Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Snapshots from the tsunami coast, Kashmir and Jharia

worker in Dhanbad district, Jharkhand; sulphurous smoke emission from fissures in the earth around the edge of a vast open cut in Dhanbad district, Jharkhand; Kashmir — Ghulam Nabi Khan.I recently had the pleasure of viewing a collection of photographs by Srikanth Kolari. Srikanth launched our tete-a-tete by declaring that he was not a media-savvy man of words. He hoped his images would speak for themselves and impress viewers with their range of emotions and ideas.

His image of the hands of a coal mine worker (see left), like his other photographs, does just that. They show pain, struggle, fear and the grim determination to face another hard day.

Srikanth Kolari’s photographs of life in the burning coalfields of Jharia in Jharkhand, conflict-corners of Kashmir, and the tsunami-hit coast of Tamil Nadu urge viewers to seek out and interpret deeper stories behind each image. He portrays the many shades and shadows of grief, compelling us to confront deep-rooted scars and festering emotional wounds. A major underlying theme of all Srikanth’s projects is the problems faced by humanity. He strives to “focus the spotlight” on poor, marginalised people living on the edge.

Srikanth’s images from coastal Tamil Nadu show the many scars left by tsunami. The care-worn face of Amma Kannu shows stoic forbearance as she stands at the threshold of her dark, empty home. Her husband, a fisherman, was swept away by the sea. His body was never found. She herself was carried all the way to the mangroves and rescued by some villagers. She now lives all alone with her two goats and haunting memories. Today, fishermen continue to brave the waves in flimsy catamarans; tiny specks in the horizon vulnerable to choppy waters and angry grey skies. Even children take makeshift rafts into the mangroves and backwaters in search of fish. They have lost everything; their homes, loved ones, and their boats and fishing nets, the tools of their livelihood. Their memories haunt them and they fear the wrath of the sea. Yet, they have no choice for they must eke out a living. The progress of rehabilitation projects is pathetic. Ruins of slums along Marina beach await fresh construction. Some new houses provided by the local NGO in low lying areas of Kadalur district get flooded after just a few hours of rain. Yet, life goes on. It must. Fishermen and shoppers strike bargains in the daily fish market on Marina beach, Chennai. Dark clouds loom ominously overhead, while the furious sea roars in the backdrop. A crow flies off in a halo of light; a harbinger of hope or warning of disasters. Srikanth leaves it to viewers to make their own interpretations.

Read my complete account in Deccan Herald

Monday, April 04, 2011

flights of fantasy with Samit Basu

Terror on the TitanicUntouchableThe Simoqin Propheciesmanticores-secret-cover.jpgunwaba-th.jpg
I first met bestselling and critically acclaimed author Samit Basu during Bookaroo 2010.  Participating in his session was an educational experience for a new author like me. Of course the 'education' came wrapped up in oodles of fun. Warm, unassuming, and inclusive, he welcomed ideas from his young (with a smattering of oldies) audience to come up with ideas for a wild and wacky new fantasy. So we had a whale of a time figuring out what a gang of rogue penguins, who were afraid of icy water BTW, would do in Antarctica. Fight flambouyant pirates, save the universe from sinking into a black hole, and outwit a martial arts ace fashionista woman warrior with a taste for chocolates and... we played and tossed about the most outlandish ideas and... voila! Did we see the core of a new story here? As everyone brainstormed, they agreed on one thing for sure. A hint of romance in our story? Yuck!

Samit Basu is a multi-faceted writer with a distinctive voice. Novels, short stories, comics and screenplays, he’s done it all with aplomb. He has created complex sometimes ominous, sometimes whimsical worlds featuring scantily clad centauresses, flying carpets, pink trolls, belly dancers and homicidal rabbits, all working toward or against destroyng a flawed, magical world and defeating the gods at their own game. His latest book, Turbulence, is more mainstream; with imaginative takeoffs from our real world. Aman Sen’s ragtag gang of rogue superheroes can together “stop global warming, turn the Sahara into a rice bowl, find alternatives to oil, stop the damned recession. The kind of things superheroes would do in comics, except the Rural Infrastructure Development League comics wouldn’t really sell well.”
Writing fascinating and imaginative entertainers isn't easy at all. It requires meticulous attention to serious craft.

Samit doesn’t believe writers are only 'agents of entertainment' . It's certainly not true that deep writing can’t be popular and accessible. "Most of the books that really stay with readers are both complex and popular", Samit says. "I don’t go around calling my own books deep, but they’re certainly not shallow, and they’re all fairly complicated, but they sell just fine. I don’t think anyone writes or reads for pure entertainment. I’m actually very serious about the writing. But I like writing about people and situations that are fairly eccentric, so it sort of flows from there. I think humour only works when it’s organic, when it flows from the characters or from the situations these characters are in. "

My interview with Samit Basu is published in Reading Hour

Friday, April 01, 2011

No more Fukushima

While all of urban India gears for a blockbuster World Cup Cricket final showdown, some of us continue to share the pain and show solidarity with the people of Japan. Messages are being exchanged among writers and intellectuals voicing concern for the plight of the people of Japan. May the world  never see another Fukushima or Chernobyl.

Renowned authors Mridula Garg from India and Yuko Tsushima from Japan have shared this deeply moving message

Dear Dear Mridula,

I want you the voice from India "No more Fukushima!".
I believe we have to now cooperate against Nuclear power plant
and also of course, nuclear weapons for our planet with deep,strong anger.

I know your own philosophy, and I learned from you the beautiful word "Dependence". All of us, all of lives are connecting, we are altogather in this world. Yes, it's true.I think now we should act as one of novelists for our planet and all of lives on this planet. At first we were shocked and then weeping for this disaster, but now we got angry with the voice "No more Fukushima!".

When we visited you in New Delhi, it was the time many Japanese papers said India and Paki will soon begin the nuclear war, and already American embassy or Japanese embassy returned to their countries.I am feeling now this case is very similar with our case.Every people on this Earth has so great fear about nuclear power always!
Please, tell your friends "No more Fukushima!" in India. Please, give your voice "No more Fukushima!" to me, I will send it my friends, the novelists, the poets and so on all over the world.
with deepest love,

Yuko Tsushima

Here's another message from Author and journalist Ammu Joseph:

May I take this opportunity to share a statement drafted by Romila Thapar and Praful Bidwai regarding the

grave nuclear crisis in Japan and its implications for India? The aim

is to enable citizens, and not just "experts," to engage in the debate.

The idea is to publish the statement in the press and on the internet to

build up public pressure for an honest and serious evaluation of the

situation, especially vis a vis India's nuclear programme. If you wish to endorse the statement, please e-mail Praful Bidwai asap. I'm sure the statement would be greatly strengthened if well-known creative writers like all of you (who can't be dismissed as part of the "anti-nuclear camp") sign on.

And do circulate widely

Japan’s nuclear crisis is a wake-up call for India
We deeply regret the death and devastation caused by

the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and are gravely concerned at the disaster

at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station,

where reactors suffered serious accidents damaging their cores, and released

harmful radiation, resulting in radiation burns and other injuries.
Fukushima’s radiation releases have contaminated drinking water in Tokyo, 220 kilometres

away. According to preliminary estimates based on data from a United Nations

agency, Fukushima has already released about one-fifth as much iodine-131 as

the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, and half as much caesium-137; both cause

cancer. The crisis shows that even in an industrially advanced country, nuclear reactors

are vulnerable to catastrophes irrespective of precautions and safety measures.

Small individual incidents in them can spiral into serious mishaps. The

earthquake cut off primary power supply to the reactors. The backup power

failed with the tsunami. Loss of cooling water precipitated the crisis. Two

weeks on, Fukushima remains a threat to the public.
The Japanese nuclear crisis is a wake-up call for India, which has launched a huge

nuclear expansion programme. Yet, instead of acknowledging the gravity of the

crisis, our Department of Atomic Energy has cavalierly minimised it, described

it a “purely chemical reaction”, and declared that Indian reactors cannot

undergo serious accidents.We strongly believe that India must radically review its

nuclear power policy for appropriateness, safety, costs, and public acceptance,

and undertake an independent, transparent safety audit of all its nuclear

facilities, which involves non-DAE experts and civil society organisations. Pending the review, there should be a moratorium on all further nuclear activity, and revocation of recent clearances for nuclear projects.