Tag Archives: Dubai

Poetry: Pilgrims by John Sheldon Dias

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.

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How I remember JNU and how it spoiled me for life

A nostalgic journey with writer and Sahitya Akademi Award Winner, Ather Farooqui…

To those who can’t get entry into the regular postgraduate degree courses at JNU, even nondescript courses like the part-time Diploma in Urdu journalism or the full-time course in mass communication run in the JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University) campus by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting present a window of opportunity to be a part of this great institute. It is great with regard both to work ethic and ideology. To those who wished to work hard, these courses were/are a boon, as their mere presence in JNU campus would motivate them, irrespective of whether classes were conducted regularly or whether the course had any utility.

…The idealism inculcated in JNU stays with you, it seeps into your every pore and translates into action. This is why, even now, whenever there is public outrage over unjust government policies or an act of violence, JNU students and faculty are often seen leading protests, facing police tear gas and browbeating, and generally expressing their outrage in diverse fora and on social media. However, when they leave the familiar and venture out through JNU’s gates into the wide world outside, they realize that even the train ticket back home comes at the cost of greasing someone’s palms and that corruption is omnipresent, and also that the world doesn’t set much store by JNU idealism. It is this shock that most JNUites experience when they leave their beloved campus and which is why, whenever I meet a non-JNUite, I don’t tell them that they were unfortunate to miss out on the JNU experience, but rather that they are fortunate they didn’t go to JNU—because JNU spoils you for life.

…But life has also taken its toll on JNU. Its pride in its tolerance of diversity of every kind among its faculty, administrative staff or students, whether regional, linguistic, religious or of dress, is dented every time an attempt at uniformity occurs and every time dissent is pitted against one’s loyalty to the nation. The continent in which JNU was an island is catching up with it. Luckily, JNU still has the strength to resist and retain its pride.

I joined JNU in 1986 to pursue a part-time diploma in mass media in Urdu. I hail from the sleepy town of Sikandrabad in district Buland Shahr, located some 60 km from Delhi’s Kashmiri Gate Inter-State Bus Terminus (ISBT). I don’t think that in 1986 my one-horse hometown was any different from what it had been in 1947. The privileged lifestyle now enjoyed by the elite and some sections of the middle class was then the prerogative of just a handful of families. The Delhi of 1986 was not as claustrophobically or catastrophically crowded as it is today; it was quite unorganised and dirty nonetheless, despite the fact that existing roads had been widened and some new ones built, leading up to Asiad 1982. Read more

Dubai Opens its Doors to Fans of Literature

By Rituparna Mahapatra

On 3rd March, 2017, the much loved Emirates Airline Festival of Literature opened in Dubai. The festival is on for nine days from 3-11 March, and is held during the UAE’s Month of Reading. Welcoming more than 180 authors from all over the world, including 70 authors from the Arab world, this event is marked with 250 sessions of master classes, workshops, talks and interactive panel discussions from the very best in the literary world. The festival widely covers all areas of creativity from literature, art, music, cooking to photography.

There are over 50 children’s session, the most popular being ones with Francesca Simon, the creator of the Horrid Henry series, and Julia Johnson. The highlight of the festival is talks and interactive sessions by master storyteller Lord Jeffrey Archer, and talks by John Hemmingway, the grandson of the legendary Ernest Hemmingway, celebrated crime writer Kathy Reichs, veteran Emirati author Abdull Aziz AlMusallam and award-winning journalist Christina Lamb.

From 5th to 7th March, the festival conducts a residential writing course for aspiring writers conducted by award winning international authors. The students will get an opportunity to present and discuss their manuscripts and meet with various publishing houses and agents; the first of its kind in the region.

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Emirates Lit Fest 2017: Poets, writers celebrate Iraq’s book street Al Mutanabbi

By Tahira Yaqoob

Mohammad Al Khashali counts off each of his sons, one by one. There was Kadhem, found under the rubble of the printing house, no more than “a piece of meat”. Mohammed, who had taken a hit to the stomach and lost his left foot. His youngest, Bilal, whose head he had to search for among the ruins after finding a decapitated body. And his eldest, Ghanim, his body curled around his own dismembered son’s corpse, right where they had been carrying out repairs on the printing press.

“The good people of Baghdad brought their pick-ups and we found and gathered body parts, limbs,” says Al Khashali quietly in the short film, Forgive But Never Forget that screened in Dubai on Sunday as part of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.

“I took the bodies home. Their mother wanted me to remove their shrouds so she could see them. I did not want her to see them like that, pieces of meat, but she insisted. She wailed and fell to the floor.”

That terrible day in March 2007, when 30 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a street full of booksellers, is etched in the memories of Iraqis.

The car bomb attack outside Al Khashali’s Shabandar Cafe in Al Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad was seen not just as an assault on Iraqi civilians but as an offensive against the very heart of culture, learning and civilisation itself.

For almost a century, the cafe had served as a magnet for Iraqi poets, playwrights, philosophers, dissenters and politicians who would sit on wooden benches and discuss the ebb and flow of life, love and politics for hours, over cups of sweetened tea.

That was all shattered with the eruption of sectarian violence following the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Al Mutanabbi Street – a narrow, winding alleyway leading to the Tigris River, and the cultural heartbeat of Baghdad – became a target.

Its many booksellers and street book vendors began to fear for their lives after Qais Anni, a stationer who sold Easter cards, was killed in a bomb blast in 2005, followed two years later by the attack on the Shabandar. Read more

Source: The National

Prithvi Theatres debut at Dubai with Jerome Kilty’s ‘Dear Liar’, bringing back nostalgia on the art of writing letters

by Rituparna Mahapatra

PrithviDubai known for its vibrant cultural ambience was recently buzzing with the news of the iconic Prithvi Theatres coming to the city. Thus, with it came the frenzy to book tickets, for the repertoire of plays that would be matter for discussion at many following summer evenings.

This five day theatre festival brought by Raging Tigers was a landmark event in the social circle of Dubai. The theatre personalities that performed included stalwarts of Indian cinema and theatre such as Naseeruddin Shah, Ratna Pathak Shah, and Shabana Azmi. The plays chosen for the festival had been handpicked, said Kunal Kapoor, trustee of Prithvi Theatres. The festival opened with Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah in the acclaimed Jerome Kitty’s ‘Dear Liar’ adapted for the stage by the legendary Satyadev Dubey. The other plays selected were ‘White Lily and Knight Rider’, a play about the various dimensions of a male-female relationship in the digital world; ‘ Nothing Like Lear’ based on Shakespeare’s King Lear, the classic ‘Glass Menagerie’ and finally the immensely popular Urdu play ‘Kaifi Aur Main’, Shaukat Azmi’s memoirs on her husband poet Kaifi Azmi.

The play ‘Dear Liar’ particularly struck a chord, since the plot was on the dramatization of correspondence over a forty -year period between George Bernard Shaw and the celebrated actress Mrs Patrick Campbell, which began in late-Victorian London in 1899 and ended with the death of “Mrs Campbell” in France in 1940. A relationship intense and verbal that survived time and war and kept two immensely bright individuals bonded by letters. Only by rhetoric precisely. Writing a letter was an art, no less than art itself…now almost extinct. Read more

Special Report: The 8th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature opens in Dubai

by Rituparna Mahapatra, Editor-at-Large, Dubai


Ritu with Tom Callaghan

The 8th Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, a two-week celebration of the written and spoken word, is being held in Dubai from the 1st to the 12th of March, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The official opening was on Tuesday, the 8th of March.

The festival, the largest of its kind in the region, welcomes more than 140 authors, poets and speakers all under one roof to enrich and enlighten audiences of all age groups.

Numerous events for kids have been lined up, which could take them into the world of letters, art, drama, and fantasy. The most sought after is Jim Kay’s “A Muggle’s–eye view of Harry Potter”, Lauren Child’s talk about Charlie and Lola, and the “Once Upon a Time Tea Parties” where children are invited to attend dressed as their favorite character, and served scrumptious tea, cakes and cookies and sandwiches and excitement! Read more

Literature Festival pays tribute to UAE literary icon

Mohammad Bin Hadher, diplomat, FNC member and poet, remembered during the first night of the festival: Gulf News

The Emirates Airlines Literature of Festival (EAFL) opened on Tuesday, marking the start of a 12-day-long programme.

Touting an itinerary bursting with 150 writers, poets and illustrators from more than 30 countries, the first turn of the page at the festival focused on Emirati history and culture; its first night paying tribute to the life of a local literary icon — Mohammad Bin Hadher.

“Poetry is a cause, in your blood, tied up with the love of the soil, with memories and past experiences from yesterday, for the betterment of today and tomorrow,” Bin Hadher is quoted as saying by the EAFL website.

The Emirati author and diplomat died in 2011, at the age of 63.

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Kitaab appoints editors-at-large for Bangladesh and Dubai

Farah Ghuznavi

Farah Ghuznavi

Kitaab is delighted to announce two new names to its growing list of international editors. Well-known Dhaka-based writer Farah Ghuznavi joins Team Kitaab as the country editor (Editor-at-large) for Bangladesh and Rituparna Mahapatra joins the team as Editor-at-lage for Dubai.

Farah Ghuznavi is a writer and newspaper columnist, with a background in development work in Asia and Africa. She remains an unrepentant idealist despite the existence of empirical evidence that suggests it might be better to think otherwise. Her work has been widely-anthologised in Europe, Asia and North America. Her story “Judgement Day” was Highly Commended in the Commonwealth Competition 2010, and “Getting There” placed second in the Oxford University GEF Competition. In 2013, Farah published her first short story collection, Fragments of Riversong (Daily Star Books, Bangladesh). The book has been well-received by the global literary community. In 2012, she edited Lifelines, an anthology of Bangladeshi writing for the Indian publisher, Zubaan Books. Having completed a stint as Writer in Residence with Commonwealth Writers in 2013, Farah has written a number of essays and advice columns on writing.

“I am delighted to be Bangladesh Country Editor for Kitaab, and the opportunity is meaningful to me for a variety of reasons,” she said in a statement. “Not just because it is an honour to be part of a team that includes colleagues like Amitava Kumar and my friend Anees Salim, but also because Kitaab has a vision – and a clear plan – for what it aims to do in order to bring the work of Asian writers to a wider audience. Its focus on originality and literary merit rather than the ‘marketability’ in the selection of projects means that Kitaab is providing a much-needed space for writers to explore their potential without feeling the pressure to conform to what is expected of them.”

“For me, the indicators that Kitaab is living up to its commitments include its focus on the area of short story writing, which continues to be astonishingly neglected by many traditional publishers, and its willingness to create a space for authors to raise the issues that are of concern to them,” Farah added. “The Kitaab website also provides an excellent free resource for readers and writers to access quality content on a variety of themes. I look forward to contributing to that rich tapestry in the time ahead.”
Rituparna Mahapatra

Rituparna Mahapatra

Rituparna Mahapatra is a writer and educator from Orissa, India.  She taught English literature at Sambalpur University and Delhi University. Driven by her love for writing, she gave up teaching and freelanced for various publishing houses like The Telegraph, Deccan Herald, before a short stint with Encyclopedia Britannica India.  A movie enthusiast, and a voracious reader, she loves nature walks in her free time  and aspires to be a singer among other things. Cooking for her family and friends is an added passion. Mother of two kids, she takes utmost pride in being called ‘Mom’. Currently, she lives in Dubai with her dog and family.

“I am excited about this opportunity,” she said. “I am looking forward to work with the distinguished members of Team Kitaab.”

How Malayalis in Gulf countries are keeping their passion for Malayalam literature alive

UAE-based author Shemi’s debut novel Nadavazhiyile Nerukal was a major hit in the recently-concluded Sharjah International Book Fair. This time India had the biggest representation with 112 publishers, of which 22 were from Kerala

People standing in long queues to get books autographed, nerdy types waiting till late night to participate in a literary debate -not really something we can imagine in Kerala. But the Malayali diaspora, especially in Gulf countries, still has that passion which makes an event like the recently-concluded Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) something big for our language, feel writers and publishers who participated in the mega event.

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India: Javed Akhtar: literature not given importance it used to

The Bollywood poet, lyricist and scriptwriter talks films and politics on the eve of his Dubai show: Gulf News

JavedI would have called him a “yesteryear” lyricist and script writer but Javed Akhtar will give you no reason to believe so. He may have been on hiatus from the big screen for close to a decade after Lakshya but he now has a script ready to be shown to the right director, and has been constantly in the news due to his strong political and social beliefs and films such as the remake of Zanjeer and Sholay.

Akhtar, who will be in Dubai this Friday for An Evening with Javed Akhtar… In Conversation with Gagan Mudgal, hails from a family studded with literary jewels. His great-grandfather was Allama Fazl-e-Haq Khairabadi, one of the main figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857; his father, Jaan Nissar Akhtar, a famous lyricist and Urdu poet; his maternal uncle, Majaz, was another famous Urdu poet. He was married to Honey Irani, an award-winning Indian screenwriter and mother to Farhan and Zoya Akhtar. Even his wife Shabana’s father, Kaifi Azmi, was a renowned poet and lyricist of his times.

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