Om Namah Shivaya

Om Namah Shivaya

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Jan 21, 2014

HINDU LITERARY FESTIVAL 2014: And The Prize Goes to Anees Salim.... DAY 2 & 3

The discovery of the day Two was T M Krishna’s “A Southern Music” and it filled my heart with an elation that comes from being in the presence of pure creativity and passion.
Gopal K Gandhi listening intently to T M Krishna's take on Music..

T M Krishna is a pre-eminent vocalist that I have had gathered from the intro from ‘Hindu Lit For Life’ Brochure but his clarity of thoughts and depths of his passion for singing made me connect to the Carnatic Music at much deeper level than I thought possible without knowing the language and grammar of the style. His story about the first time the music moved him to tears is an example how one can connect to the music without knowing anything about it. He says “One specific experience with music that has always stayed with me is a morning concert with DK Pattamaal. I left the concert in absolute tears, bawling. Was I sad? No. Was I depressed? No. But that's the moment something clicked in me; that is what music is."

Though the session was about his recently launched book, "A Southern Music — The Karnatik Story" (published by Harper Collins) but the audience was in for a bonus as Sh. Gopal K Gandhi, the moderator termed to the live demonstration in order to explain the role of lyrics in the music. Here is what he has to say…

“Grammar is not a technical process, it's part of that experience. Do I need grammar? Yes. To experience music or sing it, I need grammar but it has to be inside my heart” T M Krishna

His love for the music came out very strongly in the way he talked about it. Interestingly, it was quite endearing to hear him refer to Music as ‘Her/She’. But the most profound thought I internalized was about the journey as he said, “Her path is lone – not lonely. One has to do this journey on one’s own to really experience the beauty of the music. Yes, I think music is enlightening if only one is devoid of perceptions of other things around him or her, then she manifest the deeper understanding of the soul within.

And I agreed with Sh. Gandhi when he ended the session with words, to a thunderous applause and standing ovation to the Genius Soul of Carnatic Music T M Krishna "A dazzling enigma, one who can't be ignored and certainly cannot be explained. In short, he is simply a musical phenomenon."

Gulzar Saheb

On the other side at the courtyard, a legend was talking about Music too… Gulzar sahib talking about his Book “I swallowed the moon”. As someone asked him about Moon, he smilingly replied that he has the monopoly on “Moon”. His poetry rendering were so beautiful and sublime that one can get lost just listening to him and I almost missed the Session of Romila Thapar’s “Past Before Us”.

Another Session at the courtyard worth mentioning is the one called GRANTA'S LUMINARIES where Taiye Selasi – Writer, Film Maker and Xiaolu Guo Writer and Photographer, were in conversation with Parvathi Nayar. Xiaolu Guo, who grew up in China and later moved on to England says that the places she lived made her stories and shaped her. While Taiye Selasi started her life in UK but says that the story telling culture of her parents influenced her writing. (Her father is from Ghana, her mother is half Scottish and half Nigerian).

Xiaolu Guo used to write in broken English but still got accepted and as she said in her book, “Birds have their bird language, beasts have their beast language but English is different."
As a photographer, Taiye Selasi says, “Whenever people praise me about my photography and how beautiful it is, I always respond saying, "No! The world is beautiful and I am just capturing it."

Abraham Verghese

In the session “A Renaissance Man” Abraham Verghese took us to his personal journey from being a celebrated Doctor (The Aids Man, who was notorious in his own department where he was practicing for bringing hoards of Aids Patient from neighboring states) to an award winning novelist whose book was on New York Times top list for 2 years. I loved his thoughts on literature, “Literary Novels gives you tools, ways to carry into your life” And his expectations of readers is “Writers provide words, Readers provide imagination”. On reading other writers, he candidly says, “ We are always building on the shadows of other writers”  and gives a great advice to the aspiring authors in the audience, “Read a lot of books as Good Books dislocates you, changes your path” Quite True!


Lights, Camera, Censor: Moral Policing in Cinema

The Hero Of The Day
Probably the most awaited session of Hindu Lit Festival, as it involved Kamal Haasan – A great Actor, director, whose brush with Indian Censors Board has been very, very interesting. The house was packed to the brim and the expectant crowd rose into a roar of applause as he made his way to the stage. And yes, he did not leave the crowd wanting with his interesting quotable quotes, which at one point in the session he himself said, “Most probably I will be quoted out of context for the things that I am saying on the stage now”.

It was news to me when he revealed that Binaca Geetmala, the most famous song program in the iconic voice of Ameen Sahani, listening to which I grew up, went to Ceylon (Sri Lanka as it was called then) because Harmonium (an Indian Musical Instrument) was banned since it was considered to be from Haveli Culture.

One of his heartfelt complaint was, “Why Multinationals are being allowed to put any price for the cold drinks, while the Govt is putting cap on the ticket prices” Another one beautiful quote I really loved was that 'The Cinema is the only medium that supported inter-caste Marriages. It promoted love'. I agree.

In context with one of the woman makeup artist, who Kamal Haasan wanted to hire, was not allowed to work as it was only male bastion, he said, “what women do, when they get frustrated in their profession, they get married”. To another question, he remarked, “We always need some one to shepherd us but I am not a sheep”.

He ended his interaction with rephrasing of a beautiful thought of Gandhi Ji, “Be the change you want” to “I become the change I demand” to thunderous applause from the audience.

Beyond The Vagina – Thoughts on Sex and Sexuality
Naomi Wolfe
Naomi Wolfe was in her full flow again, continuing the advocacy of women’s liberation and thinking beyond The Beauty Myth. She declared that there’s lot more ‘Beyond The Vagina’, “Receiving the wisdom from past is wrong. There’s so much research in the last 2-3 decades that has changed the way we look at it” She said every women’s reaction to sexual stimulation is different as the distribution of neuro-sensitive nodes, unlike men, are all around in a beautiful mesh of nerves that’s unique to each individual woman. So in effect every woman is different. You have to ‘learn’ every woman every time (To make a woman happy and connected). It cannot be process oriented. The women cannot switch off from her brain the disrespect, stress etc of the morning to ‘go for the sex’ in the evening. In the ended, she ended her talk on one of the most sane advise I have ever heard, “If you want your women for the rest of your life, then respect her for the rest of your life” and then in her own inimical style she left the stage to connect with women in the audience and to know what they go through in India, which of course was an eye opener for her…

Her voice rang in the audience, when she said, “"Rape is not a sex crime. It's a form of mutilation. It's a form of assault that's so permanent that its effects are felt throughout a lifetime." And I remembered her words from yesterday, “It (Rape) continues because these people aren't jailed and prosecuted. Countries where people have been prosecuted and punished for rapes have lesser rapes. That is first and probably the most powerful step towards stopping rapes”.

In the end I leave you with some thoughts that stuck with me, after so many days has passed...

“Job of a travel writer is to cover the reality that is behind the superficial aspect of a place” – Colin Thubron
“Travel writing is a form that has reinvented itself, century after century” William Dalrymple

“Now when I come to Chennai and see all the modernity and the development of the place – like I notice the flyovers and the metro rail work – I still feel that Chennai is still there underneath it. The essence of Chennai is there waiting to be uncovered”. William Dalrymple

"I think good writers are not frightened about writing bad. I think writers just don't want to face the tyranny of a blank page. Have the courage to write badly" - Jim Crace

"I do get this terribly suspicious look when I say that I'm a writer. My defense is my book. I kind of hold it out as a shield." – Shannon

"I think that the main thing that young writers have had to deal with is the Internet. On one hand, while it’s been very useful, it has also been a bad thing. You have to accept that some people just won't like your book and it's going to be all over the internet." – Shannon

It was a pleasure to interact with Shannon Samantha about the life
of a writer..."Its the passion that gets one to write"

“There is a burning desire to write. There is so much nonsense going on in the country and it is neglected. I find no problem in motivation, there are no hours in the day to write about what I feel” Shovon Chowdhury

“Each post on Face Book is like a little knock on the door or tap on the window. I don't see any contradiction in doing literature on Face Book. Twitter is not that much different from haiku” Shovon Chowdhury

“If you're writing a book about the near future, you must write it faster too”. Shovon Chowdhury

“If you want to say something, go for it. Who knows it will create a new form” – Mamang Dai

... And The Hindu Prize 2013, selected by the Jury, under the leadership of renowned author, Mr. Timeri  N Murari, goes to Anees Salim for Vanity Bagh which was collected by his publisher….

It was my pleasure to be with Sh. S Muthiah, MBE in the last two days and share some thoughts along with coffee during the breaks between the sessions. His article on Hindu Lit Festival 2014, is probably the most profound re-cap...  click here to read... 

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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  Hindu Lit Fest 2014 - Day 1                      Hindu Lit Fest 2014 - Day 1

Jan 16, 2014


The three keys to become a published author…

There are many reasons, creative people of Chennai eagerly wait for the Hindu Lit For Life Festival, that started happening annually since 2010. Some of them, are there to get their 'fix' of 15 seconds of fame by standing up and giving their piece of ‘Gyan’, instead of asking questions, or proudly claiming to be better than those on the stage and some are out right blatant, promoting their blog or whatever they do, crying hoarse that no one is listening to their pearls of wisdom. But thankfully they are less in numbers and are contained by the sheer power of brilliance that Nirmala Lakshman and Hindu Team, brings forward on the stage.

Anita Ratnam at Hindu Lit For Life 2014 Chennai

Then there are other sort; Eager and enthusiastic aspiring author, that’s looking for guidance, help and inspiration to be the writer they want to be… to nurture their passion of words, ‘Beyond Words’ to see that it gets to see the light of the day. And this tentative and eager crowd has been the strength of the festivals vibrancy. And to this and this type alone, Naresh Farnandes said…


Yes, that’s the first step to get published and as the festival moved on, to Day Two and Three, it was getting to be quite clear that...

a) Writing is tough

b) Publishing one’s book is a hard journey that needs constant motivation and adrenaline rush on regular basis.

Samantha Shannon

And when I heard Samantha Shannon (Of 'The Bone Season' fame, who started writing at the age of 15 and signed up in 2012 for 6 figure, book contract even before publishing her first book; even before graduating from Oxford) and Jim Crace (who wrote 11 books and shortlisted for Man Booker prize twice) in their session on “The Writing Life”, it left me wondering whether the modern day Author’s life is hard, boring and mundane – stuck in the room, trying ways and means to wriggle out of the deadlines, stealing few moments of time to self from the hard task of writing… etc etc.

So when I caught up with them after the discussion, and asked, “What about the passion for writing? The writers like Nietzsche who wrote in constant pain, almost blind; so that he can get out the burning thoughts that he has had within or Adi Shankaracharya who supposed to have written more than 100 books (some say more than 800 books) while travelling across India four times ‘on foot’ before the age of 32 years” they replied…

Jim Crace: “Well it’s like flying a kite, you have the Kite, the thread, the spool, but till the time you don’t have the air to lift it up and fly, it’s just lifeless objects lying on the ground. That air is the passion that lets your words fly.”

Samantha Shannon: “Well the passion is what gets you there in your room alone, thinking, working hard and creating a world of your own.”



And this is where this Hindu Lit Festival plays its role so effectively. So here I am writing this note on the Hindu Lit Festival, for all my friends, readers and aspiring writers to GET INSPIRED … by the Thoughts, Ideas and sheer brilliance of authors, artists and creative geniuses’ presence in the festival…

Nirmala Lakshman and N Ravi

As usual, the day started with lighting of the lamp with all the sponsors, Hindu team, the curator Nirmala Lakshman and N Ravi (Editor in Chief of Hindu)… which moved on to a discussion with Aravind Adiga.

An interesting session about the flora and fauna of the south had the surreal landscape etched on the stage with Anita Ratnam (Internationally respected Choreographer and dancer)  along with Revathy Kumar (carnatic Vocalist and Bharatanatyam dancer) providing the colors of emotions…

And as Gulzar Saheb moved on to the stage, it was his simplicity that won the hearts of the Chennai Audience. His words still echoes on my mind that “You will appreciate it (his verse from his latest book Pluto) if you understand Urdu, if you understand Hindi but most importantly, you will appreciate it if you are Hindustani.". Loved it. He then goes on to give one of the most interesting thoughts about reading books online as in soft copy, which he feels is not as good as reading a hard cover… here is one verse that he recited on the stage.

Later on, when I met him off stage and asked one question about his Triveni style of poetry, which is like short verse with kind of painting with words. There has been many poets, like K N Singh, Namawar Singh who worked on such poetry style and called it ‘Bimb Vidha’ and then there’s the most famous style in the world,  iconic Japanese Poetry called Haiku. Since I am passionate about haiku, I asked about the similarity between Triveni, Bimb vidha and Haiku, to which he says it’s totally different and asked me to read about it in his book ‘Triveni’ which I intend to do as soon as I get my hands on it.

This year’s Hindu Lit Fest was peppered with powerful sessions on Women with powerful representatives like Naomi Wolf, who virtually took the shame out of the taboo words like vagina and the Chennai audience broke through their own boundaries and participated in the interaction wholeheartedly.

As the Session ‘Rough Passage: The coming of age of the new Indian Woman’ gathered momentum, Ira Trivedi commented that the roughest passage for women is inside within their own houses. But now it looks like that the Indian women have moved forward and proclaimed that we can’t take this anymore. To this Nandini Krishnan added that, yes, women are starting to reclaim their sexuality, especially in Chennai, to thundering applause from the Chennai audience. 

When Ira Trivedi asked for an advice to the young people, Madhuri Banerjee listed out important things like “have something for yourself, something you’re passionate about, it does not have to bring you money. Love and respect someone else for the choices they make. A great relationship is made by two people who love and respect each other with every choice they make” and yet it was not enough guidelines for some of the male audience, one of them asked the inevitable question, “What women want?” to which Madhuri Banerji said, “If you can make me laugh and make me a cup of tea in the morning, you've won my heart." Well I wish things were that simple…

The session on ‘Making Waves: How to create an impact as an author’ was an interesting combination of different type of authors who, at times, had a totally opposite view on the way. Ravi Subramanian and Ashwin Sanghi on one side and on the other Anita Nair perfectly moderated by Naresh Fernandes. Ravi started the ball rolling with his CEO style of marketing saying that the author should take charge of the book completely. While Anita Nair stressed upon the content itself which has to be good to have a shelf life of more number of years. But Ravi and Ashwin both pointed out that that’s given, you can not market a worthless book or writer in anycase. Ashwin also said that one has to connect with his readers on emotional level and that’s where the social media plays a great role. On the subject of reviews and reviewers, Ashwin Sanghi came up with one of the best onliner.. “Asking to define a relationship between a reviewer and an author is like asking to define a relationship between a lamppost and a dog”

I was really looking forward to the session “Reinventing Mythology: The art of rewriting religious narratives” but it actually fell flat. Not much was talked about Rewriting but the talk centered about the religion itself and the pitfalls it has for the writers writing about it. But the most important thought that came from this session from Veenapani Chawla who shared her insights about the bipolar nature of the brain with the example of the half-man half-woman manifestation of Lord Shiva, Ardhanareshwarar. She says, and I believe that there is a content with oneself that can change itself as it moves through life in living like Arjuna as neuter Brihanahala and then come back to being the man he was. Which parallels with quantum mechanics where a particle can be positive, negative as well as neutral just by the changes of its polarities. Got me thinking about The God Particle… Beautiful concept.

Abraham Verghese
The session with Jim Crace and Abraham Verghese was an interesting combination of different genre. I loved the way Abraham Verghese defined literature. “A literary novel is one that gives you some instruction on life. Fiction is the great lie that tells the truth about what the world is. A literary novel is the great lie that tells you the truth about life.” Where as Jim Crace has a different take on the same. “A good literary novel shouldn't have questions answered but questions posed.” Both seemed to be talking about the same coin but had the perspective of different sides of it.

And the most important session of the day One was “Women in the 21st Century” with two of the stalwarts of their own field Barkha Dutt and Naomi Wolf of “The Beauty Myth” Fame. As Barkha Dutt asked about the ‘Feminism’, Naomi said, “Feminism in the West has been wrongly defined to reflect lifestyle or ideological choices. However, to me, feminism is about people believing they are entitled to basic human dignity” On the topic of Rape, Naomi says "Why are we always looking at women when it comes to rape, why aren't we looking into why men are committing rape? I feel my heart rate rise with anger when I hear about these rape cases. Look at what happens to these young men? How did they get to be so de-humanised?"

Barkha Dutt, as an incisive journalist, swept out the dirt from under the carpet of urban living and commented, “I cannot think of one girl in my generation who hasn't endured some sort of sexual assault at some point of time. We've all had our bottoms pinched, our breasts pawed at and felt all over while using public transport. But we are told to treat it like it’s not all that a big deal because we haven’t been raped.” 

And yes, I do agree to this as it has been happening in the DTC buses of Delhi since ages and its hard to fight it out as the girls, conditioned to remain anonymously suffering, hardly come forward to even support the person who is trying to fight for her dignity. But then I guess things are changing now and how I wish it changes dramatically and fast. I remember Aamir Khan’s and some other well meaning ads on TV but I guess India has still to go a long way on this basic human dignity front.

I really admired Naomi Wolf when she said in response to Barkha Dutt’s question about ’50 Shades of Grey’ book of fantasy, “We live in a society where women are restricted from exploring their own bodies. Women are always being shamed for their sexual lives so I am not going to add to this (by commenting on the book in terms of sexual fantasy of women).”

Naomi has a very powerful take on the disease of Rape that continues to plague our great nation. She says, “It (Rape) continues because these people aren't jailed and prosecuted. Rapists must be arrested and sent to prison! That is the need of the hour. That is first and probably the most powerful step towards stopping rapes. Countries where people have been prosecuted and punished for rapes have lesser rapes”. And I agree completely.

… To Be Continued Tomorrow…

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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  Hindu Lit Fest 2014 - Some impressions               Hindu Lit Fest Day 2-3

Jan 15, 2014

HINDU LITERARY FESTIVAL: Some impressions from final day...

....continuing with my impressions from the 2nd day, of Hindu Lit For Life Festival at Chennai... Hope you will enjoy the same.

I will be posting my thoughts on the sessions and some interesting provocative quotes, thoughts and ideas from my interaction with an amazing array of Writers, Creative Geniuses and artist, that Hindu Team seem to conjure at the drop of hat for this festival. As I have attended all the Annual Festival since its inceptions, I can very well say, this was one of the most inspiring one... Thank You HINDU and the team and I look forward to the next year....

In the morning... the lull before storm known as Kamal Haasan hit the venue

As usual, Kamal Haasan made a grand entry through the back doors...
to avoid crows of fans gathered at the main entrance. 

And yes it was full of vibrant colors and thoughts...

Probably the most packed session, where Kamal Haasan made the day
with witty one lines 

And the volunteers from SRM and Vaishnava college, lapped it up online..

Naomi Wolf, of The Beauty Myth fame, left the stage to mingle with the
shy crowd of Chennai, who have not heard the words...
"Beyond The Vagina"

And on the side lines of the sessions, author friends caught up
with each other...

While some had an interesting discussion going one...

I was conjuring cigarettes from the tree, as Shovan Chowdhury termed
it, since he was not able to find any nearby... and the celebrated Photographer
Pablo of Bhopal Gas Tragedy joined in... 

Valmik Thapar, who has put in all his life in saving Tigers... seemed
to himself in distress over the apathy of Govt about it

Shannon Samantha, 'The Bone Season' Sensation who signed 6 figure
contract even before publishing first book...

And one of my idols, I get to meet.. Romila Thapar

In the end, waiting for the announcement
of Hindu Literary Prize

Judged by none other than Timeri Murari, whose book "Limping to the
center of the World" I am reading now...

Well check out my next blog post to be uploaded shortly to know the same. Though in my opinion, the winner is the discerning art and literature lovers of Chennai... Cheers!!!
नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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  Hindu Lit Fest 2014 - Some impressions           Day One - Write The Damn Book

Jan 12, 2014

HINDU LITERARY FESTIVAL: Some impressions...

Its the day 2 of Annual HINDU LIT FEST 2014 that I have been attending since it started in 2010... There is another day to go... so will write in detail later but could not help sharing some interesting moments... for friends and inspire those who have not yet visited... Remember, tomorrow Padam Shri Kamal Haasan is going to be talking about "Lights, Camera, Censor! - Moral Policing in Cinema"

The welcome....

The Beautiful Venue...

Anita Ratnam's graceful poise ...

And the eminent vocalist T M Krishna's impromptu performance ..

That captivated prominent personalities in the Audience....
like Ranvir Shah, Romila Thapar and N Ram

Gulzar Saheb's amazing Triveni....

My friend from Chennai Bloggers Club Mahesh interacting with Gulzar...

Burkha Dutt in talk with Naomi Wolf...
The journalist in her could not stop asking about US Diplomatic row

One of the very attractive sculpture by a
friend George K, I met last month

It was humbling to see Great Grandson of Gandhi Ji
Sh Gopal K Gandhi in the que for coffee..

Hemalatha Venkatraman, Another friend from Chennai Blogger's Club...

It was great to interact with T M Krishnan ... who says
"Following Her (Music) path, is lone journey"
FINALLY I AM LEAVING YOU WITH ONE OF THE BEST SESSIONS ... where Sh T M Krishna shows the role of lyrics play in the music.... Enjoy

नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya
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