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Meet the guardians of literature in Hyderabad

As the British poet-novelist CS Lewis once famously said, “Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”

Hyderabad is one such city where there’s literature worth beauty camouflaged in its historic monuments, delectable cuisine, exquisite mélange of languages and the salient contrast between the quaint old city charm and the ostentatious dynamics of city life.

Hyderabad also hosts a number of clubs that incessantly churn out wordsmiths, who, in return enrich the city’s aesthetics. Write Club, Happy Book Club, Abhivyakti, Twin City Poetry Club and Ka Se Kavita are some such paradises of bibliophiles.

Sravanthi Talluri, a software developer at an MNC and a founder of Write Club Hyderabad recalls the instigation of the club.

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Book Review: Exile: Memoir by Taslima Nasrin

By Piya Srinivasan


One thing we know about Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasrin, whether through her writings or hearsay, is that she doesn’t mince words. Her memoir follows this legacy. Exile is about the fight of a woman against the state, a commentary on India’s struggle to maintain its secular credentials, the rapidly diminishing arena of free expression, and the ugly effect of vote bank politics on her life. Her open attacks on religion, patriarchy and intolerance are distilled into a retelling of her seven-month ordeal in 2007 against the Indian state’s coercive mechanisms.

Nasrin has many epithets: former physician, humanist, human rights activist, proponent of freedom of expression and women’s rights, battler of fatwas. Forced to leave Bangladesh in 1994 after the religious furore caused by her book Lajja, she led a nomadic existence in Europe and America for a decade. Her repeated attempts to return to Bangladesh were rejected by the government. The last of her three-part memoir, Ka, published as Dwikhandito in West Bengal, was banned by the local government in 2003 for hurting Muslim religious sentiments. In 2004, she was granted a residency permit in India and made a home in Kolkata, the place closest to her homeland in language and culture.

Her narrative — through musings, letters, conversations, diary entries and newspaper reports – uncovers the grit and grime of politics. After an attack on her by religious ideologues linked to the political party AIMIM at the launch of her book Shodh in Hyderabad, a violent protest march by rabble rousers demanding her expulsion from Kolkata expedited the state government’s “Exit Taslima” mission.  She was subsequently put under house arrest on her return to Kolkata, for fear of communal disturbances over her presence. When asked to arrest the protesters, the Commissioner of Police refused, saying this was a “minority issue”. She offers this as proof of manufactured dissent by the state government to secure the Muslim vote bank.

She challenges Buddhadeb Bhattacharya who was the chief minister at the time, on his studied silence over the Dwikhandito ban, approved by him after 25 prominent literary figures read the book and condemned it, clearly belying the Left Front’s progressive ideals. She condemns many of the city’s intellectuals and exposes the media-politics alliance through the instance of Anandabazar Patrika editor-in-chief Aveek Sarkar stalling her interview for the newspaper on the then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee’s behest, allegedly to appease fundamentalist factions in West Bengal.

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Marathi: the Indian Language in Focus at HLF 2016

HLF 2016-LogoHLF pays special attention to one Indian language at each edition of the festival. This feature was introduced at the third edition of the festival in 2013 and Telugu, Hindi, and Urdu have been the languages in focus so far. In recognition of the historical links Hyderabad has had with Maharashtra for over three centuries, HLF will spotlight Marathi literature and culture at its sixth edition slated for 7-10 Jan 2016.

A range of events highlighting the richness and vibrancy of Marathi literature, art, and culture and featuring eminent Marathi writers, artistes, and activists are on the cards at HLF 2016.

These include:

  • Panel discussion on Marathi Dalit literature featuring Sharan Kumar Limbale, Urmila Pawar, and Pradnya Daya Pawar
  • Panel discussion on Marathi theatre with Mohan Agashe, Sushama Deshpande, and Sonali Kulkarni
  • Panel discussion on the Endangered Languages of Maharashtra led by Arun Jakhade
  • A session of Marathi poetry reading anchored by Hemant Divate
  • A presentation on Urmila Pawar’s autobiography Aaydaan by Sushama Deshpande
  • A story-telling and activity session in Marathi by Sandhya Taksale
  • Performance of the play “White Lily and Night Rider” by Sonali Kulkarni and her troupe
  • Performance by eminent flutist Rupak Kulkarni
  • Screening of several award-winning Marathi films
  • Impromptu snatches of Lavani dance.

Entry to HLF is free and open to all!

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Hyderabad Literature Festival 2016 to showcase Singapore literature and culture

HLF 2016-LogoFrom offering an inspiring growth model to the new state to preparing a blueprint of a futuristic capital, Singapore indeed seems to be the flavour of the season in this part of the country. But Singapore is not just a swanky city-state proud of its modern achievements; it is equally passionate about its cultural heritage.

The richness and diversity of Singapore’s literature and culture will be on show at the forthcoming Hyderabad Literature Festival (HLF) 2016 (7-10 Jan). Two years ago, the National Arts Council of Singapore, which functions under the Ministry of Culture, had sent a small delegation of writers to HLF to check out the festival. Apparently pleased by the way the festival was organized, the NAC has now readily acceded to HLF’s proposal to feature Singapore as the ‘Guest Nation’ at HLF 2016.

Mr Roy Kho, Singapore Consul-General in Chennai will be a guest of honour at the inaugural of HLF 2016, and six writers and nearly as many artistes will present their work at the festival in readings, panel discussions, workshops, and cultural events. Musicians of BronzAge Gamelan ensemble will accompany Rosemarie Somaiah of Asian Storytelling Network, Singapore’s first professional storytelling company, at the inaugural cultural event.

Besides, five animated short films produced by ‘The Filmic Eye’ will be screened at the festival. These films were produced under ‘Utter 2015’. Utter is a special initiative of the Singapore Writers Festival and it showcases the best of Singapore writing and celebrates its potential to be adapted into different media and across languages.

To complete the collaboration, Kitaab the Singapore-based publishing and multimedia company, which focuses mainly on Asian writing, is HLF’s official online media partner. Zafar Anjum, the founder and editor-in-chief of Kitaab, will participate in HLF both as a journalist and an author.

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Iconic 65-year-old Hyderabad bookstore to shut down

As hundreds of rare books and classics are dusted and neatly placed on the shelves every day, 55-year-old Sharafuddin Ansari Javed looks on wistfully, knowing it to be one of the final acts before the grand clearance.

For, 65 years after throwing open its doors to book lovers in the city, AA Husain and Co. in Abids will shut shop within a week to make way for a swanky multi-storeyed shopping mall. The mall builders have already started tearing down the rear side of the Arastu Trust Complex, a Wakf property which houses the big store, while teary-eyed employees recall the glory days.

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Review: A.G. Noorani’s The Destruction of Hyderabad

HyderabadA.G. Noorani’s book The Destruction of Hyderabad is about the ultimate, forced incorporation of Hyderabad into India. Noorani’s charge, pursued with considerable zeal, is that Patel was communal in his outlook and he “hated the Nizam personally and ideologically opposed Hyderabad’s composite culture.” (Page 214). But is that really an issue in the larger story of forging the nation-state that India is today?

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Hyderabad in five colors

Pico Iyer on Hyderabad, India in NYRB

When I flew into Hyderabad’s new Rajiv Gandhi International Airport not long ago, I was excited to visit a city that had become my ancestral homeland’s latest technological showpiece. A well-traveled American businessman I met in Singapore had told me about the elevated expressway running into town from the airport—like Silicon Valley, he said, only cleaner. Great glassy boxes saying “Oracle” and “Microsoft” and “Google” did indeed fill the skyline in places, and design hotels were lit up in turquoise and purple after dark. Sudden clusters of shopping-malls were like nothing I’d seen—or imagined possible—in India. Even one of the palaces of the late Nizam, the ruler of Hyderabad once said to be the wealthiest man in the world, had recently been turned into a $700-a-night Taj Group hotel that society matrons from New York’s Upper East Side were flocking to pay homage to.

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