Namrata talks about Anuja Chandramouli’s latest book, Mohini: The Enchantress ( August, 2020) calling it an attempt to paint a fresh image of Mohini in the reader’s mind.
“Elusive as a fragment of a forgotten dream, fragile as a figment from fantasy, Mohini is perfection made possible. Distilled from the essence of Vishnu, Mohini the Enchantress is a part of him and yet she revels in the autonomy and extraordinary powers of beauty, magic and enchantment that are hers to wield. She is loved and desired by all in existence and yet, she is elusive tantalizing temptress, traipsing her way across the topsy-turvy terrain of fable and myth.”
Anuja Chandramouli’s Mohini is a beautiful ode to the Goddess of Beauty and Fertility. Considered to be the only female avatar of Vishnu, created by Vishnu and Shakti, this book traces her life through sands of time.
A glimpse from A Plate of White Marble originally written by Bani Basu in Bengali as Swet Patharer Thala and translated by Nandia Guha (Published by Niyogi Books, 2020)
There was no consolation. Yet Bandana repeatedly read the letter from one end to the other. She remembered everything— from holding Kaka’s hand and going to attend Gandhiji’s lectures in Deshbandhu Park to putting coins in the trunks of elephants and looking at giraffes at the zoo. She could easily picture those cold Sunday mornings when they used to reach Esplanade, peeling oranges all the way. Kaka smoked very strong cigarettes. The fingers of his right hand were yellow with nicotine stains. When Bandana was small, she was under the impression that all Kakas would have coppery yellow fingertips.
A Kaka surely meant someone in whom this feature was an integral part, inseparable from his image.
When her mother died young, Kaka immediately decided not to marry and start a family. Baba had tried to persuade him to change his decision. Kaka had the same argument every time, ‘Dada, this child is so naughty, you will never be able to manage her on your own. If this girl is to be brought up well, I will have to join you in taking charge of her.’
In this literary essay, Ramlal Agarwal takes us through Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Childrena calling it a saga set in the backdrop of Partition traversing three generations of a liberal Kashmiri Muslim family which moves from Kashmir to Amritsar, to Agra, to Delhi, to Bombay and to Karachi.
Midway through Midnight’s Children, Rushdie, in an aside, wants to know from Padma, his muse, “Can any narrative stand so much so soon?” Padma was stunned by the query but Rushdie does not wait for her answer and plunges headlong into his narrative of so much so soon. He tells multiple stories in multiple styles and walks away triumphantly with the Booker Prize and the Booker of Bookers Prize. The novel received rave reviews. Malcolm Bradbury in The Modern British Novel observes,
“In several senses Midnight’s Children marked a new narrative start. The book turns on the moment of India’s post-imperial rebirth.”
Before Rushdie, the Indian novel in English was hamstrung by the hangover of colonial conscience. But, by the 1960s the colonial clouds cleared and a band of new writers emerged who had acquired extraordinary competence in the use of English language and the confidence to be independent. Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children set the trend.
In this personal essay, Bijaya Biswal elaborates on how prejudices shape desire and it’s manifestations beyond the image of the female body.
“Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of the woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object — and most particularly an object of vision: a sight.”
― John Berger, Ways of Seeing
When I first watched Blue Is The Warmest Colour, I realized it wasn’t an ode to lesbian relationships as much as an erotic spectacle. Almost pornographic as if, it was made from a male perspective and for the visual pleasure of a male audience. The unnecessary involvement of a male spectator in a love story between two women meant a desperate, forcible attempt to grasp a power which was lost. Lesbian love would mean no space for patriarchy, lesbian love would mean a chance to be equals. Like bell hooks wrote in her book Feminism is for Everybody,
“Woman-identified women, whether straight, bisexual, or lesbian rarely make garnering male approval a priority in our lives. This is why we threaten the patriarchy. Lesbian women who have a patriarchal mindset are far less threatening to men than feminist women, gay or straight, who have turned their gaze and their desire from the patriarchy, away from sexist men.”
I look at the TV screen in the hospital waiting room. The headlines spell gloom and doom. We are in the middle of one of the deadliest pandemic in a century after all.
As I wait to see the doctor, my past flashes in front of my eyes. It is a past filled with warmth and a never ending summer.
My life had been a succession of lazy summer days, some happy and many uneventful. Then, I met Chen Rong.
With his wire rimmed glasses and a perpetually somber expression; as if the weight of the whole world was upon his narrow shoulders; he walked into my life just as a stray cool breeze hits you on a smarmy summer day.
I fell in curiosity over the conversations we had while enjoying savory crepes in Tianjin’s night markets. I grew enamored as we sat silently by each other, immersing ourselves in Shanghai style jazz solo’s at the centuries old Astor Hotel. Then, on one of our many strolls along the Hai He river, as he confided in me his hunger to save this “dying” world, his eyes alight with both agony and hope; I realized that I was deeply in love with this man.
Starting this month, Gold House is launching its new initiative – a Book Club to uncover and codify Asian identity through other artistic mediums. This summer they held a pilot event called The Joy Luck Club which was extremely successful. Post the success of which, they decided to formalize the Book Club as a series of curated book lists and virtual events. With an aim to continue important conversations around identity by exploring critical themes raised in each of the books, including immigration, intersectional identities, and generational and bi-cultural differences, this book club sounds promising.
The Book Club is going to be first of its kind with a definitive list to help Asian Americans better understand their identity and culture in today’s political and social climate.
Bhaskar Parichha reviews Displacement and Citizenship – Histories and Memories of Exclusion (Tulika Books, 2020) calling it a timely reminder of the price that has been paid not only in India but globally, by the privations caused by the negation of citizenship based on religion, gender, ethnicity/caste and/or race.
Statelessness is a massive problem that affects millions of people worldwide. Those without a nationality often face difficulty participating in society and accessing a full range of privileges, together with education, health care, travel, and employment. Some are even detained because they are outlawed.
According to a 2013 UN global migration statistics, 232 million international migrants – or roughly 3 percent of the world’s population – are living out of the country, worldwide. This makes transnational migration a key feature of globalization and a central issue on the international agenda.
Migs Bravo Dutt is a writer and researcher whose work has been published in several countries, regions, and cultures. Her short fiction has appeared in 22 New Asian Short Stories2016 and Kitaab’s The Best Asian Short Stories 2018. She has contributed poetry to various anthologies and journals in Singapore, Asia, Croatia, and the USA. She has co-edited Get Lucky: An Anthology of Philippine and Singapore Writings and is the author of the novel, The Rosales House . In this interview, she tells us about her writing projects, philosophies of life and other exciting things from her writing journey so far.
Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?
I write to define myself, to measure time, and at this juncture, to stay sane.
In this personal essay, Prerna Kalbag and Nishant Singh muse about the changes in life post the pandemic and how reading and working has changed during isolation.
The world has halted. The clocks have stopped. Perhaps for the first time since the advent of the Enlightenment, humanity is in headlong retreat. Every experience of going outside, even for such mundane things as getting groceries, is tinged with the terror and the superstition that the first Men who sailed the seas must have felt. An invisible Gorgon stalks us everywhere, her evil eye is warded off by a diligent ritual of cleansing and sanitization. This fails many times, as people still succumb to the horrid unknown, un-understood illness. Yes, the promise of Enlightenment, which was deemed to have been a mirage a century ago, has finally, completely disappeared, as humanity has once again embraced the irrationality that had been deemed by smug college professors as “medieval”.
Yet, we live. We must live, and we must work. If only because we have absolutely nothing else to do.