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A dark coming-of-age tale: Book review of Hirsh Sawhney’s South Haven

By Pradhuman Sodha 

havenTo read a story of an Indian family that had achieved the American dream, settled down in USA, can be insightful, and could even inspire and encourage people with similar goals. But more often than not the tales of Indian expatriates or their descendants’ fail to capture the imagination of Indian readers, who are often the prime target audience of this genre.

The reasons are numerous. One of them could be that readers find that the American dream is not all that it’s cracked up to be. This sense of disappointment is carried through the book by all characters, it seems. It is one way the writer brings out the darkness and tragedy of circumstances that shapes the childhood of the protagonist Siddharth.

The events of the book starts with the children losing their mother, the man losing his wife and the house losing its woman. Unlike most novels, things might not change for the better as many readers might expect. The climax, however, doesn’t lose steam and the reader will feel quite satisfied at the end. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Sabyn Javeri

By Aminah Sheikh

sabyn

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

I write because I can. In the sense that I have something to say and I can say it in an interesting and engaging way. Or so I hope…

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

I just came out with my debut novel Nobody Killed Her (HarperCollins) which is the story of two powerful women focusing on how an outsider infiltrates the world of political dynasties. It’s a court trial centering around the assassination of a female political leader, and each question throws up memories of the past, dragging the reader deeper into the narrative — except that the narrator is unreliable . . .

Up next is a book of short stories titled Hijabistan, out early next year by HarperCollins again. It is a collection of short stories on the theme of the veil, both as a garment and as a psychological barrier. I’m told I have a quirky outlook to life! I love challenging the existing perception of things and that is what I want to explore in these stories. Looking at things from a fresh perspective. What does the Hijab mean to the wearer and to the onlooker? Is it a threat, a weapon, a safety net or an entrapment? These stories explore the garment and its psychology in a very different way and I’m super excited about it. Also, the short story form is my first love, so it’s like returning home.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Less is more.

Who are your favourite authors?

Ismat Chugtai, Hanan Al-Shaykh, Judith Hermann and Gillian Flynn. I’d read anything by them.

Chugtai for her boldness (she was writing about feminism before the term was even coined) Hermann for the simplicity of her prose, Al-Shaykh for being a natural story teller and Flynn because she’s a master plotter. And also Javier Marias, I suppose, for his insights into human behaviour. His short stories move me.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

A very short story called “The Session” about a difficult moment between a therapist and her client. It was an exercise in narrative tension told very much through what was left unsaid. It was challenging to create such a pregnant atmosphere with minimum words.

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Excerpts: The Theft of India by Roy Moxham

The theft of indiaTHe PoRTuguese

Terror, Luxury and Decay

At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Gujarat was probably the most important trading centre in India. Broach, at the mouth of the great River Narmada, was its principal port and market. From there, goods were despatched to the Indian interior, southern and western India, Arabia, Central Asia, Europe and to the Far East. At the beginning of the century, much of the pepper and other spices of the Malabar Coast, and from the Far East, had been taken north to Gujarat for sale. When the Portuguese took control of the spice trade in Malabar and the East, and shipped directly to Europe, Gujarat’s trade suffered. Nevertheless, with its access to the routes into northern India and Arabia, Gujarat was still a major business centre.

The Gujaratis were considerable shipowners. Moreover, the Gujarati merchants regularly travelled on business to Arabia and the Far East. In other parts of India where trade was mostly in the hands of Hindu merchants, these were inhibited by the Hindu prohibition on ‘crossing the black sea’. Hindus who did travel were liable to be ruined by being expelled from their caste. In Gujarat, not only were there many Muslims who were, of course, free to travel, but also many well-off Hindus who had converted to Jainism. To become a Jain was perfectly acceptable to most Hindus since they regarded the Jains as a Hindu sect. Moreover, they were much admired for their belief in the sanctity of all life. Naturally, adhering to such a belief meant the Jains were unable to indulge in warfare, a common occupation of upper- caste Hindus. The Jains were free to focus their energies on moneylending, banking and trade. Moreover, their religion had no restrictions on travel, so they were able to conduct business abroad. Both the Jains and the Muslims established themselves as major overseas traders.

The Portuguese, having secured domination over Malabar, wanted to gain control over Gujarat too. Their first opportunity came in 1533, when the Mughals attacked Gujarat. In 1534 the ruler of Gujarat entered into a pact with the Portuguese to resist the Mughals. In return for their help, he gave them the district of Bassein and its dependencies, including the islands that would eventually become Bombay. The Portuguese greatly strengthened the existing fort at Bassein and built many more. Two years later, they managed to obtain the island fort of Diu. The Gujaratis tried to reclaim Diu in 1538 and again in 1546. The later siege was an epic battle. The governor of India (later viceroy), João de Castro, commanded the Portuguese relief. From Bassein, he sent one of his commanders on a preliminary foray to intercept any ships taking supplies to the enemy. This he did with great savagery. The mutilated bodies of the men he killed were cast into the mouths of the rivers so that they would drift up to the towns as a warning of Portuguese vengeance. When the commander returned to Bassein, the yardarms of his ships were decorated with the hanging bodies of sixty Muslims.

It needed all the naval and military resources of the Portuguese to raise this siege of Diu, which could well have terminated their attempts at domination, but they prevailed and massively extended the fortifications. The reprisals after the second siege of Diu were savage. The governor told the king of Portugal that he had sent a commander with twenty ships to:

Burn and destroy the whole coast, in which he very well showed his diligence and gallantry, because he caused more destruction of the coast than was ever done before, or ever dreamt of, destroying every place from Daman up to Broach, so that there was no memory left of them, and he butchered everyone he captured without showing mercy to a living thing. He burnt twenty large ships and one hundred and fifty small ones and the town squares were covered in bodies, which caused great astonishment and fear in all Gujarat.

At Gogha, the Portuguese heaped up the bodies of those they had killed in the temples. They then cut the throats of cows and defiled the temples by sprinkling them with the blood.

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Book Review – India’s Wars: A Military History, 1947 – 1971 by Arjun Subramaniam

By Imteyaz Alam

indias warWarfare is as old as human civilization and so is its history. The Indian subcontinent has been witness to bloody conflicts and clashes since ages. Epics such as Mahabharata, Ramayana, Alha-Udhal are masterpieces of South Asia’s age old tradition of rendering conflicts in different literary and art forms.

India inherited thorny issues left behind by colonial masters at the time of partition, which led to altercation and conflict with neighbours. These issues are still festering, making the understanding of military history an essential part of statecraft. India can ill-afford to ignore the history of conflict in this part of the world. Still there are a few good books on this topic worth visiting. Academics have largely ignored this important area whereas one comes across accounts of military conflict in memoirs of politicians or retired soldiers. There is a dearth of well-researched accounts on the military history of India. This gap has been filled by Arjun Subramaniam, a soldier-scholar and an expert on military matters. The account of conflicts faced by India after freedom in 1947 to 1971 comes directly from the horse’s mouth.  India’s Wars: Military History, 1947 – 1971 by serving Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam is well-researched, and deftly-written without personal or profession prejudice. With this book, the author seeks to create a missing link between the study of military history and its impact on contemporary strategic culture.

Arjun Subramaniam writes for various military journals both in India and abroad on Leadership, Air Power, Jointmanship, India-China relations, Terrorism and Fourth Generation Warfare, National Security and Military History.

Soon after independence, India faced an attack on J&K by Pathan tribals as well as Pakistani regulars. A country that was limping back to normalcy after deadly riots and the displacement of a large part of its population had to send its army to its northern border hastily and unwillingly. There was the challenge of national integration of princely states just after independence. The police action in Hyderabad state and liberation of Goa was not an easy task. The 1962 conflict and defeat suffered at the hands of China, the war with Pakistan in 1965 and the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 are testimonies to the valour and sacrifices rendered by brave soldiers in the line of duty.

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New release: Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

punjabi-widowsBalli Kaur Jaswal’s Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows published by HarperCollins is an east-meets-west novel.

When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of mancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals.

Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.

East meets west and tradition clashes with modernity in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel that might make you look again at the women in your life…

About the Author:

Balli Kaur Jaswal is the author of Inheritance, which won the Sydney Morning Herald’s Best Young Australian Novelist Award in 2014, and Sugarbread, a finalist for the 2015 inaugural Epigram Books Fiction Prize. She has been a writer-in-residence at the University of East Anglia and Nanyang Technological University.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows is her third novel. Balli is currently working on a fourth novel about three sisters who go on a pilgrimage to India to reconnect with each other after their mother’s death.

 

 

 

 


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Excerpts: Women at War by Vera Hildebrand

women-at-warSINGAPORE – THE RANIS PREPARE FOR WAR

In the fall of 1943, young women began to enlist in the Rani of Jhansi Regiment of the Indian National Army in Singapore and in Rangoon. The RJR needed a base camp in Singapore, a facility that would provide secure lodging for the female soldiers as well as sufficient space outdoors for military training.To the Japanese military authorities, female infantry was a preposterous waste of money and when they learned of Bose’s idea, they protested. Regarding the RJR, the Japanese officers found it completely incomprehensible that Bose would allocate precious ordnance and rations to women.

One way the Japanese sought to prevent the creation of the Regiment was their unwillingness to allocate real estate in Singapore for the training of women for combat. The Japanese administration refused every abandoned property that Captain Lakshmi found and proposed as possible housing for the RJR. In the end, the Ranis did receive quarters, weapons, uniforms and training, but the cost of the RJR was borne entirely by donations from Indians living in Burma, Singapore and Malaya to the Azad Hind government, while the Japanese government financed only the male forces of the INA.

The chairman of the Singapore branch of the Indian Independence League, Attavar Yellappa, a barrister, consequently took upon himself the task of finding a home for the Regiment. He persuaded some of his wealthy Nattukottai Chettiar banker clients to fund the refurbishment of a dilapidated building, formerly serving as a refugee camp and currently belonging to the IIL. The property was enclosed with a high fence to shield the female soldiers from the curious eyes of Singapore citizens, and several new barracks were erected.The standing buildings were fitted with new plumbing, and bathing facilities were installed. After three weeks of around-the-clock activity, the Singapore Central Camp, the Ranis’ first training centre, was almost ready for the first contingent of volunteers to move in on the birth anniversary of Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi.

In his inaugural speech at the RJR training camp on Waterloo Street in Singapore on 22 October 1943, Bose welcomed‘the first one hundred and fifty women’ who had moved in the evening before.

The opening of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment Training Camp is an important and significant function; it is a very important landmark in the progress of our movement in East Asia.To realize its importance, you should bear in mind that ours is not a merely political movement.We are, on the other hand, engaged in the great task of regenerating our Nation. We are, in fact, ushering in a New Life for the Indian Nation, and it is necessary that our New Life should be built on sound foundations. Remember that ours is not a propaganda stunt; we are in fact witnessing the re-birth of India. And it is only in the fitness of things that there should be a stir of New Life among our womenfolk.

Bose went on:

Since 1928, I have been taking interest in women’s organizations in India and I found that, given the opportunity, our sisters could rise to any occasion. … If one type of courage is necessary for passive resistance, another and more active courage is necessary for revolutionary efforts, and in this too, I found that our sisters were not wanting. … Unfortunately, Jhansi Rani was defeated; it was not her defeat; it was the defeat of India.

She died but her spirit can never die. India can once again produce Jhansi Ranis and march on to victory.

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Karthika VK Set To Launch A New Division For Amazon-Owned Westland Publishers

By Somak Ghoshal

Karthika VK, who stepped down as Publisher and Chief Editor at HarperCollins Publishers India (HCI) last October, is set to start a new publishing division for Westland Publishers, now wholly owned by Amazon, according to sources. The name of the division is not known yet, but it is likely to start publishing titles from the third-quarter of this year.

Amazon.com Inc. acquired the publishing business of Westland, a Trent Limited subsidiary and one of India’s major publishing houses, last October as well, after initially having bought 26% stakes in it.

Westland, which includes imprints like Tranquebar and EastWest, published best-selling authors like Amish Tripathi, Ashwin Sanghi, Rashmi Bansal, Rujuta Diwekar, Preeti Shenoy, Devdutt Pattanaik, Anuja Chauhan, Ravi Subramanian and BKS Iyengar. Read more

Source: Huffington Post

 

 


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Muse India Young Writer Awards 2016 declared

The annual ‘Muse India-Satish Verma Young Writer Award’ for 2016 goes to three writers, a poet and two novelists. Muse India is a reputed literary ejournal of 12 years standing with membership from over 50 countries.

It is dedicated to Indian literature either originally in English or by way of translation from regional languages. Instituted in 2011, the Muse India Young Writer award was given away for 2011 and 2012.

From 2015 with the sponsorship received from Satish Verma, an Ajmer based poet and social worker who runs a holistic therapies centre (SewaMandir), the award has been renamed. The award is aimed at recognising and rewarding outstanding literary talent among writersup to 35 years of age.

While the poetry prize goes to Goirick Brahmachari (New Delhi) for his work ‘For the Love of Pork’ (Les Editions du Zaporogue, Denmark); the fiction prize goes to two joint winners – Karan Mahajan (Delhi) for his novel ‘The Association of Small Bombs’ (HarperCollins); and Radhika Maira Tabrez (Rae Bareilly) for her novel ‘In the Light of Darkness’ (Readomania). The three winners will receive Rs 10,000 each. Read more

Source: The Hans India


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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Shahnaz Bashir

By Aminah Sheikh

shahnaz-pic

Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

My basic instinct is to write. Of course, a cause, money, adulation and fame are what writers write for but they can’t happen without the instinct. The vent that I need to articulate the deepest levels of my consciousness drives me to write. When not writing, I sing; I sing well.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

My most recent book is Scattered Souls. It is a collection of 13 interlinked stories which makes it a novel as well. The connections between the stories have been determined by the interdependent diversity in suffering that run through disparate, scattered individuals as a thread, enabling each character a full role in relation to the other. But that is not how it was planned. It emerged while writing them.

The conflict situation in Kashmir is extraordinary. The stories try to evince what ordinary means to a people living (read suffering) in an extraordinary situation.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

Primarily, I’m fond of experimenting with diverse formats. I also like to punctuate the narration with real elements like a letter, an ad, a song, a poem, a list, a symbol and so on. I don’t like tight climax-plots but loose-ended plots to my stories with a multi-plot embedded throughout. I like a matter-of-fact, poetic, stream-of-consciousness, compact narration generally and above all. My stories would stand alone as well as converge, with certain elements, into each other. I am fond of nouns and verbs mostly, in verbing of nouns and adjectives as tiny metaphors. I don’t approve of fiction which is written only to explore the possibilities of language not ideas. I don’t like too much of aesthetic that fails to torture the language and holds it back from telling the latent truth.

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Has publishing really become more diverse?

By Danuta Kean

Courttia Newland has been here before. In 1997, it seemed as if the British book industry might finally have recognised it was out of step with the multicultural society that surrounded it. Writers of colour including Newland, Zadie Smith and Monica Ali were picking up sizable advances as the trade promised a step change. No longer would the doors of London publishers be time machines, transporting the unwary from one of the world’s most diverse cities to a monoculture that was a throwback to the 1950s. The books and the people who published them were going to be different.

Twenty years on, as the industry launches another drive for inclusivity, Newland is not holding his breath. “We are really wary because we have seen it all before,” he says. “A few people are championed and then people lose interest because they think the issue has been addressed. And then it all reverts back to the way it was before.” Read more

Source: The Guardian