Saturday, July 31, 2010

Canadian author pens Tatas’ story

Down on earth, corporate tycoon J.R.D. Tata is known for piloting the Tata group to success. But up in the air, the avid aviator enjoyed success of a different kind — Tata received the first pilot’s licence to be granted in India. When his baby, Air India International, was born, he chose to pilot its maiden flight from Karachi to Bombay.

There’s much to know about the Tatas and the mammoth brand they built, and these are some of the trivia that make Canadian author Morgen Witzel’s new book, Tata – The Evolution of a Corporate Brand, an interesting read.

Tata chairman Ratan Tata launched the book on Friday, July 30, but nobody from the group spoke at the function.

“It took me just 20 seconds to say 'yes' when Penguin asked me to author the book, because it’s the Tatas,” said Witzel at the launch.

Full report here Hindustan Times

ONV stands up for Malayalam

Reiterating his angst and wondering about the reasons for many Malayalam books not getting translated, veteran poet ONV Kurup inaugurated a seven-day book exhibition organised by Rachana, the cultural wing of the Kerala Secretariat Employees’ Association, in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday, July 29.

“We have translated books from so many different languages. But only a few books from Malayalam get translated to other Indian languages,” said ONV. “And when people like us raise our voice for our language, others say it is because we have some ulterior motives, like securing the post of a vice-chancellor. What ambitions can someone as old as me have?” he asked.

“Malayalam should not be pushed behind any other language. It should rise to great heights,” said the poet, inspiring the hundreds gathered there to read and understand their mother-tongue better.

Full report here Yentha

'Bankrupt caste politics led to ban on Shivaji book'

Bookshops are afraid to stock James Laine's Shivaj i: Hindu King in Islamic India, even after the Supreme Court struck down the Maharashtra government's ban on it. Film-maker Anand Patwardhan, one of three petitioners who challenged the ban, speaks to Jyoti Punwani :

What prompted you to challenge the ban? 
Ambedkar gave us a Constitution. It is up to us to protect its spirit. Whether it is Ambedkar's Riddles in Hinduism or works by Taslima Nasreen, we must not allow bullies to dictate what we read. I would oppose a ban even on books i abhor, like those by Golwalkar and Godse. The real inspiration and the legal hard work, however, came from human rights lawyer P A Sebastian. We have won many court battles against the censorship of my documentaries. In each case, the courts upheld my right to freedom of expression and the public's right to information. Naturally when we heard about a book banned under pressure from right-wing groups, we intervened.

Shivaji is revered in Maharashtra. Didn't you anticipate an adverse reaction? 
Bankrupt caste politics led to the ban. An academic book on Shivaji would have remained largely unnoticed. But our politicians have many economic crimes to hide and identity politics is a convenient public diversion. An emotive rumour that Laine had questioned Shivaji's paternity spread, since no one had actually read the book. A research institute was attacked, historical manuscripts destroyed, then the publishers were attacked and books burned. The government, dominated by the same caste forces that rampaged in the street, banned the book.

Verse case scenario

A haiku on the city’s traffic or a sonnet on its parks--Poets International keeps the ‘Bangalore poet’ alive

Mohammed Fakhruddin came to the world of words through a friendship that has dreamy adolescence written all over it. Years later, at the traffic mayhem that is central Bangalore, we meet at a coffee shop, and he looks back on the decades. A glass door shuts out the noise and chaos. We slide into our seats and absorb the vista like viewers watching a horror film with the mute button on.

“So what happened?” I ask.

“I used to have a penfriend in America while in college,” the 65-year-old says. This was in the late 1960s. “I never met her. Once she sent me her picture and I wrote a poem about it.” I want to nod my head (“Yeah, me too Saar”) in agreement. “I wrote her a poem just looking at the picture without ever having met her face-to-face,” he says. “She asked me, ‘Are you a poet?’ I wrote back saying, ‘No. But when I think of you I become one,’” he laughs.

As the years went by, Fakhruddin worked in various forms of media, from print to film. A bulk of his life was spent as a journalist for local publications in Urdu and English, but his fondest, perhaps most enduring, achievement is the institution of Poets International—a poetry group and publication in Bangalore that he launched in 1983. “The British Library which used to be just here,” he says, “is where I apprenticed in words. Read every poetry book or anthology that I could lay my hands on…that was the charm of Bangalore then. But there was no forum for me to write in,” he mutters.

Full report here Mint

Friday, July 30, 2010

A tribute to P G Tenzing

It was not a very appropriate time to share a reading experience. And it did not turn out to be so either. Sheela Thomas, secretary to the Chief Minister, only took some time off to talk to about P G Tenzing, a friend who always followed his heart - when he crash-landed into the Civil Services at age 22, when he waded through the bureaucratic labyrinth relying on his own instincts to function as a beacon light, when he junked the cozy IAS moorings to set off on an Enfield Thunderbird for those miles he had to go before he slept.

“The book is a reflection of the man he was, someone who took life head on and made inconveniences and difficulties seem like enjoyable escapades. A journey on a bike all around the country will not be all about fun, but he talks about things like the bike needing a repair as if it was part of the fun he was on the look out for.”

The Sikkim-born Palden Gyatso Tenzing, an officer in the Kerala cadre, happened to get acquainted with Sheela Thomas when they served as sub collectors in the neighbouring sub-divisions of Chengannur and Adoor. They became family friends who visited each other whenever they had a chance. When he was posted in Thiruvananthapuram in 2005, he chose to live in the same apartment as that of the Thomas family. “His voluntary retirement came as a bolt from the blue, many of us friends tried to dissuade him saying that it was a loss to the Civil Services and the State.”

Full report here New Indian Express

Rich tributes paid to Shiv Kumar Batalvi

Punjab  Public and information minister Sewa Singh Sekhwan Thursday July 29 paid rich tributes to celebrated Punjabi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi and inaugurated two days state fair here in the memory of legendary writer.

Sekhwan appealed to the writers to strengthen the bonds of national integrity through their creative and constructive writings so that basic tenets of democracy remained intact.

While inaugurating state fair in connection with the 75 birth anniversary of Shiv Kumar Batalvi in this industrial town, Sekhwan underlined the need to educate  the youth about our rich culture. He exhorted the people to exercise adequate caution and vigilance in preserving and perpetuating our glorious so that the coming generation derive maximum  inspiration about over our old tradition.

He gave a clarion call to intellectuals  and writers to come forward with a grim determination to safeguard our rich cultural heritage to enable the younger generation to inherit this legacy.

Full report here Punjab Newsline 

How to write a crime masterpiece

Sacred Games is a labour of love, or perhaps hate; a reaction to the scraps that Chandra’s relatives in Bollywood have got into with the Mumbai underworld

Perhaps the greatest crime novels of the 21st century will be written by Indians. “Great” is certainly an accurate description of the 900-page Sacred Games, a masterpiece of early 21st century literature.

Let’s take a closer look at how Vikram Chandra wrote his manifold narrative, so impeccably woven around two antagonists—a slightly corrupt police inspector and a don with a karmic bend—who, with elegant plot symmetry, mirror one another and are inextricably linked in a web of brutality, but also love.

Sacred Games is a labour of love, or perhaps hate; a reaction to the scraps that Chandra’s relatives in Bollywood have got into with the Mumbai underworld. They were targeted by extortionists and even shot at. As a writer, Chandra, an aficionado of crime fiction, takes pleasure in utilizing the genre’s tropes.

Full report here Mint

'Rushdie, McEwan, Barnes arrogant and disappointing'

Salman Rushdie, British author of Indian-origin, and his contemporaries like Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes are like prep-school boys, arrogant, self-satisfied and 'profoundly disappointing', a leading literature expert has said.

Gabriel Josipovici, research professor at Sussex University and former professor of comparative literature at Oxford, has condemned the work of 'giants of the modern English novel' as 'hollow', saying they were virtually indistinguishable from one another in scope and ambition, the Guardian reported.

Josipovici said 'their mantelpieces might creak under the collective weight of literary gongs' but Salman Rushdie, Ian McEwan and Julian Barnes are unworthy of the accolades they receive.

Full report here Sify

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Somnath book heaps praise on Sonia, PM

Brickbats for his former comrades and bouquets for rivals. Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee's tell-all has infuriated the CPM leadership for his harsh criticism of the way he was expelled, but what could enrage Prakash Karat and Co further is his praise for leaders of other parties, especially the Congress leadership of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.

Chatterjee has devoted a whole chapter of his autobiography, Keeping The Faith: Memoirs of a Parliamentarian  to ‘Colleagues And Comrades' in which he talks about, among others, BJP leaders Atal Bihari Vajpayee, L K Advani and Jaswant Singh, and JD(U) leader George Fernandes as fellow travellers in politics. The much awaited book, published by HarperCollins India, is scheduled for release on August 21 in New Delhi by the PM, seen as the man behind the Indo-US nuclear deal. Chatterjee was expelled from CPM in July 2008 for defying the party whip and refusing to vote in the nuclear-deal debate in Parliament.

Interestingly, he deals little with Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, who first came to the limelight by defeating Chatterjee in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections. The former Speaker mentions an episode in Lok Sabha involving Mamata, when she had flung a bunch of papers at the chair. But he refers to her repeatedly as "a member" without naming her even once.

Full report here Times of India 

Dhumal releases book on Himachal

Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister, today released the book ‘Himachal- Sanskritik Avam Prakritik Paryatan’ authored by Prof. Mohan Maitreya, a renowned educationist. The book contains descriptive compilation of information of different places of interest to tourists and temples of different deities to cater to the informative requirements of devotees visiting Himachal Pradesh. He also released two other publications ‘Talash’ and ‘Jeevan Ek Aiyana’ authored by Ms. Vidhu Matreya Bhanot.

Chief Minister congratulated the authors for their maiden ventures and the efforts they had put in bringing out the publications. He said that the book on Himachal was one of the finest collection of data with regard to the places of tourist interest and temples etc. which would not only benefit the tourists but the research scholars working on such projects. He said that the details of places and its historic background would generate interest amongst the visitors to know the place better through their personal visits. He said that the publication was bound to inspire the budding writers to explore greater horizons available in naturally beautiful State of Himachal Pradesh so that the unexplored and virgin locations in the State were known to people around the world.

Full report here NVO

Chetan's book cover creates controversy

Trust Chetan Bhagat’s book to stir up a storm. Although the author has reason to feel proud — the cover of his fourth  book, 2 States, has been adopted by the Maharashtra State Government to promote financial assistance for inter-caste marriages — there is one problem. Neither Chetan  nor Rachna Rakyan, the 28-year-old Delhi-based designer who created the logo, were informed of the decision.

Rakyan now feels she ought to be paid royalty. “I got a mail from Chetan in the morning and my first reaction was ‘I want to charge royalty for this.’ It would have been nice if they had called me and informed, because it is my copyright. I will speak to Chetan and we will see how we can take it forward and contact the government office,” she says. Bhagat, too, feels he should’ve been informed.

“My wife spotted the logo on a bus and sent the picture to me. I’m happy that they chose the book, but they should have informed me. I would have happily supported it,” he said.

Full report here Hindustan Times

In full bloom

Clare Somerville recounts Mills and Boon's journey of love

Knights, sheikhs and billionaire businessmen with drop-dead killer looks languorously rule these pages. Gorgeous women, who make them go weak in their knees, complete the canvas. The obstacles on their way are namesake and before long passion and love seal their lives.

Mills and Boon novels have squeezed tight this age-old formula for over a century and triumphantly gallop forward. The stories, meanwhile, keep their date with contemporary times; protagonists have grown bolder and dare to venture into territories taboo 50 years ago.

The wiry novels typically with a passionate man and woman on the cover entered the Indian market couple of years ago. “Our India operations have been hugely successful and we have doubled our sales. There is a growing appetite (for M&B),” says Clare Somerville, general manager, India, UK and export sales, Harlequin Mills & Boon, on a visit here.

On the 'write' path

Debutante author Sarita Mandanna talks to us about her book, what went into its making and the journey through her motherland 

In a tailored blue dress, writer Sarita Mandanna looks statuesque. The dress she is wearing has been designed by the same person who designed Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown. Only, hers was bought on discount, she quickly clarifies. Sarita has numbers on her mind as much as her beloved letters. She is a financial consultant, after all. Ask her how she manages being an author and knows her numbers and she laughs, “Blame it on my hardy Indian gene - the multi-tasking Indian gene.” Yet on the advance she received for her book, the highest ever paid to a debutante Indian author, and she says plainly, “Well, all that really went over my head.”

It’s quite clear that the Toronto-based author chooses wisely what enters her head, it’s much reflected in her calm and in the way she went about writing Tiger Hills, her first book. “When I started, the only thing I knew was that it would be set in Coorg, where generations of my family lived,” begins the soft-spoken author, “The germination was a burst of inspiration - Devi, the lead protagonist, was born amidst a flock of herons. Then came method - excel sheets, spread sheets, decision trees. I couldn’t let the book get to me; I couldn’t allow myself to fall in love with my book or take it too seriously. I wanted to maintain enough sense of self so as to be able to thrash my work.”

Full report here Times of India

Verses from the heart

Because poets are the unsung window cleaners of our collective consciousness, they deserve more space than they usually get. And what is more, Vishvjit Prithvijit Singh is one of those unique heavyweight individuals who have consistently maintained a soft footprint. This, despite his high connections and immense experience.

Perhaps he is, therefore, most uniquely suited to be a poet? Well, the gift for moving verse, for what it is worth, has lain dormant for a long time ” except for Vishu's furtive scribblings still unseen in his English note book over the years. Dilli sat up and noticed this avatar recently.

Vishu has just burst upon the poetry horizon with a collection of self-conscious but also self-revelatory poems in Hindi. Most people can't stop gawking as the omniscient Vishu has always been associated with the world of English speakers and politics.

Full report here Mid day

Amazon sells out of Kindle book reader

Amazon had sold out of its basic Kindle electronic book reader on Wednesday with no indication as to when deliveries would resume.Amazon.com listed the 189-dollar Kindle as "temporarily out of stock."

The Seattle, Washington-based online retail giant was still taking orders, however. "Order now and we'll deliver when available," it said. "We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information."
The larger-screen model of Amazon's popular e-reader, the Kindle DX, was available for purchase.

There was no immediate reply to an email to Amazon from AFP asking when deliveries of basic Kindles may be resumed. Facing competition from Apple's new iPad tablet computer, Amazon dropped the price of its basic Kindle last month to 189 dollars.

Amazon does not release sales figures for the Kindle, but says it has been the company's best-selling item for two years.

Full report here AFP

DAISY electronic books gifted to visually challenged

The visually challenged at NABPNM, Rehabilitation Centre for the Blind, Mount Abu, will no longer bear the burden of carrying heavy Braille books, thanks to GAIL India, Abu Road.

GAIL has made the road to knowledge for visually challenged less arduous. Under the tutelage of the Centre principal Dr V K Dengla, a team of readers headed by editing in charge Parvat Singh has brought out first DAISY book of Rajasthan, an electronic book for the visually challenged. Saanp To Saanp Hi Hota Hai', an anthology of neo-realistic poems in Hindi, was released on Wednesday by Mount Abu sub-divisional magistrate Tina Soni at the Centre.

Full report here Times of India

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

More items to find way into digital library to check biopiracy

India has begun work to include 220 additional Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha text in its Traditional Knowledge Digital Library (TKDL), which will help check rampant biopiracy of the country’s ancient wisdom by developed countries.

The digital library is a joint effort of CSIR and the ministry of Ayush (Ayurvedic, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathic) against biopiracy or attempts by individuals or institutions in the developed countries to patent traditional knowledge passed down from generation to generation in India.

“The TKDL is being enhanced for 220 additional texts in Ayurveda, Unani and Siddha. The current coverage is 148 texts,” said VK Gupta, director, TKDL, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The government also wants to go beyond the known text to include it in the database information on traditional medicine that may be stored in other forms such as hand-written manuscripts on palm leaves, paper, cloth or inscribed on metal, a senior official has said.

Full report here Economic Times 

Blow to Telugu courses in overseas universities

The objective of spreading Telugu language overseas is set to take a serious blow as the state government failed to keep its commitment of paying Rs 10.26 lakh each to Hebrew University, Israel and University of California, USA, to fund their courses in Telugu.

A few years ago, the state government entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the two universities for organising a certificate course in Telugu. The Potti Sriramulu Telugu University had taken the initiative in holding talks with the universities and the regime of former chief minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy approved the proposal. As per the MoU, the state government was to provide Rs 10.26 lakh each university for engaging Telugu professors and supplying books to the students interested in learning Telugu. If the state government funds the programme for a period of five years, the respective universities expressed their willingness to recognise the Telugu language course as any other course in their universities.

The courses began in both the universities in 200809 as the state government paid Rs 10.26 lakh. At the Hebrew University nearly 12 students, including both foreigners and nonresident Indians, joined the course. Similarly, at the University of California, where there is a heavy contingent of Telugu diaspora, nearly 20 students took admission. Both universities offer diploma and certificate courses.

Full report here New Indian Express

Urdu's last sigh

Satya Narayan, a teacher at one of the Urdu primary schools, was attending a workshop with some 50 other teachers at the Jamia Millia Islamia University. The workshop was on how to improve their Urdu writing. However, for Narayan, concentrating proved to be difficult as he found himself worrying for the 150 students back in school who would have to forgo their studies for the three days that the workshop was being conducted.

His absence from his school meant that the students who came there would return without being taught. "I am the only teacher teaching at the Mongol Puri Urdu medium school. I teach all the subjects and to all five sections," he says. Each teacher attending the workshop that day at the Jamia Millia Islamia University had their own story to share about conditions of Urdu medium schools in India.

There are more than 1,000 schools in the country imparting education in Urdu medium. Earlier there were no institutes for the Urdu medium schoolteachers to update themselves, like their English counterparts can do through SCERT or NCERT. "The government has since then took steps towards the promotion of Urdu language and for uplifting the standards of Urdu and Urdu medium teaching in the country. Three centres for the professional development of Urdu teachers were sanctioned at the Maulana Azad Urdu University, the Aligarh Muslim University, and the Jamia Millia Islamia University. Apart from running training programmes, these centres also come out with help-books, handbooks, Urdu style manual reference books and other teaching and reading material as per requirement of the teachers and school syllabus. The three-day workshop was part of this effort," clarifies Ghazanfar Ali, director, Academy of Professional Development of Urdu Medium Teachers (APDUMT).

Full report here Times of India 

'I don't see pure milk-and-honey goodness in the poor'

Journalist Manu Joseph's debut novel Serious Men is about an extremely intelligent but crooked man whose obsession is to make his son be known as the first Dalit genius. He works in a science institute that is top heavy with Brahmins. The story is about whether Ayyan Mani manages to convince the world that his son is a genius, and what role Arvind Acharya, the science institute's chief, plays in it. Joseph, who takes over as editor of the year-old Open magazine in August, grew up in a Brahmin neighbourhood in Chennai, and spent two years in a Mumbai [ Images ] chawl. The book is full of sharp observations from these two worlds. In this interview with Rediff.com's Krishnakumar Padmanabhan, he speaks about 'very smart Dalit males', absent-minded scientists, and how different literature is from journalistic writing.

For a Christian who grew up in a Brahmin neighbourhood, how was it getting into the head of a Dalit character?
As a journalist I have met several Dalit men, many times for stories that have nothing to do with Dalits. I was always aware of a particular kind of a very smart Dalit male and the way he thinks or at least the way I think he things.

Also, when I first came to Bombay I lived in a chawl for two-and-a-half years. There I met some men whose views are very similar to Ayyan's. But the fundamental angst of Ayyan Mani and his perception of the world, life and science is my conjecture, my creation.

You mentioned 'very smart Dalit male'. What sets him apart?
What sets him apart is that he is a mathematical probability. In a set of so many people, one will be exceptional irrespective of culture, family background or upbringing.That anomaly is Ayyan Mani. He is not a product of his own culture. He is a freak, in a way. I say that about Ayyan Mani even though some of his traits are borrowed from the men I used to know.

Full interview here Rediff

Konkani luminary Ravindra Kelekar

Intellectual recluse who weaves motifs of the pantheon of Indian literature Ravindra Kelekar'affectionately known as Ravindrabab in the Konkani world'enjoys a unique halo as a Konkani luminary. More than being an outstanding writer, he has been an unstinting fighter to the core. An early activist in the manifold struggles for Goa including the liberation movement, the anti-merger campaign, the literary campaign for the recognition for Konkani as a full-fledged language, and above all, the reinstatement of Konkani to the pride of place as the state language of Goa, Ravindrabab has always been at the vanguard of the battle armed with Gandhian conviction and democratic values. As such, the virtues of egalitarian humanism, ethical probity, spirit of justice and secularism are inherent to his progressive mindset, his constructive activism and his bold espousal of truth.

Beginning as a unique historical awakening among the dispersed Konkani diaspora, the Konkani movement in the just-liberated Goa in the early 1960's branched out simultaneously into a linguistic revival, a literary renaissance and a socio-political campaign against Goa's intended merger with Maharashtra. This has been an epoch of unmitigated strife, setbacks and resilience with its own share of triumphs and tribulations in which Ravindrabab has had, with a handful of like-minded comrades, the lion's share.

Full report here Times of India 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chatterjee makes false assertions in book: CPI-M

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) on Monday said former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee's allegation that "disastrous" policies and "misguided" actions of the current leadership led to poll debacles was a view expressed by "a person who defected to the ruling etablishment".

The CPI-M said Chatterjee has made "a number of false assertions" in his forthcoming book ("Keeping the Faith: Memoirs of a Parliamentarian"). The veteran parliamentary was expelled by the party in July 2008, after he refused to resign as Lok Sabha speaker.

"It is totally wrong to say that five members of the politburo decided to expel him the day after the trust vote session of the Lok Sabha was held," the CPI-M said in a statement in New Delhi.

Chatterjee has attacked CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat and the Left party's leadership in his book to be released later this month. Explaining the circumstances under which Chatterjee was expelled, the CPI-M said "the decision to take disciplinary action against Chatterjee was taken at a pull Politburo meeting held July 19, 2008".

Full report here Hindustan Times

Indian words in literary English

Tracking Indian words in English has been a favourite topic with columnists in the Indian media. This decade has seen the publication of new editions of dictionaries, and each one has added new words from Indian sources, borrowed either in India or in England.

It is one thing to be interested in keeping count of new words, and quite another to see how Indian words have fared in literary works. In the early days of the British empire, Indian words were liberally used in communications or despatches sent to London by soldiers and civil servants who picked these up in India. Some words were even from neighbouring countries such as Malaya and Afghanistan, passing through India.

In the century following the founding of the East India Company, British writers introduced words from the East in their works. John Milton loved the East’s resonating proper nouns: “Of Cambalu, seat of Cathaian Can,/Samarkand by Oxus, Temir’s throne/To Paquin of Sinaian Kings; and then/to Agra and Lahor of Great Moghul” (Paradise Lost).

Thomas Moore in his poem Lalla Rookh also uses lists of sonorous names: “Malaya’s nectared mangosteen/Prunes from Bokhara, and sweet nuts/From the far groves of Samarkand.” Candahar is a pleasing combination of sounds, and corresponds to the Indian name, Gandhara. Poets were quick to pick up this word. Milton in Paradise Regained: “From Archosia, from Candaor east,/ And Margiana to the Hyrcanian cliffs/ of Caucasus, and dark Iberian dales.”

Full report here Mint 

Romancing the book in the time of rain

What better time to leaf through love stories than the monsoon. Take a man, a woman, an edgy locale - sprinkle passion, mystery, a whiff of history - and you are set for some perfect reading in the rains.
Romance is the flavour of the season as new books, fiction as well as non-fiction, reveal.

'All women are in love with the idea of a manly man who has an abiding passion for a woman for a lifetime,' says Toronto-based novelist Sarita Mandanna, whose new novel, 'The Tiger Hills', was released in India last week.

The book, published by Penguin-India, is woven around the ancient Coorgi tradition of tiger hunting and modern sensibilities. It is the story of a triangular love between Devi, a Coorgi girl born, Devanna, a motherless boy, and Machu, a tiger hunter.

Mandanna's inspiration, as she says, 'was the handsome men of Coorg who still hunt'. Coorg and its romantic history recur as the subject of CP Belliappa's new racy non-fiction The Lost Princess, a Rupa & Co publication.

Full report here Sify

Tipping the balance

Getting kids to read about the Indian Constitution is no mean task. And when the first lady of the high ranks of India's legal system, Leila Seth, decides to tell children a story, one sits up and listens in.

That she had a three-month old child in her arms when she became the first woman to top the London Bar exams is enough to have me starting an imaginary Mexican wave in a huge stadium, in admiration for her. But Leila Seth has many such milestones tucked away behind that disarming grandmotherly smile and grace.

If you thought lawyers and judges were all knotted up in complex legalese and were beyond understanding, you should have seen her disprove that with panache at the launch of her book “We, the Children of India - The Preamble to our Constitution” recently at Crossword, Bangalore. Leila Seth was the first woman judge of the Delhi High Court and the first woman Chief Justice of a state High Court in India. She will soon turn 80.

Targeted at children aged seven to 11, Leila Seth says she chose to work on the Preamble because it's a visionary statement. “Only if you have a vision, will you follow it,” as she explains. Children usually start civics as a subject in school at 12 and find it boring. “But the earlier they learn, the more it becomes a part of their daily living,” she says. In recent times, however, the NCERT text books show a big improvement and so there's no need for books on a similar line for the older age group, she feels.

Full report here Hindu

Rare Latin-Kannada dictionary reprinted

The early European missionaries who came to India contributed a great deal to the discipline of lexicography in Indian languages. However, as the British gained politically and English became the language of power, most works in other European tongues faded into insignificance.

Rediscovered
Two such forgotten lexicons of historic and linguistic importance — Kannada-to-Latin and Latin-to-Kannada dictionaries — compiled by Catholic priests of The Paris Foreign Mission Society in the mid-19th century have recently been discovered in the archives of St. Mary's Basilica, the oldest church in Bangalore.

The first, Dictionarium Canarense-Latinum, was compiled by Jean-Marie Auguste Bouteloup in 1855, and the second, Dictionarium Latino-Canarense, by Etienne Louis Charbonnaux in 1861.

To this day, these are the only dictionaries that translate directly from Kannada to Latin and vice versa. Both mention ‘Bengalori' as the place where they were printed. The latter has now been reprinted by the Akhila Karnataka Catholic Christara Kannada Sangha, after 149 years, and will be released in August.

Full report here HIndu

Monday, July 26, 2010

Poetry is this principal's elixir of life

He is a poet principal of a well-known school in the city and is involved in teaching his students to become better human beings first. Poetry for Hiren Desai, 50, among the few to write in Urdu, English and Gujarati, is his elixir of life. His latest collection of poems 'Fusion' will be out in the market by August-end.

The prevailing tension between India and Pakistan and its effect on their people finds echo in his couplets in Urdu. English poetry is all about the emotions of love while Gujarati poems show the way to life.

Rupin Pacchigar, former president, Sarvajanik Education Trust, said, "His poetry makes us believe in love and faith. He is a successful teacher because of poetry."

Full report here Times of India

‘Thiruppugazh’ for everyone

The F/236 flat in Swathi Nagar has a Tamil attire right from its doorsteps. The ‘kolams’ in front, the typical jasmine flowers, idols; everything pulls a visitor to an invisible Tamil connection here. Living in this congested flat complex in West Fort, S R Subrahmanyan Ayyar and S Subbalakshmi have been spreading the message of ‘Thiruppugazh’- a central work of mediaeval Tamil literature composed by poet-saint Arunagirinathar during 15th century - to city folk.

For this old couple, giving music classes on Thiruppugazh to interested people is the main activity post-retirement. Thiruppugazh is considered as the central work of mediaeval Tamil literature which outshines contemporary works with its distinct style and composition. “The language in this classical Tamil work has loaned words and usages from Sanskrit, Malayalam and Urdu. It visualises universal brotherhood and has intertextual connections with other epics in Indian literature,” says Ayyar.

Full report here New indian Express

To catch the English reader

The event was a little unusual. Anustup Publications, one of the longest surviving publishers of Bengali little magazines from College Street, launched an English academic text at Oxford Bookstore on Park Street on Friday.

Anustup, known to swim against the tide, now plans English publishing on a regular basis. Anil Acharya, founder- member of Anustup, explained his decision to publish in English: “If a sizeable segment of the readership now is reading only in English, it is prudent to address that segment.”

For a little magazine that has managed to survive for more than 45 years, Anustup surprised with its launch function on Park Street. There were many contradictions: Acharya began his speech referring to the 90-year-old bookstore as a “bourgeois, elite place”, something Anustup was not used to. The split level at the boutique bookstore was filled with economists and philosophy teachers from Jadavpur University and Calcutta University, a change from the usual crowd of Calcutta’s well-heeled. Present were Soureen Bhattacharya, a former economics professor of Jadavpur University, Achiranshu Acharya from Visva-Bharati and Calcutta University’s Rabindranath Bhattacharya to listen to Rinita Mazumdar’s work, titled Feminist Economics.

Full report here Telegraph

Arundhati Roy among world's 30 most inspiring women: Forbes

India-born head of PepsiCo, Indra Nooyi and author Arundhati Roy have been named by Forbes among the world's 30 most inspiring women, a list that also features Mother Teresa, Oprah Winfrey and Hillary Clinton.

"Role models mean different things to different people--some of us look for guidance in business, some in our personal lives, some of us strive to make the world a better place each day, some admire trailblazers," Forbes said.

Activist Roy comes in third on the list while Nooyi ranks 10.

The '30 Utterly Inspiring Role Models' list has been compiled by ForbesWoman.

Full report here Times of India

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Language gets a new face

Champa, a teenager, is happy that her spoken language has now got a script. A Bagatha tribal from the Araku Valley of Visakhapatnam district, she said a paper chart containing the script was presented to her husband, and that she will now spend some time learning it.

Champa has Prasanna Sree, senior professor in the Department of English in Andhra University, to thank for designing it. The professor has been working on the project for 19 years.

There are about 35 tribal groups spread over different regions in Andhra Pradesh. Out of them, 16 to 19 groups inhabit the hill regions of the Eastern Ghats.

Professor Sree picked 10 major tribes such as the Bagathas, the Gadhabas, the Jathapus, the Valmikis, the Kolams, the Porjas, the Koyas, the Konda-Doras, the Kotias and the Gonds, and designed distinctive and individual scripts for them.

On the process, she said, “Matru Matra is my style of devising a character for a language. Matru means maternal; Matra means alphabet or a letter. Each script designed by me is separate and with a distinct style.”

Full report here Hindu

Call to revive Krishnamayya's works

The message that the first Telugu Vaggeyakara Krishnamayya had given through his sankeertanas should be preserved and propagated for the benefit of posterity, port Chairman Ajeya Kallam has said.

At the inaugural of the Krishnamayya Jayantotsavam organised at the temple of Lord Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha at Simhachalam on Thursday, he said it was unfortunate that many of the verses of Krishnamayya had not seen the light of the day. He appreciated the efforts of the organisers to revive the works of the poet. He, however, said that instead of focussing on individuals, efforts should be made to revive their works.

Presiding over the programme, Ramachandracharyulu of Vizianagaram said it was unfortunate that successive officials of Simhachalam temple were pre-occupied with the temple lands issue and were not able to concentrate on the temple activities. He said some of Krishnamayya's works were available at the Manuscripts Library in Thanjavur.

Full report here Hindu

The big rally of India’s first people’s car

It was Sanjay Gandhi’s dream to make the people’s car in India, when owning a car was a luxury and Hindustan Motors and Premier Automobiles dominated the market. Sanjay had applied for a licence and got land for Maruti Motors in Gurgaon, Haryana. But commercial manufacture did not take off; the company made road rollers and bus bodies. After Sanjay’s death in an air crash in 1980, Indira Gandhi made sure her son’s dream came true. She involved Rajiv Gandhi and Arun Nehru, who  convinced her of the imperative of a foreign partner to roll out the project.

The story of the dream and reality is narrated from an insider’s perspective in The Maruthi Story-How A Public Sector Company Put India On Wheels by RC Bhargava with Seetha. The Maruti 800 has sold nearly three million units since it rolled out in 1983. Various other models have come out. RC Bhargava was a part and parcel of vicissitudes of the project and its expansion, and he (with journalist Seetha) explains the pushes, pulls, brushes, wounds and punitive actions encountered in his path.

Bhargava, a former IAS officer, says he would have become Cabinet Secretary, if had not quit to join Maruti. That he did makes him one of India’s foremost game changers. He played a leading role in a  success story that transformed the Indian car market. Bhargava admits that public sector units never thought of marketing their product or service and if some one stuck his neck out to earn money for the organisation, that person would be penalised! If Parliamentary committees are misled by vested interests, there is no end to the malicious proceedings for even sound and principled commercial decisions.

Full report here New Indian Express

Queer reads

A year after homosexuality was decriminalised, Shobhna Kumar has founded India’s first online LGBT bookshop.
It’s about mainstreaming,” says Shobhna Kumar, explaining why she co-founded Queer Ink, India’s first online LGBT bookshop (www.queer-ink.com). LGBT stands for “lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender”, and that is more or less the core demographic that celebrated, this month, the first anniversary of the decriminalisation of gay sex in India. On July 2 last year, the Delhi High Court decided the 150-year-old Section 377 violated fundamental human rights; so the law has at last ceased to apply to things that consenting adults do in private.

Now that people of alternate sexuality are no longer automatically criminals, another struggle remains: for acceptance and ‘mainstreaming’. Indeed, ‘queer’, although it is a less specific term than LGBT, avoids the context of sex. “Queer is not sexuality only; it is anything that is non-mainstream,” Shobhna Kumar explains, adding that “As a queer person, I live in the mainstream.” She lives, and Queer Ink is based in the middle-class seaside suburb of Malad in Mumbai.

You might wonder how mainstreaming is served if you’re setting up a queer-specific business and community. Kumar describes how she came to think of books as her route to normalisation. It started with a lacuna. “I’m a bookworm,” she says, “and when I came to live in Mumbai some years ago I looked and searched high and low for non-mainstream books. The fiction that interests me is not your average murder mystery or something. I like lifestyle books, non-fiction, anthologies. I don’t want to read about rich businessmen.” Eventually, she says, “I figured out that people don’t go to retail stores and pick up books like this.” Between the shelf and the cash counter, she says, other browsers and salespeople “look down” on people who choose certain kinds of books.
 
Full report here Business Standard

Ya, Mowgli son is on!

The 30-something author, who published his first book eight years ago, is now a veteran of a three-book fantasy series, some cool comics, a couple of screenplays and now a new series of “Young Adult” fiction, called YA. The YA list of Scholastic has kicked off with Basu’s ‘Morningstar Agency’ adventure series with the first title Terror on the Titanic just out on the shelf.

The book, launched at the South City Mall Starmark on Thursday, is about Nathaniel Brown, a Morningstar agent, who is on the Titanic to prevent a jewel from reaching America. He is Mowgli’s son.

Samit spoke on Indian publishing opening up to young readers and the may genres. “The world over it has been a golden age for children’s literature since 2001 with Harry Potter, Lisbeth Salander, the Percy Jackson series and so on.” But in India, there were only RK Narayan and Ruskin Bond, nothing contemporary. Kalpana Swaminathan was appreciated abroad but not in India, feels Samit.

The reason is not far to seek. “With poor marketing budgets, books weren’t getting visibility.” Except a Vikram Seth or someone with a million-pound advance. Samit was interested in writing a book for children. “But I write to make a living. I wouldn’t really be interested in something that wouldn’t sell. Besides, publishers didn’t want to touch anything unless they were sure of numbers.”
 
Full report here Telegraph

‘So who’s launching your book?’

If you want the media to show up, you must have a celebrity inaugurate it.” Seasoned boutique and jewellery store owners have always known this. Someone innocent once asked, “Why? Do the media buy a lot of clothes and jewellery?”
“No, dummy, the media come marching like a row of ants to a lump of sugar when the celebrity shows up, then buyers come to gawk at who the media is gawking at, and this is how people come to your store,” the seasoned merchant explains.

And the same thing applies to selling books too, now. Books, baubles, blouses... same difference. Beautiful people have to launch them, more beautiful people have to write about them, and only then is a book officially born. Writers may kid themselves, like I once did and say “Hello, I am the celebrity at my own launch, aren’t I?” But that attitude just won’t get the three-ringed circus going. So get with the programme, you writers, musicians and artists who think your job’s done once the creation is done.
 
Full report here Times of India

Masala moments

Jyoti Basu’s granddaughter Mallika is staying clear of the political arena, and cooking up a storm instead, says Amit Roy

Mallika Basu, the 32-year-old granddaughter of the late CPM leader Jyoti Basu, is over in India to promote her cookbook, Miss Masala: Real Indian cooking for Busy Living (HarperCollins; £14.99).

Married and settled in London, where she jokes she works as a “corporate superbitch” in public relations, Mallika is as entertaining as her book which is directed at ambitious career women keen to experiment with Indian cuisine. “Calcutta gave me three of my personality traits — an uncontrollable motormouth, an intense hatred of housework and a real love of food,” admits Mallika, who affects sharp Austin Reed suits, diamonds and Kurt Geiger high heels when she goes into client meetings.

Her mother, Dolly, has helped with recipes but it is her businessman father, Chandan, who inspired his daughter with his passion for food. He is said to be a dab hand at making biryani as well as jangli maas (“a super-spicy dish cooked slowly with equal quantities of goat meat and dry red chilli”).

Those who lament the lack of genuine Bengali food in Indian restaurants in Britain may want to try out Mallika’s recipes. For among other dishes there’s kosha mangsho, cholar dal, chingri malai curry, doi maach, maacher chop, mutton ishtew, and, in the sweets section, narkel narus, payesh and bhapa doi. “If I can do it,” she says, “any mug can.” There is an engaging honesty about her, as for example when she talks about the time when she came bottom in a beauty contest.

Full report here Telegraph

The next big thing?

She has reportedly bagged the highest ever advance from an Indian publisher for a debut novel. Her literary agent, David Godwin, is the same man who represented Booker prize winners Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai. Sarita Mandana, an MBA graduate, is already being hailed as the ‘next-big-thing’. We caught up with Mandana while she was in town to promote her novel, Tiger Hills.

Some critics are calling your novel India’s Gone with the Wind. Given how enduring an institution Gone with the Wind has proved to be, I’ll take that as a compliment. In all seriousness though, the two are different in content. What people might be reacting to when they make the comparison are — a period setting (Tiger Hills begins in 1878), central female protagonists (Devi is wilful and headstrong) and a deep rootedness to place (Tiger Hills is set in Coorg).

Your journey from being an MBA graduate to a novelist is fascinating. I graduated from IIM Bangalore, followed that with an MBA from Wharton, and have been working in a private equity firm in New York. There came a time where I’ve had a particularly stressful weeks at work.

Itching for a creative outlet, I booted up the laptop one night, and began to write. That first output became a short story; I wrote six more and tentatively, began to show them around. “Write a novel,” I was told. So, I did. Five sleep-deprived years later, I was ready with Tiger Hills.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Tharoor releases historical tale on India

A historical tale of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan's reign, told through the eyes of two European travellers, has been released. The Crimson Throne by noted writer Sudhir Kakar was released by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor who moderated a discussion between the author flanked by the ambassadors of France, Jerome Bonnafont and Italy, Roberto Toscano.

"The interplay of the perspective of two travellers dealing with the years of the rule of Dara Shikoh and the rise of Aurangzeb makes for good reading," said Tharoor who was making his appearance in the national capital after a break.

The book set in the 17the century India is a narrative by two travellers Niccolao Manucci and Grancois Bernier who arrive in India and find their way into the innermost circles of the Emperor.

The narrative is about how the country braces itself for the brutal succession to the Peacock throne.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Taslima asked to leave India

As the government is yet to decide on her plea for residential permit, controversial Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin may have to leave India soon and apply for a fresh visa because her travel document expires in them iddle of August. The 47-year-old doctor-turned writer is also trying for a  permanent residency in the country. Her visa is valid till August 16. Her application for granting a permanent residency in the country has been hanging in balance for years together.

Official sources said the government has already made it clear that Taslima's visa cannot be extended beyond August 16, 2010 as her travel document had been issued under the category.

Taslima, a Swedish passport-holder, had sought visa under the miscellaneous category in 2005 and it has since been extended initially for a year and later for six months. The visa under this category cannot be extended beyond five years.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Noted historian Sreedhara Menon dies

Noted historian and former head of the History Department of Kerala University, A. Sreedhara Menon, died in Thiruvananthapuramon on July 23, Friday. He was 84.

Prof.Menon had been ailing for quite some time. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

An acclaimed teacher and an authority in political history of the State, Prof. Menon was known for his simple style of writing. His books helped even the uninitated to gain a fair knowledge of history. He had served as a teacher for nearly five decades and authored about 25 books.

He did extensive research and studies on modern Kerala and A survey on Kerala History is one his noted works. Triumph and tragedy in Travancore and a series on the freedom movement in the State are also his widely discussed works.

Full report here
History makes for compelling books because they offer insights into our lives, says MP and writer Shashi Tharoor, who would love to write a historical fiction himself in future.

'Historical fictions are very important because they depict a different time period and throw fresh insight into our lives. They show how our lives derive from that time period. Reading historical fiction is a method of reconnecting,' Tharoor said, releasing writer and psychoanalyst Sudhir Kakar's new book, 'The Crimson Throne', at the French ambassador's residence in the capital.
The book, Kakar's fifth novel, is a window to the decadence of Mughal India during 30 years of emperor Shah Jahan's reign and the war of succession to the Peacock Throne between the emperor's tolerant eldest son Dara Shukoh and his astute sibling Aurangzeb.

It is a dispassionate study of the first clash within the spiritual mosaic of Islam - a war precipitated by Dara's religious inclusiveness and Aurangzeb's bigotry told by two European travellers.
 
Full report here Sify

Hinduism and modernity

The contemporary Indian novel might be said to have two strains. The first is the Indian novel in English, and its best-known representatives are household names: Salman Rushdie, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Chandra, Kiran Desai and Aravind Adiga. The second is the Indian novel in languages other than English, and who the great names are in this space depends very much on the language and geographical location of the reader. The English-speaking reader, relying solely on translations and looking down again from a pan-Indian perspective, might say that currently these are the Bengali novelists Sankar and Mahasweta Devi, the Tamil writer Salma, the Hindi writer Alka Saraogi, the Oriya writer Chandrasekhar Rath, and the Rajasthani folklorist Vijay Dan Detha.

One remarkable aspect of the Indian novel is that both these strains trace their origins in the work of one man, Bankimchandra Chatterji (1838-1894). The first Indian to take a BA under the new English-medium educational system set up by the British, Chatterji thereby came under the influence of the novel, then a prose form unknown in India. Chatterji’s first novel, Rajmohan’s Wife (1865), written while he was a young deputy magistrate in the newly established Indian civil service, was composed in English.

Full report here Mint

Ang Lee to begin shooting ‘Life of Pi’ in Kerala

Academy-award-winning director Ang Lee will soon begin shooting for his ambitious new project, the silver screen adaptation of Booker Prize winning novel Life of Pi, in the picturesque locales of Kerala.

The Taiwanese-American director had begun auditions for the lead in the film earlier this year and had made a stop-over at Mumbai for the Indian round of casting and later scouted for locations in Puducherry, where part of the film will be shot.

Contrary to reports that the film is on hold due to budget disputes with the producers, 20th Century Fox, the filming will commence soon and Lee is currently dividing his time between New York and Southern India.

“Lee has completed his recce in Kerala and Puducherry.

Full report here Hindu

Language pill for minorities

After jobs for Muslims, it's time for quality education. English education, in fact.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee will be walking the next crucial step when he lays the foundation for an English-medium madarsa at Suri in Birbhum on July 31 — possibly the first such madarsa in the country. Over the next few months, each of the state's 12 minority dominated districts will have such institutions.

In February this year, Bhattacharjee — who also holds the minority welfare portfolio — had adopted the Ranganath Mishra Commission's recommendations ahead of the Centre by reserving 10% quota for backward Muslims. And by deciding to set up 14 new English-language madarsas (including three in Murshidabad), the Left Front government has again admitted that it was wrong in dropping English in primary education in the 1980s. The CM had himself acknowledged this while re-introducing English from Class I in 2001.

The rectification process continued with the government setting up state-run English-medium schools this year. It will come full circle with the English-medium madarsas. So far, the teaching medium in Bengal madarsas has been Urdu, Hindi or Bengali.

Full report here Times of India

Friday, July 23, 2010

Craze for ebooks yet to catch on in India

Globally, on Amazon.com, the sales of ebooks may have outstripped the sales of hardcover books over the past three months. However, this does not appear to be the case in India.

Amazon’s Kindle, for instance, was launched in India in October last year. It was priced at around Rs 18,000. Yet, say analysts and industry sources, Amazon has not managed to sell more than 2,000 units in country.

“In India, I dont see ebooks finding a mass uptake before five years. While enthusiasts are buying ebooks on their devices, it has not yet reached the scale to send publishers running to convert physical copies into digital formats,” says V K Karthika, publisher and chief editor, Harper Collins (India).

“Kindle users are limited to ebooks (books in a digital form that can be read on devices like the Kindle or iPad) and similar multimedia content available from the Amazon store. This not only hinders user uptake but also limits distribution,” concurs Vishal Mehta, CEO and founder of Infibeam.com, which has launched its own version of an ereader at Rs 9,999. Mehta, who claims to have sold “several thousand” Pi ereaders, adds the market in India for such devices is estimated to be around 50,000 units annually.

“That (the rise in numbers) doesn’t have to mean that revenues have increased,” reasons Mehta, who is already seeing ebooks sales contribute up to five per cent of total sales on Infibeam.com. The entertainment retailer has announced that for every 100 hardcover books sold on Amazon.com in the last month, it has sold 180 ebooks for its Kindle ebook reader.

Full report here Business Standard

An idyll that ends in a nightmare

A game of cricket in the lawns of his house confronts the narrator of this novel, Ashwin, a 12-year-old boy with a dilemma. He has to answer at that very moment whether he is still a child. “No, I am not”, is Ashwin’s defiant response. Thus the story takes off.

The Sacred Grove is set in a small Indian town where Ashwin’s father is the district collector. Thanks to the government, as Ashwin says, they had the best house in town and it was not much of a town any way, with three main roads and no red lights. But Ashwin liked the town; it had heart, it had soul, people believed in the same things. That was what Ashwin and the driver Rafiq thought.

Though there is an inconsequential temporal sequence in the book, it is Ashwin who decides which incidents in his life he wants the reader to know. He chooses as he pleases and his concern is with the “here and now” told in the language that he speaks.

The story begins with Ashwin’s mother’s unexpected pregnancy. When his father tries to explain it to him, Ashwin is dismissive because he has learnt all that he needed to learn about reproduction in school. The narration continues with Ashwin’s triumphs in computer games and cricket, he describes his humiliation in football with unflinching honesty when he manages to kick the ball into his own goal. “My life stank. I wanted to die.” Ashwin is the urban middle-class everyboy.

Full report here Deccan Chronicle

Thursday, July 22, 2010

India's first RTI library named after Prakash Kardaley

Pune has become the first municipal corporation in India to have a Right to Information (RTI) library. Magsaysay award winner Arvind Kejriwal inaugurated the library that is named after Prakash Kardaley, a journalist from the city, who had a major role in the drafting of the Right to Information Act.

Calling Kardaley a guiding force in the RTI movement, Mr. Kejriwal said that it was only apt that the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) had named the library after him.

Till now the PMC was ensuring transparency by voluntarily disclosing information. It was keeping all the files open for inspection by public (Under Section 4 of the RTI Act) on every Monday, a PMC official said.

House of documents
The library, situated in the PMC building, will serve like a reference to all those seeking information. Instead of seeking information under RTI Act, now the people in Pune can get the information in the library itself. The minutes and the agendas of the meetings, all the contracts and agreements by the PMC and the elections details will be made available, PMC officials said.

Full report here Hindu

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garg in translation

Mridula Garg, a familiar name in the Hindi literary scene, is noted for her emphasis on women centric narratives. Extensively translated into languages including English, Marathi and Japanese, the author has been introduced to the readers of Malayalam fiction with the translation of her award-winning novel ‘Kathgulab’. The work is considered a landmark in the fictional oeuvre of this activist-writer who strongly identifies with the cause of women empowerment and environmental protection.

The translation by noted  scholar and writer K G Balakrishna Pillai and former department head of Hindi at the Kerala University, S Thankamani Amma, has earned the author a commendable readership in the state. The original text, which won Garg the ‘Vagdevi Samman’ in 2003 and the ‘Vayasa Samman’ in 2004, is a work that voices the disquiet of disintegrating patriarchal structure, falling apart to the inevitable female power that is striving to break free.

The story is divided into five parts, four named after the female protagonists - Smita, Mariyan, Narmada and Aseema - whose lives overlap each other’s in the mysterious patterns woven by fate. The translation has successfully carried down the vigour and life of the tale.

Full report here New Indian Express

Political poetry at its best: on the back of Pakistan’s rickshaws

Poems about price hikes, political pleas and even apologies to girlfriends; for busy rickshaw drivers, the best place to get their message across is the back of their vehicle. So how did the concept of "rickshaw poetry" come about?

The rickshaw came to the Indian subcontinent in the early 1930s, but it was only after the fuel crisis that followed World War Two that it became such a widespread commercial transportation solution.
Drivers started painting the back of their rickshaws in the late 1970s; not only in Pakistan but in India and Bangladesh too. The period was a very politically charged time for Pakistan. East Pakistan had just broken off (in 1971), and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the first democratically elected leader of Pakistan, was publicly hanged in 1979 after a controversial trial.

The next decade saw successive leaders come and go, and witnessed the deterioration of the social, economic and intellectual state of the country at the hands of unstable political conditions, religious extremism, corruption and mismanagement of resources. None of these wounds have healed to date, and it's not surprising that the cynicism of the middle to lower classes has come to be visible in rickshaw art and poetry.

The people who decorate the rickshaws are called ‘body makers', and they do work for buses, trucks and vans too. If the rickshaw user wants something painted, then the scripting and material charges would be around Rs. 1,000 to 1,500 [€9 - €14]. There's a sticker-based technique as well, which makes it easier to change the text, and it is cheaper too, at around Rs. 600 to 800 [€5 - €7].

Full report here France 24

Writer crafted novels for seven decades

Very few writers can boast of publishing novels across seven decades, let alone maintaining a loyal readership in that time.

Jon Cleary could, selling more than eight million books and winning fans from You Can't See Round Corners in 1947 to Four-Cornered Circle, his 56th title, released in his 90th year. It is an astonishing record of creative production, especially when you add to it his copious film and television scriptwriting.

Now the faithful if suitably battered 1948 Olympia typewriter on which he wrote most of those works is still. Cleary died on Monday, aged 92. For the past three years, he had been frail and house-bound, attended by a full-time carer, "glad to be retired, and pleased I don't have to do anything any more". In and out of hospital with age-related heart problems and with his steel-trap memory stalling, he was stoic and sustained by his faith, awaiting what he called "the great silence".

Full report here Australian

Amazon claims ebook sales milestone

For the first time, sales of ebooks outstripped those of hardbacks


It is an announcement that will provoke horror among those who can think of nothing better than spending an afternoon rummaging around a musty old bookshop. In what could be a watershed for the publishing industry, Amazon said sales of digital books have outstripped U.S. sales of hardbacks on its Website for the first time.

Amazon claims to have sold 143 digital books for its e-reader, the Kindle, for every 100 hardback books over the past three months. The pace of change is also accelerating. Amazon said that in the most recent four weeks, the rate reached 180 ebooks for every 100 hardbacks sold.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, said sales of the Kindle and ebooks had reached a “tipping point”, with five authors including Steig Larsson, the writer of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and Stephenie Meyer, who penned the Twilight series, each selling more than 500,000 digital books. Earlier this month Hachette said that James Patterson had sold 1.1m ebooks to date.
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Full report here Hindu

A grandma's tale

Everybody enjoys listening to grandmas' tales; tales of mystery, of romance, tales from the Ramayana, the Mahabharata …but most importantly often with a moral in the end. Well, Nandavanam is a grandma's tale, but one that was written by a grandma in her youth. The Malayalam novel, which has a fine blend of mystery, drama and romance, was written by 95-year-old Bharati Amma in her teenage years.

Says Bharati Amma with a smile: “I started writing the novel when I was 15 years old and completed it when I was 16. I wrote the story on scraps of paper. I didn't let anyone see the story when I was writing it as I was afraid their remarks may affect my thought process for the story and also my interest. When the novel was ready, I transferred it into ledgers a relative gave me.”

Full report here Hindu

Down memory lane

How do you describe a book that tugs at your heart strings and brings back memories you thought had long since trickled down the memory's sieve? Or relate to a tale of romance of the kind they used to have in times more leisurely: over poetic soirees, of a man who refused to take ‘no' for an answer, and even wrote in blood, and a lady who circumvented tradition? And, pray, how do you relate to Kaifi Azmi as a handsome young man? It is a privilege of those born before Independence, and a luxury to those who came into this world sometime after the Progressive Writers' Movement had begun to peter out. And how do you react to the marriage of a girl from an upwardly mobile family of Hyderabad, one of 12 brothers and sisters, to a man who had just words, powerful and passionate, to recommend himself? Well, Kaifi and I — A Memoir makes it not just possible but also delightfully plausible.

A Social scientist
It is a book that could have been written only by a raconteur with the skills of a social scientist. Shaukat, much loved, and greatly respected, reveals the eye of a social scientist and the heart of a poet, as she talks of her early years in Hyderabad, those years when the rich and the aristocratic ruled.

She paints a vivid picture of the time when the commoners were to disappear from the sight of the royal cavalcade. Many decades after those impressionable years, some of the horrific incidents refuse to fade from her memory. For instance, she recalls, an old man who refused to work was forced to stand through the night with a stone-slab tied to his back.

Full report here Hindu

There's a joker in the pack

I stumbled upon a fascinating piece by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman called The Myth of Asia's Miracle: A Cautionary Fable. It was written in the early 90s — therefore, it can be interpreted with the luxury of hindsight. Krugman analysed two earlier economic races: one between the US and Soviet Union (1950s through to the 1980s), and another between the US and Japan (1970s and 1980s). He cited plenty of popular commentary from those days, which read ominously like today's obituaries.

By way of example, he quoted economist Calvin Hoover (1957) who had predicted that “a collectivist, authoritarian state was inherently better at achieving economic growth than free-market democracies (and) the Soviet economy might outstrip that of the United States by the early 1970s”. Others asserted that “Japan would overtake the US in real per capita income by 1985, and total Japanese output would exceed that of the US by 1998”.

According to Krugman, these predications were bound to fail because they ignored the intangible force-multipliers of innovation, technology and competitive efficiency. He added that similar predictions were also being made then (do remember that 'then' were the early-90s!) about the US and China. 'The World Bank estimates that the Chinese economy is currently about 40 per cent as large as that of the US. If China can grow at 10 per cent annually, by the year 2010 its economy will be a third larger than ours.' Of course, at that time Krugman concluded that this comparison, too, could fail. Today we are in 2010, and we know that Krugman was right. Forget about being a third larger, the Chinese economy continues to be less than 40 per cent of the US even today.

Full report here Hindustan Times

Integral integrity

There is nothing new about bureaucrats turning authors. C.G. Somaiah, a retired Indian Administrative Officer based in Bangalore, joins the league with his book The Honest Always Stand Alone (Niyogi Books). The former Home Secretary, in this book records experiences as an upright officer who lives by the virtue of honesty. Through his account, beginning from his first posting as an assistant collector in Orissa to the hectic days of fighting terrorism in Punjab as home secretary, Somaiah, tells the reader, how tough it is for an honest officer to survive in a corrupt system. Somaiah in his long career has also served as Central Vigilance Commissioner and had a six-year tenure as Comptroller and Auditor General of India.

Speaking straight from the heart, Somiah's narrative takes the readers back to the days, when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India and gives a glimpse into the discussions that took place at the highest political level. The book was recently released by former President APJ Abdul Kalam, who found the book to be “an amalgamation of integrity and challenge”. Speaking on the occasion, Kalam said that an honest person might face some difficulties but ultimately he becomes a role model for many and thus he never stands alone.

The launch was also attended by Abid Hussain (former Member, Planning Commission), Ved Prakash Marwah (former Governor, Manipur, Mizoram and Jharkand) and, Pria Somaiah Alva (author's daughter).

Full report here Hindu

From Canada, about Coorg

One always writes what one knows best the first time, says Toronto-based Indian origin novelist Sarita Mandanna. And her novel, Tiger Hills, is indeed being hailed by the British press as a staggering debut achievement.

The book is a nostalgic tale of love and karmic destiny set amid the picturesque green slopes and the colourful ethnic culture of her native Coorg in Karnataka.

'Five years ago, when I began to write the novel, I knew it had to be Coorg. I was madly in love with the place where I spent several childhood years. The birth of the book was organic,' Mandanna told IANS in an interview here.

'The scenes were inside my head for a long time. The characters would crop up and render the story a life of its own. I felt that I was just a medium telling a tale.'

Full report here Sify

Book on Karkare an inspiration for PFI activists

'Who killed Karkare? The real face of terrorism in India', the book penned by a retired IPS officer which points an accusing finger at Hindu fundamentalism for the rise in terrorist activities in India, has become a handbook for the Muslim extremist outfits, including the Popular Front of India (PFI).

Within a short span of time after its release, the book that tries to trace the 'Hinduist links' behind the death of Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemanth Karkare, has been translated into various Indian languages, including Malayalam. The Malayalam edition of the book was brought out by Thejas Publications the publication wing of the Popular Front of India (PFI).

'Karkareye Konnatharu,' the Malayalam edition that was released in February is doing brisk sales, say the publishers.

Top sources in the State Police said that the book was widely read and circulated among PFI activists in the State as well as members of other Muslim extremist outfits. ''The book does not contain any objectionable content and hence we could not interfere in it, '' a senior police officer said.

Full report here New Indian Express

Is it a 'bloody' coup?

It’s shaken up the literatti and most certainly the twitteratti — for iconic cricketer Sachin Tendulkar’s limited edition book (reportedly 10 of which are already pre-sold) of his autobiography — with his own bloodmixed into the paper pulp — got people into a vociferous mood yesterday.

Proceeds from the same will be going towards the sportsman’s charity to build a school. However, society still had plenty of opinions.

Publisher and writer Shobhaa De tweeted, "Sachin’s blood and saliva in an 852 pages book costing $75,000, weighing 37kg? Aaaargh! This blood edition OPUS sounds bloody awful, almost sick."

When asked if she felt this amounted to going to bizarre lengths to publish a book, she said, “In today’s highly competitive times — anything goes! It’s a publishing gimmick and a very unique one at that!! As a publisher myself, I may find it in bad taste, but since the whole thing is charity-driven — what a bloody coup!”

Full report here DNA

Related news

'Blood on book, bizzare but laudable act of charity by Sachin'‎  NDTV.com
Biography contains Tendulkar's blood‎ Yahoo! Eurosport UK

Flavours of kitchen drama

The smell of wood fire permeates through this collection of short stories as does an earthy flavour reminiscent of food cooked with love and heightened emotions. Author Bulbul Sharma is a familiar name, having delighted many a reader with her mountain tales and hauntingly beautiful illustrations. She now returns with Eating Women, Telling Tales, a collection of nine insightful stories.

Set mainly in small-town surroundings, the stories transport the reader to a land criss-crossed with myths, superstitions, convoluted relationships and gender politics. Death stalks constantly in these stories which are diverse and engaging, spreading across the entire spectrum of emotions ranging from the chilling to the ludicrous. Thus, we learn about the goat that narrowly escaped being sacrificed, female spirits and their celestial squabbles, the breaking in of a wilful young bride, the feisty woman who thought nothing of leaping across the terrace wall to spend the night with the neighbour.

There is a charming unhurried air to the pace of the stories as the author weaves a vivid world of sights, sounds and aromas. Sharma is at her best when describing vegetables, flowers and silent gardens dreaming on in the shade of old trees and equally evocative are the pictures conjured of smoke-filled homely kitchens where a whole lot of things besides food keep simmering.

Full report here Asian Age

Maharashtra is right tosquash 'Shivaji'

The recent judgement of Supreme Court to end a ban on James Laine’s book on Shivaji has received belligerent reactions from political parties in Maharashtra, ruling party and opposition alike. The Maharashtra government banned the book in 2004 following an attack on the Bhandarkar Institute of Oriental Research where the author conducted his research for the book.

In Maharashtra, Shivaji is the symbol of Maratha pride and has a similar status as George Washington has in the U.S. or Subhash Chandra Bose has in Bengal. A number of major establishments in the state - airport, railway station, roads, schools, colleges — have either been named after him or were rechristened with his name. Owing to this revered position, any remarks which diverge from the age-old opinions about his life are deemed sacrilegious.

Full report here WSJ blogs

A blend of myth and fantasy

She thinks pen is a mightier tool than any powerful sword. Dynamic and talented, Nabila Jamshed, 22, comes across as any other girl her age. But deep down, you discover something more substantial. The international edition of her debut novel, Wish Upon a Time: The Legendary Scimitar, was recently unveiled by Roman Books.

True to its fantasy-fiction genre, the book promises unlimited fun. The storyline unfurls nuggets of myths, fairytales, supernatural elements, apparitions, warriors with sabres, winged creatures, et al. It takes readers into the world of Eyelash, a typical 15-year-old girl who is a bit more concerned with the unknown than with the known and is always ready to believe in something unbelievable. But what lies beyond the make-believe realm of otherworldly occurrences, bizarre beasts and grotesque gnomes, is a fibre of reality.

Targeted at the young-adult segment, stings of terrorism and jibes of politics are an extra bonus in the novel. A stickler for spreading world peace “with the power of ideas and imagination and in the process, translating the same into actions,” Nabila admits that she had always wanted to write a creative piece laced with the parameters of a mystical fantasy. “The USP of this tome is that it starts conversing with any given reader, irrespective of his/her age-bracket. It is not generation specific and ambles across all societies and time periods. One good advantage of trying my hand at this literary type is that it did offer me ample scope and space to toy with certain real issues and braid the same ith a tinge of mystery into the plotline,” she says.

Full report here Asian Age