Category Archives: Uncategorized

On Hua Hsu’s ‘A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific’


WHAT DOES IT MEAN to be “serious”? This is a question I often think about because I happen to be an academic who studies Asian-American literature and culture. For a long time, I had to defend the seriousness of what I studied. Even now, when I tell other academics in a different discipline (say political science or education) that this is my area of specialty, they give me a funny look. Some will respond, “Do you mean you study US-Asian relations?” Or, “Asia is big.” Or, “Oh, Amy Tan.”

Fortunately, such responses are becoming rarer. There are enough prominent American writers of Asian descent that the idea of an “Asian-American literature” doesn’t seem strange. Just as important, there is an impressive body of scholarship devoted to this subject that makes it more difficult to be dismissive.Read more

A study in causal nexus: Review of ‘The Association of Small Bombs’ by Karan Mahajan

by Rabeea Saleem

book-coverThe Association of Small Bombs’ by Karan Mahajan

Hardcover: 288 pages

Publisher: Viking (March 22, 2016)

Language: English

“The Khuranas, in the past few years, had started taking a morbid interest in blasts in all parts of the country, especially Delhi – they were excited by these bombings in a way that only victims of esoteric, infrequent tragedies are motivated by horrors.”

Karan Mahajan’s latest book begins with a 1996 bombing in Delhi, India at a crowded marketplace, Lajpat Nagar. In the violence-riddled world of South Asia, the significance of a calamity is only as big as its magnitude. Every tragedy is relative to its body count and so in the grander scheme of things, this bombing is referred to as “a bomb of small consequences”. It still kills hundreds but because of the low profile site, it doesn’t get as much traction from media as say, the Boston bombing, which, because of its location alone supersedes dozens of small bombs that go off in third world countries at a frighteningly high frequency.

This bombing results in the death of Tushar and Nakul, the only children of the Khuranas. They had gone with their best friend, Mansoor, who is significantly a Muslim, to collect an old television from the repair shop. This detail is something which later the Khuranas are compelled to lie about to maintain their middle-class status because admitting this act of scrimping to their upper caste friends would indulge their sympathies in a way they didn’t want. Mahajan homes in on how important it is to maintain the ego-driven financial status in middle-class society, even when faced with such a potent grief.

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Throwing out actors, hating an entire people is small and reductionist: Saba Naqvi


I was invited in February 2013 to the Karachi literature festival with my book on India’s popular religion and syncretistic practices. I was surprised and touched to see that the opening ceremony of the festival included a dance-drama called “Tagore”. Gurudev’s poem “Where the Mind is Without Fear” was recited to a dance, included in which was a rendition of Gandhiji’s favourite bhajan, Raghupati Raghav Rajaram, patita paavana Sitaram, Ishwar Allah tero naam …

I later overheard some important citizens of Pakistan grumbling about the kind of projection being given to Indian visitors and the theme of the opening. But no matter: what that little event symbolised is people’s search for compassion even as doctrines of hate jolt their worlds. By the time the festival ended there was curfew in Karachi after a massacre in Quetta claiming over 80 lives. Many international visitors had to leave with security escort.

In the worst of times and places people always look for ideas that separate their sanity from their circumstances. Indian political thinkers, writers and poets have been evoked across the world for the sheer breadth and scale of the grand humanitarian visions they posited. Let’s not diminish ourselves because we have a consistent and real problem with our neighbouring country.

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Essay: Tagore’s Love Affairs

by Aju Mukhopadhyay

tagoreExpressions of love are different with different objects. With the divine, it is pure; we call it devotion or worship, but with fellow human beings, especially of the opposite sex, we find it tinged with desires of lust and other emotions. Love is the finest, and at the same time, the crudest emotion in the human heart, though it is sometimes possible to find it in animal hearts also. Man’s love with woman is the most common bond, which has created a sea of literature. With all types of love in him, Tagore was not a stranger to this type of love also. Poems of light and shade, love and remorse, joy and pain, are the results of his experiences at different levels. Such love affairs occupied different parts of his long life. Some of them, which we have come to know of, are the bases of our story.

Love Lyrics

Rabindranath Tagore has written innumerable songs of love; love for the divine and humans. He wrote more than 2500 lyrics; perhaps the most among world poets and song composers. All his love was based on the faith that he explained throughout his life and demonstrated. His immortal songs live vibrantly not only in Bengal but in other Indian provinces and sometimes they travel abroad. Rabindra Sangeet is a popular song-word now, which reminds us of beautiful tunes with befitting words that touch the heart and soul of man. Read more

‘Shakespeare Lives’ in Singapore

British Council kicks off events in Singapore to commemorate the 400 death anniversary of Shakespeare by involving local talent in Singapore

HE Scott Wightman, British High Commissioner in Singapore, addressing the media on 9 March

HE Scott Wightman, British High Commissioner in Singapore, addressing the media on 9 March

The bard passed away 400 years ago but his reputation is solid as ever and his popularity is as great as ever. To commemorate this English legend’s 400 anniversary, following a call by British Prime Minister David Cameron to celebrate the life and works of Shakespeare, the British Council has a launched a year-long programme to bring Shakespeare’s work and legend to the local community.

On 23 April, the British High Commission and British Council will commemorate Shakespeare Day with a series of events and talks, involving local talents and institutions such as libraries, museums, educators and theatre groups.

‘Even 400 years after his death, we still see the impact of Shakespeare around the world,’ said HE Scott Wightman, British High Commissioner in Singapore, addressing the media on 9 March. ‘Love, hatred, jealousy, corruption–whatever you want to find in human emotion, it is all there in Shakespeare. The bard still speaks directly to us, no matter where we live.’

Click below to find details of all Shakespeare Lives programmes in Singapore:

Shakespeare Lives in Singapore

Singapore Repertory Theatre to present Romeo & Juliet as part of Shakespeare in the Park series

Written by William Shakespeare – Directed by Daniel Slater

Written by William Shakespeare – Directed by Daniel Slater

Singapore Repertory Theatre (SRT) will present Romeo & Juliet as the ninth production in the Shakespeare in the Park series, the theatre group announced on 9 March. Some past productions from the series include The Tempest, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado About Nothing.

“2016 is an extra special year for Shakespeare in the Park, as the world marks the 400th death anniversary of William Shakespeare with celebrations of his life and works,” a SRT spokesperson said. “To join in on the celebrations, SRT has chosen to stage what is probably Shakespeare’s most well-loved play, which has had a profound influence on music, film, theatre and debates over the years.”

According to SRT, its production of Romeo & Juliet will be the biggest Shakespeare production in this part of the world in 2016. It will be a stunning contemporary production created by some of the best theatre practitioners on and off stage.

“Our production of Romeo & Juliet focuses on the breathless quality of the play, of love tragically cut off before it ever really begins,” said Daniel Slater, Director of Romeo & Juliet. “Set in a modern dystopia, our production presents a heartbreaking tale of forbidden love, fatal choices and passion bigger than life itself. Come to the park to recapture the feeling that never leaves you: first love.”

The annual tradition of Shakespeare in the Park attracts up to 30,000 people from all walks of life and is an anchor event in the cultural calendars of many.

The young lovers will be portrayed by Thomas Pang (Tribes) and Cheryl Tan (Beauty World and Red Riding Hood), with Remesh Panicker, Shane Mardjuki and Daniel Jenkins in other leading roles.


Taj festival to be held on Rudyard Kipling’s birth anniversary

rkpA carnival titled “Gulistan-e-Akbarabad” will be held here on January 1 ahead of the third edition of the Taj Literature Festival which would commemorate “Jungle Book” author Rudyard Kipling’s 150th birth anniversary.
The Taj Literature Festival, from February 26-28, is touted to be a major inspiration for budding writers.
“This year we begin the festival celebrations with a carnival titled ‘Gulistan-e-Akbarabad’ on January 1 to provide a platform to budding poets,” Harvijay Bahia, chairman of the organising committee, told IANS.
A Nobel Prize winner, Kipling was a novelist, story teller and a journalist.

Arundhati Roy: ‘Intolerance is the wrong word for the lynching and mass murder of human beings’

arundhati_royThe respected author has issued a statement about her decision to return the national film award she won in 1989 for writing the screenplay of ‘In which Annie Gives it Those Ones’:

Although I do not believe that awards are a measure of the work we do, I would like to add the National Award for the Best Screenplay that I won in 1989 to the growing pile of returned awards. Also, I want to make it clear that I am not returning this award because I am “shocked” by what is being called the “growing intolerance” being fostered by the present government. Read more

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