Category Archives: Uncategorized

Essay: You Only Live Twice by Anusree Ganguly

Anusree Ganguly writes a literary essay exploring two novels (Jagari & Beloved) highlighting how both are a window into deplorable social conditions and say something about the herculean courage of its men and women.

Two masterpieces – ‘Jagari’ (The Night Vigil, in Bengali) and ‘Beloved’ – but both have a common thought as its takeaway – to have an upside-down world, made awry by outside forces, put right by combating fear with courage, once, to taste life at its toughest and, two, sometimes to look death in the face. If Jagari (author: Satinath Bhaduri) answers the imperative of “Who’s awake?” with the spirit of the one who owns his mind, even if the body is not free to roam; then Beloved (author: Toni Morrison) answers the imperative of the ‘red heart’ – the love for all experiences, good or bad, intensified by the fear of desolation that inheres in love displaced – by answering the stirrings of ‘rememory’ with love for life, and sometimes for death. Jagari is not just the story of an imprisoned freedom-fighter’s family (each chapter a look into the strength of the human mind – the husband, wife and the two sons – in distress but never sinking in it); and Beloved is not just the story of a slave who is also a runaway from the unhappy condition of slavery. Both authors evince an interest in the human being as survivors against ailing times taking a fall in life without fear, yet arms opened wide for memories or ‘rememories’. 

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Book Excerpt: A Bend in Time: Writings by Children on the Covid-19 Pandemic

A glimpse from A Bend in Time – Writings by Children on the Covid-19 Pandemic (Published by Talking Cub, children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger, 2020)

Introduction by Bijal Vachharajani

Right now, according to the good folx at UNESCO, globally about 1.3 billion children and youth are at home, as schools and colleges shut to try to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The children in this book’s pages are among them. As is most probably you, the reader.

These twelve children and young adults reflect so many thoughts, questions, narratives. The depth of their thoughts doesn’t astound me—children are way smarter than groan-ups. But not all children get to tell their stories. Not all of them have access to the Internet, to facilities, to online schooling, to socially distanced homes and neighbourhoods. While some are safe at home, so many have had to walk for miles to get to their homes. Inequalities have come to the forefront, and it’s vital that privilege be examined and challenged. And so many children in this book are thinking about that.

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Cows, Buttermilk and Lists: A talk with Shoba Narayan

Writing any memoir is an interesting experience. When you write about cows, it’s even more so.

Shoba Narayan – the author of The Milk Lady of Bangalore, Return to India and Monsoon Diaries – looks back on childhood, homeland, religion and food in her memoirs. The Milk Lady explores her thoughts about cows, the myriad world of cow products, its place in religion, and ultimately, her childhood. The Return to India, on the other hand, deals more with lists and comparisons between two lands across seas. Monsoon Diaries is a tribute to the foods Narayan made and had throughout her life that were intrinsically Indian.
   Shoba Narayan is the author of four books. She has been a journalist and columnist for 25 years, writing about travel, food, wine, culture, crafts and nature, for a number of national and international publications. She founded and co-created a website called Project LooM, which documents the handloom traditions of India.
   In a short interview, Narayan spills the beans about writing process, memories, and lessons learnt.  
   (Edited excerpts follow)

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Poetry: Reading Tennyson on Pandemic Days -Malachi Edwin Vethamani

An introduction to the poem by the poet

The poem presents a situation where all around the world people are doing one form or another of counting. Numbers have come into the foreground in our pandemic days. As I was becoming more and more aware of how random numbers began to affect our lives in unexpected ways, I decided to write a poem that would reflect both the despairing  and hopeful feelings oscillating within us with regards to these numbers.

While writing this poem I became very conscious of Tennyson’s melancholy and how his poems often moved from despair to that of faith and hope. I decided I would intersperse the stanzas in my poem with lines from various Tennyson poems to heighten the effect on the numbers and their connotations. I believe the intertextuality in the poems takes the poem to a new dimension.

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Essay: My Cup of Tea by Sekhar Banerjee

It was a Wednesday evening. We did not have power since the Amphan, a cyclone of sinister proportions, had made a landfall on Tuesday afternoon lashing Calcutta with ferocious wind and rain in the middle of a lockdown. The part of Calcutta where we live had the look of a cornfield ravaged by a hoard of rogue elephants – thousands of trees uprooted, boundary walls collapsed, and we did not have electricity for the previous 24 hours. It was not at all an appropriate time to upload photos of tea cups on social media and snobbishly announce the elevated status that had been accorded to an old brew on a sleepy mobile phone tangled with a power bank. But I could not resist the temptation to share the breaking news – ‘The United Nations recognizes the importance of one of the oldest brews on earth and declares May 21 as World Tea Day. Cheers!’ It was instinctive. Like itching.

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“You never feel completely secure when writing about blasphemy!”-Osman Haneef

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.

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Love is not a word: The Culture and Politics of Desire

“Why, I wondered, while watching the leaves change colour in the fall, were there very few serious yet engaging books on love, its many moods and multiple meanings?”

From book’s Preface by Debotri Dhar

Featuring essays from prominent writers like Makarand Paranjpe, Alka Pande, Malashri Lal, Rakshanda Jalil, Mehr Farooqi and Zafar Anjum, this collection of essays on love is a much-needed read at this time when the definition of love, is being challenged.

Published by Speaking Tiger, this book gives historical and cultural perspectives on Indian love (swayamvara, arranged marriages, and desi romance); the immortal love of Radha and Krishna that transcends theology; the story of a powerful, sexually desiring and desired courtesan/nagarvadhu. The essays explore various themes like inter-religious love, love-jihad, same-sex love, a Dalit’s journey to finding love in times of dating apps etc.

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Kitaab launches a podcast series on Maulana Abul Kalam Azad’s Khilafat lectures

Kitaab has just launched a podcasts series based on the historical Khilafat lectures of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, India’s first Minister of Education and well-known freedom fighter. The podcast is being produced by Filmwallas under the direction of Kitaab’s founder and author, Zafar Anjum.

The first episode of the series was launched today on Kitaab’s YouTube Channel.

This is part of a series of lectures that Maulana Azad 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, among others.

In 1920 an alliance was made between Khilafat leaders and the Indian National Congress, the largest political party in India and of the nationalist movement. Congress leader Mohandas Gandhi and the Khilafat leaders promised to work and fight together for the causes of Khilafat and Swaraj. Seeking to increase pressure on the British, the Khilafatists became a major part of the non-cooperation movement — a nationwide campaign of mass, peaceful civil disobedience. The support of the Khilafatists helped Gandhi and the Congress ensure Hindu-Muslim unity during the struggle

The lectures have been sourced from a book titled, Khutbat-e Khilafat, compiled by Dr Mahmood Ihali, and published by UP Urdu Akademi, Lucknow (1988).

Essay: Hamlet- An Indian Interpretation by Ramlal Agarwal

Why does Hamlet dilly-dally in avenging the murder of his father? His father’s ghost clearly exhorts him to do it. He knows it is his duty and he must do it though he does not like it. 

“… O cursed spite 

That ever I was born to set it right.” 

Taking his cue from these lines, Goethe observes, “A beautiful, pure and most moral nature, without the strength of nerve which makes a hero, sinks beneath a burden which it can neither bear nor throw off; every duty is holy to him- this too hard. The impossible is required of him- not the impossible in itself, but impossible to him.” 

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Short Story: City of Gems by Renald Loh

I find myself awakened by a sudden jerk and the ratchet of a handbrake. I look around the dark to find my colleagues sound asleep, still, snuggled up in their leather seats serving as make-shift beds. From my periphery, I sense Lakmal’s silhouette navigating his way towards me, past the heaps of camera bags dumped along the narrow aisle, the nimbleness of his feet matching his dexterity on the wheel. Both of us gesture for a smoke. He grins – milky teeth illuminating in the darkness like saltwater pearls. 

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