Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Things are going from bad to worse, and carping about it seems to be today's mantra. We make the right noises and then give up and watch from the sidelines, making the unacceptable acceptable by our passive tolerance. What we just might need is a whiff of not-so-fashionable idealism. Read my take in bangalore mirror
Sunday, March 28, 2010
I learnt so much about a city I've never lived in while working on this, that I want to share.
The piece is based on a meeting with Kolkata based photographer Saibal Das,and viewing his striking images of his city. The photo shows the Tagore family mansion (Thakurbari) in Kolkata, a focal point of the Bengal Renaissance. New art, literature and social reform movements took roots here. Today, the mansion houses a museum and the Rabindra Bharati University.
Kolkata is home to such diversity of people from different backgrounds, all celebrating their native festivals. There's old world charm and glory set against a huge ad of a popular MNC produced cola. People arriving with dreams, seeking, failing, and trying to rise again. Practical but mundane necessities humorously juxtaposed against fading glory, pipal trees growing in a surge of new life from the crumbling walls of dilapidated edifices; the ace lensman captures all this and more.
Isn't this what we too, strive to do as writers? Read the full published article here
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Unbordered Memories; Sindhi stories of Partition translated by Rita Kothari
Rita Kothari has selected and translated into English narratives by first-generation Sindhi writers from both sides of the border exploring the Sindhi experience of Partition and the creation of Pakistan.
Unlike those displaced by the Partition of Punjab and Bengal, the Sindhi Hindus did not have a place to call their own when they arrived in India, since Sindh was retained entirely by Pakistan.
In Mohan Kalpana’s story, ‘In Exile’, an Indian Sahib explains the precarious condition of a refugee from Sindh. “Right now, you are neither in India nor Pakistan. You are a refugee. A refugee! You do not have a home either here or there.” Confused and pained Joharmal in Narayan Bharti’s ‘The Claim’ expresses poignantly the Sindhi experience of losing forever not just farmlands or a house, but an entire ethos, lost friends and neighbours, streets, rivers of a homeland which belongs to every Sindhi.
Apart from the recurring Partition fiction trope of a difficult and sorrowful journey of millions of people leaving their homeland, these stories also explore how those who stayed behind in the new Pakistan had to come to terms with a suddenly unrecognisable nation. According to Acharya Kripalani, Sindhis of all faiths were “powerfully influenced by Sufi and Vedantic thoughts. This made for tolerance.”
The threat to Sindhi Hindus after the formation of Pakistan became strong after Muslim immigrants driven out from the rest of India entered Sindh. These stories explore how hatred was spread amongst a peaceful and prosperous community. Khanu the barber in Sheikh Ayaz’s ‘The Neighbour’ “began to wonder how he would be able to slit the throats of those he had spent hours with, eating and drinking and making merry in their company.” Vishnu Bhatia in ‘The Uprooted’ portrays the spread of communal hatred and the seemingly foolish yet touching refusal of an old refugee to accept this. “How long could anyone have lasted shrouded in fear? People who had never thought of themselves as Hindus or Muslims now knew that Hindus were infidels, and Muslims, scoundrels. So much for brotherhood! Hindus have no right to live on this land. A political decision managed to do what pandits and moulvis could not. Hatred had spread like poison and an entire community was uprooted from its land and thrown into the waters of the Arabian Sea.”
Today, Kothari points out, the Sindhi community has spread out all over the world, successfully establishing themselves in business and various professions. Yet even those living in India cannot visit Sindh or even afford to talk about it, since Sindh now lies in what the rest of India considers a hostile foreign country. Sindh is now an idea without physical dimensions, a place which Sindhis cannot even visit in reality or memory. This perhaps explains why Sindhis have maintained silence about their past and rarely shared their wounds and stories.
As a sociological and historical document, this collection is invaluable. Capturing the finer nuances of Indian languages in English translations is always a huge challenge. While the translation is capable, these stories do by and large read like writing by a single author, and not by the several writers whose styles and viewpoints comprise this collection. (review published in Deccan Herald)
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Come, Before Evening Falls by Manjul Bajaj
Hachette India , 238 pages
Manjul Bajaj’s debut novel is a strong, passionate story well told. The author offers insights into the culture, history and psyche of the Jat people of northern India’s heartland. Set in a Jat hamlet near Delhi in 1909, this is a tale of proud, upright men and women who will die to uphold the honor of family, community and country. The subtle feminist approach works well with full blooded women juxtaposed against well fleshed out and likeable male characters. The novel begins as a smoldering love story, with the threat of deadly social taboos simmering in the backdrop. The author interweaves social practices which sadly continue even today in pockets of rural India, such as the terrible practice of honor killings.
Read my complete review in Kitaab
I recently read and enjoyed Monkey Man by K.R. Usha.
Monkey Man by K. R. Usha
Penguin (India), 259 pages
K. R. Usha’s latest novel takes a fresh, deeply sensitive and insightful look at life in Bangalore, India’s fastest growing city. Shortlisted for the for the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize and winner of the Vodaphone Crossword prize for her previous novel, A GIRL AND A RIVER, this consummate storyteller takes readers into the heart of a city zooming beyond the technological stratosphere while teetering on the brink of chaos.
Read my complete review in Kitaab
Saturday, March 06, 2010
With exam season looming ahead, a single day saw two young students from our city buckling under pressure and ending their own lives (BM, Feb 27). Shocked and sorrowful, we demanded that this malaise stop right now. As the day advanced, business resumed as usual after appropriate expressions of sadness. It’s easy to blame a faceless and ambiguous SYSTEM and sit back and expect an equally vague AUTHORITY to set things right. But are we as detached from the system as we would like to believe? Don’t we, and “people like us”, also contribute to make this very ‘system’ what it is? Let’s take a closer look at the problem and consider how best to make a difference by means within our own reach. Read my full argument here, in Bangalore Mirror