As COVID-19 has become a global pandemic, borders are closed, and most of the flights are grounded for […]
In this episode of Straight Talk with P. N. Balji, the veteran Singaporean journalist and commentator analyses how […]
By Sohana Manzoor
It was just a dialogue from a movie that Shimana was watching unmindfully. She was worried over her little girl in the ICU. On the screen, a young woman was whimpering, “But I don’t know how to be a mother. You know everything—words, hurt, every pain and joy in your child’s life.”
The other character, a slightly elderly woman, answered with glowing eyes and just the hint of a smile, “You’ll learn.”
She suddenly felt she had no air in her lungs. Mother? Who? She was no mother. She had left behind her child long, long ago. And she had never regretted the decision she had taken as a young girl. Now she had everything– perfect children, a loving husband, a good job. What was she thinking? Was she thinking of that small make-shift operation theatre? The smirking nurse and the grim doctor who warned her that she might have complications later? She was two-and-a-half months pregnant. She was eighteen and unmarried.
Shimana shivered, and Nibir turned to her immediately. “Are you okay, Shimu?”
Yes, of course. She was fine. Only her daughter, Nrita was at the hospital diagnosed with pneumonia. It was quite severe and Shimana blamed herself for not noticing it sooner. She gave a wobbly smile at the tall man bending toward her with a frown of concern on his brows. It took years for her to build up the confidence with which she walks beside him. In the initial days of her marriage, she did not know what to make of her husband who was handsome, had a very good job and was too busy to give her time. Shimana could not really complain because he provided her with every material need, gave her a handsome allowance and encouraged her to study further. But he barely stayed at home and she felt that his heart was elsewhere. Shimana struggled with her own problems and did not have the courage to tell him anything about herself. After a year into her marriage, she decided to enrol in an interior designing program.
Book Review by Aditya Shankar
Title: A Brief History of Silence
Author: Manu Dash
Publisher: Dhauli Books, India. First Edition, 2019
Manu Dash is a poet, editor, translator, cultural activist and director of OALF (Odisha Art & Literature Festival). He writes in Odia and in English. In 1974, he joined Anam – a literary movement by a group of writers – engaged in searching the socio-cultural roots of the land where he lives. His works include two collections of poems and short stories and four collections of essays. He edited Wings Over the Mahanadi, an anthology of eight Odia poets writing in English (Poetrywala, Mumbai). He edits The Dhauli Review (www.dhaulireview.com), a tri-quarterly of Indian writing, and runs the reputed publishing house, Dhauli Books(www.dhaulibooks.com).
Manu Dash’s poetry collection, A Brief History of Silence, speaks from the warmth and intimacy of the womb—the womb of ideas, the womb of words, the womb of corridors in isolated cancer wards. With womb as the pedestal of speech, the choice of silence and meditation becomes a natural choice of language for these verses. Without a choice, Buddha is an obsession for the inward-looking verse. Songs from the womb must sing about beginnings (‘Zero’, ‘Rain’) and ends (‘No Rain’, ‘Obituary’). These poems cannot help but be obsessed about the shape of formations, the evolution of outcomes (‘Hellhole homes’, ‘Headlines’), and about each step forward.
The Singapore Book Council, which organises the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC), has decided to postpone the 11th edition of AFCC from 28–31 May to 3–4 October 2020, in view of the evolving COVID-19 outbreak in Singapore and around the world. In response to the situation, AFCC will be scaling down the festival to two days and making parts of the festival digital.
As a prelude to AFCC, the Book Council will also be organising the popular Book Illustrators Gallery (BIG), an exhibition that showcases the best illustrations from Asian picture books from 1–30 June 2020 at the National Library Building.
Title: 2062: The World that AI Made
Author: Toby Walsh
Publisher: Speaking Tiger
Year of Publication: 2020
Price: INR 499
Links: Speaking Tiger
In 2062, world-leading researcher Toby Walsh considers the impact AI will have on work, war, economics, politics, everyday life and, indeed, even human death. Will automation take away most jobs? Will robots become conscious and take over? Will we become immortal machines ourselves, uploading our brains to the cloud? How will politics adjust to the post-truth, post-privacy digitised world? When we have succeeded in building intelligent machines, how will life on this planet unfold? What lies in store for homo digitalis—the people of the not-so distant future who will be living amongst fully functioning artificial intelligence?
Based on a deep understanding of technology, 2062: The World That AI Made describes the choices we need to make today to ensure that the future remains bright.
Title: Timeless Tales from Marwar
Author: Vijaydan Detha, Translator: Vishes Kothari
Publisher: Penguin Random House (Puffin Classics)
Year of Publication: 2020
Price: INR 250
For centuries, Rajasthan has been a gold mine of oral traditions and histories, with Padma Shri Vijaydan Detha being one of the foremost storytellers of all time.
Giving a new lease of life to his writings, Timeless Tales from Marwar is a handpicked collection of folk tales from the everlasting works of Detha’s celebrated Batan ri Phulwari meaning ‘Garden of Tales’. Collected and written over the span of nearly fifty years, this fourteen-volume assortment of Rajasthani folk stories earned him the moniker-the Shakespeare of Rajasthan.
This selection-retold in Detha’s magical narrative style complete with vivid imagery-offers some of the oldest and most popular fables from the Thar Desert region. Discover tales of handsome rajkanwars (princes), evil witches, exploitative thakars , miserly seths, clever insects, benevolent snakes and more. Vishes Kothari’s vivid English translation introduces one of the most venerated figures in Rajasthani folk culture to a wider audience. This tribute to Detha’s rich legacy is a collector’s edition for all ages.
On the 103rd Birth Anniversary of her father, well-loved writer and Bollywood persona, Nabendu Ghosh, senior journalist Ratnottama Sengupta gives a recap of last year’s celebrations where Sahitya Akademi award winner Shirshendu Mukherjee, an important Bengali writer, talked on her father and his contribution to literature.
By Ratnottama Sengupta
It was the 102nd birth anniversary of Nabendu Ghosh. The bookstore celebrated the day with actor Ramanjit Kaur’s dramatised reading of ‘Fatima’s Story’ from That Bird Called Happiness, an anthology of stories by Nabendu Ghosh translated to English. Feminist writer Sreemoyee Piu Kundu focused attention on the women protagonists who outnumber and outweigh the men at the centre of the stories in the collection by the Bengali writer.
The most significant part of the evening unfolded when renowned Bengali writer Shirshendu Mukherjee started speaking of Nabendu Ghosh’s writing. Significant, not only for its impact on him when he was a young reader, but also because like his senior, Mukherjee too has lent weight to the Indian screen with his stories and scripts. So, when the author of watershed novels like Rashmonir Shonadana (Rashmoni’s jwellery, later screened as a highly popular movie, Goynar Baksho, meaning ‘The Jewel Casket’, by Aparna Sen), Manab Jamin ( Man and Earth) and Ghoon Poka (Woodworm) started to speak, Ratnottama Sengupta simply played the tape recorder.
Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay’s speech on Nabendu Ghosh at Starmark/ 27 March 2019, Starmark, Kolkata, 27th March 2019. (Translated from Bengali by Ratnottama Sengupta)
The Partition of 1947, that carved Pakistan out of India, affected many people, both directly and indirectly. Close to 2 million lives were lost in an unprecedented genocide; 14 million people were uprooted. The resultant refugee crisis affected generations that followed. Sectarian violence became endemic. Carnage and sexual violence was intense; mass abductions and forced conversions were on a scale not seen for a long time. “Some 75,000 women were raped, many of them were disfigured or dismembered,” William Dalrymple wrote in The New Yorker of June 22, 2015.
Both Nabendu Ghosh and I were affected indirectly. We — his family and ours — were not among those who had to cross over with bedding on their heads and mats under their arms. We were among the fortunate ones who were safely housed in the ‘new’ homeland. We faced no trauma while leaving our roots behind. But the loss of our birthplace created a deep wound that has refused to go away with the passage of time. It is a dull ache that has now become a part of my ribcage. I am not certain about Nabendu Da since he was only four years old when his father, a successful advocate in Patna High Court, had relocated from his family home in Dhaka. But for me the loss of my homeland — the soil my ancestors had lived in and where I had grown up on, which I knew as my own country, which was part and parcel of my identity, of my very being — had overnight become a ‘foreign’ land — is a sorrow that still weighs on my soul even at this ripe age of 77 years.
Book Review by Gracy Samjetsabam
Title: Earthquake Boy
Author: Leela Gour Broome
Publisher and date of publication: Speaking Tiger, 2019.
Earthquake Boy is the latest novel by Leela Gour Broome, a Western classical music and English Literature teacher. She is also an environmentalist. She has contributed to children’s literature by writing numerous short stories, series of pun cartoons, and cartoon strips for a children’s newspaper and magazine. Three of her other books include Flute in the Forest, Red Kite Adventure, and The Anaishola Chronicle. She conducts story-telling and reading sessions for school children and, language-and-literature-related events and workshops for young readers at literature festivals.
Broome’s Earthquake Boy is a historical fiction, a novel based on the Gujarat earthquake in 2001, with 26 January as the fateful day and Bhuj as its epi centre. UNICEF in its report on India (Gujarat) Earthquake 2001 estimated that more than 8,000 children were orphaned and more than 1,000 were left unaccompanied. Binna, a shortened form of the Hindi word Bey Naam, which translates to “the boy without a name” in the novel is the protagonist of Broome’s story and through Binna, she also tells the story of the many “Binnas” who were left desolate, homeless and with little hope from the quake.
Natural disasters come unwarned, often violent, furious, calamitous and woeful. Children fall in the vulnerable section of the community in times of natural disaster. Historical fiction on natural calamities for children such as this one, can help create awareness about the hardships that children go through in such times but to shed light on realities that one might have or not experienced, thus broadening the horizons and diversity of thought among the readers. Such stories while painting the harshness of life and disasters, also communicates the beauty of profundity in human spirit.
Title: Never at Home: An Autobiography
Author: Dom Moraes
Publisher: Speaking Tiger Books, 2020
I arrived in Bombay towards the end of the monsoon. This had always been one of my favourite seasons as an adolescent, but I now found myself looking at it in a different way. It made a mess of the roads, and the city seemed to founder under it. I realized with a certain wonder that I was seeing it as a foreigner; that I was seeing it as a foreign city, though it was less than five years since I had lived there. My encounters with people I had previously known had a certain dreamlike quality: their personalities, familiar before, now seemed seen through a kind of mist. I was treated with some awe, because I had won the Hawthornden. I assumed a posture of arrogance, and secretly felt a little ashamed. The newspapers spoke of the book I had come to write.
Actually, I hadn’t planned this book at all; the thought of starting on it slightly terrified me. I didn’t know where or how to start: I had never tried anything like this before. In these circumstances, as often in the past, I consulted my father. He said, ‘I imagine you want to write this book as an outsider looking in. I couldn’t do that myself, about India. The only way I can help is by imagining that you are an outsider.’ There was a slight double edge to this remark, untypical of him. But then he was entitled to it.
By Mitali Chakravarty
Sameer Arshad Khatlani is an author-journalist based in New Delhi. He has been a Senior Assistant Editor with Hindustan Times, India’s second-biggest English newspaper with a circulation of 10 million daily, since July 2018. Khatlani worked in a similar capacity with The Indian Express, India’s most influential newspaper known for its investigative journalism, until June 2018.
Born and raised in Kashmir, he began his career with the now-defunct Bangalore-based Vijay Times in 2005 as its national affairs correspondent. He joined Times of India (TOI), one of the world’s largest selling broadsheets, in 2007. Over the next nine years, he was a part of the paper’s national and international news gathering team as an Assistant Editor. Khatlani has reported from Iraq and Pakistan and covered elections and national disasters. He received a master’s degree in History from prestigious Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi.
Khatlani is a fellow with Hawaii-based American East-West Center, which was established by the US Congress in 1960 to promote better relations and understanding with Asian, and the Pacific countries through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. Penguin in 2020 published Khatlani’s first book, The Other Side of the Divide: A Journey into the Heart of Pakistan. Eminent academic and King’s college professor, Christophe Jaffrelot, has called the book ‘an erudite historical account… [that] offers a comprehensive portrait of Pakistan, including the role of the army and religion—not only Islam’. In this exclusive, Khatlani talks of his learnings from the journey into Pakistan and his extensive research on these issues.
Your book is about your around a week-long sojourn to Pakistan as a journalist for Times of India. What event were you covering for TOI and which year was this? Was it prior to Modi being elected the PM?
I went to Pakistan in late December 2013 for my first and last trip to that country at the invitation of the World Punjabi Conference for a peace conference in Lahore. This was five months before Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office in the summer of 2014 and around the time my former employer—Times of India—was involved in a campaign called Aman ki Asha for promoting greater people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan for conflict resolution.