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First ever India-ASEAN Writers Festival to be organised in Singapore

The High Commission of India in Singapore is organising the first ever India-ASEAN Writers Festival in Singapore.

2018 is the 25th year of friendship between India and ASEAN and the High Commission is celebrating it with multiple events as the ASEAN India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Overseas Indians Day). The festivities will be held on 6-7 January at the Marina Bay Sands.

https://www.pbdsingapore2018.org

One of the marquee events at the festival is the PBD Writers Festival, which has been programmed and organised by Kitaab International Pte Ltd. (Kitaab), a Singapore-Headquartered publishing and events company, on behalf of the High Commission of India in Singapore. 

More than 30 writers from ASEAN are participating in this two-day festival. Professor Edwin Thumboo, the doyen of poetry in Singapore, will be delivering the keynote address. Suchen Christine Lim, Isa Kamari, P N Balji, Chris Mooney-Singh, Marc Nair, Krishna Udayasankar, Clara Chow, Desmond Kon, Jayanthi Sankar and Elavazaghan Murugan are some of the prominent authors who will be participating in the festival.

Centuries-old ties between India and ASEAN nations

India, with 22 officially recognized languages and a history of over 3,000 years in written literature, possesses, ‘the single most complex and continuous multilingual tradition of literature in the world,’ according to Dr Sheldon Pollock, a Sanskrit scholar and editor of the Murty Classical Library of India (MCLI).

Through the millennia, India has been a source of inspiration for culture, art, architecture & literature in countries belonging to the present day ASEAN. Thanks to contact with Indian civilisation, Southeast Asia also created many literary works based on the Ramayana but with something distinctively their own.

Sanskrit scripts are the first form of writing known to have reached Southeast Asia. Similar alphabets were adopted for local languages as well. The alphabets used today for Burmese, Thai, Laos and Cambodia derive originally from Indian prototype. A large number of ancient inscriptions which have been discovered in these regions are in Sanskrit.  It is only culture that can nurture and build a sense of being part of something bigger. Literature and books in general are cultural products that have been known to have a significant influence on people, creating a sense of belonging and an ASEAN identity.

‘The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas Writers Festival 2018 celebrates the literary ties between India and the ASEAN nations. It showcases the literary talent of ASEAN – writers and poets who have contributed to building a common literary heritage across the nations,’ said Zafar Anjum, programme director and founder and CEO of Kitaab, Singapore.

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Kitaab’s The Best Asian Short Stories

By Mitali Chakravarty

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Title: The Best Asian Short Stories
Editor: Monideepa Sahu
Series Editor: Zafar Anjum
Publisher: Kitaab

The Best Asian Short Stories is one of the finest compilations of short stories I have read in a long time. The short stories cover a diaspora of Asian cultures, histories, societies in transit, shifting borders and values. They embrace an array of emotions that are universal and touch the heart of the reader. Established authors (Shashi Deshpande, Poile Sengupta, Farah Ghuznavi, Park Chan Soon, to name a few) and newcomers (N.Thierry, Wah Phing Lim, etc.) rub shoulders with stories that nudge one another, creating a wide range of reading experiences.

In this one book, I have travelled from the backstairs of Singapore’s government subsidized flats to Malaysian ports, to Phillipino slums, to Mao’s China, to Korea’s madly competitive society, to the lonely world of an Old Japanese, to a Syrian refugee’s boat, to the shifting borders of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, to the rebellion against restrictions in the conservative Middle East, to Canada, America and England. These stories have grasped values that leave the reader absolutely spellbound.

Universal truths are stated by the characters that come to life with a few strokes of the creator’s skilled pen. When a dying man discovers, ‘I’m neither Indian nor Bangladeshi. I’m human’, the character reaches out beyond the pages of the book and brings home that politics and nationalism draw borders where none exist for the poor man. In another story, around the eve of Indian independence, a little girl is ‘bewildered’ when she fails to find her homeland, Sindh, on the map of the new country and says, ‘It’s gone’. One is startled by the pathos that these two words can create and compelled to question why Indians mutely accepted the line drawn by Cyril Radcliffe. When in Canada, a middle aged Sindhi befriends a Hindi speaking Chinese, he contends, ‘I knew that we immigrants, Sindhi, Indian or Chinese, needed to look after each other’. This is an eternal truth faced by universal globetrotters traipsing through countries. The whole world becomes their home.

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Book Review: The Librarian by Kavitha Rao

By Mitali Chakravarty

The Librarian
Title: The Librarian
Author: Kavitha Rao
Publisher: Kitaab International Pte Ltd
Price: ₹ 299/-

 

 

The Librarian by Kavitha Rao is a novel that strolls through the old corridors of a library in Bombay, meanders through the lanes of London and returns to the dystopian world of the terrorist bomb blast that ripped Mumbai in 2008. Kavitha Rao has created a suspense-filled, layered story of a young girl’s passions, of the annihilation caused by uncontrolled obsessions and has unravelled the mystery behind the disappearance of Mrs. Sen, the assistant librarian. It has facts, romance, history, glamour, murder, robbery and gore, somewhat like a Dan Brown.

The protagonist, Vidya Patel, journeys through her childhood, guided in her passion for books by the intrepid librarian, Shekhar Raghavan. The library is also home to rare manuscripts; it reflects in microcosm a world in which Shekhar is the presiding deity. He supports Vidya when she rebels against her parents’ conservative Gujarati outlook and moves to a hostel for working women, trying to live life as she wants.

In London on a three-month scholarship, Vidya walks through the lanes of the city, visits the places frequented by authors and fictional characters, including 221b Baker Street, the home of Sherlock Holmes, and the grave of the famed English writer, George Eliot with its inscription of Mary Ann Cross. However, there is a discrepancy of a decade between the dates of George Eliot’s life span in the book and the ones inscribed on her grave. I wonder why… however, it is a minor detail in a story that spans larger societal concerns, where passions are unacceptable to ‘normal’ people and, left uncontrolled, can lead to fanaticism.

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Kitaab welcomes its new editor Sucharita Dutta-Asane

Team Kitaab welcomes Sucharita Dutta-Asane as its new editor. She is the second independent editor to be helming Kitaab, a Singapore-based online publication.

Sucharita, who is an independent editor and award-winning writer based in Pune, joined Team Kitaab on Friday (15 Sep). She took over the mantle of Kitaab’s editorship after the previous editor Amina Sheikh moved on.

“Kitaab has a specific vision – to be a singular site for Asian writing,” said Sucharita, on joining Kitaab. “Given the easily accepted westward tilt of our literary sensitivities, it is heartening to have a site like Kitaab that facilitates the move closer home. This is immensely exciting and I’m grateful to Zafar Anjum for giving me this opportunity to explore and celebrate Asian writing through its various facets, iterations and manifestations.” Continue reading


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Book Review: The Girl who Ran Away in a Washing Machine by Anu Kumar

By Rajat Chaudhuri

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Short stories? Who writes short stories these days? Aren’t we reminded time and again that publishers are no more interested in this form? But then, isn’t the novel too going to give up its ghost in a couple of hours as grey haired Cassandras predict with the regularity of automatons? Aren’t we advised that narrative nonfiction and its close cousin the diary or even the memoir, is the go-to form for the author who doesn’t want to be put on an artificial respirator? And just when this cumulonimbus of bad news bears down upon you, the fiction author (or the reviewer) you chance upon a book which simply says the “genre” is in safe hands and that this oldest of storytelling arts still has a lot to offer.

The Girl Who Ran Away in a Washing Machine and Other Stories is a collection of stories by Anu Kumar, published by Kitaab. The stories in this slim volume travel the distance from tony upper class neighbourhoods of Singapore to back of beyond villages of India, from futuristic urban settings with robot newsreaders to the ruins of the Indus Valley civilisation, taking the reader on a journey of discoveries that she will cherish for long. But what is definitely the strength of this book is the range of subjects and themes in which Kumar engages, without overburdening her audience.

Here you will find a wonderful story of love lost and found, a magical adventure with a ghost among the ruins of an ancient civilisation, a couple of tales where you chance upon men with weird eyebrows, a sprinkling of magic everywhere, a dash of the absurd sometimes and a wink and a nod towards science fiction. Elsewhere social evils like dowry, corruption, religious intolerance or the crisis of farmer suicides are spun into the narrative with an expert hand, imbuing those tales with a sense of urgency, without being stilted or preachy.

In the eponymous story set in rural Punjab, we meet Neha, newly married to Manjit, finding solace and a hiding place from her in-laws inside the symbolic space of a washing machine that was part of her dowry. “Washing Machine” and indeed a few other stories have an alluring quality that gives the reader the sense of drifting on a calm current as she gets engrossed by the storytelling. Delectable prose coupled with a narrative that slowly circles inwards, curling towards the beating heart of the plot, perhaps imparts this quality to Kumar’s stories. But this is not to say that there are no surprises here, no spindrift or maelstrom, no intrusions of the fantastic or the absurd. In fact, surprises are aplenty and some of these stories wear the edginess on their sleeves.

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New Release: Dreamagination by Rishav Gupta

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When Srinanda Gupta was reading stories to her 6-month-old son, little did she know then that this boy would be an author at the age of eight.

Srinanda fondly recalls the day Rishav walked up to her with his drawings and said he wanted a “real” book.

“I clearly remember how happy and confused I was at the same time because I did not quite understand what he meant. After a conversation, Rishav made it clear that he actually wanted to be an author,” says the mother who also teaches at Chatsworth International School in Singapore.  She decided to nurture his passion and give him time to become responsible for his own initiative. Rishav named the book The Lion’s Walk. Each page focused on a place and some detail that he observed of that particular place.

“He narrated the story while I documented it. What was unique was how Rishav read books, made connections with his personal experiences and applied his knowledge in his writing. I got the pages printed and stitched together,” shares Srinanda. That was Rishav’s first book!

Now this Grade 2 student of Chatsworth International School, Singapore, has a book to his credit Dreamagination, published by Kitaab International.

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The book is a collection of 10 stories written by Rishav between the age of 3 and 7. Dreamagination is more than a book. It is a writing journey of a young boy from doodling, to drawing and then consolidating his ideas in writing.

“This is a big wish come true! You must dream and when the dream becomes bigger, bigger and bigger, it comes true. I want to encourage everyone around the world to write because it helps people to communicate and you can express your heart full of stories. You need dreamagination to live,” says Rishav.

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New Release: Rooh se Rooh tak by Candy de Launey

front-page_v3Published in 2016 by Simurg, an imprint of Kitaab International Pte. Ltd Rooh se Rooh tak, a collection of poems by Candy de Launey explores dimensions of love and fury,
sadness and joy and quiet truths about the variety of human emotions … where soul and body and emotion and consciousness are never separate but a part of the great mystery of life, a riddle whose answer perhaps is love … or perhaps not … with all its fears, longings, expressions and suppressions … dying to take the
risk of discovering her own core self …

The 25 Poems are all in English, and only one is in Hindi of which 6 are musical
recitations which have been composed beautifully by Anand Dhamelia and
Vijutash Angurana and available on Sound cloud.

About the author:

Candy de Launey began writing at the age of 6. Candy holds a Master’s in Business Administration and has studied Psychotherapy & Counselling. She is currently studying Masters in Counselling and hopes to complete her Doctorate research in the areas of: The natural path to Happiness and application of neuroscience in Marketing. Candy is a Leadership & Executive Coach, and a Marketing & Strategic business Consultant by profession with over 23 years of an illustrious career globally. She hails from Bangalore and currently resides in Singapore.

In Rooh se Rooh tak…she bears her Soul to give us a glimpse into the musings of
the dawn, dusk and nights of Love, longing, silence, beauty…fragrant with the
notes of Indian classical tones and western hues which catch the breath and
wake up the senses.

 


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New Release: INSPIRE Beyond SG50 published by Kitaab

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Conceived by CIO Academy Asia and published by Kitaab, “INSPIRE Beyond SG50” collects behind-the-scene stories of CIOs from a wide range of private and public sector organisations in the Asia-Pacific region. It captures their insights, perspectives and real experiences through seven core themes: Integrity, New (Innovation), Strategy, People, Implementation, Relationship and Excellence.

This book consists of contributions by more than 50 CIOs based in Singapore. This book was conceived with the hope to inspire the new generation of IT leaders to hone their leadership skills that are essential for their career in the ever-changing business landscape.

A CIO core team came together with the idea to publish a commemorative Beyond SG50 CIO book. The book is centred around the theme INSPIRE with the letters forming the 7 Pillars of IT leadership:

Integrity, New, Strategy, People, Implementation, Relationship, Excellence.

To buy: INSPIRE Beyond SG50

 


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New Release: Tweet by Isa Kamari

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Published by Kitaab International, Tweet is Cultural Medallion winner Isa Kamari’s new novella. Tweet, is a high-quality work of imaginative fiction that marries traditional storytelling with a modern theme. The novel is set in Singapore’s bird park, an international tourist destination and an iconic bird sanctuary. Isa Kamari, through a dialogue between a Singaporean grandfather and his grandchild, ponders over the stress and demands of our modern human existence. Through the grandchild’s innocent questions, the author exposes us to the frailties of our modern life. Intermixed in the narrative is the famous fable of Simurg, the legendary bird, that some of the birds of the bird park are deliriously desirous of meeting. They embark upon a journey that brings them face-to-face with a reality that they had not imagined even in their dreams. In his first ever English language work, Isa Kamari shows us a new facet of his storytelling abilities, which is part philosophical and part imaginative.

About the author: 

Isa Kamari has written in Malay, 9 novels, 2 collections of poetry, a collection of short stories, a book of essays on Singapore Malay poetry, a collection of theatre scripts and lyrics of 2 song albums. His novels have been translated into English, Turkish, Urdu, Indonesian and Mandarin. His collections of essays and selected poems have been translated into English. Isa was conferred the S.E.A Write Award in 2006, Singapore Cultural Medallion in 2007 and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang in 2009.

To buy: Tweet 

 


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New Release: Horizon Afar by Jayanthi Sankar

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Published by Kitaab International, Horizon Afar is a collection of Tamil short stories written by Jayanthi Sankar and translator into English by P. Muralidharan.

This collection of short stories traverse beyond the contemporary life of Singapore on a quest to answer the eternal question, “What made life on this earth mechanical and devoid of meaning?” Presented here is a peek into the other side of modern life, opening new windows to the life and culture of various ethnicities of South East Asia.

Jayanthi Sankar is popular in the mainland just as amongst the writers of the diaspora. Her presence is totally absent in the stories themselves. The human side of Singapore, its students, the life of migrant workers and their aspirations to acquire resident status, interracial origins, lives of sex workers, cohabiting youth and many more such lucid narrations motivated me to translate them for English readers. The short story, “A Few Pages from Yuka Wong’s Diary”, on century-old cultural and political issues of China and Japan, is a unique work by any author of Indian origin.

About the author:

Jayanthi Sankar has been creatively active for the past twenty-one years in short stories, novels, translation, transcreations and essays. Several of her books have been awarded by renowned organisations. Born and brought up in India, she has lived in Singapore since 1990. After Loss and Laws, Horizon Afar is the second collection of her Tamil short stories that have been translated into English.

Her website at www.jeyanthisankar.com gives a glimpse of her writing journey.

About the translator:

P. Muralidharan writes with the pseudonym Sathyanandhan. He lives in Chennai, India, and continues his creative quest as a poet, a critic and a novelist in the Tamil literary arts. His ability to write creatively in all genres like short story, poems, columns, novel and criticism on a variety of subjects has made him stand out in the Modern Tamil literature for more than a decade. His works have been published in literary magazines like Kanaiyazhi. Thinnai.com has been a consistent platform for his works. Besides a collection of poetry Veliye veedu, his novels Purshartham and Vigraham have been published in print. Two of his novels Bodhi Maram and Mulveli were published as a series during 2012 and 2013 in Thinnai. His works on Ramayana and Zen, published in Thinnai during 2011 have gained him a wider readership recently. He writes weekly columns in pathivukal.com. All of his works are republished in his blog at https://sathyanandhan.com.

To buy: Horizon Afar