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Excerpts: Women at War by Vera Hildebrand

women-at-warSINGAPORE – THE RANIS PREPARE FOR WAR

In the fall of 1943, young women began to enlist in the Rani of Jhansi Regiment of the Indian National Army in Singapore and in Rangoon. The RJR needed a base camp in Singapore, a facility that would provide secure lodging for the female soldiers as well as sufficient space outdoors for military training.To the Japanese military authorities, female infantry was a preposterous waste of money and when they learned of Bose’s idea, they protested. Regarding the RJR, the Japanese officers found it completely incomprehensible that Bose would allocate precious ordnance and rations to women.

One way the Japanese sought to prevent the creation of the Regiment was their unwillingness to allocate real estate in Singapore for the training of women for combat. The Japanese administration refused every abandoned property that Captain Lakshmi found and proposed as possible housing for the RJR. In the end, the Ranis did receive quarters, weapons, uniforms and training, but the cost of the RJR was borne entirely by donations from Indians living in Burma, Singapore and Malaya to the Azad Hind government, while the Japanese government financed only the male forces of the INA.

The chairman of the Singapore branch of the Indian Independence League, Attavar Yellappa, a barrister, consequently took upon himself the task of finding a home for the Regiment. He persuaded some of his wealthy Nattukottai Chettiar banker clients to fund the refurbishment of a dilapidated building, formerly serving as a refugee camp and currently belonging to the IIL. The property was enclosed with a high fence to shield the female soldiers from the curious eyes of Singapore citizens, and several new barracks were erected.The standing buildings were fitted with new plumbing, and bathing facilities were installed. After three weeks of around-the-clock activity, the Singapore Central Camp, the Ranis’ first training centre, was almost ready for the first contingent of volunteers to move in on the birth anniversary of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi.

In his inaugural speech at the RJR training camp on Waterloo Street in Singapore on 22 October 1943, Bose welcomed‘the first one hundred and fifty women’ who had moved in the evening before.

The opening of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment Training Camp is an important and significant function; it is a very important landmark in the progress of our movement in East Asia.To realize its importance, you should bear in mind that ours is not a merely political movement.We are, on the other hand, engaged in the great task of regenerating our Nation. We are, in fact, ushering in a New Life for the Indian Nation, and it is necessary that our New Life should be built on sound foundations. Remember that ours is not a propaganda stunt; we are in fact witnessing the re-birth of India. And it is only in the fitness of things that there should be a stir of New Life among our womenfolk.

Bose went on:

Since 1928, I have been taking interest in women’s organizations in India and I found that, given the opportunity, our sisters could rise to any occasion. … If one type of courage is necessary for passive resistance, another and more active courage is necessary for revolutionary efforts, and in this too, I found that our sisters were not wanting. … Unfortunately, Jhansi Rani was defeated; it was not her defeat; it was the defeat of India.

She died but her spirit can never die. India can once again produce Jhansi Ranis and march on to victory.

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Sahitya Akademi awards presented to 24 authors

New Delhi, Feb 22 (PTI) Twenty-four eminent authors writing in as many Indian languages were today conferred the Sahitya Akademi awards at the annual Festival of Letters.

The recipients were awarded a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh each for their “outstanding books of literary merit”.

Distributing the awards, Akademi President Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari said he hates to call it “award” and rather uses the word “honour”, as according to him the word award projects “monetary” side, which is nothing for writers of such merit.

 “In medieval times, Raja Inderjeet Singh rewarded Acharya Kheshavdass Mishra with some 20-odd villages for his writing, and one can quote so many instances like this. Now thinking of those days, this monetary award ranks nowhere.

“Thats why I say these writers are beyond any award. We, on our part, can only honour their writings and creations in ceremonies like these,” Tiwari said at the award ceremony.

The awarded literary works have been written in 24 Indian languages, including English, Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, Sanskrit, Bodo, Kashmiri, Manipuri, Nepali among others. Read more

Source: India Today


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Indian-American authors join anti-travel ban chorus

By Lalit K Jha

Washington, Feb 22 (PTI) Indian-American authors Jhumpa Lahiri and Anish Kapoor joined scores of other writers to oppose the controversial travel ban by US President Donald Trump, asking him to “rescind” his last months executive order.

“In barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days, barring all refugees from entering the country for 120 days, and blocking migration from Syria indefinitely, your January Executive Order caused the chaos and hardship of families divided, lives disrupted, and law-abiding faced with handcuffs, detention, and deportation,” about 70 eminent American writers and artists wrote to Trump.

They called on the US President to “rescind” his executive order of January 27, 2017, and refrain from introducing any alternative measure that similarly impairs freedom of movement and the global exchange of arts and ideas.

In doing so, the executive order also hindered the free flow of artists and thinkers ­ and did so at a time when vibrant, open intercultural dialogue is indispensable in the fight against terror and oppression, the writers and artists said in a letter dated February 21. Read more

Source: India Today


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Review: Ice: A Farooq Reshi Investigation by Praveen Swami

By Aminah Sheikh

iceLadakh district — a bikers’ paradise and the dream destination of travel junkies — prides itself in not only the gigantic mountains of the Himalayan range and its enchanting sceneries, but also in a historic place — Kargil. Kargil lies in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and stands witness to infiltrations, the Indian armed forces guarding the borders and the lives of locals that are mired in politics. Lives that come under the scanner for merely having homes in sensitive regions; the mysterious deaths of locals that get swept under the carpet as deaths caused by “suspicious activities”; images that echo across media channels, if headline worthy.

Praveen Swami’s short story “Ice: A Farooq Reshi Investigation” published by Juggernaut Books is thought-provoking. An expert on Islamist terrorism, Praveen is known for his skilled investigative journalism in conflicted regions of India. “Ice: A Farooq Reshi Investigation” draws upon various dimensions from his years of award-winning reportage, and provides a fresh perspective on grave and sensitive issues with non-intrusive slap-stick humour.

The story is written as a personal account, or rather, a narration by the protagonist Farooq Reshi, Kargil’s Superintendent of Police, as he is pushed out of his lazy chair to investigate the case of four dead “Buddhist” shepherds, assumed to have been killed by Lashkar terrorists. Infamous among peers for his obnoxious behavior when drunk, Farooq’s demeanor reminds the reader of Sherlock Holmes, as he goes about solving the case.

“Nothing happened in Kargil. Nothing that concerned the police, anyway. Every once in a while, someone would get drunk and beat up someone else, or someone would run off with someone else’s wife, and there would be a bit of a to-do about it, and somebody or the other would disappear, never to be heard of again. No one troubled us for assistance on that sort of thing, though: they’d realized it’s faster, and a lot cheaper, not to involve the police in their problem.”

…This sets the tone of a story that is gripping in its revelations. It mocks the hypocrisy of authorities with simplicity in expression – an underground bedroom, reserved for newly married officers to protect them from Pakistani troop’s artillery, bears “loud-red Tibetan kitsch dragons, playfully curled around mirrors…”

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Singapore: The Poetry Festival invites entries for National Poetry Competition 2017

The Poetry Festival (Singapore), formerly called the National Poetry Festival (NPF), is calling for entries for the National Poetry Competition 2017.

Each participant is encouraged to submit his or her best poem, which should be unpublished and not submitted simultaneously to another competition, by midnight on March 31, 2017. Chinese, Malay and Tamil entries will be judged in the original mother tongues. English translations are required for readers in other languages.

The winning entries and merit awardees may be featured in the Poetry Festival (Singapore) in July and published in the Sg Poems 2017-2018 anthology. Winners will receive trophies, certificates and book vouchers.

The competition details are below:   

Categories: Junior (below 18 years old) and Senior (18 years old and above)
Length: Up to 40 lines
Language: English, Chinese, Malay or Tamil
Theme: Regardless of Race

The violence and mayhem caused by race riots in the nation’s formative years highlight the need for harmony and cohesion in this multiracial society. But more can be done to address biases and to realize a vision in which all are brothers and sisters under the skin. Poetry can provide a space for everyone on this island to seek respect and to realize dreams regardless of race.

You can send entries to nationalpoetryfestival@gmail.com in Word and pdf formats.

See the National Poetry Competition rules and entry form at http://www.nationalpoetryfestival.sg/poetry-competition.

The Poetry Festival (Singapore) offers a programme of lectures, panel discussions, readings, displays of poetry and interpretations in the other arts and workshops by both established as well as emerging poets. Among the NPF’s directors are Cultural Medallion winner Edwin Thumboo, critically acclaimed poets and academics Tan Chee Lay, Azhar Ibrahim, as well as educators from LASALLE College of the Arts, Republic Polytechnic and the National University of Singapore Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

 


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Endeavouring for peace in South Asia through literature

New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) A literature festival is all set to bring artists from South Asia — sans Pakistan — together, aiming to endeavour for peace in the region.

The South Asian Literature Festival will be organised by the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL) from February 24 to February 26 at the India International Centre here.

The 30th edition of the festival will revolve around the themes of “Beyond Borders” and “Endeavouring for Peace and Tranquillity in the Region”. Read more

Source: Yahoo News


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How this Pakistani cop-turned-author’s books are inspired by real-life crimes

By Adila Matra

Pakistani crime writer Omar Shahid Hamid comes with a lot of know-how of the criminal world. He has been a police officer in Pakistan for 16 years and a senior member of Karachi police’s Counter Terrorism Department. And that familiarity, paired with a knack for words, translate on to the pages of his books.

The Prisoner was the first book that was born out of his five-year sabbatical from the force, and held uncanny resemblances to the underbelly of Karachi–the policemen, politicians and gangsters included. Another book later, Hamid is back with the same grit and a more complex, bone-chilling plot in The Party Worker. Read more

Source: India Today


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Book Review: This Wide Night by Sarvat Hasin

By Lakshmi Menon

this-wide-nightSarvat Hasin’s This Wide Night has been described as Little Women meets The Virgin Suicides. While this is not entirely wrong and there are some clear parallels between the works, the description belies the levels of meaning the author has packed into this work, and the comparisons fall short.

The majority of the story is told through the eyes of Jimmy, who, like Laurie in Little Women, is fascinated by the women who live in the house across the street from him. As he learns more about them, to live among them and love them, so do the readers. We grow to share his fascination with the Malik sisters – the beautiful Maria, firebrand tomboy Ayesha, shy Bina and the petulant Leila, and their mother Mehrunnisa who is as lovely as she is mysterious. In the absence of the patriarch of the household, Captain Malik, these women form parts of a whole that does not leave any room for outsiders. Even as Jimmy feels welcomed into their world he is aware that he will never be completely privy to it. They share “an invisible net of sisterhood” that he cannot penetrate, try as he may.

Through the course of the novel, we watch Jimmy try to find a balance for the failings of his own life. A loner in many respects, it is in this intimate shared space that he is invited into that he finds solace, even as he is aware that their world isn’t exactly considered “ordinary”.

No one lived as these girls did, no other mother would have allowed these freedoms. But even this freedom was not boundless. There were things you could live in the world without and things you could not. This was not a city for hiding sins or secrets.”

The isolation of the Malik girls from society in general becomes a real, physical thing in the latter part of the book, when circumstances force them to move to an island off Karachi, and Jimmy is aware of what it entails to share a roof with the women.

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The Karachi Literature Festival needs disruption to win back Pakistan’s literary heart

By 

Harris Khalique verbalised my thoughts at the eighth edition of the Karachi Literature Festival (KLF) exactly when, during the launch of his book Crimson Papers, he mused, “Why do I write? And what difference will it make?”

He revealed this as the question he struggles with endlessly, and it occurred to me how this is what literature festivals ought to examine today. Because as borders become impermeable, as walls go up between people and as bans become common, a conversation about the limits of literature and language to bridge divides — or the new ways in which writing must be appropriated to effect change — becomes essential.

This year’s KLF felt smaller and more subdued than its predecessor. The festival clearly suffered from tensions between India and Pakistan as only a handful of Indian authors made it across the border. Read more

Source: Images


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Amazon India’s Matrubhasha Bookstore Aims at Promoting Regional Literature

With the Centre declaring February 21 to be celebrated as ‘Matrubhasha Divas’, e-commerce portal Amazon.in has launched the Matrubhasha Bookstore wherein book lovers and reading enthusiasts can lay their hands on a wide selection of books in Indian languages.

Amazon India is offering great prices and discounts on their favourite vernacular titles, on February 20 and 21, to celebrate Matrubhumi Divas. This is aimed at promoting titles in regional languages and literature and also giving a boost to budding Indian authors and publishers.

Users can get access to over one lakh books in eight language bookstores that include Hindi, Kannada, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Gujarati, Telugu and Malayalam. Read more

Source: News18.com