After about two months of non-fiction, self-help reads, I decided to go for fiction, a novel, a story that I can drown myself in. I decided to do a little readathon a few days ago and let the book completely hypnotize me and let it have my complete attention. After all, it deserves every bit of it because it had been a long time since I’d lost myself in a fictional world.
And yet, only a few books and few writers have this power, something that seems to come almost naturally to them, this inexplicable talent to drown the reader in the book. You are lucky enough to have found a book that does that to you. I consider myself to be extremely fortunate to have got to read a few books that give me the same feeling. One of those and the most prominent of those have to be Khaled Hosseini’s books.
“But it’s better to be hurt by the truth than to be comforted with a lie.” – Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner
The Brass Notebook: A Memoir by Devaki Jain
- Publisher: Speaking Tiger
- Year of publication: 2020 / September
- Pages: 232
- Price: INR 599
In this no-holds-barred memoir, Devaki Jain begins with her childhood in south India, a life of comfort and ease with a father who served as dewan in the Princely States of Mysore and Gwalior. But there were restrictions too, that come with growing up in an orthodox Tamil Brahmin family, as well as the rarely spoken about dangers of predatory male relatives. Ruskin College, Oxford, gave her her first taste of freedom in 1955, at the age of 22. Oxford brought her a degree in philosophy and economics—as well as hardship, as she washed dishes in a cafe to pay her fees. It was here, too, that she had her early encounters with the sensual life. With rare candour, she writes of her romantic liaisons in Oxford and Harvard, and falling in love with her ‘unsuitable boy’—her husband, Lakshmi Jain, whom she married against her beloved father’s wishes.
The Ahmednagar Fort is a fort located in Maharashtra, India.
This fort was used by the British Raj as a prison.
India’s freedom fighters like Jawaharlal Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad, Sardar Patel and nine other members of the Indian National Congress were detained in this fort for almost three years after they passed the Quit India Resolution in 1942.
Published by Penguin Ebury Press, 2020
Pegged on journalist Sameer Arshad Khatlani‘s visit to Pakistan, The Other Side of the Divide provides insights into the country beyond what we already know about it. These include details on the impact of India’s soft power, thanks to Bollywood, and the remnants of Pakistan’s multireligious past, and how it frittered away advantages of impressive growth in the first three decades of its existence by embracing religious conservatism.
Books to Film by Mitali Chakravarty
Humility. Kindness. Gratitude.” and “Love is the answer.”
— The Good Day I Died: The Near-Death Experience of a Harvard Divinity Student by Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Desmond’s post-structuralist book was released in good time to be wrapped as a Christmas present in Singapore — with the values he speaks of, it deserves that. Meanwhile, on Christmas, 2019, was released a film in United States that spoke of similar values — a film called Little Women adopted from a quasi- autobiographical series written from the 1860s to1880s by Louisa M Alcott, a movie that hopes to take Singapore by storm from 16th January, 2020.
As of January 12, 2020 — in two weeks of its world release — the film grossed $74 million in the United States and Canada, and $33.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $107.2 million. It has won much critical acclaim and was chosen by both the American Film Institute and the Time magazine as one of the top ten films of 2019. At the 77th Golden Globe Awards it received two nominations; in the British Academy Film Awards, it received five and six Academy Awards nominations — with all three-nominations naming Saoirse Ronan for the Best Actress and the last two including Florence Pugh for the Best Supporting Actress, and Greta Gerwig for the Best Adapted Screenplay.
With a star-studded cast — Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Pugh, Timothée Hal Chalamet, James Norton — and more, the family drama centring around the American Civil War had the audience at the screening in its grip. It was little surprising while leaving the hall at the Singapore preview, that a woman was excitedly talking to a friend in part-Chinese part- English about how she empathised with the characters in Little Women. And through the screening, one could sense the audience palpitate emotionally in waves with murmurs rising and falling in a crescendo — fully absorbed by the events on the screen.
Still from 2019 production showing the four sisters
dú zài yì xiāng wéi yì kè
měi féng jiā jié bèi sī qīn
yáo zhī xiōng dì dēng gāo chù
biàn chā zhū yú shǎo yì rén
Being Alone alien in a foreign land,
Every holiday is accompanied by reminiscences of one’s kith and kin.
Knowing from afar, the heights one’s elder and younger brothers have scaled;
Side Wearing Cornus officinalis, there is one soul less, amiss.
This poem has been written by Tang dynasty poet Wang Wei (701-761CE), who was known both for his poetry and paintings, in celebration of the ninth month festival, Chong Yang, which coincides with the Indian Navratri and Durga Puja, the Korean Jungyangjeol, the Japanese Chōyō or Chrysanthemum festival. Read more
On 31 st December, 2017, some met in Fort Shaniwarwada in Pune to commemorate a historic event from January 1st 1818, a battle in which the Peshwas (Brahmins) were defeated by the British forces though the loss was huge on both sides. This had been a part of the third Anglo Maratha wars which led to British domination in Maharashtra ultimately.
The programme had speeches and cultural performances and police presence. The British victory nearly two hundred years ago was seen as a Dalit victory over Peshwas as Dalits had manned the British army against the Brahmin Peshwas. On January 1 st 2018, one Dalit was killed in the violence that ensued over the meet among different groups who clashed over differences of opinion.
Number of activists, some of them allegedly communists as Maoist involvement was suspected, were arrested over the event. What bordered on the ludicrous was that one activist was arrested for possessing incriminating documents like Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The judge is reported to have said: “War and Peace is about war in another country. Why were you keeping these books at your house?” Read more
Title: Not Native: Short Stories of Immigrant Life in an In-Between World
Author: Murali Kamma
Publisher: Wising Up Press
Year of publication: 2019
Pages: 190 pages
Price: $20 ($15 if using PayPal)
Links if any: www.MuraliKamma.com
About: In this debut collection focusing on Indian immigrants in the United States, characters deal with conflict, growth, dislocation, and renewal in a new world. But their old world is present as well, and this “in-betweenness” shapes their lives. Once immigration involved leaving all behind, assuming a new identity with your new culture. Now we move back and forth — between continents, cities, our different mores no longer tidily compartmentalised, sometimes more migrant than immigrant. Straddling two worlds, the characters in this book are acute observers—and diffident interpreters—of a much larger world that will never feel fully familiar again.
Title: Kashmir: Rage and Reason
Author: Gowhar Geelani
Publisher: Rupa Publications India Read more
Japanese troops land in Korea, 16th century
“ In 1915, one of the fathers of modern Korean literature, Yi Kwang-su, laid out his modern manifesto. ‘We are a new people, without ancestors, without parents, that came from Heaven in the present.’ (Kim Hunggyu, 194.) This belief was amplified in 1930 by Ch’oe Caeso, who argued, ‘In terms of contemporary culture, our attitudes are dominated by those of Western culture, and not by those from the Choson period and before,'” wrote Charles Montgomery , who taught English, Literature, and Translation Department at Dongguk University, Seoul.
Choson, also known as Choseon or Joseon, was the dynasty that ruled Korea for the longest period — five hundred years — before the Japanese invasion in 1910. Though Japan had tried to invade Korea earlier in 1592 and 1597-98, their impact at that time was minimal.
However, in the twentieth century, the Japanese invasion lasted longer — for four decades — till Japan was defeated in 1945 at the end of the Second World War by the dropping of an atom bomb. Subsequently Korea was split along the 38th parallell, one part being allied to the American and the other to Soviet Union. The pain of this partition was projected beautifully by Park Wan Suh in her classic novel, Was The Mountain Really There? . Read more
Elif Shafak, the award winning Turkish- British writer, who writes in Turkish and English, is under investigation by prosecutors from Turkey along with other writers, for infringing obscenity laws. Said the writer:
“In the World Economic Forum’s gender gap report, Turkey ranks 130 of 149 countries. Only around 15% of child and adult sexual abuse cases are reported. The number of child brides is alarming. We need to talk about our problems rather than pretending they do not exist. The art of storytelling should dare to talk about difficult subjects.
“In all my novels I have tried to give voice to the voiceless. I have written about outcasts, minorities, the displaced and exiled … I wanted to make their stories heard. So I really find it tragic that instead of changing the laws, building shelters for abused women and children, improving the conditions for the victims, they are attacking fiction writers. That is very sad.” Read more