Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

Feb 20, 2015

BOOK CLUB READING: Flora by Gail Godwin

Flora by Gail Godwin
A book about self obsessed child, Helen who is not able to look beyond her own nose to see what's happening around her and still able to hold on her own, when her mainstay of the life, Grand Mother dies. In the small cottage she comes to live with her relative Flora, while her father is working elsewhere... This is a story about her summer days with Flora, who is quite unassuming and her coming of age.
The language is beautifully simple and a child's psychology is truthfully portrayed. I love the way, there are slashes of revelations and how the tragic end cuts across the story line. The constant presence of her Grandmother in her thoughts and the subtlety with which her crush is revealed in direct contrast with the love affair that's taking seed right in front of her nose... which she so childishly refuses to see as usually the self obsessed children do.
I have two things to say on the story... I felt that the story should have ended with the tragedy and it should have been named as Helen rather than Flora.
I liked it, yes, It was a soft read but worth time spent on seeing a grown up truthfully portraying a child.
IMAGE : NYT click here to read the New York Times Review..
नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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Jan 19, 2015

HINDU LIT FOR LIFE 2015 : And the winner is...

... The amazing audience of Chennai. Where else in the country, you will find such an engaged audience that can ask question across the auditorium and be heard without mike. And Hats off to Hindu Lit For Life team for creating such a lovely event. It was a pleasure to be here. Thank you.

Now, let me take you for a walk among the stars of the festival and some lovely sessions, where thoughts lead to thinking, and thinking lead to creativity that enveloped the beautiful venue.

DAY - 2
A heart to heart talk, where T M Krishna and Dayanita Singh explored their creative self in  the context of expression.

"I never thought that there are other art forms (as expressive and deep as mine), because we are not receptive of other art forms" - T M Krishna

"Singing is about listening", said T M Krishna, "As you experience it, it is also, feeling, smelling. Took me a long time to figure it out." He asked Dayanita Singh about her own art form in terms of lots of people taking pictures all the time, all around with their smart phones, "What's happening in the process, click, click, click...?"

"Click, click is exactly just the click, click. There's not even a word here. For thirty years, I have been collecting words." - Dayanita Singh


The discussion started with the strong perception prevalent in public, in context of Movies, Serials and Internet, stated by David Davidar the the "Novel is dead" to which Irwin Allan Sealy responded,"I write dead novels", with a qualifier that in his opinion, that there can be only two books from the beginning of times, which can be eternal - 'The life cycles of Mosquito' and 'Confessions of Sunny Leone". Damon Galgut refuted the charge as the art form of novel can't be dead, as people need stories. T V Serials and other electronic media doesn't require anything from you, whereas novels, stories, poetry do require extra effort. They offer unique pleasure, not found anywhere else, so people will continue to write and read fiction.

When David Davidar asked whether the writers censor themselves while writing subjects that may evoke controversy and protests, as in the recent case of Perumal Murugan, Sealy said that he does censor himself and feels ashamed about it. I imagine writing and then take two steps back. Eleanor Catton finds it tricky. Personally she would not like to tell someone else's story. There are levels she may not write at. I will hesitate to intervene.

"Writing is hard obligation to be good. Writer must worship the form, the idea; one is working on." - Eleanor Catton


Ashok Srinivasan for his debut collection of short stories, presented by Retd. Chief Justice Leila Seth. Click here to read more about it....

... was, as usual, star of the day for Chennai Fan club.
But for me, it was sessions like...

"There's new truth in every rendition of a composition." - T M Krishnan

"Form is treated like step brother, but actually it's like kulhar (the earthen pot, in which the hot steaming coffee was served in the old days), which is radically altering the taste of the drink. Form radically alters the consciousness (of the material, you are writing about). Form is not a passive receptacle. Once it's chosen, you are restricted as well as liberated." - Irwin Allan Sealy

Irwin Allan Sealy

"In 1800 years of retelling the story, the character of Krishna has changed from 'uncle slayer' to what he is now... Retelling is about market, we end up spending hours of T V Time listening to charlatan's like Asharam Bapu and Devdutt Patnaik is making a killing out of it" - Sadanand Menon

DAY - 3
A somber and nostalgic beginning to the day with long time friends of a great writer Ananthamurthy, Manu Chakravarthy, Noble prize nominee K Satchidanandan and Shiv Vishwanathan, shared their personal moments with saintly Ananthamurthy and his thoughts which were apart from being radical at points, quite close to the reality of India, it's culture and it's political leadership.

Ananthamurthy Quotes by the panelists...
"Illiterates are essential in India as they are able to speak five languages at times, while the literates find it hard to speak more than one" 

"You can not talk of 'Freedom of Speech' until you learn the art of listening"
- Shared by Manu Chakravarthy.

"Women's expectations must not be set too high" - Jung Chang

"Women know how to handle men without letting their ego hurt. They have been doing that with their children and husband (from ages)" - Leila Seth, First Women Chief Justice India

"Charm of human being is to have contradiction in life" - Leila Seth

I heard her speaking about her book previous book "The File Room" few months back. This time, when I met her, after the session 'A Voice of One's Own' she  said that she liked my write up a lot and actively promoting it in her circle (You can read it here...) And today I have a confession to make. Before meeting her today, as she had promised to spend some time with me to answer few of my questions on Photography - the vocabulary of her art form, I went to the kiosk where her latest books were selling and asked for the book 'The Book on the Wall' and it was politely informed that it's not available, which surprised me as all her other books were there. As her presentation began, I realised my mistake. She actually never wrote that book... but it was the way she presents her art form. Sometimes she finds a way to make an exhibition out of a book... and sometimes it's actually 'The Book On The Wall'...

And here are some of powerful insights on her art form and the vocabulary - Photography.

"Essence of photography is dissemination, conversation is the key for me. I try to bridge the gap between the artist and book maker"

"Photography as we know it, i.e. getting to a place, finding the right exposure and setting etc. is over. The explosion of photographer's with their smart phones is definitely going to democratise photography. It's now easier to take a picture but then the intention is different for everybody. Some may just wants to share on social media, some to create long lasting memories or some may not want to become a photographer at all.  But for me,  it is to make my photography in such a way that every one can bring their own story to it."

"Taking picture is not enough, think about the form, the story. That's what it's all about - Challenges. I am more of an 'On going moment'.

Some one from the audience asked how to translate a poetry into a picture, she said...
"Don't even attempt to illustrate a poem but find a way around or beside it" - Dayanita Singh

Finally I am leaving you with two images that most of the visitors to the festival can relate with....

From an amazing team of talented students performing theatre  which was part of the ongoing festival through out...

Students from Theater Society of IIT-M

And I had to meet this regular of Hindu Lit Fest and I am sure the visitors of the festival know him by face. He is a Film and T.V. Serial actor, including Hollywood movie Maya, knows five languages, including German and French and have read almost 50K books. He informs me that he visits each and every public engagement of Chennai which I am sure of, as over the years I have seen him to be at all the Hindu Lit Fests I have attended. He is usually the first person to ask questions to the panellist, with or without mike.

As per his visiting card, he is available for 'Film story discussion and translations'.

I hope you have enjoyed the walk among the galaxy of stars from the literary world. Let me know if there are any discrepancies or corrections in the post and share your thoughts... 

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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Hindu Lit For Life 2015 - Day 1

Jan 17, 2015

HINDU LIT FOR LIFE - Day 1: A Walk Among the Galaxy of Stars

From the sidelines of the best literary festival down south - Day 1

The Hindu has been doing a great service to the literary inclined Chennaites for last five years and each year has seen it grow in its stature and quality. This year with 100% growth in the registrations, the curator, Ms. Nirmala Lakshman (Director – The Hindu Group), along with Programme Director Ms. Rachna Singh Davidar and consultant Ms. Prasanna Ramaswamy and the team, has made this event, one of the best Lit Fest in India, by bringing some of the brightest minds of our times to the forum.

After the ritual lighting of the lamp, the event started on a somber note as Nayantara Sahgal remarked remembering the ‘silencing’ of Tamil writer Perumal Murugan…

“An important writer has been silenced. If this kind of things goes on, there will be no more festivals like this (in future)”.
Nayantara Sahgal

The first session with the youngest ever recipient of Man Booker Prize (2013) Eleanor Catton for her book ‘The Luminaries’ in discussion with Artist Parvathi Nayar. She took us on an interesting journey from her book ‘The Rehearsal’ to ‘The Luminaries’ with fresh insight on becoming and growing as an author. In the beginning, she did not allow her family to read her book till it was published as she believed that they were quite personal. ‘Books are very much like relationship; a love affair’. She remarked about the changes she perceived in herself as a young author. “It is like the times, when one reaches puberty, one becomes one’s own audience. Curious thing about writers is that you grow older but books don’t. The gap is ever widening, hence I don’t revisit my earlier books in critical sense. So when a director requested to make a movie on Rehearsal, I let it go and not involved in the process at all”

To a question about spirituality and the intelligent design, she said, “Why we (The Western world) became so scornful of the idea that there’s a larger consciousness above all”. Finally she had the most important advise to the aspiring authors like me and probably the best one of the season, for writing a great book…

Writing to satisfy two different people, in your mind, does the trick – One who knows all about the things that you are writing about and the other one who does not know anything about it at all” - Eleanor Catton

Then there was an interesting session on ‘The First Firangis’ by Jonathan Gill Harris, where he took us on a
journey scouring the early invasion of Firangs (The Foreigners) even before India was invaded. Stories of people like Patri Guru (The Guru of Coconut leaves) writing Pailam and Krista Purana on the lines of old puranas who was a great evangelist for Nariyal paani and Marathi Language. Hakim Nikolo, a teenage runaway from Venice who became a medicine man in old Chennai and the Portuguese slave girl from Hooghly, in the harem of Shah Alam, who later on became his political advisor.

The discussion on ‘The Feminine Form: Site of Violence’ with Ammu Joseph, Prabha Sridevan, Ramesh Gopalkrishnan and U Vasuki, went along the similar lines of proposing to do things that will highlight and prevent incidents of sexual abuse, domestic violence and oppression of women in India, but falling short of any concrete steps to be taken. The panelist agreed that the incidents of rapes etc. still has heightened sense of stigma and honor attached to it in India. Most of the crimes against women does not get reported in India hence WHO’s reports on the same falls short of the highlighting the enormous decay in social structure. Ms. U Vasuki’s raised an important question for the people who talk, ‘She was wearing this dress, that dress so got raped’. “Well she was wearing a dress, right? Then what’s your problem? And what actually is a Rape Resistant Dress?

Going by the difficulty, me and my friend Rajesh had in finding a seat in the auditorium, probably "Good Governance' was the most awaited discussion of the day, where Sashi Kumar engaged the eminent panelists like Rajdeep Sardesai, Dr. Sanjay Baru and Vinod Rai which started with a frank admission by Sanjay Baru, “Yes UPA-II was a disaster” and later on added that the people of this country have enormous tolerance for corruption.

Rajdeep Sardesai though cornered on the question of ‘Good Governance’ in the Media, being the only panelist from the field, put his candid thoughts on the table with observations like….

We believe that we represent the nation, but we don’t…. Media activism tends to focus too much on the man and on an individual to hang a story (in order to bring it to the forefront public attention)… We are not really the watchdogs in the true sense of the words too

He was concerned that ‘The surround sound (of High Decibel media attention) is delaying the decision making’ too. But then there is a gap. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will allow ‘selfies’ but not questions. So where does the media go for the required answers on politics, policies and governance… Media has, kind of, took over the executive space of the governance as there was a void that needed to be filled, because as he said, “India wants  to know”…

At the end, Dr. Sanjay Baru emphasized that the Media today is in governance crisis and Rajdeep Sardesai said, ‘Yes, we have lost our moral compass and a system of good governance in media is required which can be done through a) Independent regulatory system, b) Self regulation.

The next session with Jung Chang on ‘The Birth of Modern China’ was an interesting journey through China’s
rich cultural history and her personal experiences in the times when Mao has proclaimed, “More books you read, more stupid you become” and displayed the shoe of her grandmother to highlight the torturous custom of making the feet smaller, which eventually breaks the bones of the feet. Please note the size of shoe she displayed compared to a full grown adult’s. In her book 'Emperor Dowager Cixi - The concubine who launched Modern China" one of the steps listed as 'Cixi' took is to ban this custom. More such interesting stories are in the book, that she shared with us in her illustrated presentation, so do read it.

Before I get on to the ‘Speaking Songs’ along with 80 year old Carnatic music stalwart T V Gopalakrishnan, who still looked young for his age, and Prince Rama Varma, I will move on to the most awaited session of the day – ‘Half Girlfriend: Chetan Bhagat in conversation with Karthik Kumar. It was a fun filled discussion with trademark one-liners from Chetan which reminded me his last event, I have had seen – ‘The Comedy Night With Kapil’. My respect for Chetan Bhagat grew from the start as he confronted ‘the elephant in the room’ head on. He put up a specially prepared video of the widespread criticism on his literary style. Instead of talking about a very engaged conversation, aptly handled by Karthik Kumar I will let the readers experience the event through some of the one-liners of Chetan Bhagat from the event….

"Mr. P Murugan, I'm with you. Now is the time to write. DON'T STOP WRITING"

"First book I wrote in kind of earnest that I cant repeat It's like losing virginity"

"If criticism is affecting me, I don't write for a while"

On essentials of his books…
“It has to be...
1) About India
2) Rooted in reality
3) Exciting…”

"Change will happen but it can't be shoved down the throat of Indian youth as gyan (Preaching)"

"KICK is Salman Khan's movie not my book. A movie, which Salman could only carry"

"I am so irreverent, I say foolish things everyday, so I can't be a politician"

"I don't want to be remembered, I want to be missed"

Finally, I leave you with two interesting quotes from very humble vocalists Prince Rama Varma and Sh. T V Gopalakrishnan and end with one of the ‘Speaking Songs’ as they explained the nuances of Carnatic music in the session.
My friend Vaishnavi's Mother sorting out music glitch on the stage
Prince Rama Varma with T V Gopalakrishnan

“(While living) I don’t compose, when I die, I decompose” – Prince Rama Varma.

“For any long cherished music, it has to have notes, rhythm, words and creativity” – T V Gopalakrishnan

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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