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Kitaab Singapore organizes the first SRMU Kitaab Literary Festival in Lucknow

Lucknow has been the hub of mushaira, Dasstaangoi and kavi sammelan for centuries, but as times change, rituals and traditions also get recreated and rejuvenated according to the prevailing zeitgeist. In a unique collaboration, the first of its kind, writers, poets, translators and scriptwriters from different parts of India and Asia assembled in Lucknow in the first weekend of April to celebrate writing from South Asia and Southeast Asia.

This first edition of the SRMU Kitaab Literary Festival was jointly organized by Kitaab International Pte. Ltd., Singapore and Shri Ramaswaroop Memorial University (SRMU), Lucknow and was held on the 7th and 8th of April, 2018 at the SRMU campus.

Building bridges between Asian writers and readers


Lighting the lamp: Pro Chancellor Pooja Agarwal (second from right)

Festival Director Zafar Anjum, the festival’s patron A K Singh, Vice Chancellor of SRMU, Chancellor Pankaj Agarwal, Pro Chancellor Pooja Agarwal, and the faculty of SRMU led by Dr. B.M. Dixit, inaugurated the festival. ‘The aim of this festival ties up with the aim of Kitaab—to create bridges and dialogue between Asian writers and global readers and to bring literature to the grassroots,’ said Anjum in his welcome address.


Kitaab’s director Zafar Anjum delivering his welcome address

Agarwal applauded SRMU’s collaboration with Kitaab. He said that Kitaab is an esteemed organisation that offers a promising worldwide platform to both budding and established authors, editors and publishers. Extending from the areas of literary fiction and translation to filmmaking (together with Filmwallas, founded by Zafar Anjum), Kitaab caters to all genres in English and other South Asian languages.


The festival featured more than 20 writers in English, Hindi and Urdu from India, Singapore and Malaysia. Well-known and award-winning writers such as Sudeep Sen, Rahman Abbas, Yogesh Praveen, Dr. Surya Prasad Dixit, Isa Kamari, Dr. Rakhshanda Jalil, Dr. Malachi Edwin Vethamani and Novoneel Chakraborty top lined the festival. Theatre and film actor Shishir Sharma, who was present to talk about his journey in the world of acting, presented the film, More Chai Please, Singapore’s first Urdu short film.

The film, shot in Singapore and presented by Filmwallas, tells the story of a couple with the plot spanning Singapore and Lucknow. The film’s writer and producer Sunita Lad Bhamray and its director Zafar Anjum were present during a special screening of the film on the second day of the festival.


Eminent poet Sudeep Sen with veteran actor Shishir Sharma

The other major highlight of the festival was the launch of Tawassul, a Malay novel by Singaporean novelist Isa Kamari, translated into Urdu by Rubina Siddiqui. It is the first work of Singaporean literature to be translated into Urdu. Award-winning Urdu novelist, Rahman Abbas who has also helped oversee the edits, hailed this avant-garde work of fiction and told the audience that the book’s Hindi edition was in the works.


Rahman Abbas (left) with Isa Kamari (right) launching Tawassul in Urdu


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Poetry Review: Four Degrees of Separation

By Jessica Faleiro

Four Degrees of Separation CoverRochelle Potkar is a Mumbai-based fiction writer and poet. Her first book, The Arithmetic of Breasts (2015), is a collection of short stories and Four Degrees of Separation (2016) is her first poetry collection.

The collection consists of sixty poems structured under seven pronoun-ed section headings namely: i, he, them, they, her, there, those. I found the section titles interesting, then distracting as I wondered about the choice of “he” but then the switch to “her” instead of “she”. Perhaps the intention was to be elusive, so I let it go and dove straight into the writing.

With the opening poem “Timely”, Potkar immediately draws the reader into a world of voluminous images, bringing life to each syllable. “Don’t pick a wilted flower/ even graves are dressed in fresh ones/ – heart-beating petals over dead bone/ and you ask me to wait.” The last verse bears a haunting refrain to the opening, “Don’t ask a rose to wait. / There is no time in its petals/ only the saga of one sunrise/ and one sundown.” Her words are rich; full of colour and brilliance. There is a poignant sense of pause as we are called to measure our breath while reading these words.

The next poem, “Stray epiphanies”, introduces the sense of disconnection and alienation that weaves its way into some other poems in this collection too, while also showcasing Potkar’s capacity for diversity of form. The eleven epiphanies leave me with the impression of a mind bouncing mercilessly awake on tossed linen while staring up at a dark ceiling at 3 am. She opens gently enough, introducing us to the idea of the poem, then by epiphany number 5 we arrive at “Mumbai will stamp on your feet/ but allow you your space. / She doesn’t care whom you date.” But it’s epiphany number 8 that really grabbed my attention, “Eat my words, you word-vulture/ give me back none.” Ending with “I will one day cut you open, and take away your entrails.” This is where the poem’s tenor shifts to reveal surprisingly dark corners. “Doggerel” introduces us to Potkar’s playfulness, with her final words in the last verse, “We sometimes remember not the model student/ the first ranker, / but the one who was completely out of rhyme, / out of tune./ out of line./ out of time./ This is only about memory./ If not, what is?” Continue reading

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Kitaab and Joompe tie up to live stream from Hyderabad Literary Festival 2016

Kitaab Poster - Wed Live Stream - Design #2 (Rv4)
Singapore-based literary startup Kitaab has tied up with Joompe, an innovative Singapore startup, to live stream interactions with writers attending the Hyderabad Literary Festival (HLF) in Hyderabad, India, to be held on 7-10 January 2016.

Kitaab is the official media partner of HLF, and Kitaab’s founder Zafar Anjum has been invited to speak at the festival.

Joompe is an easy-to-use mobile LIVEstream V-commerce app that is shareable across social media platforms. The community broadcasts their events LIVE on the app, on Joompe.TV or embedded on site.

Last year 12,000 visitors are reported to have attended HLF and more are expected this year. The guest nation this year is Singapore; six writers and five artists from Singapore have been invited for HLF. In all there will be 120 writers and artistes for HLF, 2016. Some of the writers’ and poets’ names are Nayantara Sahgal, Tabish Khair, Christine C Fair, Meena Alexander, Rochelle Potkar, Kazim Ali and Zafar Anjum.

HLF 2016-Logo“I am very excited to marry literature with technology through the Joompe platform,” said Anjum. “It’s a first for Kitaab and I can see this partnership evolving into something bigger.”

Kicking off the live streaming partnership, Anjum will be on air at 4pm Singapore/1.30pm India time on Wednesday (30 December) on Joompe’s platform. The live streaming event will allow users to chat with Anjum in an interactive session. Kitaab’s readers can catch the streaming live on kitaab.org.


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Kitaab Review: The Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories by Rochelle Potkar

by Monica Arora

breastsThe Arithmetic of Breasts and Other Stories by Rochelle Potkar (Kindle, 2014) doesn’t have just its Maths, but also its Chemistry, Physics and Biology in the right measure. These bold and tantalising tales of myriad men and women grappling with issues of relationships and passion, offer much insight into the dark recesses of the human mind pertaining to their romantic pursuits. Rochelle Potkar’s easy style of writing and her ability to conjure up images whilst narrating her “seven and a half stories” draws the reader into the worlds of the characters, and enables the reader to empathise with their peculiar predicaments.

Narain’s raw passion for Munika in the title story “The Arithmetic of Breasts” is so powerful and strong that it almost leaps out of the pages, and the intensity of their love-making is beautifully described with small, intimate details. Continue reading