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Voices unheard: Tribal literature from India to read now

India is rich with a diversity of religions, arts, customs, races, traditions, and languages. While the government of India recognizes twenty-two official languages, there are over 880 languages spoken in the country. Until recently, the tribal literature created in non-mainstream languages has not been very recognized or available for an Indian or global audience. One of the primary reasons for this is that tribal discourse, including folktales and songs, is mainly oral in nature. In addition, the communities who produce it tend to be far from developed metropolitan cities, and so their creative works have been largely overlooked.

However, the Indian government and prominent personalities, including social activists and politicians, have stepped forward to encourage the conservation and translation of these unheard voices and to share their literary gems with the world. Sahitya Akademi, India’s National Academy of Letters, has developed the Project of Indian Literature in Tribal Languages and Oral Traditions to preserve and educate people about this literature. And the author G. N. Devy has been influential in translating various indigenous languages into English and Hindi. When asked why tribal literature has been less visible than that of other Indian languages, Devy says, “After print technology started impacting Indian languages during the nineteenth century, the fate of the oral became precarious. A gross cultural neglect had to be faced by the languages which remained outside print technology.”

Here are a few books based on tribal literature that will transport you and enable you to appreciate the array of cultural diversity that this literature offers.

1. Mizo Songs and Folk Tales, edited by Laltluangliana Khiangte

Mizo folk literature comes from the Northeastern state of India called Mizoram. The Mizos are well known as “the singing tribe.” This compilation includes folk narratives, songs, proverbs, rituals, riddles, tales, and war cries. A unique and interesting feature of Mizo literature is that the primary source of the songs, poems, and tales can often be traced. For instance, the first known composer of these songs was named Hmuaki. Hmuaki was not only the oldest known composer, but she was also a woman, a significant fact given that she lived in ancient times. Listen to a Mizo folk song.

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Victims of genocide or victims of history: 10 facts you did not know about the Rohingya crisis and the roasting of Aung Sang Suu Kyi


A profoundly ignorant chorus of denunciation has descended upon Aung Sang Suu Kyi over the treatment of the Rohingyas — while ignoring the historical baggage of colonial policies that created this tragic conundrum. And critics ignore the role of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which mounted coordinated attacks on police stations, army posts and civilian targets in November 2016 and August 2017. Here are some facts for your to consider:

1. It all goes back to the 1932 election in Burma (then part of British India); the Brits wanted to separate Burmese from India, and propped up the Separatist League, but the Anti-Separatists (led by Ba Maw) won. They wanted to remain loosely federated with India. Nonetheless Burma was separated from India in 1935. When Ba Maw won the next election too in 1937, the British policies of Divide and Rule were stepped up — and led to anti-Indian rioting in 1938 in Rangoon (after the Brits imprisoned Ba Maw for seeking Japanese support for his campaign of full independence from the Brits).

2. When Japan liberated Burma in March 1942, Ba Maw was restored to power (formally becoming Prime Minister or Adipati in August 1943), with Aung San as his DPM and Defence minister. The British had ensured that the British Burma Army contained no Burmese (instead comprising Karen, Kachins, Shans and Chins) while the bureaucracy contained mainly Anglo-Burmans and Indians. The majority Bamars only got opportunities in the military and bureaucracy in alliance with the Japanese.  Continue reading


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Hindi literature: For Premchand, Good Literature Was About Truth and Humanity

The great Hindi writer remains as relevant today as he was more than a century ago.

Born 137 years ago on July 31 in Lamhi, a village near Varanasi, Premchand (1880-1936) wrote about things that have always existed but had hitherto been considered beyond the pale of literature – exploitation and submission, greed and corruption, the straightjacket of poverty and an unyielding caste system. Son of a post office clerk, he was named Dhanpat Rai (literally meaning the ‘master of wealth’), yet he waged a lifelong battle against unremitting genteel poverty. Reading and writing, always the stock in trade of a good kayastha boy, coupled with acute social consciousness and an unerring eye for detail turned him – with a literary career spanning three decades which included 14 novels, 300 short stories, several translations from English classics, innumerable essays and editorial pieces – into a qalam ka sipahi, a ‘soldier with the pen’.

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The Lounge Chair Interview: 10 Questions with Ather Farouqui

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

To be honest, I haven’t enjoyed writing for a long time now for reasons beyond my control. I enjoy reading mainly contemporary texts in English. I also read a lot of Urdu poetry, mainly classical poets and poets of modern sensibility, including the modernist poets of the Progressive Writers Movement.

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

 My latest translation is of The Life and Poetry of  Bahdaur Shah Zafar written by Aslam Parvez. My endeavour was to make a wonderful book that has for long been confined to a narrow Urdu readership available to the wider English-speaking world.  Continue reading


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The Ethics of Translation

By Chandan Gowda

A linguist narrated an anecdote that I haven’t been able to forget. A translator in medieval China complained of budget cuts for the work of translation: “In earlier days, a hundred translators worked together, in one large room, to translate a text. This number is now reduced to forty.” Besides the charms of collective authorship of translated texts, in contrast with the modern figure of the solo translator, the anecdote had held up the value of translation in China.

Translations open up pathways of imagination between cultural communities. While their value appears obvious, a few cautionary observations, especially with reference to contemporary English translations from Indian language, might be worth recalling.

Since great stories about village India or tribal India, to name just two spheres of experience, are likely to be written in Indian languages, only translations, in English or Indian languages, can come to the rescue of curious minds. More generally, an interest in the best works of Indian literature and political thought can be presumed to exist, either now or at another point in time. So far, so good. Read more

Source: Bangalore Mirror


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Have you written a children’s story inspired by Asia?

The Scholastic Asian Book Award (Saba) is a joint initiative between the National Book Development Council of Singapore and publishers Scholastic Asia that “will recognise children’s writers of Asian origin who are taking the experiences of life, spirit, and thinking in different parts of Asia to the world at large”.

Since its inception in 2011, the biennial award has been responsible for publishing English language works by authors from all over Asia, including India, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

The best manuscript wins S$10,000 (RM31,000) and will be considered by Scholastic Asia for publication; the authors of the first and second runners-up manuscripts will be offered advice by Scholastic Asia on editing and submitting their works for publication. Read more

Source: Star2.com


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Indian author moots confederation to settle Kashmir issue

Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari on Wednesday released a book that calls for a confederation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh but without undoing the partition as the only way to address poverty and resolve the Kashmir dispute.

“Regional cooperation with a focus on human security problems, on movement of people and on trade without unreasonable restrictions” was the need of the hour, Mr Ansari said at a function in Mumbai, apparently agreeing with the book’s argument.

“The common traits in cultural traditions and historical narratives need to be transmitted to younger generation through conscious promotion rather than prevention of cultural exchanges, films, and other cultural activities,” Mr Ansari said in his appeal to the governments and civil societies in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Mr Ansari made these comments while releasing August Voices, a new book by Indian peace activist Sudheendra Kulkarni, which calls for an India-Pakistan-Bangladesh confederation. Read more

Source: DAWN


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Book Review: Full Marks for Trying: An Unlikely Journey from the Raj to the Rag Trade by Brigid Keenan

ful-marks

Having recently passed a Waterstones’ window that advertised a book based on a hideously abused childhood with the words: “Seriously honest! Feel his pain!” it was a relief to read Brigid Keenan’s assessment of her own past. “It seems to me now that my childhood was the exact opposite of a misery memoir,” she says; “it was almost too happy, too sheltered, too cosy.”

It’s a relief, of course, to read that, but at the same time quite daunting. Is it possible to produce a readable memoir that’s full of joy? The answer is “Yes”. Keenan writes feelgood books. I’ve devoured Diplomatic Baggage and Packing Up – both memoirs of her time as a diplomatic wife in India and eastern Europe – and this account of her childhood and early career in the 1960s is another compulsive and humorous read.

We sometimes read autobiographies to find bits that resonate with us. This one chimed with me more than most. There was barely a page where I wasn’t wanting to email Keenan to tell her: “But I did that! My mother did that!” I’ve met her occasionally, both of us being journalists with only five years between us, but I never realised the similarities that are paraded through these pages. Read more


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New Release: Abdul Gani Bhat’s ‘Beyond Me’ captivates, jolts the reader

The former Prime Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was on Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru’s mission Kashmir in Pakistan to explore possibilities to work out a peaceful settlement of Kashmir dispute but Nehru died while Sheikh was in Pakistan, former APHC Chairman and Muslim Conference leader, Prof. Abdul Gani Bhat writes in his autobiography ‘Beyond Me’.

In his 264-page book published by Gulshan Books Kashmir, Bhat writes that the war between India and China – the most humiliating war to recount amid noises ‘Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai’ eventually brought Jawahar Lal Nehru’s ivory towers tumbling down in pieces to earth.

“Nehru’s sense of history was sharper than a few others around. He understood that belligerence against the neighbouring China and Pakistan at the same time could spell a disaster in the entire region and thus in deference to Anglo-American diplomatic persuasion as well preferred a strategic dialogue with Pakistan on Kashmir dispute. The dialogue happened to produce no solution as usual,” he writes in the book that he has dedicated to Qurat-ul-Ain and her mother Tasleema and that encapsulates his life upto 1987.

The book divided into 15 chapters is being released at a simple function in Srinagar on Friday. Bhat writes things changed when National Conference (NC) founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah was released from captivity. Read more


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Book Review: Garrisoned Minds: Women and Armed Conflict in South Asia

minds

As a journalist one has covered and read stories galore about rape, atrocities by the armed forces and militants and suppression of women in the name of religion, caste, but reading Garrisoned Minds underlines the brutality all over again.

So disturbing are some of the essays that it is not possible to read them at one go. The book follows 12 journalists across the conflict zones of South Asia—Pakistan, Nepal and India (Kashmir and the Northeast). The impact of 13 long years of war in Afghanistan is evident in neighbouring Pakistan.

The editors, Laxmi Murthy and Mitu Varma, have done well to begin each section with the historical context of a conflict. It is a bold book because it names and exposes the armed forces as well as extremists who tortured and raped women. For women, breaking the silence has severe consequences and without support, few women dare speak out. Read more