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We play often in public, my husband and I, as we walk through shopping malls, in private as we stroll through empty garden parks, or stand by the sea at the beach or at the harbor’s front. I play and joke and tease him with my words. I like to remind him of past events, either a mistake or a funny joke, and make him take responsibility for his foolishness. One of our most repetitive banters is about Alexa, the Amazon machine that enables you to control many connected devices, such as bedroom lights and stereo music. When he mentions Alexa to my friends, or his, I would dramatize a head-shaking-sigh and say, “So jealous. His mistress. Even in our bedroom he calls for her.”

One day when we were alone on a walk, I said, “Don’t talk about her, Alexa. Makes me jealous.” His reply, which came quite spontaneously was, “If tech is your enemy, then food is mine.” I did not have a response. I was caught with my hand in my panties and, once again, had been painfully and loudly reminded of the fact that I played and joked and teased him with my words because I did not know how to do so with my body.

This is an excerpt from the lectures of India’s first Minister of Education and well-known freedom fighter, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. This is part of a series of lectures that he delivered during the Khilafat movement (1919-1922) in India during the British Raj. This movement was one of the key developments in India’s struggle for freedom which brought Hindus and Muslims together on one political platform under the leadership of giants like Gandhi, Azad and the Ali Brothers.

Evocative and alluring , Namrata reviews Laksmi Pamuntjak’s Fall Baby (Published by Penguin SEA, 2019)

Somewhere in mid-flight, it occurs to me that I’m still at home and without a home; its just that now there are two homes instead of one and that must count for something.

With lines akin to poetry, Pamuntjak’s latest novel Fall Baby is a compelling read. Interestingly, one of the main protagonists of this novel, Siri, is the illegitimate daughter of Amba and Bhisma, the protagonists of Laksmi Pamuntjak’s award winning first novel, Amba/ The Question of Red.

Laksmi Pamuntjak is a bilingual Indonesian novelist, poet, journalist, essayist and food critic. Her debut novel Amba/The Question of Red won many awards and has been translated into several languages followed by her second novel, The Birdwoman’s Palate which was adapted into a movie.  She writes across genres dabbling in a poetry collection, a food guide, collection of short stories on painting and a treatise on violence and the Iliad.  Pamuntjak also writes opinion and features articles for various Indonesian publications.

A glimpse of the poems written by Pravat Kumar Padhy in his poetry collection, The Speaking Stone (Published by Authorspress, 2020)

The Speaking Stone is a tree of beauty, where the poet muses about nature that is the open text of truth and mysteries. I believe that Divinity is the embodiment of truth and that truth is love and peace. This truth breathes in the grass, sand, sky, mountains, sea, clouds and others objects of this collection. Poet unmasks this truth to present the soul of these poems.

– Stephen Gill, Poet and Novelist, Canada

In conversation with author Osman Haneef, about his debut novel Blasphemy (Published by Readomania, April 2020) and his inspiration behind it all.

Osman Haneef dons many hats with equal élan. He has worked as TV actor, a strategy consultant, and a diplomatic adviser, and was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2017. Recently, he made his debut as an author with Blasphemy.

Haneef’s debut story of a Christian boy in Pakistan accused of blasphemy is gut-wrenching and thought-provoking. As noted writer and journalist Aatish Taseer says, ‘In this novel of quiet creeping horror, Haneef forces us to confront the supreme evil that lies at the heart of Pakistan’s Blasphemy law.

Team Kitaab was in conversation with him recently, where we spoke about his debut novel, his inspiration behind it and the journey so far, before giving us a glimpse of what’s in store for his readers in future.

My bathroom door at home requires an extra push to be opened. This frustrates me a little, because the one in my hostel functioned differently –all I had to do was unbolt it. I think about how we know things. And people. I know that if I position myself between the beige sofa and the plants in my hall, I can watch the sun sink into a patch of green trees, between two skyscrapers. 

I am so accustomed to a certain kind of life, but change is here. She is sitting with me by the staircase, waiting for me to walk through the door. When I’d wake up in the morning and see my roommate still in bed, I knew I could afford to go back to sleep – she always rises with the sun. Back home in Bombay, I have been robbed of this unique way of telling the time.

“Is this how you want it?” Sameera says. The pain is clear in her eyes,  words and  face. 

“If he refuses, maybe Baba will listen…,” Ayla words fall crippled and deformed from her lips. The lounge falls silent.   

It is hard to remember this lounge being this silent. I remember so many green and red blobs of mint-chutney and ketchup had dripped on this coffee table, and we used to wipe them away with our fingers quickly before Sameera came back from the kitchen with the next batch of hot pakoras. But there are no pakoras cooking today, no blobs of chutney either. No laughter or requests for one more cup of chai. Only solid, paralyzing silence. 

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As a book-lover, if there is one thing that we might have missed in this lockdown the most, then it would be bookshops and libraries. So here’s a bit of happy news for all the book lovers in Singapore.

The National Library Board has announced that, “The National Library Building, the National Archives of Singapore building, our 25 public libraries and the Former Ford Factory will reopen to the public on 1 July 2020 with shorter opening hours and capacity controls in place. This is in line with the safe reopening measures under Phase 2 and to safeguard the health and safety of our patrons and staff.”