The Seer Reading List for 2020

1 Book A Week For 2020 – The Seer Reading List

Congratulations to the readers who were able to meet their target of 1 book a week for the year 2019. Now, if you haven’t been able to do that or if you are planning to do it again in the year 2020, The Seer has come up with a list of books, one for each week, to help you select your books without breaking your heads. These books have figured in our list because we believe that they have something excellent to offer to their readers. This list is also a product of a personal need for the team as we have seen it first hand that the resolution to read 52 or 53 books a year hits a dead end when we have to handpick each book ourselves. A friend you can trust on this road, is a great help and that is what we have tried to do – be of some help in your reading journey for the year 2020. Please let us know of your To-Be-Read lists in the comment section so that we can add more books to our personal lists.

We have to thank one of the most prolific members of our team – Aakanksha Singh, who helped us in building up this list. If you wish to read her writings, please follow the link – https://theseer.in/author/aakankshatheseer/ . You may also write to us at contact@theseer.in for any feedback, suggestions, new ideas. We wish you and your family a literature laden 2020.

Happy New Year

53 Books To Read in 2020

Week 1

Sprout is a hen who dreamed she could fly and become free. You should read The Hen who Dreamed She Could Fly for that strong dose of inspiration to help you sail across your new year blues.

Buy it here.

Week 2

The winters are creeping up! Cosy up in the cold with a cup of coffee and a heartwarming read, Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawguchi.

Buy it here.

Week 3

Swami Vivekananda built a bridge between India’s past and its future. While he adored the India of the past, he also understood its limitations and took a modern approach to solve the country’s problems. Mr. Hindol Sengupta explores The Modern Monk in his book and brings to you many facets of his life that are not commonly known.

Buy it here.

Week 4

It’s the Republic Day week and who better to read than the maker of the Indian constitution – Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Federaton Versus Freedom is a lecture he delivered on 29th January, 1939 at the annual function of the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics held in the Gohale Hall, Poona (now Pune) where he talks about federal form of government and India’s future with it.

Buy it here.

Week 5

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day falls on 27th January. To commemorate and to remember, read Elie Wiesel’s Night where he narrates his own experiences in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Nazi Germany.

Buy it here.

Week 6

4th February 2020 marks Agha Shahid Ali’s 71st birth anniversary. He wrote about his home, Kashmir, extensively to capture the state’s suffering. We recommend you read his haunting poetry book, A Country Without a Post Office.

Buy it here.

Week 7

Even though we are perhaps living through some of the most productive and peaceful decades of recent human history, the variables of internet, social media, insta-gratification, post modern constructs, absence of purpose, and extreme politics have rendered our lives chaotic. It is from this chaos that the author tries to get us out through his 12 Rules For Life. Each chapter comes with a lot of research and examples from Dr. Peterson’s practice in clinical psychology.

Buy it here.

Week 8

Japan and its love for cats is absolutely adorable. The country celebrates National Cat Day on 22nd Feb each year. The Seer recommends reading the heartwarming The Traveling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa. Check out The Seer’s other favourite novels featuring cats from Japan.

Buy it here.

Week 9

Read the book before you watch the movie! A movie adaptation of  Little Women released in December 2019! If you haven’t watched the movie yet, WAIT a little bit more. Go on first and read the book. We promise it will be delightful! Little Women is a feminist classic that transports you to beautiful homes and a very British countryside.

Buy it here.

Week 10

 If you have read Maus by Art Spiegelman and connected with the graphic novel’s use of anthropomorphism, then Munnu: A Boy from Kashmir by Malik Sajad would make for a thoughtful read too. The graphic novel narrates the story of the titular Munnu amidst the political and military strife in Kashmir. The Kashmiris in this story are depicted as deer. 

Buy it here.

Week 11

What can be better than reading a book about books? One such beautiful novel, Paper Moon, by Rehana Munir, was released last year. The story revolves around the protagonist, Fiza, who sets up a bookshop in Bandra, Mumbai.

Buy it here.

Week 12

21st March is UN World Poetry Day.  Sumana Roy’s, Out of Syllabus, would make for a perfect companion this week to rekindle your love for poetry and to revel in the joys of myriad relationships that are etched in her poems.

Buy it here.

Week 13

12th March is World Theatre Day. My Story and My Life as an Actress is a translation of the autobiography of Binodini Dasi who started acting at the age of 12 in 19th century Calcutta. It was a time when theatre had not yet got the Bhadralok approval and women actors were chiefly hired from red light districts of the city. Her struggle, rise to fame, and yet the presence of unending sorrow in her life, makes her autobiography a heartfelt read.

Read it here.

Week 14

We recommend the stunning debut, Girl in White Cotton by Avni Doshi. It is a searing and caustic tale about a mother and daughter relationship. The story is remarkable for its depiction of a mother who defies any prescriptive conventions associated with being a mother. However, that has repercussions on her own daughter who has felt unloved and now has to take care of her mother.

Buy it here.

Week 15

Rilke in his letters has dug deep inside the human mind and heart and has come out with gems of wisdom that come only through experience and the love for your craft. Letters to a Young Poet is a must keep for every bibliophile. Also, since The Seer began with a short review of this book, we harbour a special attachment and recommend it strongly.

Buy it here.

Week 16

Urvashi Bahuguna’s Terrarium is an absolute delight. The winner of 2019 The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, this collection beautifully portrays the small wonders of the natural and everyday world.

Buy it here.

Week 17

Eating God: A Book of Bhakti Poetry by Arundhathi Subramaniam who has edited the book is a collection of about 200 poems of Bhakti poets of the golden Bhakti period of India. Bhakti poems appealed to every stratum of the society because of lucid language employed without compromising on the deeper ethos of India’s tradition in spiritual devotion.

Buy it here.

Week 18

Kamala Das or ‘Madhavi Kutty’ as she is remembered fondly by some, has carved a special place in Indian literature. Grab her book Selected Poems that explores female sexuality, love, and life.

Buy it here.

Week 19

We think once in a while it is alright to judge a book by its cover! Appreciate the beautiful book cover and also the book within with The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali that tells the tale of love found and lost between Roya and Baman in the Iran of pre and post 1979 Revolution.

Buy it here.

Week 20

Memoirs made it big in 2019! The success of Becoming by Michelle Obama set the trend perhaps. If you still haven’t jumped on the memoir bandwagon, read Shanta Gokhale’s memoir, One Foot on the Ground. She was awarded the Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.

Buy it here.

Week 21

Beat the sweltering heat by diving into the cool depths of Ruskin Bond’s Roads to Mussoorie where he pays homage to the lovely town of Mussoorie. Celebrate his birthday on the 19th of May as the lovable author turns 87!

Buy it here.

Week 22

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is celebrated worldwide for his surreal landscapes and story narratives. But we think, one should also read some other lesser known magical realist authors. Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate is a delicious novel portraying the fabulist through the protagonist’s Tita’s love for cooking.

Buy it here.

Week 23

Having a midyear crisis? Tide over it by reading Camus’ essay The Myth of Sisyphus and learning how to embrace the banal!

Buy it here.

Week 24

June is celebrated as Pride Month the world over! Talking of Muskaan by Himanjali Sarkar is an imaginative and sensitive YA novel that brings out the reality of homosexuality and bullying in schools.

Buy it here.

Week 25

20th June is UN World Refugee Day.  Reading always enables individuals to see the humane side of any crisis rather than through the prism of hard and cold statistics often bombarded on us. Learn more about the Rohingya refugee crisis by reading First They Erased our Name: A Rohingya Speaks by Habiburahman, Sophie Ansel.

Buy it here.

Week 26

Homage to Catalonia is George Orwell’s personal account of his experiences and observations fighting for the Republican army during the Spanish Civil War. It make for an extremely interesting read and takes you into details of how a war from a foot soldier’s perspective is entirely different from the politician’s view.

Buy it here.

Week 27

Bohemian Rhapsody might have enthralled you with its brilliant portrayal of Freddie Mercury himself thanks to the sheer effort and power of Rami Malek’s acting, but if you are still hungering for more Queen related books, Goodbye Freddie Mercury by Nadia Akbar is the book for you! One of the characters, Bugsy, worships the iconic singer and all Queen Fans will relate!

Buy it here.


Week 28

Read engaging stories in verse, Circus Folks and Village Freaks by Aparna Upadhyaya Sanyal. There are 18 twisted tales of very peculiar characters that are sure to keep you reading all night! 

Buy it here.

Week 29

Pick up a light, breezy folklore collection, Greatest Folktales from Bihar. Interested in folk literature? Read The Seer’s 12 Folktale Collection Recommendations from India.

Buy it here.

Week 30

Stuck home because of constant flooding and pouring rain? Shaya Tales by Bulbul Sharma will transport you to a tiny hamlet in the Himalayas and into a tiny cottage in the mountains away from the grey of the monsoon blues!

Buy it here.

Week 31

Compare the Book and the Movie with the touching story of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. It is the story of August, who has a facial difference and only wants to be treated as a normal kid. The book was made into a movie in 2017. Let us know which is better? 

Buy it here.

Week 32

August is Women in Translation Month! Female writing is slowly getting its due, but translations not so much. Ah, we can change that too one month at a time. 


Khadija Mastur’s portrayal of an inquisitive and questioning protagonist Aliya in her novel, The Women’s Courtyard is laudable, making it one of our favourite books in recent times. It is translated from Urdu by Daisy Rockwell.

Buy it here.

Week 33

India’s Independence Day cannot be viewed insularly, without taking into account the horrifying after-effects of the Partition. One must therefore read and learn more before falling for raging rhetorical arguments. Qurratlain Hyder’s River of Fire or Aag Ka Darya in Urdu is a novel of epic proportions which portrays the seemingly impossible task of showing three countries’ history to the point of the Partition’s chaos.

Buy it here.

Week 34

The Roof Beneath Their Feet by Geetanjali Shree has been translated into English from Hindi by Rahul Soni. The novel beautifully chronicles the friendship and more between Chacho and Lalna who live in a cluster of houses that share a common roof. The roof becomes their escape. 

Buy it here.

Week 35

Hangwoman by K.R. Meera was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2016. It is written in Malayalam and translated into English by J. Devika. The novel centers on Chetna Grddha Mullick who is appointed as the first female executioner in India. 

Buy it here.

Week 36

Celebrate Teacher’s Day on 5th September by reading the Freedom Writers’ Diary by the Freedom Writers and Erin Gruwell to see how an inspiring teacher can bring out change in students by encouraging them to write.

Buy it here.

Week 37

6th September is the day that 2 years ago in 2018, the SC ruled on Section 377 and decriminalised homosexuality. Read Amruta Patil’s graphic novel, Kari, to experience both Bombay and Kari and Ruth’s relationship.

Buy it here.

Week 38

13th September is Roald Dahl’s birthday. It is called the Roald Dahl Day. We would suggest to read Matilda. Matilda has a great understanding teacher who also appreciates her love for books!

Buy it here.

Week 39

The last week of September in the literary world is called Banned Books Week. Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman or Madhorubhagan in Malayalam was banned after a petition was filed against it alleging that the novel hurt sentiments of a community and of women. The Madras High Court dismissed the petition in 2016.

Buy it here.

Week 40

Immigration is usually in the news for all the wrong reasons. Immigrants become an easy “other” for politicians to blame for the woes of a country that they refuse to solve. Nonetheless, in this globalised world, immigrants form an essential part of many countries’ cultures. Read a beautiful diaspora work, Americanah by Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie. The novel traverses three countries, Nigeria, the UK and the US.

Buy it here.

Week 41

Agatha Christie published her first Hercule Poirot novel, Mysterious Affairs at the Styles in October 1920! Celebrate a hundred years by revisiting this classic whodunnit!

Buy it here.

Week 42

16th October is World Food Day, celebrated by Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UN. Revel in an epicurean delight and read Andaleeb Wajid’s More than Just Biryani. Perhaps the novel will lead you to introspect your lovely memories with food and family too!

Buy it here.


Week 43

Enjoy the growing chill and the changing seasons by indulging in a children’s classic, Heidi. The story is perfect when you want to vicariously visit the mountains while being tucked inside the depths of a warm quilt.

Buy it here.

Week 44

October is also LGBTQ History Month in the US and Canada (while in the UK it is celebrated in February). So why not also think about LGBTQ history from an Indian perspective this month? We recommend reading Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai which analyses at length the literary representations of same-sex love in Indian writing since ancient times. 

Buy it here.


Week 45

On 2nd November 2019, the JCB Prize for literature for 2019 went to Madhuri Vijay’s The Far Field. If you haven’t picked it up yet, you must, as it is a powerful, emotive read about Shalini, based in Bangalore, who sets out to uncover her connections to Kashmir by finding out about how a Kasmiri salesman, Bashir Ahmed, is linked with her mother. So, immerse in this previous year’s winner while you wait for the 2020 JCB winner to be announced.

Buy it here.

Week 46

26th Session of Conference of Parties (COP) to the UNFCC will take place in Glasgow in 2020 from 9th to 19th November: Climate change is undeniably a major threat to our very existence on Planet Earth. We are already seeing its effects as is evident by the freak weather incidents and the climatic changes all across India. Yet it is also the one threat that we all conveniently ignore. In one of his few non fiction works, The Great Derangement by Amitav Ghosh takes this threat and hauntingly makes it real by looking at the consequences that will befall us because of our present ‘derangement’ in denying this climate crisis.

Buy it here.

Week 47

India’s Most Fearless by Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh chronicles 14 stories of modern military Heroes of India. This book is a great addition to the military literature of India and makes for a gripping read.

Buy it here.

Week 48

The Seer celebrated 100 years of Amrita Pritam last year in 2019.  Celebrate the love between her and her longtime companion, Imroz through the touching collection of letters collated in In The Time Of Love And Longing by Amrita Pritam And Imroz. Read a detailed review here.

Buy it here.

Week 49

December is the Read a New Book Month. The idea behind this is to encourage readers to read something new they wouldn’t otherwise.

If you haven’t already started reading more LGBTQ stories, we suggest you pick up the coming of age, The Carpet Weaver, by Nemat Sadat. It portrays a gay relationship amidst the political upheavals in Afghanistan.

Buy it here.

Week 50

As the year draws towards the end, if you are wondering about your exaggerated optimism while making your 2020 resolution list, stop and pick up Manu Joseph’s Illicit Happiness of Other People to drown yourself in some dark humour.

Buy it here.

Week 51

Haroun and the Sea of Stories by Salman Rushdie is an absolute gem for all ages. Though it is stylised as a children’s fable with the protagonist, Haroun, going on several adventures to the places in the novel’s universe, Haroun and the Sea of Stories also comments on the power of stories and criticises the clampdown on freedom of expression and its censoring. Read a detailed review here.

Buy it here.

Week 52

While you fortify your resolution to join the swankiest of the gyms in your neighbourhood, don’t forget the food part of it. The Indian Pantry: The Very Best of Rude Food by Vir Sanghvi takes you on an amusing journey of the Indian pantry and leaves you much more informed about the food you eat.

Buy it here.

Week 53

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is the sequel to her previously acclaimed novel, The Handmaid’s Tale. The novel takes place 15 years after the events in The Handmaid’s Tale and has three prominent narratives: of Aunt Lydia and two women who are the first generations of the dystopian country, Gilead.

Buy it here.

Close to the Bone

With the labelling of ‘Close to the bone’ as a cancer memoir by the literary world and the rest of it, Lisa Ray challenged this idea by speaking extensively about the trials and tribulations that she had to survive through the traumatic events that encircled her at the beginning of her professional career.

Mahesh began by speaking about the lifetime of work that Lisa put into the creation of this book. To emphasize, she’s lived through different lenses and in different roles, such as that of a model, actor on the big screens and on television and also as a writer. Before responding to the statement made by Mahesh, Lisa showed her gratitude to the audience and appreciated their personality as a bibliophile and was also very glad about the positive reception that her book has gotten from the public. She spoke about the storytelling style of the book and to put it across to the audience that hasn’t really looked into the book, Lisa took out her book and read from it.

Her narration began with a setting that’s homely in nature but it quickly transitioned into a metaphor that created a dichotomy within the life of Lisa, as she was deemed to be a “vamped seductress” and/or “virginal heroine.” The essence of the book lies in the fight to survival that Lisa put up against the bone-chilling ailment of cancer, as it is seen through different perspectives from different parts of the world. The misconceptions that she had had to face in the Indian media as a “diva”, “hottie” and many synonyms that induce and evoke the same promiscuous meaning had to be eradicated. As she recalled an account in which she was told by a fellow model that her looks and her body were to be intact and pretty because at the end of the day the commodity that Lisa was selling in the market was in fact, Lisa. This created an illusory perception of herself as she read from her book, “there was no refuge for me from this casual sexism.”

Mahesh commenced a “therapy session” as he spoke of Lisa’s childhood, specifically at the age of fifteen when she left her home in Canada and travelled alone to Croatia in pursuit of a boy and stayed with people she did not know and lived a nomadic life. A transition occurred when she was in Bombay, infiltrating the industry and its several layers at the age of sixteen. Lisa justified this with the existence of an inner philosophy that “life is for me and not against me.” This is a hereditary thing as she spoke about the nomadic and adventurous lives of her parents, a Bengali brahmin meeting and marrying a Polish woman in the 1960s where it was not only considered an unconventional practice but also one that was frowned upon. Their philosophy was to simply question their culture and “create a new one.”

She spoke about the traumatic incident which took place in Canada a week before the start of her university when her mother had gotten into a life-threatening accident, to say the least, but also at the same time she was being branded as an icon and a model at the other side of the world. Posters of her in bathing suits pervaded the Indian masses and she got offers that would set the trajectory of her life towards the stars occurred at her doorstep at the time her mother’s feet were almost out of the same door. This contradictory situation invoked a sense of quest in her. She wanted to beat the stigmatised version she called “the receptacles of men’s desire” and set out on a quest to unravel herself and the mysteries of her life.

She concluded by stating that though she is perceived as a celebrity, she is a human at the most basic level so she questioned the idea of the book being a celebrity memoir. She spoke of a connection between the mind and the body and how this cannot be quantified but must be delved into and embraced.

 

 

About the Author: A self-proclaimed meme lord that barely makes any but laughs at many, all Vishal Bhadri does is read, listen to music, and cry during both the activities.  Vishal has a poetry blog called Memory Palace that has all of his two poems in it.  He is doing his triple major in Communications, Literature and Psychology at Christ University. He currently writes for TheSeer.

ये रिश्ता क्या कहलाता है – Relationships in Contemporary Hindi Writing

The session ‘ये रिश्ता क्या कहलाता है – Relationships in Contemporary Hindi Writing’, explored the relationship between Hindi and other languages in India as well some undefined uncertain relations the characters form in the stories. The panel had Purushottam Agrawal, renowned Kabir and Bhakti scholar, Mridula Garg, veteran writer in both Hindi and English, and Anukrti Upadhyay, a lawyer turned writer. The panel was moderated by Sourav Roy, journalist, poet, and translator.

 

Sourav began with citing an anecdote from one of Purushottam’s Stories where he quotes a scene from the movie Guide. The villagers question Raju guide in Sanskrit while he answers in English. Both mock each other for not knowing the language each speaks. So Saurav asked, “…in the contemporary world, similar is the situation with Hindi versus English debate and why Hindi, when we have so many other languages too?”. Purushottam had an elaborate answer. Though a Hindi writer, he stressed upon the importance of learning English. “In the present world, one has to be bilingual, per say multilingual to be efficient and sustainable.” He frankly put that a lot of Hindi lovers would criticize him for supporting English but to uplift Hindi one should not disdain English. Usage of Hindi should not be the criterion of being patriotic. At the same time, he was very appreciative of some non Hindi speakers (not having Hindi as their first language) of past to promote Hindi like Raja Rammohan Roy, Ramanand Chatterjee, Subramanya Bharathi, Mahatma Gandhi. He also asserted that imposing a language will not promote it. It will be promoted when people readily use it like Bollywood and advertising industries, though of course for commercial purposes, it’s their voluntary decision. 

 

Mridula said that we should try to build a connection with all the languages we come across rather than belittling any. To the question that how does she choose the language to write in, she said that it’s the language the thought came in.

 

Sourav put in yet another concern that a lot of people in southern India know Hindi but it’s very difficult to find people of north knowing even one of the southern languages. Mridula agreed that it was utter ignorance and laziness that we are not learning them – “we go to French Alliance to learn French but never to Andhra Bhavan to learn Telugu.”

 

Anukrti from her experience of traveling in different countries said that people all around the globe know more than two languages. “A German is proud to say he knows Spanish, English, or any other language. We on the other hand do not even make an effort to learn various languages present in our own country.” Purushottam was quick to add that learning various other languages of our country could be a true sign of national integration.

 

Coming to the second segment of the session, the panel explored the undefined ephemeral relationship that their characters shared in the story. They talked of the relationships beyond the blood relations. For instance, Mridula talked of her story Hari Bindi where two strangers meet in a film theatre and later go for a coffee. Both of them love that experience without fostering any relationship. This is what she calls the beauty of the unknown. She did not forget to satirically put that now a days people have relationship with their phone and forget the people around them. Similarly, Anukrti remembered a story in her book Japani Sarai, where two people of different origins meet at a bar and affect each other so deeply with just a conversation.

 

The session could go on as the relationships around us are innumerous and can be explored endlessly but the clock was ticking and the panel and the audience both had to be content with whatever little they had of this wonderful session.

 

 

About the Author: Bhumika Soni is a literature enthusiast working in the field of data analytics, she has always found words more charming and powerful than numbers. Still searching for The Enchanted Tree created by Enid Blyton to travel to various magical worlds. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Today in Indian SF

This was a session of a different genre, with Gautham Shenoy, a Science Fiction (SF) columnist thanking Bangalore Literature Festival for giving a platform to have this conversation.

The panel comprised of Indrapramit Das (Indra), whose short fiction has appeared in publications including tor.com, Clarkesworld and Asimov’s Science Fiction, Sadhna Shanker, who has penned ‘Ascendance’, a science fiction novel and Sukanya Venkataraghavan, the author of ‘Dark Things’ and editor of ‘Magical Women’. These eminent authors were in conversation with Gautham Shenoy, an SF columnist (#IndianSF#scifi, #comics, #GGMU).

He introduced the panelists and went on to mention that 2019 has been an inflection point, an exceptional year for Indian science fiction. The panelists were optimistically looking forward to all the books coming up, especially the one by Samit Basu in April 2020. They evoke curiosity in the reader.

 

What is changing?

Sukanya gave the example of her journey from authoring Dark Things to Magical Women. When she wrote Dark Things, the question uppermost in her mind was, “Am I the only one writing fantasy?” Later, when she penned Magical Women, she had a community of writers supporting her and thus easing up the path.

 

Indra, having written 4 anthologies and a short future fiction series, spoke about the access to SF magazines and ease of submitting stories to them. He added on, however, that Indian SF has a long way to go before being considerably recognized by the Western world. The challenge is that, unlike other countries like China, there is not enough state support, nor is there is a press/medium dedicated to science fiction. He also felt that Indian publishers do not know how to tap into our audience.

 

Sadhna expressed more optimism on this aspect. “I’m here to stay”, she said. Science fiction just happened for her, and she felt fortunate to be in Bangalore, which is the hub and has a vibrant community. This is in stark contrast to Delhi, where the genre is not taken seriously, especially if it is a lady writing it.

 

Adding on to the optimism, Sukanya’s view was that science fiction is a genre that can generate a lot of interest, hence, properly tapped, it has a lot of potential to be very popular. Gautham responded to these perspectives with a satirical topic for an urban fantasy “Bangalore with pothole-free roads” and had the audience in splits.

 

Has the audience changed?

All the panelists agreed that the audience is gradually increasing, however, there needs to be more visibility to increase readership. Some points they gave are:

  • Publications, newspapers and magazines need to have exclusive columns
  • Writers should not just tweet only when their book comes out, but promote every book as a community
  • Reviewers need to do their bit as well; every review is a step in socializing a book
  • Readers can also write reviews on Amazon, as well as spread the word on social media

 

The audience was eager to know more about the last point, and sources of information about science fiction books. The panelists responded by mentioning #sff, #sciencefantasyfiction and #indiansf.

 

“Is India ready to bring out a Star Trek?” Gautham was ready with his response – it happened long ago; we have had series such as Antariksh, Space city Sigma. Also coming up is Cargo – a movie about the afterlife on a spaceship orbiting the earth, billed as India’s first ‘spaceship sci-fi movie’. The session ended with anticipation of 2020 and the promise of exciting times ahead!

 

 

 

About the Author: Usha Ramaswamy craves to get more creative in addition to being an avid reader, traveller, vlogger, marketer of events, mobile photographer. One day, she wants to write a book but for now, she pens her reflections at her blog and puts up photos on Instagram. She also works as a software process consultant and is a mother of two. She currently writes for TheSeer.

First Novels and Nation Building

Vanamala Viswanatha who is an award-winning translator, working with Kannada and English, introduced the first Kannada novel ‘Indira Bai: The Triumph of Truth and Virtue’ by Gulvadi Venkata Rao who hailed from south kannada region. This novel is about a child called Indira, who gets married at an early age and becomes a widow. It goes on to narrate how she tries to rebel against the four walls of the house, that denies her education. 

 

Shivarama Padikkal, a joint faculty at the Centre for Comparative Literature at the University of Hyderabad said there were two things opposed by upper caste especially brahmins in late 19th and 20th century, one being novel and the other coffee. There is a lot of literature opposing coffee and novel. The style of writing that was basically pursued during those times was opposed heavily by upper caste people. Also, there is a lot of discussion that revolves over nation and nationalism which the author has expressed in his novel. This novel also describes as to how a nation is conceived and perceived by elite people of the late 19th and 20th century.

 

Indira Bai demonstrates the social reforms and as a woman-centric text, it stages all the major debates of 19th century colonial India such as child marriage, widow remarriage, and women’s education. This novel constructs national identity, regional identity, and the idea of modernity. This book has texts in five languages, namely Kannada, Tulu, Konkani, Sanskrit, and English.

 

 

About the Author: Rohini Mahadevan is a political science graduate and works as a content writer. She likes reading books, drawing, painting, and writing short creative pieces. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Wasted

Manreet Sodhi Someshwar was in conversation with Ankur Bisen during the Bangalore Literature Festival 2019. Manreet Sodhi Someshwar is an Indian author. She is primarily known for her novels ‘The Long Walk Home’ and ‘The Taj Conspiracy‘. Someshwar is an alumnus of Indian Institute of Management Calcutta. She has also served as a sales manager in Gujarat and Mumbai. Ankur Bisen is Senior Vice President of the Retail & Consumer Products division at Technopak. He brings in over 14 years of cross-functional experience in strategy, marketing and business development acquired while working in India, China, and Europe.

 The panel discussion was about the issue of garbage management and sanitation in India. Ankur started off saying Urban India generates close to 3 million trucks of untreated garbage every day. If these were laid end-to-end, one could reach halfway to the moon. He clearly stated that the need for attention to sanitation and cleanliness is both urgent and long-term. He spoke about his book and said that his book takes an honest look into India’s perpetual struggle with these issues and suggests measures to overcome them. 

When Manreet asked Ankur how promising was his content to approach all mass, he replied that historically, we have developed into a society with a skewed mindset towards sanitation with our caste system and non-accountability towards sanitation. Through stories, anecdotes and analysis of events, this book seeks solutions to the current entangled problems of urban planning, governance and legislation, and institutional and human capacity building.

When Ankur was asked to reveal his idea behind naming the book Wasted, he added ‘Wasted‘ traces interesting relationships between urban planning and dirty cities in India; legislative and governance and the rising height of open landfills; the informality of waste management methods, and the degrading health of Indian rivers, soil and air.

 Ankur stated the book is more like an argument that all current solutions of India are extrapolated from flawed beliefs and structures and are therefore woefully inadequate.

Manreet concluded saying Bisen draws a benchmark from clean countries of today. The panel discussion mainly focused on the need for inclusive human clusters, specificity in legislation, correction of existing social contracts creating a formal resource recovery industry in India. It was said that the book is a guide to how these solutions could lead us towards a brighter future and better social development. 

 

About the Author: Bhuvanashree Manjunath is an Engineering student, also an avid reader, poet, and a blogger. She also works as a book reviewer. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Can Seaweed Save the Climate?

Tim Flannery is an Australian author who has served as the Chief Commissioner of the Climate Commission, a federal government body providing information on climate change to the Australian public. Flannery was named ‘Australian Humanist of the Year’ in 2005 and ‘Australian of the Year’ in 2007. He was also chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council. Tim Flannery did a solo talk on ‘can seaweed save the climate?’. Despite the development of the Bangalore city, it’s great to see the greenery around which is why it is called as Garden City. It is so important to protect our local forest or greenery as we face the changes in climate. Tim’s motive of the session was to explain why seaweed was an important part of climate response as it tells us where we are in terms of climate crises. In 1859, John Tyndall, demonstrated the carbon dioxide impact on heat on earth. Later in the 20th century, it was realised that if we increase the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, it would change the climate. In the last 30 years, we have doubled the size of the problem. Things continued despite disagreement, despite the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) reports and warnings of the people we have not affected the trajectory of the emission growth. In 2018, emissions went up 1.7% and the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by a record breaking three and a half parts million. This year it looks like the emission will increase again. 

 

Tim believes that by the end of this decade we will be in trouble. No notice was taken of the warning, insufficient government actions occurred and now we are facing a critical moment in the climate crisis. The sea level is rising by more than two meter and 200 million people being replaced. Seaweed is a lot more than marine debris you find on the sea. It may play a big role in the efforts to mitigate climate change, researchers say. The process of seaweed aquaculture involves cultivating seaweed and harvesting it for the purpose of sinking the algae in the deeper ocean, where the carbon sorted in its tissues would remain buried. 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author: Swapna Patil is an author of adventure travel and romance. “Why stay at one place and talk about it, when you can make your whole life more interesting by traveling and narrating those stories in words” is the motto she lives by. She is also a trek leader and flirts with words on the top of mountains and chooses poetry over prose. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Moola Ramayana

It was peak afternoon and Yayati ground was crowded with people all around waiting for Prasanna’s talk on Moola Ramayana. Prasanna hails from a theatre background and has founded the influential Kannada group Samudhaya in 1970. Apart from that, he has directed plays in Kannada, Hindi, Punjabi and English. 

 The speaker expressed his joy about Ayodhya verdict and he felt it was a coincidence that he got to speak on the same topic. He added, after many decades all the political forces have taken a good decision to build the nation as a whole. According to him, Ramayana was very crucial in building this country as a whole. The speaker’s project on Ramayana actually began in the early ’90s when he resided in Delhi. The speaker was back to his old days when he was unable to help during the crisis in Ayodhya. He called himself as left-wing who was desperately trying to stop the demolition of the structure. But then the speaker started telling his friends to understand what Ramayana is and fight for the cause. The speaker clarified stating all great struggle started from the name “Rama”. His act of understanding Rama led him to do a play called “Uttar Ram Charith” in 1991. His play on Gandhi in 1992 is now published in Kannada as ‘Kondavaraaru’ (meaning who is the killer).

The speaker shared his experience from his mentoring and acting days. He used to weep, scream and put all his efforts to get the character right. Since then he has kept chasing this epic which made him to publish the verses of Ramayana in 2018 in Kannada as Moola Ramayana‘.

The speaker explains why he titled the book as Moola Ramayana because it has original text and he has deeply got into the original metaphor of Ramayana. The speaker questioned the gathering as to what is the metaphor in Ramayana. Breaking the silence he answered Ramayana is the only epic all over the world that starts with a core and continues with core metaphor till the end. He further compared his answer to a banyan tree with its branches and roots. The core of Ramayana got defined even before the story begins. The speaker detailed the reason for what made Valmiki pen down Ramayana. Ramayana unfolds the truth of Prakriti and Purusha living in the proximity with each other. The speaker highlighted the point that all these theories are what all Eastern philosophy talks about. 

 The speaker also explained about Ayodhya in his session. According to him Ayodhya is not just called Janma Bhoomi but also as Seeta ki Rasoi which means Seeta’s kitchen. He mentioned that the sacred place belongs equally to Seeta as well as Rama, which portrays Seeta as food giver and Rama as administrator. 

 The speaker also suggested that Ramayana can be looked as a solution to the three-prong problem the humanity is facing today namely job creation, ecology and morality. He also spoke about Kuvempu’s ‘Ramayana Darshanam’  

Prasanna ended his discussion by suggesting we should dwell in a minimum civilized world. Excessive civilization is like Ravana. He also insisted that mythology is not imagined past, but an active metaphor which keeps growing and shaping every moment. 

 

 

About the Author: Bhuvanashree Manjunath is an Engineering student, also an avid reader, poet, and a blogger. She also works as a book reviewer. She currently writes for TheSeer.

A Life in the World: UR Ananthamurthy

Chandan Gowda, who teaches at Azim Premji University, Bangalore and a columnist for Bangalore Mirror and Deccan Herald was in conversation with Nikhil Govind who is the head of Manipal Centre for Humanities, Manipal University. The session started with the release of the book ‘A Life in the World‘ by UR Ananthamurthy which is a conversation between Chandan Gowda and Ananthamurthy. The book is a fascinating portrait of the life and ideas of Ananthamurthy between 2012 and 2013 wherein, Ananthamurthy shares his personal experiences in a series of conversations with Chandan Gowda.

 

The book deals with afterthought about the various authors in Kannada literature at his time and experiences that mattered to him. Chandan clarified that the book was not his personal biography. It is a chronicle of ideas that evolved inside Ananthamurthy. It is highly filled with visuals and tells us in great detail about the intellectual life Ananthamurthy lived.

 

Chandan Gowda shared his thoughts on the richness of the book. At the end of the book, Chandan says, “Ananthamurthy was truly thankful that he had so many friends from different castes and communities which mattered to him in a very important way”. Ananthamurthy mentions in the book that he didn’t get a proper Sanskrit learning and also didn’t have a chance to go to urban schools . Ananthamurthy encountered the ideas of Lohia back in his early twenties. He was always self reflecting about who he was. Chandan mentioned in his book that Murthy spoke about the branded Bangalore that has been taken over the corporate which Ananthamurthy refused to accept.

 

 

 

About the Author: Bharath Srivatsav is a student of mechanical engineering from Bangalore. He dreams of building a career in cinema and literature. Some of his hobbies are reading books, travelling places and blogging about films. He currently writes for TheSeer.

ಎಲ್ಲಿಗೆ ಬಂತು ನೆಟ್ ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ? Unveiling the Kannada Netizen’s World

Rajendra Prasad and Tina Shashikanth had an interesting discussion on “what is the role of the writer in today’s digital world”. Rajendra Prasad is a widely read new generation Kannada poet. He is also a writer and editor of Kannada magazine called “Sankatana”. Tina Shashikanth works as a journalist in Namma Bengaluru city, her poems deal with variety of thought processes especially scientific. 

We have watched some rapid developments for literature in social media in the last couple of years. The use of these platforms are stronger than ever these days. Social media is helping to reach the audience worldwide through multiple platforms. Much of our lives is spent on the internet and we are always found connected on social media. Social media has given us an opportunity to stand out from the crowd and achieve viral status online. Kannada literature has got a huge exposure through social media. 

Rajendra Prasad mentioned, “In earlier years when social media was not introduced, it was difficult for budding authors to post their poems or articles in magazines and newsletters. The artists had a difficult time in reaching out to the publications to publish their work. Social media has made it easier. Every artist has their own online blogs, profiles, and the pages where they can post their work without any difficulties and reach to the maximum set of audience.”

Adding to that, Tina Shashikanth mentioned the stories that people used to write for 1 or 2 pages has converted into short stories in today’s era which are well described in 8-10 lines. The stories and poems are being restructured by the new generation authors. Reshaping the thoughts has become a new fashion. It’s less time consuming to read/write and attract the youth’s mind easily. A short story written with good backdrop gets more likes than a story written with 500-1000 words. Literature requires time alone and a heightened degree of concentration. But with social media, people don’t require much time to post something over the online sites. Literature is being restructured in the writer’s mind. The thought that hits the mind are penned downed straight into a social media. The gap between writer and publisher has erased.

Rajendra Prasad believes, many of us spend most of the time on social media like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and spend most of the time on it. Social media gives you many options to grow in various ways. We as artists need to utilize the opportunity to grow and establish our identity. Social media also helps us to connect to the audience in real time and know the different kinds of reactions.

The content available on Wikipedia about Kannada literature is less when compared to other languages. We take most of the information from Wikipedia but never think to add information to it. We need to start adding information on the Wikipedia especially about Kannada literature. The knowledge needs to be shared and social media platforms should be used for sharing.

 

 

 

About the Author: Swapna Patil is an author of adventure travel and romance. “Why stay at one place and talk about it, when you can make your whole life more interesting by traveling and narrating those stories in words” is the motto she lives by. She is also a trek leader and flirts with words on the top of mountains and chooses poetry over prose. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Nari Shakti – Women in Bengali and Oriya Literature

Under the crimson canopy of The Red Couch began a discourse on Oria and Bengali women’s foray into the primarily patriarchal arena of Indian literature. The panellists, Dr Sanjukta Dasgupta and Paramita Satpathy, who are both immensely accomplished in the fields of literature, the previous being a Professor of English at Calcutta University with countless published works, and the latter, a Sahitya Academi award winner, embarked upon the enormous political, social, and academic ramifications of the radical entry of women into the literary scene way back at the dawn of the 19th century.

 

Comparing the condition of women to that of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in the Attic, Dr Dasgupta described the gradual transition of women from a normative identity of sexual utility to that of literary liberation. In a society which instilled in its women, authorship anxiety that derived from a fear of neglecting the household and family, the opportunity to write was turned into an urban right. The emergence of the first few women writers in the early 19th century was facilitated by their elite familial backgrounds, who considered their writing more of an indulgence than passion, as observed in Rabindranath Tagore’s impression of his prolific and proficient sister Swarnakumari Devi as having “more enthusiasm than talent”. Dr Dasgupta thus concluded by comparing women writers to warriors, and rightly so.

 

Paramita Satpathy began modestly by labelling herself a mere “laywoman”, on account of not being as scholarly inclined as Dr Dasgupta. She emphasised that although the emergence of women writers in Orissa and West Bengal was first codified in the 19th century, there were also such writers during the 16th century Riti and Bhakti Yugas, who, owing to their social circumstances, went sadly uncodified.

 

Ms Satpathy brought to light the Bhakti Yug poet Madhavi Dasi, who is considered by many to be the first woman poet in Oriya language, and drew parallels with the relatively contemporary 19th-century women writers, such as Binodini Devi, who had the advantage of publication and English-medium education. She spoke of two revolutionary Oriya women: Sarala Devi and Kuntala Kumari Sabat, one an activist, feminist, politician, and writer, and the other a doctor. Sarala Devi’s 1930 work (translated) “The Body of a Woman is Hers” made ripples in the then misogynistic society which believed in totalitarian ownership of women. Similarly, Kuntala Kumari Sabat’s novel “Kali Bahu” which literally translates into “The Dark-Skinned Daughter-in-law” was refractory to the normative standards of beauty and obsession with fair-skin. With the culmination of the freedom struggle, many women plunged into writing patriotic and nation-themed works.

 

The post-independence era saw an upsurge in the number of women writers and poets in both Orissa and West Bengal, such as Pratibha Ray and Paramita Satpathy’s mother Pratibha Satpathy. This, in the words of Ms Satpathy, led to waves of literary movements and changes in the nation. In addition, she read out one of her poems, “Saree” which describes the struggles of a young woman with social norms and standards under the beautiful metaphor of the Saree.

Dr Dasgupta then took over and re-introduced Paramita Satpathy as a talented writer and career woman, as opposed to a laywoman. She asked her how she combined her creative writing and her work as an Income Tax Commissioner, to which Ms Satpathy said, “We always say taxman, we never say taxwoman, so I have accepted that I am a taxman, but you know had I been a man, this question wouldn’t have been asked to me, because you know, we have in the country, men who have important jobs, in the IAS, IPS, or in the Army and others, and have been proved to be very good writers”. She said she sometimes finds it difficult to make time for her writing and being a writer of a regional language, she finds it difficult to sustain herself with only her writing. She believes that one draws from whatever situation is one in, and occasionally draws “ingredients” from her career for her writing.

 

After a brief discussion and reading of her Sahitya Academi award-winning book Prapti, also known as A Boundless Moment, which is a collection of short stories all relating to women from different strata of society, Dr Dasgupta read out her poem “Pillion Rider”, which told a story of identity and ownership from a woman’s perspective, and her woe at always being a pillion rider, never the driver herself.

 

Towards the end, Dr Dasgupta shared how she believed that women are active agents of social change, a change that takes them from ill-being to wellbeing. From a time when women’s literary identities revolved around tropes of weeping and lamentation, they have moved towards creating their own identities. It is now a time when women need to step up and be more confident. It is a time when women need to claim their own narratives.

 

 

 

About the Author: Asmi Roy is a lover of all things written and readable and works as a freelancer. She currently writes for TheSeer.

Imagining (an)other – Men Writing Women

A conversation with writers Amitabha Bagchi, Chandrahas Choudhury, Deepak Unnikrishnan , Mahesh Rao anchored by Karthika Nair was initiated with the fundamental question – “How do men write women characters? Is gender the greatest distance you have to traverse while writing your characters?”

 

Chandrahas who is the author of ‘Clouds: A Novel’, said that he actually did not think that gender was a large gap to bridge. He felt comfortable writing about women characters but found the character of a tribal boy in his book hard to crack. He said that this was because he had not lived that life or had any first-hand experience of it, so even though it was a male character he found it hard to get into his mind and write about him.

 

Mahesh who is the author of the award-winning book ‘The Smoke is Rising’, said that for him, gender was the least distance to cover. He said that he writes from observed experience. He watched and learnt from the different women in his life and it came quite naturally to him. He further added that he never thought that it was odd for a man to write from a woman’s point of view. He believed that a writer needed to inherit his characters complexity, irrespective of gender.

 

Amitabha, author of ‘Half the Nights Gone’ then pitched in to say that men become men by answering questions raised by women. He said that essentially if a man can understand the place of origin of the questions and make an honest attempt to answer them he can quite easily assess a woman’s perspective, get into her mind and form female characters for his stories.

 

Deepak who is the author of ‘Temporary People’ shared a personal anecdote with us. He said that as a young boy growing up in Abu Dhabi, he went to school in the afternoon when the girls would leave and when he and his friends stood at the gates watching the girls walk out of the gates, they would cook up stories about them. He stressed about how they knew nothing about these girls but were able to perceive what kind of life they probably led. He further reflected how finding a voice for his characters was important to him and how he reached into his memory to find the voice of his grandmother and his great grandmother which he later used in his characters.

 

Wrapping up the session, Karthika then brought up a very important question to all the writers on the panel, asking whether post the “Me Too” movement they would think about how they wrote their female characters. Almost unanimously the panel said that yes they do think about these things and police themselves to make sure they are not creating stereotypes or writing poorly about women. They felt that this should have happened earlier itself and it probably did in pockets, but now that it has all come out in the open, it was important for all writers to think about how female characters lend themselves to the story.

 

 

About the Author: Pashmi Dutta is a reader, writer, political enthusiast. Trying to talk with ease about things that make us uneasy, she has her blog at PashmiBlog and currently writes for TheSeer.