sheldon Dias

Sheldon John Dias was born and raised in Kolkata. The city, with all its chaotic grandeur and unyielding magic, has left an indelible mark on him. He acknowledges its shortcomings, yet celebrates its chaos. He has been teaching in Dubai since 2016. Sheldon began his career as a journalist before moving to the Education industry. He was associated with Trinity College, London before taking the leap to Dubai. Sheldon has dabbled in the creative Arts and has worked as an Assistant Director in a few plays in Kolkata before writing and directing his first play at The Short and Sweet Theatre Festival in Dubai. He is currently working on his first book where he attempts to experiment with various forms of literary expression.

By Ronald Tuhin D’Rozario

 

I have never been intrigued about the world of ornithology nor by the phonetics of a Horbola ( a Bengali word covering the sounds of birds, animals and other things of everyday life) but can identify the sounds – call, hum or chirp — of certain birds that have a strong attachment to my childhood memories. Humans have this unfailing dependency on instincts which make them to try to classify everything that their senses gather. Just as I have dissected the DNA of light depending on their changing textures during different times of the day into thin, thick, bright, warm  and dull, I feel an urge to relate each call of these birds to various ragas signifying a different hour of the day. My usage of the word, ‘to relate’ now creates a ‘relationship’ between me and the birds as — ‘relatives’ converting their calls into a recital around the sphere of my consciousness. Crows, pigeons, sparrows, parrots and bulbuls are some of the birds whose sounds have grown with me like my age.

As I write, my thoughts intensify into an introspection of my life with these birds. Apart from their sound heralding the advent of a season, a wakeup call at dawn or just making  me aware of their presence in my vicinity, I realise that during various stages of my life, there have been some birds whom I have caged for my amusement and there have been some I have consumed on my plate.

Quite strangely now in all these years, for the first time, a deep sense of guilt gnaws at me. In order to justify my belief in my own guilt, I begin to accept the punishment given by avians. When a bird has spoilt my shirt with its dropping or stooped low enough to slap my head with a wing during their flight, I accept it as an expression of disgust over certain habits of mine.

Palestinian literature seems to be slowly peering out towards the limelight. And now the curtains will lift in New York from March 27-29, 2020,  for Palestine Writes, a festival featuring writers from the war torn country.

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New York School of Visual Arts

The New York’s School of Visual Arts and New York University will host the festival. More than seventy writers, artists and intellectuals will take part in this festival.

If you are wondering why a Palestinian Literature Festival is being held in New York and why now, here are the answers.

Book Review by Amit Shankar Saha

 

The Mark Front Cover

 

Title: The Mark

Author: Bitan Chakraborty (translated from Bengali by Utpal Chakraborty)

Publisher:  Shambhabi The Third Eye Imprint, 2020

Bitan Chakraborty is a writer, translator, editor of the Bengali print journal, Atibhuj, and the founder of Hawakal Publishers. He has authored six collections of prose and poetry. The Mark is Bitan Chakraborty’s second collection of short stories to be translated from Bengali to English. The first translated collection, published in 2016, was called Bougainvillea and Other Stories.

Utpal Chakraborty, a teacher of English literature, a bilingual poet and author has translated the seven stories in The Mark. Even though translation of a work of fiction is not as taxing as the translation of poetry, yet to convey in a language that is not native to the culture depicted in the stories is in itself a daunting challenge. Utpal Chakraborty has  overcome the challenge and given the readers of English fiction a book that can speak for itself.

There is something inherently contradictory in trying to capture the sense of reality through fiction. It is like trying to paint an orange blue. And yet it is the blue colour that will attract the viewer if the painter is able to convince the viewer that it is indeed an orange despite being blue. At some point Bitan Chakraborty does exactly that. As a painter of blue oranges, Chakraborty creates within the framework of literature an illusion of reality which is seamlessly congruent with the reality itself. This dissolution of the frame that divides the fictional and the real is what art is all about.

Interestingly, both the translated volumes of Chakraborty’s short stories have forewords by the noted American poet and editor of the journal Harbinger’s Asylum, Dustin Pickering. The titles of the forewords of the two books are self-explanatory: “The Magic of Magical Realism” and “Stranger than Fiction” respectively. There is little of magical realism in this volume and yet the fiction that Chakraborty creates has a strangeness, for it is only reality that can be stranger than fiction. It is a strangeness akin to the absurdity in the dramas of Samuel Beckett.

By Mitali Chakravarty

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A versatile woman of arts and letters, acclaimed and celebrated, Aruna Chakravarti’s writing has been acknowledged by awards like Vaitalik Award, Sahitya Akademi  Award and Sarat Puraskar. Chakravarti talks of interactions with greats like writer Sunil Gangopadhyay and actress Sharmila Tagore to discuss her books and translations in festivals. Her books are often a protest against social ills which linger beyond the past. Her first novel  The Inheritors ( 2004, Penguin)  was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and her third, Jorasanko ( 2013, Harper Collins) received critical acclaim and also became a best seller. Daughters of Jorasanko ( 2016), a sequel to Jorasanko, has sold widely and received rave reviews.  Her translated works include an anthology of songs from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitabitaan, Saratchandra Chattopadhyay’s Srikanta (which won her the Sahitya Akademi Award) and Sunil Gangopadhyay’s Those days, First Light and Primal Woman: Stories. Chakravarti was the  Principal of a prestigious women’s college of Delhi University for ten years. She is an academic, creative writer and translator with fourteen published books — three novels, one book of short stories, two academic works and eight translations.

22fa274f-4a0d-4c09-8935-35685fae7e7eChakravarti’s latest work, a novel titled Suralakshmi Villa, published by Pan Macmillan this year, will be her fifteenth book. The launch scheduled for 25th February, 2020, in Delhi’s  India International Centre will have a panel discussion on the book by eminent academics for half-an-hour followed by a multi-media presentation of an excerpt from the book created by the author herself. In this exclusive, Chakravarti talks of why and how she writes and more.

 

Since when have you been writing? What inspires you to write?

I used to write prolifically as a child. Poems and stories would pour out of me in a joyous, unthinking stream and I loved the feeling it gave me.

Things changed when, after joining the English Honours course in college, I was introduced to the academics of literature, taught the principles of criticism and how to distinguish good writing from mediocre. I became disillusioned with my work. I found it wanting on so many counts.  I felt I was useless as a writer. Self- criticism is good but, in my case, it verged to the point of negativity.

I stopped writing altogether.

There was a gap of twenty-five years before I picked up the courage to write again.

To answer the second part of your question my juvenilia reflected whatever I was reading at the time, mostly poems and stories written by English writers, and was hugely imitative. But my adult work is derived directly from living experience. It is from the world around me that I draw inspiration.

By Tamizh Ponni

“Hey, don’t go too far,” yelled Rekha, adjusting her hat. The popsicle in her other hand was melting with all possible haste not letting Rekha relish it at her own pace.

“I am good. Jeez! I am a grown-up now! Stop being nannyish!”replied Madhu as she carefully collected the sea urchin shells. They fascinated her for some reason. With an enclosed dome-like structure and a muricated exterior, they resembled Madhu’s actual persona.

“You get back here now. It’s not safe in there,” Rekha yelled not paying any heed to her daughter’s backtalk.

“Ma! I am 35. Treat me like an adult. Pleaaaase…,” Madhu begged with a babyish pout. Now that her hands were almost full with the precious collection, Madhu was frantically looking for a place to unload.

“Age isn’t going to magically instil maturity in you or stop me from protecting you,” Rekha replied dryly, biting her popsicle.

“Protect me from what? Ocean waves?” asked Madhu jokingly and chuckled.

“From your own silliness. Now come back. Let’s enjoy the view and the waves from here,” said Rekha patting on a spot next to her on the beach mat.

“Alright, Alright,” Madhu sighed and returned. She wanted to sit for a while too. The cool, salty breeze calmed her mind and helped her take her mind off the previous week’s madness. She wanted to discuss it particularly with her mother but didn’t know how to begin.

As Rekha opened the box containing egg Samosas, the aroma of its filling fuelled Madhu’s hunger. She gladly took one and took a sizeable bite. Munching on the lunch, the duo were devouring the fresh sea breeze with their legs stretched.

“Is something bothering you?” Rekha asked without looking at her daughter.

Suralakshmi Villa

Title: Suralakshmi Villa

Author: Aruna Chakravarti

Publisher: Macmillan

Year of publication: 2020

Pages : 313pages

Price : Rs 650

Links : Amazon

About: Suralakshmi Choudhury, a gynaecologist based in Delhi, falls in love at the age of thirty-one, marries and has a son. Suddenly, five years after his birth, she abandons everything including the house gifted to her by her father and her flourishing medical career, to travel to an obscure village in Bengal and open a free clinic for women and children. She leaves her son behind but takes along a poor Muslim girl, she has adopted. What makes her take this strange decision? Suralakshmi’s actions confound her relatives and it is from their accounts of the incidents, letters, memoirs, and flashbacks – from a more distant past – that the story comes together and the layers and nuances in the enigmatic character of Suralakshmi are brought to light.

In Suralakshmi Villa, Aruna Chakravarti blends the narrative of the novel with history, legend, music, religion, folklore, rituals and culinary practices of both Hindus and Muslims, and creates a fascinating tapestry which reveals the syncretic nature of Bengal and her people.

 

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Title: Calling Elvis: Conversations with Some of Music’s Greatest: A Personal History

Author: Shantanu Datta

Publisher: Speaking Tiger

Year of publication: 2020

Pages: 230

Price: INR 399

Links: Speaking Tiger 

About: Shantanu Datta’s career as a journalist placed him at the forefront of music reportage in India for much of the past three decades, and therefore gave him unprecedented access to the greatest performers from around the world who played in the South Asian subcontinent. This book compiles, for the first time, the detailed interviews he conducted with seminal artistes like Roger Waters (Pink Floyd), Ian Anderson and Martin Barre (Jethro Tull), Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) and many others including Dr L. Subramaniam, John McLaughlin, Sting, Jean-Luc Ponty, Carlos Santana and Amyt Datta. His candid, informed conversations with these enduring legends provide a rare glimpse into the minds of those trailblazers who influenced entire generations with their music. Datta’s own life too emerges in vignettes throughout the book, as he deftly weaves together his professional life with the personal through shared threads of melody and song.

Written with an exceptional depth of knowledge, Calling Elvis is an absolute treat for musicians and music-lovers everywhere.

FrontCover-forebook

 


Title: Calling Elvis: Conversations with Some of Music’s Greatest: A Personal History

Author: Shantanu Datta

Publisher: Speaking Tiger, 2020

Links: Speaking Tiger 

 

 

 

Englishman in India

The story goes that the first time Sting was in Bombay as the frontman of The Police, sometime in the early ’80s, he took on the cops. After a few men in uniform started to hassle a young crowd, trying to pin down those who were exhaling a particularly strong hue into the breezy night, Sting screamed into the microphone: ‘This is The Police telling the Bombay Police to f*** off.’

If the authenticity of that quote couldn’t be verified, blame it on the air that night. But any band that could fuse reggae, rock and standout bass riffs and come up with an album titled Zenyatta Mondatta was capable of anything.

Much later, in 1988, yoga and ‘causes’ got to him and he was in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen and Tracy Chapman, singing Bob Marley’s Get Up, Stand Up for Amnesty International. I was there, having scaled the 10-feet steel mesh wall to get on the ground from our seats in the stands (Rs 300) to be closer to the mammoth stage that had been erected. The JN stadium gig was one of twenty concerts held across the world over six weeks to raise awareness about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on its 40th anniversary and the work of Amnesty. It was sponsored in part by Reebok Foundation and presented in India by The Times of India. And with a line-up such as that, who could resist a trip to Delhi.

Peter Gabriel sang Biko, his eulogy to anti-apartheid activist Steve who died in police custody, and Games Without Frontiers, a critique about belligerent nationalism, with stage lights on cranes that seemed to follow him obsessively. Bruce ‘The Boss’ Springsteen played everything, from Dancing in the Dark, The River, I’m On Fire and of course Born in the USA, his set running into more than two hours and bringing the curtains down at 3 a.m. on what was the largest-ever conglomeration of rock stars on a single night in India.

‘It’s nice to be back in India,’ screamed Sting and over 50,000 of us screamed back. Springsteen joined him in his rendition of Every Breath You Take that he once described as a ‘cool, seductive song about the ill-effects of being possessed by someone you love.’ He opened his set with If You Love Somebody, the antithesis of Every Breath… celebrating the very essence of love, which is, as the song goes, Free, free, set them free. If you love somebody set them free.

by Padmini Krishnan

 

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I felt an intense pain at the pit of my stomach as if someone had stabbed me. It moved up my intestine, making me giddy and incoherent. I struggled to keep my hands on the handle-bar, trying to get past St. Paul’s boys’ hostel. However, I staggered and my scooter toppled over. I fell but was able to collect myself almost immediately.

I dragged myself to the neem tree and stood in the shades, trying to catch my breath.

The tree branches cast their shadow on the streets and so did the bridge above. Why did the bridge look old? Had it not been built recently? I felt incoherent thoughts surfacing once again and sat down under the tree.

How did I recall the appearance of the newly-built bridge? You see, I am new to the city. I had just joined St. Mary’s college a couple of days ago. To reach my college, I had to pass St. Paul’s College. There were no shortcuts. I shared a service apartment with three girls, a few kilometres away. I had been cocooned as a child and this was the first time I was away from home. My mom did not want me to leave my hometown, but dad and I persisted. After all, St. Mary’s was one of the few institutions offering the Shell Borne Scholarships.

By now, I was feeling better. I stood up and my leg bumped into something solid. It was a black box. I examined it and found out that it was a camera, a very old one. The kind of camera I had seen in movies made 20-25 years ago. I did not know what made me do it, but I put it in my bag and drove to college, now feeling fine.

I sat nervously at the photo studio while the photographer developed the film. He looked at me strangely when I showed him the camera. I knew that I should have turned in the old camera or left it where it was. But, it was connected to me. I was sure it was.

I did not open the photos until I reached home. There was nobody home and I was glad. The first photo showed four men in their graduation robes.

I felt giddy, the pain in my stomach back.

 

I was the one in the corner. The one next to me was Sid, my roommate and best friend, the one who had stabbed me fatally. It had happened after our graduation ceremony. I was on a high; he was down and depressed. I remember feeling scornful as I made fun of his misfortune.

Now, I fell down with pain as I remembered him stabbing me multiple times.