up meeting quite an odd assortment of people on the road and in youth hostels. Somewhere, I began to realise that no matter where I went, whether Cambodia or Brazil or Mongolia or India, there seemed to be more similarities than dissimilarities in people, feelings and ideas. Hence this incredible intercontinental journey of the protagonist began to fuse with the original theme.

Full interview here Financial Express

The monk who sold stories!

The name’s Bond, Ruskin Bond. Author Advaita Kala meets the legendary author in his Mussoorie home to talk about a life without regrets as he turns 76 this week! 

He remembers me instantly from our meeting a year and a half ago. In this time he has read my book and heard the soft murmurs of a film. I am flattered and mention that I have heard of his film as well. In fact, we share a leading lady — Priyanka Chopra. Yes indeed, he laughs. The film. He was offered the role of an old monk in it. But he had to decline; there was to be no bottle. What’s an old monk without a bottle?

So begins my conversation with my childhood hero — Ruskin Bond. It’s Saturday evening at the Cambridge Bookstore in Mussoorie and it’s meet Ruskin hour. Word on the street travels afar, and a queue of impatient readers winds its way around Mall Road. Meeting Ruskin is a must in Mussoorie. He’s a bit like Santa this evening, sitting on a chair, posing with readers and signing books. He smiles every time, always has something to say — a thank you, an anecdote and that delightful laughter that rumbles in his belly before escaping from his mouth in soft chuckles.

Full report here Times of India

A businessman for the other India

A few years ago, at a Chennai Rotary event awarding Captain G R Gopinath’s achievements, an elderly gentleman tasked with felicitating the aviation entrepreneur, used the opportunity to make a few suggestions. “I know Air Deccan is nofrills, but could you at least offer passengers complimentary water on board?” Last week, even though Air Deccan no longer exists, the Chennai audience at Gopinath’s book signing, still had much to ask: “Can you not bring Air Deccan back?”, “Can't you do anything about the fuel surcharges?”, and so on.

Ask Gopinath about it and he laughs. “Well it shows strong ownership by the customers. All of them don't think I should have sold out,” he says later, before lapsing back into what one may consider his “quotable quotes” mode. “I wanted to fulfil a need, open a new market. Air Deccan was something inherently good for the economy. It touched the lives of millions. It was the people‘s airline.”

But how does one respond to the disappointment that people seem to have no qualms about expressing their complaints to him directly. “It touches me and again I start thinking, my blood starts rushing...”

Full report here New Indian Express

Mystery of the missing Jasoos

It all began with Holmes of course. Though Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) can claim to have created the first detective in fiction, and Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone (1868) is regarded as the first modern detective novel, the adventures of Sherlock Holmes thrilled readers like no other. Agatha Christie's Poirot and Jane Marple, and PD James' Adam Dalgliesh followed the trail. Many decades later, these and a handful of other foreign classics — continue to fill the crime fiction racks here. No desi wannabe of The Great Detectives Club has ever managed to get a foot in the door.

It's not for want of trying. In the last couple of years, the genre of Indian crime fiction in English has seen many new titles. From Lalli of Kalpana Swaminathan's Page 3 Murders, additional sessions judge Harish Shinde in Aditya Sudharshan's A Nice Quiet Holiday and ACP Nikhil Juneja in Reeti Gadekar's Families at Home, to Shashi Warrier's Anna Khan in Sniper, the Indian jasoos is begging for a break. Ravi Singh, Penguin India editor-in-chief, says, "Compared to the near drought in previous years, there are now more crime and thriller writers, but the number is still small. And very few of them sell good numbers. Kalpana and Mukul Deva have been the notable successes in recent years."

Full report here Times of India

With love from across the border

The book store to beatall bookstores in thesubcontinent, this timeI went in to buy onebook on the Taliban and came out with nine...

Add this bookstore to the list of India-Pakistan rivalry. A bookstore so big that it is actually called a bank. The book store to beat all bookstores in the subcontinent, I have found books I have never seen anywhere in India at the three-storeyed Saeed Book Bank in leafy Islamabad. The collection is diverse, unique and with a special focus on foreign policy and subcontinental politics (I wonder why?), this bookstore is far more satisfying than any of the magazine-laden monstrosities I seem to keep trotting into in India. This time I went in to buy one book on the Taliban and came out with nine, including a delightful hardbound collection of Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poetry.

Full report here Hindu

Why is Tagore still important?

Last week on 7th May it was the 150th birth anniversary of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore (7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941). Tagore as we know him was a Bengali poet, philosopher, artist, playwright, composer and novelist. Just late last year we even saw the inauguration of a Tagore library here in Auckland at the Mahatma Gandhi centre.

Tagore has been acclaimed as perhaps the greatest literary figure in history. His extraordinary output in literature includes approximately 50 dramas, 1000 poems, 2000 songs, 38 plays, 12 novels, 100 books of verse (much of which he set to music), 200 short stories, innumerable essays covering every important social, political and cultural issue of his time. Tagore also left numerous drawings and paintings, and songs for which he wrote the music himself.

There is any hardly any Indian from mainland India who doesn’t know about the great bard of Bengal – Tagore. But do we know enough about Tagore and his major ideas which renewed Indian culture in his writings?

Full report here Indian Weekender

Surge in sale of Tagore books

India's year-long celebrations of Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary has triggered a surge in sales of the Nobel laureate's works, booksellers say.

"We usually sell four-five Tagore books every week. But on one day alone, we sold five. That's a dramatic rise," says Anoop Bambhi of Faqirchand books. Sikander Ray of Bahrisons, in Khan Market, echoes a similar experience.

"There is an increased demand for Tagore's poetry; particularly his masterpiece Gitanjali. We would sell one-two copies of Gitanjali every week. In the past few days, we we've sold two-three copies everyday. Tagore sells throughout the year but with the ongoing anniversary celebrations, sales have certainly gone up," he says.

Full report here Times of India 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

I was a writer even as a militant: Shobasakthi

Erstwhile LTTE fighter turned author, Shobasakthi admits he would like to be known as more than just a former militant. Now Parisien and a refugee, he says he always knew he could become a writer one day.

In an email interview from Paris, the author of novels like Gorilla and his latest, Traitor, writes, “I was a writer and dramatist even as a militant. I wrote propaganda poems and pamphlets about the liberation of Tamil Eelam, and created the theatrical performances that were played in the villages. I had more than my share of the imagination needed for a writer. I should admit that the height of my imagination was my hope that we would gain a socialist Tamil Eelam through militancy.”

In his latest novel Shobasakthi walks the reader through the most tumultuous times in the history of Sri Lanka, when gore, torture and murder were everyday occurrences — details that were perhaps lost between the tug of war between LTTE and the Lankan government.

Full report here DNA

Recording Gauhar Jaan

Vikram Sampath looks like he’s just out of college. His sense of humour and the bright sparkle in his eyes when he laughs (which is quite often) belie his twin passions… history and classical music. Proving it is his second book, My Name Is Gauhar Jaan! The Life and Times of A Musician.

Overcoming all kinds of stumbling blocks, Vikram has resurrected the glory of Gauhar Jaan, a nautch girl from Calcutta and the grand dame of Indian recorded music. That she was the first Indian to record on a gramophone is well-known. But how that one bold step changed the face of Indian music, both here and abroad, is to be read to be understood.

Says Vikram, who takes Carnatic lessons from Jayanthi Kumaresh when he is not playing financial analyst at an MNC or leafing through historical documents, “Gauhar Jaan was exceptional in more ways than one… she created a template to showcase something as expansive as Hindustani music in just three minutes! Besides, she has recorded nearly 600 songs in 20 languages. To top it all, she composed several timeless thumris including the famous ‘Kaise yeh dhoom machayi.’”

Full report here Hindu

Teaching toxicity

Sage India brings out an illustrated guide to hazardous substances in our daily life.

Aniruddha Sen Gupta sets off the conversation with a truism. “The nature has a mechanism in place to handle waste produced by every species in the world except one, which is human beings.” With the death of a scrap dealer in Delhi's Mayapuri area due to exposure to toxic waste still in news, one can only agree with him.

Expanding the thought, Aniruddha has just come up with Our Toxic World, an illustrated guide to hazardous substances that we come across in our daily lives. In simple language, he highlights how toxic waste, that we humans produce, knowingly or unknowingly, is increasingly affecting the quality of our life.

Points out the Goa-based author of children's' books, “I have been working on the guide since 2007, the Mayapuri death is coincidental.” His book is meant for people on the street, who might have heard about or read about things that harm the quality of their lives due to bad waste management but are not aware of its full impact,” he underlines. Through the pages of the book, a Sage India publication, he is stressing the fact that one stitch at the right time can indeed save nine.

Full report here Hindu

Resul Pookutty's autobiography released

“I am a humble cinema boy,” goes the first line of Oscar winner Resul Pookutty's autobiography Sabdatharapadam (The milky way of sound), which was released by Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan Mumbai on May 13.

The first copy of the sound engineer's autobiography was handed over to music composer A. R. Rahman and eminent lyricist Gulzar.

The event, aptly named ‘Sound of music' was organised by the Malayala Manorama and Penguin, publishers of the book. In his address, Jacob Matthews, Executive Editor of Malayala Manorama described Pookutty as “one of the most creative men of our times.” This was the first time someone had made music the theme of his autobiography.

Full report here Hindu

A treasure trove of knowledge

Even as satellite channels have made inroads into our living rooms, the charm of reading books have not diminished as there are scores of book lovers who daily visit Allahabad Public Library to satiate their literary taste buds.

The library, standing majestically amidst the lush green environment of the historic Company Garden, is a treasure trove of knowledge. It is the biggest library in Uttar Pradesh.

Keeping in tune with the modern times, the library has added books on newer subjects, keeping in view the needs of the readers.

Full report here Times of India

This is no news

It didn’t look good. Two books arrived for review, both written by TV journalists and both punning on the phrase Breaking News in their titles, which did not augur well for a weekend’s concentrated reading. Steeling myself for diatribes on the state of the media and its will to break news with the propensity of a flatulent aunt, I found myself surprised. Neither book was an introspective look at the state of TV journalism, at least not directly. One was an account for a Bharat darshan kind of trip made to cover the 2009 election and the other a work of fiction set in a news channel.

Braking News by Sunetra Choudhury tells the story of the NDTV election special, where two girls boarded a bus and travelled 15,000km, “trundling through”, as the blurb puts it, “the bylanes and boondocks of Bharat, in search of the elusive Indian voter and an insight into his mind”. The result is a highly readable book that takes us on a somewhat inconsequential journey through the Indian heartland.

Of course, those looking for insight into the nature of the Indian polity, or even explanations about how the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won such an unexpected victory, will be disappointed. There is little here that is valuable by way of political analysis, and indeed, the very idea that any deep meaningful understanding could emerge from an exercise like this is by itself flawed. The strain of travelling every day makes the reportage very thin, and in most cases the reporters make do with what they can cobble up. Choudhury is hardly a political pundit, nor does she, for the most part, pose as one.

Full report here Mint

Thursday, May 13, 2010

In India, sympathy could be a thought-crime

Legendary writer Mahasweta Devi has challenged Union home minister P Chidambaram to arrest her and put her in jail for 10 years, in response to the Centre’s newfound enthusiasm for using the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, to arrest Maoist ‘sympathisers’. One must sympathise with the home minister for being humiliated by a gutsy 84-year-old woman.

Yet sympathy is a thought-crime thanks to the UAPA, which says: ‘Any person who commits the offence of supporting a terrorist organisation with inter alia intention to further the activities of such terrorist organisations would be liable to be punished with imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or with fine or with both.’

The key point seems to be ‘intention to further the activities’ of the Maoists. So the question that must be asked is, has anyone furthered the activities of the Maoist more than the state with its exploitative economic policies and its counter-insurgency tactics? What is more useful to the Maoists, a writ petition filed by activists for the Adivasis, or a security apparatus that terrorises the population on mere suspicion and suppresses dissent and civil society?

Full report here New Indian Express

Online retailer offers electronic publishing services

Infibeam.com, an online retailer of books and other products in India, is offering electronic publishing services to budding authors of fiction and nonfiction books, including textbooks, the company's CEO said on Wednesday.

The service is being coupled with a print-on-demand service that will allow consumers to order books that are out of print, said Vishal Mehta, CEO and founder of Infibeam.com.

The Infibeam.com digital platform will provide Indian authors and publishers an additional channel to reach out to book readers, the company said in a statement.

The service may also be attractive to authors outside India who are looking for a nonproprietary format in which to publish their books, Mehta said. The service will digitize books in various formats including pdf, epub and mobi. Content delivery and use will be restricted to authorized buyers through digital rights management (DRM), Mehta added.

Full report here PC World

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tagore tales on talkies

The works of Rabindranath Tagore have always fascinated filmmakers, as these are universal — in time, space, emotions and human relationships, writes Shoma A. Chatterji

Rabindranath Tagore’s writings bring up images of lyricism and romance. Many filmmakers feel that the horizon of a Tagore creation — be it poetry, fiction, essay or drama — is too large, all-encompassing, complex and alien to Indian masses, conditioned to ‘popular’ literary figures like Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. Their creations, it is felt, are more cinema-friendly. The 14 remakes of Devdas in different Indian languages is an example.

The homespun philosophy of Sarat Chandra and the romantic spirit of Bankim Chandra had more appeal than the non-conformist and feminist themes, which Tagore dealt with. Yet, Tagore has been recognised as a rich literary source for very good cinema. Satyajit Ray’s films based on Tagore’s works offer the best example. In 1961, Ray made Teen Kanya (Three Daughters), on three Tagore short stories — Postmaster, Monihara and Samapti. The other Tagore works he filmed are Charulata and Ghare Baire.

Tagore’s works are universal — in time, space, emotions and human relationships. They offer filmmakers a challenge to make the film as powerful, credible and appealing on celluloid as it is in print. A film based on, adapted from, interpreted from Tagore’s oeuvre offers scope for argument, discussion, analysis, debate and questions among the audience, critics and scholars. A massive volume of scholarly treatises came out after Satyajit Ray’s Charulata, leading to a new genre — writing on films based on Tagore’s works.

Full report here Tribune

Celebration of bard’s birth anniversary lingers on

Jatiya Kobi Kazi Nazrul Islam University (JKKNIU) in Trishal observed the 149th birth anniversary of Tagore. A daylong programme, including a discussion and cultural function, was held marking the occasion.

Students of the Music Department of the university presented renditions of Tagore songs, poetry recitation, dance and a drama at the 'Churulia' stage on campus.

Tagore play “Raktokorobi” was staged by the students of Bengali Department. Assistant Professor of the Department and convener of the celebration committee Marzia Akhtar directed the drama.

Earlier, a discussion was held with the Vice-Chancellor of the university Professor Dr. Giasuddin Ahmed in the chair. Professor Anisuzzaman of the Bengali Department of Dhaka University was the chief guest at the discussion, while Professor Mustafa Nurul Islam and treasurer of the university Professor Aynul Islam were the special guests.

Full report here Daily Star

The Bengali pride Tagore

Alongside Pahela Baishakh, 25th of this (Bangla) month occupies a special place among the Bengalis. This day has been bejeweled by the arrival of a great scholar Rebendranath Tagore who revolutionised Bengali literature and introduce its treasures to the world.

Every year the day is observed by Bengalis with much zeal.

Tagore was born into a distinguished family in Calcutta (now Kolkata), West Bengal. His father Maharshi Rebendranath Tagore, was a well known Hindu reformer and mystic and his mother was Srimati Sharada Devi. Tagore was home-schooled. He was taught in Bengali, with English lessons in the afternoon. He read the Bengali poets at an early age and began writing poetry himself by the age of eight. Tagore did have a brief spell at the St Xavier's Jesuit school, but found the conventional system of education uncongenial. His father wanted him to become a barrister and he was sent to England for higher studies.

In England, Tagore was impressed and inspired by John Bright W.E. Gladstone's "large-hearted, radical liberalism." In 1879, he enrolled at University College, at London, but was called back by his father to return to India in 1880. Three years later he was married. Tagore's family chose his bride, an almost illiterate girl of ten, named Bhabatarini (renamed Mrinalini). They went on to have four children; the eldest was born when Mrinalini was 13. Mrinalini died at the age of 30.

Full report here Nation

Indians mark Nobel laureate Tagore's 150th birthday

Indian people give tribute to a statue of Nobel laureate poet Rabindranath Tagore during a celebration on his 150th birthday anniversary in Kolkata, capital of eastern Indian state West Bengal, on May 9, 2010.

Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali polymath and the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. As a poet, novelist, musician, and playwright, he reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Full report here People Daily

Tagore in China

At first glance, it may appear to be just another ordinary block of 19th century ‘shikumen’ houses — a type of  tenement unique to Shanghai with a stone gate at the entrance — but a stroll through the neighbourhood can unearth a treasure trove of the city’s rich literary history.

Simingcun, or Siming Village, as the neighbourhood is known, stands opposite the iconic Russian-built Shanghai Exhibition Center but is dwarfed by new high-rises and the expansive Yan’an Elevated Road that connects the west and east of Shanghai. The stone-gate row of houses that dates back to 1908 is highlighted by its red-brick exterior walls and rooftops that still bear the emblem of its developer, the Siming Bank.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Writer left red-faced by Akademi error

For well-known litterateur Veena Alase, it was the most embarrassing moment in her life when the Sahitya Akademi informed her that the prestigious award declared for her translation work is being withdrawn, since her name was earlier declared by mistake. ‘‘It was a human error, we express regrets,’’ Krishnamurthy, Sahitya Akademi secretary informed her.

On February 14, Alase was informed that she had been selected for the Sahitya Akademi award for her translation work in Marathi. Then the Akademi had asked her to submit comprehensive information on her literary work in the prescribed format.

Besides submitting her career details, Alase specifically informed the administration that she was selected for the Sahitya academy award in 1994 for translation work, then she had translated a book authored by social reformer Mahatma Jyotiba Phule in Bengali. ‘‘She sent the entire information to the academy in February itself,’’ a senior official said.

Full report here Times of India

Veteran writer-director Govind Moonis dead

Filmfare Award-winning writer-director Govind Moonis died on May 5 of throat cancer at 5 pm. He was 81 years old.

Born on January 2, 1929 in the village Pasakhera in Unnao district to Pt. Shriram Dwivedi, Govind Moonis was educated at Kanpur. He started his literary career in 1947 when his first short story was published in the Sunday edition of Dainik Veerbharat of Kanpur. Thereafter, scores of his articles, short stories and translations from Bengali appeared in many newspapers and periodicals of repute.In April,1952 he went to Kolkata, met Ritwik Ghatak and joined him as an assistant director in his first directorial assignment Bedeni (Bengali) which unfortunately could not be completed. Then Moonis assisted him in Nagarik.
In November 1953, coming to Mumbai with Satyen Bose, Moonis had been associated in almost all the films that Bose directed. First as an assistant to him, then a dialogue and screenplay writer and occasionally a lyricist.
Full report here IBN

Tagore retains dream, breath of India

Melodious renditions of Rabindrasangeet or songs of Rabindranath Tagore echoed in the air. Glowing in dim ochre light was the bronze bust of "Gurudev" perched upon a pillar under a sprawling green tree. Oil-lit earthen lamps dotting the stage periphery of the open air theater were adding to the effects of the warm starry evening on Sunday.

It had some inkling with the open outdoor university of Shantiniketan founded by Tagore in West Bengal but the scene was set in the heart of New Delhi's Meghdoot theater at Rabindra Bhawan.

The occasion was special -- to pay a tribute to Tagore on his 149th birthday. The three day-birthday celebrations, which began on May 7, has also ushered in year-long festivities to mark his 150th birth anniversary next year.

Full report here Xinhua

Study on orientalism

In this book, Michael Dodson examines the historical ontology of orientalism, empire, and nationalism — the three major obsessions of the last generation — in the light of rarely used sources in Sanskrit, Hindi, and English, and with fresh insights into the making of modern India. It explores the varied scholarly manifestations in literature, history, and linguistics, related to the period 1770-1880, projecting the image of ‘Indian Civilisation.'

The book draws on three principal themes: the East India Company's use of orientalist knowledge and the Sanskrit pundits for strengthening state power in Bengal in the late 18th century; the uses of orientalist methodologies in education for the civilising mission in the 19th century; and, the adaptation, by Indian Sanskrit scholars, of some of orientalism's discursive constructs in the production of newly inflected Hindu identities.

The core argument is that orientalism in India is best understood not as a static modus operandi but as a shifting set of policy positions and localised practices, which were constantly adapted to changing circumstances in the colonial context as well as in respect of evolutions in metropolitan British thought.

Full report here Hindu

A new voice

English translation of Bengali classics find new avenues

Sankar’s 1973 novel Jana Aranya is often talked about only because of its film adaptation by Satyajit Ray. As a part of Ray’s Calcutta trilogy (the previous two being Seemabaddha and Pratidwandi), Jana Arnaya performs a definite function. It talks about the moral corruption of the youth in the ravaged 1970s. It was a well-written book made into a thought-provoking film.

Celebrated? Not really. Yet, close to four decades after it was written and 35 years after it was made into a film, this novel has enamoured Pradipta Biswas, a first year student of English with the Jadavpur University. “I am reading the translation of the original novel and I love every bit of it. It evokes a different era but the ethos remains the same. The protagonist is torn between his morality and ambition and I can identify with his struggle,” says Biswas.

Full report here Indian Express

Tagore books never say die

Not for nothing is he the evergreen bard of Bengal. Rabindranath Tagore’s literary gems are a huge draw among youngsters and older generations even now, with cheaply priced editions and attractive covers spurring sales, say publishers.

As the nation gears up to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the versatile Nobel laureate May 9, publishers say Tagore’s poems, short stories and songs are still a rage.

“Among his books - ‘Sanchayita’ (a collection of poems), ‘Gitabitan’ (a compilation of songs), ‘Gitanjali’ (a book of poems), and ‘Golpo Guchho’ (collection of short stories) - are the most popular ones,” Shankar Mondal, owner of Dip Publication, told IANS.

“To mark his 150th birth anniversary, we are coming out with ‘Selected English Writings of Tagore’,” Mondal said.

Full report here Thaindian

The creative genius who bore suffering silently

The 14th child in a family of 15, he alone was sufficient reason why India should not worry too much about family planning. And 150 years after his birth, he continues to grow in stature as the subcontinent's greatest creative genius.

Those who know many languages claim he has no equal anywhere on earth. The issue is not whether he is the Mt. Everest, but, say after another 150 years, will anybody believe that such a man ever walked this earth?

And yet, the obstacles he overcame, the treatment he received from his contemporaries when alive, the endless chain of suffering he underwent are worth recounting. Here are some snippets.

Full report here Sify

A dedicated book store

At first sight, Page Turners, the new book store on Bangalore’s MG Road, looks cosy, tidy and colourful, characteristics that are guaranteed to compel passers-by to explore the store. Page Turners, which exclusively retails books published by Penguin Books, is yet to launch officially but has been functioning quietly since the second week of April, with only a few curious book lovers walking in for a browse.

Spread over three, 550 sq. ft floors, the book store stocks best-sellers and travel guides (including Penguin Books’ Rough Guide series) on the ground floor, classics and philosophy on the second, and fiction and children’s books on the third. On the fourth floor, coming up soon, will be a space dedicated to book launches and readings. Penguin authors will be given preference but authors from other publications will be welcome too. Leave your email ID with the store and they will keep you informed about book launches and reading sessions.

Penguin, known as the publisher of literary classics, has ensured that the Classics section of the store is elaborately stocked. While most books on the shelf are paperbacks, the store can source hardback and bound versions on request. Books by other publishers comprise just 10% of the store’s contents.

Full report here Mint 

His constant presence in a changing world

While the world celebrated Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary on Friday, his home state is gearing up to honour him on the date of his birth, May 9, as per the Bengali calender

‘Tagore remains quite alive in the Spanish speaking world’

The radical liberal ideas that we encounter in Tagore’s works look refreshingly modern even by today’s standards. He was constantly experimenting with form (eg, ‘the novel of ideas’ as in Gora) and drew as much from Indian cultural forms as from his encounters with Western cultures, internalising everything in the process and revealing India to itself.

In fact, there is a recent UN document that hails Tagore as the key reference point for the notion of a “reconciled universal” of the 21st century. In other words, all humanity — not just jingoistic Bengalis —should look to him in order to move forward and learn how he was capable of embracing the world while still rooted in his own soil, that is, being adaptable and resilient at the same time. This stands in sharp contrast to today’s fashionable multiculturalism, which leads to apparent widening of knowledge but only produces shallow minds.

Full report here DNA

An Chinese-Indian and a lover of Urdu

Dr Yung Van Liu (79) is probably only surviving Urdu poet in India of Chinese origin.

Shaida Chini, as he is popularly known in the literary circles, Liu claims that Urdu nazam (couplets), ghazals (songs) and sheron-shayari (poetry) have kept him young even at his advanced age. He knows well how to say words and in musical rhythm. His diction stuns many because of his Chinese origin. Dr Liu, who looks quite frail and infirm, becomes nostalgic while speaking about Urdu.

He misses his mushairas, which he stopped attending after an accident restricted his movement five years back. The poet has come out with a book on Urdu poems, couplets and songs named "Lakiron ki Sada" (Voice of Lines).

Full report here Deccan Herald

Catching up

Rabindranath Tagore would have been pleased, without a trace of jingoism, to learn about the Unesco’s choice of Bengali as the “sweetest language in the world”, if there’s any value at all to such an impossible judgment. The polymath whose 150th birth anniversary celebrations begin this year — he was born in 1861 — was a founding father of the modern, self-confident, post-colonial India. But Tagore, who didn’t live to see India independent, was first and foremost a poet. Tagore the thinker/ philosopher came second. It was his original genius that makes the intellectual-cultural history of modern Bengal as much the life story of Tagore and the myriad uses he has been put to, not least in the Tagore industry.

Tagore’s aesthetic-political legacy is in the fervent call upon sanity and human decency. His lifelong immersion in thinking about and raising India above indignity was routed through the breaching of every narrow domestic wall. That made him the arch internationalist he was, one who saw the uses of nationalism and saw beyond, to the need of rising above it. As India celebrates Tagore’s 150th birth anniversary, when it’s turning many a corner that cannot be revisited, this is what we should remember: the magnitude and reach of the mind without fear. It’s not we who left Tagore behind; his poetry and prose, in thought and subject, appear to be still up ahead, where we are yet to reach.

Full report here Indian Express

Tagore station not on Mamata map

For the Bengali, there is no cultural icon larger than Rabindranath Tagore. On his 150th anniversary, the celebration of the genius of Tagore is acquiring a political syntax as well, thanks to the ambition of Mamata Banerjee.

The Railways Minister is using the the opportunity to woo the West Bengal voter ahead of the critical 2011 assembly elections.

The railways put out full page advertisements in leading national dailies to publicise the Sanskriti Express, a mobile exhibition showcasing the life and work of Tagore. The special train will have Tagore's rare photographs,
literature and paintings spread out over five coaches.

It's another matter that the train left well behind its scheduled time, despite being flagged off by Mamata herself on Saturday.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Gurudev birth celebrations a PR exercise for political parties

With polls around the corner, state political parties left no stone unturned to showcase their love for Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore on his 150th birth anniversary celebrations.

It was the perfect public relation opportunity for all political parties as they reached out to the voters through the much celebrated poet. From organising Rabindra Sammelan in various municipal wards to inauguration of a train, Tagore was remembered by all.

There was no way that one could miss the Railway ministry’s full page advertisements in leading dailies, commemorating Tagore’s birth anniversary. Union Railway Minister and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee flagged off Sanskriti Yatra Express marking Tagore’s birth anniversary. The specially decorated train with five air-conditioned coaches will depict the poet’s life, songs, poems, paintings, novels and essays. “The train will travel from Himachal to Kanyakumari. Incidentally, he also travelled by trains,” said Banerjee, while flagging off the special train from Howrah station. Interestingly, the train will also showcase paintings of Suvaprassana and Jogen Chatterjee, two noted painters from Bengal.

Full report here Indian Express

‘Nothing but a poet’

On the Mount Rushmore of Indian nationalist iconography, we can expect to see, as we pass by in an aeroplane, Gandhi’s and Nehru’s faces carved into the stone. The third face is a blur — but the myopic likeness is of course Ambedkar’s. The fourth visage just may be Tagore’s.

And this, you feel, is largely the company Tagore will keep in the days leading to his 150th birth anniversary: Nehru, Gandhi, Ambedkar. I repeat this litany verbatim from an article by Ramachandra Guha, who, reassessing Tagore, considers him eligible for a place in the constellation of India’s founding fathers. “If Tagore had merely been a ‘creative artist’,” Guha says, “perhaps one would not have found him fit to rank alongside those other builders of modern India.” Of course, Tagore was much more, as famous poets of colonised nations were especially doomed to be. WB Yeats, in ‘Among School Children’, describes his public role thus: “The children learn to cipher and to sing,/ To study reading — books and histories,/ To cut and sew, be neat in everything/ In the best modern way — the children’s eyes/ In momentary wonder stare upon/ A sixty-year-old smiling public man.” The children are learning to be citizens; they are perhaps also being civilised “in the best modern way”. (If anything, the Irish, as a subject race, had worse opprobrium heaped upon them by the English than the Indians did.) But Yeats’s sparse diction and his unobtrusive line-endings hint that, in the midst of the citizen-making, the intruder has been identified as both a diversion and a fake; the children, with their staring eyes and ‘momentary wonder’, have found him out: and we, like Yeats himself, are estranged from the public persona. Later in the poem, Yeats lets on that he knows perfectly what he is at 60: “a comfortable kind of old scarecrow” and “old clothes upon old sticks to scare a bird”. Outside of the “momentary wonder” and the stares, to be an ageing poet, a mere “creative artist”, is to be nothing at all.

Full report here Hindustan Times